CrashPlan Exits Consumer Backup Business 

Joe Payne, writing for CrashPlan parent company Code42:

Today we announced our decision to no longer offer the consumer version of our product, known as CrashPlan for Home. We will honor all of our existing agreements with consumers, but we will no longer renew any consumer subscriptions, nor will we sign up any new consumers for CrashPlan for Home.

Allow me to take this opportunity to endorse Backblaze. Now, Backblaze has sponsored this website and my podcast so many times that I’d be a fool not to disclose that fact up front. But I’m not posting this because of that. They’re not paying me to say this. I’m just a delighted (and paying!) customer of their service, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Really, the fact that Backblaze is a frequent sponsor made me hesitate to post this, to avoid any appearance of playing favorites for sponsors, but online (and thus off-site) backups are so important that I’m doing it anyway. If you don’t have an off-site backup system in place for your Macs, I implore you to check out Backblaze.

iOS 11 Will Strip AMP Garbage From Shared URLs 

Nice discovery by Federico Viticci: when you share an AMP URL (or copy it), iOS 11 will strip the AMP garbage so you get the URL that points to the original article. Great feature.

‘You Must Go Offline to View This Page’ 

Thoughtful bit of cleverness from Chris Bolin.

Jason Snell’s Notes From a Road Trip 

Jason Snell, reporting from an 11-day family road trip:

Two of the three places we’ve stayed on this trip have been rentals, rather than hotels. (They’re mostly ski condos repurposed for the summer months.) Both of them advertised Wi-Fi as a feature, but that’s an incredibly vague concept that can encompass a lot of different experiences. The first place was connected to the Internet via DSL, which is quite slow, and the connection was unreliable on top of it. The second place offered cable internet, at pretty fast speeds, but once again the Internet seems to keep dropping and then resuming. The Wi-Fi at the hotel was fast and reliable, which isn’t a given.

In the meantime we’ve blown through a giant chunk of our cellular data allotment for the month. Oh well. Life on the road.

He’s got a lot of good observations about the changing state of what he travels with (he took no Mac on this trip, which would make me feel naked) but this bit about internet access matches my experience as well. I almost solely rely on cellular networking while traveling nowadays. This, rather than using Wi-Fi at home, is mostly what I was talking about when I linked to that XKCD comic on Wi-Fi vs. cellular a few weeks ago.

Wading Through AccuWeather’s Bullshit Response

AccuWeather issued a statement regarding the controversy over their app sending location-identifying information to a monetization firm. It’s a veritable mountain of horseshit:

Despite stories to the contrary from sources not connected to the actual information, if a user opts out of location tracking on AccuWeather, no GPS coordinates are collected or passed without further opt-in permission from the user.

The accusation has nothing to do with “GPS coordinates”. The accusation is that their iOS app is collecting Wi-Fi router names and MAC addresses and sending them to servers that belong to Reveal Mobile, which in turn can easily be used to locate the user. Claiming this is about GPS coordinates is like if they were caught stealing debit cards and they issued a denial that they never stole anyone’s cash.

The accusation comes from Will Strafach, a respected security researcher who discovered the “actual information” by observing network traffic. He saw the AccuWeather iOS app sending his router’s name and MAC address to Reveal Mobile. This isn’t speculation. They were caught red-handed — go ahead and read Strafach’s original report.

GPS information is more precise, and if you grant the AccuWeather app permission to access your location (under the guise of showing you local weather wherever you are, as well as localized weather alerts), that more precise data is passed along to Reveal Mobile as well. But Wi-Fi router information can be used to locate you within a few meters using publicly available databases. Seriously, go ahead and try it yourself: plug your Wi-Fi router’s BSSID MAC address into this website, and there’s a good chance it’ll pinpoint your location on the map.

Other data, such as Wi-Fi network information that is not user information, was for a short period available on the Reveal SDK, but was unused by AccuWeather.

In what way is the name and MAC address of your router not “user information”? And saying the information was “unused by AccuWeather” is again sleight of hand. The accusation is not that AccuWeather itself was using the location of the Wi-Fi router, but that Reveal Mobile was. Here are Reveal Mobile’s own words about how they use location data:

By expanding the use case of location data to pre- and post-shopping experiences, entirely new possibilities open up for online and offline retailers. The value lies in understanding the path of a consumer and where they go throughout the day. Traveling from home to work to retail to soccer practice to dinner is vital to knowing the customer, and represents the new opportunity of mobile location data. […]

Location data also informs the home and work location of customers. Pairing this information with existing demographic targeting criteria allows retailers to target consumers with a high propensity to visit based upon two of their most relevant locations.

In other words, Reveal Mobile makes money by revealing your location to retailers (anonymously, so they claim), and AccuWeather made money from Reveal by embedding their SDK in their app.

Back to AccuWeather’s statement:

In fact, AccuWeather was unaware the data was available to it. Accordingly, at no point was the data used by AccuWeather for any purpose.

If true, AccuWeather is seemingly claiming they embedded Reveal Mobile’s SDK in their app without knowing what it did. I believe them. But that’s a shocking admission of negligence.

AccuWeather and Reveal Mobile are committed to following the standards and best practices of the industry.

No they’re not. If they were, they never would have sent MAC addresses and router names without the user’s consent, and implicitly, against the user’s consent in the case where they opted out of sharing location data with the AccuWeather app.

And even in the case where the user does grant the AccuWeather app permission to access Location Services (a perfectly reasonable thing to do for a weather app), I don’t think it’s a “best practice” to share this data with a retail marketing firm. I’ll bet most users of the AccuWeather app naively presume that the app only uses their location to show them localized weather conditions and alerts.

We also recognize this is a quickly evolving field and what is best practice one day may change the next. Accordingly, we work to update our practices regularly.

The best practices for respecting the privacy of users do not change from day to day. What they mean is that one day your app can be doing something shady unbeknownst to the world, and the next day it can be discovered and widely publicized, painting your company as untrustworthy. But that’s not about “best practices” — that’s about what you can get away with changing from one day to the next.

To avoid any further misinterpretation, while Reveal is updating its SDK, AccuWeather will be removing the Reveal SDK from its iOS app until it is fully compliant with appropriate requirements. Once reinstated, the end result should be that zero data is transmitted back to Reveal Mobile when someone opts out of location sharing. In the meanwhile, AccuWeather had already disabled the SDK, pending removal of the SDK and then later reinstatement.

With emphasis added: “the end result should be that zero data is transmitted back to Reveal Mobile when someone opts out of location sharing”? Should be? That’s confidence inspiring.

Reveal has stated that the SDK could be misconstrued, and they assure that no reverse engineering of locations was ever conducted by any information they gathered, nor was that the intent.

I find this very difficult to believe. Reveal’s own description of their business is that they sell user location to retailers. Why else would be they be collecting router MAC addresses if not to use a reverse lookup to locate users?

We are grateful to have a supportive community that highlights areas where we can optimize and be more transparent.

Translation: Fuck you, Will Strafach. 

Public Policy Polling: 45 Percent of Trump Voters Think Whites Face the Most Racial Discrimination in U.S. 

Public Policy Polling:

The reason Trump hasn’t lost more ground for his widely panned response to the attack is probably that many of his supporters agree with some of the beliefs that led white supremacists to rally in Charlottesville in the first place. Asked what racial group they think faces the most discrimination in America, 45% of Trump voters say it’s white people followed by 17% for Native Americans with 16% picking African Americans, and 5% picking Latinos. Asked what religious group they think faces the most discrimination in America, 54% of Trump voters says it’s Christians followed by 22% for Muslims and 12% for Jews. There is a mindset among many Trump voters that it’s whites and Christians getting trampled on in America that makes it unlikely they would abandon Trump over his “both sides” rhetoric.

The idea that white Christians are the most discriminated against group in America is both bonkers and disgusting. And that’s how we wound up with a bonkers, disgusting president.

Overall 89% of Americans have a negative opinion of neo-Nazis to 3% with a positive one, and 87% have an unfavorable opinion of white supremacists to 4% with a positive one. Just 11% agree with the sentiment that it’s possible for white supremacists and neo-Nazis to be ‘very fine people,’ to 69% who say that’s not possible.

These numbers are much less depressing. But I’m really curious about the people in the middle, who have neither a positive nor negative opinion of Nazis. Who is neutral or undecided on Nazism and white supremacy?

Some Comments Regarding The New York Times’s Report on Apple’s Titan Project

Daisuke Wakabayashi had a few scoops today regarding Apple’s Project Titan:

A notable symbol of that retrenchment is a self-driving shuttle service that ferries employees from one Apple building to another. The shuttle, which has never been reported before, will likely be a commercial vehicle from an automaker and Apple will use it to test the autonomous driving technology that it develops. […]

Apple’s testing vehicles will carry employees between its various Silicon Valley offices. The new effort is called PAIL, short for Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, the address of the company’s main office in Cupertino, Calif., and a few miles down the road from Palo Alto, Calif.

This is true. Although the name is already out of date, given that it doesn’t include Apple Park, which I believe will be part of the loop.

Even though Apple had not ironed out many of the basics, like how the autonomous systems would work, a team had already started working on an operating system software called CarOS. There was fierce debate about whether it should be programmed using Swift, Apple’s own programming language, or the industry standard, C++.

This paragraph is all a bit muddled. I don’t think anyone inside Apple refers to Project Titan’s OS as “CarOS”. As for programming languages, I would guess the Project Titan team is using good old-fashioned C,1 not Swift or C++. And I’m pretty good at guessing about stuff like this.

Last year, Apple started to rein in the project. The company tapped Bob Mansfield, a longtime executive who over the years had led hardware engineering for some of Apple’s most successful products, to oversee Titan.

Mr. Mansfield shelved plans to build a car and focused the project on the underlying self-driving technology. He also laid off some hardware staff, though the exact number of employees dedicated to working on car technology was unclear.

“Shelved” is an accurate word, but I think many people have interpreted it as meaning that Apple has given up on designing its own vehicles. My understanding is that it’s more like “Let’s get the autonomous shit down first, and worry about designing vehicles to put it in after that.” Eat the steak one bite at a time rather than all at once.

Over at 512 Pixels, Stephen Hackett writes:

However, I think it’s clear that Project Titan was a distraction to the company. There’s not much in the way of hard evidence of that, but as this has wound down, Apple’s actual products have seemed to receive more attention. If this is indeed the case, I’m glad to see a return to form when it comes to updating things like Mac hardware.

I wouldn’t worry too much about this. From Wakabayashi’s NYT report:

From the beginning, the employees dedicated to Project Titan looked at a wide range of details. That included motorized doors that opened and closed silently. They also studied ways to redesign a car interior without a steering wheel or gas pedals, and they worked on adding virtual or augmented reality into interior displays.

Think about the way that ARKit is focused on identifying flat surfaces like floors and table tops. Seems like exactly the sort of thing that might have first been focused on identifying, say, roads. There’s no car yet, and there may never be, but I would bet there’s good stuff coming out of Project Titan already. 

  1. Not Wild West “anything goes, bounds-checking is optional” C, but C that conforms to a subset of the language that conforms to a safety-minded subset of the language. Perhaps, something like MISRA↩︎

Jackass of the Week: James Damore 

If you’re still looking for a succinct, pin-point-accurate, easily grasped explanation for what was wrong about Google engineer James Damore’s essay arguing against Google’s efforts to address gender (and, I think implicitly, racial) diversity in its workforce, look no further than Damore himself, in this series of tweets:

Imagine your company spent $250 million on programs that assumed Santa Claus is real.

Then you wrote a document detailing why Santa Claus is a myth, which upset the brainwashed employees that believe in Santa Claus.

It’s your fault if you make a 3 year old cry by telling them Santa Claus isn’t real. It’s society’s fault if that makes 30 year olds cry.

I found his original document extraordinarily tedious to read because it contained about two pages worth of ideas spread across 10 pages of a sort of academic-ese-like writing. He used that abstract, detached, wordy point-of-view to make his thesis come across as non-confrontational. I’m not against women in tech, I’m just pro facts, and here are some facts.

Now, unleashed from any pretense of evenhandedness or detachment, we get a succinct summary of his argument: the notion that women should, based on merit and talent, constitute a larger percentage of the tech industry is like believing in Santa Claus. A fantasy.

Fuck this guy.

Also, nobody cried after reading his “document”. They simply explained, often in point-by-point painstaking detail, why he was wrong and needed to be fired.

Giuseppe Stuto: US Teens Engage With iMessage More Than Any Other Social Platform 

Giuseppe Stuto, co-founder and CEO of Fam:

The Piper Jaffrey data shows how commanding iPhones are in today’s smartphone landscape for teens. This is in line with our various surveying here at Fam, in which we have approximated over the past year that 75% of US teens use iPhones. In terms of why this may be the case, there are several factors to consider: design, iTunes, network effects, and of course what we believe to be the most important one, iMessage.

By no means am I commenting on what device is better, more powerful, better looking, or any of that. Simply laying the groundwork for this thesis at large.

iMessage IS a social platform for teens. It’s currently the center of their immediate, social universe.

Absolutely true for my son and his friends. Apple said two years ago that iMessage was the single most-used app on iOS. And as I wrote last year, there is nothing inadvertent or lucky about iMessage’s success — and yet it is largely overlooked.

Here’s a Reddit thread chock full of anecdotes about how dominant iMessage and iPhones are among US teens.

Jack-Off Hysteria Subsided Quickly 

Nilay Patel’s review of the iPhone 7 for The Verge last year contained 31 references to the word “headphone”. Dieter Bohn’s review this week of the headphone-jack-less Essential Phone contains three, all in one paragraph:

There is no standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which is basically a trend now. But at least it ships with a USB-C dongle (though not USB-C headphones). Trends be damned, I’m going to continue to be a curmudgeon about it, if only because once this week I left both the dongle and my Bluetooth headphones at the office, so I couldn’t listen to music or podcasts the next day.

As I wrote last year, “Nilay’s review is going to age about as well as a 2007 review of the original iPhone that devoted the same amount of attention to the lack of a hardware keyboard.”

I think Bohn devoted exactly the right amount of attention to this — it’s certainly worth pointing out, and that’s about it. I did find it slightly curious that Bohn didn’t complain about the fact that the Essential Phone doesn’t even ship with a pair of USB-C headphones, though — you either have to use the included dongle or third-party Bluetooth headphones. Seems nickel-and-dimey for a $700 phone.

‘Tell Them That They Not Only Get to Yell at Nazis, but That Cake Will Be Served’ 

Dan Savage devoted the first 9 minutes of his Savage Lovecast podcast this week to last week’s Charlottesville and Boston protests, and the controversy over Tina Fey’s brilliant sheet cake segment on SNL’s Weekend Update. Includes a nice reference to my piece on this.

AccuWeather Caught Sending User Location Data, Even When Location Sharing Is Off 

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet:

Popular weather app AccuWeather has been caught sending geolocation data to a third-party data monetization firm, even when the user has switched off location sharing. […]

Security researcher Will Strafach intercepted the traffic from an iPhone running the latest version of AccuWeather and its servers and found that even when the app didn’t have permission to access the device’s precise location, the app would send the Wi-Fi router name and its unique MAC address to the servers of data monetization firm Reveal Mobile every few hours. That data can be correlated with public data to reveal an approximate location of a user’s device.

We independently verified the findings, and were able to geolocate an AccuWeather-running iPhone in our New York office within just a few meters, using nothing more than the Wi-Fi router’s MAC address and public data.

In other words, if you deny AccuWeather permission to use the Location Services APIs on you iPhone, they’ll go around your back and send your Wi-Fi router name and the router’s MAC address to these shitbirds at Reveal Mobile, and they maintain a database that maps Wi-Fi routers to locations.

To me this is a one strike and you’re out situation. Apple should remove this version of the AccuWeather app from the App Store, and any of you reading this who have it installed should delete it from your devices and never re-install it. How can you trust them? There are plenty of excellent weather apps in the App Store that would never blatantly abuse your privacy like this. Off the top of my head: Dark Sky, Weather Line, and Carrot, to name just three. Also, the built-in Weather app that comes with iOS is really good and has gotten a lot better in the last few years.

Android 8.0 Oreo 

I get it, Oreos are famous. But if you like Oreos you should try Newman-O’s, which are way way better. Newman-O’s are the cookies Oreos pretend to be.

The Verge’s Essential Phone Review 

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

It won’t be long now before we take edge-to-edge screens like the one on the Essential Phone for granted, but for the moment it’s still something special. There’s a cutout at the top for the selfie camera (and a couple of sensors) shaped like a little U, splitting the status bar in half between notifications and your radio status icons.

That cyclops eye seems like the sort of thing that would be distracting, but in my experience it becomes invisible almost immediately. Ninety-five percent of the time Android doesn’t put anything of value in that particular part of the screen anyway, and the phone is adept at keeping apps that go truly full screen (like video) letterboxed in. Every now and then you will have something like an image that will be full screen and cut off by the camera, but it’s rare. […]

Even though we’ve seen the no-bezel trick on phones like the Galaxy S8, it still feels remarkable to have such a large display on such a small phone. The 5.7-inch screen on the Essential Phone is bigger than what you’ll get on an iPhone 7 Plus or a Pixel XL, yet the phone itself is much smaller. It’s much closer in size to the smaller counterparts of those phones, the iPhone 7 and Pixel, and their significantly smaller displays.

It does look like a beautiful device. And it deserves kudos for lacking a camera bump. But: the camera is, in The Verge’s terms, “somewhat disappointing”. There’s one and only one reason why recent iPhones have camera bumps: to improve the quality of the images and videos shot by the camera. I hate the bump, but I’d rather have the bump and better image quality than no bump and worse image quality. Wake me up when someone figures out how to make a best-of-breed phone camera with no bump.

Update: Google’s Pixel phones don’t have a bump, and are top-tier cameras. Neglecting to mention them is an inexplicable brain fart on my behalf, given that I own a Pixel and like it far more than any other Android phone I’ve ever seen. But it’s not like the Pixel achieve a no-bump design without a significant compromise: the entire form factor of the phone is wedge-shaped — the top (the camera end) is noticeably thicker than the bottom. In some ways that’s better, and in others it’s worse. But what I want is what the iPhone SE has: no bump, no wedge — just a perfect slab with a flush camera lens. I fear the bump is here to stay, though.

Ellen Pao: ‘This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley’ 

Ellen Pao, in an excerpt at The Cut from her new book Reset:

In my own interview, when I mentioned that my colleagues had talked about a porn star when we were on a plane together, the investigator asked if it was Sasha Grey. I said no. He pressed the point, saying that Sasha Grey was crossing over into legitimate acting. At another point, the investigator asked, in a “gotcha” tone, “Well, if they look down on women so much, if they block you from opportunities, they don’t include you at their events, why do they even keep you around in the first place?”

I hadn’t thought about it before. I replied slowly as the answer crystallized in my mind: If you had the opportunity to have workers who were overeducated, underpaid, and highly experienced, whom you could dump all the menial tasks you didn’t want to do on, whom you could get to clean up all the problems, and whom you could create a second class out of, wouldn’t you want them to stay?

It is remarkable and admirable what Pao chose to go through rather than accept a multi-million-dollar buyout and sign a non-disclosure agreement, simply so she could tell her story.

Update: One niggle: the headline on this piece ought to be “This Is How Sexism Works in the VC Industry”, not “in Silicon Valley”.

Apple’s New Instructional Videos for iPad Pro and iOS 11 

These are, as usual, very well done, but I’m a little curious about the timing, given that iOS 11 won’t ship to non-beta-testers until next month.

Om Malik Interviews Louis Rossetto 

Terrific interview by Om Malik with Wired magazine co-founder Louis Rossetto. Rossetto:

Life is funny, because you’re supposed to — well, at least when I was growing up — you were supposed to have this clear idea of the trajectory of your life, a career that you could envision how it’s going to turn out, and the steps that you would take along the way to make that dream real. My life has been about serial obsessions, which I compare to love affairs. You can’t will yourself to fall in love, but suddenly you find yourself in love, and then it becomes something amazing.

I think people do their best work when they’re obsessed by something they have to work out. That’s been the story of my life. It certainly hasn’t been linear. It’s been about following passions along the way. Sometimes it’s been about being a journalist, or an editor, or an entrepreneur, and other times it’s been about being a father, or a chocolate company guy. Now it’s about being a writer. Each of these have had their own moment; they’ve each absorbed my full being in order to work out whatever it was I had to deal with.

Rosetto has a new book, a novel titled Change Is Good, that is being designed and printed by Erik Spiekermann. The first edition is available exclusively through Kickstarter.

Those early years of Wired were just incredibly inspiring to me. I loved everything about the early Wired — what they wrote about, how they wrote about it, the typography and design of the magazine itself, and even the quality of the inks and papers they used. It was so good, and so perfectly captured a hard-to-capture revolution.

Jerry Lewis, Mercurial Comedian and Filmmaker, Dies at 91 

Dave Kehr, writing for The New York Times:

When they found themselves on the same bill again at another Manhattan nightclub, the Havana-Madrid, in March 1946, they started fooling around in impromptu sessions after the evening’s last show. Their antics earned the notice of Billboard magazine, whose reviewer wrote, “Martin and Lewis do an afterpiece that has all the makings of a sock act,” using showbiz slang for a successful show.

Mr. Lewis must have remembered those words when he was booked that summer at the 500 Club in Atlantic City. When the singer on the program dropped out, he pushed the club’s owner to hire Mr. Martin to fill the spot. Mr. Lewis and Mr. Martin cobbled together a routine based on their after-hours high jinks at the Havana-Madrid, with Mr. Lewis as a bumbling busboy who kept breaking in on Mr. Martin — dropping trays, hurling food, cavorting like a monkey — without ever ruffling the singer’s sang-froid.

The act was a success. Before the week’s end, they were drawing crowds and winning mentions from Broadway columnists. That September, they returned to the Havana-Madrid in triumph.

Their reunion, brokered by Frank Sinatra on stage during the 1976 Jerry Lewis telethon, is one of my favorite clips on YouTube.


My thanks to Outlier for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Outlier makes radical quality clothing, with obsessively sourced raw materials. Their clothes are designed for performance, durability, and movement. They are, simply, excellent.

As I wrote when they first sponsored DF a few months ago, I have a few of their shirts, pants, shorts, and socks. The first thing I checked out were the pockets on the pants and shorts. The pockets on most shorts I’ve owned are shitty. There’s no other way to say it. The pockets on Outlier shorts are exquisite. They’re the best shorts I’ve ever owned. This is a company that pays attention to the details — all of the details.

What other company sells a bomber jacket with a description that begins “They say ‘don’t fuck with a classic’”? No one. Check them out.

Tina Fey on Donny Johnny and the Chinless Turds in Charlottesville 

Tina Fey’s segment on SNL’s Weekend Update this week was so good I’ve watched it three times already. It’s just amazing.

Yet, remarkably, it has drawn criticism from people on the left. Exhibits A, B, and C. If you’re claiming to be offended by Tina Fey’s segment this week, you’re either utterly humorless or willfully obtuse, and either way, you are part of the problem. The only people to be offended by this week are fucking Nazis, and Tina Fey just skewered them.

I remember being a kid learning that Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal was controversial in its time, because some sanctimonious shitheads thought Swift literally wanted people to eat Irish children. I just couldn’t believe there were people who were incapable of understanding satire. But here we are today, with people thinking Tina Fey literally wants us to stay home and eat cake. If that’s what you think, let me break it to you: your heart might be in the right place, but you’re an idiot.

Daring Fireball Turns 15

15 years ago this week, I started Daring Fireball with this piece on a then-new lineup of PowerMac G4’s. I groan at the use of “the Daring Fireball” in lieu of the first person, but otherwise it holds up pretty well stylistically.

A quick tally: to date I’ve written 1,173 full columns and 25,486 Linked List entries (including this one). Total word count, not including the entry titles:

  • Full columns: 1,048,662 original words (1,190,759 total words, including blockquotes).
  • Linked List entries: 952,854 original words (1,923,963 total words, including blockquotes).
  • Combined: 2,001,516 original words (3,114,722 total words, including blockquotes).

Not bad. 

Cops Can Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Fingerprint, but Not Your Passcode 

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Mashable back in 2014:

Cops can force you to unlock your smartphone with your fingerprint — but they can’t force you to unlock it with your passcode, according to a judge in Virginia.

The decision, one of the first ones to deal with fingerprints and cellphones, confirms the fact that law enforcement agents can get access to a locked phone with legal means if they need to. At the same time a PIN or a password might enjoy more protection than a fingerprint.

This is why it’s so great that iOS 11’s new easily-invoked Emergency SOS mode requires you to enter your passcode after invoking it. When you’re entering customs or in a situation where you’re worried you’re about to be arrested, you can quickly disable Touch ID without even taking your phone out of your pocket.

Until iOS 11 ships, it’s worth remembering that you’ve always been able to require your iPhone’s passcode to unlock it by powering it off. A freshly powered-on iPhone always requires the passcode to unlock.

iOS 11’s SOS Feature Allows You to Temporarily Disable Touch ID and Require Passcode 

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

Emergency SOS is activated by pressing on the sleep/wake button of an iPhone five times in rapid succession. When the requisite number of presses is complete, it brings up a screen that offers buttons to power off the iPhone, bring up your Medical ID (if filled out) and make an emergency 911 call.

Along with these options, there’s also a cancel button. If you hit the sleep/wake button five times and then hit cancel, it disables Touch ID and requires a passcode before Touch ID can be re-enabled. Touch ID is also disabled if you actually make an emergency call.

This is a handy hidden feature because it allows Touch ID to be disabled discretely in situations where someone might be able to force a phone to be unlocked with a fingerprint, such as a robbery or an arrest. With Touch ID disabled in this way, there is no way to physically unlock an iPhone with a finger without the device’s passcode.

It’s also worth noting that there’s no real way to tell that Touch ID has been disabled in this manner.

This is a fantastic feature. In addition to being useful for anyone with Touch ID, it will also assuage concerns over coerced unlocking of your phone with a facial ID scanner (which is widely believed to be coming in the new high-end iPhone).

Once iOS 11 ships, spread the word about this to your friends and family.

Update: Some great details about how Apple has implemented this:

  • If you actually make an SOS phone call, iOS does not lock you out of using Touch ID. That is, if it’s an actual emergency, Apple doesn’t want to make it harder to unlock your phone.

  • There’s a bit of haptic feedback when this feature is invoked, so you can do this discreetly in your pocket and know you hit it.

  • In the current developer beta (beta 6), the display stays on indefinitely while in Emergency SOS mode. You have to tap the on-screen Cancel button to get the screen to turn off. In a future beta, hitting the power button one more time should darken the display again. That way, you can disable Touch ID and turn off the display without ever removing your iPhone from your pocket.

Vice News Tonight: ‘Charlottesville: Race and Terror’ 

Vice News:

Correspondent Elle Reeve goes behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, the Charlottesville Police, and Black Lives Matter during the “Unite the Right” rally.

22 minutes, and worth every second. It really gives a sense of just how tense this weekend-long confrontation was, and how scary (and well-armed) these Nazi motherfuckers are. Reeve does a great job letting them speak for themselves.

Why Cloudflare Terminated Daily Stormer 

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare:

Earlier today, Cloudflare terminated the account of the Daily Stormer. We’ve stopped proxying their traffic and stopped answering DNS requests for their sites. We’ve taken measures to ensure that they cannot sign up for Cloudflare’s services ever again.

Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.

Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare.

Now, having made that decision, let me explain why it’s so dangerous.

I’m a staunch First Amendment supporter. I believe these Nazi motherfuckers have a right to publish their garbage propaganda. But they don’t have a right to Cloudflare services. Prince’s thoughtful explanation makes clear that this was a last resort, and hopefully one-time exception, to their policy of not censoring sites over political content.

The internet really changes the way this works, though. In the print days, there was no equivalent of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. There are only a handful of very large companies that can defend against a DDoS attack, and Cloudflare is one of them. Now that Cloudflare has dropped them, their web site is unreachable.

Dilution of Whisky – The Molecular Perspective 

Interesting new paper published in Scientific Report by Björn C. G. Karlsson and Ran Friedman:

Despite the growing knowledge of the nature of water-alcohol mixtures on a molecular level, much less is known on the interaction of water, alcohol and small solutes. In particular, the nature of the interaction between the solvent and taste-carrying molecules, such as guaiacol, is not known. To address this gap, we used MD simulations to study the distribution of guaiacol in water-alcohol mixtures of different concentrations. Our simulations revealed that guaiacol is present at the air-liquid interface at ethanol concentrations that correspond to the alcohol content of bottled or diluted whiskies. Because the drink is consumed at the interface first, our findings help to understand why adding water to whisky helps to enhance its taste.

I loved this line:

Overall, there is a fine balance between diluting the whisky to taste and diluting the whisky to waste.

I got this via The Verge, who ran it with the headline “Here’s the Scientific Reason It’s Better to Drink Whiskey on the Rocks”. That headline surely turned heads (and generated clicks) because neat versus on-the-rocks is a polarizing debate, but it’s not supported by this paper. Karlsson and Friedman report only on the effects of adding water, not changing the temperature. That said, in yours truly’s humble opinion, almost all whisky tastes better with a large ice cube.

A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. Estimates That Google Is Paying Apple $3 Billion to Remain the Default Safari Search Engine 

Todd Haselton, writing for CNBC:

“Court documents indicate that Google paid Apple $1B in 2014, and we estimate that total Google payments to Apple in FY 17 may approach $3B,” Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said. “Given that Google payments are nearly all profit for Apple, Google alone may account for 5% of Apple’s total operating profits this year, and may account for 25% of total company OP growth over the last two years.”

I would love to be a fly on the wall for those negotiations.

Sacconaghi said that Google might decide to back away from paying Apple any licensing fees if it feels confident enough that its search engine is so popular Apple won’t include any other option by default.

On the other hand, Sacconaghi said that Apple’s iOS devices contribute about 50 percent to Google’s mobile search revenue, which means Google might be too afraid to walk away from its licensing deal with Apple. In this case, it’s a win-win for Apple and Google.

If Apple was willing to dump Google Maps, they’d be willing to dump Google Search too. The differences between results from Google versus Bing or DuckDuckGo are way smaller than the differences between Google Maps and Apple Maps back in 2012. Apple is in a strong position in this relationship.

Tim Cook’s Email to Employees About Charlottesville 

Tim Cook:

We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.

Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point — that we are all equal. As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.

This is where we’ve gotten to: Tim Cook felt the need to denounce Nazism — fucking Nazism — because the president of the United States won’t.

Josh Marshall: ‘The House Is on Fire’ 

Josh Marshall:

I confess I had a small degree of surprise that the events of the weekend — as horrifying and tragic as they are — have had quite the effect on people they seem to have had. This is not to diminish them. It is only to say that I do not think they should be so surprising. I don’t think they should amount to a revelation that shifts our basic understanding of things. We have if not a growing white supremacist movement in the US at least an increasingly vocal and emboldened one. They both made Trump possible and have in turn been energized and emboldened by his success. He reacts this way because he is one of them. He is driven by the same view of the world, the same animus and grievances. What we’ve seen over the last five days is sickening and awful. The house is on fire. But it was on fire a week ago. It’s been on fire since November. The truth is indeed unimaginable and terrifying. But we need to accept the full truth of it if we are going to be able to save our country.

Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost 

Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, reporting for The New York Times (emphasis added):

No word in the Trump lexicon is as tread-worn as “unprecedented.” But members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private. The National Economic Council chairman, Gary D. Cohn, and the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who are Jewish, stood by uncomfortably as the president exacerbated a controversy that has once again engulfed a White House in disarray.

The President of the United States is an angry, resentful white supremacist. That’s been clear to me ever since he started campaigning. If any good comes of this terrible week, it’s that more and more people are now seeing it, and are outraged by it.

The Email Larry Page Should Have Written to James Damore 

The Economist, writing from the point of view of Larry Page:

Your interpretation is wrong. Your memo was a great example of what’s called “motivated reasoning” — seeking out only the information that supports what you already believe. It was derogatory to women in our industry and elsewhere. Despite your stated support for diversity and fairness, it demonstrated profound prejudice. Your chain of reasoning had so many missing links that it hardly mattered what your argument was based on. We try to hire people who are willing to follow where the facts lead, whatever their preconceptions. In your case we clearly made a mistake.

Really strong piece that crystallizes my thoughts on this matter.

WSJ: ‘Apple Readies $1 Billion War Chest for Hollywood Programming’ 

Tripp Mickle, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (alternate link that should route around the Journal’s paywall):

Apple Inc. has set a budget of roughly $1 billion to procure and produce original content over the next year, according to people familiar with the matter, as the iPhone maker shows how serious it is about making a splash in Hollywood.

Combined with the company’s marketing clout and global reach, the step immediately makes Apple a considerable competitor in a crowded market where both new and traditional media players are vying to acquire original shows. Apple’s budget is about half what Time Warner Inc.’s HBO spent on content last year and on par with estimates of what Inc. spent in 2013, the year after it announced its move into original programming.

A friend of mine sent me this link, along with this quip: “Original content Apple is my least favorite Apple, but I can see why they are doing this.” I can’t put it better than that.

So far, Apple’s efforts at original content have been swings and misses. They really need to start making shows that are good. But would Apple ever make a show like Game of Thrones? That show is the current gold standard for original content, but I’m not sure Apple would want to put their brand on a show with so much graphic violence and sex. Disney has a squeaky-clean brand too, so it’s not like “family-friendly” and “high quality” are mutually exclusive.

If you ever watch baseball, sometimes the ceremonial first pitch is thrown by a talented athlete from another sport, but they’ve never played baseball, and the results are comically bad. That’s what it feels like watching Apple try to produce TV shows.

Spitball: I wonder if Apple should have bought Pixar?

Ming-Chi Kuo: ‘Apple Watch 3 to Come in LTE and Non-LTE Models, No Obvious Form Factor Change’ 

Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac:

Reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has released a new forecast on the next generation Apple Watch. According to Kuo, the Apple Watch 3 will ship later this year with both LTE and non-LTE models offered. Kuo also expects the next Apple Watch will retain the same general design and not feature an obvious new form factor.

Kuo specifies that the Apple Watch will continue to ship in two size configurations: 38mm and 42mm cases.

KGI’s latest prediction comes 10 days after Bloomberg’s recent report which first mentioned the new Apple Watch with Intel modems for LTE connectivity. John Gruber at Daring Fireball later hinted that the new model would feature a new form factor, although he later backtracked on the timing of that claim.

I didn’t backtrack on the timing. I backtracked on the veracity of the source I heard this from. I wrote:

No mention in Businessweek’s report, though, of the all-new form factor that I’ve heard is coming for this year’s new watches. That tidbit came from an unconfirmed little birdie, though, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

If Apple Watch 3 doesn’t look obviously new, I would say my source was wrong and probably lied to me. My source was talking about this year’s new watches, not next year’s. But it really was an unconfirmed little birdie.

It could also be that both my birdie and Kuo are correct: the phrase “will not feature an obvious new form factor” leaves a lot of wiggle room with the word “obvious”.

Chris Lattner Joins Google Brain 

Darrell Etherington, reporting for TechCrunch:

Chris Lattner, one of the key creators behind the Apple programming language Swift, is on the move again. After a short six-month stay at Tesla, which he joined last year from Apple to act as VP of Autopilot Software, Lattner announced on Twitter today that his next stop is Google Brain. […]

Google Brain is the search giant’s team focused on deep learning and artificial intelligence. It focused on helping to use AI across a range of products, tackling both research and product integration, working together with teams across Alphabet, including at DeepMind. Its ultimate stated motivation is to advance the field with open source projects, academic collaboration and publication.

A team that emphasizes open source projects sounds like a good fit for Lattner.

Blanche Blackwell, Ian Fleming’s Mistress and the Inspiration for Pussy Galore, Dies at 104 

Matt Schudel, reporting for The Washington Post:

Blanche Blackwell’s romantic life inspired one of Noël Coward’s plays about an upper-crust love triangle, and swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn wanted to marry her. She was a member of one of Jamaica’s richest families but was best known as the mistress and muse of Ian Fleming, the rakish author who was the creator of James Bond.

Mrs. Blackwell died Aug. 8 in London at 104. Her death was confirmed by Andrew Lycett, Fleming’s biographer.

What a life.


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Pinned Tabs Are No Solution to the Lack of Favicons in Regular Safari Tabs 

Re: yesterday’s piece arguing that Safari should display favicons in its browser tabs, I’ve gotten dozens of emails and tweets pointing out that Safari does show favicons, albeit in monochrome, for pinned tabs.

First, so what? That’s great for pinned tabs but it’s not a solution in any way, shape, or form for regular tabs.

Second, they’re not even really favicons. They’re SVG files, not PNGs like real favicons. Even though SVG is an open format and Safari introduced this feature in 2015, no other browser in the world supports these images, so many websites don’t even have these graphics. Almost every website has a real favicon.

Miami Marlins Reportedly Sold to Derek Jeter Group 

Jack Baer, reporting for

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported — as did the Miami Herald earlier — that the Sherman-Jeter group won the bidding, with Sherman holding the controlling interest and plans for Jeter to be the team’s CEO.

Serious question for Yankees fans: does this preclude Jeter from playing on Old Timer’s Day? And can you even imagine what another Yankees-Marlins World Series would be like?

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Canceled an All-Hands Meeting About Gender Controversy Due to Employee Worries of Online Harassment 

Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode:

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has canceled the company’s much-anticipated meeting to talk about gender issues today. The move came after some of its employees expressed concern over online harassment they had begun to receive after their questions and names have been published outside the company on a variety of largely alt-right sites.

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” wrote Pichai to employees. “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”

This controversy strikes me as the biggest challenge Google has faced under Pichai’s leadership. And the fact that the Page/Brin/Schmidt Alphabet triumvirate has remained silent makes me think Pichai truly is the leader of Google, not just in title but in terms of where the buck actually stops.

Medium’s Dickbar Gets the Clap 

Whether you think this feature is a good idea or not, why the fuck would they put this button on top of the text of the article you’re trying to read?

I’m starting to think Medium is just fucking with me at this point.

Original Post From Consumer Reports Revoking Recommendations for Microsoft Surface Laptops and Tablets 

Here’s the actual post from Consumer Reports regarding Surface hardware reliability:

A number of survey respondents said they experienced problems with their devices during startup. A few commented that their machines froze or shut down unexpectedly, and several others told CR that the touch screens weren’t responsive enough.

The new studies of laptop and tablet reliability leverage data on 90,741 tablets and laptops that subscribers bought new between 2014 and the beginning of 2017. Predicted reliability is a projection of how new models from each brand will fare, based on data from models already in users’ hands.

Worth noting that I’m deeply skeptical of anything computer- or tech-related that comes out of Consumer Reports’s lab testing. I think they shamelessly sensationalized the iPhone 4 antennagate story (which they later backtracked from), and I think they embarrassed themselves with last year’s bizarre (and rushed) report claiming wildly erratic battery life on the new TouchBar-equipped MacBook Pros. (See footnote 2 here for my results trying to replicate CR’s test. Quite possibly my favorite footnote in DF history.)

I’m certainly not saying we should take it as gospel, but I don’t see anything fishy about this laptop reliability report. It does not smell like clickbait.

Inside Facebook’s Institutional Policy of Copying Competitors 

Betsy Morris and Deepa Seetharaman, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook uses an internal database to track rivals, including young startups performing unusually well, people familiar with the system say. The database stems from Facebook’s 2013 acquisition of a Tel Aviv-based startup, Onavo, which had built an app that secures users’ privacy by routing their traffic through private servers. The app gives Facebook an unusually detailed look at what users collectively do on their phones, these people say.

The tool shaped Facebook’s decision to buy WhatsApp and informed its live-video strategy, they say. Facebook used Onavo to build its early-bird tool that tips it off to promising services and that helped Facebook home in on Houseparty.

So Facebook is using a VPN app that is supposed to protect users’ privacy to violate their privacy by analyzing which apps they use.

Also worth noting: in the iOS App Store, Onavo’s owner is still listed as “Onavo, Inc.”, not “Facebook”. I suspect a large number of Onavo users have no idea the app is owned by Facebook (I for one had never heard of it before this Journal story), and might think differently about entrusting their privacy to it if they knew.

Ulysses Is Switching to Subscription Pricing 

Max Seelemann, development lead for Ulysses:

Before getting into details, though, you should know that this switch was neither a quick decision, nor did we take it easily. We have been talking about it for over 2 years now. We’ve had uncountable discussions, and the topic came up at least once every month — yet we always postponed a decision. The sheer complexity and far reach of this change were too intimidating. I am not exaggerating in saying that this was the hardest decision in our whole time as professional software developers. After all, we have a system which currently works — after 14 years we are still around, Ulysses is still “a thing”, it’s even going better than ever before, and there are no immediate signs which hint at a change coming soon.

So why bother at all then? Well, we need a good way forward before we run into trouble. We want to make sure the app will be around for years and years to come. We want to heavily invest in its development, and this requires the right setting for our team, our families and our users. Writers want to rely on a professional tool that is constantly evolving, and we want to keep delivering just that.

This is a really thoughtful article, and I fully support their decision. I think subscription pricing is an excellent option for truly professional apps like Ulysses, particularly ones that are cross platform (Mac and iOS).