‘Link in Bio’ Is a Slow Knife 

Anil Dash:

We don’t even notice it anymore — “link in bio”. It’s a pithy phrase, usually found on Instagram, which directs an audience to be aware that a pertinent web link can be found on that user’s profile. Its presence is so subtle, and so pervasive, that we barely even noticed it was an attempt to kill the web.

Dash calls it a slow knife. I think “link in bio” is fucking bullshit.

Yours Truly on The Omni Show 

It was my distinct pleasure to chat with my old friend Brent Simmons on The Omni Show, mainly about one of my very favorite and most essential apps, OmniOutliner — but believe it or not there were several long digressions, replete with much nostalgia.

Apple Card Offering 6 Percent Daily Cash Back on Apple Product Purchases Until December 31 

This is an astoundingly good offer — over $400 cash back if you’re buying a Pro Display XDR and stand, for example.


Bluesky: Twitter Announces Effort to Build ‘Decentralized Standard for Social Media’

Jack Dorsey drops a bombshell:

Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard.

Twitter was so open early on that many saw its potential to be a decentralized internet standard, like SMTP (email protocol). For a variety of reasons, all reasonable at the time, we took a different path and increasingly centralized Twitter. But a lot’s changed over the years…

First, we’re facing entirely new challenges centralized solutions are struggling to meet. For instance, centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people.

The whole thing could (and perhaps is likely to) fizzle out, but if successful, decentralizing Twitter-like social media should be a huge win for the world. But why create something new? There’s a whiff of boil-the-ocean in Dorsey’s description of the plan — “blockchain” is the new second step in the South Park “(1) Steal underpants, (2) …, (3) Profit!” to my mind).

Dave Winer:

I advocate something different, Twitter already has the bugs and scaling issues solved for a global notification network. Let’s add a few APIs and create a new universe. It’ll happen a lot faster with much better results imho. […]

It’s time for a proprietary approach, one that is open to cloning. That can work because there’s a single decision-making entity. If their goal really is to create a standard they can do it, much the way we created standards for content syndication when our product dominated.

Loren Brichter:

What’s the downside to letting the Twitter API as it stands be v1.0? Let third parties implement it, clients could connect to any compatible service, communication between services would evolve as needs evolve, you end up with something designed naturally (see HTML5 vs XHTML).

The HTML5 vs. XHTML analogy is exactly what triggers my spidey sense with Bluesky. XHTML was a boil-the-ocean plan to create a new version of HTML, its creators’ ideal for how HTML should be used — a prescriptive spec. HTML5 took the approach of standardizing how HTML already was being used — a descriptive spec. We all use HTML5 today. 


Jason Del Rey on the Away Saga 

Jason Del Rey, reporting for Recode:

The company told the Wall Street Journal that the CEO search had been in progress since the spring, insinuating that the fallout from the article, published by The Verge, did not play a role in Korey’s resignation.

But multiple sources tell Recode that while new CEO Stuart Haselden had indeed planned to join Away before The Verge piece was published, he was not meant to immediately helm the CEO role; instead, he would join the company as Away’s chief operating officer, or COO, reporting to Korey, and would later move into the top spot if all went according to plan.

Under that original plan, Haselden would eventually replace Korey as CEO — perhaps as early as mid-2020 — after he got to know the business better. It was also meant to allow Korey time to get comfortable with the transition, according to a person familiar with the plan. (Haselden was already COO of Lululemon, a public company worth $29 billion, and wouldn’t have taken the COO role at a much smaller company without the understanding that he would eventually hold the top spot.)

But after the workplace culture story erupted late last week, some of Away’s investors pushed to rip the band aid off and accelerate the CEO swap.

Almost like they were ready to pounce.

(I happen to know a bunch of outlets were digging into this drama — kudos to Del Rey for getting the scoop.)

Daring Fireball T-Shirts and Hoodies 

Thumbnail of a Daring Fireball logo hoodie.

Just like we did last year, we’ll take orders on these through the end of the week, and start shipping them out at the beginning of next week. These hoodies proved very popular last year, and feedback on them was really great. They’re surprisingly warm for how thin and light they are. In the winter I become that guy who sits around the house wearing his own logo’d hoodie.


The Other Shoe Drops: Away Fires CEO Steph Korey After Months-Long Search for Her Replacement

Charity L. Scott, reporting for The Wall Street Journal, “Online Luggage Startup Away Says CEO Is Stepping Down”:

Away, an online seller of luggage that investors valued at $1.4 billion earlier this year, said Chief Executive Steph Korey is stepping down.

Ms. Korey will become executive chairman of the New York City-based startup. Stuart Haselden, who is departing as chief operating officer at Lululemon Athletica Inc., will succeed her as CEO, according to the company. Away co-founder Jen Rubio will remain president and chief brand officer.

The news comes after an article in the Verge last week criticized Ms. Korey’s management style as harsh, citing several former employees unhappy with the work environment. Ms. Korey apologized in a statement on Twitter last week, saying she has worked with an executive coach to “improve as a leader.”

Away said the CEO search has been under way since this spring, and Mr. Haselden will take over Jan. 13. Lululemon announced his departure Monday.

[Disclosure: Away has sponsored 21 episodes of my podcast, The Talk Show, in the last three years, and they are on the schedule for an upcoming episode. The following is what I’d write if they never had and never would sponsor my show or website.]

It surely is not spin that Away’s board — led by Rubio, Korey’s fellow co-founder — had been searching to replace Korey for months. You can’t hire the COO of Lululemon in three days in light of a PR crisis.

So I think it’s pretty clear that The Verge inadvertently got played. They got fed the story and ran with it in a way that pinned all of the company’s purported cultural problems on Korey. All six quoted sources were anonymous former employees (and, coincidentally or not, women). There was a lot about that Verge story that struck me as weird. Why shouldn’t the CEO be furious that the company somehow sent customers suitcases that had been used in a beach photo shoot and were covered with sand and other debris?1 But one of the strangest things was that while it was ostensibly a story about the company, the actual story felt almost entirely like a hit on Korey, personally. No other executive’s Slack messages were quoted as evidence of the perceived cultural problems.2

So now the narrative is not “Away fires woman CEO and co-founder, replaces her with a man”. Instead, the narrative is “Away fires CEO who created ‘toxic culture’, brings in fresh leadership” — a narrative that wouldn’t be possible without The Verge’s story last Thursday. It also seems clear that Korey had no idea this was coming — her statement on Twitter responding to The Verge report sure doesn’t sound like the words of a woman who realizes her company board was on the cusp of replacing her after a months-long executive search.

It’s entirely possible that Korey really was responsible for a “toxic work culture”, and the truthful narrative really is “Away fires CEO who created ‘toxic culture’, brings in fresh leadership”. I’m just pointing out it beggars belief that it’s pure coincidence this story leaked to The Verge just before Away was set to fire Korey, such that when the company made the announcement the controversy was still fresh in everyone’s minds.

Update: Let me clarify my theory here. I doubt the Away board “planted” this story at The Verge. I’ve struck out the word “fed” in the phrase “got fed the story” above to make that clear, but I’m leaving it as struck-out text in fairness. I think The Verge’s sources for the story are actual disgruntled ex-Away employees, who really did believe that they should have been allowed to use their work-supplied Slack for inappropriate-for-work communication and who really do believe that calling it “unacceptable” when customers were shipped dented, dirty suitcases is “toxic”.

But if you take the perspective of a cutthroat startup board — and these are some mean people — it’s not outlandish to think these former employees could have been simply nudged to go to the press with their Steph Korey grievances, via a route untraceable back to the Away board. I doubt that. But I don’t rule it out. (One of the companies funding three of Away’s four rounds is Global Founders Capital, led by Oliver Samwer, who once closed an email to a company he invested in with “I am the most aggressive guy on internet [sic] on the planet. I will die to win and i [sic] expect the same from you!” Sounds to me like a guy who would maybe play some dirty pool.)

The Verge’s story was reported over weeks or months. (Months, I hear.) During their reporting they contacted Away for comment and response. Now-former CEO Steph Korey was even quoted in the story. What I think happened is that once Jen Rubio and the board — who were already plotting Korey’s ouster — became aware of the story, and the all-in-on-outrage-culture/startups-are-toxic angle it was taking, they simply let it happen without pushing back whatsoever. No vast conspiracy necessary — just let it happen. The most conspicuous thing between the publication of The Verge’s original story on Thursday and Monday night’s announcement that Korey had been replaced is that neither the company nor Rubio offered a single word of support for Korey. Not even something milquetoast or anodyne. Not a fucking word. She was hung out to dry.

The only response was Korey’s own statement, issued from her personal Twitter account, and again, it did not sound at all like the words of a CEO who knew she was “stepping down” or who had, as now claimed, personally been involved in the search for her successor. What they sound like are the words of a CEO who thought the company and its board had her back and had no idea they’d been plotting to oust her for months. 


  1. Here’s the anecdote in question from The Verge:

    When the photo team took suitcases to a shoot in the Hamptons and brought them back banged up and covered in sand, an employee who’d started that week was blamed for the “unacceptable” error and called out publicly on Slack. (The bags had eventually made their way to customers, and executives were furious.) “It could’ve just been a co-worker pulling them aside and saying this isn’t cool,” Erica says. “It felt like they were publicly outing the situation so that everybody could follow along.”

    Wouldn’t the problem be if the CEO just shrugged something like that off? How does sending those obviously-used suitcases to customers even happen? They weren’t just dented, but dirty. If a waiter served a customer a half-eaten sandwich, I’d expect the manager to immediately berate him in front of the other staff in the kitchen — not take him aside and say “Hey, that isn’t cool.” ↩︎

  2. The Verge’s next-day follow-up also struck me as odd. Their headline and sub-head: “Here’s the Leaked Memo in Which Away Tells Employees Not to Fave the Verge’s Investigation: CEO Steph Korey Apologizes for Her Behavior — Just as Away Clamps Down on Employee Speech”. But read the memo. Away wasn’t “clamping down on employee speech” — they were dealing with a serious PR crisis. What company in the midst of a PR crisis would not tell employees not to talk about it? Well-run companies speak with one voice, whether in the midst of a crisis or not, but especially in the midst of a crisis. ↩︎︎


WSJ: ‘Elizabeth Warren Made About $2 Million for Legal Work Over Three Decades’ 

Am I reading this headline wrong? My take is that the emphasis is on “Elizabeth Warren Made $2 Million” — which to my ears implies an angle of “See, she’s made a lot of money too”. But $2 million really isn’t that much money. And in the world of corporate law, it seems only a pittance. Let’s round “three decades” to 30 years — that’s only $67,000 a year. If the WSJ ran a story on the 40-year career of, say, a public school teacher who averaged, say, $50,000 in salary over that span, I highly doubt they’d start with a headline like “Public School Teacher Earned $2 Million Over Four Decades”.

“Elizabeth Warren Averaged $67,000 Per Year in Legal Work Over Three Decades” gives the exact same story a very different slant.

Update: Holy hell The Washington Post is even worse than the Journal, running its story under the headline “Sen. Elizabeth Warren Earned Nearly $2 Million Consulting for Corporations and Financial Firms, Records Show” — with no timeline whatsoever for the period over which she earned the money, which clearly leads the reader to assume it was over a brief period of time before she became a senator. This framing is genuinely outrageous.

This whole thing where the news media is trying to gin up controversy over what is not a lot of money recalls Dr. Evil’s “One million dollars” blackmail threat. Except Dr. Evil was just a character in a silly comedy and Elizabeth Warren is a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination whom her opponents are trying to stick with the tag that she’s a hypocrite. 2016’s endless “but her emails” bullshit proves that when the straight news media plays along with these narratives, they stick, with disastrous results.

The Information: ‘Apple’s Ad-Targeting Crackdown Shakes Up Ad Market’ 

Tom Dotan, writing for the subscriber-only The Information:

Two years ago, Apple launched an aggressive battle against ads that track users across the web. Today executives in the online publishing and advertising industries say that effort has been stunningly effective — posing a problem for advertisers looking to reach affluent consumers.

Since Apple introduced what it calls its Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature in September 2017, and with subsequent updates last year, advertisers have largely lost the ability to target people on Safari based on their browsing habits with cookies, the most commonly used technology for tracking. One result: The cost of reaching Safari users has fallen over 60% in the past two years, according to data from ad tech firm Rubicon Project. Meanwhile ad prices on Google’s Chrome browser have risen slightly.

That reflects the fact that advertisers pay more money for ads that can be targeted at people with specific demographics and interests. “The allure of a Safari user in an auction has plummeted,” said Rubicon Project CEO Michael Barrett. “There’s no easy ability to ID a user.”

So: Intelligent Tracking Prevention is working.

The Grouch 

Indirectly, Caroll Spinney’s Oscar the Grouch played an obscure footnote role in Macintosh history, starring in Eric Shapiro’s unsanctioned, utterly-useless-yet-utterly-delightful The Grouch system extension for classic Mac OS. If anything, The Grouch was anti-productivity software, because it made emptying the Trash take longer, but we loved it nonetheless. Obviously, our affection for Spinney’s Oscar was at the heart of that. There was an entire genre of just-for-fun gag extensions for the old Mac OS, and to my mind, The Grouch was the king of them.

Caroll Spinney, Puppeteer Who Gave Life to Big Bird of ‘Sesame Street’, Dies at 85 

Emily Langer, writing for The Washington Post:

Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who gave life to Big Bird, the towering yellow avian of TV’s “Sesame Street” who accompanied generations of youngsters in the arduous, yet wondrous, work of growing up, died Dec. 8 at his home in Connecticut. He was 85 and died hours before “Sesame Street” received Kennedy Center Honors for achievement in the arts. […]

Mr. Spinney, who said he had been teased in childhood for his fascination with what his tormentors mocked as “dolls,” met Henson at a puppetry convention and first donned Big Bird’s 4,000 canary-yellow feathers for the show’s opening season. In thousands of episodes over nearly a half-century, he gave voice and motion to Big Bird and to Oscar the Grouch, the shaggy green trash can-dweller who showed children that they needed not always be happy and that it was okay to like things others didn’t — trash, for instance. […]

Spinney’s characters were a huge part of my childhood — and my son’s. That’s an amazing testament to Sesame Street’s timelessness and durability.

Nike Swoosh to Appear on the Front of Every MLB Uniform in 2020 

Craig Calcaterra, writing for NBC Sports:

We knew as of last January that this was coming — and the new uniform designs teams like the Padres, Brewers and Rangers have released in the past few weeks have shown it — but today the images were all released: all 30 teams will wear jerseys with the Nike Swoosh prominently placed on the front starting in the 2020 season. […]

They aren’t all that bothersome on most uniform styles, particularly the newer and busier ones. But to my eyes the Swoosh is a desecration of the more classic, cleaner uniforms like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Tigers as shown above. Yeah, that’s some traditionalism on my part talking — OK, a LOT of traditionalism on my part talking — but it does, objectively, throw off the balance that some of the better uniform designs have long had.

I’m of course most partial to the Yankees, but I’d say the swoosh is even more objectionably prominent on the Dodger and Tiger jerseys, because they’re so utterly plain. The Yankee pinstripes disguise it to some degree.

On the good news front, the old-is-new uniforms for the Brewers and Padres are both excellent. The Brewers have too many alternates — the pinstriped home alternates feel off-brand, and the alternate cap is just dumb-looking — but both of these uniforms are spot-on for the teams, both of which had gone way off track in recent decades. Kudos to the Padres for sticking with just one cap.

Beijing Orders State Offices to Replace Foreign PCs and Software 

Yuan Yang and Nian Liu, reporting for The Financial Times from Beijing:

Beijing has ordered all government offices and public institutions to remove foreign computer equipment and software within three years, in a potential blow to the likes of HP, Dell and Microsoft.

The directive is the first publicly known instruction with specific targets given to Chinese buyers to switch to domestic technology vendors, and echoes efforts by the Trump administration to curb the use of Chinese technology in the US and its allies.

I can’t decide if this is part of the Trump-initiated US-China trade war, or if this is just China being China and part of an initiative that would’ve happened regardless of who the current U.S. president was.

Also, I doubt Chinese government offices buy many Macs, but what about iPhones? This could be a bit of a blow to Apple as well.

Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR Orders Start Tuesday 

No news on build-to-order pricing or when they’ll actually ship.

SignEasy 

My thanks to SignEasy for sponsoring this week at DF. With over 6 million downloads and users in 180 countries, SignEasy is the gold standard for signing and sending documents from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. It is a simple and easy-to-use, yet powerful tool that will help you be more productive, save time and money, and run your business more efficiently.

The latest version of SignEasy was built specifically for iOS 13 and iPadOS, including many compatible features like Dark Mode, built-in document scanning, and multi-window support. SignEasy’s blend of simplicity and power caught the attention of Apple who recently named it one of its certified mobility partners.

Ultra Wideband Technology: Apple’s Explanation for Why Newer iPhones Appear to Collect Location Data, Even When Location Services Are Disabled 

Zack Whittaker, reporting for TechCrunch:

“Ultra wideband technology is an industry standard technology and is subject to international regulatory requirements that require it to be turned off in certain locations,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. “iOS uses Location Services to help determine if an iPhone is in these prohibited locations in order to disable ultra wideband and comply with regulations.”

“The management of ultra wideband compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data,” the spokesperson said.

That seems to back up what experts have discerned so far. Will Strafach, chief executive at Guardian Firewall and iOS security expert, said in a tweet that his analysis showed there was “no evidence” that any location data is sent to a remote server.

Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy:

This makes complete sense to me and appears to be nothing more than a mistake in not providing a toggle specifically for UWB. It seems that a risk of marketing a company as uniquely privacy-friendly is that any slip-up is magnified a hundredfold and treated as evidence that every tech company is basically the same.

It is totally fair to hold Apple to a higher standard on privacy than other companies. But Heer is exactly right: when they do make a mistake, it’s going to be magnified. The mistake here wasn’t that location data was leaked — including to Apple’s own servers, apparently. The mistake was not making it clear in Settings that UWB requires location data for regulatory compliance. Most people don’t even know what UWB is at this point.

It reminds me of the controversy over battery throttling two years ago. iOS was trying to work in the user’s interest, to make a device with an older battery as useful as it could be. But it wasn’t explained or exposed as an option in Settings, and people jumped to the conclusion that it was a nefarious scheme to get people to buy new iPhones.

And let’s not forget that Settings is already a big app, even with Apple’s generally conservative approach to adding new preferences.

‘The Smartest Guys in the Clubhouse’ 

David Roth, writing at The New Republic:

It is not evidence of anything in particular, let alone anything sinister, that a World Series champion would hit better than a team that finished in third place. Players improve, and lineups change, and both of those things happened here. But it’s no more surprising to learn, given the dramatic shift in the numbers, that it later turned out that the Astros were cheating: videotaping the opposing catchers’ pitch signals and then using a trash can near the team dugout to pound out, semaphore-style, a message to the hitter about the pitch about to arrive. Given the combination of reverence and fear with which the rest of the sport regarded Luhnow and his McKinsey-fied team of weaponized quants — which was unforgivably dickish but undeniably ahead of the curve, already deftly working angles and analyzing data that other teams couldn’t even see yet — the overt oafishness of the Astros’ 2017 cheating scheme came as no small shock.

I haven’t written about the Astros’ cheating scheme — a story that was broken last month by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich at The Athletic — but this piece by Roth is a good place to start. The striking thing is, as Roth so aptly phrases it, the “overt oafishness” of it. There’s a brazenness to it. You could hear their signals on the TV telecasts. We just don’t look for corruption right out in the open. We expect corruption and cheating to be concealed and hidden.

This Astros story is just sports. But it’s hard not to note the obvious parallels to the Trump administration’s corruption. The president literally asked Russia for help hacking his opponent’s email. Right on stage. We joke about having made Jimmy Carter sell his family peanut farm in Georgia but Trump owns a hotel right down the street from the White House.

‘A Letter From Larry and Sergey’ 

Larry Page and Sergey Brin:

With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure. We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company. And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet. He will be the executive responsible and accountable for leading Google, and managing Alphabet’s investment in our portfolio of Other Bets. We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about!

Nice friendly exclamation mark!

This whole “Alphabet” thing is a joke. I still don’t get what they’re even trying for with it. The company is Google and we all know it. The subsidiary owns the parent and everyone knows it. No one is fooled by this. Nothing has changed regarding the goofy super-class shares that Page and Brin hold that give them complete control of the company. Google is a privately-held company that trades as a publicly-held one.

Here’s the thing that’s always rubbed me the wrong way about Google. They’re insulting. Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates — I completely believe they’re all geniuses. But they never seem(ed) condescending. Tim Cook and Satya Nadella aren’t founders but they’re both great examples of what a CEO should be: smart, honest, respectful.

Brin and Page are almost certainly smarter than you and me. But they’re not as much smarter as they think they are. Read this whole announcement through the filter of “they think we’re dumb” and it makes a lot more sense. And if they were as smart as they think they are, they’d therefore be smart enough to recognize how tone-deaf this plays.

‘Snowbrawl’ 

Kottke:

Snowbrawl is a fun short film of a children’s snowball fight shot as if it were a John Wick or Mission Impossible action sequence. David Leitch, the uncredited co-director of John Wick and director of Deadpool 2, shot the whole thing for Apple on an iPhone 11 Pro.

It’s worth taking a moment to appreciate just how amazing this is. Your cell phone camera can shoot video that meets the standards of an Apple commercial. It’s truly astonishing.

The New York City Subway Map as You’ve Never Seen It Before 

Good design is always about sweating the details. Loved this tidbit on the contribution of designer Nobuyuki Siraisi:

He rode the length of every train line with his eyes closed, feeling the curve of each track and then drawing the path he perceived in his drawings.

Basecamp, Before + After 

My thanks to Basecamp for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. Interesting numbers from a survey of Basecamp customers, many of whom switched from platforms like Slack, Trello, Asana, and Jira:

9 out of 10 Basecamp customers report having a better handle on their business, 8 out of 10 say their teams are more self-sufficient, and 6 out of 10 have fewer weekly meetings. No more using multiple tools just to run one project. Less stress, fewer meetings, getting more done.

I’ve been a fan and paying customer of Basecamp for 15 years. Here’s a piece I wrote back in 2009 that remains just as apt today:

They didn’t start with what customers wanted, or with what existing project management software looked like, or by trying to guess what some group of faceless others would want. They designed and built what they themselves wanted, under the assumption that there were some number of other people who would want the same thing.

What drives some people nuts about [Basecamp] is that their products are not for everyone. But they’ll be the first ones to agree with that. Rather than trying to build things that work OK for everyone, they’re building things that work really well for some people. And how often does building something “for everyone” actually work out, anyway?

Check out Basecamp today and see what working better looks like.

Intel Says It Sold Its Modem Business to Apple at a ‘Multi-Billion Dollar Loss’ Because Qualcomm ‘Strangled Competition’ 

Stephen Nellis, reporting for Reuters:

Intel made the claims in a brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Qualcomm is seeking to overturn a sweeping antitrust decision against it after losing a lawsuit by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Intel, whose executives testified at the trial, argued on Friday that the ruling should stand. Appeal proceedings are expected to begin in January.

One reason Apple might have been able to buy Intel’s cellular modem team at a discount: who else was even bidding?

The final paragraph of this report is a bit odd, though:

Qualcomm has denied the FTC’s accusations, and other parts of the U.S. government urged the appeals court to pause enforcement of the FTC ruling against it. In July, the Pentagon and the Department of Energy said Qualcomm was a “trusted” supplier of 5G technology and would be “impossible to replace” in the short term if put out of business.

The ludicrous implication here is that the Pentagon and DOE think if Koh’s ruling stands, Qualcomm will be forced out of the 5G business. That seems utterly nuts.

BBC News: ‘Apple Changes Crimea Map to Meet Russian Demands’ 

BBC News:

Apple has complied with Russian demands to show the annexed Crimean peninsula as part of Russian territory on its apps.

Russian forces annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, drawing international condemnation. The region, which has a Russian-speaking majority, is now shown as Russian territory on Apple Maps and its Weather app, when viewed from Russia.

But the apps do not show it as part of any country when viewed elsewhere.

Garry Kasparov:

Apple changing its maps inside Russia to make Crimea part of Russia is a huge scandal. Regionalization of facts is unacceptable appeasement.

“Regionalization of facts” indeed. Apple can argue honestly that they’re complying with Russian law by showing Crimea as part of Russia to Russian users. But complying with this implicitly means capitulating to Russian propaganda. It is not a matter of debate whether Russia annexed Crimea illegally. It is a fact.

Ink: A Pure-Swift Markdown Parser by John Sundell 

John Sundell:

Welcome to Ink, a fast and flexible Markdown parser written in Swift. It can be used to convert Markdown-formatted strings into HTML, and also supports metadata parsing, as well as powerful customization options for fine-grained post-processing. It was built with a focus on Swift-based web development and other HTML-centered workflows.

Ink is used to render all articles on swiftbysundell.com.

This sort of performance is harder to achieve than you’d think:

Ink was designed to be as fast and efficient as possible, to enable hundreds of full-length Markdown articles to be parsed in a matter of seconds, while still offering a fully customizable API as well. Two key characteristics make this possible:

  1. Ink aims to get as close to O(N) complexity as possible, by minimizing the amount of times it needs to read the Markdown strings that are passed to it, and by optimizing its HTML rendering to be completely linear. While true O(N) complexity is impossible to achieve when it comes to Markdown parsing, because of its very flexible syntax, the goal is to come as close to that target as possible.
  2. A high degree of memory efficiency is achieved thanks to Swift’s powerful String API, which Ink makes full use of — by using string indexes, ranges and substrings, rather than performing unnecessary string copying between its various operations.

There’s some common syntax that isn’t supported (yet?), but this is already a great Markdown implementation.

The Talk Show: ‘Talking About Crimes’ 

For your holiday listening enjoyment: very special guest Matthew Yglesias joins the show to talk about Tim Cook cozying up to Trump for tariff relief and more.

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Google Faceplants Again on Stadia 

Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge:

On June 6, Google opened up preorders for the $130 “Founder’s Edition” of its Stadia cloud gaming service, promising those buyers would be the first to experience the future of gaming — and reserve a unique username. Though Stadia went live on November 19th, many buyers are still reporting they haven’t received the most crucial piece of the entire Stadia package: the invite email that opens the door to actually let them in.

This seems like a small thing, but the diehard gamers — the ones who preorder to be a “founder” and secure their user name — take this stuff seriously. It’s just a stupid misstep, but it’s more proof Google just doesn’t get serious gaming.

Apple did such a good job positioning Apple Arcade as a casual gaming service. Arcade under-promised and over-delivered, which is what every service should aim for.

1Password 

My thanks to 1Password for sponsoring this week at Daring Fireball. 1Password is a powerful password manager trusted by the world’s leading companies.

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It’s a great app and a great service that you can trust with your most valuable information.

MacOS Catalina Boot Volume Layout 

Howard Oakley, writing at The Eclectic Light Company:

When you upgrade to macOS 10.15 Catalina, your boot volume will effectively be split into two. Assuming it’s the standard internal storage, your existing boot volume will be renamed to Macintosh HD — Data, and a new read-only system volume created and given the name Macintosh HD. However, when your Mac starts up in Catalina, you won’t see the Data volume, as it’s hidden inside the System volume, in what Apple refers to as a Volume Group.

Although new to macOS, this scheme is already in use in iOS, and specifies the read-only system volume as having the role APFS_VOL_ROLE_SYSTEM, and the writeable user volume has the role APFS_VOL_ROLE_DATA. In that, the volume with the System role is normally mounted at the root /, and that containing both user and mutable system data is then mounted in /System/Volumes and accessed from there using several firmlinks.

Nice explanation of a complex change in 10.15 Catalina.

For the most part, in the Mac UI (like the Finder), it all just works. You open /Applications and you’ll see all your applications. But when you poke around in Terminal you have to know what’s going on or it won’t make sense. ls in /Applications will show only the contents of the writeable Applications folder; ls in /System/Applications will show you only the system applications on the read-only boot volume.

Gurman: Apple Has Changed Development Process for iOS 14 in Wake of iOS 13’s Buggy Launch 

Nice scoop from Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Software chief Craig Federighi and lieutenants including Stacey Lysik announced the changes at a recent internal “kickoff” meeting with the company’s software developers. The new approach calls for Apple’s development teams to ensure that test versions, known as “daily builds,” of future software updates disable unfinished or buggy features by default. Testers will then have the option to selectively enable those features, via a new internal process and settings menu dubbed Flags, allowing them to isolate the impact of each individual addition on the system. […]

The new development process will help early internal iOS versions to be more usable, or “livable,” in Apple parlance. Prior to iOS 14’s development, some teams would add features every day that weren’t fully tested, while other teams would contribute changes weekly. “Daily builds were like a recipe with lots of cooks adding ingredients,” a person with knowledge of the process said.

* Bloomberg, of course, is the publication that published “The Big Hack” in October 2018 — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all, was vehemently denied by all companies involved, has not been confirmed by a single other publication (despite much effort to do so), and has been largely discredited by one of Bloomberg’s own sources. By all appearances “The Big Hack” was complete bullshit. Yet Bloomberg has issued no correction or retraction, and seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Bloomberg’s institutional credibility is severely damaged, and everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract the story or provide evidence that it was true.

Tesla Cybertruck 

I don’t love the look of it, but I don’t hate it, either. And the more I look at it the more it grows on me. It has a DeLorean vibe that goes beyond the stainless steel frame. But mainly I’m just delighted that Tesla has finally unveiled a car that doesn’t look like a regular car. The Cybertruck is different. That’s exciting.

Unfortunate demo failure with the glass, but Musk recovered well. If handled well, demo failures are endearing.

Cook: ‘China Really Hasn’t Pressured Us’ 

ABC News:

Cook said he isn’t concerned over Apple’s relationship with China. “China really hasn’t pressured us, and so I don’t envision that,” he added.

If China hasn’t pressured Apple, why was the Taiwanese flag emoji removed from iOS devices in Hong Kong?

It’s far from the biggest issue surrounding China. I get that. It’s just a flag emoji, and we’re talking about a regime that has put over a million people into concentration camps. But it is bullshit. Under the one-country-two-systems arrangement China itself agreed to regarding Hong Kong, there is nothing illegal about the Taiwanese flag.

It’s flat-out wrong that Apple removed the Taiwanese flag emoji in Hong Kong. But if they did so at the behest of China at least we’d have a reason why. If China hasn’t pressured Apple on this point, small though it may be, why in the world did Apple remove the flag?

It reeks of cowardice.


Tim Cook Appears Alongside Trump in Re-Election Campaign Ad Shot in Mac Pro Plant in Austin

Donald Trump, tweeting a re-election video shot during his tour of Apple’s Mac Pro assembly plant today:

Today I opened a major Apple Manufacturing [sic] plant in Texas that will bring high paying jobs back to America. Today Nancy Pelosi closed Congress because she doesn’t care about American Workers! [sic]

I’ve been on board with Cook’s stance on engaging Trump. Participating in Trump’s technology council does not imply support for Trump. Engaging Trump personally, in private phone calls and dinners, does not imply support. But appearing alongside Trump at an Apple facility in a staged photo-op is implicit support for Trump and his re-election.

This wasn’t a promotion for the Mac Pro or its assembly plant. It was a promotion for Trump. This video makes it look like Trump’s trade policies have been good for Apple and that Tim Cook supports Trump. Both of those things are false. Even Trump’s predictable claim that this is a new facility is false — Apple, in what at the time was a high-profile shift, has been manufacturing Mac Pros at the same facility since 2013. Apple isn’t bringing Mac Pro assembly back to the U.S. because of Trump’s trade policies; Apple is keeping Mac Pro production here solely because Trump granted Apple an exemption to his tariffs — tariffs that he himself clearly does not understand.

But Cook went into this knowing that this is how Trump would play it — a big pile of nonsensical horseshit all the way down.

This is how Apple chose to unveil the packaging for the Mac Pro — in a poorly-shot overexposed propaganda video by the White House, scored with bombastic music that sounds like it came from an SNL parody of a Michael Bay film. Think about how it feels to work on that team at Apple.

Jack Nicas, in an acerbic news analysis piece at The New York Times:

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump called Mr. Cook a “very special person” because of his ability to create jobs. He turned to Mr. Cook and said, “What would you say about our economy compared to everybody else?”

Mr. Cook replied, “I think we have the strongest economy in the world.”

“Strongest in the world,” Mr. Trump said.

The president then took questions on the impeachment inquiry and launched into a tirade against “the fake press.” Mr. Cook stood silently nearby.

“Mr. Cook stood silently nearby.”

A low moment in Apple’s proud history, and a sadly iconic moment for Tim Cook. I hope avoiding those tariffs is worth it. 


Huawei’s Upcoming Android Tablet Looks Like an iPad Pro With a Hole-Punch Display 

What is it like to go though life without an ounce of shame or pride or respect for the creativity and hard work of others?

President Trump’s Handwritten Notes at Today’s Chopper Talk, Presumably on His Way to Austin to Tour Apple’s Mac Pro Factory 

These are not the notes of a man who’s losing his mind (and eyesight). No siree Bob. Everything is A-OK with this guy.

Amazon Will Pay $0 in Taxes on $11,000,000,000 in Profit for 2018 

Kristin Myers, reporting for Yahoo Finance:

According to a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Amazon will pay nothing in federal income taxes for the second year in a row.

Thanks to the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), Amazon’s federal tax responsibility is 21% (down from 35% in previous years). But with the help of tax breaks, according to corporate filings, Amazon won’t be paying a dime to Uncle Sam despite posting more than $11.2 billion in profits in 2018.

That’s fucked up. Not Amazon’s fault, though — it’s our corrupt tax laws.

Apple Has Locked Guilherme Rambo Out of His Developer Account Since September 

Guilherme Rambo:

Determined to get someone on the phone, I used my employer’s developer account to be able to reach the phone support page, where I entered my number. Developer support then called me, and I gave my previous case number to a nice person on the other end of the phone, who explained that my case had been escalated to a supervisor, who then escalated it to their supervisor, and that I would hear back from them “soon”. This was in mid September. In early October, I called again and was told I would receive an e-mail explaining the situation, I haven’t.

More recently, I tried calling again and got to talk with a supervisor, who said I would be getting an e-mail with instructions to get my access restored. During the call, they told me my developer account is currently “inactive”. I followed up over e-mail a couple of days later and got a generic response that “the internal team is still investigating the issue” and thanking me for my patience.

Like I mentioned before, the problem began in August. So far I’ve tried every possible private communication channel before deciding to make this story public. It’s worth mentioning that I didn’t get any e-mail or call from Apple warning about any sort of action being taken against my developer account. Apple always says that “running to the press doesn’t help”. Unfortunately, they haven’t responded in any way, even when I tried reaching out through internal contacts that I have. So the only option I have left now is to “run to the press”.

It’s bad enough that his developer account has been disabled for nearly three months. It’s downright Kafka-esque that he hasn’t been told why and can’t get an answer from Apple.

Pure speculation on my part, but unsaid in Rambo’s write-up of this story is that he’s not just any random developer. Rambo is extraordinarily talented at what I would describe as digital spelunking — he explores the internals of beta OS releases and pokes at beta APIs and he finds things that weren’t supposed to have been exposed. And when he does, he publishes his findings. It would be quite a coincidence if that’s not the conflict at the center of his account having been disabled — that someone at Apple got pissed off and impetuously ordered Rambo’s account disabled, and now they don’t want to explain it.

Or, you know, maybe it’s just a simple mix-up with Rambo’s billing information. Could have happened to anyone sort of thing. Right?

Trump to Visit Apple’s Mac Pro Plant in Austin Tomorrow 

CNBC:

The White House confirmed on Sunday that President Trump will tour Apple’s manufacturing plant in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday.

This ought to be good.

Android Camera Bug Allowed Attackers to Access Camera and Microphone Surreptitiously, Without Permission 

Checkmarx:

After a detailed analysis of the Google Camera app, our team found that by manipulating specific actions and intents, an attacker can control the app to take photos and/or record videos through a rogue application that has no permissions to do so. Additionally, we found that certain attack scenarios enable malicious actors to circumvent various storage permission policies, giving them access to stored videos and photos, as well as GPS metadata embedded in photos, to locate the user by taking a photo or video and parsing the proper EXIF data. This same technique also applied to Samsung’s Camera app.

In doing so, our researchers determined a way to enable a rogue application to force the camera apps to take photos and record video, even if the phone is locked or the screen is turned off. Our researchers could do the same even when a user was is in the middle of a voice call.

Fixed in software updates from Google and Samsung before Checkmarx published this report, but it’s impossible to say if it had been exploited previously. An exploit like this would have been of keen interest to government spook agencies looking for ways to target individuals.

Also, as Dan Goodin reports for Ars Technica, Google has no idea how many Android phones out there remain completely vulnerable to this exploit.

Dolby Cinema Exclusive Poster for ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ 

Now this is how you design a movie poster. Yeah, yeah, yeah — there need to be posters featuring the stars of the movie, too. But as a simple teaser, this poster is magnificent, with a style paying perfect homage to Ralph McQuarrie’s intricate concept art for the original trilogy. This poster works as well in 2019 as it would have in 1977. Bravo.

(Via Matthew Panzarino — the replies to his tweet have links to higher-resolution versions.)

The Talk Show: ‘Maximally Thin’ 

Very special guest Casey Johnston joins the show to talk about the butterfly MacBook keyboard saga and the just-released 16-inch MacBook Pro, with its all new scissor-switch keyboard design.

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Energy Startup Backed by Bill Gates Achieves Solar Breakthrough 

Matt Egan, reporting for CNN Business:

Heliogen, a clean energy company that emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday, said it has discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that it generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius. […]

The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution. […] Cement, for example, accounts for 7% of global CO2 emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

Sounds like a fantastic breakthrough.

‘Meth: We’re On It’ 

South Dakota’s new meth awareness campaign was all over Twitter last night and all over the news this morning because of its attention-demanding slogan: “Meth: We’re On It”. My knee-jerk reaction was the same as many others who see this as an outrageously egregious mistake: How could they have missed the double entendre in this slogan?

But give it a second thought. Of course they knew. The whole point is the double entendre, and the attention they knew it would draw. Just look at the domain name they chose. They are in no way using humor to belittle South Dakotans addicted to methamphetamine — they are using humor to burst through the apathy around the issue. A campaign with the same budget and an anodyne slogan like “Just Say No” or “We’re Here to Help” would have gotten zero attention inside South Dakota, let alone nationwide. But here we are, one day after the campaign launched, and South Dakota’s meth problem is at the top of the news nationwide. That’s not good advertising; that’s great advertising.

Erika Hall nails it:

“I lost me to meth.” made everyone laugh and look away.

“Meth. We’re on it.” is a fantastic double entendre that gets everyone to laugh and look again.

Starting with a self-aware joke is so much better than all of the sanctimonious anti-drug campaigns that end up as jokes.

Humorless dullards complaining about the half-million-dollar budget being a complete waste of money are missing the point. Not only is this not a waste of money, it might be the most bang for the buck for any state-sponsored ad campaign in history.

Another tell: the graphic design of the campaign is stellar. Good typography, great logo, great photography.

Apple Is Removing All Vaping Apps From Its App Store 

Ina Fried and Mike Allen, reporting for Axios:

What’s happening: The company has never allowed the sale of vape cartridges directly from apps. But there were apps that let people control the temperature and lighting of their vape pens, and others provided vaping-related news, social networks and games.

Apple in a statement to Axios: “We take great care to curate the App Store as a trusted place for customers, particularly youth, to download apps. We’re constantly evaluating apps, and consulting the latest evidence, to determine risks to users’ health and well-being. Recently, experts ranging from the CDC to the American Heart Association have attributed a variety of lung injuries and fatalities to e-cigarette and vaping products, going so far as to call the spread of these devices a public health crisis and a youth epidemic.”

I think I’m OK with this overall, but it’s a close call. The stuff about selling cartridges, and sharing news — it’s fine for that stuff to be out of the App Store because you can get it on the web. But Bluetooth stuff where apps were used as the interface for controlling hardware — web apps can’t do that (nor should they be able to). There is no alternative to a native app, and native apps are only available on the App Store. This would be an easy call to make (and would have been made from the get-go by Apple) if vaping were illegal. But it’s not illegal.