Morning Brew 

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Instagram ‘Tag Cleaners’ Are Fighting Against Digital Vandalism 

Megan Farokhmanesh, writing for The Verge:

Tag cleaners, as they call themselves, drown out gore, harassment, and more by flooding a user’s tagged photos with pleasant images. It’s benevolent spam. The most prolific accounts are usually reposting the same images ad nauseam in quick bursts. Randomfloweracc, run by a 17-year-old named Lori, uses cartoons like Rilakkuma or Hello Kitty. Naomi, owner of cute.cleanup, is also partial to Sanrio characters and rainbows. […]

Instagram appears to have removed all of the tagged photos of Devins’ death, but there’s little to stop abusers from creating new accounts and restarting the cycle again. In the days following her death, The Verge noticed waves of these photos, both originating from the same accounts constantly reposting, as well as multiple new accounts cropping up. Reports filed by The Verge usually resulted in photos being taken down in minutes; but in some cases, that’s all it takes for any user to see them to begin with.

What these “tag cleaners” are doing is clearly good. It’s heartwarming that they spend so much time on this. But it’s heartbreaking that they have to do this in the first place. If Facebook truly cared, they could stop this hateful trolling in its tracks.

Today’s Proceeds From the Apollo Reddit App Are Going to the SPCA 

Christian Selig:

So yeah, to try to help some today 100% of Apollo’s proceeds (every penny I make) will be donated to the local SPCA animal shelter. Apollo’s free to download with a Pro version that adds some extra features, as well as an Ultra version that adds a few more, so if you unlock those today it’ll be completely going to the animals and you get a little treat as a thank you for being awesome!

You might remember we did the same thing a year ago and raised $5,000 for the SPCA. I really want to try to hit $10,000 this time, I really think we can do it!

Fantastic app, great cause. Apollo isn’t just a truly nice native iOS app; it simply makes Reddit readable for me.

Jony Ive Describes the 20th Anniversary Macintosh in 1997 

This was so early in Ive’s career that he still had hair, and went by “Jon Ive”. The 20th Anniversary Mac was a weird beast, starting with the fact it commemorated the 20th anniversary of the company, not the Mac (which was 11 years old at the time). The main thing is it was never meant to sell at scale — it started at $7,500 and according to Wikipedia Apple only ever made 12,000 of them. It was a shipping prototype, effectively.

But the design clearly presaged what we now know as the modern iMac, which effectively is the modern desktop: all-in-one design, LCD display (this was truly radical in 1997), good built-in speakers, and an attempt to minimize the tangle of cables most PCs and Macs had in the back. All the hallmarks of Ive’s design sense are there.

Mark One: Apollo Edition 

I’m a big fan of Studio Neat, the two-man design studio of Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost. Their Glif is an amazing iPhone tripod mount (works with any size iPhone, or any other phone for that matter), and their Canopy turns Apple’s Magic Keyboard into my favorite portable iPad keyboard.

One of their most recent products is a pen: the Mark One. I’m using one as my daily carry right now (with a custom 3D-printed converter that lets me use my beloved Zebra Sarasa 0.5mm ink cartridges*). It’s a very nice pen and a beautiful, functional object. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, they’ve created a limited edition version, on sale in an 8-day Kickstarter campaign that coincides with the dates of the Apollo 11 mission. The project is already funded three times over — most likely, I suppose, from fans of the standard Mark One — and this is the only opportunity to buy this edition. I’m in.

See also: Gerhardt and Provost talk about the Apollo Edition on the latest edition of their podcast, Thoroughly Considered.

* For years, I swore by 0.4mm Sarasas. But now that I’m older and my eyesight is deteriorating, I can’t print as small as I used to, so I switched to 0.5mm a while back and now I can’t believe I ever used the 0.4mm pens for so long. A tenth of a millimeter sounds like a negligible difference, but in practice, it’s the difference between “very fine” and “fine”.

Ken Rosenthal on Jayson Stark 

Ken Rosenthal, writing for The Athletic:

Sometimes, I wish I could think like Jayson — and sometimes, with all the stuff ping-ponging around his brain, I’m grateful I cannot. But always, I wish I could write like him. Jayson’s writing is conversational, entertaining and often laugh-out-loud funny. He doesn’t take himself seriously. But he takes his audience extremely seriously, and considers no detail too small in his service of the reader.

Among his many attributes, Jayson has a knack for engaging relatively obscure veterans who are keen observers of the game, and then elevating them to oracles in his columns. After a long night of October baseball, 99 percent of us will gather in the clubhouse around the star of the game. Jayson will be off in the corner, talking to whoever he has identified as this year’s Corky Miller or Casey Candaele or Skip Schumaker or Mark DeRosa — and naturally, getting the best stuff.

Stark was a longtime baseball columnist for The Inquirer here in Philly. Back in the ’90s, he got an entire two-page spread in the Sunday Inquirer all to himself. My roommates and I used to fight over who got to read it first. I like The Athletic a lot, but I’d subscribe just to read Jayson Stark.

An Oral History of David Cone’s Perfect Game, 20 Years Ago Today 

One of the greatest days in baseball history. What are the odds that this could happen on a day when Don Larsen threw the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi Berra? One of the things I always loved about David Cone is that he didn’t have the best stuff — he pitched with his mind as much as he did his arm.

Mark Ritson on Apple’s Long-Term Brand Positioning 

I enjoyed this quite a bit, but the big thing Ritson misses is that the fundamental reason why Apple’s brand is differentiated from its competitors isn’t about its advertising — it’s about the products themselves. The products themselves are differentiated — only iPhones run iOS, only Macs run MacOS. That’s where it starts, and the advertising only serves to point out how the products are different and why they’re better. The “Think Different” campaign was an exception, but that’s because at the time, Apple’s fundamental problem was that its products were not differentiated enough. That’s the thing many people misunderstand about Apple’s “product marketing” team. They don’t come in at the end and figure out how to advertise finished products; they’re right there at the beginning, helping define what the products actually are.

All 104 James Bond Movie Villains Ranked 

Jacob Hall, writing for Esquire:

They say a James Bond movie is only as good as its villain. That’s not always true—weak bad guys unwind fantastic Bond movies. Stellar villains elevate terrible installments. While England’s top spy has gone head-to-head against a variety of foes, you can’t deny that some have served as meatier adversaries as others. That’s why we have to do what any Bond fan must do: rank every single James Bond villain in a big list.

Points to Hall for comprehensiveness — there are 24 Bond movies, with at least one boss and several henchmen in each film. I think he gets the order largely right, but there’s a lot to quibble with. (5th place isn’t shabby on a list of 104, but I’d rank Auric Goldfinger in the top 3, at least — he’s the quintessential Bond villain.)

The other thing I disagree with is putting Blofeld down as a single character. He appears in 7 films but, in the films in which we see his face, was never played by the same actor twice (yet). Hall’s rankings include the actors’ performances — I’d say each actor’s Blofeld should be included separately — or at least we need a separate list of ranked Blofelds. I’d go with: Donald Pleasence, Christoph Waltz, Charles Gray, Telly Savalas, Max von Sydow — and I’d probably put Pleasence’s Blofeld in the top 3 overall. Like Goldfinger, he’s quintessential. And the goofy unnamed “Blofeld” whom Roger Moore’s Bond tosses out of a helicopter and into a chimney in the dreadfully awkward opening scene of For Your Eyes Only ought to be dead last on the whole list.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Who Led Liberal Wing, Dies at 99 

Linda Greenstone’s obituary for The New York Times is utterly compelling. This anecdote says a lot:

Justice Stevens was known around the court for treating others with sensitivity and respect. One former law clerk, Christopher L. Eisgruber, described in a 1993 essay an incident at a party for new clerks: Before Justice Stevens arrived, an older male justice had instructed one of the few female clerks present to serve coffee. When Justice Stevens entered, he quickly grasped the situation, walked up to the young woman and said: “Thank you for taking your turn with the coffee. I think it’s my turn now.” He took over the job.

NYT: ‘Notre-Dame Came Far Closer to Collapsing Than People Knew’ 

The New York Times:

The New York Times conducted scores of interviews and reviewed hundreds of documents to reconstruct the missteps — and the battle that saved Notre-Dame in the first four critical hours after the blaze began.

What became clear is just how close the cathedral came to collapsing.

The first hour was defined by that initial, critical mistake: the failure to identify the location of the fire, and by the delay that followed.

The second hour was dominated by a sense of helplessness. As people raced to the building, waves of shock and mourning for one of the world’s most beloved and recognizable buildings, amplified over social media, rippled in real time across the globe.

That Notre-Dame still stands is due solely to the enormous risks taken by firefighters in those third and fourth hours.

Fascinating investigative journalism and excellently illustrated presentation on the web. Highly recommend reading on an iPad.


Apple Is Sending Out Another Silent Update To Fix the Webcam Flaw in Zoom’s Partner Apps

Nicole Nguyen, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

The fallout from Zoom’s massive webcam vulnerability continues. In a report published today, security researcher Karan Lyons shows that the same flaw — which gave attackers easy access to laptop cameras and microphones — affects RingCentral, which is used by over 350,000 businesses, as well as Zhumu, essentially the Chinese version of Zoom.

On July 16, Apple confirmed that it had released another silent update to Macs patching the vulnerability affecting Zoom’s partner apps. The update, which went out this morning, requires no user action, but may take some time to roll out to all impacted Macs. Lyons tweeted that Apple’s latest update takes action on 11 different apps, all vulnerable to the Zoom webcam flaw.

So here’s an interesting question. I’ve been using the phrase “nonconsensual technology” to describe Zoom’s invisible web server that remained installed and running even after you deleted the Zoom app. But when Apple first issued a silent, emergency system update to remove Zoom’s software, a few DF readers emailed or tweeted to ask: Isn’t this “nonconsensual technology” too?

Clearly, the answer sounds like yes at first. Users get no indication of the update, and “requires no user action” makes it sound like it’s mandatory. But there is a setting to control this, allowing Mac users to disable the automatic installation of such updates. On MacOS 10.14 Mojave, it’s in System Prefs → Software Update → Advanced (screenshot); on 10.13 High Sierra, it’s in System Prefs → App Store (screenshot). In both versions, the checkbox is labeled “Install system data files and security updates”, and resides at the bottom of the section that controls what gets installed automatically.

This option is enabled by default — even if you choose to install regular system updates manually — which is why the vast majority of Mac users are getting these “silent” updates automatically. But if you disable this option, even these silent updates won’t be installed automatically. I confirmed this with an Apple spokesperson, who emphasized that Apple only issues such updates “extremely judiciously”. Any pending security updates will be installed the next time you manually update software.

I think Apple has struck a nearly perfect balance here, between doing what’s right for most users (installing these rare emergency updates automatically) and doing what’s right for power users who really do want to control when updates — even essential ones — are installed. I also think Apple is doing the right thing by going to the press and explaining when they issue such updates. If I could tweak anything, it would be to have these updates show up in the regular list of pending software updates if you have “Install system data files and security updates” turned off. 


Business Insider: ‘Google Is Trying to Convince Congress It Has Search Competition’ 

Nick Bastone, reporting for Business Insider:

“In our core search business, consumers can choose among a range of options: Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, and many more,” Cohen said. “Specialized search services are strong competitors, too, including companies like Amazon, eBay, Kayak, Travelocity, Yelp, and others.”

But recent statistics paint a different picture. According to StatCounter, Google accounts for over 92% of the search engine market share worldwide as of this June.

Its closest competitor, Bing, accounted for just over 2.5% of the market.

Competition isn’t the right word. Yes, there are competing search engines, clearly. The right word is monopoly, and it’s just as clear that Google has a very strong monopoly on the search engine market. Monopolies aren’t illegal — but monopoly holders are subject to regulations that non-monopoly competitors are not. That’s the issue. Google’s argument shouldn’t be to simply say that they have competition, it should be to say that they compete fairly.

That might be a tough argument for them to make while under oath.

The Omega Speedmaster: The Watch That Went to the Moon 

Krishnadev Calamur, writing for The Atlantic:

In other words, the Speedmaster and watches like it provide a sense of permanence in an age with little of it. The Speedmaster available today is virtually the same as the one Aldrin wore on the moon, or indeed the one Omega introduced way back in 1957, as a tool for race-car drivers.

It is unchanged because there’s nothing to change: The mechanical watch is, along with the bicycle, an arguably perfect invention. If wound every day and serviced regularly, it can run for perpetuity. There aren’t many things you can say that about in our era of fast fashion and biennial phone upgrades.

This is, to me, exactly the appeal of mechanical watches.


On Bill Gates’s ‘Greatest Mistake Ever’

Speaking of Microsoft and mobile, this story caught my eye a few weeks ago:

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has been reflecting on his time at the company when crucial decisions were made over its mobile operating system. During a recent interview at Village Global, a venture capital firm, Gates revealed his “greatest mistake ever” was Microsoft missing the Android opportunity:

“In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win. It really is winner take all. If you’re there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom. There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system and what’s that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G to company M.”

A lot of the response to this has focused — correctly — on the antitrust implications of Gates’s “winner takes all” acknowledgement. Nilay Patel had a strong take: “Bill Gates Accidentally Makes the Case to Regulate the Hell Out of Platform Companies”.1

But I’m fascinated by the way he phrased the opportunity that Google seized with Android: to be “the standard non-Apple phone platform”. It’s just assumed in his thinking that the iPhone would have been the iPhone no matter what. Historically, that sounds bananas coming out of Bill Gates’s mouth.

You can make a strong case, too, that Apple might not have survived its 1996-97 nadir without Microsoft’s support. I’ve always felt the $150 million investment in Apple that Microsoft made in 1997 was overrated. It just wasn’t that much money, even for Apple at that time.2 It was symbolic theater — and it worked. The value for Apple wasn’t the money itself but the public show of confidence from Microsoft — the message that Microsoft was supporting Apple, not trying to crush them.

But the real benefit for Apple — the factor that I think truly helped save the company — was securing a promise that Microsoft would continue to work on Office for Mac for at least another five years. And it wasn’t just token “support” — Office 98 for Mac was a major update and truly improved the Mac-like-ness of the apps. Here we are 22 years later and the Office for Mac apps are chart-toppers in the App Store.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to argue that the Mac probably wouldn’t have survived without Office, and possibly without a good version of Office. And in 1997 Apple wouldn’t have survived if the Mac platform hadn’t made a resurgence. Apple’s own iWork suite — Pages, Numbers, Keynote — didn’t ship until 2005. Microsoft Office singlehandedly kept the Mac a credible platform for classic productivity apps for 8 years.

There were other third-party developers that Apple was dependent upon back then. Adobe certainly comes to mind — Apple needed the graphic design and illustration market, and that required (and still does require) Adobe’s pro apps. But it was never in Adobe’s interest not to continue supporting the Mac. If anything, it was in Adobe’s own interest to see the Mac thrive so that Adobe wouldn’t be dependent solely upon Microsoft and Windows.

Microsoft, of course, had some serious antitrust problems in the ’90s. If not for U.S. v. Microsoft, though, I wonder whether Gates would’ve chosen to drop Office for Mac and let Apple wither. I’m not saying anyone could have or should have predicted the iPhone and Apple’s dominance of mobile profits all the way back in 1997. Nobody really predicted what the iPhone would be in 2007, even. But if Microsoft had an inkling of what the iPhone would become, and where Android would come in and take over as, in Gates’s own words, “the standard non-Apple phone platform” by fast-following the iPhone’s basic all-display, all-multitouch design, maybe they’d have thought differently about helping Apple recover in 1997. With no Office 98, there might not have been an Apple to even make the iPhone in 2007. And with no iPhone in 2007 it’s impossible to say what the mobile phone state of the art would look like today. Without the iPhone, I think there’s a chance the mobile market would have continued on the same course it was on before the iPhone: dominated by crap software and BlackBerry-style hardware, with the carriers calling the shots. In that world, Microsoft might’ve had a chance.

If losing the mobile market to Android was Gates’s biggest mistake, you can argue it started when he agreed to support Apple and the Mac in 1997. 


  1. I’d be curious to hear Gates’s take on the console market, where there are two longstanding platforms — PlayStation and Xbox — sharing the non-Nintendo segment of the market. (Clearly Nintendo is the Apple of gaming.) With better licensing terms (Android being free of charge and open source was a huge boon compared to Microsoft’s mobile licensing) and a faster follow on an iPhone-inspired design, I’m not convinced that Windows Phone could not have been Xbox to Android’s Playstation. ↩︎︎

  2. Microsoft sold its Apple shares in 2003. If they’d held onto them for another decade they would’ve made $20-30 billion. Not that Microsoft has ever been strapped for cash. ↩︎


Chris Welch Reviews Sony’s WF-1000XM3 Noise-Canceling Earbuds 

$230, but they have active noise cancellation and a bunch of different sizes for the rubber nubbins that go in your ear. I think they look very nice, and they definitely look very Sony. It’s good to see that Sony still has it. The biggest downside: they’re not water resistant.

(Also a little frustrating that the company that came up with great names like Walkman, PlayStation, and Trinitron couldn’t come up with a better name than “WF-1000XM3”. Jiminy.)

Microsoft Word Passes 1 Billion Installs on Google Play Store 

Corbin Davenport, writing for Android Police:

Even though cloud-based productivity suites like Google Docs are incredibly popular, many people (and large corporations) still operate on good ol’ Microsoft Office. The Word text processor was Microsoft’s first Android app to pass 500 million installs on the Play Store, and a little over a year later, it has now passed the 1 billion mark.

As with most apps that reach this many installations, the count isn’t made up entirely of downloads from the Play Store. Microsoft has agreements with Samsung and other manufacturers to pre-install Word (and several other apps) on phones and tablets, so there’s a good chance many of those billion installations come from devices where the app has never been opened.

The Office apps are very popular on iOS too, of course. It makes sense that Microsoft put so much effort into trying get Windows Phone off the ground — they knew that mobile was going to be a huge part of the Office franchise. Turns out it just wasn’t on their own platform.

Peter Thiel Says FBI and CIA Should Probe Google 

Peter Thiel, in a speech to the National Conservatism Conference:

Number one, how many foreign intelligence agencies have infiltrated your Manhattan Project for AI?

Number two, does Google’s senior management consider itself to have been thoroughly infiltrated by Chinese intelligence?

Number three, is it because they consider themselves to be so thoroughly infiltrated that they have engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military… because they are making the sort of bad, short-term rationalistic [decision] that if the technology doesn’t go out the front door, it gets stolen out the backdoor anyway?

I don’t know if there’s any merit to these accusations, but that’s a hell of a thing for Thiel to accuse Google of.

Washington Post: ‘Apple Preaches Privacy. Lawmakers Want the Talk to Turn to Action.’ 

Reed Albergotti and Tony Romm, reporting for The Washington Post:

While Apple formally supports the notion of a federal privacy law, the company has yet to formally back any bills proposed on the Hill — unlike Microsoft. “I would argue there’s a need for Apple to be a more vocal part of this debate,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), a fierce critic of tech companies for their privacy violations. […]

“If you are going to use the value of privacy in your marketing, I think you have an obligation to your consumers to tell us what that means,” said India McKinney, a legislative analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties organization that advocates for Internet privacy and security.

McKinney noted that Apple hasn’t signed on to privacy legislation that other companies, such as Web browser DuckDuckGo, have supported, including an amendment to the new California law that prevents consumer data collection by default and gives citizens the right to sue tech companies for violations. If Apple were to throw its weight behind strong privacy protections even at the state level, it would help counter pressure from other large tech companies to water down the legislation, she said. “That would make headlines. That would be really useful,” she said.

Interesting dilemma on this one. I can see the argument that without backing specific legislation, Apple’s privacy stance is insular, guiding only its own products and services. But do we really want any private companies, even Apple, dictating the terms of public policy? Do Facebook and Google get a seat at the table?

Nilay Patel: ‘Facebook’s $5 Billion FTC Fine Is an Embarrassing Joke’ 

Nilay Patel, writing for The Verge:

That, as The New York Times’ Mike Isaac points out, is the real story here: the United States government spent months coming up with a punishment for Facebook’s long list of privacy-related bad behavior, and the best it could do was so weak that Facebook’s stock price went up.[…]

From some other perspectives, that $5 billion fine is a big deal, of course: it’s the biggest fine in FTC history, far bigger than the $22 million fine levied against Google in 2012. And $5 billion is a lot of money, to be sure. It’s just that like everything else that comes into contact with Facebook’s scale, it’s still entirely too small: Facebook had $15 billion in revenue last quarter alone, and $22 billion in profit last year.

Apple Brings Back Texas Hold’em 

John Voorhees, writing for MacStories:

When the App Store opened for business in 2008, Apple released Texas Hold’em, the company’s first and only iOS game and successor to an iPod version that debuted in 2006. The game, which Stephen Hackett profiled for MacStories last year was short-lived, disappearing from the App Store in 2011.

In the eight years since the game’s release, Apple has left the iOS game market to third-party developers, with the exception of Warren Buffett’s Paper Wizard. Today, however, the company released an updated version, which was spotted by an eagle-eyed 9to5Mac reader. Strangely, the game’s description says the release is meant to celebrate the App Store’s 10th Anniversary, which occurred last July 10th, not quite 11 years ago today.

I find this so fascinating. First, I actually enjoy this game. I’m sure there are better poker games in the App Store now — or at least smarter ones — but the game mechanics of this one, in landscape mode, are just fun. But why bring it back now? Why say it’s to commemorate the App Store’s 10th anniversary after its 11th anniversary? Was this meant for last year but held up for a year for some reason?

It’s also interesting what they’ve updated and what they haven’t. They’ve switched the font to San Francisco (but maybe that’s just because they were always specifying the system font), and it adapts to fit the iPhone X-class displays, but there’s still no iPad version and still no iCloud syncing across devices. For the most part, the game seems unchanged. Oh, and in a sign of the times, the price dropped from $4.99 to free.

FTC Approves Roughly $5 Billion Facebook Settlement 

Emily Glazer, Ryan Tracy, and Jeff Horwitz, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

The Federal Trade Commission has endorsed a roughly $5 billion settlement with Facebook Inc. over a long-running probe into the tech giant’s privacy missteps, according to people familiar with the matter.

FTC commissioners this past week voted 3-2 in favor of the agreement, with the Republican majority backing the pact while Democratic commissioners objected, the people said. The matter has been moved to the Justice Department’s civil division and it is unclear how long it will take to finalize, one of the people said. Justice Department reviews are part of FTC procedure but typically don’t change the outcome of a decision by the commission.

I’m still with Kara Swisher on this — add a zero and we might have a fine that will change Facebook. $5 billion is just the cost of doing business.

Where Are All the Bob Ross Paintings? 

Who would’ve thought that it’s next to impossible to buy an original Bob Ross? Delightful video piece from a team at The New York Times — I recommend just opening the link and hitting play.

‘Robot Umpires’ Debuted in the Atlantic League All-Star Game 

Johnny Flores Jr., reporting for Yahoo Sports:

On Wednesday, the independent Atlantic League, which is a partner of Major League Baseball, debuted the electronic strike zone during its All-Star game, making it the first American professional league to do so.

Home plate umpire Brian deBrauwere wore an earpiece that was connected to an iPhone in his pocket. The earpiece relayed balls and strikes after receiving it from a TrackMan computer system utilizing a Doppler radar and deBrauwere called them as he received them.

Sounds like they need to work on the latency, but this is probably the future for all professional baseball.

Former Tesla Employee Admits Uploading Autopilot Source Code to iCloud 

Sean O’Kane, writing for The Verge:

Cao denied stealing sensitive information from the automaker in the same filing. His legal team argued he “made extensive efforts to delete and/or remove any such Tesla files prior to his separation from Tesla.” Cao is now the “head of perception” at XPeng, where he is “[d]eveloping and delivering autonomous driving technologies for production cars,” according to his LinkedIn profile.

Uploading very sensitive source code to your personal iCloud account, then going to work for a Chinese competitor — sure sure, nothing suspicious about that.

According to a joint filing from the two parties that was also filed this week, Tesla has subpoenaed documents from Apple. While Apple is not involved in this case, a former employee who worked on the tech company’s secretive autonomous car project was charged by the FBI with stealing trade secrets last July.

That employee allegedly Air Dropped sensitive data to his wife’s laptop and was also caught on CCTV leaving Apple’s campus with a box of equipment. He had left his job at Apple to take a position at XPeng before being arrested.

I’m starting to think this XPeng company isn’t on the up and up.

Apple Disables Walkie Talkie App Due to Vulnerability That Could Allow iPhone Eavesdropping 

Apple, in a statement to TechCrunch:

We were just made aware of a vulnerability related to the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch and have disabled the function as we quickly fix the issue. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible. Although we are not aware of any use of the vulnerability against a customer and specific conditions and sequences of events are required to exploit it, we take the security and privacy of our customers extremely seriously. We concluded that disabling the app was the right course of action as this bug could allow someone to listen through another customer’s iPhone without consent.  We apologize again for this issue and the inconvenience.

I was just trying to use the Walkie Talkie feature today and chalked up its inability to connect to a bug. It’s not quite reliable enough, but when it works, it’s a fun and convenient feature.

‘The Shining’ Starring Jim Carrey 

On the surface this is just fun. But we’re obviously going to soon have real-world scandals based on these “deep fake” videos. Right now, video footage is a compelling way to prove something is true. What happens when we can’t trust video?

AppleInsider: ‘Amazon Now Fastest-Growing Music Service, Outpacing Apple and Spotify’ 

Mike Wuerthele, writing for AppleInsider:

Driven by inexpensive Alexa products, Amazon is adding customers at a faster rate than either Spotify or Apple Music — but still has a long way to go to catch up.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Amazon has quietly outpaced subscriber additions versus its more well-known competitors. A report by the Financial Times claims that Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers have grown by about 70% in the last year.

Time for the Justice Department to investigate Apple’s music business.

Apple Has Pushed a Silent MacOS Update to Remove Zoom’s Hidden Web Server 

Zack Whittaker, reporting for TechCrunch:

Apple has released a silent update for Mac users removing a vulnerable component in Zoom, the popular video conferencing app, which allowed websites to automatically add a user to a video call without their permission.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant told TechCrunch that the update — now released — removes the hidden web server, which Zoom quietly installed on users’ Macs when they installed the app.

Apple said the update does not require any user interaction and is deployed automatically.

That’s the end of that chapter. I forgot to mention the other day that the worst part about Zoom’s local web server is that if you deleted the Zoom app, the web server would silently reinstall the Zoom app if a website you visited requested it. That phrase I quoted yesterday, “nonconsensual technology”, really sums it up. I’ll go out on a limb and say Apple is none too pleased about this. I can’t think of a better example to explain why we — which is to say honest Mac users and developers — are stuck with ever-tightening sandbox restrictions on the Mac.

Rip Torn, Actor Known for ‘The Larry Sanders Show’, Dies at 88 

Ross O. Lincoln, writing for The Wrap:

But it was the 1992-1998 HBO comedy “The Larry Sanders Show” for which Torn will be perhaps best remembered. For playing Artie, the doggedly loyal attack dog of a producer who runs the eponymous show and manages the fragile ego of its star, Torn was widely acclaimed. He received six Emmy nominations, winning once in 1996, and over the show’s run was also nominated for two American Comedy awards (winning one), an American Television Award, and four Cable Ace awards (winning one), among many other accolades.

One of the hardest things to do in cinema — whether movies or TV — is convey a palpable, credible sense of camaraderie. It takes great writing, great acting, and perfect casting. “The Larry Sanders Show” is, depending on my mood, my favorite TV show of all time. And the heart of the show was the unwavering friendship between Artie and Larry.

Mix up a salty dog and pour a scotch for Rip Torn.

Zoom Considers Their Major Security Vulnerability a Feature, Not a Flaw 

Nicole Nguyen, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Not only did Zoom allow attackers access to the video cameras of its Mac app users, but it also left its web server running in the background, even after the user uninstalled the Zoom app. BuzzFeed News also verified that the server also reinstalled the Zoom app when a meeting link was clicked, without notifying the user, if the Zoom app had been deleted from the machine.

Saitta criticized these behaviors, saying they are “not justifiable in these cases and come with significant risk.” She recommends that people remove Zoom from their systems and refrain from using the app until the company delivers a version without that always-on web server. “This is an excellent example of what my friend Deb Chachra calls ‘nonconsensual technology,’” she told BuzzFeed News. “It’s a sadly common attitude among tech companies that what the user wants can be ignored on a whim.”

Simply outrageous.

Zoom Is Disturbingly Dangerous Software 

Jonathan Leitschuh:

This vulnerability allows any website to forcibly join a user to a Zoom call, with their video camera activated, without the user’s permission.

On top of this, this vulnerability would have allowed any webpage to DOS (Denial of Service) a Mac by repeatedly joining a user to an invalid call.

Additionally, if you’ve ever installed the Zoom client and then uninstalled it, you still have a localhost web server on your machine that will happily re-install the Zoom client for you, without requiring any user interaction on your behalf besides visiting a webpage. This re-install ‘feature’ continues to work to this day.

Any architecture that requires a localhost web server is questionable at best. (That means every Mac with Zoom installed is running a web server.) But the fact that Zoom implemented it in a way such that the web server was still there, still running, even when you deleted the Zoom app, is morally criminal, and should be legally criminal. No one who understands how this worked could possibly have thought this was ethical. Install the app, try the app, delete the app — you expect all traces of the app to be gone. Not only did Zoom leave something behind, it left behind a web server with serious security vulnerabilities. I’m not prone to histrionics but this is genuinely outrageous — not even to mention the fact that Leitschuh reported this to Zoom months ago and Zoom effectively shrugged its corporate shoulders.

If you ever installed Zoom, I’d go through the steps to eradicate it and never install it again.

Katie Notopoulos Tried Emailing Like a CEO 

Katie Notopoulos, writing at BuzzFeed:

What trips me up most is my habit of scanning my inbox, often on my phone, opening an email, reading it, and thinking, “I’ll reply to that later when I’m at my computer and/or not in the middle of this other project and can give a full reply.” Then I leave it marked as “read” and forget about it. I check my inbox constantly, but I only actually deal with my emails in a deliberate way during a few dedicated chunks of my day.

That is me.

The other key part of boss-style email is doing a lot of email on the phone. This meant goodbye to my old crutch of “I’ll reply when I get to a computer.” I would fire off emails from my phone on the subway, walking around at lunch, on the toilet at the office. For the first time, I actually started using the suggested Gmail replies, which are actually pretty useful in the sense of purely transmitting information.

That first Monday, as I fired off a bunch of not-super-important emails, something strange happened. I felt… extremely good. I was high on the fumes of efficiency. No longer did a little cloud hang over me, the nagging feeling you get when you know you’re supposed to do something and can’t remember what.

I’ve been thinking about this lately — that I should treat email more like I treat texting. A few words — or maybe just an emoji — and that’s it.

Walt Mossberg’s Review of the Original iPhone 

As we look back at Jony Ive’s career at Apple, surely the high water mark was the original iPhone in 2007. Walt Mossberg’s review holds up perfectly — he absolutely nailed it:

The iPhone’s most controversial feature, the omission of a physical keyboard in favor of a virtual keyboard on the screen, turned out in our tests to be a nonissue, despite our deep initial skepticism. After five days of use, Walt — who did most of the testing for this review — was able to type on it as quickly and accurately as he could on the Palm Treo he has used for years. This was partly because of smart software that corrects typing errors on the fly. […]

In addition, even when you have great AT&T coverage, the iPhone can’t run on AT&T’s fastest cellular data network. Instead, it uses a pokey network called EDGE, which is far slower than the fastest networks from Verizon or Sprint that power many other smart phones. And the initial iPhone model cannot be upgraded to use the faster networks.

The iPhone compensates by being one of the few smart phones that can also use Wi-Fi wireless networks. When you have access to Wi-Fi, the iPhone flies on the Web. Not only that, but the iPhone automatically switches from EDGE to known Wi-Fi networks when it finds them, and pops up a list of new Wi-Fi networks it encounters as you move.

Hard to believe, in hindsight, that Wi-Fi was a novel feature. My favorite part of the review is the chart comparing the iPhone to its top rivals circa 2007 — the Samsung BlackJack, BlackBerry 8800, and Treo 700p. They look like relics. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that I still see people — some of them surprisingly young — using basic flip phones. But I never see anyone using a BlackBerry-style phone with a QWERTY keyboard.

(The other funny thing, looking back, is how Samsung was still Samsung back then, copying not only BlackBerry’s form factor but even its goddamn name.)

On the Bugginess of This Year’s OS Betas From Apple 

Ulysses:

During the last couple of weeks, quite a few people contacted us about crashes, hangs and other problems with Ulysses on devices running the beta versions of iOS 13, iPadOS and macOS Catalina. We’ve been asked a couple of times if we couldn’t offer a beta version of Ulysses that works fine on the new OSes. Unfortunately, for the time being, we can’t.

From our experience with previous OS updates, we feel safe to say that these betas are extraordinarily unstable and buggy. After all, beta versions of operating systems are still just beta versions — they are buggy, they are crash-prone, and they do lose data. Whereas in recent years, it was pretty safe to install preview versions early on, this year that’s definitely not the case (see for example this report on Cult of Mac).

Most impactful for us, however, is that the (great, great) updates done to iCloud are also leading to severe problems with the service. As iCloud is Apple’s sync service, it’s beyond our power to solve them, of course. Some public beta users reported synchronization outages and data loss that propagated to devices that did not even run the beta but were just connected via iCloud.

I’ve heard this from a bunch of developers. Right now iCloud is dangerous on the beta OSes. That’s not a complaint in and of itself; if there weren’t bugs they wouldn’t be betas. But I think it was a bad idea for Apple to release public betas at this stage. One trick I learned long ago is to install MacOS betas on an external hard drive and keep my regular startup drive unmounted while running the beta OS. But iCloud is a data store too, and you can’t unmount it.

iOS 12 to 13 Comparison Screenshots 

Nice visual guide to what’s new — so far — in iOS 13 from Ryan Burnett. Twitter is pretty good for something like this.

Study Claims Huawei Staff and Chinese Military Have Deep Links 

CNBC:

A new analysis of CVs of Huawei staff appeared to reveal deeper links between the technology giant and China’s military and intelligence bodies than had been previously acknowledged by the firm.

The paper, which looks at employment records of Huawei employees, concluded that “key mid-level technical personnel employed by Huawei have strong backgrounds in work closely associated with intelligence gathering and military activities.” Some employees can be linked “to specific instances of hacking or industrial espionage conducted against Western firms,” it claimed.

Get me to the fainting couch. What a shocker.

Matthew Panzarino: ‘Apple Sans Ive’ 

Matthew Panzarino:

The narratives, to summarize, are essentially that:

  • Jony had checked out, become incompetent or just plain lazy
  • Apple is doomed because he is leaving

If those narratives look contradictory, then you have eyes.

If you take the sum of the breathless (dare I say thirsty) stories tying together a bunch of anecdotes about Jony’s last couple of years, they are trying to paint a picture of a legendary design figure that has abandoned the team and company he helped build, leading to a stagnation of forward progress — while at the same time trying to argue that the company is doomed without him.

OK.

Perhaps my favorite piece on Ive’s departure. I agree with the whole thing, top to bottom, particularly his dismissal of the, as he says, “thirsty” takes on Ive’s last few years.

Apple Revamps MacBook Lineup 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today updated MacBook Air, adding True Tone to its Retina display for a more natural viewing experience, and lowering the price to $1,099, with an even lower price of $999 for college students. In addition, the entry-level $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro has been updated with the latest 8th-generation quad-core processors, making it two times more powerful than before. It also now features Touch Bar and Touch ID, a True Tone Retina display and the Apple T2 Security Chip, and is available for $1,199 for college students.

In addition to bumping the specs on these two models and lowering their prices, Apple also got rid of the non-retina Air (except for education institutional buyers, and at retailers like Best Buy) and completely dropped the 12-inch MacBook. We all knew the non-retina Air would eventually — finally — go away. Unless I’m overlooking something, Apple no longer sells (to consumers) any devices with non-retina displays. Update: I did overlook something: the entry level 21-inch iMac is still non-retina.

I’m a little surprised to see the MacBook dropped completely, but the Air, though bigger, is a much more capable machine. Overall, it is a tremendous simplification of the entire MacBook lineup, and that’s a good thing. Retina Air and two sizes of MacBook Pro — hard to see how it could get any simpler. Other than the increase in size of the “smallest” MacBook, the only knock against today’s revamp is that the starting price (for those other than college students) has jumped from $1000 to $1100.

Update: A few other observations:

  • Apple isn’t making a point of it, but these new MacBooks both have the new third-generation butterfly keyboards.
  • According to Student Monitor, MacBooks have 60 percent market share among college students. That’s impressive period, but downright bananas for those of us who remember where Macs were market-share-wise 20 years ago.
  • Apple’s back-to-school promotion saves you up to $200 and includes a pair of Beats Studio 3 wireless headphones, which retail for $300. That’s a great deal.
Trump Can’t Block Critics From His Twitter Account, Appeals Court Rules 

Charlie Savage, reporting for The New York Times:

President Trump has been violating the Constitution by blocking people from following his Twitter account because they criticized or mocked him, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The ruling could have broader implications for how the First Amendment applies to the social-media era.

Because Mr. Trump uses Twitter to conduct government business, he cannot exclude some Americans from reading his posts — and engaging in conversations in the replies to them — because he does not like their views, a three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled unanimously.

This is the least important Trump controversy I can think of, but I do find it an interesting case. With the absurd number of replies he gets with each tweet — thousands, if not tens of thousands — I can’t see why he even bothers blocking people. But I like to think he’s actually sitting there, wasting time each day poking buttons in the Twitter app, angrily blocking people.

Summer Sponsorships at DF 

Hey there, DF readers. I’ve been lax and haven’t updated the DF sponsorship calendar for July and August until now. These months are wide open, including this week, and they’re available at a reduced rate. If you have a product or service to promote to DF’s affluent, discerning audience, get in touch.

Kolide 

My thanks once again to Kolide for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. Kolide believes you don’t need to spy on your users or cripple their devices to meet your compliance and security goals. To that end, Kolide recently launched a new product that integrates with your Slack team and messages your users directly when their Mac, Windows, and Linux devices are not up to spec. Your users will receive clear instructions about what is wrong and step-by-step instructions that will fix it. They can even confirm in real-time that they resolved the problem, right in Slack.

This simple premise of keeping your users in the loop and making them a part of the security team is called “User Focused Security” and Kolide is the fastest way to implement it in your organization.

Try Kolide’s new product for free for 30 days for your entire fleet.


On the Post-Ive Future of Design at Apple

I did a brief chat with Rene Ritchie for Vector, his YouTube show, over the weekend. I thought it was a great little interview — far more condensed than my own podcast, and with a full transcript to boot.

One key point that I missed in my first take on Ive’s departure is that having design chiefs Evans Hankey (Industrial Design) and Alan Dye (Human Interface Design) report directly to COO Jeff Williams does make sense organizationally. What I had missed is that coincident with the announcement of Ive’s departure, Apple promoted Sabih Khan to senior vice president of operations. Apple hasn’t had an SVP of operations since Jeff Williams held the title, back when Tim Cook was COO under Steve Jobs. Back then Williams ran operations while Cook ran the company and Jobs devoted his remaining time to new products.

Williams still holds the title COO, but titles don’t mean much at Apple. Rank matters, of course, and SVP is an elite level at Apple — there are only 13 executives at that level, and one of them is still Jony Ive. But the literal titles don’t necessarily describe what executives do. Eddy Cue’s title — senior vice president of internet software and services — comes to mind. I don’t know where one would begin crafting a succinct title that accurately describes Cue’s domain, but that’s not it. That just doesn’t matter at Apple.

This means Sabih Khan is running operations now. Jeff Williams’s title hasn’t changed, but he’s effectively now running product development. He’s led the Apple Watch product team from its inception; now I think he’s overseeing product for everything. Cook and Williams did run operations while holding the COO title, but what “COO” really means at Apple is “second in command”. Tim Cook didn’t move design under operations; he promoted Williams to a new position, effectively “chief product officer”, and as such it makes sense that Hankey and Dye would report to him.

Only time will tell if that’s a better structure than replacing Jony Ive with a new chief design officer. But I feel a lot better about it than I did last week when the news broke.