Daring Fireball Weekly Sponsorships 

August is sold out on the DF weekly sponsorship schedule, but September is mostly open. (October too, if you’re planning ahead.)

One sponsor per week, with a sponsor-written entry in the RSS feed to start the week, a thank-you post right on the homepage from me at the end, and the one and only graphic ad on every page of the site all week long. No tracking or other privacy-invasive bullshit. Just plain honest ads. My best argument that they work: the number of repeat companies in the sponsor archive list.

So if you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s discerning audience, I’d love to have you as a sponsor.

OWC Memory Upgrades for 27-Inch iMacs 

I noted this morning regarding the updated 27-inch iMac that the high end RAM configurations are pricey — $1,000 for 64 GB and $2,600 for 128 GB. You can get the same DDR4 memory upgrades from OWC for $300 and $600, respectively, and the new 27-inch iMac still has user-accessible RAM, so it doesn’t take particularly expert skill to install.

Craig Mod’s ‘Kissa by Kissa’ 

Craig Mod:

Kissa by Kissa: How to Walk Japan (Book One) is a book about walking 1,000+km of the countryside of Japan along the ancient Nakasendō highway, the culture of toast (toast!), and mid-twentieth century Japanese cafés called kissaten.

Looks gorgeous — wonderful typography and photography, expertly printed and bound. A genuine artifact.

Also, that bastard Mod went so far as to build and release as open source what he’s calling Craigstarter, a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding tool for Shopify. Just bought my copy and the whole process was smooth.

The Demo to End All Demos 

“One small step for a man, and one giant leap for wireless networking.”

Fantastic backstory on this stunt on ATP last March (28:00).

Phil Schiller Takes Title of ‘Apple Fellow’ 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced that Phil Schiller will become an Apple Fellow, continuing a storied career that began at Apple in 1987. In this role, which reports to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Schiller will continue to lead the App Store and Apple Events. Greg (Joz) Joswiak, a longtime leader within the Product Marketing organization, will join the executive team as senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. […]

“It has been a dream come true for me to work at Apple, on so many products I love, with all of these great friends — Steve, Tim, and so many more,” said Schiller. “I first started at Apple when I was 27, this year I turned 60 and it is time for some planned changes in my life. I’ll keep working here as long as they will have me, I bleed six colors, but I also want to make some time in the years ahead for my family, friends, and a few personal projects I care deeply about.”

Schiller hasn’t just been at Apple a long time — he’s held the position atop product marketing for, well, as long as I can remember. Product development, advertising, packaging, messaging, comms, keynotes — you name it, if it was public-facing, Schiller has been in the middle of it.

Best way I can put it is that Schiller is the most Apple-y of all Apple executives.

Jason Snell’s ‘20 Macs for 2020’ Project 

Speaking of Jason Snell:

With this year marking the turn of decades (in some particularly disastrous ways, as it turns out), I decided to construct a list of the 20 most notable Macs in history. Over the next 20 weeks, I’ll post essays, podcasts, and videos about each of them, counting down to number one.

Now, note my choice of words there: notable. I’m not saying these are my favorite Macs — a bunch of them I only knew in passing and never used myself. I’m not saying these are the best Macs ever — a difficult thing to measure, since (with a few obvious exceptions) the best Macs made are the most recent ones, otherwise we’d all still be using G3 iMacs.

My ranking system is, to be blunt, arbitrary. I tried to make a list of notable Macs that I felt reflected Mac history over the last 36 years. I wanted to choose Macs that were popular, revolutionary, weird, or had an interesting story to tell. If I have learned anything from Joe Posnanski’s brilliant Baseball 100 project, one of the most popular things about this series will be arguments about my terrible rankings and my unforgivable omissions.

I was not just happy but downright delighted to speak with Jason about a few of these Macs. And, yes, I’m outraged over at least one omission.

Is Today the Last Hurrah for Intel-Based iMacs? 

Jason Snell on today’s 27-inch iMac update:

As for the future, is this the last Intel Mac we’ll see? There’s no way to tell, though reading between the lines, it wouldn’t be surprising if there were some more Intel-based Mac releases as Apple progresses through its two-year-long processor transition. But I’d wager good money that the next time we see an iMac update, there won’t be an Intel processor at its heart. And perhaps it will look appreciably different, too.

Seems like a good bet to me that today’s update is the last round of Intel-based iMacs. What else might get an Intel speed bump before Apple Silicon-based Macs start debuting at the end of the year? Maybe the Mac Mini? Speed bumps for the Mac Pro and iMac Pro?

NYT: ‘When COVID Subsided, Israel Reopened Its Schools. It Didn’t Go Well.’ 

Isabel Kershner and Pam Belluck, reporting for The New York Times:

Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire student body back in late May.

Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world. The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives. Other outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close. Across the country, tens of thousands of students and teachers were quarantined.

Israel’s advice for other countries?

“They definitely should not do what we have done,” said Eli Waxman, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and chairman of the team advising Israel’s National Security Council on the pandemic. “It was a major failure.”

That’s Israel’s experience reopening schools after getting infections under control. Here in the U.S. COVID new infections remain out of control already, with nearly all schools closed for summer.

Apple Updates 27-Inch iMac 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced a major update to its 27-inch iMac. By far the most powerful and capable iMac ever, it features faster Intel processors up to 10 cores, double the memory capacity, next-generation AMD graphics, superfast SSDs across the line with four times the storage capacity, a new nano-texture glass option for an even more stunning Retina 5K display, a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, higher fidelity speakers, and studio-quality mics.

A summary of what’s new:

  • New Intel CPUs and AMD graphic cards
  • SSDs across the line, including options for 4 TB and 8 TB
  • TrueTone
  • Nano-texture display finish, like the Pro Display XDR ($500)
  • RAM options up to 128 GB (base configuration is still 8 GB; the high-end 64 and 128 GB options cost $1,000 and $2,600, respectively)
  • 1080p FaceTime camera with better low-light performance, and a “studio quality” microphone array like the current MacBook Pros

The 21-inch iMac has not been updated, although the base model configurations now have SSDs instead of Fusion Drives. There remains a 1 TB Fusion Drive build-to-order configuration for the 21-inch iMac, which I believe is now the last spinning hard disk Apple sells.

The iMac Pro has not been updated either, although the $5,000 base model is now the 10-core Xeon W configuration, and the old 8-core base model is gone.

I Call Bullshit on Apple Being Interested in Acquiring TikTok 

Dan Primack, on Twitter:

As we report in Axios Pro Rata today, Apple has expressed serious interest in buying TikTok.

That’s not what Primack reported! Primack reported that sources outside Apple claim Apple expressed interest in TikTok, not that Apple actually has expressed interest. The claim that Apple actually has expressed interest exists only in this tweet. The difference is significant if the sources in question were full of shit, which I think they were.

Doesn’t seem like Axios Pro Rata has web permalinks, but the post reads as follows, and has already been walked back with a pretty clear statement from Apple:

That’s because Microsoft isn’t the only party kicking TikTok’s tires, as Trump also said yesterday.

Multiple sources tell me that Apple has expressed interest, albeit no sources inside of Apple, and that at least one other strategic has expressed interest. Yes, it would be an unusual deal for Apple, given that TikTok is a cross-platform app, and a bigger political headache than Tim Cook may want (both here and in China). But if anyone has the cash on hand…

[Update: An Apple spokesperson tells Axios that there are no discussions about buying TikTok and the company isn’t interested].

Here’s an Axios article published an hour ago with the same content as the newsletter, but with Apple’s blanket denial simply standing next to Primack’s unnamed sources (multiple!) claiming that they are. Either Primack’s sources lied to him and he ran it, or Apple is lying.

“Albeit” is doing a lot of work in the phrase “albeit no sources inside of Apple”. Who would know outside of Apple? TikTok, presumably, and … the Trump administration? Primack couldn’t possibly have taken the word of anyone in the Trump administration at face value, right? So my best guess is that TikTok sources are making this up to drive the asking price higher.

It is extremely conspicuous that Apple flatly denied any interest. They will no-comment almost anything.

Nathan J. Robinson: ‘The Truth Is Paywalled but the Lies Are Free’ 

Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson:

Paywalls are justified, even though they are annoying. It costs money to produce good writing, to run a website, to license photographs. A lot of money, if you want quality. Asking people for a fee to access content is therefore very reasonable. You don’t expect to get a print subscription to the newspaper gratis, why would a website be different? I try not to grumble about having to pay for online content, because I run a magazine and I know how difficult it is to pay writers what they deserve.

But let us also notice something: the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free! You want “Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The Streets,” “The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other COVID Restrictions,” or an article suggesting the National Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus — they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness — well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run straight into the paywall. This doesn’t mean the paywall shouldn’t be there. But it does mean that it costs time and money to access a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit is completely free.

Via Kottke.

Major American Companies With a Consumer Internet Presence in China 

Liza Lin, Jing Yang, and Eva Xiao, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

President Trump’s remark over the weekend that he was weighing an outright ban of TikTok in the U.S. sparked nationalist sentiments in China, where the Global Times, a Communist Party tabloid, derided the situation as “the hunting and looting of TikTok by the U.S. government in conjunction with U.S. high-tech companies.”

On Chinese social media, users likewise expressed outrage. Many on the Twitter -like Weibo platform accused the Trump administration of pandering to voters by stemming the rise of TikTok — and by extension, China.

On Douyin, Bytedance’s domestic analogue to TikTok, where videos commenting on a possible U.S. ban circulated widely, one popular comment suggested Huawei be allowed to buy Apple Inc.’s China operations.

“Be allowed to buy” is some euphemism for a forced sale. But if China decides to retaliate — and why wouldn’t they? — what company might they target other than Apple? Facebook and Google are already banned in China. Amazon has AWS, which has a fair-sized presence there, but AWS is sort of the anti-TikTok in terms of being consumer-facing. Microsoft would be the obvious tit-for-tat target. But does Microsoft have a neatly bundled consumer presence in China?

If I were the dictator of China, and I was angry about the Trump administration forcing a proud Chinese company like ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok, and I was looking for a way to show that China cannot be pushed around by the U.S., I’d look at iCloud and the App Store, and humiliating the biggest company in the world.

But AAPL shares are trading at an all-time high so I’m sure all is good and Apple has nothing to worry about with a rapidly escalating trade war with China and a cornered-rat deranged narcissist steering the U.S.

‘Why Microsoft?’ 

Om Malik:

  • Why not someone like Disney which has dreams of being part of the digital revolution? Disney has the audience. It has sprawling global operations. It has the ability to walk the middle of the road where it can appease the autocratic governments and make the democratic countries satisfied. It also has a brand that has many sub-brands that cross many demographic categories. Disney wanted to buy Twitter. TikTok makes more of a strategic fit.

  • Why not Comcast?

  • Why not Apple? It has money. It has the desire to blunt Facebook and Google, even if it hasn’t said or done so explicitly! Or is it because they are a bunch of hard asses when it comes to privacy and may not play ball with the US government when it needs to access data of some TikTok-er?

Hence my question, why Microsoft?

I’d be shocked if Apple got involved. Just isn’t their bag. But why is there no bidding war for TikTok? In addition to the baldfaced crookedness of Trump demanding and Microsoft offering a “key money” kickback to the U.S. Treasury, the other crooked angle in this claptrap saga is the fact that an acquisition of TikTok, partial or otherwise, is presented as an offer to Microsoft, not a company up for bid.

I ask these questions but can’t help myself and not think about the event of last week?

Why was Microsoft not part of the showdown between BigTech and Washington DC? What makes them better than the other four? Why do they get to be excused from on-air humiliation while others get spanked for their monopolies?

Microsoft’s absence from last week’s hearing was conspicuously odd then; now it’s glaring. Especially when “buying upstart competitors” was one of the main thrusts of the whole thing.

TikTok and Microsoft’s Shameless Ass-Kissing 

MG Siegler, on Microsoft’s — strange, to say the least — blog post announcing its interest in TikTok:

Just read the thing. It’s almost like a letter of fealty. It reads like something a Chinese company might write under the Chinese government. To that end, it reads as if it was written at the behest of the government. Maybe that’s too strong. Maybe? How about: “Hey Satya, great conversation today. It sure would be nice if you could outline what we discussed publicly.” That kind of thing.

Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.

This is an actual paragraph in the post. The second paragraph, no less. What on Earth?! Is Treasury getting a finder’s fee here?

I thought Tim Cook’s participation in Ivanka Trump’s “just find something new” Zoom panel was a bad look. This is something else.

Trump: Microsoft Should Pay ‘Key Money’ to Treasury for TikTok Deal 

CNBC:

A transaction of the type the president envisions could also prove more expensive than the one Microsoft described on Sunday. Trump said Monday that part of the amount paid to buy TikTok would have to come to the U.S. Treasury Department because it would be making the deal possible.

“It’s a little bit like the landlord/tenant; without a lease the tenant has nothing, so they pay what’s called ‘key money,’ or they pay something,” Trump said. “But the United States should be reimbursed or should be paid a substantial amount of money, because without the United States they don’t have anything, at least having to do with the 30%.”

You’ve never heard of “key money”? Me neither, before today. But Trump would know it because it’s a term from crooked New York real estate deals. Here’s a 2015 story on “key money” by Virginia K. Smith for the New York real estate site Brick Underground:

“Key money is when you pay a landlord money (usually under the table) to secure an apartment,” says renters rights attorney Sam Himmelstein, who notes that sometimes, it was supers, building managers, or even the tenants themselves who demanded the cash. The practice, unsurprisingly, is illegal — only licensed real estate brokers are allowed to collect commission for an apartment — and has largely fallen by the wayside in recent years. “I haven’t seen it in years,” says Himmelstein, “and most people don’t report it unless they get into a scrape with their landlords.”

But why even agree to this kind of bribe in the first place? Essentially, key money served as a payoff for a lease that held particular value, like that of a rent-stabilized apartment.

That’s how crooked this piece of shit Trump is — he just uses lingo that’s synonymous with illegal kickbacks with no shame.

Apple Surpasses Saudi Aramco to Become World’s Most Valuable Company 

CNBC:

Apple rode the company’s strong earnings report to become the world’s most valuable publicly traded company, surpassing the state oil giant Saudi Aramco at Friday’s market close.

Apple shares closed up 10.47% Friday, giving it a market valuation of $1.84 trillion. Saudi Aramco, which had been the most valuable publicly listed company since its market debut last year, now trails at $1.76 trillion as of its last close.

If you’re a newish user — say from the last decade — this surely feels different than if you’re a long-time Mac user. Bill Gates “rescuing” Apple with a $150 million investment from Microsoft (the symbolism of which, along with the commitment to continue developing Office for Mac, was far more important than the money itself), Wired magazine (when Wired magazine was truly great) running the “Pray” cover (when Apple was truly at risk), Sun Microsystems negotiating to acquire Apple for just under $4 billion in early 1996 (truly the nearest Apple ever came to death).

If you’re a fan of Apple’s stock, this is welcome news. If you’re a fan of Apple’s products, this is profoundly worrisome. How does a company this large, this successful, not succumb to hubris? How does Apple keep the edge of an upstart? I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m just pointing out the obvious: the difficult part of Tim Cook’s era as CEO is really only beginning.

NYT: ‘Trump Says Microsoft Can Bid for TikTok’ 

Ana Swanson and Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:

Speaking at the White House on Monday, Mr. Trump said that TikTok would shut down on Sept. 15 unless Microsoft or another company purchased it. He added that the U.S. Treasury Department would need to receive a lot of money in return for the deal, without explaining how that would work.

How about explaining what it even means?

Dieter Bohn Reviews the Pixel 4A 

Seems like solid value for the price — $350 — but who’s going to buy it? I’m not saying people shouldn’t buy it, I’m saying they won’t because the people who should consider it are unlikely to know it exists. At this price, with this quality, the Pixel 4A seemingly deserves a major marketing campaign that I don’t think it’s going to get.

Morning Brew 

My thanks to Morning Brew for sponsoring last week at DF. There’s a reason over 1 million people start their day with Morning Brew — the daily email that delivers the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Business news doesn’t have to be dry and dense… make your mornings more enjoyable, for free.

I’ve been a subscriber for over a year and truly enjoy it. It’s good — well-written summaries of well-chosen stories, presented with good design. Check it out.

The Talk Show: ‘Algorithms, How Do They Work?’ 

Nilay Patel returns to the show to discuss this week’s House antitrust hearing featuring testimony from Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Sponsored by:

  • Linode: Instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode Cloud. New accounts get a $20 credit with code talkshow20.
  • Mint Mobile: Cut your wireless bill to $15 a month and get your new plan shipped to your door free.
  • Stitch Fix: A personal styling company that makes getting the clothes you love effortless. Save 25% when you keep everything in your Fix.
HBO Drops Sick Trailer for Season 3 of ‘Succession’ 

Wait, sorry, this is the reality show one, not the fictional one:

Once considered a potential successor to Rupert Murdoch, Mr. Murdoch on Friday resigned from the board of the newspaper publisher News Corp, severing his last corporate tie to his father’s global media empire.

“My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions,” Mr. Murdoch, 47, wrote in his resignation letter, which News Corp disclosed in a filing shortly after the close of business on Friday.

Three People Have Been Charged for Twitter’s Hack, Including 17-Year-Old in Florida 

Sean Hollister, reporting for The Verge:

Early on July 31st, the FBI, IRS, US Secret Service, and Florida law enforcement placed a 17-year-old in Tampa, Florida, under arrest. He’s accused of being the “mastermind” behind the biggest security and privacy breach in Twitter’s history, one that took over the accounts of President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Apple, and more to perpetrate a huge bitcoin scam on July 15th.

But apparently, he wasn’t alone: shortly after the Tampa arrest was revealed and after we published this story, two more individuals were formally charged by the US Department of Justice: 22-year-old Nima Fazeli in Orlando and 19-year-old Mason Sheppard in the UK. They go by the hacker aliases “Rolex” and “Chaewon,” respectively, according to the DOJ.

According to federal agents, Sheppard had used a personal driver’s license to verify himself with the Binance and Coinbase cryptocurrency exchanges, and his accounts were found to have sent and received some of the scammed bitcoin. Fazeli also used a driver’s license to verify with Coinbase, where accounts controlled by “Rolex” allegedly received payments in exchange for stolen Twitter usernames.

It appears Twitter wasn’t the victim of anything vaguely approaching an expert caper. These kids are such dingbats they used Bitcoin accounts opened in their own names. This profoundly disturbing and dangerous hack was pulled off by unsophisticated pranksters.

Makes me wonder what actual expert hackers are getting away with on Twitter.

‘Microsoft Said to Be in Talks to Buy TikTok, as Trump Weighs Curtailing App’ 

Mike Isaac, Ana Swanson, and Alan Rappeport, reporting for The New York Times:

TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app that has been under scrutiny from the Trump administration, is in talks to sell itself to Microsoft and other companies as President Trump prepares to force TikTok to divorce itself from its parent company, ByteDance, said people with knowledge of the discussions.

Mr. Trump, who said on Friday that he was considering “banning TikTok,” is expected to require ByteDance to sever ties with the popular app, according to a person familiar with the administration’s plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. White House officials have said TikTok may pose a national security threat because of its Chinese ownership.

Yes but what does the government of the Cayman Islands have to say?

Twitter Permanently Bans White Supremacist David Duke 

CNet:

Duke’s account “has been permanently suspended for Twitter Rules on hateful conduct,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. Twitter’s policy, revised in March, prohibits posts that promote violence or threats of violence against people based on their religion, race or ethnic origin.

It wasn’t immediately clear what specific post or posts by Duke led to the account’s ban. The verified account for Duke, the founder and former Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was blank Thursday, replaced with a message that the account had been “permanently suspended.”

Imagine going back in time 30 years and explaining to someone that in the future, there are privately-owned computer networks for socializing and sharing your thoughts, observations, and opinions, and that David Duke got kicked off the one that is most popular in news media circles.

“Ha, probably happened the first day,” your circa 1990 friend might say.

“No, actually, it took more than 10 years.”

“What? Does David Duke repent in the future? Does he disavow white supremacy?”

“No he doesn’t change at all.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Wait until you find out who the president is. Sleep tight.”

Twitter Releases a Few More Details on Security Incident That Resulted in High Profile Account Hijackings 

Twitter:

The social engineering that occurred on July 15, 2020, targeted a small number of employees through a phone spear phishing attack. A successful attack required the attackers to obtain access to both our internal network as well as specific employee credentials that granted them access to our internal support tools. Not all of the employees that were initially targeted had permissions to use account management tools, but the attackers used their credentials to access our internal systems and gain information about our processes. This knowledge then enabled them to target additional employees who did have access to our account support tools. Using the credentials of employees with access to these tools, the attackers targeted 130 Twitter accounts, ultimately Tweeting from 45, accessing the DM inbox of 36, and downloading the Twitter Data of 7.

I don’t find the level of detail here satisfying at all. I don’t expect Twitter to reveal the exact details of what happened, but this just isn’t enough. My guess is that they’re saying that the attackers targeted low-level employees via the phone, tricked them into revealing details, and used those details to (here’s where the guessing starts) impersonate them on Twitter’s internal Slack. Then, impersonating them on Slack, they tricked other employees into giving them access to these incredibly sensitive account management tools?

What seems clear is that internally, Twitter was inexcusably sloppy with sharing access to incredibly sensitive account management tools.

Federalist Society Co-Founder Steven Calabresi: ‘Tweet Is Fascistic and Is Itself Grounds for the President’s Immediate Impeachment’ 

Steven Calabresi, in a New York Times op-ed:

I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a law review article protesting what I believe was an unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.

But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.

Describing the Federalist Society as conservative and influential is like describing the ocean as large and salty. I truly never thought I’d be able to say I’m in complete agreement with Steven Calabresi, but here we are.

Apple Announces 4:1 Stock Split 

Todd Haselton, CNBC:

Apple on Thursday announced in its fiscal third-quarter earnings that the Board of Directors has approved a four-for-one stock split. Since Apple stock currently trades above $380, it means investors should expect to again have a chance to buy a share of Apple for around $100, depending on where the stock trades at the end of August.

Matt Deatherage notes:

We’ve periodically reminded that Apple’s lowest stock price was 23 Dec 1997, when it closed at a currently-adjusted price of $0.40 per share.

After 31 Aug 2020 and the 4:1 split, the new adjusted record low price on that date will be $0.10/share.

TEN CENTS PER SHARE.

“Beleaguered” no more.

New iPhones Won’t Ship Until October 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

On Apple’s quarterly call with analysts Thursday, Apple CFO Luca Maestri made it official — the new iPhones won’t ship until October this year.

It’s unusual for Apple to say anything about future hardware, but they do like to set accurate expectations, and if they said nothing many would expect new iPhones in September.

Apple Q3 2020 Results 

Apple:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2020 third quarter ended June 27, 2020. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $59.7 billion, an increase of 11 percent from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.58, up 18 percent. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

A record third quarter — in the midst of a pandemic. Truly hard to believe even knowing that work-from-home has surely led to new hardware purchases.

John Lewis: ‘Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation’ 

John Lewis, in an essay written shortly before his death July 17, to be published on the day of his funeral:

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google All Report Solid-to-Great Results 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, Karen Weise, Jack Nicas, and Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:

A day after lawmakers grilled the chief executives of the biggest tech companies about their size and power, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Facebook reported surprisingly healthy quarterly financial results, defying one of the worst economic downturns on record.

Even though the companies felt some sting from the spending slowdown, they demonstrated, as critics have argued, that they are operating on a different playing field from the rest of the economy.

Amazon’s sales were up 40 percent from a year ago and its profit doubled. Facebook’s profit jumped 98 percent. Even though the pandemic shuttered many of its stores, Apple increased sales of all its products in every part of the world and posted $11.25 billion in profit. Advertising revenue dropped for Alphabet, the laggard of the bunch, but it still did better than Wall Street had expected.

There was an undercurrent at yesterday’s hearing alleging that these companies, Amazon in particular, were profiteering during the COVID crisis. I don’t think that’s the case. Whatever one’s complaints about any or all of these four companies, they’ve thrived in 2020 because they’re among the few large institutions that have managed the crisis well.


Trump Floats Delaying Election

The president of the United States, on, of course, Twitter (random capitalization and frenetic punctuation sic):

With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???

Matt Shuham, reporting for TPM, explains the illegality of this notion:

In 1845, Congress decided that Election Day would be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. If Trump wants to change that, he has to convince Congress — a likely impossible task. And the January Inauguration Day was enshrined in the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in 1933.

Ben Collins:

This is the biggest litmus test for maintaining democracy we’re going to get. No pretending you haven’t seen his tweet, no insisting he’s kidding, no waffling. If you enable the thought of delaying elections because of rumors and whims, you’re enabling the end of democracy.

In short, it is enormously consequential that the president of the United States would float such an idea — a true and genuine threat to American democracy. But: the system is holding up. Hours after the fact, no Republican has backed Trump’s contemptible spitball, and rather than hide or duck, many have stepped forward to flatly reject it, including the Republican leaders of both the House and Senate:

“Never in the history of the federal elections have we not held an election, and we should go forward,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, dismissed Mr. Trump’s suggestion in an interview with WNKY television in Bowling Green, Ky. “Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we’ll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3,” Mr. McConnell said.

This tweet is the low point in this whole years-long nightmare of a presidency, and yet simultaneously the reaction to the tweet is the high point. Democracy is the singular most important concept in our society, culture, and Constitution. Everything else, no matter how important, is secondary, insofar as our system of dealing with those issues depends upon democracy through open and fair elections. Civil rights (racial, gender, LGBT), gun rights, judicial nominations, tax rates, military actions, health care, education. Anything and everything enumerated in the Bill of Rights. All of these issues are, no matter what any of us individually feel or think about them, secondary to the conduction of free and fair elections. With this tweet Trump is doing no less than testing the water for ending democracy. It is but a tweet, a word that feels inherently diminutive, but make no mistake, this is the most historically significant and potentially consequential statement Trump has ever made. Rather than walk away from it, he has since pinned this one atop the 54,000-tweet stack of abject aggrieved lunacy that is his Twitter history, and reiterated the notion again in a just-completed televised press conference.

It is what until four years ago we would rightly have considered a logical contradiction — a profoundly consequential inanity. A probing hammer tap testing for cracks on the keystone of democratic rule.

What must Trump do for his Republican enablers in Congress to abandon him? is the question the rest of us have been asking on a near-daily basis, often in desperation but always in utter exasperation, since before he was even elected. We now seemingly and hopefully have an answer. The line they won’t cross is ending American democracy. History, I firmly believe, will judge Trump’s Republican enablers harshly for not having drawn a line long ago, but this, ultimately, is the singular line that matters. We must now hold our collective breath that they stick to it.

For this, Trump ought be subjected simultaneously to universal contemptuous scorn and gleeful ridicule, more so than for any of his nearly uncountable contemptible and ridiculous statements and actions of the past. The oath of office to which he swore is to uphold the Constitution. Merely proposing postponing the election makes a mockery of it.

It is no coincidence that Trump floated this perverse notion mere moments ahead of official confirmation of the obvious: the United States economy has collapsed in historically horrific fashion, and as the economy goes, so go elections. Donald Trump cannot win an honest fair election held 96 days hence, and by law an honest fair election must be held in 96 days.

Donald Trump is, thus, desperate and alone.

I set the odds at 1-in-3 that he drops out of the election before the Republican convention at the end of August. To suggest the election be delayed is an explicit admission that he cannot face his now likely defeat. His deranged mind might plausibly conclude it better — more face-saving to him personally, his only genuine concern — to drop out now on the bullshit claim that the election is “rigged” against him, than lose in a humiliating blowout and cry “rigged” after.

Hope. 


‘Tech Titans Gave Their House Testimony Virtually, but It Was the Congressmen Who Departed From Reality’ 

Robin Givhan, writing for The Washington Post:

The hearing was billed as an investigation into online competition. And much of the evidence laid out before Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, speaks to ruthless business practices. Zuckerberg still doesn’t quite grasp the impact of Facebook on civic life. And most of those on the subcommittee weren’t really up to the task of questioning Cook on Apple’s business practices. Still, the voices of small-business owners whose livelihoods had been upended by Amazon were at least piped into the room.

Too many of the Republicans were focused on playing put upon and abused. They seemed more interested in Trump Jr.’s Twitter habit and throwing out accusations of anti-Americanism at the only executive of color testifying. Stifled competition and bullied employees were side notes. The event was virtual, but the disgrace was real. The titans were diminished, but far too many of the subcommittee members were the ones who looked small.

I watched the whole thing, and this is just an astoundingly fair and apt summary.


Parsing Tim Cook’s Opening Statement From Today’s Congressional Antitrust Hearing

Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai, and Mark Zuckerberg all provided written opening statements in advance of today’s hearing. The canonical versions are PDFs, but Politico has conveniently transcribed them on a web page.

Cook’s whole statement is cogent, and though Bezos’s is clearly the most personal of the four statements, I think Cook wrote this or at least was very involved in the writing of it. This is how he sounds and thinks. His entire statement is worth reading, but I’ll just quote the portions I have comments on.

Apple is a uniquely American company whose success is only possible in this country. Motivated by the mission to put things into the world that enrich people’s lives, and believing deeply that the way we do that is by making the best not the most, Apple has produced many revolutionary products, not least of which is the iPhone.

This “making the best not the most” line is true, and captures what made Apple Apple, and what Apple should continue to focus on as its North Star in all of its varying endeavors. The question, now that Apple has parlayed this formula into becoming the largest (by market cap) and most profitable company in the world, is whether Tim Cook truly still leads the company based on this axiom, or if he’s just saying it because “we don’t have a majority market share of any product category, including phones” is a pretty strong starting position for an antitrust hearing. They don’t sell the most things but they do make the most money, so it’s not like “most” doesn’t apply to Apple.

I think the answer is a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. There’s a part of Cook that clearly wants to argue that Apple shouldn’t even be here.

We do this, in part, by making ourselves and our customers a promise — a promise that we will only build things that make us proud. Apple’s founder Steve Jobs used to put it a little differently: we only make things that we would recommend to our family and friends.

This rings fundamentally true but falls flattest in the areas where Apple is, or at least should be, getting the most antitrust scrutiny. Take for example the Netflix Rule — the “reader apps” exception that allows Netflix (to name the most conspicuous example) to offer an iOS app that does not use Apple’s in-app purchase system. To sign up for Netflix, a new customer has to do so at Netflix’s website. A lot of other apps — many from very large companies, like Microsoft and Google — take advantage of the same rule. The way the rule works:

  1. Only certain categories of apps qualify. Apple calls them “reader apps” but most of them don’t involve reading.

  2. These apps offer paid services, but accept payment only on their own respective websites, not through the apps, cutting Apple out of the financial transaction.

  3. These iOS apps are free to download, but when launched, are allowed to show only a way to sign in, not sign up. Not only do Apple’s rules forbid these apps from offering sign up within the app (which, in my opinion, is fine), or offering a tappable link to sign up on the web, but the apps are even forbidden from simply explaining in written words what you need to do to sign up. Apps using this rule can’t even say “To create a new account, visit our website” — even if they don’t tell you the URL of the website.

I wrote about this regarding Netflix in particular last year, noting that Netflix does offer a telephone support number in the app. I called it, and a helpful customer service rep told me that to create a new account I needed to go to Netflix’s website and sign up there. They can’t just print those simple words in the app, but they can set up a phone number where they tell you what to do. As I wrote then:

Again, Apple can make the rules — it’s their platform. But it’s just wrong that one of the rules is that apps aren’t allowed to explain the rules to users. Apple should be earning its share of in-app subscription revenue by competing on convenience, not confusion and obfuscation.

It is prima facie wrong that one of the rules is that an app is not allowed to explain the rules.

Is Apple proud of this rule against explaining the rules, and do they enjoy explaining it to their friends and family?

Back to Cook’s opening statement:

The smartphone market is fiercely competitive, and companies like Samsung, LG, Huawei and Google have built very successful smartphone businesses offering different approaches.

Google does not have a successful smartphone business, if by smartphone business Cook means selling smartphones. Google certainly derives many benefits from being the company behind Android, the operating system, and the Google Play ecosystem that is effectively a user-facing OS on top of Android, but that’s nothing at all like Samsung, LG, or Huawei.

And Huawei is an odd company to mention in the context of the U.S. market, where their phones and telecom equipment are banned because of national security concerns. Worldwide, though, yeah, Huawei sells a lot of phones.

Apple does not have a dominant market share in any market where we do business. That is not just true for iPhone; it is true for any product category.

No M-word, but the meaning is clear: Apple has no monopoly so why are they here? Mind you, I’m not saying I think Apple doesn’t belong here — I think they do — I’m saying that’s what Cook is implying. No monopoly, no antitrust. And it’s undeniably true that antitrust laws, as written, don’t address a company that has attained a dominant position with only minority market share.

We created the App Store in 2008 as a feature of the iPhone. Launching with a little more than 500 apps, it was our ambitious attempt to drastically expand the features and customizability of every user’s device. We wanted to create a safe and trusted place for users to discover apps — and a means of providing a secure and supportive way for developers to develop, test and distribute apps to iPhone users globally.

No mention here of Steve Jobs’s statement, announcing the App Store in 2008: “We don’t intend to make any money off the App Store. We’re basically giving all the money to the developers and the 30 percent that pays for running the store, that’ll be great.”

It would be interesting to ask Cook when Apple’s perspective on that changed.

Curation has always been one of the App Store’s chief features and sources of value for our users. We held a quality department store as a model: a place where customers can find a great variety of options, but can feel confident that the selection is high-quality, reliable and current.

The analogy to a “quality department store” holds as much water as a sieve. The App Store is analogous only to something like Amazon, an everything store, with apps ranging from premium products to abject junk.

When the App Store was created, the prevailing distribution options available to software developers at the time did not work well. Brick-and-mortar stores charged high fees and had limited reach. Physical media like CDs had to be shipped and were hard to update.

To omit the fact that there was — dating back to the mid-’90s, well over a decade before the iPhone App Store — a thriving market for software sold directly over a thing called “The Internet” is sophistry. Most Mac software is still sold and distributed this way today. If App Stores are so great why is most Mac software sold outside the Mac App Store?

Rob Pegoraro today wrote an entire piece for Forbes on just this point: “What Tim Cook Left Out of His Version of App Store History”. Highly recommended.

Brick-and-mortar software stores and middlemen distributors did charge exorbitant fees, and distributing software on physical media, no matter how it was sold, sucked. But talking about brick-and-mortar retail software sales in 2020 is like talking about when cars sucked because you had to crank their motors by hand to start them. Or even like talking about when our city streets were ankle deep in horseshit before cars existed.

Talking about brick-and-mortar software distribution without even mentioning direct downloads and sales over the web is flat-out dishonest, and clearly the most disappointing aspect of Cook’s prepared testimony.1 


  1. This same point came up in my WWDC 2020 interview with Greg Joswiak and Craig Federighi. Joz more or less made the same argument, talking about the App Store being the next step after brick-and-mortar, completely omitting direct web distribution and sales. Which, again, wasn’t just an intermediary step, but a market that thrives to this day. I let that slide without pressing back, and it’s my biggest (only?) regret of that interview. What I recall was being taken aback by the reference to brick-and-mortar — how is that relevant? — and completely missing Joz’s omission of the web as a distribution and sales platform. Trust me, no one regrets this flub more than me — especially now, as Apple continues to make the same specious argument. ↩︎


Coronavirus Disinformation Video Seen 20M Times Before Facebook Took It Down 

Casey Newton, writing for The Interface:

As I wrote at the time, the problem was not that the platforms were ignoring the video — it was that, at their scale, even the few hours it took them to research the issue were enough for “Plandemic” to get all the way around the world. “It likely won’t be the last piece of harmful misinformation about COVID-19 that becomes a blockbuster,” I wrote back then. “And when the next one comes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that the pathway to virality leads straight through Facebook groups.”

Indeed, on Monday we got the sequel. And Facebook groups played a significant role.

NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny:

That Breitbart video from the doctors claiming that Hydroxychloroquine cures the coronavirus has been going crazy in anti-vax, anti-mask, reopen Facebook Groups today. It’s at >20 mil views on FB. And that doesn’t include all the private groups it’s been spreading through.

This exemplifies why this isn’t a free speech issue. Facebook isn’t (merely) a host for this video, it’s the facilitator for spreading it to tens of millions of people.

And scale is no excuse. Surely there are very few videos that reach this many people so quickly. A million views per hour is over 250 views per second. It’s laughable to argue that Facebook isn’t responsible for immediately taking notice of such a video. Think about a large casino. There might be thousands of people gambling at any moment. Casino management can’t pay attention to them all. But if someone starts wagering at a pace of, say, $1 million per hour — over $15,000 per minute, every minute — yeah, I’d say casino management is going to take a close look at that person very quickly.

Could be it’s on the up and up. The casino gambler might be an honest whale. The viral Facebook video might be a dog riding a skateboard. But if the gambler is an obvious cheat the casino is going to give them a tap on the shoulder within minutes. That ought to be the case for a harmful video on Facebook too.

Trump Retweeted a Doctor Who Believes in Alien DNA, Demon Sperm, and Hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 Treatment 

Will Sommer, writing for The Daily Beast:

A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video. […]

Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.

She’s an absolute kook, as nutty as a squirrel turd. And the president of the United States is promoting her “medical” advice for the worst pandemic in a century. Which means he is a mentally deranged kook. Yes, that’s terrifying, but it’s obviously true.

Tom Nichols:

If Obama or Clinton or Biden were up late tweeting out crackpot theories from a “sex with demons” doctor, the Republicans would be calling on the military to surround the White House and enforce the 25th amendment with nuclear weapons.

Two updates:

  • Just in case you think The Daily Beast took Stella Immanuel’s positions out of context, she tweeted to thank them for their summary. Spend a few minutes reading her own tweets — if anything, The Daily Beast underplayed just how bonkers she is. She should be getting medical help, not giving it.

  • When asked about Immanuel’s clearly insane positions at a press conference today, President Trump, rather than walk back his retweet, doubled down on it, saying “I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her.” And then walked out of room. Watch for yourself. Either he’s OK with her nuttiness and therefore is himself unhinged from objective reality, or he knows she’s nuts but promoted and continues to stand by her hydroxychloroquine quackery anyway, in which case he’s a sociopath. I’d say the answer is both — that Trump has an at-best tenuous grasp on objective reality and he’s a narcissistic sociopath — but clearly at least one is true. This one incident is a small self-contained proof that he’s mentally unfit.

The Talk Show: ‘The Least Worst’ 

First-time special guest Christina Warren joins the show. Topics include the App Store and antitrust, the general crumminess of video streaming service UIs, and historical examples of when Apple gets something wrong.

Sponsored by:

  • Mack Weldon: Reinventing men’s basics with smart design, premium fabrics, and simple shopping. Get 20% off your first order with code talkshow.
  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Use code talkshow for 10% off your first order.
  • Raycon: The next wave in wireless audio. Save 15% with this URL and code talkshow.
Ike on Leadership 

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
—Dwight Eisenhower

Another Good Story for the Enough-About-Politics-and-Trump’s-Clear-Mental-Derangement-Let’s-Stick-to-Sports Readers Out There 

Katie Rogers and Noah Weiland, reporting for The New York Times:

An hour before Dr. Anthony S. Fauci threw the first pitch at the season opener between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals, President Trump stood on the briefing room stage at the White House and declared that he, too, had been invited to throw out his own opening pitch.

“Randy Levine is a great friend of mine from the Yankees,” Mr. Trump, referring to the president of the baseball team, told reporters on Thursday as Dr. Fauci was preparing to take the mound. “And he asked me to throw out the first pitch, and I think I’m doing that on Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium.”

There was one problem: Mr. Trump had not actually been invited on that day by the Yankees, according to one person with knowledge of Mr. Trump’s schedule. His announcement surprised both Yankees officials and the White House staff.

But Mr. Trump had been so annoyed by Dr. Fauci’s turn in the limelight, an official familiar with his reaction said, that he had directed his aides to call Yankees officials and make good on a longtime standing offer from Mr. Levine to throw out an opening pitch. No date was ever finalized.

As a sidenote to a story that clearly shows Trump’s raging narcissism, compulsion to bullshit, and inability to read the room, the photo that accompanies the story is really quite a thing. The man, for one brief moment in this 4-years-and-counting hellish inferno, looks genuinely happy.

CES 2021 Will Be Digital-Only 

The CTA:

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) today announced CES 2021 — January 6-9, 2021 — will be an all-digital experience connecting exhibitors, customers, thought leaders and media from around the world. […]

“Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA.

Smart of them to make this decision early. But at this point I genuinely wonder if CES 2022 will be feasible in-person.

Regis Philbin Gets Bumped 

David Letterman on the late Regis Philbin: “When he retired I lost interest in television. I love him.”

Jason Snell has an absolutely classic clip of Philbin on Letterman. That’s a rabbit hole worthy of hours of your time.

Yankees-Phillies Game Postponed After Marlins COVID-19 Outbreak at Citizens Bank Park 

R.J. Anderson, reporting for CBS Sports:

The New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies will not play their Monday night game as scheduled, Major League Baseball announced. The game at Citizens Bank Park has been postponed. The game’s status came into question Monday morning, when the Miami Marlins were confirmed to have a COVID-19 outbreak on their roster.

The Marlins, who played the Phillies in Philadelphia over the weekend in Philadelphia, reportedly have had at least 14 individuals test positive since last week.

MLB teams have been playing for one weekend — one weekend — and already there’s an out of control outbreak on one team. I do not think this is going to work. The Marlins ought to be quarantined for 14 days, which puts the whole season in jeopardy.


Good Sudoku by Zach Gage

I’ll bet you have a short list of favorite authors and filmmakers. When you hear that one of them has a new book or movie coming out, you’re buying a ticket before you know the premise. Zach Gage is that type of game designer: Really Bad Chess, Ridiculous Fishing, Flipflop Solitaire and more. They’re great games, exquisitely crafted, with inordinately clever premises and conceits. And no matter how disparate the premises they all share Gage’s distinctive voice and aesthetic. There’s a distinct Gage-yness to a Zach Gage game, in the way that you know, say, a Stephen King novel or Martin Scorsese movie just by the feel of it.

It’s a combination of joy, craftsmanship, and originality. I say craftsmanship because they’re not just good games but they’re good apps. The interactions and feel and flow and simply design of the software as software are all great. If Zach Gage made a utility app instead of game it’d surely be exquisite, in the same way that, again, good novelists often write great non-fiction and good fiction filmmakers make good documentaries.

We don’t have enough auteurs like that in software. I don’t know why that is. But it’s pretty great that we have Zach Gage.

The premise behind Good Sudoku — Gage’s new game out today, made with developer Jack Schlesinger (free download, $4 one-time in-app purchase to unlock everything) — is sort of the inverse of Really Bad Chess. Really Bad Chess messes with standard chess by screwing with all the rules for how many pieces of which kind each side gets. Good Sudoku is just straight-up Sudoku. Where’s the novelty in that? Execution. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of Sudoku video games, and none of them are great (and most of them stink). Good Sudoku is Sudoku with great design, consideration, and craftsmanship. That’s it, and it turns out that’s idea enough.

See also: John Voorhees at MacStories, and Andrew Webster at The Verge