Devin Coldewey on Amazon Killing DPReview 

Devin Coldewey, writing at TechCrunch:

The team’s knowledge, acumen and extensive objective testing contributed to reviews that famously reached near-comical lengths at times, but that was because shortcuts simply were not taken: You could be sure that even minor models were getting not just a fair shake, but the same treatment a flagship model received. Its back catalog of camera reviews and specs is an incredible resource that I have consulted hundreds of times. [...]

Somehow Amazon never really found a way to capitalize on this one-of-a-kind asset, and DPReview has carried on over the years more or less untouched, to the point where it seems possible its parent company forgot they owned them. It’s hard not to see the opportunities that present themselves when you own one of the world’s leading expert voices on a major category, but perhaps unsurprisingly, no one thought to invest in and integrate DPReview closely with Amazon’s other properties. It isn’t the first time the left hand and right hand have been incommunicado at that company.

Despite being a very longtime devotee of DPReview, as I noted yesterday, I actually never noticed (or, perhaps, long ago forgot) that Amazon had acquired them in 2007. That acquisition didn’t change the content or quality of DPReview’s coverage at all — they certainly didn’t turn into a shill, just trying to sell kit available at Amazon.

Recommended: ‘‎Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming With Dave Letterman’ 

Is this a U2 special with Letterman emceeing, or a Letterman special featuring Bono and The Edge playing stripped down versions of some of U2’s best songs? Yes. It felt perfectly balanced to me. Funny but not a comedy, wonderful music but not at all a concert film. More like this, please.

(Would love to see Letterman do this with Mick and Keith, Page and Plant — or, my god, Paul and Ringo.)

Microsoft Loop : Notion :: Teams : Slack 

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

Microsoft is now letting anyone preview Microsoft Loop, a collaborative hub offering a new way of working across Office apps and managing tasks and projects. Much like Notion, Microsoft Loop includes workspaces and pages where you can import and organize tasks, projects, and documents. But what sets the two apart is Loop’s shareable components that let you turn any page into a real-time block of content that can be pasted into Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Word on the web, and Whiteboard.

Loop components are constantly updated and editable for whoever they’re shared with. Imagine a table that you’re working on with colleagues; you can drop that as a Loop component into a Teams message or Outlook email, and any edits to the table will be reflected wherever it’s embedded or shared.

For some reason I’m having flashbacks to a college internship, when I had to read the spec for OpenDoc. It was like a phone book in size but less readable.

Microsoft Loop is designed with collaboration and co-creation in mind. The main interface looks a lot like Notion, a workspace app that is used by Adobe, Figma, Amazon, and many other businesses.

Is Loop a Notion rip-off, or simply in the same space? As ever with Microsoft, they are unafraid to copy. Teams doesn’t just do similar things as Slack — it looks like Slack. Likewise, Loop looks like Notion. I’m not a Notion user so I’m not super-familiar with it, but Loop feels very similar. Loop has the same “::” grippy indicator for dragging components on a page up and down to reorder them, and more tellingly, the same “just type /” slash key trigger for shortcuts. But Slack uses slash the same way and Microsoft copied Slack years ago with Teams.

Notion makes it easy to share a page as a public website (Hipstamatic’s relaunch press release that I linked to an hour ago is on Notion); Loop doesn’t seem to have that feature. Both Notion and Loop are only available on the web on the Mac, but both do work in Safari. [Update: Whoops, wrong, Notion does offer desktop apps for Mac and Windows from their website, but it’s an, err, notional “app” at best — really just an Electron wrapper around their web app. Still, though, we regret the error.] Microsoft’s ChatGPT-powered Bing chat not only doesn’t work in Safari, it requires the bleeding-edge “dev” builds of Edge. Notion has mobile apps for iOS and Android, and Microsoft does too, albeit in beta. Notion’s AI assistant, curiously enough, is more advanced. (Microsoft’s Copilot is coming to Loop, but seemingly isn’t available there for me yet.) I asked Notion’s AI “What are the differences between Notion and Microsoft Loop?” and got a reasonable answer — impressive considering that Loop was only announced today.

If you create software that gains traction in work environments, it’s inevitable that Microsoft is going to follow.

Welcome Back, Hipstamatic 

Remember Hipstamatic, the original retro filter camera app for iPhone? At its peak in 2012, photographer Ben Lowy shot the cover image for Time magazine using it. Hipstamatic never really disappeared, but it seemingly lost relevance.

Well, they’re back — recognizable, for sure, but different. New: a photo-sharing social network, ad-free, algorithm-free, and monetized only by a paid membership tier. Hipstamatic co-founder Lucas Buick, on Product Hunt:

But why bring back Hipstamatic now, after it faded from popularity over a decade ago? The answer lies in the growing dissatisfaction with the current state of social media. The recent controversies surrounding Facebook and Meta, as well as concerns over data privacy and the addictive nature of technology, have sparked a desire for something different.

Hipstamatic represents a return to the roots of mobile photography, a time before algorithms and AI ruled the day. It’s a reminder that technology can be used for fun and creativity, not just profit and engagement. The app’s member-supported community is proof that there are people out there who still value genuine connections and the simple pleasure of taking and sharing photos.

I dig it. Not sure about the fact that photos posted to Hipstamatic expire after 4 weeks, but that’s certainly different. Worth installing on your iPhone just to get that icon on your Home screen.

Amazon Layoffs Will Shut Down Camera Review Site DPReview After 25 Years 

Andrew Cunningham, reporting for Ars Technica:

Amazon has plans to lay off at least 27,000 workers this year, including 9,000 that were announced in an internal email Monday morning. One unexpected casualty: Digital Photography Review, also known as DPReview, is losing its entire editorial staff, and the site will stop publishing on April 10.

The announcement post, written by DPReview General Manager Scott Everett, says that new pieces will continue to be posted through April 10, and “the site will be locked” afterward. It’s unclear what will happen to the site’s content afterward — the post promises only that the site’s articles “will be available in read-only mode for a limited period afterwards.” [...]

Founded in November 1998, DPReview is one of the few active review sites as old as Ars Technica. Amazon purchased it in 2007, and the site’s team has been located in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle since 2010.

The “DP” in “DPReview” stands for “digital photography”. The site is so old that that was necessary, because in 1998 most pro and prosumer photography equipment still revolved around shooting on film. DPReview went all-in on digital photography at a time when many photographers were deeply skeptical of its potential, because the technology was nascent. I’ve bought a fair amount of photography kit over the last 25 years, and never once bought a camera or lens without first reading and watching what DPReview had to say about it. I just bought my first new standalone camera in years a few weeks ago — the Ricoh GR IIIx — and DPReview’s review was the one that sealed the deal for me.

Layoffs are brutal, always, but it feels especially cruel that Amazon is noncommittal regarding keeping DPReview’s content around in perpetuity. Why only keep it available “for a limited time”? How much could it cost to just keep it around forever? Did they even try to sell it? How about letting the staff take over the site as part of their severance?

Widgetsmith Hits 100 Million Frigging Downloads 

“Underscore” David Smith:

Widgetsmith has just achieved a remarkable milestone, surpassing 100 million downloads since its launch in September 2020. A number that I can’t really wrap my mind around. A number larger than the population of all but 14 countries (🤯).

I was very conflicted about whether I should share and observe this milestone publicly. I am by nature a very shy, quiet person and not one to seek the spotlight.

Ultimately I decided to share this milestone for two reasons: Gratitude and Community.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, truly. Widgetsmith is proof that you just never know when something is going to really resonate and take off. Smith is a very talented developer (and designer) with a bunch of successful apps, but Widgetsmith in particular is a genuine sensation. Just like Smith, 100 million downloads is a number I can’t even get my head around.

‘aCropalypse’: Android and Windows Bugs Allow Cropped-Out Content From Screenshots to Be Recovered 

Simon Aarons:

Introducing acropalypse: a serious privacy vulnerability in the Google Pixel’s inbuilt screenshot editing tool, Markup, enabling partial recovery of the original, unedited image data of a cropped and/or redacted screenshot. Huge thanks to @David3141593 for his help throughout!

David Buchanan:

The bug lies in closed-source Google-proprietary code so it’s a bit hard to inspect, but after some patch-diffing I concluded that the root cause was due to this horrible bit of API “design”:

Google was passing "w" to a call to parseMode(), when they should’ve been passing "wt" (the t stands for truncation). This is an easy mistake, since similar APIs (like POSIX fopen) will truncate by default when you simply pass "w". Not only that, but previous Android releases had parseMode("w") truncate by default too! This change wasn’t even documented until some time after the aforementioned bug report was made.

The end result is that the image file is opened without the O_TRUNC flag, so that when the cropped image is written, the original image is not truncated. If the new image file is smaller, the end of the original is left behind.

I ran a few cropped screenshots from my Pixel 4 running Android 13 through their proof-of-concept tool, and some of them revealed quite a bit of cropped-out content.

And it’s not just Android: Buchanan today discovered that Windows 11 and 10 have a similar bug.

Solid State Volume Buttons and Mute Switch on iPhone 15 Pro Models 

Chance Miller, writing for 9to5Mac:

Earlier this month, 9to5Mac exclusively reported that the upcoming iPhone 15 Pro will have new unified volume buttons and a new “pressing type” mute button. Now, freshly-leaked CAD files have corroborated our report and offered a closer look at the new design.

This year’s phones will adopt new solid-state buttons with haptic feedback, similar to the Home button introduced with iPhone 7. This means that the buttons will no longer have moving parts and will identify the pressure level to work.

I trust Apple on this, because they absolutely nailed it with the iPhone 7 home button. That button was better than the buttons that actually clicked. Same thing for Apple’s modern trackpads — their simulated haptics clicks are better than the old trackpads that actually clicked. But I’m damn curious about two things:

  • How will the mute switch work? It’s a real benefit that you can discern the current state of the mute switch by feel alone, while the iPhone remains in your pocket or purse. (And lo these many years later, I still remain baffled that among all the umpteen design elements that Android phones have copied from iPhones, no popular or even semi-popular Android phones have ever had hardware mute switches. Not even Nothing, whose first phone unapologetically apes the iPhone frame.)

  • How will these haptic buttons work with cases? And gloves? Is pressure sensitivity enough? Or will iPhone 15 cases need to have pass-through capacitive buttons?

It’s Game Over on Vocal Deepfakes

You may recall back in October I linked to an AI-generated simulated interview between Joe Rogan and Steve Jobs. I wrote:

I also don’t buy their claim that these voices are completely generated. Most of Jobs’s lines have auditorium echo — they sound like clips copy-and-pasted. If they can really generate these voices, why doesn’t their virtual Rogan actually say Steve Jobs’s name? Send me a clip of virtual Steve Jobs saying “John Gruber is a bozo, and I tell people not to waste their time reading Daring Fireball.” Then I’ll believe it.

I neglected to follow up until now, but Ignaz Kowalczuk from ElevenLabs (the company behind Prime Voice AI) took me up on the challenge and sent me this clip:

That clip sounds noticeably stilted, but it does sound like Steve Jobs.

Now come this: a Twitter thread from John Meyer, who trained a clone of Jobs’s voice and then hooked it up to ChatGPT to generate the words. The clips he posted to Twitter are freakishly uncanny. It really sounds like Jobs. The only hitch is that it sounds like Jobs reading from a script, not speaking extemporaneously. But damned if it doesn’t sound like him.

It’s all fun and games in these demos, but this is inevitably going to be put to use by ratfuckers to create fake scandals in political campaigns. Recall the infamous “When you’re a star, they let you do it. Grab them by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape that The Washington Post published in October 2016. That tape obviously didn’t prevent him from winning the election, but it did hurt him by a few percent in the polls. There was no question at the time that the tape was legitimate. But if it came out now?

And it feels inevitable that a Roger Stone or Steve Bannon type will use this technology to commission, say, a recording of Joe Biden forgetting his own name or what year it is, or Kamala Harris claiming to be running an abortion clinic in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building or admitting to the existence of a Democrat-run sex-trafficking pedophile ring. A dangerous chunk of wingnuts bought into such a conspiracy in 2016 without compelling deepfake forgeries.

Real recordings will be called fake and fake recordings will be leaked as purportedly real. I don’t think the general population is prepared for this, and I worry that news media organizations aren’t either


My thanks to WorkOS for sponsoring last week at DF. WorkOS is like “Stripe for enterprise features.” They make it easy for developers to build features needed by enterprise customers, such as Single Sign-On and SCIM.

Shipping these feature is important because they enable selling upmarket for bigger deals. Without these features, the IT department will reject your app. But these enterprise features are complex and time-consuming to build yourself, usually taking months.

With WorkOS you can integrate and ship enterprise features in minutes. Beautiful API docs guide you through every step of the way, and transparent pricing scales based on usage. It’s a product built by developers, for developers.

Tim Urban on ‘Social Authoritarianism’ 

Tim Urban, on Twitter:

We can illustrate this by comparing how people react to an upcoming talk by a speaker they disagree with. High-rung thinkers find a lot of value in having their beliefs challenged. Low-rung thinkers, not so much. But only the idea supremacist tries to cancel the event.

Low-rung thinkers may not be great at learning, but as long as they don’t prevent others from learning, it’s fine. Even the social bully is fine — they only hurt people who choose to be their friend.

But idea supremacy is a direct affront to the workings of a liberal society.

A short thread, but a good one. If you refuse to listen to people you disagree with, let alone try to prevent them from even speaking, how do you even know you disagree with them? Perhaps because I was young at the time, I often think back to Bob Dole’s “nightmares of depravity” broadside against popular movies and music in 1995, when he began his campaign for president:

Natural Born Killers, the story of a couple on a killing spree as they cross the country, was one example of films and recordings cited by Mr. Dole as “nightmares of depravity” for their depictions of gratuitous sex and violence. He also attacked the film True Romance and the rap groups Cannibal Corpse, Geto Boys and 2 Live Crew. Aides to Mr. Dole said he had not seen the movies he cited but had read about them and had also read offending rap lyrics.

The thing that got me then and still gets me now is that Dole had not seen the movies. Railing against a movie you haven’t seen is more offensive to me than the actual contents of any movie could be.

Anyway, Urban’s Twitter thread is promoting his new book, What’s Our Problem: A Self-Help Book for Societies, which is at the top of my reading pile.

Apple’s ‘Hello Yellow’ TV Commercial 

Speaking of TV commercials for camera phones, Apple’s new 30-second spot for the iPhone 14’s new yellow color features a protagonist who does nothing with his iPhone other than use it as a camera.

Samsung Responds, Hand-Wavingly, to Fake Moon Photos Controversy 

Jon Porter, The Verge:

Samsung has published an English-language blog post explaining the techniques used by its phones to photograph the Moon. The post’s content isn’t exactly new — it appears to be a lightly edited translation of an article posted in Korean last year — and doesn’t offer much new detail on the process. But, because it’s an official translation, we can more closely scrutinize its explanation of what Samsung’s image processing technology is doing.

There’ve been a couple of follow-ups on this since I wrote about it a few weeks ago. Marques Brownlee posted a short video, leaning into the existential question of the computation photography era: “What is a photo?” Input’s Ray Wong took umbrage at my having said he’d been “taken” by Samsung’s moon photography hype in this Twitter thread.

Here’s a clarifying way of thinking about it. What Samsung is doing with photographs of the moon is fine as a photo editing feature. It is not, however, a camera feature. With computational photography there is no clear delineation between what’s part of the camera imaging pipeline and what’s a post-capture editing feature. There’s a gray zone, to be sure. But this moon shot feature is not in that gray zone. It’s post-capture photo editing, even if it happens automatically — closer to Photoshop than to photography.

Where I draw the line is whether the software is clarifying reality as captured by the camera or not. Is the software improving/upscaling the input, or substituting the input with imagery that doesn’t originate from the camera? Here’s a snippet of a debate on Twitter, from Sebastiaan de With (at the helm of the Halide camera app account):

One can argue “Well, it’s the moon, it’s always the same” — and perhaps that’s true, but the issue is with photographic accuracy. In-fill should be informed by underlying input data and shape the output image; you can argue output shouldn’t reshape the input this significantly.

And that’s my point. What if the moon weren’t the same? What if it gets hit by a large meteor, creating a massive new visible-from-earth crater? Or what if our humble friend Phony Stark blows tens of billions of dollars erecting a giant billboard on the surface of the moon, visible from earth, that reads “@elonmusk”? A photo of the moon taken with one of these Samsung phones wouldn’t show either of those things, yet would appear to capture a detailed image of the moon’s surface. A camera should capture the moon as it is now, and computational photography should help improve the detail of that image of the moon as it appears now. Samsung’s phones are rendering the moon as it was, at some point in the past when this ML model was trained.

And that’s where Samsung steps over the line into fraud. Samsung, in its advertisements, is clearly billing these moon shots as an amazing feature enabled by its 10× optical / 100× digital zoom telephoto camera lens. They literally present it as optically superior to a telescope. That’s bullshit. A telescope shows you the moon as it is. Samsung’s cameras do not.

‘Hating Everyone Everywhere All at Once at Stanford’ 

Ken White, writing at The Popehat Report:

Associate Dean Steinbach and her ilk are campaigning to undermine free speech legal and social norms, striving to make someone’s subjective reaction to speech an unquestionable justification for suppressing it. Academic freedom is under state assault and she’s busily undermining it and telling students they have a right to shut people up.

Stanford, and schools like it, are shitting the bed over controversial speakers. Decide that students can shut down speeches they don’t like, if you want to take that path. If not, protect speakers from disruption and have the students escorted out if they shut down a speech. Don’t half-ass it and then apologize afterwards.

And students. Students think that they should be able to dictate which speakers their peers invite, who can speak, what they can say, and who can listen. They’re not satisfied with the most free-speech-exceptionalist system in the world that lets them respond to speech by assembling, protesting, and reviling people of authority like Judge Duncan. They demand the right not just to speak, but to control the speech of others. That’s straight-up thuggish, an aspiration born of a fascist soul. These are law students. They are training to express themselves for a living. If their view is “we can’t respond to awful speech, we can only stop it from happening,” then they’re going to be terrible lawyers.

Sony Design Gallery 

I wish this historical gallery of hardware from Sony were 10 times larger. I just love their older stuff. Gun to my head, I think I’d choose Sony’s ’60s/’70s aesthetic over Braun’s. And how have I never before heard of Sony’s HB-101 “HITBIT MEZZO” personal computer? Gorgeous.

(Via Tim Van Damme.)

Meanwhile, Over in Chromebook Land 

Monica Chin, continuing to do yeoman’s work reviewing crummy laptops for The Verge:

The only time I heard fan noise was when I was trying to stream a Spotify playlist overtop the aforementioned load while running an external display. The keyboard was often warm, and the keys in the center occasionally toed the “uncomfortable” line, but nothing caught fire.

But the biggest problem I had was with battery life. Two and a half hours. That’s how long this device lasted me to a charge on average, running the workload I described above at medium brightness. I certainly got longer than this in some trials, especially those that were lighter on the Android apps, but I am fairly confident that, if this were my personal device, I would need to charge it two, maybe three times per day.

Runs hot and gets just 2.5 hours of battery life for $999. Who is buying these things?

Microsoft Introduces 365 Copilot, Their AI Chat Integration for Office 

Jared Spataro, “corporate vice president, modern work & business applications”,* on the Microsoft blog:

Copilot is integrated into Microsoft 365 in two ways. It works alongside you, embedded in the Microsoft 365 apps you use every day — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams and more — to unleash creativity, unlock productivity and uplevel skills. Today we’re also announcing an entirely new experience: Business Chat. Business Chat works across the LLM, the Microsoft 365 apps, and your data — your calendar, emails, chats, documents, meetings and contacts — to do things you’ve never been able to do before. You can give it natural language prompts like “Tell my team how we updated the product strategy,” and it will generate a status update based on the morning’s meetings, emails and chat threads.

With Copilot, you’re always in control. You decide what to keep, modify or discard. Now, you can be more creative in Word, more analytical in Excel, more expressive in PowerPoint, more productive in Outlook and more collaborative in Teams.

Hard to predict how these AI-powered features are going to play out, but it feels like they’re soon going to be table stakes. An accurate, concise, automatically generated summary of a meeting you missed — that feels undeniably useful.

* What a mouthful of a job title. Why not just “vice president, business applications”? “Corporate” seems unnecessary, and “modern” even more so. Is there a VP for out-of-date business applications too? Someone who’s still in charge of updating the DOS versions of Word and Excel?

WSJ: ‘U.S. Threatens Ban if TikTok’s Chinese Owners Don’t Sell Stakes’ 

John D. McKinnon, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

The Biden administration is demanding that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their stakes in the video-sharing app or face a possible U.S. ban of the app, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move represents a major shift in policy on the part of the administration, which has been under fire from some Republicans who say it hasn’t taken a tough enough stance to address the perceived security threat from TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius — a multiagency federal task force that oversees national security risks in cross-border investments — made the sale demand recently, the people said.

Trump was against TikTok too, but didn’t get this done. (And he tried, corruptly, to work a deal to hand TikTok over to Larry Ellison.) Banning TikTok or forcing the CCP to sell it makes sense both on national security grounds and as tit-for-tat trade policy. China effectively imposes an infinite tariff on U.S. social networks — none of them are available there. The U.S., to date, has imposed a 0 percent tariff on TikTok.

‘The Apple II Age’ 

Upcoming new book by Laine Nooney:

Skip the iPhone, the iPod, and the Macintosh. If you want to understand how Apple Inc. became an industry behemoth, look no further than the 1977 Apple II. Designed by the brilliant engineer Steve Wozniak and hustled into the marketplace by his Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, the Apple II became one of the most prominent personal computers of this dawning industry.

The Apple II was a versatile piece of hardware, but its most compelling story isn’t found in the feat of its engineering, the personalities of Apple’s founders, or the way it set the stage for the company’s multi-billion-dollar future. Instead, as historian Laine Nooney shows, what made the Apple II iconic was its software. In software, we discover the material reasons people bought computers. Not to hack, but to play. Not to code, but to calculate. Not to program, but to print. The story of personal computing in the United States is not about the evolution of hackers — it’s about the rise of everyday users.

Did I preorder a copy immediately? Come on, you know the answer.

Colorado Catholic Group Bought App Data That Tracked Gay Priests 

Michelle Boorstein and Heather Kelly, reporting for The Washington Post:

A group of conservative Colorado Catholics has spent millions of dollars to buy mobile app tracking data that identified priests who used gay dating and hookup apps and then shared it with bishops around the country. [...]

One report prepared for bishops says the group’s sources are data brokers who got the information from ad exchanges, which are sites where ads are bought and sold in real time, like a stock market. The group cross-referenced location data from the apps and other details with locations of church residences, workplaces and seminaries to find clergy who were allegedly active on the apps, according to one of the reports and also the audiotape of the group’s president.

Sherman said police departments have bought data about citizens instead of seeking a warrant, domestic abusers have accessed data about their victims, and antiabortion activists have used data to target people who visit clinics.

But Bennett Cyphers, a special adviser to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization, said the Burrill story was the first time he had heard of a private group buying commercial data and using it against a specific individual.

Makes me wonder how often this technique is being used to blackmail people. This group was targeting gay priests to out them; they could have just as easily blackmailed them.

OpenAI’s GPT-4 Teaser Video 

A tangential detail regarding this 3-minute video: despite including people from Microsoft talking about their partnership with OpenAI, of the dozens of laptops shown, all of them are MacBooks.

Facebook to Lay Off 10,000 More Employees 

Mark Zuckerberg, in a company-wide memo:

Here’s the timeline you should expect: over the next couple of months, org leaders will announce restructuring plans focused on flattening our orgs, canceling lower priority projects, and reducing our hiring rates. With less hiring, I’ve made the difficult decision to further reduce the size of our recruiting team. We will let recruiting team members know tomorrow whether they’re impacted. We expect to announce restructurings and layoffs in our tech groups in late April, and then our business groups in late May. In a small number of cases, it may take through the end of the year to complete these changes. Our timelines for international teams will also look different, and local leaders will follow up with more details. Overall, we expect to reduce our team size by around 10,000 people and to close around 5,000 additional open roles that we haven’t yet hired.

Keep in mind that Facebook’s headcount increased 2.4× (from 36K to 87K) between 2018 and 2022.

Leaner is better

Since we reduced our workforce last year, one surprising result is that many things have gone faster. In retrospect, I underestimated the indirect costs of lower priority projects.

It seems like someone should have bought Zuckerberg a copy of Fred Brooks’s The Mythical Man Month a few years ago.

‘BlackBerry’ Trailer 

Not a documentary, but a fictionalized telling of the rise and fall of BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion. Sort of like Titanic, we know how it ends, but sometimes knowing the ending makes for a more compelling story. (Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie is unrecognizable.)

FTC Finalizes Order Requiring Epic Games to Pay $245 Million for Tricking Users Into Making Unwanted Charges 

The Federal Trade Commission:

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized an order requiring Epic Games, the maker of the Fortnite video game, to pay $245 million to consumers to settle charges that the company used dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases and let children rack up unauthorized charges without any parental involvement.

In a complaint announced in December as part of a settlement package with Epic, the FTC said that Epic deployed a variety of design tricks known as dark patterns aimed at getting consumers of all ages to make unintended in-game purchases. Fortnite’s counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing button configuration led players to incur unwanted charges based on the press of a single button. The company also made it easy for children to make purchases while playing Fortnite without requiring any parental consent. According to the FTC’s complaint, Epic also locked the accounts of customers who disputed unauthorized charges with their credit card companies.

Sure would be great if Apple were forced to allow these guys to run an entire app store for iOS.

Petey: ChatGPT App for Apple Watch 

Briefly known as “WatchGPT” but now renamed to Petey (because the App Store is cracking down on apps with “GPT” in their names, as it’s a registered trademark of OpenAI), this is a simple, super easy-to-use ChatGPT app for Apple Watch by Hidde van der Ploeg. I’ve been using it for a week or so and it’s occasionally been genuinely handy, especially if you keep it on an easily-accessed watch face complication. With other devices, you can just search the web for answers to questions. Oftentimes, when you ask a question to Siri, you get redirected to a web search. But if all you have handy at the moment is your watch, a web search is useless. Petey gives good answers to a lot of questions. I dig the simple aesthetic too — using SF Mono for the type gives the app an appropriately robotic feel.

$5 one-time purchase in the App Store. Worth it. (Privacy policy: “The developer does not collect any data from this app.”)

Noam Chomsky: ‘The False Promise of ChatGPT’ 

Noam Chomsky, Ian Roberts, and Jeffrey Watumull, in an essay for The New York Times:

It is at once comic and tragic, as Borges might have noted, that so much money and attention should be concentrated on so little a thing — something so trivial when contrasted with the human mind, which by dint of language, in the words of Wilhelm von Humboldt, can make “infinite use of finite means,” creating ideas and theories with universal reach.

The human mind is not, like ChatGPT and its ilk, a lumbering statistical engine for pattern matching, gorging on hundreds of terabytes of data and extrapolating the most likely conversational response or most probable answer to a scientific question. On the contrary, the human mind is a surprisingly efficient and even elegant system that operates with small amounts of information; it seeks not to infer brute correlations among data points but to create explanations. Is 25 Years Old Today and Jason Wrote About It 

Jason Kottke:

My love for the web has ebbed and flowed in the years since, but mainly it’s persisted — so much so that as of today, I’ve been writing for 25 years. A little context for just how long that is: is older than Google. 25 years is more than half of my life , spanning four decades (the 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s) and around 40,000 posts — almost cartoonishly long for a medium optimized for impermanence. What follows is my (relatively brief) attempt to explain where came from and why it’s still going.

A thought that occurred to me when Jason was on my podcast this month (you should listen! — it’s one of my favorite episodes ever): at 25, is over one-quarter as old as The New Yorker magazine, which was founded in 1925. I’ve grown up thinking The New Yorker had been around “forever”. That makes ... one-quarter of “forever” old? My mind boggles.

Congratulations, my friend. Here’s to 25 more.

Meanwhile, Over in PC Laptop Land 

Monica Chin, reviewing a $2,000 configuration of the Dell Latitude 7330:

For one, I only averaged three hours and 35 minutes of battery life, which would be a big problem even if everything else about this device was incredible. But even while on power, I could feel the thing chugging toward the higher end of my workload. For example, while I was operating a second screen over Thunderbolt, loading some files from external drives, running a few downloads, and trying to work over that in 20-ish Chrome tabs, the Latitude had visible slowdown. I don’t see this as an unrealistic office workload, so that’s concerning.

A $2,000 laptop that gets under 4 hours of battery life and slows down under nominal use. Jiminy.

Facebook on NFTs: Never Mind 

Molly White:

In a Twitter thread, Meta (formerly Facebook) Head of Commerce and Fintech Stephane Kasriel announced that they would be “down digital collectibles (NFTs) for now to focus on other ways to support creators, people, and businesses”. Meta had only launched its support for NFTs in Facebook and Instagram partway through last year — a bit late to the NFT craze, which had largely cooled by that point.

Mark Zuckerberg had once talked about eventually using NFTs for Meta’s metaverse projects, suggesting that eventually “the clothing that your avatar is wearing in the metaverse, you know, [could] be basically minted as an NFT and you can take it between your different places”. It sounds like that plan may no longer be on the table now.

To Ship or Not to Ship, Headset Edition

Patrick McGee and Tim Bradshaw, reporting for The Financial Times, under the headline “Tim Cook Bets on Apple’s Mixed-Reality Headset to Secure His Legacy” (archive link, just in case your FT login credentials aren’t working):

The stakes are high for Cook. The headset will be Apple’s first new computing platform to have been developed entirely under his leadership. The iPhone, iPad and even Watch were all originally conceived under Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011.

It’s unfair, I say, to put Apple Watch in the “developed under Steve Jobs” column. Apple certainly might have been talking about a watch while Jobs was still alive, but it wasn’t announced until three years after he died. Apple Watch is a Tim Cook product. (In the early years of Apple Watch, when conventional wisdom was bizarrely of the mind that it was a flop, I recall numerous wags claiming that Apple Watch was proof that Apple couldn’t create great all-new products without Steve Jobs. Now that Apple Watch is undeniably a massive hit, it’s a retcon to give Jobs credit for it.)

Apple’s growth during Cook’s tenure has been spectacular, growing its market capitalisation from around $350bn in 2011 to around $2.4tn today. But despite the twin hit launches of Apple Watch in 2015 and AirPods a year later, which have helped turn its accessories division into a $41bn business, the company has been accused of iterating on past ideas rather than breaking new ground.

Apple hasn’t produced any great new products other than the great new products they’ve produced.

The timing of the launch has been a source of tension since the project began in early 2016, according to multiple people familiar with Apple’s internal discussions. Apple’s operations team wanted to ship a “version one” product, a ski goggle-like headset that will allow users to watch immersive 3D video, perform interactive workouts or chat with realistic avatars through a revamped FaceTime.

But Apple’s famed industrial design team had cautioned patience, wanting to delay until a more lightweight version of AR glasses became technically feasible. Most in the tech industry expect that to take several more years.

In deciding to press ahead with a debut this year, Cook has sided with operations chief Jeff Williams, according to two people familiar with Apple’s decision-making, and overruled the early objections from Apple’s designers to wait for the tech to catch up with their vision.

Just a few years ago, going against the wishes of Apple’s all-powerful design team would have been unthinkable. But since the departure of its longtime leader Jony Ive in 2019, Apple’s structure has been reshuffled, with design now reporting to Williams.

The design team was never all-powerful. Jony Ive, personally, was perhaps nearly so. But even Ive reported to, and by several accounts occasionally clashed with, Tim Cook.

The FT’s reporting here is certainly interesting, but I wouldn’t read too much into it because it’s obviously incomplete. It’s also seemingly being misinterpreted to some degree. MacRumors’s recap is under the headline “Report: Apple CEO Tim Cook Ordered Headset Launch Despite Designers Warning It Wasn’t Ready”. That’s not what the FT is reporting. The FT isn’t reporting that Apple’s design team thinks the mixed-reality goggles aren’t ready yet — they’re reporting that the design team didn’t want to ship mixed-reality goggles at all. They’re not saying the design team advised waiting until the goggles got a little better — they’re saying the design team advised waiting until AR glasses — an entirely different product — were feasible.

But more importantly, the FT’s reporting makes it sound as though this decision was solely between the industrial design team and Jeff Williams’s operations team. That’s not how Apple works. Left out of the FT’s reporting are both Mike Rockwell’s AR/VR team within Apple (more of a division than a mere team — at least 1,000 software and hardware engineers, designers, and AR/VR content creators), and Greg Joswiak’s product marketing division. Rockwell has been leading Apple’s entire foray into both AR and VR for 8 years. (He was my guest at the live-on-stage WWDC episode of The Talk Show 5 years ago.) Out of everyone in the entire company, his opinion on what AR/VR hardware Apple ought to ship and when is the one I’d consider most salient. And as I’ve long said about Apple’s “product marketing”, the operative word is more product than marketing. The role Phil Schiller carved out, and which Joswiak now holds, doesn’t start when a product is finished and needs to be packaged and advertised. Apple product marketing is deeply involved in all phases of product development from conception onward. (It was Schiller, to name just one example, who came up with the idea for the iPod’s click wheel.) Does Joz think this imminent headset is a product Apple ought to ship? The FT is silent.

This is akin to talking about the decision to greenlight a movie and including only the opinions of the studio executives (in this case, Cook and Williams) and, say, the special effects/cinematography team (in this case, industrial design) — with no mention of the screenwriter (product marketing), the actors (engineering), or the director (Rockwell?). Or maybe the design team is the actors and the engineers are the special effects/cinematography team — it doesn’t matter. What matters is that, like moviemaking, product-making and platform-building are profoundly multidisciplinary endeavors, and Apple’s internal culture is deeply collaborative across those disciplines. Apple’s industrial design team is deservedly renowned and undeniably highly influential, both within and outside the company, but they’re relatively tiny headcount-wise. There are at least 1,000 people who’ve been working full-time for years on Apple’s upcoming mixed reality platform.

I’m not faulting the Financial Times here — you take the sources you can get, and seemingly they have sources from within Apple’s tight-knit design team. (Or, perhaps more likely, from former members of the team.) It is fascinating, if true, that Apple’s design team didn’t want to ship a mixed-reality headset at all, and wanted Apple to wait for full AR glasses — technology which, at a minimum, is years away. (High quality all-day AR glasses may well be a decade or longer away.) And the whole thing plays right into my intense curiosity regarding just what the intended use cases are for this product.

What I don’t buy, though, is the angle that Tim Cook is fast-tracking the product because he sees it in any way as essential to bolstering his “legacy”. First, Cook could announce his resignation tomorrow and his legacy would be gold: he guided the company past Steve Jobs’s tragic, far-too-young death; the company’s market cap has increased nearly ten-fold under his leadership; he oversaw the construction and opening of Apple Park; he turned Apple into a services juggernaut in addition to maintaining its position as the most profitable hardware company in the world; and product-wise, under his leadership Apple has launched Apple Watch (the most popular and profitable watch and fitness tracker in the world), AirPods (the most popular and profitable augmented reality devices in the world), and overtaken Intel as the premiere silicon design company in the world. Nor does it seem like he’s going anywhere soon. Furthermore, even without the above litany of accomplishments over the last decade, Tim Cook just does not seem ego-driven in the least. If he thinks Apple should launch a mixed-reality headset this year, it’s because he thinks doing so is in the best interest of the company, not his legacy. And by the “who should get credit for what” accounting in this same article, Cook should get credit for Apple’s XR platform even if the first devices don’t launch until three years after he retires.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that Cook is preoccupied with thoughts of his legacy. If that’s true, he’d likely be overly cautious about launching this new platform, not rushing it out the door against staunch internal opposition. I say “John Sculley”, you hear “Newton”. Launching a high-profile expensive dud would cause more harm to Cook’s legacy than launching a successful headset would do it good. He can stand pat with his accomplishments to date and surely be remembered for decades as one of the best CEOs not just in technology history, but business history. In a certain sense, Apple under Cook is undefeated. Launch a Newton-like bust on his way out the door, however, and that might prove an indelible stain on a heretofore impeccable record.

Regarding Sales Figures

On another front, the FT reports:

Apple is only expecting to sell around a million units of its headset in its first 12 months, according to two people familiar with its planning, fewer than the first generations of the iPhone or Apple Watch did in the year following their launch.

The complex device, which will contain an array of cameras and high-resolution screens, is expected to cost around $3,000, triple the price of Meta’s Quest Pro, potentially limiting its appeal. Generating even $3bn in annual sales would be a tiny fraction of Apple’s revenues of around $400bn last year.

The modest target might give the impression that Apple is expecting a dud. But Apple also has a long history of starting slowly when it enters new product categories, then taking the market by storm within a few years. People close to Apple say that despite the modest sales target, the company is preparing a marketing blitz for the new product.

To their credit, the FT illustrates with a nice chart how with the iPhone, Apple Watch, and especially iPod, unit sales didn’t hit their stride until the third or fourth generation products. But it’s also worth comparing to the market as a whole. When he introduced the original iPhone in January 2007, Steve Jobs said that Apple’s goal was 1 percent of the world market for cell phones by the end of 2008. There were 1.2 billion phones sold in 2008, and with just under 20 million iPhones sold that year, Apple exceeded that goal.

What would 1 million Apple headsets be as a percentage of the global market? IDC, in a report just a few days ago, estimates a total 8.8 million AR/VR headsets were sold globally in 2022. The NDP Group put the number at 9.6 million. So one million headsets in the first year would give Apple roughly 10 percent of the global market, right out of the gate. That same NPD report pegged U.S. (not worldwide) revenue from headset sales in 2022 at $1.1 billion. If this thing really is going to sell for $3,000 (I remain deeply skeptical of that price, but The Financial Times reiterates it), Apple would need only sell about 400,000 units in the U.S. to take a majority share of U.S. headset sales by revenue. One million total units and $3 billion in revenue would likely give Apple a majority share of worldwide revenue. Modest indeed. 

David Zaslav Might Be Stupid 

Sharon Knolle and Scott Mendelson, reporting for TheWrap:

Warner Bros. Discovery is pushing forward with a plan to drop “HBO” from the name of its flagship streaming service HBO Max. That decision for the long-planned rebranding of the combined HBO Max and Discovery+ services was partially informed by the company’s belief that “the HBO name turns off many potential subscribers,” Bloomberg reported on Thursday and TheWrap independently confirmed.

The name change is meant to signal that the service will not just be HBO Max with Discovery content, nor will HBO Max be ported over to Discovery+. “Max” is the leading contender, though Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said on a recent earnings call that the new name would be officially unveiled April 12. [...]

When HBO became an award-winning juggernaut in the ’90s with “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos,” the catchphrase used in its marketing was, “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.” A new motto could well be: “It’s not HBO. It’s Max.”

Changing the name of the streaming service to just “Max” has been rumored for months, and it sounds just as stupid now as it did then.

‘Can You Believe We Have to Talk About This Shit Again?’ 

David Dayen, writing for The American Prospect:

The first words out of the mouth of Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) when I talked to her on Sunday were: “Can you believe we have to talk about this shit again?” She was referring to a conversation we had in 2018, when she was still just a financial expert and a candidate for Congress, about S.2155, which I call the Crapo bill, a reference to its co-author (Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo) and its underlying contents. [...]

The most important part of the Crapo bill was Section 401, which increased by fivefold the threshold for enhanced regulatory standards, from $50 billion in assets to $250 billion. Silicon Valley Bank’s CEO, Greg Becker, lobbied explicitly for this change. It meant that banks under $250 billion would not be subject to additional stress tests and heightened capital and liquidity requirements. SVB topped out around $200 billion, after growing rapidly in the past few years. [...]

So you have depositors that either didn’t know the first thing about risk management, or were bribed by the bank into neglecting it. And you have a bank that didn’t have a chief risk officer for close to a year, that put their entire risk management on autopilot and got blindsided by interest rate–fueled losses. “Interest rates do two things, they go up and down. SVB did not foresee and manage properly that inevitable thing,” Porter said.

U.S. Treasury: All Silicon Valley Bank Depositors Will Have Access to All of Their Money Starting Tomorrow 

The Department of the Treasury:

The following statement was released by Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen, Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell, and FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg:

Today we are taking decisive actions to protect the U.S. economy by strengthening public confidence in our banking system. This step will ensure that the U.S. banking system continues to perform its vital roles of protecting deposits and providing access to credit to households and businesses in a manner that promotes strong and sustainable economic growth.

After receiving a recommendation from the boards of the FDIC and the Federal Reserve, and consulting with the President, Secretary Yellen approved actions enabling the FDIC to complete its resolution of Silicon Valley Bank, Santa Clara, California, in a manner that fully protects all depositors. Depositors will have access to all of their money starting Monday, March 13. No losses associated with the resolution of Silicon Valley Bank will be borne by the taxpayer.

Taxpayers aren’t on the hook because SVB has assets greater than its deposits — they simply don’t have liquid assets to cover them. Sanity prevails. They say there are no atheists in a foxhole, but there are more of them than there are libertarians in a bank run. Thank jeebus we have a sane president.


My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring last week at DF. Right now, “Zero Trust” is in serious danger of becoming an empty buzzword. The problem isn’t just that marketers have slapped the Zero Trust label on everything short of breakfast cereal — it’s that for all the hype, we don’t seem to be getting any safer.

At the heart of Zero Trust is a good idea, but the way most companies execute that idea is incomplete. Specifically, most security practitioners forget that device compliance is a crucial element of Zero Trust. Kolide solves the device compliance element of Zero Trust for companies that use Okta. Kolide’s premise is simple: if an employee’s device is out of compliance, they can’t log in to their cloud apps until they’ve fixed the problem. And instead of creating more work for IT, Kolide provides instructions so users can get unblocked on their own.

Kolide works across your Mac, Windows, and even Linux devices, with mobile support coming soon. To learn more and see their product in action, simply visit their website.

The Talk Show: ‘Fine Hypertext Products’ 

Jason Kottke returns to the show to celebrate the 25th anniversary of

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Not From The Onion, I Swear: the WWE Is Trying to Legalize Betting on Pro Wrestling 

Alex Sherman, reporting for CNBC:

WWE is in talks with state gambling regulators to legalize betting on high-profile matches, according to people familiar with the matter.

WWE is working with the accounting firm EY to secure scripted match results in hopes it will convince regulators there’s no chance of results leaking to the public, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Accounting firms PwC and EY, also known as Ernst & Young, have historically worked with award shows, including the Academy Awards and the Emmys, to keep results a secret.

Betting on the Academy Awards is already legal and available through some sports betting applications, including market leaders FanDuel and DraftKings, although most states don’t allow it. WWE executives have cited Oscars betting as a template to convince regulators gambling on scripted matches is safe, the people said.

The idea that any state might legalize betting on pro wrestling reminds me of this great bit from Vegas Vacation. Clark Griswold, down on his luck and down to his last few dollars, starts playing sketchy games in a sketchy casino — “Coin Toss”, “Rock Paper Scissors”, etc. He loses the last of his money at “Pick a Number” — you guess a number between 1 and 10, then the “dealer” tells you whether it’s the same number they were thinking of. I don’t see how betting on pro wrestling would be any different.

(Via Matt Levine, who quipped, “Oh man, I am so excited to write about this insider trading case in like a year.”)

Marc Rubinstein: ‘The Demise of Silicon Valley Bank’ 

The best explanation of what happened to Silicon Valley Bank is this piece by Marc Rubinstein at Net Interest:

“When you’re not working, what do you do to de-stress?”

That was the last question Greg Becker, CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, fielded at an investor conference on Tuesday this week.

“Cycling is my advice,” he replied. “Living in Northern California and being on the peninsula. That’s just — I think it’s the best bike-riding cycling in the world, period.”

Three days later, Becker’s bank is in receivership.

Now that’s a lede.

Rubinstein links to this piece at another Substack site, Nongaap Investing, which points to a boy-that-sure-looks-bad-in-hindsight oddity in SVB’s corporate governance: the bank did not have a Chief Risk Officer for most of 2022:

In particular, the most interesting disclosure is the company didn’t have a Chief Risk Officer for much of 2022, and (from what I can gather) doesn’t explicitly communicate this to shareholders until the 2023 Preliminary Proxy is filed on March 8, 2023.

This non-disclosure immediately makes me wonder what caused former Chief Risk Officer Laura Izurieta to leave the role and create such a glaring hole in risk oversight during such a critical time. [...]

Given that Ms. Izurieta sold $4 million worth of shares in December 2021 just before the company would approach her to begin discussions regarding her transition out of the Chief Risk Officer role, I can’t help but wonder if she realized the bank’s balance sheet was a ticking time bomb when she sold the stock.

The optics look pretty bad.

Pretty bad indeed.

Matt Levine on SVB: ‘Startup Bank Had a Startup Bank Run’ 

Matt Levine, unsurprisingly, wrote a great column on Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse. He predicts the FDIC will succeed in finding a bigger buyer to buy SVB and make all depositors whole — both because SVB should still be worth enough to buy at such a price, and because otherwise, the results could be catastrophic industry-wide:

I would also guess — not investing or banking advice! — that the answer will also turn out to be higher than $188 billion, which is the total amount of deposits plus FHLB advances. I say this not because I have done a detailed analysis of SVB’s assets but because it seems bad for the FDIC to wind up a big high-profile bank in a way that causes significant losses for depositors, including uninsured depositors. There was a run on SVB in part because there hasn’t been a big bank run in a while, and people — venture capitalists, startups — were naturally worried that they might lose their deposits if their bank failed. Then the bank failed.

If it turns out to be true that they lose their deposits, there could be more bank runs: Lots of businesses keep uninsured deposits at lots of banks, and if the moral of SVB is “your uninsured transaction-banking deposits can vanish overnight” then those businesses will do a lot more credit analysis, move their money out of weaker banks, and put it at, like, JPMorgan. This could be self-fulfillingly bad for a lot of weaker banks. My assumption is that the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and the banks who are looking at buying SVB all really don’t want that. If you are a bank looking at buying SVB, and you do a detailed analysis of its assets and conclude that they are worth $180 billion, and you come to the FDIC and say “I will take over this bank and pay the uninsured depositors 95 cents on the dollar,” the FDIC is going to look at you and say “don’t you mean 100 cents on the dollar,” and you are going to say “oh right yes of course, silly me, 100 cents on the dollar.”

Maybe I’m wrong about that, but if I am it’ll be bad!

The Financial Times, Two Weeks Ago: ‘Silicon Valley Bank Profit Squeeze in Tech Downturn Attracts Short Sellers’ 

The Financial Times had Silicon Valley Bank’s problem nailed, two weeks ago (non-paywalled mirror of the story at Financial Post):

Silicon Valley Bank, the Californian institution central to financing U.S. startups, is facing scrutiny over an investment decision made at the peak of the tech boom that is squeezing its profitability just as the industry faces its worst downturn in decades. [...]

But some analysts, shareholders and short sellers point to another problem of its making: a move to put US$91 billion of its assets into a poorly performing bond portfolio that has since amassed an unrealized US$15 billion loss. [...]

While interest rates were low, several big banks parked more deposits into government debt accepting the lower rate of return during a time of economic uncertainty However, SVB’s relative exposure far exceeds its peers. It had US$120 billion of investment securities — which include its US$91 billion mortgage-backed securities portfolio — at the end of 2022, far exceeding its US$74 billion total loans.

By comparison, Bank of America had US$863 billion of debt securities, including US$633 billion of held-to-maturity assets, less than its approximate US$1 trillion of loans and leases. San Francisco-based First Republic, SVB’s closest rival in Silicon Valley, had US$55 billion in investment securities including US$28 billion of held-to-maturity debt securities, compared to US$167 billion in total loans.

Remarkably prescient reporting.

Reddit Post Seemingly Proves That Samsung’s Galaxy S-Series ‘Moon Photos’ Are Fake, and They’ve Been Blatantly Lying About Them 

“ibreakphotos”, on Reddit:

Many of us have witnessed the breathtaking moon photos taken with the latest zoom lenses, starting with the S20 Ultra. Nevertheless, I’ve always had doubts about their authenticity, as they appear almost too perfect. While these images are not necessarily outright fabrications, neither are they entirely genuine. Let me explain.

There have been many threads on this, and many people believe that the moon photos are real (Input) — even MKBHD has claimed in this popular YouTube short that the moon is not an overlay, like Huawei has been accused of in the past. But he’s not correct. So, while many have tried to prove that Samsung fakes the moon shots, I think nobody succeeded — until now.

Here’s how he proved Samsung’s moon photos are a scam: he started with a high-res photo of the moon, downsized it to just 170⁠ ⁠×⁠ ⁠170 pixels, and applied a gaussian blur. He then displayed that image, upscaled, on his computer monitor and used a Galaxy S-series phone (he doesn’t say which model) to take a picture of that blurry circle on his display. The phone turned that image into this.

Have to say I’m surprised both Raymond Wong and Marques Brownlee were taken in by this. These “amazing” moon photos seem impossible optically, and, more tellingly, no one is able to get these Samsung phones to capture similarly “amazing” 100× zoom images of random objects that aren’t the moon.

Anything Samsung ever claims that seems too good to be true should be assumed to be a blatant lie. They’re a corrupt company with a corrupt culture.

Roku Had $487 Million in Silicon Valley Bank 

Ross A. Lincoln, reporting for The Wrap:

In financial documents filed Friday, Roku disclosed that it had approximately $487 million held by Silicon Valley Bank, the Northern California financial powerhouse that failed this week, sending shockwaves throughout the region’s economy.

That number, Roku says, represents approximately 26% of its cash and cash equivalents, and the company will be able meet its pending financial obligations for at least “the next 12 months and beyond.”

From Roku’s filing, linked above:

The Company’s deposits with SVB are largely uninsured. At this time, the Company does not know to what extent the Company will be able to recover its cash on deposit at SVB.

The Best Yellow Computer Ever 

Perhaps the new yellow iPhone 14 will someday take the crown, but I doubt it. The Banana Jr. 6000 was just too good.

Phony Stark Picks on the Wrong Guy, Attempting (and of Course Botching) an HR Exit Interview Live on Twitter

James Clayton, reporting for BBC News:

In a tweet to the firm’s chief executive, Halli Thorleifsson said: “Your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am employed or not”.

Mr Musk responded by asking: “What work have you been doing?”

Mr Thorleifsson told the BBC that nine days after being frozen out of Twitter’s accounts he did not know whether he had been fired or not. After a series of follow up questions and answers with Mr Musk, that read like a live interview for his job, Mr Thorleifsson said he received an email confirming that he had been sacked.

If you’ve been staying away from Twitter, you’re smarter than me, but you might have missed this saga, and it is, I promise you, worth your attention. It started last night with Thorleifsson mentioning Musk in a tweet to ask whether he was still employed, and Musk then engaged in the most dismissive way possible. It was like reality TV on Twitter. As absurd and offensive as you might think their back-and-forth exchange was, I guarantee you’re low-balling it. At one point, after having been asked by Musk what he’s accomplished recently, Thorleifsson said he “led the effort to save about $500k on one SaaS contract”. Musk asked which SaaS contract. Thorleifsson replied “Figma”. Musk then replied “🤣🤣”. Best guess as to why Musk responded thus is that Musk doesn’t know what Figma is and thought Thorleifsson was making a “ligma” joke.

That’s the thread that prompted Clayton to file the above story with the BBC. But it gets worse/more absurd — but ultimately, better. Early this morning Musk tweeted:

The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm.

Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that.

Thorleifsson graciously (good god where does his patience and serenity come from?) responded to Musk, explaining that he has muscular dystrophy, lost the use of his legs 20 years ago, and while he can and does type, his arms tire and his hands cramp after an hour or two:

And now finally to my fingers, which I know you have great concern for. Thank you for that btw. I’ll tell you what I told them. I’m not able to do manual work (which in this case means typing or using a mouse) for extended periods of time without my hands starting to cramp.

This wasn’t a problem in Twitter 1.0 since I was a senior director and my job was mostly to help teams move forward, give them strategic and tactical guidance. But as I told HR (I’m assuming that’s the confidential health information you are sharing) I can’t work as a hands on designer for the reasons outlined above.

I’m typing this on my phone btw. It’s easier for me because I only need to use one finger.

The notion that a design leader can only “work” while their hands are on a keyboard and trackpad/mouse is, of course, patently offensive. (Also: illegal?) Thorleifsson is an award-winning designer and his design agency, Ueno, which Twitter acquired, was highly regarded and accomplished. His personal website is a delightful, pitch-perfect homage to Hergé’s Tintin.

He’s so renowned that in January Thorleifsson was named Iceland’s Person of the Year:

Halli, a 45 year-old designer, gained nation-wide recognition this year when, after the sale of his tech company Ueno to Twitter, he chose to be paid the sale price as wages. Normally in such large sales, the payment comes in the form of stock or other financial instruments, which categorize the sale as capital gains, meaning it is taxed at a much lower rate. Halli, however, gladly paid the higher tax rate, having spoken publicly on many occasions about the benefits he has received from the Icelandic social system.

Halli was born with muscular dystrophy and came from a working class background. In statements about his decision to pay back into the Icelandic social system, he cited both healthcare and education in Iceland as keys to his success. Notably, he was one of the highest tax payers in the nation after the sale of Ueno. [...]

One of his best-known projects is Ramp Up Iceland, which is building ramps throughout the nation to increase accessibility for people in wheelchairs. He has also personally donated to the legal funds of victims of sexual abuse, and has garnered praise for charitable donations to families in need this holiday season.

Thorleifsson, to put it mildly, is a rather extraordinary and inspiring person.

He also seems to be remarkably clever. Thorleifsson wasn’t a regular at-will employee at Twitter; he had a contract as the founder of an acquired company, and the entire thread is best read as his having baited Musk, successfully, into breaching that contract in public. (According to Zoë Schiffer and Casey Newton at Platformer, Thorleifsson was on a “do not fire” list inside Twitter, because breaking his contract would be so expensive for the company.)

Lastly, Thorleifsson has a sharp sense of humor, having concluded his thread this morning thus:

Oh! I forgot to mention that I read you can’t go to the toilet on your own either @elonmusk.

I’m sorry to hear about that. I know the feeling.

The only difference is I can’t do it because of a physical disability and you’re afraid someone you hurt will attack you while you poop.

As Musk himself might say, “🤣🤣”. Drop the mic, Halli, your work is done.

Epilogue: Musk apologizes