‘I Am Pressing the Spacebar and Nothing Is Happening’ 

Somehow I don’t think Apple is going to play this one as the prelude to their next event.

Maybe the Dumbest Two Paragraphs About the Mac I’ve Ever Read 

Steven Max Patterson, writing for Network World:

In 2007, the Mac was on life support. Consumers and companies bought Windows XP and Vista machines instead of Macs. The Mac had been very proprietary up until then. The hardware platform was based on the Motorola 6800 family, which came in third behind Intel and AMD and the PowerPC. It ran a proprietary OS with components of FreeBSD Unix, but it was not Unix compliant.

The Mac transitioned that same year. It had been a proprietary device running a proprietary operating system, with a beautiful proprietary user interface (UI) in an elegant ergonomically designed enclosure. Apple pivoted by shifting to the Intel platform and FreeBSD Unix, complying to the Single UNIX Specification (SUS). The Mac today is a PC running an open-source operating system with beautiful proprietary UI in even more elegantly designed enclosures. FreeBSD influenced the evolution of the MacOS. Since the transition, many FreeBSD Unix components were rewritten and many APIs were added.

I count at least 10 glaring errors in just these two paragraphs. The only thing he’s right about is that switching the Mac to Intel’s x86 architecture was good for the platform and good for sales. But they announced the switch at WWDC 2005 and began shipping them in January 2006. And though Mac sales did rise after the switch, the Mac was not “on life support” prior to that — Mac sales were doing pretty well, growing in 2005 with thriving retail stores and talk of an “iPod halo effect” driving new customers to the Mac. And Apple was switching from PowerPC CPUs, which they’d been using for over a decade. And the original Mac CPUs were from Motorola’s 68000 family, not 6800. And the proprietary-ness of the OS didn’t really change at all, and could trace its roots back to NeXTStep in 1989. Good god.

Dieter Bohn’s Google Pixel 2 Review 

Dieter Bohn, reviewing the new Pixel phones for The Verge:

Without fail, every person who has picked up the Pixel 2 XL has said virtually the same thing: “It feels like it’s made out of plastic.” I said it myself when I first held it. Of course, neither the Pixel 2 nor the Pixel 2 XL are made out of plastic. They’re made out of Gorilla Glass and aluminum, just like every other high-end phone these days.

But Google coated all that aluminum with a textured finish that hides most of the antenna lines and also makes the phones easier to grip. Google took what could have been a visually impressive design and covered it up in the name of ergonomics. It literally made a metal phone feel like a plastic one. It chose function over form.

Interesting design decision. Apple has moved from aluminum to glass (and last year a glassy-feeling coating on the jet black iPhones). Samsung has moved to glass. Part of this is that most top-tier phones this year support inductive charging (which doesn’t work through aluminum), but even here with the Pixels, they’ve moved away from feeling like aluminum.

On the display colors:

The screen, especially on the 2 XL, has been polarizing. Google opted to tune the display to sRGB (the Galaxy S8, by comparison, offers four gamut options), so it looks a little more like the iPhone’s screen. But more than that, on the 2 XL the colors look muted in a way that many Android users I’ve shown it to found distasteful (even with the “vivid colors” setting turned on). I think many Android phones, especially from Samsung, are so vivid as to be phantasmagoric, so Google’s choice was to make this more “naturalistic.”

My take ever since last year (I bought a Pixel 1) is that the Pixels are targeting people whose taste runs toward the iPhone hardware-wise, but who prefer Android over iOS. Actually, not Android over iOS, but the Google ecosystem over Apple’s. They’re iPhones for Google people. I find Samsung displays to be technically impressive but downright garish in terms of saturation.

Behind the Google Pixel 2 Camera Technology 

Stephen Shankland, writing for CNet on the ways “computational photography” improve the cameras in the new Google Pixel phones:

Some of Google’s investment in camera technology takes the form of AI, which pervades just about everything Google does these days. The company won’t disclose all the areas the Pixel 2 camera uses machine learning and “neural network” technology that works something like human brains, but it’s at least used in setting photo exposure and portrait-mode focus.

Neural networks do their learning via lots of real-world data. A neural net that sees enough photographs labeled with “cat” or “bicycle” eventually learns to identify those objects, for example, even though the inner workings of the process aren’t the if-this-then-that sorts of algorithms humans can follow.

“It bothered me that I didn’t know what was inside the neural network,” said Levoy, who initially was a machine-learning skeptic. “I knew the algorithms to do things the old way. I’ve been beat down so completely and consistently by the success of machine learning” that now he’s a convert.

‘A Soulless Coward’ 

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich:

This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner — and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers — is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day.

The NFL is a decidedly conservative sports league — certainly in the lowercase-c literal sense of the word, and I would argue in the political sense of the word too. The NBA, not so much. NBA players could take this kneeling-during-the-anthem issue with Trump to the next level.

(My two cents on the kneeling issue: Kneeling is not disrespectful. In fact, kneeling is universally seen as a deep sign of respect, everywhere from church services to Game of Thrones. When Colin Kaepernick began his silent protests during the national anthem, he did so by remaining seated on the bench. I can see the argument that sitting is disrespectful. I’m not saying Kaepernick should have been punished or vilified for sitting. I’m just saying that if you want to base your argument on “respect” for the flag and national anthem, if players are sitting on the bench, you have a case. But not kneeling. Kneeling is respectful — that’s why Kaepernick and his 49er teammates switched to it. Anyone objecting to players kneeling during the anthem is, no matter what they say, arguing about something other than “respect” for the flag and anthem. My take is that they’re objecting to a lack of compliance and obedience, a refusal to just let the matter fade away.)

‘Maybe It’s a Piece of Dust’ 

Casey Johnston, writing for The Outline:

I was in the Grand Central Station Apple Store for a third time in a year, watching a progress bar slowly creep across my computer’s black screen as my Genius multi-tasked helping another customer with her iPad. My computer was getting its third diagnostic test in 45 minutes. The problem was not that its logic board was failing, that its battery was dying, or that its camera didn’t respond. There were no mysteriously faulty inner workings. It was the spacebar. It was broken. And not even physically broken — it still moved and acted normally. But every time I pressed it once, it spaced twice.

“Maybe it’s a piece of dust,” the Genius had offered. The previous times I’d been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem — a misbehaving keyboard — Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn’t believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. “Hold on,” I said. “If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don’t you think that’s kind of a problem?”

The reliability of the new MacBook/Pro keyboards seems like a huge problem. A piece of fucking dust? Say what you want about the feel (and sound) of these new keyboards, the one thing that must be true for any good keyboard is that it has to be reliable. Like totally reliable. So reliable that it’s confusing when something does go wrong. That’s how Apple laptop keyboards have always been, dating back to the earliest days of the PowerBooks. There’ve been some I didn’t enjoy — the squishy-feeling iBook G3 keyboard comes to mind — but they’ve always been reliable.

I find these keyboards — specifically, the tales of woe about keys getting stuck or ceasing to work properly — a deeply worrisome sign about Apple’s priorities today.

BBEdit 12 

Jason Snell:

Have I written more than a million words in Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit? I probably passed that mark a while ago, but who’s counting? It’s been my primary writing tool for the last 20-plus years, and it’s still going strong. Today marks the arrival of version 12, with a bunch of new features and changes — Bare Bones Software says more than a hundred of them. “Almost every line of code has been touched,” according to BBEdit author Rich Siegel. […]

I do a lot of text and data formatting in BBEdit, and one of the great additions in this version is a Columns editing command, that enables quick processing of comma- and tab-delimited text ranges — you can cut, copy, delete, and rearrange columns. You might think that sounds like an esoteric feature, but I’ve probably pasted a tab-delimited text block from BBEdit into Microsoft Excel purely for column management hundreds of times at this point. Now I don’t have to. (Though I’d love it if BBEdit would add support for even more functions on columnar data, like sorting and maybe even styling.)

BBEdit’s longevity and continuing excellence are simply remarkable. I’ve been using it since sometime in 1992 (version 2.2?), and in 1993 I bought the first commercial release, version 2.5. 25 years.

BBEdit’s release notes remain the gold standard for comprehensiveness and clarity. One important change: Bare Bones has officially sunsetted TextWrangler — it’s replaced by a free mode in BBEdit itself. BBEdit’s free mode has more of BBEdit’s full feature set than TextWrangler ever did.

See also: Michael Tsai’s roundup of commentary on the release.

Tesla’s New Car Smell 

Jean-Louis Gassée, on Tesla’s production problems with the Model 3:

My first serious doubts about Tesla didn’t stem from missed schedules, I’ve been guilty of too many of these, they’re part of tech life. What seriously worried me was a July 2016 visit to Tesla’s manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. In taking delivery of my wife’s Model S, we were treated to a group tour of the site. Everyone marveled at the robot porn, at the activity on the assembly line, at the endless stores of spare parts piled to the ceiling.

Everyone but yours truly. […]

As I watched Tesla’s messy, hiccuping line, with workers dashing in to fix faulty parts in place, my mind travelled back to the Honda plant I had visited years ago in Marysville, Ohio. Clean, calm, everything moved smoothly. I was so shocked by the contrast that I imprudently voiced my concern. That didn’t go over well with my fellow Tesla owners. I was a killjoy, I was calling their choice into question.

The Impossible Dream of USB-C 

Marco Arment:

I love the idea of USB-C: one port and one cable that can replace all other ports and cables. It sounds so simple, straightforward, and unified.

In practice, it’s not even close.

USB-C normally transfers data by the USB protocol, but it also supports Thunderbolt… sometimes. The 12-inch MacBook has a USB-C port, but it doesn’t support Thunderbolt at all. All other modern MacBook models support Thunderbolt over their USB-C ports… but if you have a 13-inch model, and it has a Touch Bar, then the right-side ports don’t have full Thunderbolt bandwidth.

If you bought a USB-C cable, it might support Thunderbolt, or it might not. There’s no way to tell by looking at it. There’s usually no way to tell whether a given USB-C device requires Thunderbolt, either — you just need to plug it in and see if it works.

USB-C is a dual disaster. It’s fundamentally confusing because all USB-C ports and plugs look the same, but can have very different features. It’s a fundamental axiom of good design that things that look the same should be the same, and things that are different should look different. USB-C breaks this.

Second, even if you do your homework and know exactly what to look for, there is severe dearth of USB-C products out there. The USB-C hub market is horrendous, but Apple’s MacBook has just one USB-C port, effectively demanding a hub for certain tasks that require external peripherals. Now that all modern Apple MacBooks are USB-C-only, USB-C’s problems are MacBook problems, too.

Why Is Apple the Only Company Making Smartwatches for Women? 

Serenity Caldwell, revisiting a topic she first wrote about two years ago:

When I first ran into this back in 2015, I figured the problem to be more of a marketing challenge than a technical one: Targeting the consumers most likely to buy early-adoption gadgets (men with larger-than-average-sized wrists) over the general consumer market.

But as the years progressed, Apple found massive success attracting women to its watches, while other watchmakers… released similar sizes in rose gold. The 2017 LG Watch Style was arguably designed to appeal directly to women, but even then, LG couldn’t get the case smaller than 42mm-by-45.7mm — a massive difference from the Apple Watch’s 38mm-by-33.3mm. And it apparently didn’t work: The $250 smartwatch has seen massive discounts since its launch (including a crazy drop to $108 in August of 2017, just six months after its release).

I don’t think it’s that they don’t care about the women’s market. The LG Watch Style referenced above is clearly designed for women. I think it’s simply the case that Apple is in a class by itself when it comes to miniaturizing computers. No other company makes a smartwatch anywhere near the size of the 38mm Apple Watch, because they can’t.

‘KRACK’ WPA2 Wi-Fi Exploit Already Fixed in iOS, MacOS, tvOS, and WatchOS Betas 

Good roundup by Jerry Hildenbrand for iMore on the severe Wi-Fi exploit that was announced today.

Setapp 

My thanks to Setapp for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Setapp is the first subscription service for Mac apps — it’s like Netflix for apps. A bunch of top-tier apps have joined since Setapp launched, and they just hit a major milestone: 100 apps. These are great apps, ranging from photo editing to web development to budget planning, and every Setapp subscriber gets all of them for the same monthly fee of $9.99. It’s that simple: you pay $9.99 per month and you get unlimited access to all of these apps, including all upgrades.

Start your free trial today and see for yourself.

Google Disables Button on Home Mini in Response to Privacy Bug 

Matt Weinberger, writing for Business Insider:

Google is permanently disabling a feature on the forthcoming Google Home Mini smart speaker after a reviewer discovered that it was surreptitiously recording his conversations without his knowledge or consent.

The issue, Google says, was that the button on top of the device was faulty and would sometimes activate on its own. In response, Google acknowledged the bug and issued a software update that would disable that button for all users while it explored a long-term fix.

I try not to play the “What if this were Apple?” card often, but come on. This is ludicrous.

Drexel Caves to Anonymous Internet Trolls, Places Tenured Professor on Administrative Leave 

George Ciccariello-Maher, tenured associate professor of politics and global studies at Drexel University (my alma mater), in an op-ed for The Washington Post headlined “Conservatives Are the Real Campus Thought Police Squashing Academic Freedom”:

Caught in this wave of right-wing threats and provocations, many universities are scrambling to keep up with the coordinated onslaught. In the best of cases, university administrations and departments have publicly condemned threats against faculty and made clear that they do not cave to intimidation campaigns. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has even responded to our cases with new guidelines urging universities to resist the targeted online harassment of their faculty.

In response to such illegal threats of violence, Drexel has chosen to place me on administrative leave. Earlier in the week, I asked my students to explain the relation between white masculinity and mass killings, and they offered in a few short minutes of class discussion far more insight than any mainstream media outlet has offered all week. But now, their own academic freedom has been curtailed by their university, and they are unable to even attend the classes they registered for.

By bowing to pressure from racist internet trolls, Drexel has sent the wrong signal: That you can control a university’s curriculum with anonymous threats of violence.

Drexel is setting a cowardly, shameful example here. Ciccariello-Maher is not being placed on leave because of the content of his thread of tweets in response to last week’s gun massacre in Las Vegas, but simply because a bunch of anonymous white dudes sent threats — and, let’s face it, because of the bad PR of having Ciccariello-Maher unjustly vilified by Fox News.

iOS Is Ripe for Phishing Password Prompts 

Felix Krause:

iOS asks the user for their iTunes password for many reasons, the most common ones are recently installed iOS operating system updates, or iOS apps that are stuck during installation.

As a result, users are trained to just enter their Apple ID password whenever iOS prompts you to do so. However, those popups are not only shown on the lock screen, and the home screen, but also inside random apps, e.g. when they want to access iCloud, GameCenter or In-App-Purchases.

This could easily be abused by any app, just by showing an UIAlertController, that looks exactly like the system dialog.

Even users who know a lot about technology have a hard time detecting that those alerts are phishing attacks.

I’ve been thinking about this for years, and have been somewhat surprised this hasn’t become a problem. It’s a tricky problem to solve, though. How can the system show a password prompt that can’t be replicated by phishers? The best idea I’ve seen is for these system-level prompts to only appear in the Settings app. When the system needs your iCloud or iTunes password while you’re in any other app, that prompt would take you to Settings, where you’d then be prompted for the password. That’s not great, though, because it makes entering your password far more cumbersome. And how would you get back to the original app after entering your password?

Krause suggests one way to protect yourself if you suspect a password prompt might be a phishing attempt: press the home button. If it’s a phishing scam, the dialog box will disappear when you go back to the home screen, because it’s part of the app you’re using. If it’s a real system-level prompt, the alert will still be there.

Windows Mobile Effectively Put on End-of-Life 

Zac Bowden, writing for Windows Central:

Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Windows, Joe Belfiore, has today clarified the company’s stance with Windows 10 Mobile and what it’s currently doing in the mobile space. In a series of tweets on Twitter, Belfiore states that as an individual end-user, he has switched to Android, and that Windows 10 Mobile is no longer a focus for Microsoft.

Belfiore confirms what we have been reporting in the past; that from here on out, Microsoft will continue to service Windows 10 Mobile with bug fixes and security patches, mainly for the enterprise market who adopted Windows 10 Mobile for work. Microsoft is not planning to bring any new consumer-facing features to Windows 10 Mobile, nor is it planning to release any new hardware.

The end is always ignominious, but especially so for a company as mighty and proud as Microsoft. But they’re doing the right thing: it’s time to move on.

Twitterrific for Mac Returns 

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to bring back Twitterrific for Mac, The Iconfactory has done it. Beautiful, thoughtful, and thoroughly modernized. There is no other Twitter client organized like Twitterrific. The golden age from Twitter’s early years is over, but it’s good to see that Twitter clients are still a UI design playground.

WSJ: ‘Apple Strikes Deal With Spielberg’s Amblin for “Amazing Stories” Reboot’ 

I said on my podcast a few episodes ago that we shouldn’t judge the future potential of Apple’s original content based on Planet of the Apps or Carpool Karaoke. Those shows are Apple dipping its toes in the water. This is diving in head first.

I absolutely loved Amazing Stories as a kid — one of my very favorite shows from the ’80s. I expect nothing short of greatness from a reboot.

(Here’s a t.co link that should get you through the Journal’s paywall.)

iPhone Charging Times by Charger 

Nice work by Dan Loewenherz, charting the charging time for an iPhone 8 Plus by charger. “Fast-charging” using Apple’s $49 29-watt charger and $25 USB-C to Lightning cable is only barely faster than using a 12-watt or 10-watt iPad charger. The only charger that really stands out is the 5-watt charger included with the iPhones.

One conclusion from this is that Apple is cheaping out and should put a 10-watt iPad-style charger in the box with each iPhone. Another — suggested on Twitter by David Barnard — is that Apple ships the 5-watt charger with iPhones because it’s so much smaller, and although slower, is fast enough.

I’m on the side that this is Apple cheaping out. But thinking about it, it seems possible to me that Apple has its finger on the pulse of iPhone user complaints. They might know for a fact that “I wish my iPhone charged faster” is low on the list, perhaps because most iPhone users exclusively charge their phones overnight. Also, a lot of people carry a charger in a purse/bag. They want something tiny and might not know or care why Apple made the charger bigger.

Update: I’ve heard from a bunch of readers who either prefer the small charger themselves or who have family members who do. It’s not just about a smaller object to put in your bag — a frequent comment is that the small charger fits into many outlets where the larger ones don’t.

Containment Won’t Solve the Problems Trump Poses 

David Frum, writing for The Atlantic:

Among other insights, Corker’s Sunday interview forces Americans to confront some tough questions: By what methods is the president being contained? Is he, for example, being denied sensitive information by agencies that remember how he blurted a closely guarded secret to the Russian foreign minister and the location of U.S. nuclear submarines to the president of the Philippines? Are allies and potential adversaries being signaled that presidential statements do not actually represent the policy of the United States government? That was how National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster dealt with Trump’s refusal to read aloud the endorsement of NATO’s Article 5 in the speech written for Trump to deliver at NATO headquarters in May. “He did not make a decision not to say it.”

To what extent does the president remain in the military chain of command?

In other words: what are the long-term effects of normalizing the idea that the military and intelligence agencies can ignore the president?

E.P.A. Photos Show What the U.S. Looked Like Before Pollution Regulation 

Oil slicks surrounding the Statue of Liberty, smog suffocating Manhattan, rivers catching fire. This wasn’t that long ago. And today: “EPA Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule”. The world depicted in these photos is the world the Trump administration wants to bring back. No regulation is a good regulation to them.

Republican Senator Bob Corker Says Trump’s Recklessness Threatens ‘World War III’ 

Jonathan Martin and Mark Landleroct, reporting for The New York Times:

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.” […]

All but inviting his colleagues to join him in speaking out about the president, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican.

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Even Republicans are now saying, on the record, what has been obvious all along: Trump is mentally unfit for the job — an impulsive, angry, uninformed narcissist with a tenuous hold on reality who is a menace to the nation and the world.

Contrary to Trump’s (and his followers’) incessant bleating, the news media is in fact profoundly biased for Trump by pretending he’s mentally competent. The narrative as presented on the front pages of our major newspapers is that we’re still within the bounds of normalcy: Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the White House, but unable to advance any significant legislation because of conflicts within the party.

The real story is that we’ve elected a dangerous man mentally unfit for office — quite possibly both mentally ill (narcissistic personality disorder) and suffering from the early stages of dementia — and the only people who can do something about it are the members of his own party, who refuse to do so out of fear of angering those in the electorate who for whatever reason still support Trump.

I don’t agree with Bob Corker on politics, but I admire and thank him for breaking the seal on speaking openly of Trump as mentally unfit. If Democrats say it, it can be spun as politics. When Republicans say, there’s nothing to spin.

Jamf Now: On-Demand, Apple Mobile Device Management 

My thanks to Jamf Now for once again sponsoring Daring Fireball. Jamf Now is a simple device management solution designed to help anyone set up, manage, and protect Apple devices at work. It lets you easily configure email and Wi-Fi networks, distribute apps to your team, and protect sensitive data without locking down devices.

Some of their latest features include:

  • Teammates: Add additional admins to your Jamf Now account.
  • Single App Mode: Focus your device to a specific app.

Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. Forever. Each additional device is just $2 per month. Create your free account today.

Jason Kottke on ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ 

Speaking of Kottke, goddamn that’s a sweet mustache.

Update: Kottke on how it happened and what it was like on set.

The United States of Guns 

Great collection of links and quotes on gun control and the United States. They’re all great, all worth reading (or re-reading), but none sum it up better than The Onion: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens:

At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

Gun control legislation works — if by “works” you’re concerned with reducing deaths and injuries by homicide, accident, and suicide.

The Rules of the Gun Control Debate 

David Frum on the implicit, unspoken rules of the gun control debate in the U.S.:

Rule 3. The debate must always honor the “responsible gun owners” who buy weapons for reasonable self-defense. Under Rule 1, these responsible persons are presumed to constitute the great majority of gun owners. It’s out of bounds to ask for some proof of this claimed responsibility, some form of training for example. It’s far out of bounds to propose measures that might impinge on owners: the alcohol or drug tests for example that are so often recommended for food stamp recipients or teen drivers.

Rule 4. Gun ownership is always to be discussed as a rational choice motivated by reasonable concerns for personal safety. No matter how blatantly gun advocates appeal to fears and fantasies — Sean Hannity musing aloud on national TV about how he with a gun in his hands could have saved the day in Las Vegas if only he had been there — nobody other than a lefty blogger may notice that this debate is about race and sex, not personal security. It’s out of bounds to observe that “Chicago” is shorthand for “we only have gun crime because of black people” or how often “I want to protect my family” is code for “I need to prove to my girlfriend who’s really boss.”

Apple and Qualcomm’s Billion-Dollar War Over an $18 Part 

Max Chafkin and Ian King, reporting for Bloomberg Businessweek:

It’s based in part on court documents filed as part of a dispute over one of the most expensive and, arguably, most important parts of the phone: the wireless modem. The story starts two summers ago, at a conference in Idaho, where a senior Apple executive, probably Cook, and a senior Samsung Electronics Co. executive, most likely Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, shared a quiet word. […]

At the conference in Idaho, according to documents Qualcomm filed earlier this year, Apple saw an opportunity to put itself in front of investigators. Qualcomm claims that at the event — almost certainly the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, which both Cook and Lee attended — the Apple executive urged Samsung to pressure South Korean antitrust regulators to intensify an investigation into Qualcomm that had been open since 2014. “Get aggressive,” the Apple executive said, according to Qualcomm’s filing, adding that this would be the “best chance” to get Qualcomm to lower its prices.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Bruce Sewell to Retire; Katherine Adams Joins Apple as General Counsel and SVP 

Apple:

Apple today announced that Katherine Adams, formerly senior vice president and general counsel of Honeywell, will join Apple as general counsel and senior vice president of Legal and Global Security, reporting to CEO Tim Cook and serving on Apple’s executive team.

The company also announced Bruce Sewell, who has served as Apple’s general counsel since 2009, will be retiring at the end of the year.

I wouldn’t read anything into this. I think Sewell really is just retiring to enjoy his wealth. Apple has no outstanding legal issues that I’m aware of other than typical chicken shit patent cases.

The elephant in the room is the ever present threat of a San Bernardino-like standoff with the Trump administration over a request to provide law enforcement with software to “unlock” an iPhone. That was tense under Obama; it’d be a lot worse for Apple under Trump.

Dan Lyons, Jackass; Steve Bannon, Moron 

From a BuzzFeed investigation into how Steve Bannon turned Breitbart into a hub for white supremicists and misogynists:

Dan Lyons, the veteran tech reporter and editor who also worked for nearly two years on HBO’s Silicon Valley, emailed Yiannopoulos (“you little troublemaker”) periodically to wonder about the birth sex of Zoë Quinn, another GamerGate target, and Amber Discko, the founder of the feminist website Femsplain, and to suggest a story about the public treatment of the venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale, who had been accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit that the plaintiff eventually dropped.

Lyons, you likely recall, wrote the old Fake Steve Jobs website.

Here is an example email written by Steve Bannon:

“Dude—we r in a global existentialist war where our enemy EXISTS in social media and u r jerking yourself off w/ marginalia!!!!”

That’s really how Bannon writes, using “u” and “r” as words (and repeatedly using “your” for “you’re”). His emails paint him as barely literate.

The Normalization of Gun Massacres in America 

Two years later, nothing has changed. I say ban them all. Confiscate every single one of the goddamn things.

Tom Petty 

I don’t throw the word “hero” around lightly, but Tom Petty was a hero. I love his music, I love his words, I love his work. I’m in shock, to be honest, and all I can think to do is put his music on and turn it up.

I’m devastated. I’m sorry.

Things More Heavily Regulated Than Buying a Gun in the United States 

I can’t even today.

CleanMyMac 

My thanks to MacPaw for sponsoring last week’s DF RSS feed to promote CleanMyMac, their longstanding utility for cleaning up the unwanted junk taking up space on your hard drive. CleanMyMac frees up space on your Mac’s system, iTunes, iPhoto, Mail, and more. They’ve just released a new version updated specifically for MacOS 10.13 High Sierra. If you’re skeptical, check out the reviews from sites like iMore and MacStories.

Get the new version of CleanMyMac here.

The Talk Show: ‘You Tell Me If It’s a Dongle’ 

Special guest Joanna Stern returns to the show. Topics include Apple Watch Series 3, our mutual fear of heights, Velcro, and more.

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Trump’s FCC Commissioner Calls on Apple to ‘Activate’ iPhone FM Antennas That No Longer Exist 

FCC statement (PDF):

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released the following statement today calling on Apple to activate the FM chips that are in iPhones to promote public safety: In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States. And I’ve specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so. In fact, in my first public speech after I became Chairman, I observed that ‘you could make a case for activating chips on public safety groundsalone.’ When wireless networks go down during a natural disaster, smartphones with activated FM chips can allow Americans to get vital access to life-saving information. I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones.

Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted doing so. But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. That’s why I am asking Apple to activate the FM chips that are in its iPhones. It is time for Apple to step up to the plate and put the safety of the American people first. As the Sun Sentinel of South Florida put it, ‘Do the right thing, Mr. Cook. Flip the switch. Lives depend on it.’”

The Sun Sentinal comment comes from this well-intentioned but deeply misinformed editorial:

When Hurricane Irma wiped out power and cell phone service, a hidden feature in our smartphones could have helped Floridians stay informed. […]

Smartphones contain an inner switch that lets them receive over-the-air analog signals from local radio stations. In other countries, including Cuba, manufacturers are required to flip the switch on. But in this country, Apple rules. And it prefers to sell the iPhone with the FM radio button switched off.

The idea being that Apple (and other companies) refuse to “flip the switch” because FM radio is free so they want everyone to use streaming services that cost money.

But there is no such switch. In a statement to MacRumors, an Apple spokesperson said the following:

Apple cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that’s why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products. Users can dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen, and we enable government emergency notifications, ranging from Weather Advisories to AMBER alerts. iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products.

That’s unequivocal, but leaves open the question about older iPhones. I’ve dug around, and what I’ve been told is that there is an FM radio chip in older iPhones, but it’s not connected, and there’s no antenna designed for FM radio. The chip is just part of a commodity component part, and Apple only connected the parts of the chip that the iPhones were designed to use. No iPhone was ever designed to be an FM radio, and there is no “switch” that can be “flipped” — nor software update that could be issued — that could turn them into one. It’s a complete technical misconception.

What’s absurd is that the FCC commissioner would take his understanding of the iPhone’s technical capabilities from a newspaper editorial rather than from Apple’s own FCC regulatory filings, which I’m pretty sure would show that they’re not capable of acting as FM radios.

Furthermore, I’m sure the timing of Pai’s “go blame Apple” letter has nothing to do with yesterday’s vociferous criticism of the FCC’s handling of the aftermaths of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

WebKit: ‘Designing Websites for iPhone X’ 

Nice piece by Timothy Horton writing for the WebKit blog on how websites can properly deal with the notch and “safe areas” on the iPhone X.

This is one reason why Apple considers it a strategic advantage not to permit third-party web rendering engines on iOS (in addition to maintaining control over the security and battery life aspects): on day one, every web view in iOS will support these CSS extensions, because they all use WebKit.

In the hypothetical world where Chrome for iOS was allowed to ship using Google’s own Blink rendering engine, Apple would be at Google’s mercy to support these features for Chrome users. I bet the Chrome team would adopt them quickly, but they might not be ready on day one, because Apple wouldn’t have given Google advance notice of the notch. And Apple simply wouldn’t want to cede that control.


Cultural Insularity and Apple TV

From Shannon Liao’s roundup for The Verge of yesterday’s Amazon announcements:

Amazon Fire TV has had 4K support for a while, but a new device will now support 4K HDR video with 2160p resolution at 60 frames per second. It has Dolby Atmos integration and an Alexa voice remote. It costs $70; that makes it priced far lower than the rival Apple TV 4K, which starts at $179. The Fire TV is available for preorder now and will come out on October 25th.

The lack of Dolby Atmos support in the Apple TV 4K was a sticking point in several reviews. Atmos support is supposedly coming to Apple TV in a software update, though, so the obvious difference between these products is price.

Without ever having looked at the new Fire TV (I did pre-order one, though, so I can), I’m sure that Apple TV is a more powerful device. The new Fire TV doesn’t even have a power cord — it just dangles as a dongle plugged into an HDMI port. [Update: I was wrong about this — it does take power, with an ungainly micro-USB cable. Boo-hiss to Amazon for not using USB-C.] But explain the difference to a typical person looking for a set-top box. Apple TV 4K’s main feature is obviously 4K playback — it’s right there in the name. The new Fire TV does 4K (with HDR at 60 FPS) too. Even.

Earlier this week I wrote about my vague concern about Apple’s insular culture. Apple TV is the product line where I think that might really be a problem. Apple charges a significant premium over the average product in PCs, tablets, and phones. It works for them in those markets. That’s what Apple does and has always done: they make superior, premium products for people willing to pay for them.

But with Apple TV, I’m hearing from a lot of people who are in the Apple ecosystem — people who own MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones — who just don’t want to spend $200 for an Apple TV when they can get a Roku or Fire TV for a lot less. The primary selling point of an Apple TV over these devices is iTunes. I love iTunes — I’ve bought hundreds of movies and TV series from iTunes over the years, knowing full well these purchases would be locked to the Apple ecosystem. I feel like my loyalty to iTunes is being rewarded now that I can get 4K versions of the movies I’ve already bought without paying another dime. No one sent me Blu-ray versions of the many movies I purchased on DVDs back in the day.

But for people who don’t buy movies from iTunes — and generally don’t buy movies period, choosing only to stream from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, etc. (and/or to assemble their home movie collection from copies that fall off trucks) — what does Apple TV offer to justify costing over twice as much? The computing power of the device and the popularity of iOS for gaming make Apple TV a decent casual gaming device, but it doesn’t ship with a gaming controller and even Apple describes Apple TV as a video platform first, gaming platform second.

I like Apple TV a lot, but I think Apple is ceding marketshare by not having a box that competes on price. I think there are a lot of people who look at iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks and see them as “expensive but worth it” but who look at Apple TV and see it as “ridiculously overpriced”.

Apple still sells the previous generation Apple TV, but it costs $149 and doesn’t support 4K. There are ways that it’s a better computer than a Fire TV or a Roku, but without 4K and HDR it’s inarguably worse at the primary task of playing back video content. The fact that it’s a more powerful computer is irrelevant. And yet it costs twice as much.

It’s not enough to make a better set-top box. It has to be obviously better. I don’t think Apple TV’s current lineup makes that case. 


The Case for Apple to Finally Just Make a TV 

Nilay Patel:

One of my biggest issues with the new Apple TV 4K is that it doesn’t automatically switch the mode your TV is in to match the content. It’s one of the biggest and longest-standing issues in the living room: you want to run the TV display at a refresh rate of 24Hz when you watch 24fps movies, but animating a user interface at 24Hz looks like garbage. Apple and others deal with this issue by running everything at 60Hz, but that creates visual issues for 24fps movies — kind of silly because you buy all this stuff to watch movies, not menu animations. There are endless forum threads about adjusting TV settings to handle the motion problems that come with playing 24fps video at 60Hz.

At the same time, Apple recently introduced the ProMotion display on the iPad Pro, which dynamically varies the refresh rate of the LCD panel to match the content being displayed. When you watch a movie, it slows down to 24Hz to match the 24fps frame rate of most movies, and when you’re scrolling around a web page or playing a game, it can ramp up to 120Hz for maximum smoothness.

So, what if Apple made a TV with ProMotion that dynamically adjusted the refresh rate for the content being displayed, just like the iPad Pro? It would run at 120Hz on the homescreen and in games, slow down to 24Hz to display movies and TV perfectly, and ramp up again when you hit the home or Siri button to bring up the interface again. And live sports apps like NFL Sunday Ticket and MLB At Bat could run at 60Hz for smoother motion — the Xbox One Sunday Ticket app already runs at 60Hz.

Like Patel, I really don’t expect Apple to make a TV, but I sure wish they would, and he really makes a great case here. Especially the fact that previously, the cable box was king, but today, there’s a sizable (and growing) market of cord-cutters who just want to use streaming apps.

Apple should make a cell phone running a stripped-down version of OS X” was a longstanding pipe dream, too.

1992: ‘The Executive Computer’ 

Peter H. Lewis, writing for The New York Times back in July 1992 (via Darshan Shankar):

Sometime around the middle of this decade — no one is sure exactly when — executives on the go will begin carrying pocket-sized digital communicating devices. And although nobody is exactly sure what features these personal information gizmos will have, what they will cost, what they will look like or what they will be called, hundreds of computer industry officials and investors at the Mobile ‘92 conference here last week agreed that the devices could become the foundation of the next great fortunes to be made in the personal computer business. […]

How rich is this lode? At one end of the spectrum is John Sculley, the chief executive of Apple Computer Inc., who says these personal communicators could be “the mother of all markets.”

At the other end is Andrew Grove, the chairman of the Intel Corporation, the huge chip maker based in Santa Clara, Calif. He says the idea of a wireless personal communicator in every pocket is “a pipe dream driven by greed.”

Chris Espinosa put it well: “For everybody who ever said that Sculley was out of touch, read this. He was right about it being the mother of all markets.”

The fact that Intel pooh-poohed it is telling too.

These devices are expected to combine the best features of personal computers, facsimile machines, computer networks, pagers, personal secretaries, appointment books, address books and even paperback books and pocket CD players — all in a hand-held box operated by pen, or even voice commands.

Stuck in traffic on a business trip, an executive carrying a personal communicator could send and receive electronic mail and facsimile messages from anywhere in the country. She could also call up a local map on a 3-inch by 5-inch screen, draw a line between her current position (confirmed by satellite positioning signals) and her intended destination, and the device would give her specific driving instructions (as well as real-time warnings about traffic jams or accidents). Certainly, these are just predictions for now, but they sure are fun to think about.

Remarkably prescient list of features. The big mistake is listing “networks” as one feature among many. In 1992 it wasn’t clear yet that the internet would become the one true network, connecting anyone and everyone. The single biggest problem with the Newton is that it launched before the advent of Wi-Fi or cellular data networking.

Or perhaps the bigger mistake is assuming these would be devices for elite “executives”, rather than being accessible, affordable, democratizing devices for everyone.

Hugh Hefner, Who Built Playboy Empire and Embodied It, Dies at 91 

Laura Mansnerus, writing for The New York Times:

Hugh Hefner, who created Playboy magazine and spun it into a media and entertainment-industry giant — all the while, as its very public avatar, squiring attractive young women (and sometimes marrying them) well into his 80s — died Wednesday at his home, the Playboy Mansion near the Beverly Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 91.

What a life.

The News From Today’s Amazon Hardware Event 

Nice roundup by Shannon Liao for The Verge.


iPhone X Supply Is Going to Be Tight

Debby Wu, reporting for Nikkei Asian Review:

Two executives working for iPhone suppliers told Nikkei Asian Review that makers of 3-D sensor parts are still struggling to reach a satisfactory level of output, and to boost their yield rate. […] Both sources were unable to offer clarity on whether Apple could meet demand after launch of the iPhone X. One said the phone was being produced in small quantities, around tens of thousands daily.

Jeff Pu, an analyst at Taipei-based Yuanta Investment Consulting, also identified the 3-D sensors as the only major issue remaining. […] According to Pu’s estimate, Foxconn churned out 2 million units of the iPhone X in September, and in October that number should rise to 10 million. He said that Foxconn will have assembled a total of 40 million iPhone X phones by year-end, lower than his estimate of 45 million earlier this year.

“Supply will still be tight after Nov. 3,” Pu noted.

This should come as no surprise. When an Apple product is late, supply is constrained when it ships. The two go hand-in-hand. AirPods didn’t ship until December last year, and they were deliverable in “4-6 weeks” until earlier this month. Apple Watch shipped late, and supply was severely constrained for months.

This makes pre-ordering iPhone X a bit of a gamble. I do not know when Apple is going to seed review units of iPhone X. My guess, though, based on how they’ve seeded review units in the past, is that they’ll go out the week before pre-orders begin. The dates Apple has announced are Friday October 27 for pre-orders, and Friday November 3 for “available”. So my guess is that review units will go out on October 23 or 24 (Monday or Tuesday). But the embargo on reviews will probably end Monday or Tuesday the next week, October 30 or 31 — after pre-orders begin.1

If supplies are going to be severely constrained, that means you’ll have to place your pre-order Thursday night at midnight PT (3 am here on the east coast) if you want it delivered any time soon. I think it’s going to be the case that you’ll have to get lucky and get your order in within the first few minutes of it going on sale to get yours on November 3. Within minutes, I’ll bet shipping dates will slip to December. If you wait until you read the reviews the next week, you might be waiting until January for delivery.2

The embargo date for reviews has always come after pre-orders begin in my experience, and I don’t think that will change for iPhone X. But with iPhone X, I think people are a little bit more on the fence because so much is new. Does Face ID really work so well that you won’t miss Touch ID? Is the swipe from bottom gesture really a good replacement for the home button? Is moving Control Center from the bottom to the top right corner a good idea (especially on a 5.8-inch display)? Has Apple really made an OLED display with the color accuracy we expect from an Apple product? Personally, I’d like answers to all these questions before I order one. If the answer to any of these questions is no, it’s a problem. If the answer to several of these questions is no, it’s a disaster. I don’t think that’s likely, but it’s within the realm of possibility.

The reviews of iPhone X will be the most anticipated since the reviews of the original iPhone in 2007.3 But if you want an iPhone X before 2018, I suspect you’re going to have to pre-order before you read them. This won’t be that much of a gamble though: if you pre-order and the subsequent reviews give you pause, you should be able to cancel your order.

The smarter move, though, might be to let the phone ship anyway and resell it. However the reviews turn out, the gray market for iPhone X is going to be insane. 


  1. I can speculate about these dates now because I don’t have an iPhone X review unit. But once I do, I’ll be under an NDA and won’t be able to talk about it. Apple’s NDA for review units doesn’t permit you to say anything about the product until the embargo drops. ↩︎

  2. If the number of iPhone X units available on day one is anywhere in the ballpark of only 12 million, that won’t even come close to meeting demand here in the U.S. alone. But keep in mind that a lot of these are likely going to China, where iPhone sales have been slumping and the “status item” aspect of iPhone X could be a huge factor in turning that around. ↩︎︎

  3. There were only four reviews of the original iPhone prior to its release: Walt Mossberg’s for The Wall Street Journal, David Pogue’s for The New York Times, Ed Baig’s for USA Today, and Steven Levy’s for Newsweek↩︎︎


Google and Levi’s ‘Commuter Trucker Jacket with Jacquard’

Karissa Bell, writing for Mashable:

After more than two years of testing, Jacquard, the company’s project to embed technology into clothes, is ready to launch. The Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google (yes, that’s actually what it’s called), is now on sale in select stores.

And while it’s easy to roll your eyes at the idea of a $350 jacket that comes with its own app, Jacquard is more than a gimmick. After a few days of wearing Levi’s Jacquard jacket, I’m more convinced than ever that the future of wearable tech lies not in tiny screens on our wrists, but in the stuff we’re already wearing. […]

Which gets at one of the other appeals of reinventing wearables as actual clothes: convenience. One of my biggest issues with smartwatches is that glancing at a tiny screen on your wrist isn’t actually that much better that just pulling out your phone.

Limited though Jacquard’s abilities currently are, at least I don’t need to look at a screen to take advantage of them.

I disagree completely. First, this jacket isn’t really a wearable piece of technology. There are touch sensors on the sleeve cuff, yes, but most of the technology is in a flexible gadget that they’re calling a “tag”, which is about the size of an Apple TV remote and which you holster in the underside of the sleeve. It’s not a smart jacket so much as a jacket designed with a custom sleeve to hold the smart device. But even the device itself isn’t all that smart. It’s not a fitness tracker. I’m hard pressed to come up with a more generous description of it than “a Bluetooth remote control”.

Bell’s “biggest issues with smartwatches” is a link to a piece Bell wrote earlier this year, under the headline “It’s Time to Stop Pretending Smartwatches Are Useful in Any Way”. One can certainly argue that smartwatches were overhyped, but it’s preposterous to argue they’re not useful at all. Apple Watch in particular is terrific for fitness tracking and for showing notifications — neither of which things this jacket can do.

The only features of this jacket that Bell (or Google, in their own post announcing its release) cites are about audio control. Here’s Google’s own list of features:

  • Play or pause your music, skip to the next track, or ask what song is playing.

  • Get your next direction, ETA, or the current time.

  • Receive updates on incoming call or texts with a subtle LED light and a vibration on your sleeve, and have the text message read to you.

Unless I’m missing something, if you don’t have headphones in and your phone with you, this jacket does nothing other than keep you warm. It’s a glorified remote control for audio playback and talking to Google Assistant. It’s no smarter than the little clicker on the earbuds that come with every phone.

It’s great not to have to look at a display to use a device. That’s why Apple Watch has haptic feedback. But you know what else is great? Being able to look at a display when you want to. You can wear a watch every day, in all weather conditions. And you keep it on all day. A jacket is something you wear in specific weather conditions and generally take off once you get inside. I don’t see how this is better than a smartwatch in any way.

And this jacket looks even worse compared to AirPods. You need to have headphones in for any of the jacket’s features, so why not just buy smart headphones instead? They work every day, with every outfit you wear (including while you work out).

There is a future for wearable devices that don’t have displays. AirPods are part of that future; a jacket with a Bluetooth remote in the sleeve, not so much.