Roku’s New Remotes Have an Apple TV+ Button ★
Chris Welch, writing for The Verge:
In a sign of how far Apple is willing to go to continue raising the profile of Apple TV Plus, the company has worked out a deal with Roku that will give the streaming video service its own shortcut button. This is the first time a branded Apple TV Plus button has appeared on any remote control.
You’ll find it on the new Roku Voice Remote Pro, announced today, which features a rechargeable battery, headphone jack for private listening, and two programmable shortcut buttons. The usual branded buttons include Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, and now Apple TV Plus.
There’s only room for four of these buttons on this remote. This is not a small deal.
Amazingly, you can even tell which end is which by feel on this remote.
‘Embrace the Grind’ ★
I often have people newer to the tech industry ask me for secrets
to success. There aren’t many, really, but this secret — being
willing to do something so terrifically tedious that it appears to
be magic — works in tech too.
We’re an industry obsessed with automation, with streamlining,
with efficiency. One of the foundational texts of our engineering
culture, Larry Wall’s virtues of the programmer, includes
Laziness: The quality that makes you go to great effort to
reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write
labor-saving programs that other people will find useful and
document what you wrote so you don’t have to answer so many
questions about it.
I don’t disagree: being able to offload repetitive tasks to a
program is one of the best things about knowing how to code.
However, sometimes problems can’t be solved by automation. If
you’re willing to embrace the grind you’ll look like a magician.
I greatly enjoyed this piece on its own, but I think it ties in particularly well with the aforelinked item about Ben Thompson’s column on Taylor Swift’s re-recording of an entire hit album just to have a version she owned the rights to. Who would do that? Painstakingly re-create an entire work of art? Someone willing to embrace the grind.
‘Non-Fungible Taylor Swift’ ★
Long story rendered very short, Taylor Swift does not own the rights to her first six albums, and isn’t happy about that. She faithfully re-recorded the entirety of her second album, Fearless, and just released the new version as Fearless: Taylor’s Version. Without breaking any contract or copyright, she effectively rendered the original studio version nearly worthless, because her fans know the deal.
Ben Thompson has a great column on the whole saga, and deftly connects it with Dave Chappelle’s similar direct-to-fans appeal to retake control over the rights to his seminal Chappelle’s Show. Thompson:
This explains what Swift got right in 2014:
A friend of mine, who is an actress, told me that when the
casting for her recent movie came down to two actresses, the
casting director chose the actress with more Twitter followers. I
see this becoming a trend in the music industry. For me, this
dates back to 2005 when I walked into my first record-label
meetings, explaining to them that I had been communicating
directly with my fans on this new site called Myspace. In the
future, artists will get record deals because they have fans — not the other way around.
This is the inverse of Swift leveraging her fans to acquire her
masters: future artists will wield that power from the beginning
(like sovereign writers). It’s not that “art is important and
rare”, and thus valuable, but rather that the artists themselves
are important and rare, and impute value on whatever they wish.
To put it another way, while we used to pay for plastic discs and
thought we were paying for songs (or newspapers/writing or
cable/TV stars), empowering distribution over creators, today we
pay with both money and attention according to the direction of
creators, giving them power over everyone.
Alex Berenson: The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man ★
Derek Thompson, writing for The Atlantic:
To be honest, I initially had serious doubts about publishing this piece. The trap of exposing conspiracy theories is obvious: To demonstrate why a theory is wrong, you have to explain it and, in doing so, incur the risk that some people will be convinced by the very theory you’re trying to debunk. But that horse has left the barn. More than half of Republicans under the age of 50 say they simply won’t get a vaccine. Their hesitancy is being fanned by right-wing hacks, Fox News showboats, and vaccine skeptics like Alex Berenson. The case for the vaccines is built upon a firm foundation of scientific discovery, clinical-trial data, and real-world evidence. The case against the vaccines wobbles because it is built upon a steaming pile of bullshit.
An evisceration for the ages. Keep this bookmarked in case anyone sends you links to Berenson’s anti-J&J vaccine nonsense today.
Programming as Meditation ★
Craig Mod, writing for Wired:
A little over a year ago, as the Covid-19 lockdowns were beginning
to fan out across the globe, most folks grasped for toilet paper
and canned food. The thing I reached for: a search function.
The purpose of the search function was somewhat irrelevant. I
simply needed to code. Code soothes because it can provide control
in moments when the world seems to spiral. Reductively,
programming consists of little puzzles to be solved. Not just
inert jigsaws on living room tables, but puzzles that breathe with
an uncanny life force. Puzzles that make things happen, that get
things done, that automate tedium or allow for the publishing of
words across the world.
I’ve been hacking on personal side projects a lot more over the last year, and the above really explains how it makes me feel. “Puzzles that breathe with an uncanny life force” — that’s it. That’s how programming has felt for me ever since I got my first BASIC program working back when I was a kid. Even when it was just me going up to the Commodore 64 display model at Kmart in the 1980s and typing:
10 PRINT "KMART SUCKS!"
20 GOTO 10
and then scurrying away with uncontrollable giggles — which I did, religiously, every single time we went to Kmart — I got that thrill.
‘Spring Loaded’ Apple Event Next Tuesday, Just as Siri Predicted ★
Always happy to see homage to the one true Apple logo. As for any meaning to the name or design, my take is that it means nothing and thus means something: that the things getting announced are all mostly unrelated to each other.
Some Perspective on Blood Clot Risk ★
Rebecca Wind, on Twitter:
The risk of blood clots from birth control pills is 1 in 1,000 and
is considered a low-risk side effect. The risk from the J&J
vaccine is 1 in 1,000,000. #GetVaccinated
That’s arguably understating the long-term risk for women on birth control pills.
You know what’s even worse for causing dangerous blood clots? Getting infected with COVID-19:
“We began to notice a really unusual manifestation of venous and
arterial thromboembolism in patients with COVID-19,” said Malas.
“In addition to higher instances of blood clots, the mortality for
patients hospitalized for COVID-19 and with thromboembolism was
much higher, compared to patients without clots. It’s unusual
because we have never seen anything like this with other
Overall, 20 percent of the COVID-19 patients were found to have
blood clots in the veins, and among patients in the intensive care
unit, that statistic increased to 31 percent.
Tufekci, Gertz, and Silver on the FDA’s Pause on the J&J Vaccine ★
Zeynep Tufekci, on Twitter:
FDA says the pause is due to “abundance of caution.” I am very
much for abundance of caution against tail risk, and a full
investigation into rare events. I respect these are difficult
decisions. But “caution” isn’t the term for dramatic,
forward-leaning and irreversible acts.
I appreciate the people saying “we should feel more confident
because they’re investigating”, which is true — it works on me! — but the word “should” is doing a lot of work there. Meanwhile,
let’s check in on how this affects dynamics of human cognition,
media and social media.
I am extremely skeptical of the ability of public messaging to
disaggregate “the J&J vaccine is under review as a precaution”
from “the J&J vaccine is not safe and the others may not be
either” in the minds of normal people. An incredibly crucial,
high-stakes test for the press.
Nate Silver, responding to Gertz:
It’s also a high-stakes test for the FDA, and they failed it,
because of course lots of people are going to take away the latter
There’s also data on this based on decreased public confidence in
the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe following similar pauses there.
So the FDA can’t even use the excuse of flying blind.
If out of the blue one morning Gov. Newsom was like “Shark attacks
are extremely rare, but out of an abundance of caution, we’re
closing every beach in California until we investigate more”,
that’s not likely to get more people to go out to the beach, even
once beaches reopen.
‘Do Less Harm’ ★
The result of this decision is sure to be a lower number of people
vaccinated, over a longer period of time. We know that will cause
more COVID deaths. By contrast, just one death is currently
associated with this vaccine. It’s unpleasant to measure one set
of deaths against another, but that’s precisely what must be done
in a public health crisis. If we were able to vaccinate all of the
US with the J&J vaccine, we would currently expect to see about
330 issues with blood clots. Meanwhile, more than 560,000
Americans have lost their lives to COVID already, with 330 more
being killed by COVID every few hours.
The worst part about this is that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is almost certainly our best vaccine. The efficacy numbers aren’t what matters — the J&J vaccine is way more than effective enough. What matters is that it’s single-dose. The single-dose J&J vaccine is the clearest path to pushing our overall nationwide (and worldwide) vaccinated numbers into herd immunity territory, wiping COVID-19 from the face of the earth. It would be a catastrophic mistake to panic over one-in-a-million blood clots for any of the approved vaccines, but it’s a worst-case scenario to unjustly malign our only highly-effective single-dose vaccine.
U.S. Calls for Pause on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine After One-in-a-Million Blood Clotting Cases ★
Noah Weiland, Sharon LaFraniere, and Carl Zimmer, reporting for The New York Times:
Federal health agencies on Tuesday called for an immediate pause
in use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine
after six recipients in the United States developed a rare
disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of
All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One
woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in
Nearly seven million people in the United States have received
Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and roughly nine million more
doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After a run of remarkably good news on the COVID vaccination front here in the U.S., this is an utter gut punch, and a horrendously wrong decision. This terrible decision is going to kill tens of thousands of Americans. Six blood clots after 7 million administered Johnson & Johnson vaccines, versus a disease that has a mortality rate of 18,000 per million cases in the U.S., and has killed over 1,700 of every million people.
One death after 7 million J&J vaccinations for these blood clots (which they don’t even know are attributable to the vaccine), versus over 50,000 dead per 7 million cases of COVID in Americans. That’s a ratio of 1 : 50,000. You can fairly argue those mortality numbers are skewed by the fact that COVID has already ripped through our nursing homes, killing a lot of our most vulnerable people, but still, the risk numbers aren’t even in the same ballpark. And mortality numbers don’t include the millions of Americans who suffered or are suffering from severe cases that require hospitalization.
This is criminal innumeracy.
Siri Claims Apple Event Planned for Next Tuesday ★
Sami Fathi, writing for MacRumors:
Upon being asked “When is the next Apple Event,” Siri is currently responding with, “The special event is on Tuesday, April 20, at Apple Park in Cupertino, CA. You can get all the details on Apple.com.”
Works for me on my HomePods, but not when I ask my iPhone or iPad. Others are getting the April 20 answer on their Macs and iPhones — why it varies so much by device, who knows? Tuesday 20 April is exactly the date I was thinking about when I wrote about Apple not wanting to send a top executive to Washington to testify before the Senate antitrust committee next week.
ThinkPad X1 Nano: Lenovo’s 2-Pound Laptop ★
Monica Chin, writing for The Verge:
If you’ve used a ThinkPad before, you probably know 90 percent of
what to expect from the ThinkPad X1 Nano. All of the staples are
here. It’s got the black carbon fiber chassis, the discrete
buttons on top of the touchpad, the mechanical privacy shutter,
the ThinkPad logo on the palm rest, and (of course) the red
pointer nub in the middle of the keyboard.
But one thing is unique about the X1 Nano: it’s the lightest
ThinkPad Lenovo has ever made. Starting at just 1.99 pounds, the
Nano isn’t technically the lightest laptop on the market. But it’s
still one of the best combinations of portability, build quality,
and performance that you can buy.
Now here’s a PC laptop that truly catches my eye. If I had to use a PC laptop, I’d use a ThinkPad. But that 2 pound weight* — that’s something Apple currently does not compete with. An M1 MacBook Air weighs 2.8 pounds (and an M1 MacBook Pro weighs just 0.2 pounds more — the Air is only ever-so-slightly lighter than the 13-inch Pro).
How about this? My 11-inch iPad Pro attached to Apple’s Magic Keyboard: 2.36 pounds. Lenovo’s X1 Nano even has that beat on weight, and the ThinkPad has a 13-inch display and full-size keyboard.
Apple did sell a 2-pound laptop once: the 12-inch no-adjective MacBook that was available from 2015–2019. That 12-inch MacBook was beloved by some people I know, specifically because it was so damn light. But even folks who loved it admit it was severely compromised performance-wise.
Surely, Apple is going to come out with an Apple Silicon MacBook that runs really fast, lasts long on battery, and weighs 2 pounds (or less). It’ll make today’s M1 MacBook Air feel like a brick. It just can’t stand for long that Apple is so far behind the PC state-of-the-art in lightweight laptops.
* Worth noting that Lenovo sells the X1 Nano with two different screens, one a touchscreen, and one not. The touchscreen model weighs 2.14 pounds.
The Framework Laptop ★
Upgradeable, modular 13-inch Windows laptop set to ship this summer. I’m sure it will succeed similarly to Google’s Project Ara, the modular device that reinvented the smartphone in 2014.
‘Surviving the Crackdown in Xinjiang’ ★
Extraordinary piece for The New Yorker by Raffi Khatchadourian, profiling Anar Sabit, a young ethnic Kazakh woman who was living in Vancouver but returned to her family in Xinjiang, China in 2017 when her father died:
That summer, Sabit and her mother returned to Kuytun, to settle
her father’s affairs. Friends had warned her not to go: rumors had
been circulating of an escalating crackdown on the indigenous
peoples of Xinjiang — of Kazakh traders being disappeared at the
border. But Sabit had made an uneventful trip there less than a
month earlier, and she wanted to be by her mother’s side. For two
weeks, they met with family and visited ancestors’ graves. The
trip, she later recalled, “was full of tears and sadness.”
On July 15th, Sabit and her mother drove to Ürümqi Diwopu
International Airport, for a flight back to Kazakhstan. They
arrived in the middle of the night, and the building was nearly
empty. At customs, an officer inspected her mother’s passport
and cleared her to go. But when Sabit handed over her documents
he stopped, looked at her, and then took her passport into a
“Don’t worry,” Sabit assured her mother, explaining that the delay
was most likely another bureaucratic annoyance. Minutes later, the
officer returned with an Uyghur official, who told Sabit to sit on
a bench. “You cannot leave,” he said. “You can discuss between
yourselves whether your mother will go or stay.”
In an emotional torrent, Sabit’s mother pleaded for an
explanation. The officer replied, “We need to ask her a few
She wasn’t released until early 2019. Brutal, heartbreaking, angering story, and the scope is unimaginable:
Reporters with Radio Free Asia called up local Chinese officials,
who, accustomed to speaking with Party propagandists, were
strikingly candid. When one camp director was asked the name of
his facility, he confessed that he didn’t know, because it had
been changed so often, but gamely ran outside to read the latest
version off a sign. A police officer admitted that his department
was instructed to detain forty per cent of the people in its
jurisdiction. In January, 2018, an official in Kashgar told the
news service that a hundred and twenty thousand Uyghurs had been
detained in his prefecture alone.
The growing camp infrastructure attracted notice, too. Shawn
Zhang, a student in Canada, began using satellite data to map the
facilities. By the summer, it appeared that roughly ten per cent
of Xinjiang’s Uyghur population was under confinement. Adrian
Zenz, an independent academic who has unearthed troves of
government documents on Chen’s crackdown, estimated that there
were as many as a million people in the camps — a statistic
echoed by the United Nations and others. Not since the Holocaust
had a country’s minority population been so systematically
As the crackdown evolved, hastily assembled facilities, like
Sabit’s in Kuytun, gave way to titanic new compounds in remote
locations. When forced to acknowledge them publicly, the
government described them as benign or indispensable — noting,
“Xinjiang has been salvaged from the verge of massive turmoil.”
These are long block quotes, but they offer only a taste of the whole story. You’ve surely heard Joseph Stalin’s line that “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.” This is the first-hand story of one internment in China’s Xinjiang ethnic cleansing camps, and it is tragic.
U.S. Secretary of State Says China Let Coronavirus Get ‘Out of Hand’ ★
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an interview on Meet the Press:
“I think China knows that in the early stages of Covid, it didn’t
do what it needed to do, which was to, in real time, give access
to international experts, in real time to share information, in
real time to provide real transparency.
“One result of that failure is that the virus got out of hand
faster and with, I think, much more egregious results than it
In other China-COVID news, their vaccines are apparently — by their own admission — not highly effective, yet are being distributed around the world in huge quantities. The Washington Post:
The head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention
conceded that the efficacy of Chinese coronavirus vaccines is “not
high” and that they may require improvements, marking a rare
admission from a government that has staked its international
credibility on its doses.
The comments on Saturday from George Gao come after the government
has already distributed hundreds of millions of doses to other
countries, even though the rollout has been dogged by questions
over why Chinese pharmaceutical firms have not released detailed
clinical trial data about the vaccines’ efficacy.
China has struck deals to supply many of its allies and economic
partners in the developing world and boasted that world leaders — including in Indonesia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates — have taken the shots.
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Apple Did Not Refuse to Testify Before the U.S. Senate ★
Business Insider (among others) is reporting that “Apple is reportedly refusing to testify at an upcoming congressional antitrust hearing” because of a testy letter from Senators Amy Klobuchar (D) and Mike Lee (R) that reads:
We write regarding Apple Inc.’s refusal to provide a witness to
testify in a timely manner before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s
Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights
at a hearing to examine the competition issues raised by app
stores. […] We strongly urge Apple to reconsider its position
and to provide a witness to testify before the Subcommittee in a
Apple’s response, via Mark Gurman at Bloomberg:
We have deep respect for your role and process on these matters
and, as we told your staff, we are willing to participate in a
hearing in the subcommittee. We simply sought alternative dates in
light of upcoming matters that have been scheduled for some time
and that touch on similar issues.
Apple is sending Kyle Andeer, the company’s chief compliance officer, to speak at the Senate antitrust hearing on April 21.
Spitball: That week isn’t good for Apple because they’re planning to hold an event. But if the event is pre-filmed, would that preclude Tim Cook from being in Washington? Yes, I think. Even with these quarantine virtual announcement events, it’s still all hands on deck in Cupertino — just in case. And what if they’re filming it next week — a week he’d need to spend preparing for Senate testimony if he were testifying April 21? Cook needs to be ready, for example, to re-film his opening to address any sort of breaking news — something like a natural (or unnatural) disaster. Even though they’re filmed in advance, these virtual events are meant to feel live.
Update: Spitball 2: There’s also Epic-v.-Apple, which goes to trial May 3. That would certainly qualify as “upcoming matters that have been scheduled for some time and that touch on similar issues.”
The Talk Show: ‘Not to Get Zealotrous’ ★
Craig Mod joins the show to talk about writing, designing, filmmaking, what makes for good software, and building a successful membership program to support independent art. And: pizza toast.
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Friday, 9 April 2021
Sharon Terlep, Tim Higgins, and Patience Haggin, reporting for The Wall Street Journal, “P&G Worked With China Trade Group on Tech to Sidestep Apple Privacy Rules” (News+ link):
Procter & Gamble Co. helped develop a technique being tested in
China to gather iPhone data for targeted ads, a step intended to
give companies a way around Apple Inc.’s new privacy tools,
according to people familiar with the matter. […]
The company has joined forces with dozens of Chinese trade groups
and tech firms working with the state-backed China Advertising
Association to develop the new technique, which would use
technology called device fingerprinting, the people said. Dubbed
CAID, the advertising method is being tested through apps and
gathers iPhone user data. Through the use of an algorithm, it can
track users for purposes of targeting ads in a way that Apple is
seeking to prevent. […]
Through apps, CAID collects user device data, such as the device
start-up time, model, time zone, country, language and IP address.
Based on China’s personal information security standards, most of
those data aren’t counted as “personal information.” But a
so-called device ID can be generated by algorithm based on these
data. That device ID can achieve a similar tracking effect as the
identifier that Apple is allowing users to block.
Not a good look for a major American company like Procter & Gamble to be in cahoots with a Chinese trade group to circumvent Apple’s new privacy rules.
The whack-a-mole1 aspect of Apple’s new privacy rules is that while Apple can restrict access to the API that provides access to the IDFA identifier, clever developers can find (perhaps infinite) other ways to combine things they do have access to into a unique, or even just “close enough to unique to be useful for tracking”, identifier. IP addresses, to name just one example, are a big factor that Apple can’t block would-be-trackers from using. That’s what CAID is, but CAID isn’t some rogue effort on the part of surveillance advertisers alone — it has the backing of the Chinese government.
Doing this is clearly against Apple’s rules. The questions are: Can Apple detect these techniques? And what is Apple going to do if they do identify apps in China using CAID in flagrant violation of the App Store rules, if those apps have the backing (implicit or explicit) of the Chinese government?
Consider just Tencent. What is Apple going to do if WeChat is flagged for circumventing the App Store privacy rules, and Tencent says “No thank you” to Apple’s rules, that they’re going to do it anyway because they have the backing of the PRC? Reading between the lines, I think Apple is diplomatically telling the companies involved with CAID that they will pull the apps from the App Store over this. Here’s Apple’s statement to The Journal:
Device fingerprinting runs afoul of Apple’s rules, and the tech
company has said it would ban any app that violates its policies.
“The App Store terms and guidelines apply equally to all
developers around the world, including Apple,” an Apple spokesman
said. “We believe strongly that users should be asked for their
permission before being tracked. Apps that are found to disregard
the user’s choice will be rejected.”
I don’t read diplomat-ese fluently, but that statement seems adamant: “all developers around the world, even Apple”. I wonder, though, if Tencent believes they can track users with impunity because Apple wouldn’t dare pull WeChat (etc.) from the Chinese App Store.
Basically, IDFA was Apple’s attempt to work with companies to provide a way to offer a sanctioned identifier for advertising tracking that respected user privacy and user control over tracking. It didn’t work — these companies have no respect for user privacy or user control, even with IDFA. So Apple is taking it to the next level. That’ll only work if Apple backs up its rules with enforcement — even in China. ★
Thursday, 8 April 2021
In my post yesterday linking to Apple’s announcement of three new products that work with their Find My network accessory program, I pointed out that Belkin’s Soundform Freedom True Wireless Earbuds aren’t shipping until June. I should have dug deeper into the other two products:
Chipolo’s One Spot tracker isn’t shipping until June either, and might be in limited supply after it does ship. (“Join the waitlist for the very limited first batch and get exclusive access to pre-orders before it sells out.”) Chipolo’s existing One trackers that are already on sale won’t work as Find My accessories.
VanMoof’s $2,000 S3 and X3 bikes are available to order today, but new S3 orders will be delivered “within 9 to 11 weeks”, and X3 deliveries are “within 18 to 20 weeks”. [Update: Turns out VanMoof’s new Find My-enabled bikes will start shipping in a week, on April 15, but the current delivery dates for new online orders are months out because they’re already backordered. There should be some availability in VanMoof retail stores next week as well. So there is a simple reason to announce them this week.]
So it just makes yesterday’s announcement all the more curious: neither Belkin’s earbuds nor Chipolo’s tracker will be available until June, so why announce any of it now? Putting Find My integration in VanMoof’s bikes is cool, but they’re not exactly mainstream products. It only makes sense to me if Apple is on the cusp of announcing AirTags very soon, and wanted to get their “Find My supports third-party products too” story out the door beforehand, even if the products aren’t shipping for months. Apple also has significant updates to iOS, MacOS, WatchOS, and tvOS that all feel ready to ship, and iOS 14.5 is the version that introduces the much-publicized “opt-in to allow apps to track you” changes — a feature I suspect Apple wants to explain on their own terms during an event. Then, at the end of the show, Tim Cook can conclude by telling everyone these OS updates are all available now.
But yet here we are on Thursday, a week into April, and still no word from Apple about an online event next week. Their COVID-era online events, after WWDC last year:
Apple has always liked holding product events on Tuesdays, and, for last year’s online-only events, they sent the event announcements out 7–8 days in advance. Who knows, maybe they’ll send out an announcement for a special event to be broadcast next week as soon as I hit “Publish” on this post. But it’s starting to feel like something has gone awry. ★
Friday, 2 April 2021
In 2019, Russia passed a law mandating that phones and other “smart” devices come preloaded with a host of applications approved by the Russian government. In Russia, the law was known as the “Law Against Apple”. Apple, of course, resisted — they’ve never shipped iOS anywhere in the world with third-party applications pre-installed.1
The law went into effect yesterday. Apple’s apparently-compliant solution is not to pre-install any of the apps, but to offer them for download in the final step of the setup process for a new device. Via MacRumors, Twitter user Khaos Tian posted a screen capture of the new setup process.
First, at the very end of setup, Russian users now see a screen with the title “App Store”, with this description:
In compliance with Russian legal requirements, continue to view
available apps to download.
There is only one option: “Continue”.
The next screen looks like a promotional page from the App Store app, with the heading “From the App Store: Russian Apps”, and a list of the dozen-or-so mandated apps, with “Get” buttons next to each of them. Nothing is installed automatically — you need to “Get” each one. There is no “Install All” option. At the bottom of the list is the following text:
In compliance with Russian legal requirements, here are some apps
from Russian developers that you may download.
Notably, this second screen has an “X” button in the top right corner that stays in place even as you scroll down the list. Tap that button and you proceed with completing the setup process, with no requirement that you installed any of the suggested apps. Effectively, if you don’t want any of these apps, the new setup process simply requires two additional taps: “Continue” on the first screen and “X” on the second.
From Apple’s perspective, as well as that of Russian iPhone users, this seems like a good solution. Nothing is actually preinstalled. It’s still unclear what Apple would have done if the Russian government had mandated that these apps actually be preinstalled on every new iPhone.
In App Store, Transparency Is for Me, Not Thee
Arek Holko, on Twitter:
Apple leverages transparency when it suits them but doesn’t let
the developers do the same.
He links to The Verge’s story today on Apple’s solution to this Russian law, and an August story from The Verge about Apple rejecting an app update from Facebook because it put the following description below an in-app purchase button: “Apple takes 30% of this purchase.” Touché.
It’s impossible to square Apple’s (reasonable) desire to explain that the prompt to suggest installation of these Russian apps is mandated by Russian law with Apple’s refusal to allow developers to explain the App Store rules they are required to comply with. As I’ve written before, it is prima facie wrong that one of the App Store rules is that apps are not allowed to explain the App Store rules to users.
It’s quite a thing that Russia’s “law against Apple” allows for more transparency to users than Apple’s own App Store rules. ★
Rachel Levine: America’s First Openly Transgender Federal Official to Win Senate Confirmation ★
David Crary, reporting last week for The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Voting mostly along party lines, the U.S. Senate has confirmed
former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be the
nation’s assistant secretary of health. She is the first openly
transgender federal official to win Senate confirmation.
The final vote Wednesday was 52-48. Republican Sens. Lisa
Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined all
Democrats in supporting Levine.
Levine had been serving as Pennsylvania’s top health official
since 2017, and emerged as the public face of the state’s response
to the coronavirus pandemic. She is expected to oversee Health and
Human Services offices and programs across the U.S.
It takes courage and a thick skin to be a trailblazer like Levine. She’s more than qualified for this position — the votes against her are as shameful as they are transparent. I’m so proud that she’s from Pennsylvania.
President Biden, today:
Today, we honor and celebrate the achievements and resiliency of
transgender individuals and communities. Transgender Day of
Visibility recognizes the generations of struggle, activism, and
courage that have brought our country closer to full equality for
transgender and gender non-binary people in the United States and
around the world. Their trailblazing work has given countless
transgender individuals the bravery to live openly and
authentically. This hard-fought progress is also shaping an
increasingly accepting world in which peers at school, teammates
and coaches on the playing field, colleagues at work, and allies
in every corner of society are standing in support and solidarity
with the transgender community.
Living openly and authentically shouldn’t require bravery. Today it does; someday, it won’t.
The Talk Show: ‘Toaster Fridgey’ ★
Rene Ritchie returns to the show to speculate about pending Apple product announcements and events. Lots of guessing, no wagering.
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Apple Is Adding Two New American English Voices for Siri ★
Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch:
Apple is adding two new voices to Siri’s English offerings, and
eliminating the default “female voice” selection in the latest
beta version of iOS. This means that every person setting up Siri
will choose a voice for themselves and it will no longer default
to the voice assistant being female, a topic that has come up
quite a bit with regards to bias in voice interfaces over the past
As Panzarino notes, in some countries, like the U.K., Siri’s default voice is male, not female. So “Why is Siri’s default voice female?” is not applicable worldwide. And my hunch has always been that the defaults in each country were selected by perceived quality. But making this an explicit choice during setup is the right answer — take the question of cultural bias out of the equation.
I believe that this is the first of these assistants to make the
choice completely agnostic with no default selection made. This is
a positive step forward as it allows people to choose the voice
that they prefer without the defaults bias coming into play. The
two new voices also bring some much needed variety to the voices
of Siri, offering more diversity in speech sound and pattern to a
user picking a voice that speaks to them. […]
“We’re excited to introduce two new Siri voices for English
speakers and the option for Siri users to select the voice they
want when they set up their device,” a statement from Apple reads.
“This is a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to
diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are
designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in.”
Here’s a screen recording I made of the new lineup of voices. Both new voices are very good. Interestingly, in addition to adding the two new voices, the Siri preferences no longer label any of the voices as “male” or “female” — they’re just “Voice 1” … “Voice 4”. That makes it harder to remember which one is which, but, it opens the door to nonbinary voices in a future update. There’s no reason Siri’s voice needs to be decidedly male or female. The diversity of the two new voices is subtle, but they don’t label them as such. You either hear it or don’t. The same could be true for the gender of future new voices.
I wonder too if the order is randomized? There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to how mine are ordered, and randomizing the order would further eliminate bias before each user makes their choice. Update: I checked with Apple and they confirmed: the order of voices is randomized (voices 1 and 4 are the existing ones, 2 and 3 are the new ones). It’s the same order on everyone’s device, but the order was chosen to mix old and new.
15 Million Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine Doses Spoiled by Factory Screwup ★
Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, reporting for The New York Times:
Workers at a Baltimore plant manufacturing two coronavirus
vaccines accidentally conflated the vaccines’ ingredients several
weeks ago, ruining about 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s
vaccine and forcing regulators to delay authorization of the
plant’s production lines.
The plant is run by Emergent BioSolutions, a manufacturing partner
to both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Federal officials
attributed the mistake to human error. […]
The mistake is a major embarrassment for Johnson & Johnson, whose
one-dose vaccine has been credited with speeding up the national
immunization program. It does not affect Johnson & Johnson doses
that are currently being delivered and used nationwide. All those
doses were produced in the Netherlands, where operations have been
fully approved by federal regulators.
“Pilot of Ever Given Takes New Job at Baltimore Vaccine Plant”.
Jason Snell: ‘The Mac Needs Shortcuts’ ★
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
This is yet another reason why Apple should start the Mac on its
transition to the user automation of the future. And the good news
is, there is a clear path for Apple to take. The future of user
automation on all of Apple’s platforms should be Shortcuts.
There were a lot of people who thought Apple might announce Shortcuts for Mac last year at WWDC. They didn’t, but they did make Shortcuts on iOS a lot better and noticeably faster. So now there are even more people hoping for Shortcuts for Mac this year.
I don’t think the path is that clear though. This piece by Snell is a great overview of Apple’s severely splintered automation story across iOS and MacOS. It just seems chaotic and unplanned.
Activision Reveals Malware Disguised as ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ Cheats ★
As a first order priority, I’m against malware, of course. But if someone has to get hit by malware, cheaters are high on the list.