The Daring Fireball Linked List

BGR on Amazon’s Upcoming Smartphone 

Zach Epstein:

The most novel aspect of Amazon’s upcoming smartphone is its 3D software interface and the hardware mechanism that enables it.

Our sources state that the new Amazon phone includes a total of six cameras.

Can’t wait to see this 3D stuff. In the meantime, though, I can’t help but think of this.

‘Heads or Tails’ 

Beautiful comic by the incomparable Chris Ware.

‘How Much for the Drums?’ 

Dave Shumka:

Ever since I made this video of David Letterman talking to drummers, I’ve wondered if he’s actually seen it. I recently asked one of his writers, Bill Scheft, on Twitter. According to Scheft, not only has Letterman watched it, but “he loved it as he loved few things.” I realize that it just seems like I’m bragging on the internet, but that’s about the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.

With all the news surrounding Letterman’s retirement, it feels like a fine time to revisit the video.

Dieter Bohn of The Verge Profiles Project Ara, Google’s Modular Phone Project 

I remain highly skeptical that a modular design can compete in a product category where size, weight, and battery life are at such a premium. Even if they can bring something to market, why would any normal person be interested in a phone like this?

Jason Snell on Apple and Wearables 

Jason Snell:

Unfortunately, I fear that tech-industry observers have completely lost their perspective. As Rene has written, no matter how big the wearables market gets, it’s still not going to touch the smartphone market.

IDC reported that in 2013, one billion smartphones were shipped, up 38 percent from the previous year. That’s a fast-growing market worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Meanwhile, on Thursday IDC predicted that the wearables market will reach 112 million units in 2018.

In other words, in four years the wearables market might grow to be one-tenth the size of today’s smartphone market — in units shipped. Presumably the average selling price of wearable items will be a fraction of that of smartphones, meaning the dollar value of the wearables market is even more minuscule compared to the smartphone market.

The pricing issue is a big one: carrier-subsidized pricing blinds many people to the fact that iPhones really sell for $700-800 a pop. Some analyst predicted last week that Apple will sell watches “priced at several thousand dollars”. Maybe they will, but if they do, they sure as shit aren’t going to sell as many of them as they do iPhones.

It feels a lot more likely to me that any new wearable devices from Apple will be priced more along the line of iPods: in the $100-400 range. Maybe a little higher at the outset, coming down over time. (I wouldn’t even be surprised if they use the iPod brand for them.)


My thanks to Igloo — “the intranet you’ll actually like” — for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. This week Igloo introduced four new templates to help start your next intranet project. You can start with:

  • an app-based social intranet;
  • a corporate intranet;
  • a customer community;
  • or a partner portal

Igloo’s new templates share a unified visual language, but your Igloo can be fully designed to match your brand and the way your business is structured. All Igloo templates feature responsive design, so they looks great on any device — desktop, tablet, or phone. Igloo built its own public-facing website using the Igloo platform.

You can start using Igloo instantly and, amazingly, Igloo is free of charge for up to ten people.

Researcher Proves Heartbleed Bug Exposes Private SSL Keys 

Josh Ong, reporting for The Next Web:

Fedor Indutny, a core member of the node.js team, has proved that it is in fact possible for an attacker to sniff out the private SSL keys from a server left exposed by the Heartbleed bug. The proof came in response to a challenge from CloudFlare that called on the security community to grab the keys from a demo server.

‘Brightest Flashlight’ Android App Disclosed Location of 50 Million People, but FTC Imposes No Fine 

Jeff John Roberts, writing for GigaOm:

Even judging by the low standards of creepy data-mining apps, “Brightest Flashlight” did something pretty egregious. The free app, which was installed by at least 50 million Android users, transmitted users’ real-time locations to ad networks and other third parties. It was, in other words, a stalking device disguised as a flashlight.

Cocoa for Web Services 

Brent Simmons:

The cloud is more than just a file system. It’s data plus code.

Amazon Buys ComiXology 

Jason Snell, writing for TechHive:

Comic fans may groan about the sale — it’s always sad when a plucky, groundbreaking start-up is bought out by a corporate giant — but Amazon’s track record with purchases is actually pretty good. The company has bought Zappos, Goodreads, Woot, and Audible, all of which continue to operate more or less as they did before, rather than being integrated into

Atelier Playing Cards 

Sweet typography-centric playing card design by Robert Padbury. The Kickstarter project is just a few days old, but already fully-funded. I say we all pile on and make this project a big hit. (Bonus: the t-shirts are being printed by my pal Brian Jaramillo, who’s handled all DF t-shirts for many years.)

Friday Afternoon Taste of My Own Claim Chowder 

Yours truly, three years ago:

Second, how is Flipboard an example of a web app? It’s a native iOS app in the App Store. It uses HTML5 and web content views, sure, but it’s still a native iPad app.

As I wrote in my headline this week, I’ve rethought what it means to be a web app. Flipboard is a great example of a native app that is all about the web.

Samsung Misled Investors About 2011 Galaxy Tab Sales 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

This week we learned, thanks to a February 2012 internal Samsung document marked “top secret” and unearthed by Apple as part of its ongoing patent infringement proceedings, that we were right and those more credulous news outlets were wrong.

When Strategy Analytics was telling the world that Samsung sold 2 million Galaxy Tabs in six weeks, the truth was that it took Samsung all of 2011 to sell half that many.

Shocker. But as Elmer-DeWitt points out, the blame doesn’t lie solely with Samsung or even Strategy Analytics — it lies also with the news outlets that gleefully passed along the report as fact. The reason: they wanted it to be true. iPad Continues to Dominate Tablet Sales is a boring story.

Bloomberg: NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Intelligence for Years 

And now, some bad (but unsurprising) Heartbleed news, reported by Michael Riley for Bloomberg:

The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

The NSA’s decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts.

For what it’s worth, the NSA Public Affairs Office tweeted a denial:

Statement: NSA was not aware of the recently identified Heartbleed vulnerability until it was made public.

Update: Full statement from the NSA here. Doesn’t seem to leave any wiggle room.

Escape From XP  

Yet another sign that Microsoft has turned a corner.

‘Steve Expected Excellence. Which Is Why He So Often Got It.’ 

Wonderful remembrance of Steve Jobs from Don Melton

So Steve started the rehearsal, going through slides on the “Switcher” ad campaign and then the Apple Stores.

At the end of the retail update, he was supposed to conclude with something like “1.4 million visitors in the month of December alone,” but he added, “so to all of you in the press who doubted us…”

And then clicked to reveal his special slide — poster art I’m sure everyone has seen before — a 1940’s-style rendering of a grinning man holding a big mug of coffee next to his face with this text alongside like a world balloon:

“How about a nice cup of shut the fuck up.”

And then the best part — the part we didn’t know was coming — Steve paused, turned to his V.P. of Marketing and deadpanned, “What do you think, Phil? Too much?”

Can You Get Private SSL Keys Exploiting Heartbleed? 

Some potentially good news on the OppenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability front, from CloudFlare:

While the vulnerability seems likely to put private key data at risk, to date there have been no verified reports of actual private keys being exposed. At CloudFlare, we received early warning of the Heartbleed vulnerability and patched our systems 12 days ago. We’ve spent much of the time running extensive tests to figure out what can be exposed via Heartbleed and, specifically, to understand if private SSL key data was at risk.

Here’s the good news: after extensive testing on our software stack, we have been unable to successfully use Heartbleed on a vulnerable server to retrieve any private key data. Note that is not the same as saying it is impossible to use Heartbleed to get private keys. We do not yet feel comfortable saying that. However, if it is possible, it is at a minimum very hard. And, we have reason to believe based on the data structures used by OpenSSL and the modified version of NGINX that we use, that it may in fact be impossible.

And now, back to changing passwords on a slew of my accounts around the web.

Update: Sadly, the answer is yes, the vulnerability does put private key data at risk.

Scaling the Facebook Data Warehouse to 300 PB 

Pamela Vagata and Kevin Wilfong, writing for the Facebook Engineering Blog:

At Facebook, we have unique storage scalability challenges when it comes to our data warehouse. Our warehouse stores upwards of 300 PB of Hive data, with an incoming daily rate of about 600 TB. In the last year, the warehouse has seen a 3x growth in the amount of data stored. Given this growth trajectory, storage efficiency is and will continue to be a focus for our warehouse infrastructure.

600 TB of incoming data per day is mind-blowing. I can’t fathom it. And it’s great that they’re sharing this information. There can’t be that many entities dealing with this scale of data storage, and the others likely aren’t sharing what they’ve learned. This is the cutting edge of computer science.

Meet the Bag Man 

Eye-opening feature by Steven Godfrey for SBNation on the stream of money paid to college football recruits and players:

Remember, your job as a bag man isn’t to hide the benefit. It’s to hide the proof. In a region as passionate about college football as the American South, there’s no real moral outrage when new cars or clothes or jobs for relatives appear.

“We can only get away with whatever’s considered reasonable by the majority of the folks in our society. That’s why it’s different in the SEC. Maybe that’s why we’re able to be more active in what we do. Because no one ever looks at the car or the jewelry and says, ‘How did you get that, poor football player?’ They say, ‘How did they get you that and not get caught, poor football player?’”

Font War: Inside the Design World’s $20 Million Divorce 

Joshua Brustein, reporting for Businessweek on the Jonathan Hoefler/Tobias Frere-Jones breakup:

Several designers I spoke with said they were under the impression that Hoefler was almost exclusively focused on managing the business in recent years, leaving design to Frere-Jones. This makes it easy to cast Hoefler in the role of the villain exploiting the work of a naïve genius. But Hoefler and Frere-Jones’s relationship was more complicated than that, says Mike Essl, who teaches design at Cooper Union. Hoefler had all of Frere-Jones’s design chops, but also had the ability to propel Frere-Jones to prominence in a way he couldn’t have done on his own. Business partnerships rarely last forever, says Essl, and when they end, it’s often ugly. “Van Halen isn’t going to be Van Halen forever,” he says. “Someone is going to leave.”

Wiretap Proponent Condoleezza Rice Joins Dropbox’s Board 

Brian Feldman, writing for The Wire:

Tucked away near the end of a Businessweek article on the startup is news of Rice taking a fourth seat on the board:

The former secretary of state’s consulting firm, RiceHadleyGates, has been advising the startup on management issues for the last year. Now she’ll help the company think about such matters as international expansion and privacy, an issue that dogs every cloud company in the age of Edward Snowden and the NSA.

You know, privacy and the NSA. The same NSA that, as Ars Technica points out, Rice herself authorized to wiretap UN officials and other domestic targets without warrants. She definitely seems like the right person to help craft Dropbox’s privacy policies.

Strikes me as an oddly tone-deaf move for Dropbox, in the post-Snowden world. Is not warrantless government eavesdropping the single biggest concern people have regarding Dropbox?

Acorn on Sale for $15 

Flying Meat’s Acorn — a wonderful Mac image editor that normally costs $50 — is on sale for just $15. That’s a steal.

Mobile Apps or Mobile Web? 

Pater Kafka, writing for Recode:

Here’s an argument for counting them as “both, sometimes”: Quantcast, the Web measurement/ad company, says nearly a quarter of mobile Web views may be coming from in-app browsers running on Facebook or Twitter. That is: People who click on links and open up stories are in apps and on the Web, at the same time.

Why Stephen Colbert Is the Perfect David Letterman Replacement 

Tim Goodman, writing for The Hollywood Reporter:

Yes, fans of Colbert “in character” will miss his show, but the truth is that the format, despite being an excellent vehicle that launched Colbert to stardom, was far too limiting for Colbert’s talent. He’s absolutely going to blossom with this new freedom. From his time on Strangers With Candy to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, he’s shown his comedic talent in various forms with an improve performer’s fluidity. Those are traits that will make him instantly watchable doing his own taped (and live) skits on The Late Show, plus they will serve him well behind the desk doing interviews.

Stephen Colbert to Succeed Letterman on ‘Late Show’ 

Dave Itzkoff, reporting for the NYT:

“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Mr. Colbert said in a statement. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”

He added: “I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”

Great choice. Should keep Late Show the funniest of the late night shows.

Matthew Panzarino on Greg Christie’s Departure 

Matthew Panzarino, reporting for TechCrunch:

According to multiple sources inside and outside the company, Christie’s exit has been known for weeks — and planned for even longer. His stepping aside has been designed to allow for a transition of leadership inside the Human Interface group. Christie worked under Forstall for many years, and there may have been plenty of times he didn’t agree with Ive, but there has reportedly been a distinct lack of drama in this transition.

If there was any ill-will between Christie and Ive, it doesn’t appear to have taken the form of any open conflict and a flare-up of friction was apparently not behind this exit.

Jony Ive Expands Role in Software Design; Apple Confirms Greg Christie’s Retirement 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:

Mr. Christie’s group will report to Mr. Ive, who is Apple’s senior vice president of design, according to the email. The team previously reported to Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief.

“Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple,” said a company spokesman. “He has made vital contributions to Apple products across the board, and built a world-class human interface team which has worked closely with [Jonathan] for many years.”

I’ve been asking around since the news broke this afternoon. What I’ve heard, from several sources: Christie and Ive may not see eye to eye on UI design style, but his departure isn’t nearly as contentious as Mark Gurman’s report at 9to5Mac implies. The basic gist I’ve heard is that Christie is a guy who’s been in a high-pressure, high-profile job for 18 years, most of it reporting to Steve Jobs. He’s made a lot of money and is ready to enjoy it. That’s largely in line with the Apple PR line given to the WSJ, but I heard all of this from ground-level Cupertino-area pixel-pushing designers.

Interestingly, Christie’s retirement was announced internally a few weeks ago — yet it didn’t leak outside the company until today. Also interesting (and backing up the company line that his departure is not contentious): he’s staying at the company until later this year — and from what I’ve heard, it’s more like “end of the year”. If it’s ugly, why hang around?

There’s no way to spin the fact that Ive is taking more authority (or perhaps better said, consolidating all aspects of “design” under his direct authority), and surely that played some part in Christie’s decision. But from what I’ve gathered, it is wrong to think that Ive in any way forced Christie out.

Mark Gurman: Apple Human Interface VP Greg Christie Leaves Apple Over Friction With Jony Ive 

Mark Gurman, reporting for 9to5Mac:

Following friction between top Apple Human Interface Vice President Greg Christie and Senior Vice President Jony Ive, Apple’s hardware and software design is being dramatically shaken up, according to sources familiar with the matter. After adding human interface design direction to his responsibilities in 2012, Ive will soon completely subsume Apple’s software design group, wresting control away from long-time human interface design chief Christie, according to sources briefed on the matter.

Huge deal. Christie’s influence over the look and feel of OS X and (at least pre-7) iOS cannot be overstated. Say goodbye to Lucida Grande in OS X.

Bruce Schneier on the ‘Heartbleed’ OpenSSL Vulnerability 

Bruce Schneier:

“Catastrophic” is the right word. On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11.

The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain 

Fantastic resource from former Genius Bar staffer Scotty Loveless. Bookmark this and send it to anyone you know complaining of problematic iPhone battery life.

Apple and the Open Web 

Worth a re-link, as a follow-up from yesterday’s piece: yours truly on stage at the Web 2.0 conference back in September 2010. Holds up pretty well, I’d say.

The Talk Show: Live From Build 2014 

Special guest Ed Bott joins me for a special episode of my podcast, recorded in front of a live audience at Microsoft’s Build developer conference in San Francisco last week. Topics include the news from the conference — including Windows Phone 8.1 — and a broader look at the new Microsoft and its position in the industry.

Brought to you by three great sponsors:

Paul Thurrott on Microsoft Office for iPad 

Paul Thurrott:

As for how powerful these apps are, consider this. I loaded up my 575 page Windows 8.1 Field Guide Word document, and while it took a while to download originally (it’s stored in OneDrive for Business as part of my Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription), the performance reading and editing the document was impressive. In fact, it was… amazing. This is the real deal.

As important, the fidelity of the document was perfect: Everything was formatted correctly, including images. I could actually write a book on this thing if I wanted to. (Relax, I don’t.) Microsoft claims that documents look as good on the iPad as they do on the PC. And I gotta say. They really do.

Solid review from Ed Bott, too. Hard to find a bad review of these apps.

New York’s Typography District 

Tobias Frere-Jones, resurfacing after the recent unpleasantness with a new blog:

I re-read Maurice Annenberg’s “Type Foundries of America and their Catalogs”, tracked down business directories of the period, and spent too much time in Google Earth. But I was able to plot out the locations for every foundry that had been active in New York between 1828 (the earliest records I could find with addresses) to 1909 (see below). All of the buildings have been demolished, and in some cases the entire street has since been erased. But a startling picture still emerged: New York once had a neighborhood for typography.

(I couldn’t help but take note of Frere-Jones’s own type choices for his site: Benton Modern and Interstate from The Font Bureau — both of which he designed prior to the Hoefler deal.)

Second Best Evidence From Apple-Samsung Trial: Phil Schiller Email Exchange With TBWA/Media Arts Lab 

Schiller’s “shocked” response to this guy James Vincent is spot-on. Seems bizarre too that Vincent composes serious emails completely in lowercase letters.

Tetris Played on a 29-Story Skyscraper 

Drexel University:

As part of Philly Tech Week, Dr. Frank Lee’s latest creation — a two-sided game of Tetris on the 29-story Cira Centre — illuminates the Philadelphia skyline.

Update: More, including many technical details, in this great feature by Andrew Cunningham for Ars Technica.

The Verge: ‘Why Amazon’s Fire TV Is a Guaranteed Hit’ 

David Pierce:

Amazon doesn’t innovate by crafting new product categories, like Apple does. It also doesn’t make much money selling its hardware. Instead, it takes all the data it gathers as the world’s biggest online retailer, breaks down exactly what’s available and what consumers want, then produces a piece of hardware that it can sell cheaply in order to bring consumers into its ecosystem. Just as Netflix created House of Cards to satisfy the particular tastes of its viewers, Amazon made the Fire TV because millions of buyers are already looking for it. To understand the Fire TV is to take one glance at Amazon’s best-selling electronics list: two Roku models, Google’s Chromecast, and the Apple TV are the only non-Amazon devices in the top 10. The world’s largest online retailer just took on all three.

(Via MG Siegler.)

Steve Jobs’s October 2010 Draft Agenda for Apple’s Top 100 Meeting 

Fascinating email from Jobs to Phil Schiller, entered as evidence in the latest round of the Apple/Samsung patent trial. Makes me wonder, again, whether this legal fight is worth it for Apple. Far more of Apple’s internal dynamics have been revealed through this lawsuit than through unauthorized leaks in the past few years.

It does go to show, though, that Steve Jobs was keenly aware of Apple’s competitive shortcomings. They never show it in public, which leads some to perceive the company as more arrogant than it actually is, and perhaps even out of touch.

Recode has a few other interesting documents and emails that have come to light through this legal battle, but none are as interesting as this one.

Blue Bottle Buys Tonx 

Mat Honan, writing for Wired:

It’s also a good deal for Tonx, which was attempting to raise more money to purchase its own coffee roaster (it currently has a contract deal where it rents one on the weekends) and open a store front. While neither announced a price, Tonx did abandon a $4 million fundraising round it had been pursuing recently. Presumably, the deal would be on par with that. It’s a big win for the three year-old roaster that’s based in Los Angeles, but lives all over the Internet.

“Tony and I were still bagging and boxing the coffee ourselves last year, spending all day just listening to podcasts” recalled Bauman. “Tony would go in and sometimes would take eight hours or so of just stamping bags. We’d go and just stamp and listen to [John Gruber’s] The Talk Show or This American Life.”

That’s good company. Congratulations to my favorite coffee roaster.

The Fallacy of Android-First 

Dave Feldman, co-founder of Emu:

We launched Emu for iPhone on April 2, and we’ve pulled Emu for Android out of the Play Store. We hope we’ll return to Android someday, but our team is too small to innovate and iterate on multiple platforms simultaneously. We’ve concluded iPhone is a better place to be:

  • Our decision to build on top of SMS/MMS involved huge, unanticipated technical hurdles.

  • Even when you don’t support older Android versions, fragmentation is a huge drain on resources.

  • Google’s tools and documentation are less advanced, and less stable, than Apple’s.

  • Android’s larger install base doesn’t translate into a larger addressable market.

A nuanced perspective.

The Vast Discrepancy in User Demographics Between iOS and Android 

Interesting on two levels. First, the content of the story — these maps and statistics show why simplistic market share comparisons do not even vaguely tell the story of the competitive dynamics between iOS and Android.

Second, it’s an interesting contrast in headline writing. I’m linking to a reprint of the story on Slate. Slate’s headline: “Here’s Why Developers Keep Favoring Apple Over Android”. The original, published on Business Insider: “These Maps Show That Android Is For People With Less Money”. When you look at the web page titles (what you see in your browser tab), the contrast is even more stark: “Apple vs. Android: Developers See a Socioeconomic Divide” vs. “Android Is for Poor People: Maps”.

How Politics Makes Us Stupid 

Fascinating piece by Ezra Klein, for the newly launched Vox:

Kahan calls this theory Identity-Protective Cognition: “As a way of avoiding dissonance and estrangement from valued groups, individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values.” Elsewhere, he puts it even more pithily: “What we believe about the facts,” he writes, “tells us who we are.” And the most important psychological imperative most of us have in a given day is protecting our idea of who we are, and our relationships with the people we trust and love.

Kahan’s research tells us we can’t trust our own reason. How do we reason our way out of that?

This is one reason why I went to Build last week — I don’t want to fall into this trap. I want to find the best in design and technology, no matter the platform.

Babe Ruth Is Retiring 

Keith Olbermann on David Letterman announcing his retirement. So great.


My thanks to Crashlytics for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. They provide tools for iOS and Android that allow developers to spend less time finding bugs and more time fixing them. Crashlytics provides deep, actionable insights, right down to the line of code your app crashed on.

The Crashlytics platform is designed for scale and enterprise-level security. They’re trusted by apps like Square, Amazon, Yelp, and Path, and they offer unlimited developer seats at no cost. Really — it’s free. It’s a great deal and a great service.

‘Is the Oculus Rift Sexist?’ 

Danah Boyd:

Although there was variability across the board, biological men were significantly more likely to prioritize motion parallax. Biological women relied more heavily on shape-from-shading. In other words, men are more likely to use the cues that 3D virtual reality systems relied on.

This, if broadly true, would explain why I, being a woman, vomited in the CAVE: My brain simply wasn’t picking up on signals the system was trying to send me about where objects were, and this made me disoriented.

Fascinating research.

Amazon Dash 

Jeff Bezos is building up quite the gadget lineup.

WWDC 2014: June 2–6 

“The opportunity to buy tickets to this year’s conference will be offered by random selection.”

Amazon Fire TV 

Like Apple TV but with games and voice search.

Cortana, Microsoft’s Answer to Siri 

Nick Wingfield, writing for the NYT:

Cortana is named after a virtual character in Halo, Microsoft’s science-fiction video game series, that uses her encyclopedic knowledge about the universe to help the game’s protagonist, Master Chief. The actress, Jen Taylor, who does the voice for the character, also provided recordings for the phone assistant’s voice.

Two things jumped out at me regarding this story. First, that Microsoft gladly credited the actress supplying Cortana’s voice. Second, that Google and Android went unmentioned in the article.

Update: More on Cortana from The Verge.

Windows Phone 8.1 

Massive upgrade to Windows Phone; seems like more new features going from 8 to 8.1 than there were going from 7 to 8. Hoping to get my hands on a device running this.

And: Microsoft is making Windows free for phones and tablets with screens under 9 inches. (Insert joke here about 10-inch phones.)

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The Daring Fireball Linked List is a daily list of interesting links and brief commentary, updated frequently but not frenetically. Call it a “link log”, or “linkblog”, or just “a good way to dick around on the Internet for a few minutes a day”.

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