Linked List: May 2011

Why Majd Taby Hates Chrome and Continues to Use It 

Nice nitpicky UI critique of Chrome for Mac by Majd Taby, along with praise for what Chrome gets right.

Florian Mueller on Lodsys’s Suit Against Seven App Developers in Eastern Texas 

Florian Mueller:

For the app developers who have been sued, this is now a very critical situation. As I explained in my Lodsys FAQ, patent litigation in the United States is extremely costly. The most important thing for those app developers is to clarify with Apple — and to the extent that Android apps are involved, with Google — whether they will be held harmless and receive blanket coverage including possible damage awards.

Twitter Photo Storage and Account Integration in iOS 5 

MG Siegler on Twitter’s imminent but as-yet-unannounced photo-hosting service:

We’ve heard from multiple sources that Twitter is likely to have a big-time partner for such a service: Apple. Specifically, we’re hearing that Apple’s new iOS 5 will come with an option to share images to Twitter baked into the OS. This would be similar to the way you can currently share videos on YouTube with one click in iOS. Obviously, a user would have to enable this feature by logging in with their Twitter credentials in iOS. There would then be a “Send to Twitter” option for pictures stored on your device.

So close to the bigger story, but yet so far. Imagine what else the system could provide if your Twitter account was a system-level service.

Zaky: Apple’s Cash to Exceed $300 Billion by 2015 

Andy Zaky:

If it then carried that 2013 0.00% growth rate into 2014, the company would have $230 billion in cash or just about $250 in cash per share. 2015 it would have $300 billion in cash or $330 in cash per share. Again, that assumes 0.00% growth for 2013, 2014, and 2015. So if Apple grows 0.00%, then by 2015, it will have more cash per share than the stock is trading at today.

Lodsys Responds to Apple, Files Lawsuits Against App Developers 

These motherfuckers — or is it motherfucker, singular? — aren’t going to quit. Details on the Lodsys “blog”.

Security Update 2011-003 Addresses Mac Defender Malware 


The OSX.MacDefender.A definition has been added to the malware check within File Quarantine. [...]

The system will check daily for updates to the File Quarantine malware definition list. An opt-out capability is provided via the “Automatically update safe downloads list” checkbox in Security Preferences.

1966 Prediction of the Home Computer 

“What the wife selects on her console will be paid for by the husband at his counterpart console.”

(Via Jim Coudal.)

Federal Government Loosens Its Grip on the BlackBerry 

Michael S. Rosenwald, reporting for The Washington Post:

Kundra, the U.S. top information officer, said, “The line between work and home in terms of technology is beginning to blur.” Asked what he typically hears from workers about government- or corporate-provided technology, Kundra said, “It’s not a question of whether they don’t like it. They despise it.”

Kundra’s answer to the issue of people using unauthorized devices is simple: Give them what they want. Like many federal workers, he carries two devices — a BlackBerry (for work stuff) and an iPhone (for personal stuff). And like many people, Kundra says he wants to be a “one-device guy.” He recently began pondering a radical idea with federal agencies: Let workers use whatever mobile device they want, apply strict security settings, and have the government pay a stipend for service.

WHO: Cell Phone Use ‘Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans’ 

I think it’s quite possible that this issue could be the single greatest long-term threat to Apple. I’d hate to see today’s handset makers turn into yesterday’s tobacco companies.

Update: To be clear, the WHO is more or less saying that a link can’t be ruled out. And on the flip side, University of Maryland physics professor Bob Park:

All cancers are caused by mutant strands of DNA. Electromagnetic radiation can’t create mutant strands of DNA unless the frequency is at or higher than the blue limit of the visible spectrum the near-ultraviolet. The frequency of cell phone radiation is about 1 million times too low.

More from Park here on the question of cell phones causing cancer.

Apple Announces iWork for iPhone and iPod Touch 

Apple PR:

Apple today announced that its groundbreaking iWork productivity apps, Keynote, Pages and Numbers, are now available for iPhone and iPod touch, as well as iPad.

Guess the keynote is full.

Skype Installs EasyBits Go CrapWare on Windows Without Users’ Prior Knowledge 

Bradley Wint:

This morning I was notified that Skype needed third-party access to an executable called easybitsgo.exe, and I was quite suspicious because I knew I had not installed in applications recently and saw no other dialog boxes with information about this app. I did a virus scan immediately thinking my system may have been over-ridden with malware similar to those fake anti-virus apps.

It turns out the program is legit and was actually installed via Skype itself. After doing a quick check, it seems the EasyBits company produces a number of game apps and is supported by many major brands including HP, Dell, Acer and Skype among others, however I did not give a care since I was not interested in having such program installed on my machine. Finally, after checking the Skype forums, it turns out many users reported a similar circumstance.

8.5 billion dollars.

Joe Clark on E-Book Typography 

This year-old Joe Clark piece for A List Apart pairs well with this weekend’s link to Paul Luna on e-book typography. Don’t miss Clark’s sidebar with illustrated examples.

(While I’m at it, I’ll sneak in a link to Clark’s scathing response to Ben Yagoda’s piece in Slate on “logical punctuation”. This strikes me as cranky even by Clark’s standards, and is more about Slate’s appalling typesetting than about where periods and commas should be placed in relation to quotation marks.)


Michael Mulvey on the use of “pad” in tablet product names.

It’s About the Hashbangs 

Dan Webb makes a strong case against hashbang (“#!”) URLs.

Asus Unveils ‘Padfone’ 

Showmanship, Asus-style.

(Don’t miss the decals on their spokesmodel.)

Apple Announces WWDC 2011 Keynote 


Apple CEO Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives will kick off the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) with a keynote address on Monday, June 6 at 10:00 a.m. At the keynote, Apple will unveil its next generation software - Lion, the eighth major release of Mac OS X; iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s advanced mobile operating system which powers the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch; and iCloud, Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering.

Unusual for Apple to spell out in advance what a keynote will cover, and particularly to reveal a new product name. (This press release is Apple’s first acknowledgement of the name “iCloud”.) Why? I think to continue setting expectations that there will be no new hardware products announced.

Paul Luna on the Appalling State of E-Book Typography 

Even the example Amazon chose to feature in a Kindle ad is appallingly typeset.

Logical Punctuation 

Ben Yagoda on the rise of “logical punctuation” in the U.S. — following the British tradition of placing commas and periods outside quotation marks. That’s been my style here at DF from the start.

How Many Millions Did Amazon Lose on Two Days of 99-Cent Lady Gaga Sales? 

Glenn Peoples, reporting for Billboard:

Industry sources told on Friday that Amazon sold some 440,000 downloads of the album - nearly all of which were the 99-cent version (a more expensive deluxe version is also available).

So how much is Amazon losing? About $3.2 million over the two days the promotion ran, according to Billboard’s estimate. […]

But is a loss really a loss? The important aspect of this 99-cent promotion is the value of the increased traffic and awareness.

Indeed, I think it’s hard to imagine that Amazon could have drawn as much attention to their music store by spending $3 million in any other way.

Let’s Give It Another Year 

Ed Bott, back in July 2008 on Apple’s then-use of Windows CE devices for point-of-sale in Apple retail stores:

Without resorting to snark, I think this illustrates the fundamental difference between Apple, a seller of luxury consumer products, and Microsoft, a developer of business and consumer platforms.

Yes, I know that the current CW is that the iPhone is the new platform, and that might be true. But let’s come back in a year or two and see just how successful the platform really is.

Now, of course, Apple not only uses iPod Touches for retail point-of-sale, but they distribute dongles from Square that let everyone do so too. Imagine if Apple made consumer and business platforms.

Sparrow 1.2 

My thanks to Sparrow for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Sparrow is the first truly new attempt at a desktop Mac email client to ship in a long time. It’s elegant and fast, and improving quickly. Version 1.2, which shipped just this week, adds:

  • Unified Inbox
  • Facebook profiles picture integration
  • Rich text signatures
  • Gravatar support
  • Translation in 8 languages

Check it out and see for yourself. Sparrow is available right now on the Mac App Store for just $9.99.

The Talk Show, Episode 44 

Everyone wants to know, “Where’s the James Bond stuff in this week’s episode?” Look, we’re going to talk about A View to a Kill, but next week, not this week. Can’t tell you why, but if I could, I’d explain that it’s all Dan’s fault. But I can’t.

This week’s topics do include the new Barnes & Noble Nook and text editor fonts for programmers. (Hello, ladies.) Brought to you by two fine sponsors: Harvest and Sound Studio 4.

Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore Shows Off Windows Phone Mango 

Impressive work.

Citi Analyst Claims HTC Pays Microsoft $5 Per Android Phone 

Jay Yarow:

Microsoft gets $5 for every HTC phone running Android, according to Citi analyst Walter Pritchard, who released a big report on Microsoft this morning. Microsoft is getting that money thanks to a patent settlement with HTC over intellectual property infringement.

Microsoft is suing other Android phone makers, and it’s looking for $7.50 to $12.50 per device, says Pritchard.

Horace Dediu took this, did the math based on how many Android phones HTC has sold, and figured out that Microsoft has made five times more money from Android than from Windows Phone 7.

The Asymco Unweighted Global Mobile Phone Vendor Share Index 

I’ve gone over this many times. What matters when talking about market share in the mobile phone market? Share of all phones? Share of smartphones? Revenue? Profit? I love this idea from Horace Dediu, that creates an index using all four criteria.

PayPal Files Lawsuit Over Google Wallet 


We spend a lot of time and energy creating the things that make PayPal unique and a preferred way to pay for almost 100 million people around the world. We treat PayPal’s “secrets” seriously, and take it personally when someone else doesn’t. So we made a decision today. We filed a lawsuit against Google and two former colleagues who now work there, Osama Bedier and Stephanie Tilenius.

Something Newsworthy at WWDC Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Hardware 


A source tells us that Apple’s UK iPhone PR team is approaching journalists from major publications to fly out to the event in San Francisco next month. The obvious conclusion would be that Apple is announcing a new iPhone. Or rather, an updated model.

My spidey sense says it’s true that Apple PR is spreading word that it’ll be worth it for journalists to attend the WWDC keynote. Something is up. I truly have no idea what, though. And I think it’s far from an “obvious conclusion” that the only such announcement could be a new iPhone. Again — Apple spread word just two months ago that WWDC wasn’t going to be used to introduce new hardware. It’s possible, of course, that they did that as deliberate misdirection, but in my experience Apple doesn’t work that way.

Simplest explanation: Apple thinks the new stuff in iOS 5 is so good it’s newsworthy on its own.

Google Wallet 

Ambitious NFC-based plan to replace just about anything in your wallet — credit cards, drivers license, retailer discount cards — with digital versions stored on your Android phone. But even by Google’s standards, this announcement seems very early. It’s “coming soon” to two cities (New York and San Francisco), on one phone (Nexus S 4G) on one carrier (Sprint).

I can’t help but wonder whether Google wanted to announce this ahead of any possible NFC-related announcement from Apple at WWDC. Everyone knows Apple is working on this stuff, but I have no idea whether they’re ready to announce anything. But, presuming that Apple is working with some of the same retailers and banks, Google might know.

But, Apple clearly spread word back in March that there wouldn’t be any new hardware coming at WWDC, and Apple would need to announce a new NFC-capable iPhone in order to announce an NFC payment service. So maybe Google is way out in front of Apple on this.

Ryan Block: ‘It’s Time for Bill Gates to Come Back to Microsoft’ 

Ryan Block:

I’ve long seen it as a foregone conclusion that Ballmer isn’t the guy to be running what was until quite recently the world’s preeminent technology company. I don’t think many would shed a tear if Microsoft’s board put to an end what I like to call Ballmer’s “reign of error”, but the more pressing question is: who should replace him?

I think we all know damn well who — but I’m not so sure he’s available. Yet.

“Who should — or even could — succeed Ballmer?” is indeed a good question. Most of the internal candidates have been run out of the company recently: Ray Ozzie, Robbie Bach, J Allard. I don’t think Microsoft would hire an outsider — if Ballmer does leave, they’ll play it as a planned transition, not a shitcanning.

Sure would be dramatic for Gates to return. I don’t think he wants the gig, though.

This Is a First-Launch Experience of a Popular Highly-Rated Camera App on Android 

I’ve long been opposed to Yes/No buttons in dialog boxes — button names should be verbs, and can always be better than Yes/No. But this one takes the cake, because it’s a negation.

Urban Outfitters Rips Off Another Indie Artist 


Amazon Launches ‘Mac Downloads’ Store 

Have to say, I didn’t see this coming. Notable among the titles Amazon has but Apple’s Mac App Store does not is Microsoft Office.

Interesting too, in the context of Apple’s legal pursuit of a trademark for the term “app store”, is that Amazon went with “downloads store” rather than the closed-up “appstore” they use for their Android store.

NYSE Claims Trademark Infringement Over Images of Its Stock Exchange Floor 

Josh Marshall:

The New York Stock Exchange now claims that you have to get their permission (express or implicit) before you use images connected to the New York Stock Exchange. So if you find a wire photo of the trading floor and use it to illustrate a story on Wall Street, you’re violating the NYSE’s trademark because they’ve trademarked the trading floor itself.

We found this out yesterday when we got a cease and desist letter from the NYSE based on an article published at TPM back in November.

Man, talk about bullshit trademark harassment.

Amazon Tries Lady Gaga at $.99 Again 

Seth Weintraub:

Earlier this week, Amazon started selling digital copies of Lady Gaga’s Born this Way album for a likely loss leading price of $.99.


The Gathering Storm 


Influential hedge fund manager David Einhorn has called for Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer to step down, saying the world’s largest software company’s long-time leader is stuck in the past.

Expect more of this. And see if you can find high-profile investors defending Ballmer. (Via Ben Vaughan.)

Pay Attention but Don’t Panic 

Rich Mogull:

So I understand that some of you worry that Mac Defender is a scary sign of things to come. But while the Mac security situation really is changing, those changes are due almost entirely to attackers’ changing tactics and have little to do with the inherent strength or weakness of Mac security. The bottom line: You should pay attention to Mac security. But you don’t need to freak out about it.

Smart, rational look at the state of Mac malware.

Claim Chowder, TweetDeck Edition 

MG Siegler, reporting for AOL/TechCrunch back in February:

The number of companies in the Twitter ecosystem keeps contracting. But not for a necessarily bad reason, but because they keep getting purchased. And what’s crazy is that it’s largely one person who has been buying them up: Bill Gross. We’ve just learned that his company, now called UberMedia, has just acquired TweetDeck.

We’re hearing that the deal, which happened recently, was in the $25 - $30 million range. And this is clearly the largest deal they’ve done yet as TweetDeck is the largest Twitter client outside of Twitter’s own properties.

Close, except that UberMedia did not buy TweetDeck.

Twitter Buys TweetDeck 

Peter Kafka interviews TweetDeck honcho Iain Dodsworth:

Kafka: So to beat this into the ground: TweetDeck will continue to exist as a standalone product? There’s been a lot of speculation that Twitter would buy TweetDeck and then shut it down.

Dodsworth: Yes, they will continue as standalone products. From a technical standpoint we’ll move towards becoming part of the platform. They won’t be shutting it down, they are in fact investing further in its future.

My question: will TweetDeck have to use OAuth?

Tumblr Founder David Karp: Android ‘Absolutely Sucks to Develop For’ 

Tell us what you really think, David.

Small Print 

Charles Arthur:

Noted in passing: advert for the Dell XPS-15, containing the phrase

Finally, the power you crave in the thinnest 15" PC on the planet*.

Wow, the thinnest? But wait, what’s the asterisk?

Small print time: “Based on Dell internal analysis as at February 2011. Based on a thickness comparison (front and rear measurements) of other 15" laptop PCs manufactured by HP, Acer, Toshiba, Asus, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, MSI. No comparison made with Apple or other manufacturers not listed.”

Maybe they should call it “thinnest-plus”.

Before and After: Joplin, Missouri 

Unreal devastation.

Dell XPS 15z 

Looks like something I’ve seen before, but I can’t quite place it.

MacBooks Top All Consumer Reports Laptop Categories 

Jim Dalrymple:

If you were wondering how good Apple’s MacBook line of portable computers are, the answer is simple — they are the top computer in every category on Consumer Reports.

Yeah, but those Consumer Reports guys are biased in favor of Apple.

Apple: How to Avoid or Remove Mac Defender Malware 

Like I said, measure twice, cut once.

FDX Reader 

Niche app for reading Final Draft .fdx screenplay files on the iPad. I’ll bet everyone in Hollywood has a copy of this on their iPad by next week. Really well-done, great attention to detail, and John August — the screenwriter who had the idea for the app — has even put together a downright Lisagorian intro video.

Tall and Narrow 

Tim Bray on tablet orientation:

As in, portrait not landscape. It’s the way to go. Which is to say, tablets should be held with the short bits at the top and bottom.

I agree. For everything except watching video and playing certain games, I prefer to hold my iPad in portrait orientation. One of the things I find curious about Android tablets and the BlackBerry PlayBook is that they’ve all chosen to go 16:9. To me, 16:9 tablets only look right when held in landscape — they look too skinny when held in portrait. Considering all the things they copy from Apple, it seems weird not to copy the iPad’s 4:3 aspect ratio. 16:9 is ideal for video, but 4:3 is a good trade-off for a device intended to be used in portrait much of the time.

Update: Lots of feedback from iPad users who strongly prefer landscape. OK, so let me try again: 4:3 is a good balance for a device that’s meant to be used in either orientation.

Oooooohhhhhhh Yeah 

Perfect column by Bill Simmons on Randy “Macho Man” Savage:

We look back at the eighties ironically now — everything is much funnier now then it was then, whether it’s outfits, haircuts, movie plots, political incorrectness or even a sweeping lack of self-awareness. Savage tapped into those faults better than anyone. He was the eighties, for better and worse.

Ballmer’s Latest Acquisition 

Jean-Louis Gassée makes the case that Microsoft should have acquired Nokia instead of Skype.

Kobo eReader Touch Edition 

I missed this yesterday, but Kobo unveiled a soon-to-ship $129 touchscreen e-ink reader, too. The video sure makes it look like touch-response latency is pretty poor, though, for things like dragging to scroll around a PDF.

Barnes & Noble’s New Nook: First E-Reader With a Black-and-White E-Ink Touchscreen 

Barnes & Noble beats Amazon to the e-ink touchscreen punch. I have to say, this looks like a much better device than the Kindle 3. The keyboard and pagination buttons on the Kindle are junky, and the keyboard is a waste of space. Touchscreen is the way to go.

Also: this new Nook is built on top of Android, but that’s just an implementation detail. The entire user experience is from Barnes & Noble. $139, ships June 10.

Update: Apparently Sony has had touchscreen e-ink readers for a while now. So this Nook won’t be the first one, but it might be the first good one.

Full Text of Apple Legal’s Letter to Lodsys 

Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell:

Therefore, Apple requests that Lodsys immediately withdraw all notice letters sent to Apple App Makers and cease its false assertions that the App Makers’ use of licensed Apple products and services in any way constitute infringement of any Lodsys patent.

Apple Says Developers Are Licensed for Lodsys Patents 

Jim Dalrymple reports:

In a letter sent to Lodsys on Monday, Apple asked that the company withdraw letters sent to app developers demanding they license the technology.

“Apple is undisputedly licensed to these patents and the App Makers are protected by that license,” wrote Bruce Sewell, Apple Senior Vice President and General Counsel.

No equivocation there.

Craig Hockenberry on the Lodsys Patent Threat 


In and of itself, paying half of a percent of our App Store sales to Lodsys isn’t going to put us out of business. The fear we have is that this is the first step on a very slippery slope.

He titled his piece “Predators”, but I’d say parasites is the better description.

‘The Zune Strategy’ 

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, discussing his company’s quarterly results:

Our flagship, Sales Cloud, continued to crush the competition in the quarter. Microsoft’s desperate strategy of underfunding, pricing with undifferentiated and highly proprietary products basically has had the same impact on our business as the Windows tablet and Zune did against the iPad and iPod. We call Microsoft’s strategy, “the Zune strategy”.

It’s the concept that they can take a proprietary, undifferentiated offering at a lower price and somehow make an impact on a high-value, highly differentiated product that’s loved by customers. Microsoft has not changed our exceptional win rates or affected our average selling price with this Zune strategy.

Spot-on critique of everything wrong at Microsoft.

‘The Grapes of Wrath’, Classix Comix Edition 

“Not a substitute for reading the text or for classroom discussion of the text.”

Giving 110 Percent 

Matt Warman, reporting for The Telegraph:

HP will emulate its PC market success in the tablet world when it launches the Touchpad over the summer, the company’s European head Eric Cador has claimed.

Speaking at a press conference in Cannes, Mr Cador said that “In the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP’s products from our competitors, we became number one; in the tablet world we’re going to become better than number one. We call it number one plus.”

Just plain number one would do just fine. And until they actually ship, under-promising and over-delivering would be a better strategy. (Or, is “number one plus” just a euphemism for “number two”?)

Charlie Miller on Mac Defender 

Brian X. Chen:

Should Mac customers install anti-virus software by default like most Windows customers do? Charlie Miller, a security researcher who has repeatedly won the annual Pwn2Own hacking contest by hacking Macs and iPhones, told he doesn’t think so.

Miller noted that Microsoft recently pointed out that 1 in 14 downloads on Windows are malicious. And the fact that there is just one piece of Mac malware being widely discussed illustrates how rare malware still is on the Mac platform, he said.

Speaking of Charlie Miller, don’t forget his advice on web browser security.

Android Market’s New Movie Rental Service Blocked From Rooted Devices 

I’m not sure why anyone is surprised by this, but Jerry Hildenbrand of Android Central is:

So now people who root their phones, whether to get rid of the crap “open” that’s forced down their throats, or to have a current version of Android, are punished and lumped in with folks who steal movies. Nice move, Google. That makes me want to buy more of your products and use more of your services, so I can be treated like a criminal just because I’m smart enough to get rid of CityID, or want a safe version of Android on my phone.

Andy Zaky on Apple’s P/E Ratio 

Andy Zaky makes the case that Apple’s stock is anything but a Wall Street darling:

Yet, when we see Google (GOOG) report 17% earnings growth and trade a 20 P/E ratio and then watch Apple report 92% earnings growth and trade at a 16 P/E ratio, how in the hell can anyone say that Apple is treated as a darling? Amazon (AMZN) missed earnings expectation for the third time in five quarters, and grew at a far lower growth rate than Apple on both the top and bottom line and trades at a 90 P/E ratio. Netflix (NFLX) also missed expectations, grew at a far lower growth rate than Apple on both the top and bottom line and trades at a 70.58 P/E ratio.

Of Trolls and Straw Men 

The Macalope on the Mac Defender malware situation.

Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 1996 Keynote Speaker: Steve Jobs 

15 years ago: when dynamic web publishing was novel, and Steve Jobs spoke at Microsoft developer conferences.

Remember The Milk for iPad 

My thanks to Remember The Milk for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their free iOS app, recently updated with a gesture-rich interface for the iPad inspired by Twitter’s. The app has a bunch of great features, not the least of which is online syncing with Remember The Milk’s website.

The app is free, with a slew of extra goodies for users with Pro accounts. Check out Remember The Milk for iPad on the App Store.

Last Chance to Order for This Batch of DF T-Shirts 

Today’s the last day I’m taking orders for this round of DF T-shirts, including the popular new gray-on-black jobby:

Thumbnail of a black classic-logo DF t-shirt.

They won’t be available again until the end of the year. Thanks to everyone who’s ordered already.

WSJ: Google Was Warned on Rogue Drug Ads 

Thomas Catan and Amir Efrati, reporting for the WSJ:

Google Inc. was warned repeatedly by a group of state regulators and industry watchdogs that many of the online drugstores advertising on its network were violating U.S. laws, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. [...]

As part of the criminal investigation, undercover agents for the Food and Drug Administration contacted Google posing as representatives from rogue Internet pharmacies, according to people familiar with the matter.

Hall of Fame Claim Chowder 

Arne Alsin for The Street, back in October 2001:

To survive, Apple has to convince Windows users to migrate to the Mac platform. But since Apple is not competitive on either price or applications, there is no compelling reason for users to switch. The game is effectively over. Dell, IBM and Hewlett Packard have a stranglehold on the PC industry that is secure, with Dell’s build-to-order model the clear winner over the long term. [...]

Apple’s story now is fodder for business historians — don’t make it fodder for your portfolio.

Best part: his disclaimer says he was, at the time of writing, long on Circuit City.

Ars Technica Investigates the State of Malware on the Mac 

Excellent reporting from Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica, with interviews from 14 Mac support specialists. The bottom line: there’s an uptick because of Mac Defender, but it’s far from an epidemic. They have a screenshot from an internal Apple memo instructing AppleCare and Genius Bar representatives not to attempt to remove Mac Defender from affected machines, nor to confirm or deny that it’s been installed.

This paragraph, however, quoting an anonymous Genius Bar rep named “Lenny”, is bizarre (bold emphasis mine):

Lenny went on. “This always sparks a debate at the bar on whether antivirus software is necessary on the Mac. This is difficult, as the store sells several antivirus products implying that Apple supports the idea, but as many customers point out, the sales guys aren’t shy in making the claims for Mac OS X’s security. Internally, Apple’s [IT] department mandates the use of Norton Antivirus on company machines.

This may be true for any Apple-owned machines running Windows, but it is not true for machines running any version of Mac OS X. I asked several Apple engineers whether any antivirus software was mandated or even recommended for Mac OS X, internally. All said no. Said one, “You couldn’t get me to install Norton on OS X if you slipped me the date rape drug.”

Update: Two updates from Cheng on the “Norton mandate” point suggest that Norton Antivirus has long been part of Apple’s default software image for in-store demo machines, but that not all stores keep it installed.

EFF: Apple Should Stand Up and Defend Its Developers 

Julie Samuels, for the EFF:

We hope that going forward companies like Apple will do what’s right and stand up for their developers and help teach the patent trolls a lesson.

The Talk Show, Episode 43 

Topics on the show this week: Microsoft’s purchase of Skype, the HP Veer and WebOS, and the underestimated competitive value of Apple’s retail stores. Brought to you by Rackspace and Shopify.

Shifting Sand 

Microsoft slips to third in the list of highest market caps in the tech industry — behind, of all companies, IBM.

Hype 1.0 

Brand-new keyframe-based animation and interactive content creation tool for Mac OS X — with pure HTML5 output. Fire up their gallery of examples on your iPad or iPhone and get a glimpse of the future.

Macho Man Randy Savage Dies in Car Accident 

One of the greats.

Here’s his classic match against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at Wrestlemania III in 1987.

‘And That’s How the Look of the Droogs Came; Because I Had My Cricket Stuff in the Back of My Car.’ 

Hunter Daniels talks to Malcolm McDowell and Leon Vitali on the 40th anniversary of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

High School Fuckup Now in Charge of Checking Airport Luggage for Explosives 

The Onion:

According to airport sources, Tibbets, who once tried to punch his 11th-grade English teacher, was given the bag-searching job in December after TSA personnel deemed him the sharpest man on the metal detector team.

‘I Don’t Take a Piss Without Getting Paid for It’ 

Harlan Ellison, on getting paid. (Via Coudal.)

Kindle Claim Chowder for Yours Truly 

Me, back in November 2007:

After chewing it over all day, I’ve concluded that Amazon’s Kindle is going to flop. Or at least I hope it does.

What it comes down to is that when you purchase books in Kindle’s e-book format, they’re wrapped in DRM and are in a format that no other software can read. There are no provisions for sharing books even with other Kindle owners, let alone with everyone.

They’ve added some sharing features, but right now it looks like the future of e-books involves proprietary DRM. One thing I did not foresee was Amazon expanding the “Kindle” to be a software platform across numerous hardware devices, like the iPad and iPhone.

And, truth be told, I buy a lot of Kindle books.

Dan Frakes on TapeDeck 1.4 

Nice review of a great app.

Lawsuit Claims AT&T Overcharges iPhone Data Users Up to 300% 

Jim Dalrymple:

One lawyer compared the AT&T charges to a rigged gas pump where you pay for a gallon of gas and only get 9/10 of a gallon.

AT&T says the charges are “without merit” and says customers misunderstand how data is charged.

It’s true. Every month my iPhone bill from AT&T contains dozens of small charges I don’t understand.

Amazon Now Selling More Kindle Books Than Print Books 


By July 2010, Kindle book sales had surpassed hardcover book sales, and six months later, Kindle books overtook paperback books to become the most popular format on Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books — hardcover and paperback — combined.

Man Eats 25,000th Big Mac 

Dan Gorske has eaten 25,000 Big Macs over 39 years — close to two per day, every day. My first thought when I heard about him was that he must be either an idiot or an asshole. But now I think not. I think maybe he’s a lucky man — someone who found the perfect food to suit his taste, an obsessive who never tires of it, and it happens to be cheap and readily available almost everywhere in the world.

Markdown Is the New Word 5.1 

Kevin Lipe:

All you need is a good text editor. Really. That’s all.

The Life of a TV Weatherman 

Philly TV weatherman John Bolaris took a vacation to Miami Beach last year:

It was days before Bolaris figured out that the women had slipped him a roofie, the infamous date-rape drug. “Then I woke up in a taxi. My shirt was stained with red wine, and I had this huge painting of a woman’s head.”

He tracked down Marina and Anna, who said he had bid for the painting at the fundraiser. They met him at his hotel - ostensibly to return his sunglasses, which they had taken by accident - and promised to straighten the whole thing out, if only Bolaris would share a cab with them to the Caviar Bar, where one of the women said she left her purse. Bolaris obliged. Then he was drugged again, according to the FBI.

“They got me twice,” he said. “I couldn’t put anything together. I had no idea what happened.”

A few days later, Bolaris said, he got a phone call from American Express. The company asked about the $43,000 he had just spent on booze and caviar in South Beach.

Anyway, WWDC starts two weeks from Monday.

Keys to the Cloud Castle 

Terrific piece on Dropbox security and privacy by Glenn Fleishman for The Economist.

Why Isn’t Google Chrome a Part of Android? 

MG Siegler:

During a panel with a bunch of engineers on the Chrome team, it was one of the first questions asked. The response? “It’s not something we’re talking about right now.” Ouch.

“I don’t know how to answer that,” the engineer continued. Okay…

Another team member, probably realizing those answers sounded both cryptic and harsh, chimed in. “The important thing at the end of the day is to make browsers better. While it’s not strictly Chrome, we share a lot of code with the Android team. We’ll share more over time.” Okay, that’s better. Still, a bit odd.

Like I wrote after Google I/O’s day two keynote, “Chrome feels like Google’s natural platform — all web, only the web. Android feels like an independent Google subsidiary.” Think about it that way and the inherent conflict between Chrome OS and Android starts to seem merely curious, not problematic.

Daring Fireball T-Shirts Now Available 

In case you missed the announcement last week, DF t-shirts are now available.

I don’t keep a large number of shirts in stock — what I do is take orders for a week or so, and then do a print run just to cover the number of shirts that were ordered. I’ll keep the shirts on sale through the end of this week, but come Friday, the order form will come down. In other words, if you want one, order now.

New in this round of shirts: a black tee with gray logo. All orders will ship at the end of May or first week of June.

Who Is Acorn For? 

Gus Mueller:

Acorn isn’t Photoshop. I have no desire to turn Acorn into any sort of Photoshop clone. Acorn opens up PSD files, borrows many keyboard shortcuts and ideas from Photoshop (just as Photoshop borrowed from MacPaint), but Photoshop is not Acorn’s future.

This upsets some people. I know this because I get the angry emails. This makes some people very happy. I know, because I get the love letters.


Steven Wittens rethinks the Unix terminal interface and interaction model. Ambitious, to say the least.

Translation From Weasel-Speak to English of the Key Question in Twitter’s FAQ for Developers Regarding Their New Policy for Third-Party Client Apps 

Q: Will Twitter’s own applications also go through the OAuth web flow?

A: We’re taking this step to give more clarity and control to users about the access a third-party application has to their account. The way users interact with Twitter’s clients is not expected to change.

Translation: No.

Ed Bott on the ‘Mac Defender’ Trojan Horse Scam 

Bott quotes an anonymous AppleCare support rep that the Mac Defender scam is a growing problem, and here links to a bunch of threads on Apple’s support forum from affected users. Trojans aren’t a new problem on Mac OS X — trick a user into installing an app with admin privileges and the game’s over. Mac Defender isn’t an indication that Mac users need anti-malware software — in fact, the reason it appears to be succeeding is that it preys on uninformed users’ belief that they might need anti-malware software.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s take it as a given that this sort of thing is becoming more common. What can Apple do? Think about it. (My guess: think about why the iPhone and iPad, despite being far more popular than the Mac, have no trojan horses.)

How Does a Socialist Public Servant Pay for $3,000-a-Night Hotel Suites and First-Class Flights? 

Annie Lowrey reports for Slate on Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lavish lifestyle.

Update: The WSJ reports that Strauss-Kahn paid only $800 a night for the hotel suite, despite its $3,000/night posted rate.

Facebook Awarded Patents for Tagging in Photos 

Kim-Mai Cutler, Inside Facebook:

Tagging was arguably the feature that made Facebook the biggest photo site in the world and seeded the idea for creating the platform.

Now the company has finally won a patent for it.

More bad patent news.

Google Rolling Out Server-Side Fix to Android Authentication Flaw 


Today we’re starting to roll out a fix which addresses a potential security flaw that could, under certain circumstances, allow a third party access to data available in calendar and contacts. This fix requires no action from users and will roll out globally over the next few days.

It hadn’t occurred to me that they could fix this server-side. This means users won’t have to wait for any sort of software update on their devices, and takes all the piss and vinegar out of my snark yesterday.

Guests Say Goodbye as Sahara Goes Dark 

Nice bit of writing by John Katsilometes in Vegas to mark the closing of the Sahara.

Don’t miss the archive photo gallery.

The Most Important Page on Flickr 

Timoni West, on the shortcomings of Flickr’s UI for showing you new photos from your friends:

And remember, these are just the biggest problems. The page fails on a fundamental level—it’s supposed to be where you find out what’s happened on Flickr while you were away. The current design, unfortunately, encourages random clicking, not informed exploration.

I agree with Buzz Andersen: this is why I’m using Flickr less over time.

Finder Complaint No. 4,256 

Preston de Guise is annoyed, rightly, that the Finder calls his iDisk volume “iDisk” in the source list sidebar, but names the volume by his MobileMe account name on the desktop (and in the Finder’s top-level “Computer” view).

Audience Chip Responsible for iPhone 4’s Noise Cancellation 

Nice detective work from iFixit and Chipworks.

Twitter Updates Mobile Web Interface 

Looks a lot like the native Twitter iOS app, but in practice falls far short. Scrolling is not quite right, and many of the animations flicker. I know of at least seven native iPhone apps that offer a far superior experience (Tweetbot, Twitter, Twitterrific, Weet, Tweetlogix, Osfoora, and Echofon, roughly in order of my personal preference). But this might be better than any native Android Twitter client I’ve seen.

(Alas, this new interface doesn’t seem to be available on WebOS. Not sure why.)

Interactive Exploration of a Dynamical System 

Speaking of data visualization, this video shows some amazing work by Bret Victor for exploring systems of differential equations. Much more along the same lines on Victor’s “Kill Math” website. (Via Mike Matas.)

HP Beats Estimates but Reports Weak Consumer PC Sales 


HP beats estimates but reports weak consumer PC sales. Leo Apotheker, who took over as chief executive in October after former boss Mark Hurd was fired in an ethics scandal, said, “The steepness of our Q2 decline (in consumer PC sales) is greater than we anticipated.”

He said HP saw uneven consumer performance across its product categories during the quarter and continued softness in consumer PCs across all geographies. That makes you wonder if strong sales of iPads and other tablets are hurting HP. HP’s personal systems group sales fell 5 percent, while consumer PC sales fell 23 percent.

The stock took a beating on this news.

As for where HP is headed with PCs, PCWorld reports:

Hewlett-Packard considered using Intel’s Thunderbolt interconnect in new desktop PCs announced Monday, but is sticking with USB 3.0 because of wider support, a company official said.

“We did look at [Thunderbolt]. We’re still looking into it. Haven’t found a value proposition yet,” said Xavier Lauwaert, worldwide marketing manager for desktops at HP.

Which means they’re betting against Apple.

‘Above All Else, Always Show Comparisons’ 

Joshua Yaffa profiles Edward Tufte for Washington Monthly:

Edward Tufte occupies a revered and solitary place in the world of graphic design. Over the last three decades, he has become a kind of oracle in the growing field of data visualization—the practice of taking the sprawling, messy universe of information that makes up the quantitative backbone of everyday life and turning it into an understandable story. His four books on the subject have sold almost two million copies, and in his crusade against euphemism and gloss, he casts a shadow over the world of graphs and charts similar to the specter of George Orwell over essay and argument.

Dropbox Changes Description of How Files Are Encrypted 

Ryan Singel, reporting for Wired’s Threat Level on an FTC complaint against Dropbox by Christopher Soghoian (yes, him again):

Up until April 13, the site promised this:

Dropbox employees aren’t able to access user files, and when troubleshooting an account, they only have access to file metadata (filenames, file sizes, etc. not the file contents).

Now the site says:

Dropbox employees are prohibited from viewing the content of files you store in your Dropbox account, and are only permitted to view file metadata (e.g., file names and locations).

This won’t keep me from using Dropbox, but there’s a big difference between Dropbox’s original and current descriptions regarding how their encryption works.

Fantastical 1.0 

New $15 (introductory price through June 1) calendaring app for the Mac, from Flexibits. I’ve been beta-testing it for a few months, and I’m impressed. Fantastical’s primary innovation is its natural language parser for event creation — you type something like “Yanks-Rays tonight at 6:40” and Fantastical not only parses that into a new event, but, using some very clever animation and design work, shows you what it thinks you mean before you hit return to actually create the new event. Watch their screencast to see what I mean.

Four years ago I wrote a piece called “Deal With It”, about how some UIs feel like going uphill and some feel like going downhill. An uphill UI feels like you’re fighting against the app; a downhill UI makes it feel like the app is helping you along. The example I chose to illustrate my point was event creation in iCal (uphill, and steep) vs. 37signals’s Backpack (downhill). Fantastical is an even better downhill UI for event creation.

One more point: Fantastical also provides a terrific list of events coming soon on your schedule. It’s now my primary calendaring app.

FOSS Patents: What App Developers Need to Know About Lodsys and the In-App Upgrade Button Patent Problem 

Outstanding analysis by Florian Mueller. Must-read if you’re at all interested in this Lodsys patent claim on in-app purchases.

The War on Drugs v. the Constitution 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a lonely 8-1 dissent:

How “secure” do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?

As Scott Lemieux writes, “The War (On Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs, however, is where the Bill of Rights goes to die.” (Via Kevin Drum.)

Android Leaking Authentication Tokens in Clear Text 

Bastian Könings, Jens Nickels, and Florian Schaub, security researchers at the University of Ulm:

We tested this attack with Android versions 2.1 (Nexus One), 2.2 (HTC Desire, Nexus One), 2.2.1 (HTC Incredible S), 2.3.3 (Nexus One), 2.3.4 (HTC Desire, Nexus One), and 3.0 (Motorola XOOM) and with the native Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Gallery apps (or respective synchronization services).

  • Until Android 2.3.3 the Calendar and Contacts apps transmit any request in the clear via http and are therefore vulnerable to the authToken attack. This affects 99.7% of all Android smartphones (stats from 2nd of May 2011). Since Android 2.3 the Gallery app provides Picasa Web Albums synchronization which is also not encrypted.

  • Since Android 2.3.4, the Calendar and Contacts apps are using a secure https connection. However, the Picasa synchronization is still using http and thus is still vulnerable.

  • Our sniffed authTokens were valid for several days (14 days for a sniffed Calendar authToken), which enables adversaries to comfortably capture and make use of tokens at different times and locations.

I’m sure most Android handsets will be updated to version 2.3.4 or later very soon, so no worries.

Shine 1.0 

Simple, fast, good-looking weather app for the iPhone by AppThat. I’m trying Shine out on my first home screen, replacing Apple’s built-in Weather app. 99 cents (cheap!) on the App Store.

How Good Is Google’s Instant Mix? 

Paul Lamere tests the algorithmic playlist generators from iTunes, Echo Nest, and the new Google Music. I like his metric, the “WTF Test”:

Evaluating playlists is hard. However, there is something that we can do that is fairly easy to give us an idea of how well a playlisting engine works compared to others. I call it the WTF test. It is really quite simple. You generate a playlist, and just count the number of head-scratchers in the list. If you look at a song in a playlist and say to yourself ‘How the heck did this song get in this playlist’ you bump the counter for the playlist. The higher the WTF count the worse the playlist. As a first order quality metric, I really like the WTF Test. It is easy to apply, and focuses on a critical aspect of playlist quality. If a playlist is filled with jarring transitions, leaving the listener with iPod whiplash as they are jerked through songs of vastly different styles, it is a bad playlist.

Spoiler: Google’s Instant Mix did terribly on these tests. I’ll play devil’s advocate and say that maybe this is the sort of thing that needs more time and more users to get the algorithm and song database tuned.

Dr. Drang’s TextExpander Sparktweet Snippet 

Whether you think sparktweets are a good idea or not, this is worth reading just to get your head wrapped around the cool things you can do with text-filtering scripts and TextExpander. Shame about the baseline rendering problems with certain of these glyphs, though.

Cringely on Microsoft’s Purchase of Skype 


Microsoft bought Skype to keep Google from buying Skype.

Notice I didn’t mention Apple. In terms of being the baddest MoFo in the market Apple has no peer, but Apple is following its own very different course. Apple isn’t the next Microsoft, you see. Apple is not the next anything because the role it aspires to transcends anything imaginable by Microsoft, ever. Google is the next Microsoft, so Google is seen by Ballmer as the immediate threat — the one he has a hope in hell of actually doing something about.

This is Cringely at his best. I think he’s nailed something true: Ballmer doesn’t now and never has understood Apple. He doesn’t understand what Apple does, what it aspires to, or what consumers see that’s so appealing about Apple’s products. But he understands Google, including the ways that Google’s products threaten Microsoft’s.

Remember when Ballmer made a fool of himself in 2007 by laughing about the iPhone’s prospects? That’s because he didn’t get it. It wasn’t just bluster or spin — I think he truly believed that “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” I don’t recall him ever exhibiting a similar blind spot regarding Google. That’s not to say he knows what to do about Google, just that he at least understands it.

iPhone’s Share of the Entire Mobile Phone Market in Q1 

Horace Dediu crunches the numbers, and concludes that the iPhone accounts for 5 percent of handset units sold, 20 percent of the industry revenue, and 55 percent of the profits.

NBA Team President Rick Welts Comes Out as Gay 

Dan Barry, for the NYT:

“This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,” said Mr. Welts, who stands now as a true rarity, a man prominently employed in professional men’s team sports, willing to declare his homosexuality. “Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”

How long, I wonder, until the first active player comes out?

Lodsys Patent Troll Mark Small Sets Up Blog to Explain Himself 

He claims Lodsys is asking for 0.575 percent of in-app purchasing revenue, and that Apple (along with Microsoft and Google) have already licensed the patent in question, but that their license doesn’t extend to third-party developers. We’ll see whether this pans out. (Via Lex Friedman at Macworld.)

Instapaper-Like Feature Coming to Safari and iOS 5? 

If it’s called “Reading List” and syncs URLs between devices, that’s my guess as to what it is. More here from MacRumors, and Marco Arment’s thoughts on it.

Apple Retail Quotes 

Steve Jobs to Fortune in 2008:

We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants. The only consultants I’ve ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway’s retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products.

(Via Horace Dediu.)

Now Available in Black 

Thumbnail of a black classic-logo DF t-shirt.

VMware Fusion 3 

My thanks to VMware for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. VMware Fusion 3 is the best way to run Windows on a Mac without rebooting. Highlights of version 3.1 include:

  • It’s the first virtualization software that supports the full Windows 7 experience, including Windows Aero and Flip 3D.

  • Launch Windows apps from an applications menu even when VMware isn’t already running.

  • Run Windows apps alongside your Mac apps.

  • A PC migration assistant to move stuff from your PC to your Mac.

If you use a Mac but need Windows, you’re nuts if you don’t check out VMWare Fusion.

Delivereads: Curated Content for Your Kindle 

New from Internet superhero Dave Pell, Delivereads:

Get great articles delivered to your Kindle without any extra effort.

I’ve been beta-testing the service, and it’s great. Easy to set up, and the pace of delivery is perfect — occasional, but regular.

The Rise of Apple, RIM, and HTC Among Phone-Makers 

Another great piece by Horace Dediu:

If you look at the league table, RIM, HTC and Apple were at the bottom three years ago and now they are either in the top or the middle. RIM in particular deserves credit for reaching the fourth spot and staying there. HTC also has shown a late surge to fifth passing LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson in the process.

Combined, these vendors went from taking in about one dollar in 20 (6%) in Q2 2007 to nearly half the money (46%) in Q1 2011.

This chart, in particular, I find interesting.

Marco Arment on the New iMacs’ Reliance Upon Apple-Branded Hard Drives 

I agree with Marco on this. OWC’s reporting on the technical aspects is interesting, and I can see how a company like OWC wants iMacs to have user-replaceable commodity hard drives, and I can see how technical-minded users would want the same thing, but that’s not what the iMac is.

Update: Think of it this way. The new iMacs’ hard drives are like the batteries in iPods and iPhones. Traditionally user-serviceable, and user-serviceable in most products in the same category. But if Apple thinks the advantages of a proprietary non-user-serviceable part outweigh the disadvantages, they’re going to do it. It’s that simple. People should know this before buying a new iMac. But it’s silly and fruitless to complain that Apple is somehow acting out of spite.

PCalc 2.4 for iOS 

Long-time Mac developer James Thomson, developer of DragThing and PCalc, is one of the indies who’s been threatened by this in-app purchasing patent litigation. This patent thing is a shit deal for guys like James. He’s just one guy, designing and programming apps, supporting his customers. Lodsys is a company whose business is litigating patent lawsuits and extorting licensing fees. No matter what you think of their patent, on its merits, this sort of notice is a frightening and disheartening thing for a small business to receive.

I’ve known James for many years, and he’s a great guy with a ton of friends in the Mac and iOS developer community. And I’ve raved about PCalc many times before — it’s my favorite calculator app for iOS, hands-down. Let’s turn a bad day into a good one for him with a lot of sales of PCalc (and downloads of the free PCalc Lite, which also was updated today.)

Mat Honan on Lodsys 

Mat Honan:

So what is Lodsys, and what’s its game? It appears to simply be in the business of licensing patents which it purchased from Dan Abelow.

We were unable to reach Lodsys, but reached Abelow by phone. He noted he had sold his patents years ago, and was unaware of this morning’s news. But that he isn’t completely surprised. “Those patents are from the 1990s,” he said. “It isn’t surprising that methods of communicating with a server would become more useful over time. As a result they have become increasingly valuable.” (Abelow did not know the exact patent off the top of his head, but the patent in question appears to be number 7222078, based on other reports.)

So it would appear that the object of our scorn is Mark Small (as per the Lodsys website), not Abelow.

Lodsys, LLC 

Love the inspirational quotes from Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.

Rock and a Hard Place 

Interesting analysis by Adam Engst regarding Lodsys’s threatened patent litigation against App Store developers:

So what it comes down to is that Thomson, McCarron, and other iOS developers are being threatened by Lodsys for using Apple intellectual property under license from Apple, in such a fashion that they cannot even settle without violating the iOS Developer Program License Agreement. They can’t legally agree that Apple’s In App Purchase API violates Lodsys’s patents, and no matter what, there’s no way Apple would give permission for such a settlement due to the chilling effect it would have on iOS development in general.

Patent Troll Lodsys Threatens Small Indie iOS Developers Over In-App Purchasing 

Here’s what Computer LogicX developer Rob Gloess told MacRumors, regarding a threatened patent lawsuit they received from a company named Lodsys:

Our app, Mix & Mash, has the common model of a limited free, lite, version and a full version that contains all the features. We were told that the button that users click on to upgrade the app, or rather link to the full version on the app store was in breach of US patent no 7222078, we couldn’t believe it, the upgrade button!?!

More coverage here, at GigaOm. This is extortion, pure and simple. These jerks at Lodsys are going after small developers — in some cases, one-man operations — because they know how expensive and time-consuming it would be to fight this legally.

‘Microsoft Needs a Swift Kick in the Ass.’ 

Ben Brooks makes the case that Microsoft should fire Steve Ballmer.

I agree — and even talked about this a few days ago on this week’s The Talk Show — but I don’t think it’s going to happen. My guess is that it’s a pride thing. Gates controls the board, and Ballmer is Gates’s man. Acknowledging that Ballmer is a failure as CEO would amount to a tacit acknowledgement that Gates has failed as well. And so a once great company withers on the vine, milking (admittedly massive) profits from the same two products as they did a decade ago: Windows and Office.

The ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Jokes Continue to Write Themselves 

Thomas Catan and Amir Efrati, reporting for the WSJ:

Google Inc. is close to settling a U.S. criminal investigation into allegations it made hundreds of millions of dollars by accepting ads from online pharmacies that break U.S. laws, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Internet company disclosed in a cryptic regulatory filing earlier this week that it was setting aside $500 million to potentially resolve a case with the Justice Department. A payment of that size would be among the highest penalties paid by companies in disputes with the U.S. government.

Google gave few details in its filing about the probe, saying only that it involved “the use of Google advertising by certain advertisers.”

Here’s another weird thing about their SEC filing: Google is applying the $500 million charge not to this quarter, but to the quarter that ended back on March 31, which they reported a month ago.

Fun With Charts: Making the Rich Look Collectively Poor 

Same data, two different ways of presenting it, two different stories.

Update: To be clear, I don’t think either of these charts are an effective way to convey this information, although I do think the WSJ’s original version is particularly contorted, so as to make it seems as though the wealthy don’t earn that much collectively. Here’s another take on the same data, same basic chart format, from Gregg Hilferding. None of these charts are wrong or dishonest — they accurately show the data they claim to. What’s interesting here, to me, is thinking about how these different versions can make the same data look very different.

Netflix App Released for Android, Limited to Five Specific Handsets 

Mike Isaac, Wired Epicenter:

As of today, four HTC model phones (the Incredible, EVO 4G, G2, Nexus One) and the Samsung Nexus S are the only devices capable of running the app.

Anyone have a reasonable estimate of what percentage of Android handsets in use those five models account for?

If You Bundle It, You Own It 

Gregg Keizer, Computerworld:

Several Google security engineers have countered claims that a French security company found a vulnerability in Chrome that could let attackers hijack Windows PCs running the company’s browser.

Instead, those engineers said the bug Vupen exploited to hack Chrome was in Adobe’s Flash, which Google has bundled with the browser for over a year.

The bug may not be in Google’s code, but so long as Chrome includes Flash as a bundled (and enabled by default) component, Flash is a part of Chrome. (Via Slashdot, and headline quip from commenter “manonthemoon”.)

Frank Sinatra Slang 

This list is a gas:

Rain — As in “I think it’s going to rain” indicating that it is time to leave a dull gathering or party.

Ring-a-ding — A term of approval for a beautiful girl, viz “What a ring-a-ding broad!”

(Via big-leaguer Paul Ford.)

How Google Controls Android: Digging Deep Into the Skyhook Filings 

Extraordinary reporting by Nilay Patel on the contents of 750 pages of documentation and email unsealed by the court in Skyhook Wireless’s lawsuit against Google.

Here’s the biggie: in order for a specific device to get a license for the apps, it must pass the Android Compatibility Test Suite and meet the Android Compatibility Definition. How Google exactly determines what passes the test is really the core issue in this case — Skyhook claims Google uses the threat of incompatibility to act anti-competitively.

Interestingly, the license allows Google to change the applicable Compatibility Test Suite and Android Compatibility Definition at will up until the time a device is certified for launch… by passing the CTS. So basically there’s nothing keeping Google from changing the CTS or ACD any way it wants in order to keep a particular device off the market.

Grab a beverage, kick back, and read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

Blogging Worst Practices: Obscuring the Source Link 

Jason Snell points to this Engadget post, which is entirely based on this source material from Consumer Reports, but which Engadget only links to at the very end, using black text with no underline, obscuring that it’s even a link unless you hover over the text. Dirtbag move.

Update:: They’ve changed the link color.

Facebook Busted in Clumsy Smear Attempt on Google 

Dan Lyons:

For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post. [...]

But who was the mysterious unnamed client? While fingers pointed at Apple and Microsoft, The Daily Beast discovered that it’s a company nobody suspected — Facebook.

Not sure why no one would suspect Facebook. This seems utterly in character for Facebook.

(Side note: You may recall the blogger in question, Chris Soghoian, from when he was linked here at DF back in 2006 for his clever airport boarding pass security hack. And he’s the nephew of AppleScript godfather Sal Soghoian.)

37signals Interviews Newsvine’s Mike Davidson 

Inside the news business:

It’s tough to tell what things would be like if we hadn’t sold. It’s really, really hard to make a living in the general online news business without massive scale. Even at 4 or 5 million users, that’s not massive scale. is highly profitable at 40 or 50 million uniques, but if you cut that in half, they probably wouldn’t be profitable at all. So for a startup in a low margin business, you have to decide eventually whether you want to go it alone or have a partner.

How Bin Laden Emailed Without Being Detected 

Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, reporting for the AP:

Holed up in his walled compound in northeast Pakistan with no phone or Internet capabilities, bin Laden would type a message on his computer without an Internet connection, then save it using a thumb-sized flash drive. He then passed the flash drive to a trusted courier, who would head for a distant Internet cafe.

At that location, the courier would plug the memory drive into a computer, copy bin Laden’s message into an email and send it. Reversing the process, the courier would copy any incoming email to the flash drive and return to the compound, where bin Laden would read his messages offline.

The Talk Show, Episode 42 

This week on the only podcast dedicated to organic insect repellants, Dan Benjamin and I discuss the iOS e-book market (and those iFlow guys making a stink about it), Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype, the news from Google I/O, and the second-best James Bond movie released in 1983, Octopussy.

Brought to you by two excellent sponsors: OmniFocus and FreshBooks.

Apple Needs to Press Play on Game Center 

Dan Moren on Game Center:

Online play is all about socializing, and that’s an area where Apple hasn’t exactly torn up the playing field. Adding friends on Game Center is easy enough, but what if some of my friends know other people I’d like to be friends with? Why can’t I browse their list of friends?


On this point, though:

Yet it’s frustrating to find that if I jump from playing The Incident on my iPad to playing it on my iPhone, I’m at a completely different place in the game. This is one place where Apple could jump ahead of its competition, by providing an API to allow games to sync their states wirelessly, tied to their Game Center login.

I’d argue (and have argued) that cloud storage and syncing for data ought to be something available to all iOS apps — not just games.

What Could You Buy for $8.5 Billion? 

For just $7.5 billion, you could have bought Apple — in January 2004. That leaves $1 billion to create your time machine.

Easy on the Sparktweets 

Than Tibbetts:

Sure, sparktweets are an interesting visual hack that will draw eyeballs to your update, floating aimlessly in the stream of other tweets. But as a device to share information, they’re hardly worth the Unicode they’re printed on.

What Ever Happened to Apple Making FaceTime an ‘Open Industry Standard’? 

Chris Adamson:

Make no doubt about it, Apple very clearly said they were going to do this. Steve Jobs himself said so at WWDC 2010, around 1:36:45 on the video:

Now FaceTime is based on a lot of open standards: H.264 video, AAC audio, and a bunch of alphabet soup acronyms. And we’re going to take it all away. We’re going to the standards bodies, starting tomorrow, and we’re going to make FaceTime an open industry standard.

“Starting tomorrow”? Nearly a year later, there’s no indication this process has started. [...]

For what it’s worth, the story I’ve heard is that the FaceTime team at Apple first heard about making it an open standard live during the WWDC keynote itself. So when Jobs said “starting tomorrow”, he meant it literally.

Adam Lashinsky on How Apple Works 

Highly-promoted feature for Fortune by Adam Lashinsky. Includes some intriguing information about “Apple University”, which started when Apple hired famed Yale business professor Joel Podolny back in 2008.

The text of the article is not available on the website; you can either pay $4.99 to buy the current issue of Fortune in their iPad app, or, buy the article by itself as a Kindle single for just $0.99. It’s worth a buck.

Chromebook Subscription Pricing 

Could be a big deal for the enterprise market. Certainly isn’t cheap, though — at $28/month for 36 months, it’ll cost more than double the retail price. (The subscription pricing includes service and support, though. It’s an enterprise thing, not a consumer thing.)

Measuring iPhone Progress 

The one to watch is the iPhone’s share of all phones, not just smartphones. Soon enough all phones will be what we today call smartphones. As Horace Dediu shows, the trend line for the iPhone’s share of all phones is increasing.

Why Publishers Are Finally Saying Yes to Apple 

Jeff Bercovici on Apple’s opt-in policy for sharing personal subscriber information to publishers:

Initially, publishers were worried, reasonably enough, that users would overwhelmingly say no. But they don’t. In fact, about 50 percent opt in.

Mark Edmiston, founder of the tablet magazine studio Nomad Editions, first heard that figure from other publishers, so he ran it by Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of internet services. Cue confirmed it. “So, all the sudden, what was an insurmountable obstacle no longer is,” says Edmiston.

Four Months After Approving NBC Buyout, FCC Commissioner Becomes Comcast Lobbyist 

Nate Anderson:

Meredith Attwell Baker, one of the two Republican Commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission, plans to step down — and right into a top lobbying job at Comcast-NBC.

The news, reported this afternoon by the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and Politico, comes after the hugely controversial merger of Comcast and NBC earlier this year. At the time, Baker objected to FCC attempts to impose conditions on the deal and argued that the “complex and significant transaction” could “bring exciting benefits to consumers that outweigh potential harms.”

Four months after approving the massive transaction, Attwell Baker will take a top DC lobbying job for the new Comcast-NBC entity, according to reports.

Outrageous and shameful.


Clever use of Unicode.

Angry Birds for Chrome 

Largely built, including animation, using HTML5 and actual open web standards, but still dependent upon Flash Player.

Putting the Danger Hardware Team Back Together Again 

Seth Weintraub, on former hardware designers from Danger joining Google:

Within the last 12 months, Britt and Hershenson quietly joined Google to run a new wing within Android called Android Hardware. They tell me they spend their days building things that will turn into reference designs for Android peripherals. Android Hardware is exploring everything from home automation to exercise gaming and robotics. While there are no immediate plans to build Google-branded Android hardware accessories, Brit indicated that he would love to see Google introduce some of its own Android peripherals in the long term. The folks in Cupertino have to be paying attention.

I’d think the “folks” at HTC, Motorola, and Samsung are the ones who better pay attention.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Dead, Vader Says 

The Galactic Empire Times:

In a late-night appearance in the East Room of the Imperial Palace, Lord Vader declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that agents of the Imperial Army and stormtroopers of the 501st Legion had finally cornered Kenobi, one of the leaders of the Jedi rebellion, who had eluded the Empire for nearly two decades.

Google I/O 2011 Live Stream of the Day Two Keynote 

Yesterday was Android, today is Chrome.

Maybe Apple has some big WebKit-related news planned for WWDC (WebKit 2?), but my impression is that Google has clearly taken the lead in WebKit development.

Update: My other broad impression is that Chrome feels so much more Google-y than Android. Chrome feels like Google’s natural platform — all web, only the web. Android feels like an independent Google subsidiary.

Richard Gaywood on Apple’s Handling of the Open Source iOS WebKit Source Code 

Richard Gaywood:

I think it’s interesting that Google can choose to withhold BSD-licensed Android source code and be widely pilloried in the tech press, whilst Apple has been quietly failing to meet the spirit and possibly the letter of its GPL obligations on iOS releases for years without anyone raising a stink about it.

That’s easily explained. The way Apple is treating the LGPL WebKit source may well be worse than Google’s withholding of the Android 3.0 source, insofar as Apple seems to be clearly violating the requirements of the license, whereas Google is only violating, let’s call it, say, the spirit of openness. But Google brags, often and repeatedly, about how open it is. And specifically with regard to Android, they attribute the success of the platform to its inherent openness. “Open” is to Android as “magic” is to iOS. So when Google does something that is quite obviously not open — such as, say, withholding the source code to Android 3.0 — it strikes many of us as hypocritical. Whereas no one is the least bit surprised when Apple does something “not open”. Google hypocrisy is interesting; Apple secrecy, not so much.

Conversely, a crummy UI or experience in a new Apple product is more interesting than a crummy UI/experience in a Google product. Apple un-magic is interesting.

Portal 2 Authoring Tools 

Sounds cool:

The Portal 2 Authoring Tools include versions of the same tools we used to make Portal 2. They’ll allow you to create your own singleplayer and co-op maps, new character skins, 3D models, sound effects, and music.

Alas, Windows only, though.

Google Music Beta First Look 

Matthew Lynley calls it “miserable”:

I’ve spent the past few hours trying to navigate my way through Music Beta and ended up finding new frustrations at nearly every turn. Music Beta in its current form is far from what we’d expect from a Google product — it’s a web of confusing programs without a lot of instruction as to how to actually get to the music you want to hear.

Apple Releases WebKit Source Code for iOS 4.3.3 

Closing this issue.

Ben Horowitz on Microsoft’s Purchase of Skype 

The inside perspective.

Mat Honan on Google Music 

Mat Honan, at Gizmodo:

But it’s still an island. It’s still a self-contained unit. You have to manage it yourself. It won’t grow unless you manually add tracks to it. There’s no serendipitous discovery. No social component. No Pandora or suggestions that drop tracks you’ve never heard before, but already love. Google isn’t offering you a vast, new catalog. It’s just offering to hold your shit for you.

(Happy to see Gizmodo hire a good writer.)

iPhone Still Dead in the Water 

John Paczkowski:

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley says his retail checks show continued strong demand for the iPhone 3GS at AT&T and iPad 1 at Verizon, even as the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 continue to fly off the shelves. At AT&T, for example, the iPhone 3GS is outselling newer Android phones like the HTC Inspire and Motorola Atrix.

Blanket Statement of the Day 

Jordan Yerman, beginning his summary of today’s news from Google I/O:

Android dominates the smartphone market, even though the iPhone gets most of the press and hipster love.

Android Market Gets Movie Rentals 

Matthew Lynley for MobileBeat on Google’s just-announced movie rentals for Android. One of the biggest holes in the Android landscape. I’ve always found it curious that the lack of any way to rent movies for offline viewing was seldom mentioned in Android product reviews. Not available yet anywhere other than on tablets running Android 3.1, though:

The new service will be available for Android 2.2 users in a few weeks.

This Is My Next’s Live Coverage of the Google I/O Keynote 

Lots going on this morning.

This Is My Next’s Live Coverage of the U.S. Senate’s Mobile Privacy Committee Hearing 

Apple is represented by Bud Tribble, a vice president of software engineering. Google is represented by Alan Davidson, a lobbyist.

Microsoft Buys Skype for $8.5 Billion 

What’s an extra few billion dollars?

Google Music Beta to Be Unveiled Tomorrow 

Greg Sandoval, reporting for CNet:

“We’re launching a beta service called Music Beta by Google that lets users upload their personal music libraries to their own account on Google’s servers,” Levine told CNET. Users can “access those libraries anytime or anywhere from web connected devices”.

Why start talking to the press about this before the keynote address?

Levine said that Android owners will be able to access their libraries when offline as well.

While the service is still in beta, users will be able to join by invitation only. Initially, to access the service, users will require a browser that supports Flash — that means no Apple devices — or on any Android device that’s version 2.2 or higher, Levine said. Currently the service will start off in the United States only and will be free.

Presumably, where by “no Apple devices”, he meant “no iOS devices”. But still, the future of online music is Flash? And still no music store?

WSJ: ‘Microsoft Nears $7 Billion-Plus Deal for Skype’ 

Anupreeta Das and Nick Wingfield, reporting for the WSJ:

At a value over $7 billion, the Skype deal would rank at or near the top of the biggest acquisitions in the 36-year history of Microsoft, a company that traditionally has shied away from large deals. In 2007, Microsoft paid approximately $6 billion to acquire online advertising firm aQuantive Inc. Many current and former Microsoft executives believe Microsoft significantly overpaid for that deal. But they are also relieved that Microsoft gave up on an unsolicited $48 billion offer for Yahoo Inc. nearly three years ago. Yahoo is valued at half that sum today.

Skype for $7B sounds nutty to me. Skype loses money. Everyone agreed Skype wasn’t worth much after eBay took a bath on it a few years ago, at a far lower price than this. What’s changed?

Codifying How Apple Works 

Horace Dediu:

Apple University was first mentioned in 2008 when Joel Podolny was hired from running Yale Management School to join Apple in creating this new “University”. [...] But nothing was heard about Apple University again. Until yesterday.

According to the article in Fortune and some additional details from another source, Joel Podolny has been building an understanding of how Apple is run. He’s then been asked to codify this understanding into a curriculum that can be taught to Apple employees.

Peter Kafka on Condé Nast’s Subscription Deal for the iPad 

Seems like a good deal for both.

Joining the Club 

John Lettice, writing for The Register back in 1999:

Further evidence of deterioration of relations between Apple and Microsoft emerged in court yesterday, as Paul Maritz was confronted with a February 1998 email saying that “MacOffice is the perfect club to use on them [Apple]”. Maritz had been on the CC list for this message, sent by Don Bradford to Ben Waldman (head of Microsoft’s Mac development team), but yesterday told the court that he didn’t know what Bradford meant by this, and no, he hadn’t asked him.

Don’t be evil.

How Osama Bin Laden Changed America 

Speaking of The New Yorker, David Remnick’s piece this week on Bin Laden is the best take I’ve seen.

The New Yorker Adds Subscription Support to Its iPad App 

At last. My print subscription runs through next year, but I suspect I’ll go digital-only when it expires. More coverage here from Jim Romenesko.

Where Are They Now? Products Announced During Past Google I/O Keynotes 

Danny Sullivan:

The keynotes at Google I/O — Google’s developer conference — are always filled with such promise. Google TV, Google Wave, music in the cloud! But the products themselves haven’t always gone on to meet expectations. With Google I/O 2011 beginning on Tuesday, here’s a look back at what’s happened with past keynote product graduates.

The one big hit: Android. The others: not so good.

I’m curious to see whether tomorrow’s keynote has the same confrontational tone regarding Apple as last year’s.

The Sophie Choice 

Steven Levy on Google’s “Dear Sophie” TV spot.

Update: Fireballed; cached here.


Dribbble is a website where designers can posts “shots”:

Shots are small screenshots (400×300 pixels max) from players to show what they are working on. Some have called Dribbble “Twitter for creatives.” Shots are to Dribbble as tweets are to Twitter.

Such a great idea, so well done. My only problem with Dribbble is how much time I can lose to it. Even better: come next month, Dribbble is joining The Deck.

‘We’re Using Compatibility as a Club to Make Them Do Things We Want.’ 

Steve Lohr, reporting for the NYT:

A stack of internal e-mail messages from Google, which a Massachusetts state court made public last week, provide a glimpse into the competitive tactics and decision-making inside a business that is crucial to the company’s growth — its Android software for smartphones. [...]

Android phones must adhere to a “compatibility” standard determined by Google. In an e-mail on Aug. 6, 2010, Dan Morrill, a manager in the Android group, noted in passing that it was obvious to the phone makers that “we are using compatibility as a club to make them do things we want.”

See, but it’s an open club.

Verbs — IM App for iPhone 

Instant messaging app for iPhone with support for Google Talk, AIM, and MobileMe. So much better than AOL’s official AIM client it isn’t even funny. $2.99 cheap.

(My only gripe: I wish the text input field grew vertically as you type longer messages, as in Apple’s Messages app.)

Skype 5 for Mac Security Vulnerability 

A new version of Skype 5 closes the vulnerability, and Skype 2.8 (with its simpler, superior interface) was unaffected all along.

Greenspun on the Motorola Xoom 

If you thought his PlayBook review was harsh, you should read this one:

The Motorola shareholders should be rioting.

Keep in mind that Greenspun is, when it comes to phones, an Android fan, and has written quite positive reviews of the Motorola Droid 2 and the Samsung Epic 4G. And for further context, his thoughts on the iPad and tablets in general.


My thanks to Koku for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Koku is a personal finance app for Mac OS X that lets you track all your financial accounts in one place. Koku looks great and has a slew of features that make it easy to import data and track new transactions, including support for Direct Connect.

Try the free demo version, and use coupon code “DARINGFIREBALL” to save $10 off the regular price of $29.99.

Philip Greenspun Reviews the BlackBerry PlayBook 

“Not useful as a computer; too light to serve as a doorstop.”

Some Days, My Job Feels So Easy, as the Jokes Just Write Themselves 

Ian Paul, PCWorld:

The first thing that came to mind when I heard that Apple may seed OS X 10.7 Lion via the Mac App Store to all users running Snow Leopard: Windows Vista.

The new Apple OS is due out this summer, but the idea of upgrading purely through a digital download does not appeal to me and I think it spells trouble for Apple. Just as Windows users found going from XP to Vista, an upgrade to Lion may be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

(Via Jason Snell.)

‘It Just Looks Thicker’ 

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m not on enough podcasts. Well, you’re in luck, because I was a guest on MacBreak Weekly a few days ago, with Andy Ihnatko, Adam Engst, and Chris Breen.

Apple Hasn’t Yet Released the LGPL WebKit Source Code for iOS 4.3 

Harald Welte:

iOS 4.3.0 was released on March 10, 4.3.1 on March 25, 4.3.2 on April 14 and 4.3.3 on May 4. For all of those releases, no source code has been published. [...]

I think it is time that Apple gets their act together and becomes more straight-forward with LGPL compliance. It is not acceptable to delay the source code release for 8 weeks after shipping a LGPL licensed software.

I wonder if this has something to do with the introduction of the Nitro JavaScript engine for MobileSafari, and the security implications of granting MobileSafari — and only MobileSafari — an exception to the system-wide ban on marking memory pages as executable.

‘If You See a Stylus, They Blew It’ 

The distinguishing feature of the $499 HTC Flyer — HTC’s first Android tablet — is that it has a stylus. Which stylus is not included and costs $80. Good luck with that.

When the Boy Cries Wolf 

Guy English:

In the story of the Boy That Cried Wolf the village ultimately paid the price for not being vigilant. The interpretation has always been to take it as a parable to improve personal behaviour but what I enjoy most about that tale is that it works both ways — there are two parties at fault: the attention seeker and those who took the cognitive shortcut of disregarding what the attention seeker was saying because they’d been wrong in the past.

The Talk Show, Episode 41 

Topics on this week’s “show” include curse words, the White House situation room, the thickness of the white iPhone 4, and Apple’s purportedly imminent “iCloud”. Brought to you by two fine sponsors: Webtrends Analytics 10, and MailChimp.

Osama Bin Laden, Pot Smoker? 

The Daily Mail:

High-strength marijuana plants have been found just yards from the luxury home of slain terror chief Osama Bin Laden.

Drank a lot of Coke and Pepsi, apparently, too.

Jon Stewart on the Photos of Osama bin Laden 

Jon Stewart:

Maybe we should always show pictures. Bin Laden, pictures of our wounded service people, pictures of maimed innocent civilians. We can only make decisions about war if we see what war actually is — and not as a video game where bodies quickly disappear leaving behind a shiny gold coin.

What Are They Selling? 

Rene Ritchie is not a fan of Google’s new “Dear Sophie” ad:

Apple’s latest ad wants you to buy a $500+ tablet computer to run App Store apps on. Apple wants to sell you shiny things to make money.

Google’s latest ad wants you to store personal details about your child’s life, from birth, on their servers. Google wants your data so they can sell it (aggregated and anonymized, of course) to others to make money.

Taken in that context, Apple’s ad might be obnoxious and highly commercial, but Google’s is downright creepy.

Text Editor Intervention 

Watts Martin:

We first started hearing about TextMate 2 in early 2006, and as people will always respond if you point out that it’s now 2011, the author never gave an ETA other than “after Leopard.” All well and good, but if your dad walks out one Thanksgiving saying he’ll be back “sometime after Christmas” and it’s now five years later, when your little sister tells you “he didn’t say how long after Christmas” she’s maybe not facing reality. If your dad pops up to make a blog post once a year saying he’s still working on it, he is just possibly not facing reality, either.

Fabrice Taylor: ‘Why Microsoft Should Buy RIM: To Take on Apple’ 

Expect to see a lot more articles like this in the coming months. But it’s not going to happen. RIM has nothing Microsoft would want. Microsoft’s bet in mobile is Windows Phone 7.

What might happen, though, is RIM going the way of Palm, circa 2002 or 2003. Remember when Palm started making devices based on Windows Mobile? I could see RIM going that route out of desperation. There’s plenty of room in that Nokia hot tub.

MG Siegler on Mashable’s Vacuous Bin Laden ‘Coverage’ 

Can’t believe he reads Mashable.

Business Class for News 

I love this idea from Oliver Reichenstein: a premium “business class” level for news websites. Stop trying to figure out ways to block the flow of information with paywalls. Allow everyone the same access to the content — in the way that every passenger gets transported from A to B on an airplane — but allow people to pay for a superior experience.

Another Reason to Encrypt Your iOS Backups 

Marco Arment:

You should encrypt your backups, if not for security reasons, for a big convenience gain: encrypted backups will include your email and Mobile Me passwords so you never need to re-enter them after a restore.

I did not know that.

Google Chrome: Dear Sophie 

Good ad from Google.

Derek K. Miller’s Last Post 

Derek K. Miller:

Here it is. I’m dead, and this is my last post to my blog. In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote — the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.

If you knew me at all in real life, you probably heard the news already from another source, but however you found out, consider this a confirmation: I was born on June 30, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada, and I died in Burnaby on May 3, 2011, age 41, of complications from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. We all knew this was coming.

He went down swinging, and with astounding class, dignity, bravery, and openness.

Update: Fireballed, cached here if you can’t reach his site.

The Great Ephemeralization  

Timothy B. Lee:

For example, a couple of years ago, Google waved a magic wand that transformed millions of Android phones into sophisticated navigation devices with turn-by-turn directions. This was functionality that people had previously paid hundreds of dollars for in stand-alone devices. Now it’s just another feature that comes with every Android phone, and the cost of Android phones hasn’t gone up. I haven’t checked, but I bet that this wealth creation was not reflected in GDP statistics. And it’s actually worse than that: as people stop buying stand-alone GPS devices, Google’s innovation will actually show up in the statistics as a reduction in GDP. [...]

But the real lesson here may not be that the American economy is stagnating, but rather that the government is bad at measuring improvements in our standard of living that come from the software industry.

Apple Releases iOS 4.3.3 to Address Location Bugs 

Dan Moren:

Firstly, it reduces the amount of the cached location information to a week’s worth, rather than relying on a size limit, as it previously did. Secondly, it no longer backs up the cache to your Mac or PC via iTunes upon syncing, so the information isn’t available to anyone with access to your computer. And finally, the cache is now deleted from the device when Location Services are disabled in iOS’s Settings app.

We’ll Fix Our Platform in Post 

Justin Williams:

To make a dent in Apple’s market lead, Google, Microsoft, Blackberry and HP (eventually) need to focus less on the hardware specs or openness of their platform, and more on getting software updates to their existing user base on a regular basis. Hardware specs are porn for the gadget blogs, but software and apps are what sell tablets and phones to regular users.

It occurs to me that valuing hardware specs over software fit-and-finish is one reason why so many gadget review sites grade these things on a curve compared to Apple’s.

Bing Announcement at BlackBerry World in Orlando 

The Bing Blog:

This morning at RIM’s annual Blackberry World, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced on stage a new alliance between Microsoft and RIM, outlining how the two companies can work together to help people make better decisions with Bing on BlackBerry devices.

Central to this collaboration, Blackberry devices will use Bing as the preferred search provider in the browser, and Bing will be the default search and map application for new devices presented to mobile operators, both in the United States and internationally. Also, effective today Bing will be the preferred search and maps applications with regular, featured placement and promotion in the BlackBerry App World carousel.

Well, that changes everything.

Google Allows Carriers to Selectively Block Tethering Apps From Android Market  

Insert your own “open” joke here.

New iMacs Are Out 

Highlights include Thunderbolt ports, FaceTime HD cameras, and Quad-Core CPUs. Adam Engst has the details.

‘Gentlemen, You Can’t Fight in Here! This Is the War Room!’ 

Historic photo from the White House, posted to Flickr:

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011.

Worth a Re-Link: Michael Mace on What’s Really Wrong With RIM 

Michael Mace, back in October:

I looked at everything from videogame companies to the early PC pioneers (companies like Commodore and Atari), and I found an interesting pattern in their financial results. The early symptoms of decline in a computing platform were very subtle, and easy for a business executive to rationalize away. By the time the symptoms became obvious, it was usually too late to do anything about them.

The symptoms to watch closely are small declines in two metrics: the rate of growth of sales, and gross profit per unit sold (gross margins). Here’s why.

I thought this was a compelling and cogent case against RIM when I linked to it in December. Now, almost five months later, it’s looking more and more like Mace was correct.

Consumer Reports: White iPhone 4 Is Not Thicker Than the Black One 

Speaking of Consumer Reports:

Recently an avalanche of news and tech sites reported that the white iPhone 4 was thicker than the black iPhone, even showing side-by-side photos claiming it was 2mm thicker than the black version.

But when we compared a white iPhone 4 with a black iPhone 4 in our Yonkers, NY, lab using high-quality calipers, we found they were both the same thickness (0.37 inches). This supports Apple’s assertion that the devices are the same size.

Kudos to Dr. Drang, for one, for being skeptical of the “white iPhone is thicker” claims right from the start.

TomTom Sold User Data to Police, Motorists Then Targeted With Speed Traps 

Consumer Reports:

Following reports that TomTom had sold traffic data collected from GPS device users to police who then used it to determine locations for speed traps, the company has issued a statement and video in an effort to appease angry customers.


Apple, as Always, Is Doomed 

Jean-Louis Gassée on the meme that Android is doing/will do to iOS what Windows did to the Mac.

Update: On first read, I thought Gassée was too kind to the “Apple is losing this war” pundits Henry Blodget, Fred Wilson, and Dan Lyons. Upon a re-read of Gassée’s closing, though, I see that he did something cunning and subtle. Well-played.

The Emperor’s New Network Effects 

Smart piece by Greg Cox:

So I think there are three potential outcomes in the mobile handset industry that are worth contemplating:

  1. Android dominance implies a future where the industry is horizontal, with an OS vendor creating a dominant application platform with its associated network effects (demand side economies of scale).

  2. iOS dominance implies a future where Apple enjoys the demand side economies of scale associated with a dominant application platform, and the supply side economies of scale associated with being the leading handset manufacturer.

  3. iPhone leadership implies a future where the dominant player is a vertically integrated handset manufacturer that enjoys supply side economies of scale in manufacturing and marketing.

Count me in with Cox: #3 seems to be where we’re heading, but most analysts seem unwilling to consider any outcome other than #1 or #2.

Apple’s Share of the Profits in the Handset Industry: 50 Percent 

Jay Yarow:

According to an analysis by Canaccord Genuity’s T. Michael Walkley, Apple captured “a remarkable 50% value share of estimated Q1/11 handset industry operating profits among the top 8 OEMs with only 4.9% global handset unit market share.”

iPhone is dead in the water.

Benjamin Jackson on ‘Our Choice’ 

Good review of Al Gore’s Our Choice app-book from a design perspective.

Today’s Front Pages 

Headlines from around the world, after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Update: More front pages here, and the next day here.