Linked List: November 2012


My thanks to Doxie for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their simple, wireless mobile scanner. Doxie is easy, simple, and works with your Mac or iPad. They now have two great models to choose from:

  • Doxie One: Scan all your paper with no computer required. ($149)

  • Doxie Go: Scan anywhere with a rechargeable battery, built-in memory, and optional Wi-Fi. ($199)

Both models come with Doxie’s elegant Mac app for organizing documents — use it to create searchable PDFs, send documents to other apps, upload to the cloud. It’s a great gift for the holidays for anyone who wants to go paperless.

The Inside Story of Pong 

Epic feature by Chris Stokel-Walker for Buzzfeed:

“Anyone could play,” Alcorn says. “You didn’t have to know physics or space flight or anything. Pong was designed so you could participate in athletics while maintaining a firm grip on a can of beer. You could literally pick up a girl, drink a beer, and play a video game at the same time. It was wonderful.”

Microsoft: 40 Million Windows 8 Licenses Sold in First Month 

Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft:

As we pass the one month anniversary of the general availability of Windows 8, we are pleased to announce that to-date Microsoft has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses. Tami Reller shared this news with industry and financial analysts, investors and media today at the Credit Suisse 2012 Annual Technology Conference. Windows 8 is outpacing Windows 7 in terms of upgrades.

That’s a huge number, so it’s not all bad news for Microsoft. But as Paul Thurrott points out, Windows is so successful that it usually sells around 20 million licenses per month:

First, I’m surprised no one else has questioned why launch-month license sales of Windows 8 weren’t higher than 40 million units. That figure is double the normal sales rate for Windows — remember, Windows 7 sold about 20 million licenses a month for three years straight — but, looked at another way, it’s only double the normal sales rate of Windows. How is it not more than double?

Use the MiniPlayer With iTunes 11 in Full-Screen Mode 

The trick is to set iTunes to appear on “All Desktops” (i.e. in all Spaces) using the Dock. The downside though, is that when iTunes’s main window is not in full screen mode, it shows up in all Spaces.

Mac OS X Hints has another good iTunes 11 tip regarding keyboard shortcuts for switching between library sections.

Forstall vs. Fadell 

Worth keeping in mind regarding Tony Fadell’s “got what he deserved” comments regarding Scott Forstall’s ouster from Apple is that these two guys were directly vying with each other to define the iPhone. From a 2008 piece here at DF:

The story I’ve heard is that at the outset of Apple’s iPhone initiative, there was a heated debate within Apple as to what OS should be used [for the iPhone]. Forstall and Serlet pushed for using OS X. Fadell (and, according to one source, former Apple executive Steve Sakoman) pushed for using something else. Obviously, Forstall and Serlet won this debate, and, hyperbolic though it may sound, it may prove to be the single best early design decision in the entire history of the company. It seems hard to imagine the iPhone any other way now, but at the outset it was not a foregone conclusion that a stripped down and revamped version of OS X would work for a mobile phone. […]

The word on the street in Cupertino is not that Fadell was pushed out the door, but that he was never offered a role like Papermaster’s, encompassing all of Apple’s handheld hardware engineering. The iPhone has eclipsed the iPod as the A Team at Apple, and Tony Fadell does not sound like a B Team sort of guy.

So it’s not like Fadell is an unbiased observer here. And as for his comment that Forstall’s ouster resulted in cheering from employees in Cupertino, I’m sure that’s true, but it’s important to keep in mind that the cheering was not universal. At least within Forstall’s iOS division, many engineers and designers liked working under Forstall, and felt that he had their backs. He was divisive — polarizing — not universally disliked.

Fantastical for iPhone 

Very well done. My new go-to calendaring app for the iPhone. See Lex Friedman’s review at Macworld for more.

‘Scott Got What He Deserved’ 

Leo Kelion of the BBC, interviewing Tony Fadell:

So what does he make of the news that Mr Forstall lost his post in October after reports of rifts with other executives and a refusal to apologise for the release of a flawed Maps app.

“Scott got what he deserved,” Mr Fadell told the BBC.

When pressed, he adds: “I think what happened just a few weeks back was deserved and justified and it happened.”

Worth watching to see in context. Pretty clear Fadell and Forstall weren’t buds.

Recreating the Sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Using the Web Audio API 

Audio is the final nail in Flash’s coffin. Great work here from the BBC. (Via Jory Prum.)

Apple Says ‘Jump’; Carriers Reply ‘How High?’ 

Mike Hibberd,

Apple is not allowing mobile operators to offer the iPhone 5 as an LTE device unless they pass the Californian vendor’s own, independent tests for LTE network performance, Swisscom has confirmed. was told of Apple’s policy in October but, at the time, no operator had conceded publicly that it was true.

Philly’s Best Cocktail 

Local note: My favorite bar, Hop Sing Laundromat, has not one but two cocktails on Eater Philly’s best in town poll. They’re both great, but the Henry “Box” Brown has my vote. I don’t hesitate to call it the best cocktail I’ve ever had anywhere. If you’ve been to Hop Sing, I’m sure you’ll agree. If you haven’t, take my word for it.

A Lion Steals Ed Hetherington’s Camera 

Who wouldn’t take a nice camera like that if they found it just laying there?

iTunes 11 Allows You to Redeem Gift Cards Using Your Computer’s Camera 

Nice catch from 9to5 Mac.

DigiTimes: Microsoft Halves Surface RT Component Orders 

Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai, reporting for DigiTimes:

The upstream supply chain of Microsoft’s Surface RT has recently seen the tablet’s orders reduced by half, and with other Windows RT-based tablet orders also seeing weak performance, sources from the upstream supply chain believe the new operating system may not perform as well as expected in the market.

Microsoft originally expected to ship four million Surface RT devices by the end of 2012, but has recently reduced the orders by half to only two million units.

Take it with a DigiTimes-size grain of salt (and thus maybe some blood pressure medication as well), but this is the sort of thing DigiTimes often gets right: what’s going on in the component industry right now.

iTunes 11 

November it is.

The Strategy Behind Those Obama Campaign Emails 

Joshua Green, Businessweek:

One fascination in a presidential race mostly bereft of intrigue was the strange, incessant, and weirdly overfamiliar e-mails that emanated from the Obama campaign. Anyone who shared an address with the campaign soon started receiving messages from Barack Obama with subject lines such as “Join me for dinner?” “It’s officially over,” “It doesn’t have to be this way,” or just “Wow.” Jon Stewart mocked them on the Daily Show. The women’s website the Hairpin likened them to notes from a stalker.

But they worked. Most of the $690 million Obama raised online came from fundraising e-mails. During the campaign, Obama’s staff wouldn’t answer questions about them or the alchemy that made them so successful. Now, with the election over, they’re opening the black box.

Most successful subject line? “Hey”.

WSJ: ‘Eddy Cue: Apple’s Rising Mr. Fix-It’ 

Jessica E. Lessin, in a piece for the WSJ:

The ascent solidifies Mr. Cue’s role as one of the chief deputies to Mr. Cook, who has surrounded himself with several close advisers without elevating one to a clear number two. Mr. Cue has the loyalty and admiration of many longtime employees, who respect that he was with Apple during the dark days before Mr. Jobs began his turnaround of the company in the late 1990s.

Mr. Cue is also a champion of the Apple way: Entering new areas patiently and slowly and preaching the need to put the customer first. To negotiating partners, he epitomizes the company’s penchant for secrecy with a poker face that media companies scramble to decipher.


Mr. Cue couldn’t be reached for comment and Apple didn’t make him available for an interview.

Also says iTunes 11 may arrive tomorrow. Apple’s running out of time for their “November” deadline, and it’s unclear whether the Journal is basing this expectation on that deadline, or information from a source. The article simply states:

This week, Mr. Cue faces a test of how well Apple can keep up in online services with the launch of a new desktop version of iTunes, which is expected as soon as Thursday.

Ericsson, Doing Just Fine 

Re: my “Ericsson is still in business?” quip yesterday: as dozens of DF readers have kindly pointed out, they are most definitely still in business. Billions in quarterly profits from telecom equipment. It was only the handset business (in collaboration with — and earlier this year, bought out by — Sony) that tanked. You learn something every day.

Which Bond Villains’ Plan Would Have Worked? 

Screw it, let’s go for the Bond five-fecta. (Via Chris Pepper.)

LACMA Kubrick App 

Speaking of Kubrick museum exhibitions, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art commissioned this neat (and free) iOS app to go along with theirs.

‘And They Took His Balls With Them’ 

Speaking of good movies (and also via Coudal), BFI archivist Richard Daniels introduces pieces from The Shining exhibit at the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of the Arts London:

The Archive also shows the great attention to detail which Kubrick applied to the advertising of his film. Catriona McAvoy researched in the archive for her MA dissertation. She highlights the correspondence between Kubrick and Saul Bass who designed the poster for the original release of the film. She refers to the letter in which Kubrick explains that all of Bass’s designs are “beautifully done but [none] of them are right”.

‘Skyfall’ Visual Effects 

One more for the Bond quadruple play: a copiously illustrated piece by Ian Failes for FX Guide on the effects in Skyfall. Chock full of major spoilers — bookmark it to read later if you haven’t seen the movie yet. (Via Coudal.)

The Verge: Microsoft Planning for Annual Windows Updates 

Tom Warren, The Verge:

A big part of Windows Blue is the push towards yearly updates for Microsoft’s OS. Microsoft will kick off an annual upgrade cycle for Windows that is designed to make it more competitive against rival platforms from Apple and Google.

Good to know, but what option do they have? At this point, Microsoft not only has to plan for annual updates to compete with iOS and Android (and that other OS from Apple, name slips my mind — the desktop one), they also have to, you know, actually do it.

Top Gear: 50 Years of Bond Cars 

Still speaking of James Bond, this Top Gear special is well worth it if you have access to the BBC or know your way around the underweb. Update: Even better: it’s in iTunes for just $3.

Kaleidoscope 2.0 Beta 

Very impressive update to this file/folder/image diff tool. (Nice to see Black Pixel finally ship something, too.)

‘May I Suggest That Mr. Bond Be Armed With a Revolver?’ 

Speaking of James Bond, Letters of Note has the story behind how Bond came to carry a Walther PPK instead of a Beretta, as well as how Q came to be named Major Boothroyd.

See also: This 1964 BBC clip featuring Sean Connery introducing the real Boothroyd.

The Spy Mixology 

Remember Jay Thrash’s Spy Mixology app, documenting every single drink consumed by James Bond in the movies? He’s updated it with a new design, more information, iOS 6 support, and, of course, Bond’s drinks from Skyfall.

Ericsson Sues Samsung on Patents 

Ericsson is still in business?

The Ten Best Larry Sanders Episodes 

Fix yourself a Salty Dog and enjoy this list from Edward Copeland, of the best episodes of one of the best shows ever:

Malina especially appreciated one section of dialogue before Hank goes out to guest host the first time. “Arthur reassuring Hank pre-show with the tepid, ‘You do not suck!’ and Hank responding with ‘That’s one of the kindest things anyone has ever said to me.’ One of the all-time great couplets of dialogue,” Malina said.

David Chartier Is Sick of Making Excuses for Mac OS X 

David Chartier:

Every time I have to explain one of OS X’s bizarre, (sometimes arguably) buggy behaviors or windowing idiosyncrasies to my father in law, I dearly wish the iPad had been out when he was in the market.

Exhibit A: Open Mail, find a message with a zip attachment, and double-click it. Nothing happens? Oh something happened. Archive Utility opened to work its magic on the zip file, but you missed its appearance in the Dock if you blinked. Don’t see anything else? Of course you don’t, because Finder opened a new window to reveal the spoils of Archive Utility’s victory behind Mail and didn’t bother to tell you. No Dock bounce, no Finder brought to the foreground to show you the folder.

Great example. iOS enforces a visual obviousness that makes computing better for nearly everyone. If you do something, the result will be shown to you, front and center.

Subcompact Publishing 

Brilliant piece by Craig Mod on The Magazine and the imminent disruption of the publishing industry:

Navigation should be consistent and effortless. Subcompact Publishing applications don’t require complex how-to pages or tutorials. You shouldn’t have to hire a famous actor to show readers how to use the app with his nose. Much like a printed magazine or book, the interaction should be intuitive, effortless, and grounding. The user should never feel lost.

A Minimum Tax for the Wealthy 

Warren Buffett, in an op-ed yesterday for the NYT:

Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.”

Would your reply possibly be this? “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.” Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist.

I agree with every single word, including his idea to draw the “wealthy” line at $500,000, not $250,000.

Bloomberg: Apple Fired Maps Manager 

Adam Sarariano, reporting for Bloomberg:

Richard Williamson, who oversaw the mapping team, was pushed out by Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information wasn’t yet public. Cue, who took over last month as part of a management shakeup, is seeking advice from outside mapping-technology experts and prodding digital maps provider TomTom NV to fix landmark and navigation data it shares with Apple.

Eddy Cue, not fucking around.

Macworld Reviews BusyCal 2.0 

Huge update to one of my favorite Mac apps.

An Inauspicious Start 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

Munster’s crew spent eight hours on Black Friday, as it has every year for the past five years, counting heads at the Apple Store in the Mall of America in Minneapolis. This year he (or his staff) also spent two hours monitoring the Microsoft Store directly across the hall.

Shoppers at the Apple Store bought an average of 11 iPads per hour. Despite heavy TV, print and billboard advertising for the new Microsoft Surface tablet, not one was sold during the two hours Piper Jaffray spent monitoring that store. Doesn’t bode well for Microsoft’s answer to the iPad.

Ouch. (Not sure why they didn’t measure the same hours at both stores, though.)

How PRWeb Helps Distribute Crap Into Google and News Sites 

Danny Sullivan:

“What’s the use of PRWeb?,” tweeted Megan McCarthy of Reuters, trying to digest how that service ended up circulating a fake Google acquisition story. Come along, Megan and others, and I’ll explain one of the sorriest uses, getting crap into Google News and out into news sites.

Spam merchants.

Barnes and Noble Nook for iOS Brings Accessibility Support 

Josh de Lioncourt, Maccessibility:

This is an enormous leap forward for the accessibility of books to blind and visually impaired readers. There is only one of the three major ebook players on iOS left without VoiceOver support. (We are looking at you, Amazon Kindle).

Speaking of Ron Johnson 

Anne D’Innocenzio reports for the AP on J.C. Penney’s continuing struggles:

The first sign that things were falling apart came in May when rival Macy’s told analysts that sales were rising at its stores that share malls with Penney locations. A week later, Penney posted a $163 million quarterly loss. Revenue plunged 20 percent to $3.15 billion. The number of customers visiting stores fell 10 percent.

But the changes Johnson is instituting are so radical, this might be the sort of thing where he really does need a few years:

Surrounding the shops will be wide aisles that Johnson calls “streets.” Along those pathways will be ice cream and coffee bars and wood tables with built-in iPad tablet computers that shoppers can use to surf online.

Penney is starting to see some positive results from the makeover it began. The company says so far that it has converted about 11 percent of the floor space to shops-within-stores. The shops’ average sales are more than double the sales in the rest of the store.

Internal Apple Video Documents Apple Retail Store Design Philosophy 

Seth Weintraub, 9to5 Mac:

The video is a pretty impressive piece of work from director Peter Sillen for something that never aired publicly. Among other interesting tidbits, the video shows a store mock-up inside Covent Garden (London) in 2008 before construction with Apple execs examining design elements.

Apple’s Astonishing Profit in Context 

Felix Richter, Statista:

  • From October 2011 through September 2012, the combined net profit of Microsoft, Google, eBay, Yahoo, Facebook and Amazon was $34.4 billion. Apple alone made $7 billion more.

  • In the same period, Dell, Asus, Intel, Acer, IBM, Lenovo and HP, i.e. virtually the entire PC industry, made $19.3 billion or less than half of Apple’s profit.

Android vs. iOS, Market Share vs. Usage Share 

Michael Bartholomew:

Although Android devices are clearly beating out iOS devices from an overall sales-figure perspective, it is apparent that iOS users are considerably more likely to use their devices to access the internet and purchase items.

MG Siegler Reviews the Surface With Windows RT 

MG Siegler:

After using it for over a week now, it’s hard to come up with a lot of nice things to say about the Surface. Don’t get me wrong, there are some solid things here. But by and large, it’s a strange, buggy, and clunky product that I simply can’t imagine many people buying after the initial hype wears off.

Put another way: I got one, but I don’t get it.

Here’s a taste:

Desktop mode (or the Desktop app, if you prefer) is a cruel joke. It’s the same old Windows of decades past that you’re used to (well, minus the Start button itself), but it’s on a touchscreen device. And while some of the UI has been updated to make it more touch-friendly, a lot of it has not been well, touched. I’ve never had more mis-clicks, accidental closings, and all-around frustration with a computer. Ever.

Product Desirability = Profitability 

Peter M. De Lorenzo at Autoextremist, on the success of the VW Group:

You first have to have the product and that will never, ever, change. Then you have to have the kind of brand image that is crystal clear to consumers, one unwavering in its execution and consistency. And if it’s dead-on — as Audi’s marriage of product and brand image is — then you’re able to create the fundamental desire for your product that will have people paying real money to acquire it.

Sounds like another highly profitable company I know.

Shocker: Gizmodo Fell for Fraudulent Google Acquisition Stock Scam PR 

Eric Limer, writing for Gizmodo:

Update: Looks like someone may have been a little quick to the draw on this one. AllThingsD is saying Google sources are denying claims of an acquisition. We’ve reached out to Google PR for comment.

Where by “someone” he means “we”.

TechCrunch too, among many others.

Fake Press Release Juices Penny Stock 

Arik Hesseldahl:

The release was posted on PRWeb, a free service operated by the PR firm Vocus, which, it just so happens, is publicly held on the Nasdaq. I have a call in to PRWeb seeking some answers, but so far haven’t heard back from anyone.

However, I just got this statement from ICOA CEO George Strouthopoulos: “We are investigating the source, so far it originated from Aruba!”

It’s the exclamation mark that made me smile.

‘Microsoft Has Failed’ 

Compelling argument by Charlie Demerjian at SemiAccurate that Microsoft has already entered its death spiral:

The problem is that if you are locked in with a choice of 100% Microsoft or 0% Microsoft, once someone goes, it isn’t a baby step, they are gone. Once you start using Google Docs and the related suites, you have no need for Office. That means you, or likely your company, saves several hundred dollars a head. No need for Office means no need for Exchange. No need for Exchange means no need for Windows Server. No need for Office means no need for Windows. Once the snowball starts rolling, it picks up speed at a frightening pace. And that is where we are. The barriers to exit are now even more potent barriers to entry.

Mark Evanier’s Larry Hagman Story 

If the bit about negotiating via whistles doesn’t make you laugh, you’re not hooked up right.

AnandTech Doubtful on Chances for Retina iPad Mini Next Year 

I feel certain the Mini will go retina, and that when it does, it will do so exactly like all previous iOS devices: same physical size, double the pixel resolution. The only question is when. The iPhone went retina in the fourth generation; the full-size iPad in the third. Seems like too much to ask for the Mini to do so in its second.


My thanks to MacLegion for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their 2012 Holiday Bundle. It’s a fantastic deal: 11 top Mac apps, including Tech Tool Pro, Freeway Pro, Fantastical, and Capo. The regular retail price for all these apps is $548; with this bundle you get them all for just $49.99. Buy now: it’s a limited time offer.

Apple Testing eBay Store for Refurbished Products 

9to5 Mac:

We thought Apple might be testing the waters to sell refurbished products directly to customers through eBay, and it seems that’s exactly what is happening. We discovered that this is in fact an Apple-run Store within eBay. It is in trial, and it could open the door to much bigger things. No one would go on the record at eBay, however.

Weird but interesting.

Mozilla Kills Firefox 64-Bit for Windows 

Emil Protalinski, reporting for The Next Web:

Firefox users are thus left without much of an option. They can switch to OS X or Linux, both of which have full versions of Firefox 64-bit. Windows 64-bit users meanwhile can only consider Internet Explorer and Opera, since both Chrome and Safari don’t offer 64-bit flavors.

Mac OS X’s transition from 32- to 64-bit apps sure has been smoother than Windows’s. Mac users simply don’t need to worry about it.

GigaOm: ‘Google Wants to Take on Apple With an Open AirPlay Alternative’ 

Instances of the word “open”, including headline: 4.

Instances of the words “copy” (or any synonyms, e.g. “derivative”): 0.

Samsung Mobile Chief: ‘Without Samsung-Owned Wireless Patents, It’s Impossible for the Cupertino-Based Apple to Produce Its Handsets’ 

Apple and Samsung are the only two companies making serious profits in mobile, and mobile is the future of all personal computing. The stakes simply could not be higher — of course they’re going to sue the shit out of each other.

Jakob Nielsen Excoriates the Usability of Windows 8 

Just devastating. A taste:

Newegg is the only app that includes its full name in the tile. When we asked participants to use the other apps, they couldn’t find them. This on a new tablet with only a few applications installed. We know from our user testing of other tablets and mobile devices that users quickly accumulate numerous applications, most of which they rarely use and can barely recognize — even with static icons that never change.

The theory, no doubt, is to attract users by constantly previewing new photos and other interesting content within the tiles. But the result makes the Surface start screen into an incessantly blinking, unruly environment that feels like dozens of carnival barkers yelling at you simultaneously.

And then there’s this:

Because this column is very critical of Microsoft’s main product, some people will no doubt accuse me of being an Apple fanboy or a Microsoft hater. I’m neither. I switched from Macintosh to Windows many years ago and have been very pleased with Windows 7. […]

I have nothing against Microsoft. I happen to think that Windows 7 is a good product and that Windows 8 is a misguided one. I derived these conclusions from first principles of human–computer interaction theory and from watching users in our new research. One doesn’t have to hate or love a company in order to analyze its UI designs.

True, but it sounds defensive to include this disclaimer.

Update: I still don’t think his disclaimer is worded well, but I’ve been thinking about it, and the underlying sentiment is quite damning. Some aspects of usability and interface design can be measured and ranked objectively; others are quite subjective. There’s a certain unique style to the systems designed by different companies. To pick one small thing: window close buttons. On the Mac and other Apple systems, close buttons go in the top left. On Windows and other Microsoft systems, they go in the top right. I’ve always preferred the Apple style, but I admit this is an almost entirely subjective preference. It’s a style thing. There are a hundred little things like that that have always made me prefer Mac OS to Windows. It also means I’m at least somewhat less likely to prefer something new from Microsoft purely on a subjective basis. That Nielsen prefers Windows 7 over Mac OS X really does make his disdain for Windows 8 all the more damning.

Internal Videos Show Why the Microsoft Kin Cratered 

Mat Honan has a nice scoop at Gadget Lab:

These internal Microsoft videos, provided to Wired by a person who worked on the project, show focus groups testing the ill-fated Kin. According to our source, these are pre-production models that changed very little from the shipping product, although “performance improved some prior to shipping.” Watch them, and you can readily see why the project tanked: Kin phones just weren’t usable. Or, as our source described them, they were a “pile of shit.”

Why did they ship this?

Intel CEO Paul Otellini to Retire in May 

Among the accomplishments cited in Intel’s press release:

Reinvented the PC with Ultrabook devices.

That’s rich. Not cited: letting the mobile world pass Intel by using low-power ARM chips.

Oprah Uses iPad to Send Tweet Promoting Microsoft Surface 


Condé Nast Traveler: Top 25 Airlines 

In the U.S., Virgin was first, Jet Blue second, and the major carriers are so far behind it’s sad. US Airways didn’t even make the list.

Never Apologize for Having an Opinion — Especially When You’re Right 

Jon Fingas wrote an interesting editorial for Engadget a few weeks ago, arguing that Amazon and Google are undermining the mobile industry by pricing their own devices at (or even under) cost. So far so good. The piece really seemed to touch a nerve with many Engadget readers (well over 4,000 comments, many of them from the dogmatic anti-Apple contingent), and the thing went off the rails from there.

The Operation to Rescue Manhattan’s Drowned Internet 

Fascinating reporting and images from The Verge.

Tech Conferences: What’s the Big Idea? 

Speaking of Glenn Fleishman, I bet this piece he wrote for The Economist is the only thing you’ll read today that contains the phrases “geegaws and jimcrack” and “the improbably named Quebecois Guy English”.


My thanks to Tower for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Tower is a terrific Mac client for the Git version control system. Git is powerful and popular, but the command-line interface can be difficult, to say the least. Tower makes Git easy.

Download the free trial and see for yourself. Even better, use coupon code “DF10” and save 10 percent through the end of November.

Windows 8 as a Long Bet 

Harry McCracken:

Windows 8 was never (primarily) about driving PC sales for the 2012 holiday season. It’s a long bet on a future in which most PCs have touch capability and many of them are tablets. As such, any current conclusions about how it’s doing are hopelessly premature.

But why put the touch/tablet UI on all PCs? A touch-optimized UI makes no more sense for a non-touch desktop than a desktop UI makes for a tablet. Apple has it right: a touch UI for touch devices, a pointer UI for pointer (trackpad, mouse) devices. Windows 8 strikes me as driven by dogma — “one Windows, everywhere”.

Twitter to Client Developers: Drop Dead 

Matthew Panzarino:

What it did say, however, which caused the Tweetro folks to hold out hope that they could get the limit lifted, was that “you will need our permission if your application will require more than 100,000 individual user tokens.”

This implies that Twitter would be flexible about the limits, but in all of my discussions with developers, and I’ve had a lot of them over the past few months, I’ve never seen evidence of them doing so. And they were not flexible with the Tweetro folks, even though there is NO official Windows 8 client from Twitter (it has said it is working on one).

You’ll use Twitter’s shitty website and you’ll like it.

‘It’s Like Drug Money’ 

This week on America’s favorite podcast, special guest star Glenn Fleishman joins yours truly to talk about Jeopardy, independent media (including Glenn’s new role as Executive Editor of The Magazine), Microsoft’s and Apple’s executive shake-ups, and more.

Brought to you by two outstanding sponsors:

  • Gridditor: Brand-new innovative photo editor for iPhone and iPad.

  • Tonx: The best coffee in the world, shipped fresh to your door.

Twitter Is Pivoting 

Dalton Caldwell:

Nonetheless, Peter Chernin’s announcement shows us the future of Twitter: a media company writing software that is optimized for mostly passive users interested in a media and entertainment filter.

Netflix CEO Says Amazon Losing $1 Billion a Year on Streaming Video 

There are many companies that are hard to compete with. Amazon, though, is just plain crazy, because they don’t care about profits and seemingly don’t have to.

Shitty Software Patent of the Week: The Page Turn 

Nick Bilton:

If you want to know just how broken the patent system is, just look at patent D670,713, filed by Apple and approved this week by the United States Patent Office.

This design patent, titled, “Display screen or portion thereof with animated graphical user interface,” gives Apple the exclusive rights to the page turn in an e-reader application.

Yes, that’s right. Apple now owns the page turn.

Paul Thurrott: ‘Windows 8 Sales Well Below Projections’ 

Paul Thurrott:

One of my most trusted sources at Microsoft confirmed Windows 8’s weak start this week. And with all of the drama surrounding Windows 8 and the recent, unexpected departure of Windows chief Steven Sinofsky, rumors are sure to swirl.


Google Struggling With Nexus 4 Demand 

Product launches are hard.

(It occurs to me that, at only $299 and unlocked, the Nexus 4 is the Android equivalent of an iPod Touch I’ve long wished for — modern hardware specs, current OS, no contract, $300 or less. No wonder demand is high.)

Fireballed: Cached here.

The Verge: HTC Droid DNA Review 

Like I thought, that amazing 440 PPI display comes with a few catches: scrolling hiccups and poor battery life.

Questionable Science 

Jim Dalrymple on a story in the L.A. Times predicting the Kindle Fire HD will outsell the iPad Mini by 2 to 1 — based on searches at

The Cost of Mobile Clicks 

Horace Dediu on Google’s declining operating margin:

The bottom line is that an individual click is not as valuable as it used to be. Would a larger volume of mobile usage be a reason? Google won’t say.

Nettelator for 

Another top-tier iPhone Twitter client gets an sibling.

Stray Penises and Politicos 

David Simon on the Petraeus scandal and the base hypocrisy of the purportedly serious U.S. news media. Just great. Don’t miss the follow-up, either.


Matt Rosoff, CITEworld:

Todd Bradley, the head of HP’s PC business, does not view Microsoft’s Surface tablet as a challenge.

“I’d hardly call Surface competition,” Bradley said in an interview with CITEworld. He listed several reasons, “One, very limited distribution. It tends to be slow and a little kludgey as you use it …. It’s expensive. Holistically, the press has made a bigger deal out of Surface than what the world has chosen to believe.”

So, HP has a tablet that will outsell Surface this quarter?

Never Say Never Again 

Perfect Tumblr idea: an ongoing collection of “Steve Jobs would never…” tweets. (Via Dan Provost.)

Survey: U.S. Consumers Hesitant to Make Switch to Windows 8 

Byron Acohido, USA Today:

Most Windows users in the U.S. know about Windows 8 but few have immediate plans to upgrade to Microsoft’s newest operating system.

What’s more, about one-third of Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP users who are ready to buy a new personal computer say they intend to switch to an Apple product.

Those are the findings of an unusually broad survey of Windows PC users conducted by antivirus company Avast and released exclusively to USA TODAY.

If true, this is very good news for Apple. Historically, the single biggest problem Apple faced in the PC market is that most consumers never even considered buying an Apple computer. If this number of potential switchers is even close to true, Mac and iPad sales are going to continue to grow.

As for Microsoft, though, I disagree with Jim Dalrymple that this is necessarily a sign of unhappy users. I don’t think it’s ever been the case that a majority of PC users have upgraded to a new version of Windows. That’s why XP has stuck around for so long. People buy PCs and “upgrade” to a new version of Windows when they buy their next new PC. I don’t think this has as much to do with whether Windows 8 is appealing as it does that a growing number of people are realizing that Apple offers alternatives to Windows PCs that are worth considering. It’s that simple.

Google TV Updated 

Curious. No mention of whether they hit their expectation of being installed on the majority of new TVs sold today.

Update: Neven Mrgan points out that the remote control in the commercial is bizarrely thick. No joke: it looks bigger by volume than an entire Apple TV. What’s the deal?

Google vs. Samsung 

Horace Dediu on Samsung’s booming profits:

All this plus an overall growth in volumes from 64 million to over 100 million per quarter has meant that the company is raking in enormous profits. Not only did it overtake Nokia, the market share leader for 14 years, but is making more profits than Nokia ever did.

So much profit in fact that it has overtaken Google’s decisively.

The reason I point this out is that Samsung’s success is dependent on having ridden on the back of Android. Samsung’s ascent can be precisely timed to their adoption of Android.

So Google is deep in the hole on Android but Samsung is making billions off it. Where does this wind up?

U.K. Court Sanctions Apple, Hopes ‘Lack of Integrity’ in Notice Incident Is Not ‘Typical’ 

Apple really botched it with that snarky notice on their website about Samsung having been found not guilty in the U.K. of copying the iPad. Good copywriting, I still say, but bad lawyering. Should have just sucked it up and played it straight.

(In other Apple-Samsung legal news, Samsung seems to have a decent argument that the jury foreman in their big U.S. case was guilty of misconduct for failing to disclose his previous legal entanglement with Seagate.)

Is Siri Really Apple’s Future? 

Kontra has been on fire lately.

‘He Was a Very Affectionate Dad, Who Could Solve All Your Problems, and When He Died Our Protective Umbrella Was Gone.’ 

Stanley Kubrick’s daughter Katharina Kubrick and grandson Joe, interviewed on Reddit.

David Petraeus Affair Photos 

“Everything you need to know about the CIA Director David Petraeus sex scandal. All photos and headlines are real.”

(Coincidentally, this site “fixes” WebKit font smoothing.)

Please Stop ‘Fixing’ Font Smoothing 

Dmitry Fadeyev:

So here is yet another plea for designers to stop “fixing” WebKit font smoothing by disabling subpixel rendering. Feel free to use it on light text on dark backgrounds, feel free to use it to fix custom font rendering on Windows or to style specific bits of text on the page to make it look more slender, but for main portions of text where readability is paramount please leave the default setting alone and let the operating system handle the smoothing.

Hear, hear. While you’re there, Fadeyev’s entire UsabilityPost is well worth checking out. (Thanks to Joe Clark.)

Pundit Shaming 

Stock your freezer with this collection of delicious electoral claim chowder.

2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year: Tesla Model S 

Motor Trend:

Wait. No mention of the astonishing inflection point the Model S represents — that this is the first COTY winner in the 64-year history of the award not powered by an internal combustion engine? Sure, the Tesla’s electric powertrain delivers the driving characteristics and packaging solutions that make the Model S stand out against many of its internal combustion engine peers. But it’s only a part of the story. At its core, the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel.

(Via Kottke.)

NextDraft iOS App, Now Universal 

The iOS app for Dave Pell’s excellent daily NextDraft newsletter, now optimized for the iPad. Free.

HTC Droid DNA Has 440 PPI Display 

Nathan Ingraham, The Verge:

While the Nexus 4 has an excellent 1280 x 768, 4.7-inch display, the Droid DNA ups the ante with its 1080p, 5-inch screen. That works out to a 440ppi display, pixel density completely unheard of in the current smartphone landscape.

That’s 1920 x 1080 pixels. Insane. Is there a catch? Battery life?

Kara Swisher: ‘In the Sinofsky Departure, Bill Gates Sided With the Other Steve’ 

Kara Swisher:

“He had no factions, except those who worked for him,” said one source. “He picked a lot of fights.”

That included with former chief software architect Ray Ozzie — who left Microsoft in 2010, in part after battling against Sinofsky over how the cloud-based world was shaping up and how Microsoft should respond.

Likewise, former Entertainment and Devices unit leaders Robbie Bach and J Allard also found themselves on the losing end of a corporate battle with Sinofsky, as Microsoft axed their planned Courier tablet and agreed to give tablet responsibilities to the Windows team. Both left the company in 2010.

Sinofsky also clashed with former Microsoft Business division head Stephen Elop, who left the company in 2010 to run Nokia, now an important partner in the smartphone business.

Having sided with Sinofsky in all those fights, though, Ballmer belatedly decided that he wasn’t the right choice to bring the company together in the future. Sources said Ballmer raised those concerns with Gates, who agreed.

Of course he did. No way could Ballmer have done this without Gates’s (and thus, the board’s) approval. That’s a lot of heads that have rolled at Microsoft in recent years.

Tweetro, Popular Metro-Style Windows 8 Twitter Client, Hits 100K User Token Wall 

I fail to see how this makes strategic sense for Twitter. What are Windows 8 users supposed to do for a native Twitter experience? This is a huge problem for any new platform going forward; iOS might now have a stalled Twitter client ecosystem, but at least it has one. New platforms like Metro are never even going to get one off the ground.

Update: Now they’ve been forced to pull the app from the Windows Store.

Windows Head Steven Sinofsky to Leave Microsoft 

Ina Fried:

The move comes less than a month after Sinofsky presided over the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s Surface tablet–products seen as key to the future if the PC software pioneer is to retain its position amid a market increasingly dominated by phones and tablets.

Sources have said the move came amid growing tension between Sinofsky and other top executives. Sinofsky, though seen as highly talented, was viewed at the top levels as not the kind of team player that the company was looking for. The move is likened by some to the recent ouster at Apple of iOS head Scott Forstall.

How many heads are left to roll before we get to Ballmer’s? I’m thinking none.

Update: But of course now, if and when the board finally does can Ballmer, who takes over? Sinofsky and Ray Ozzie are gone, and Gates presumably isn’t interested in coming back. I really thought Sinofsky was Microsoft’s next CEO.

Benedict Evans on the Q3 U.S. Handset Market 

Benedict Evans, examining the numbers from the big four U.S. carriers:

In other words, Android has over 75% of the global smartphone market, but just under 50% of the US market.

This is interesting:

The interesting analytical problem is that these figures are very different from those from surveys of the install base (by Comscore and others), which suggest that iPhone share is more like a third of US smartphones. Yet the iPhone has been at or around 50% of sales for almost 2 years. Either the surveys are wrong or the iPhone has a significantly higher replacement cycle - despite being on the same two-year contracts as Android. Puzzling.

I’ll bet it’s true that iPhone owners are more likely to upgrade every single year than Android owners, but not in large enough numbers to account for a discrepancy this large.

Define ‘Nice’ 

Talk about a scoop — Wired’s Joshua Davis has been on the phone today with John McAfee, who’s on the lam from police in Belize, wanted for the murder of his next-door neighbor:

McAfee is currently on the run from the police. “Under no circumstances am I going to willingly talk to the police in this country,” he told me this afternoon. “You can say I’m paranoid about it but they will kill me, there is no question. They’ve been trying to get me for months. They want to silence me. I am not well liked by the prime minister. I am just a thorn in everybody’s side.”

Nonetheless, McAfee insists he has no plans to leave the country. “I like it here,” he says “It’s the nicest place on earth.”

Ed Bott on the Ads in Windows 8 

Ed Bott, “How Outraged Should You Be About Ads in Windows 8 Apps? Not at All”:

Paul and John are both mistaken. Those apps aren’t part of Windows 8. They are part of a separate Microsoft project specifically designed to create showcase apps that will “inspire Windows 8 app developers.” (I’ll get to those details later in this post.) Although I’m sure the head of the Online Services Division would love it if I were wrong, I am willing to bet those apps will not be money-making machines in and of themselves.

So here’s the amusing thing. Most of my online work is paid for by ads. Paul Thurrott’s newly redesigned Windows SuperSite (looks great, by the way) is paid for by ads. Gruber’s site is paid for (handsomely, if rumors are to be believed) by a single ad placed discreetly alongside the content on his blog, and by ads in his RSS feed and podcasts.

Words matter. I didn’t say anyone should be “outraged”. I just said it was “gross” — literally just that one word. Thurrott only said it “cheapened” Windows. So I agree with Bott and Thurrott: I don’t think anyone should be outraged, but I do think it cheapens Windows to ship it with ad-supported apps from Microsoft. To me it’s the software equivalent of those “Intel Inside” (and etc.) stickers on PC hardware.

Nor do I see any hypocrisy in ad-supported writers decrying the inclusion of ads in the OS. What’s the argument there — that if I write for an ad-supported publication I must forgo the right to complain about advertising in any and all contexts?

Paul Thurrott on the Ads in Windows 8 

Paul Thurrott, “Microsoft Cheapens Windows 8 With Ads”:

Now, apologists will explain that these ads aren’t in the OS user interface, which is true, and that you really have to hunt for them in the apps in which they do appear, which is also true. But this is a slippery slope, folks. If you accept a few banal ads in Windows 8 for $40, what would you accept in Windows 9 for $20? When does it stop? And why wouldn’t it get worse?

I really do enjoy saying this: I agree with Paul Thurrott.

App Store Rejection of the Week: Drones+ 

Matt Williams, reporting for The Guardian:

Josh Begley, a graduate student at New York University, developed Drones+ to provide up-to-date information on strikes, using reports collated by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism — an organisation that tracks the use of unmanned CIA aircrafts.

But repeated attempts to get Apple to offer the software at its app store have been fruitless. At first, Begley was informed that the program — which he hoped would raise awareness of the growing death toll from drone strikes — was “not useful” enough and did not appeal to a “broad enough audience”.

The company position has since shifted, but only in the reasoning behind its refusal to stock Drones+. In the latest rejection email, Apple reportedly informed him: “We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable, which is not in compliance with the app store review guidelines.”

Note that there’s nothing graphic about what the app depicts. It merely shows text alerts and maps. It’s not the app that’s objectionable; it’s the drone strikes.

Dave Winer on the iPad Mini 

Dave Winer, writing at Gizmodo:

By the way, this is why the orchestrated reviews of products are often worthless. I invite Mossberg, Pogue or Gruber to re-review their iPad Mini now, a week after their initial reviews, and let us know if they’re actually using it. And if they still think it’s a winner. I believe it’s not only not a winner, but it signals a new Apple that’s no longer beyond compare, no longer insisting on delighting its users to the point of orgasm.

I completely stand behind mine, and still have barely even used the iPad 4 I have on loan from Apple. Winer seems to agree with me that the ideal iPad is one which doesn’t yet exist (but surely will): a Mini with a 2048 x 1536 retina display. In the meantime, we have to choose: big iPad with sharp retina display, or small iPad with a fuzzy one. I’ve gone small and fuzzy.

As for this:

Once you’ve shipped an iPad with a super high-resolution “retina” display, you can’t ask people to buy a new one that doesn’t have it. Steve wouldn’t have done it.

I don’t see how the non-retina iPad Mini shipping seven months after the retina iPad 3 is any different than the non-retina iPad 2 shipping nine months after the retina iPhone 4 was unveiled. Retina spoils you. If Apple could go retina across the board in one fell swoop — all iPhones, all iPads, all Macs — they would. But they can’t.

HTC to Pay Apple Licensing Fees 

Aries Poon and Lorraine Luk, reporting for the WSJ:

HTC Corp. will pay licensing fees to Apple Inc. as part of its settlement agreement with the U.S. company, a person familiar with the situation said.

It was unclear how much the Taiwanese smartphone maker would pay, but given HTC’s deteriorating financial position, analysts expressed concern about its long-term competitiveness.

So much for those patents HTC borrowed from Google.

Gmail Location Data Led FBI to Uncover Petraeus Affair 

Kim Zetter, writing for Wired Threat Level:

In examining these other accounts, agents uncovered sexually explicit e-mails that Broadwell exchanged with another party who also used a Gmail account. Investigators were not able to immediately identify Petraeus as the other party, however, because he’d set up his Gmail account using a pseudonym.

Investigators determined sometime during mid-summer that it belonged to Petraeus and that the two were having an affair. The reports do not say how investigators made that connection. According to the New York Times it’s not known if the FBI gained access to Petraeus’ personal e-mail account, or if its investigation relied solely on e-mails found in Broadwell’s account. […]

Google, which offers e-mail, cloud storage, a blogging platform, web search, and other services, provides government agencies with e-mail communications, documents, browsing activity, IP addresses used to create an account and other data when asked.

I find it almost shocking that the director of the CIA would be foolish enough to think that a pseudonymous Google account was safe enough to exchange email with his mistress.

The New Acer Chromebook 

The good news: it costs just $199.

The bad news: “over 3.5 hours of battery life”.

If you’ve got $199 to spend and only want to browse the web, why not buy a tablet that gives you all day battery life and offers actual native apps? I just don’t get it.

Ducking Google in Search Engines 

Michael Rosenwald profiles DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg for The Washington Post:

A start-up taking on Google in search is much like a raft taking on a cruise ship as a vacation option. But Weinberg is not delusional. With money lining his pockets from selling a start-up for $10 million, Weinberg bet there was a place in the market for a product capitalizing on users’ emerging annoyances with Google — its search results gamed by marketers; its pages cluttered with ads; every query tracked, logged and personalized to the point of creepiness.

He called his little search engine project DuckDuckGo, after the children’s game Duck, Duck, Goose. (Instead of “Just Google it,” think “Just Duck it.”)

“My thesis for the company was, what can we do that other search engines, because they’re big, can’t do easily?” Weinberg said. “Because what’s good for Google business is bad for Google users.”

I spent a few months at the beginning of the year using DuckDuckGo as my main search engine; I eventually went back to Google simply because DuckDuckGo often felt too slow. I switched back to DuckDuckGo again last week and so far I’m really liking it. I’ve also been happy using them as the site search for DF.

(Don’t forget about this trick for turning DuckDuckGo into a replacement for Yahoo search in Safari. I really wish Apple would put its privacy-valuing money where its mouth is and add DuckDuckGo as an officially supported search engine option on Safari — especially on iOS, where you can’t modify the /etc/hosts file.)

Charging an iPhone Without AC Power 

Better ideas than mine on how to charge your devices during an extended power outage.

Innovation Is a Fight 

The best and most nuanced take on Scott Forstall’s ouster, unsurprisingly from Michael Lopp:

While I’d continued to hear about the disdain amongst the executive ranks about Forstall after I left Apple, I was still shocked about his departure, because while he was in no way Steve Jobs, he was the best approximation of Steve Jobs that Apple had left. You came to expect a certain amount of disruption around him because that’s how business was done at Apple - it was well-managed internal warfare. Innovation is not born out out of a committee; innovation is a fight. It’s messy, people die, but when the battle is over, something unimaginably significant has been achieved.


My thanks to Koku for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Koku is a new personal finance management app for the Mac and iPhone, focused on simplicity and flexibility. Koku is easy to set up, with great features like Direct Connect to automatically and safely download transactions from supported U.S. banks and financial institutions. You just enter your account information once and Koku takes care of the rest. As transactions come in, you can tag and rename them as you see fit. Then you can generate powerful reports showing you where your money is going.

iCloud support keeps your data in sync between your Mac and iPhone. There’s a free demo of the Mac version on Koku’s website, and both the iPhone and Mac versions in the App Store are available now at special introductory prices — 50 percent off for the Mac version, and 60 percent off for the iPhone version. Check out the demo video on their website and see just how easy and simple Koku is to use.

David Sobotta, Circa 2007 

After the iPhone announcement in January 2007, noted Apple pessimist David Sobotta:

The iPhone is without a doubt the most elegant of gadgets, but I get the feeling the reflection you see in the shiny surface might well be the high water mark for Apple. Time will tell if the iPhone will live up to euphoria that seems to have gripped the Apple world today.

Yes, it will.

The most overdue announcement was taking ‘Computers’ out of Apple’s name. There is some sadness from seeing that actually happen. At one time Apple produced the computer for the rest of us. That seems to be flipped on its head these days even as Apple’s market share grows. My guess is that in spite of the iPhone and the other i-products, history will still look on Bill Gates more favorably than Steve Jobs. Then again, “One Laptop Per Child” might surpass them both.

Every single quarter since Sobotta said the above, Mac sales have outgrown those of the PC industry as a whole.

(Thanks to DF reader Jonathan Flath.)

Is This Even Legal? 

Hedge fund manager Doug Kass trashed Apple stock a month ago, now starts buying it back after it’s dropped 20 percent.

Apple Is Doomed 

Dan Lyons talks to former Apple sales executive (1984–2004 — not that recent) and gets a scathing critique of Apple and its prospects under Tim Cook. Whole thing feels specious to me (summary: Apple is doomed without Steve Jobs) but let’s focus on just one part:

“The third is that Apple is a `next great thing’ company, and that in and of itself is unsustainable. They haven’t found the next great thing after the iPad and iPhone, and their shares in both those areas are slipping. Of course they are ignoring traditional computers to a large extent.

“I could add a fourth [factor] related to the third point, but it’s debatable. Always in the past when Apple screwed up or got too cocky, they could fall back on a core group of `prosumers’ who were dedicated to Apple’s products. I think Apple has lost or is in the process of losing those folks, but I have no way to measure that other than I know a fair number of folks like myself that are no longer Apple products evangelists.

“I got a note from [a former Apple colleague] last night that it was time to replace his wife’s MacBook and he offered to get her whatever she wanted. She chose Lenovo.”

Apple is “ignoring traditional computers” and is losing the “prosumer” market. And an unnamed former Apple employee’s wife bought a Lenovo notebook. Meantime, Apple is number one in U.S. notebook sales; they’ve released two new MacBook Pros with retina displays that blow away anything from any competitor in terms of professional-caliber display technology, thinness, and weight; and Mac sales have outgrown the PC industry as a whole every single quarter for six consecutive years.

Would be nice to see how well the Mac could be doing if Apple weren’t ignoring traditional computers.

‘More Useful and Less Horrible’ 

Joining me on this week’s episode of The Talk Show: special guest Dan Frommer. Topics include the iPad Mini, ideas for the future of iOS, Microsoft Surface, Virgin America and the state of U.S. airlines, and more.

Brought to you by two great sponsors:

  • Voila — A powerful screen capture and screen recording tool for your Mac.
  • Bossjock Studio — Podcast from iOS, no PC needed.
Eton Boost Turbine Hand-Cranked USB Chargers 

External USB battery charger with a twist: you can power it up with a hand crank. Post-Sandy, I’m thinking I need one of these.

The 16 GB Surface 

John Moltz, on the news that a 32 GB Surface only has 16 GB of user-available storage:

By contrast, my 32 GB third generation iPad has 28 GB of usable space. Of course, you could probably get a hunk of the Surface’s space back by deleting Office, but the ability to run total awesomeness like Office is the Surface’s key selling point.

Windows 8 Includes Built-in Advertising 


Mapping Racist Tweets in Response to President Obama’s Re-Election 

Sad but unsurprising results.

Apple’s Design Problems Aren’t Skeuomorphic 

Must-read piece by Kontra:

In the end, what’s wrong with iOS isn’t the dark linen behind the app icons at the bottom of the screen, but the fact that iOS ought to have much better inter-application management and navigation than users fiddling with tiny icons.

Best list of where iOS needs serious work that I’ve seen.

The Math Behind Paper for iPad’s New Color-Mixer 

Fascinating behind-the-scenes look by Chris Dannen at a very cool new feature in Paper. We’re only just getting started in developing touch-optimized interfaces.

Linking to Bullshit 

Marco Arment:

The industry of writing inflammatory bullshit about Apple is booming. It’s booming partially because writing inflammatory Apple headlines gets a lot of clicks. Apple is popular and the dominant player in many industries, so anything that attacks it will attract attention. […]

If you truly dislike bullshit writing and don’t want to support it, hit the publishers where it hurts: don’t read it, and don’t link to it.

I’ve given much thought to this over the years, for obvious reasons. I certainly link to bullshit less often than I used to. “Jackass of the Week” used to be an actual weekly feature, but as DF has grown in popularity, I’ve adjusted my standards for what I’m willing to give attention to.

My rule of thumb is to ignore anything that is stupid and languishing in obscurity. But if it’s stupid and published on a high-traffic site, or it’s an expression of a widely-held misconception, it’s often worth addressing, bullshit or not. Or take a guy like Rob Enderle. He’s a troll and an idiot, but he’s often worth linking to because he’s so frequently quoted as a knowledgeable expert by mainstream media reporters. If none of us ever linked to him, there’d be no record showing just how spectacularly wrong he’s been over the years.

The other thing is, I worry mostly about your attention, dear reader. If some jackass writes something willfully ignorant about Apple (or any other topic for that matter) and is privately pleased as punch after I link to it, because of the influx of page views, so be it. I don’t worry about page views. What I worry about is whether it’s worth your precious attention for me to link to something and comment on it.

‘Obama Played OHIO to Win 26-24’ 

Dave Wiskus has a screenshot from Obama and Romney’s Electionpress match.


Great-looking reboot from Jordan Mechner to his classic ’80s video game; hilarious commercial to promote it by Adam Lisagor and Sandwich Video.

The Best 

Dustin Curtis:

If you’re an unreasonable person, trust me: the time it takes to find the best of something is completely worth it. It’s better to have a few fantastic things designed for you than to have many untrustworthy things poorly designed to please everyone.

Barack Obama and the Death of Normal 

David Simon on Obama’s re-election:

But make no mistake: Change is a motherfucker when you run from it. And right now, the conservative movement in America is fleeing from dramatic change that is certain and immutable. A man of color is president for the second time, and this happened despite a struggling economic climate and a national spirit of general discontent. He has been returned to office over the specific objections of the mass of white men. He has instead been re-elected by women, by people of color, by homosexuals, by people of varying religions or no religion whatsoever. Behold the New Jerusalem. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a white man, of course. There’s nothing wrong with being anything. That’s the point.

Curious Timing 

Circumstantial evidence that maybe Apple has been spitefully withholding Google’s apps from the App Store:

Announced in August, Google’s new Google Search app for iOS has been apparently stuck in Apple’s app approval process for over two months. No longer. Google’s just announced that the new app is out.

One possible explanation: there were technical problems or guideline violations that Google needed to fix. The other: Apple froze it in the queue out of spite, because Google Voice Search compares so favorably to Siri.

Intriguingly, the update finally appeared in the App Store on October 30 — the day after Scott Forstall was ousted.

Jason Fried Is Hiring a Personal iOS Prototyper 

Sounds like a fascinating job.

Curious Spin From Google Regarding iOS Maps 

Michael Grothaus had a piece in The Guardian, wherein unnamed sources from Google claim they think Google’s still-unfinished iOS Maps app is going to be rejected by Apple:

Sources at Google familiar with its mapping plans say they are “not optimistic” that Apple will ever approve a dedicated Google Maps iOS app. Though the app is reportedly in development and should be ready to ship by the end of the year, the sources say their plans are only proceeding in “the unlikely event” that Apple will choose to approve the app.

Why would Apple reject a Google Maps app? There are plenty of mapping apps in the store, including several that use Google Maps APIs as the back end. There are numerous Google apps in the store, including the competes-with-Siri Google Voice Search.

As “proof”, they point to Apple’s curated “Find maps for your iPhone” section of the store, which currently lists no apps using Google Maps for the back end data. But even if Apple wouldn’t list an official Google Maps app in that curated list (and that’s a big if), that’s not the same thing as not allowing it into the App Store in the first place.

If Google submits a Google Maps app that complies with the App Store rules and guidelines, Apple will accept it.

Paul Thurrott Nailed It 

Paul Thurrott:

First, however, I would reminder readers that when Apple first introduced the iPad, I complained that a smaller, 7-inch version would be the more appropriate size for such a device, assuming of course that you intended to use it as I do, as a consumption device. (That is, you’re not going to replace a laptop and connect a keyboard.) Through various Kindle Fire devices and, more recently, the Google Nexus 7, this opinion has held up. And now that I see Apple’s take on it — a slightly wider 7.9-inch variant of the 7-inch tablet — I’m happy to announce, for once, I told you so. This is the ideal iPad.

He’s right. Here’s what he wrote in 2010:

The current iPad is too big and too heavy, and any refresh should use Amazon’s Kindle as a guide: In fact, it should be the exact same size and weight as Amazon’s device if possible. Granted, not everyone is going to want a 7-inch iPad. But this model, positioned squarely between the iPod touch and currently 10-inch iPad, would provide a perfect middle ground, especially for those who will continue to use the iPad for consumption purposes only. (As is the case with virtually all iPad owners today, by the way.) And that would provide an opening for the larger device to turn into more of mainstream computing device.

Claim chowder works both ways. He nailed this one.

Farhad Manjoo, Not a Fan of the Microsoft Surface 

Farhad Manjoo:

The first problem is speed. Everything you do on the Surface takes more time than you expect. When you load an app, switch between apps, launch a Web page, go back to a previous Web page, check your email, and do pretty much anything else, you’ll find yourself waiting a half-second too long. This sounds like nothing, but when you compound that time time across every action on the Surface, the wasted half-seconds add up to an annoying trudge.

Funny how the tables turn. A decade ago, Windows XP was snappy and Mac OS X was the one where things like resizing windows or even pulling down menus felt slow. I think this is a major problem for Microsoft, though, because responsiveness is more important on touchscreen UIs than desktop UIs.

The Real iPad 

Dan Frommer:

My take after spending a bunch of the weekend with the iPad mini: This is the real iPad. With the exception of screen sharpness, everything about it is better than the bigger, “classic” iPad — and screen sharpness won’t be a deal breaker for the vast majority of people.

I’ve been asked by several readers why, if this is a seemingly better form factor, Apple didn’t go with this size for the original iPad. I think there are several factors. First, I don’t think they could have, technically. The original iPad in 2010 was pretty thick compared even to the iPad 2. If they couldn’t make it thinner then, I don’t think they could have made it smaller either — not at the same price points.

Second, thinness and weight aside, I think the 9.7-inch size was better to start with conceptually, to establish the iPad in consumers’ minds as something they might want to own. The biggest complaint about the original iPad upon its unveiling was that it was nothing more than a “big iPhone”. That would have been an even bigger complaint if they’d launched with the smaller 7.9-inch display instead. The bigger difference in physical size made it even more likely that developers would do the work to create iPad-optimized versions of their iPhone apps, too.

Another week in, though, and I’m more convinced than even a week ago that the iPad Mini is the best size for most people. It’s last decade’s iPod story all over again.

Nate Silver and PECOTA 

Nate Silver has been a lightning rod for controversy over the final weeks of this campaign, with arguments from the right that his model is somehow biased in Obama’s favor. We’ll see tomorrow. But in terms of arguments about Silver’s statistical chops, I thought this piece by Colby Cosh for Maclean’s was pretty interesting. In short, before turning his attention to politics, Silver’s claim to fame was a model for projecting future player performance in baseball, and in hindsight, it wasn’t as good as is widely believed. Some potential solace for those of you hoping Silver’s model has the presidential election wrong.

(There’s also the fact that Silver’s electoral college model could be exactly right and Romney still wins — if I say your odds of tossing a six on a die roll are only 17 percent, and you toss the die and hit the six, it doesn’t mean my odds were wrong. And Silver has Romney’s chances at just slightly lower than 1-in-6.)

In Nate We Trust 

Big election here in the U.S. tomorrow; Nate Silver pegs Obama’s chance of winning at 86 percent. Other statistical models show it a bit tighter than Silver’s projection. Feels pretty tight to me. Update: Intrade’s betting market has it at even 67-33.

Google Voice Search vs. Siri 

How fast should Siri be? This fast.

Chris Pirillo’s Microsoft Surface Review 

I thought this was a fair and comprehensive review. Best line: “If you’re the sort of person who likes features over finish, Surface is for you.”

Nick Bilton: ‘Twitter to Add Photo Filters to Compete With Instagram’ 

Nick Bilton:

In the coming months, Twitter plans to update its mobile applications to introduce filters for photos that will allow people to share altered images on Twitter and bypass Instagram, the popular mobile-centric photo-sharing network, according to people who work at the company but asked not to be named as they are not allowed to discuss unannounced projects.

Is this a good idea? I think not, but can’t explain why.

Update: I think what bothers me about this is the focus on filters. If Twitter wanted to make it easier to post photos as tweets, and improve the presentation of inline photos in your tweet stream, that I could see. But adding filters to the Twitter mobile apps seems like a complete distraction, a sign that they’ve been afflicted with everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-itis.

(I also think there’s a market for a killer iPhone photo filtering app: something less focused on retro faux-analog gimmicks and more focused on the sort of one-touch improvements you can make in desktop apps like Lightroom and Aperture. There are a slew of pretty good apps for the iPhone that let you make such improvements to your photos, but I still haven’t seen one that’s truly great — combining a convenient fast workflow with aesthetically superior filters.)

New York Magazine 

Speaking of Sandy-related magazine covers, this week’s New York Magazine is stunning.

Time Magazine Cover Photo Shot Using Hipstamatic 

Huge collection of Sandy-related photos from Time photographers, all shot using iPhones.

Crappy Computers 

Lukas Mathis:

This is a sentiment you often hear from people: casual users only need “entry-level” performance. Even casual users themselves perpetuate it: “Oh, I’m not doing much on my computer, so I always just go with the cheapest option.” And then they buy a horrid, underpowered netbook, find out that it has a tiny screen, is incredibly slow, the keyboard sucks, and they either never actually use it, or eventually come to the conclusion that they just hate computers.

In reality, it’s exactly backwards: proficient users can deal with a crappy computer, but casual users need as good a computer as possible.


Doxie One 

My thanks to Doxie for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their just-announced Doxie One scanner for Mac and iPad. Doxie One makes it so easy to go paperless it’s almost hard to believe. First, the Doxie One scanner itself is small, attractive, and doesn’t need to be attached to a computer. You just insert sheets — documents, photos, receipts, anything — and they’re scanned and saved on the device.

When you’re ready to organize your scans, you sync the Doxie One to your Mac or iPad, just like you would with a digital camera. Doxie has a great Mac app that creates multi-page searchable PDFs that you can send or save anywhere. Doxie works great with the iPad too, using Apple’s Lightning or 30-pin SD Card Reader accessories.

I have last year’s Doxie and couldn’t be happier with it. The new Doxie One ships in late November for just $149. Reserve yours today.

‘Chewbacca Does It Again’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, with special guest star MG Siegler. Topics include the new iPad Mini and iPad 4, Scott Forstall’s ousting from Apple, Microsoft Surface and the launch of Windows 8, and Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise.

Brought to you by two excellent sponsors:

  • Appsfire — Find the best apps in the App Store, and get notified when prices change.

  • Check the Weather — Fast, accurate, beautiful, convenient weather app for the iPhone, and soon, iPad.

Google’s Lame Excuse for Not Offering LTE on Nexus 4 

Matthew Panzarino:

I do not think that the writers at The Verge are being intentionally apologist. I have too much respect for the staff there and neither Bohn nor Patel has a history of that kind of thing. However, the article as written is nowhere near as hard enough on Google for not delivering LTE in the Nexus 4 as it should be. And it manages to almost completely avoid what should have been the big elephant in the room: Apple has managed to ship a flagship phone with almost no carrier compromises and LTE, so why can’t Google?

Open always wins.

Update: I’m not trying to be all that glib here. The real explanation for why the Nexus 4 doesn’t have LTE but the iPhone 5 does is indeed easy: the iPhone’s massive popularity gives Apple leverage over the carriers that Google doesn’t have because Nexus phones have never sold in meaningful numbers. But the point Panzarino and others have made is that it’s no one’s fault but Google’s own that they don’t have this leverage, because they ceded control over Android to the carriers in the name of market share. “Android” has thus become wildly successful as a phone platform, but the true Android experience exactly as Google defines it languishes in obscurity.

Google can make up all the excuses they want about why the Nexus 4 doesn’t have LTE, but the simple answer is that it wasn’t up to them. It was up to the carriers, and the carriers said no.

Why Brent Ozar Is Returning His Microsoft Surface RT 

Just a downright scathing review, backed by video footage showing the severe performance problems. He’s not a fan of the iPad, and I think very clearly wanted to like the Surface. (In my hands-on time with Surface at last week’s Windows 8 launch event in NYC, I noticed that the Office apps felt sluggish. Like using apps in emulation or over a really good VNC connection.)

Jeff Atwood on Surface and the Tablet Plus Keyboard Form Factor 

Jeff Atwood:

After living with the Surface RT for a few days now, I’m convinced that this form factor is the replacement and way forward for the stagnant laptop. I can’t even remember the last time I was this excited about a computer. The more I use it, the more I think that touch plus keyboard is the future of all laptops.

Possible, and that certainly is what Microsoft is betting on with the design of Windows 8. But it’s worth noting that that’s a bet against Apple, which is both the leading tablet and laptop PC maker in the world.

Also, the photo Atwood includes doesn’t exactly sell me on the ergonomics of using a tablet as a laptop with keyboard. Many of us have used laptop and notebook interchangeably over the years, but the tablet era is showing that there’s a semantic difference between the two. Tablets with hardware keyboards can make for great notebook computers; I have yet to see one that makes for a good laptop computer.

Hal Berenson on the Microsoft Surface 

Interesting hands-on review:

Now we’re going to get to the core of the matter. What really makes the Surface difference. In your hands it is, at worst, yet another tablet. Prop it up on a table or other flat surface and something magical happens. The weaknesses of typing on a virtual keyboard or positioning on a capacitive touch screen fade away and you get all the benefits of a real keyboard and pointing device. Sure that shows up in simple ways, like being able to easily and accurately type in a password.

Basically, for him, Surface is exactly what Microsoft promised.

Why Amazon Is a Terrifying Competitor 

Matthew Yglesias:

In any line of business where you’re earning healthy profits you always need to worry that a competitor will undercut you on price. But normally you can also have some confidence that they’ll be restrained in their price cutting by the need to maintain profits of their own. Amazon is totally off the leash in this regard. Wall Street treats it like a brand new startup that just needs to think about growth and can find a viable business model later. Which means that if they come after you, you have no recourse. Your profits are going to shrink, and your investors are going to punish you for it but Amazon’s profits don’t necessarily need to grow proportionally. They just need to show they can poach your market share.

Eddy Cue 

Terrific profile of Eddy Cue by Greg Sandoval at CNet:

Cue built even more credibility by not trying to hide Apple’s intentions. In 2004, Cue stated very clearly that Apple was interested in selling media as a means to sell gadgets. “There’s a better margin in iPods than in the record business,” Cue told the trade journal Music Week.

“He wasn’t altruistic, certainly,” said Chris Castle, an attorney who has worked with music-tech companies for years and has negotiated with Cue. “He had an agenda, of course. My impression was that he was very clearly about Apple’s interest, but it was clear he also wanted to be fair. Apple never tried to steal music like many of these other guys. They cared about content It was never about what they could get away with. With Eddy you felt you had a fair hearing.”

Nexus 4 Camera Samples 

Just me or does it seem like Google rushed to ship Android’s panoramic photo feature? (Sounds like the new best Android phone overall, though, lack of LTE support aside.)

Update: Apparently this is a “photosphere” image, not a panoramic image. Regardless, looks like ass, no?

iPad 4 GPU Performance 

Pretty fast.

Watercooler 1.0 

I got excited as soon as I heard just the name of Troy Gaul’s new iPhone client app for and Twitter. The “virtual water cooler” is exactly how I’ve long described my affection for Twitter. I have no colleagues; I work alone all day every day. But ever since Twitter, I feel like I’m not alone.

And then once I saw Watercooler, I got even more excited. (I’ve been beta testing the app for a few months.) Back in 2009 I wrote “Twitter Clients Are a UI Playground”, the gist of my argument being that the relative simplicity and smallness of the requirements of a Twitter client provides for tremendous room for creative UI design. Twitterrific, Tweetbot, and Twittelator Neue are all great apps, but all very different. And now we have Watercooler, which carves out a UI territory all to itself, inspired very much by Buzz Andersen and Neven Mrgan’s late, great, and much-missed Birdfeed.

Watercooler holds its own next to any other client, but what I like best compared to Netbot is that it’s so visually distinctive — instant recognition of which service I’m looking at, Twitter or I’ve had it on my first home screen for weeks now — looks great next to Letterpress. $5 on the App Store, worth every penny.

Virgin America: Our Best Airline, But Losing Money 

I really hope they turn it around financially; Virgin is so far and away my favorite airline that second place isn’t even close.

Behind the Un-Retirement of Bob Mansfield 

John Paczkowski:

As one source close to the company told AllThingsD, “The timing of Bob’s return is not coincidental.”

To begin with, Mansfield was not a fan of Forstall’s confrontational management style, and sources said he generally tried to avoid the iOS exec. Indeed, Bloomberg reported last year that Mansfield would meet with Forstall only if Cook were present to mediate. I’ve heard many similar stories.

“It wasn’t a him-or-me situation,” one source said of Mansfield’s return and Forstall’s departure. “But, put it this way, I think Bob was much more willing to commit to two more years once he knew Scott was on his way out.”

The speculation regarding skeuomorphism as a factor in Forstall’s ouster has gotten out of hand. That’s not what this was about. This is about Forstall’s relationship with the other senior executives at the company. Personalities and politics, not rich Corinthian leather.

Trip Chowdry, Champion Jackass 

The funny thing is, Dalrymple didn’t even cite the jackassiest thing Chowdhry has said this week:

“Microsoft and Sony retail stores are much better looking than Apple Stores, which at many locations look dated and small. Further, the new Palo Alto Apple store has no restrooms for customers anymore.”

Tweet of the Day 

Be sure to check Ralph Gilles’s profile to see who he is. (Via Cabel Sasser.)

UK Court Orders Apple to Re-Write ‘Inaccurate’ Samsung Statement 

BBC News:

Samsung complained that the notice posted by Apple was “inaccurate and misleading” because it added comments about other rulings in Germany and the US that had gone in the iPad-maker’s favour.

“This has received enormous publicity and has perpetuated confusion as to Samsung’s entitlement to market the Galaxy tablet computers in issue,” a Samsung lawyer said in a written statement to judges.

“It has created the impression that the UK court is out of step with other courts.”

Of course, the UK court is out of step with other courts.

It’s Global Warming, Stupid 

Speaking of Hurricane Sandy, I like this analogy:

On Oct. 29, Foley thumbed thusly: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.” Eric Pooley, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund (and former deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek), offers a baseball analogy: “We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.”

Letterpress T-Shirt From United Pixelworkers and Loren Brichter 

Proceeds are going to Hurricane Sandy relief.