Linked List: November 2013

Black Friday Shopping Numbers for iOS and Android 

Jay Yarow, summarizing Black Friday e-commerce numbers from IBM and Adobe, both showing iOS with an overwhelming lead over Android;

However, this is still a jaw-dropping gap in usage between the two platforms. It suggests that the focus on smartphone market share misses a bigger picture about how the platforms are actually used.

No shit.

Reverse Engineering Vermeer’s Secret Tool 

Kurt Andersen, writing for Vanity Fair:

David Hockney and others have speculated — controversially — that a camera obscura could have helped the Dutch painter Vermeer achieve his photo-realistic effects in the 1600s. But no one understood exactly how such a device might actually have been used to paint masterpieces. An inventor in Texas — the subject of a new documentary by the magicians Penn & Teller — may have solved the riddle.

Bond 50: The Complete 23 Film Collection With Skyfall 

On sale today only at Amazon: all 23 EON Bond movies on Blu-Ray, for just $100.

Update: 14 Kindle editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, $2 a pop.

China, and the Soaring Price of Bitcoin 

Tyler Cowen, writing at Marginal Revolution:

Right now, you can think of the value of Bitcoin being set in the same way that the value of an export license might be set through bids. If/when China fully liberalizes capital flows, the value of Bitcoin likely will fall. A lot. To the extent the shadow market value of the yuan rises, and approaches the level of the current quasi-peg, the value of Bitcoin will fall, by how much is not clear. Or maybe getting money out through Hong Kong (or Shanghai) will become easier and again the value of Bitcoin would fall. If Beijing shuts down BTC China, the main broker, which by the way accounts for about 1/3 of all Bitcoin transactions in the world, the value of Bitcoin very likely will fall. A lot. You will recall that the Chinese government shut down the virtual currency QQ in 2009; admittedly stopping Bitcoin could prove harder but still they could thwart or limit it.

(Via Scott Simpson.)

Report: iPhone 5S and 5C Made Up 76 Percent of New Smartphone Sales in Japan This October 

Sounds like the recent Apple/NTT Docomo partnership is working out.

Sentence of the Day 

IT Pro:

However, it’s not all bad news for Apple, added Coulling, because it’s one of the few firms making money out of the booming tablet market at the moment.

What percentage of all tablet profits is Apple making “at the moment”? Do tell.

‘No Taxes Paid… Just a Golden Color’ 

Vaclav Smil, in an interview with Clive Thompson for Wired:

Apple! Boy, what a story. No taxes paid, everything made abroad — yet everyone worships them. This new iPhone, there’s nothing new in it. Just a golden color. What the hell, right? When people start playing with color, you know they’re played out.

I don’t know what’s more ridiculous: the idea that Apple pays “no taxes”, or that the only thing new in the iPhone 5S is the gold color option. Combined, they put Smil on my “pay no mind” list.

Update: And why didn’t Clive Thompson challenge Smil on these points? They’re blatantly false, but stand unchallenged in the article text. What about the editors at Wired?

‘Checkin’ Out Butts With Siri’ 

This week on my podcast, The Talk Show: special guest John Moltz joins yours truly to discuss TextExpander and changes to iOS 7, Buttsgate, Microsoft’s “Scroogled” campaign, and Apple’s R&D spending.

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Elementary OS 

Love the subhead on this Wired piece: “It may look like Apple’s Mac OS X, but it’s not.”

It looks like Mac OS X if someone designed it based on verbal descriptions of OS X, circa Leopard, shouted over a bad cell phone connection, and translated through different languages a few times.

Goldieblox and the Three MCs 

Great piece on the complexity and murkiness of copyright law by Andy Baio.

FDA Orders 23andMe to Halt Sales of DNA Tests 

Anna Edney, reporting for Bloomberg:

23andMe Inc., the Google Inc.-backed DNA analysis company co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, was told by U.S. regulators to halt sales of its main product because it’s being sold without “marketing clearance or approval.” [...]

Wojcicki, who recently separated from her husband, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, started 23andMe about six years ago to help people assess their risk of cancer, heart disease and other medical conditions.

I feel obligated to point out that 23andMe sponsored my podcast, The Talk Show, back in July this year.

‘And if We Ask You to Leave, for God’s Sake, Don’t Start Yelling About Your “Rights”. Just Shut Up and Get Out Before You Make Things Worse.’ 

Another restaurant makes a glasshole policy.

Where Americans Buy Cell Phones 

Ina Fried:

The carrier stores are still the dominant place for Americans to get their new cellphones, but two other retailers — Apple and Best Buy — have emerged as significant channels.

Apple, of course, sells only iPhones, but accounts for about 11 percent of retail phone sales, according to a survey from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. Best Buy, which sells phones from all major carriers and all the big operating systems, accounts for 13 percent of sales.

Now It’s a ‘Smartwatch Bandwagon’ 

Juro Osawa, writing for the WSJ:

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Monday, Mr. Lv said that ZTE’s smartwatch will offer technological features that are similar to existing products such as the Galaxy Gear, but will sell for lower prices as it tries to appeal to China’s cost-conscious consumers. “We are focusing on the mainstream market,” he said.

Could just be me, but somehow, “like the Galaxy Gear but cheaper” does not strike me as a winning strategy.

29 Dumb Things Finance People Say 

Numbers 3 and 4 should be front and center every time Apple announces results.

Yahoo Mail and Dogfooding 

Sam Biddle has a company-wide email from Yahoo executives encouraging all employees to use Yahoo Mail for their work email (currently only 25 percent do). Biddle writes:

Somehow, I have a feeling Google doesn’t have to resort to these tactics to get people to use Gmail.

Or Apple with Apple Mail. The onus is on the Yahoo Mail team to make a product Yahoo employees want to use, not on Yahoo employees to use a turd webmail product and somehow magically improve it through collective complaints. If your employees are only using your own products or services because they have to, or feel obligated to out of some sort of loyalty, you’re losing.

Think back to those stories about Bill Gates’s and Steve Ballmer’s kids not being allowed to own iPods. The problem wasn’t with their kids. The problem was with the Zunes or the even worse “Plays For Sure” era Windows Media devices. If those devices were actually any good, their kids wouldn’t have asked for iPods, and they wouldn’t have had to make any silly rules. I somehow doubt Phil Schiller’s kids are forbidden from buying Samsung phones or tablets.

James Bond Movie Posters by Alain Bossuyt 

Very cool style; works especially well for the Connery era films.

Eric Schmidt’s Guide to Converting to Android From iPhone 

Eric Schmidt:

Many of my iPhone friends are converting to Android. The latest high-end phones from Samsung (Galaxy S4), Motorola (Verizon Droid Ultra) and the Nexus 5 (for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) have better screens, are faster, and have a much more intuitive interface. They are a great Christmas present to an iPhone user!

The “better screens” and “more intuitive interface” are obviously subjective, but isn’t “faster” just plain false? Just about every benchmark I’ve seen puts the A7 atop the performance charts, often by far.

Also interesting: Schmidt brags that Android has 80 percent market share, but then compares switching from iPhone-to-Android to Windows-to-Mac. If there’s a Windows of mobile computing, it’s Android.

Anyway, the whole thing is kind of weird. (Two spaces after periods? Shouldn’t Google Plus fix that bad habit automatically?)

Apple Confirms Acquisition of 3D Sensor Startup PrimeSense 


Apple has completed its acquisition of PrimeSense, the Israel-based company focused on 3-D sensor technology, for a price sources said was around $360 million. [...]

PrimeSense became widely known in the sensor technology space for its early work with Microsoft’s Kinect gaming product, which uses cameras and depth sensors to capture players’ motions and incorporate them into Xbox gameplay. (Microsoft now deploys its own homegrown sensor technology for the current generation of Kinect devices, which ship with the recently launched Xbox One.)

Will be interesting to see what comes of this. Seems like too much money for Apple not to have something specific in mind.

iCloud: My Photo Stream and iCloud Photo Sharing Limits 

If I’m reading this right, Apple has just completely eliminated the 1000-photo, 30-day limit on Photo Stream. Sounds like a huge upgrade to the service.

Update: Sounds like no, you can upload far more than 1000 photos per month, but the “long-term” storage limits remain the same. I should have known better; last I heard, significant improvements to Photo Stream were slated as a 2014 thing, not a 2013 thing. This should not be confusing at all; but instead, it’s confusing as hell.


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New this week: two great new apps for iOS, Squarespace Blog and Squarespace Metrics. The blogging app even includes great support for Markdown, and is a great way to update your site from your iPhone or iPad.

CNet: ‘Heads Up Apple, Here Comes 64-Bit Android on Intel’ 

Just me, or is this headline backwards? Wasn’t it Android and Intel that needed a “heads up” a few months ago regarding 64-bit mobile computing? This thing is nothing more than a 64-bit tablet concept.

Inside the Apple Store: ‘It’s a Trap’ 

Great column by J.K. Appleseed, the pseudonymous Apple Store employee now writing for McSweeney’s (including the best take I’ve seen regarding Catherine Rampell’s asinine “Why Apple Wants to Bust Your iPhone” piece in the NYT).

Android 4.4 Ships Without a Web Browser 

OEMs can either license Chrome, or build their own browser. Open!

iWork for iOS and Mac Updated, Keynote Gains New Transitions 

I like Darby Lines’s take:

I kind of hope that the small, fast application updates that we’re now seeing from Apple is the start of a new trend.

‘One Million Times Faster’ 

Interesting postscript regarding The Schedule Makers, the lovely short film I linked to last week about the Stephensons, the husband-and-wife team who’d made the Major League Baseball schedule for 25 years — a blog post from Michael Trick, whose computer-driven team replaced them:

I began working on baseball scheduling in 1994, and it took ten years of hard work (first Doug and me, then the four of us) before MLB selected our schedule for play.

Why were we successful in 2004 and not in 1994? At the core, technology changed. The computers we used in 2004 were 1000 times faster than the 1994 computers. And the underlying optimization software was at least 1000 times faster. So technology made us at least one million times faster. And that made all the difference. Since then, computers and algorithms have made us 1000 times faster still. And, in addition, we learned quite a bit about how to best do complicated sports scheduling problems.

Clumsy Ninja Finally Hits App Store 

Phil Dzikiy, writing for iLounge:

Clumsy Ninja, which was featured in last year’s Apple media event for the fifth-generation iPod touch and iPhone 5, has finally made its way to the App Store as a free download. One of two high-profile game demos from Apple last year — the other being Infinity Blade Dungeons, which was shown at the third-generation iPad event in March 2012 and later canceled — Clumsy Ninja’s release was delayed for more than a year without explanation.

If you scored an onstage demo at the September 2012 introduction of the iPhone 5 and don’t ship the app for another 14 months, I think you deserve a non-sarcastic finally.

I think one of the few truly weird things about Apple today is how they occasionally pick obscure third-party products to demo in their high-profile events. Clumsy Ninja looks like a cool game, but why would Apple choose them to demo if it wasn’t soon going to ship. And remember Anki, the toy race cars at the WWDC keynote this year? How’d they get picked?

Update: Whoa, check this out — Clumsy Ninja’s entry in the App Store has a video preview instead of static screenshots. So not only did they get an onstage demo a year ago, this year, they get to launch a major new App Store feature. (Thanks to Neven Mrgan.)

Update 2: In a recent TV interview with Bloomberg, Anki co-founder and CEO Boris Sofman, when asked how they got picked to be on stage during the WWDC keynote, said “One of our investors introduced us to Apple, and originally we started talking about being in their stores, but they got excited about the product and how we were using their product ecosystem.”

18 Months 

Denise Calnan, reporting for

The ‘book to e-book’ move was deemed a disaster following major technical issues with the majority of the HP Elite Pad tablet devices. [...]

“The HP Elite Pad has proved to be an unmitigated disaster. We have met with HP representatives on a number of occasions to address the issues. To ensure stability and continuity of education I have ordered a full set of books for all the students.”

Students experienced problems such as tablets failing to switch on, tablets spontaneously going into sleep mode, devices looping while performing automatic repairs, system board failures and issues with wi-fi.

Principal Gleeson said it was “an informed decision” to choose the HP Elite tablet. “A year and a half’s worth of research was put into choosing the right device for us.”

If you spend a year and a half researching tablets and wind up choosing the HP Elite, you might want to reexamine your research skills. (I’m reminded of CBS News’s claim that they spent a year researching their discredited Benghazi report that was in fact a hoax.)

Jury Orders Samsung to Pay Apple $290 Million for Patent Infringement 

Not sure if this litigation is ever going to end.

Samsung Executive Defends Galaxy Gear as a ‘Small Green Tomato’ 

Samsung executive David Eun, on stage at Business Insider’s Ignition conference:

“What we’re dealing with is small green tomatoes,” he said of the Gear’s first-generation growing pains. “And what we want to do is take care of them and work with them so they become big, red ripe tomatoes. And what you want to be sure of is that you don’t pluck the green tomato too early and you want to make sure that you don’t criticize a small green tomato for not being a big, red ripe tomato.”

That’s a tough spot, speaking on stage in front of an audience. What’s he going to say? That the Gear is a huge turd? He has to defend it.

But, calling it a 1.0 doesn’t hold water. If you’re taking real money from consumers for the product — and the Gear costs $300 — you owe them a product of that value or greater. There are no points for being first to market with a bad product.

Galaxy Gear Rumored Sales Figures: El Stinko 

Business Korea:

According to the related industry sources on November 14, Samsung Electronics released the curved smartphone Galaxy Round on November 10, but the product currently shows daily sales of under 100 units. Its cumulative monthly sales fall under 10,000 units.

Also, on September 25, Samsung Electronics released the Galaxy Gear in time for the wearable computing generation. Yet this product has cumulative sales under 50,000, with daily sales of only 800-900 units. These low sales values for the Galaxy Gear are far below the initial expectations of the industry.

Sounds about right, given the almost universally terrible reviews the Gear garnered.

A day after the Business Korea report — which admittedly has no named sources — Samsung executives fired back, telling Reuters they’ve “sold” 800,000 Gear units, calling it “the most sold wearable watch available in the market place”. (As opposed to unwearable watches?) Anyway, turns out this is from the Department of Shipped Not Sold — the 800K figure is the number of Gear units Samsung has manufactured and shipped to resellers. That doesn’t put the lie to Business Korea’s claim that they may have only actually sold 50K of them so far.

VoodooPad Changes Hands 

Gus Mueller:

The great folks over at Plausible Labs have taken over development of VoodooPad.

Both VoodooPad and Acorn have grown over the years into much more than I can handle as a single developer. And because of this one of my two apps was going to be neglected, and obviously VoodooPad has gotten the short end of the stick lately.

This isn’t fair to my customers, it isn’t fair to VoodooPad, and it was driving me insane. I use VoodooPad every single day, and I love it to death. I want it to grow, and that wasn’t happening so something needed to be done.

Good news for a great app.

Trent Reznor FaceTimes With Ill Friend Live on Stage 

I would not have pegged Trent Reznor as a white iPhone man.

Update: Great piece from Consequence of Sound on the poignant story behind this friendship.

Microsoft’s ‘Scroogled’ Store 

This whole thing makes Microsoft look bad, not Google.

Who would actually buy any of this stuff?

Update: A few readers report that this “Scroogled” cack is actually popular with... Google employees. And the coffee mug is sold out.

Our Long National Buttsgate Nightmare Is Over 

We can all thank John Moltz for fixing Siri.

Apple Releases Store App for iPad 

Nice rundown of the interface and features by Matthew Panzarino.

Most interesting to me is that the entire UI is set in Myriad, Apple’s branding typeface, rather than Helvetica Neue, the iOS system typeface. This is the first time (to my knowledge) Apple has shipped an app with an embedded version of Myriad — even the iPhone version of the Apple Store app is set in Helvetica (with the exception of Myriad rendered in promotional images). Makes me wonder if Apple will soon unveil a version of their website using Myriad as a webfont. (As with the iPhone Apple Store app, the Myriad you see on Apple’s website is all rendered in images.)

WordPress Adds Built-In Support for Markdown 


Bob Dylan Finally Releases Music Video for ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ 

Everyone is linking to this today, but if you haven’t played with it yet, do it. It’s amazing.

9to5 Mac: ‘Apple Finally Updates Find My Friends for iOS 7’ 

At this point, I’m not even sure when these finallys are jokes or not.

FiftyThree’s Pencil Stylus 

Sweet take on a stylus, integrated with some smart features in their Paper app.

Google Fined $17 Million in Multistate Settlement Over Tracking of Consumers 


Google Inc will pay $17 million to settle allegations by 37 states and the District of Colombia that it secretly tracked Web users by placing special digital files on the Web browsers of their smartphones.

The deal, announced Monday morning, ends a nearly two-year probe by the states into allegations that Google bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple Inc’s Safari Web browser by placing “cookies” into the browser. [...] The Safari Web browser used on iPhones and iPads automatically blocks third-party cookies, but Google altered the computer code of its cookies and was able to circumvent the blocks between June 2011 and February 2012, according to the states’ allegations.

A $17 million fine will really teach Google a lesson. It takes them almost two hours to generate that in revenue.

Apple’s Clean Energy Infrastructure in North Carolina 

Katie Fehrenbacher:

In an unprecedented move — and one that hasn’t yet been repeated by other companies — Apple spent millions of dollars building two massive solar panel farms and a large fuel cell farm near its data center. These projects and are now fully operational and similar facilities (owned by utilities) have cost in a range of $150 million to $200 million to build. Apple’s are the largest privately-owned clean energy facilities in the U.S. and more importantly, they represent an entirely new way for an internet company to source and think about power.

The photos really show the scale of this endeavor.

Football as Football 

NFL team logos reimagined as European football club badges.

Scientists Invent Self-Healing Battery Electrode 

Could be a huge advance in battery durability.

‘I Wouldn’t Compete With “The Elements of Style”; I Would Complement It.’ 

Also related to this week’s The Talk Show, a re-link from 2009: William Zinsser on keeping On Writing Well up-to-date. It’s my (and Merlin’s) favorite book on writing.

Touch ID and ‘Require Passcode: Immediately’ 

Dan Stillman:

For people used to the iOS passcode lock, the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S, which Apple calls Touch ID, comes with a significant drawback: with Touch ID enabled, it’s no longer possible to set the amount of time since the screen last turned off before the passcode — or, now, Touch ID — is required to unlock the device.

I like his proposal for how Apple could improve this:

So what’s the solution, then? The Require Passcode setting should be separated from Touch ID. The previous timed options should be restored, but, true to the setting’s name, the timer should determine solely whether the passcode keypad appears or whether the phone unlocks immediately when the user slides to unlock. Touch ID, meanwhile, should remain operative on the lock screen at all times, even when sliding to unlock would be sufficient.

(Via Michael Tsai.)

The Great Discontent: Merlin Mann 

Speaking of Merlin Mann, Tina Essmaker has an interview with him at The Great Discontent. Very thoughtful, very funny.


This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring very special guest Merlin Mann. We discuss presentation slides, the new iPads, the making of the Major League Baseball schedule, and Malcolm Gladwell.

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Anand Lal Shimpi Reviews the Retina iPad Mini 

Effusive review overall, but he does spot one additional area where the new Mini offers less than the iPad Air:

The iPad mini with Retina Display has the same color gamut as the standard iPad mini, which is narrower than the iPad Air and less than the sRGB coverage we normally look for. The biggest issue here is that there are other smaller tablets in this price range that do offer sRGB coverage (e.g. Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HDX 8.9).

Why Did Snapchat Turn Down Three Billion Dollars? 

Matt Buchanan, writing for The New Yorker:

The question, then, is less why Snapchat is able to turn down three billion dollars than why and how attention has come to be so valuable, and if it will continue to be.

Doxie Flip and Doxie Go 

My thanks to Doxie for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their terrific mobile scanners.

  • The just launched Doxie Flip reimagines the flatbed scanner. It’s cordless, battery powered, and just about the size of a book. Doxie Flip uniquely flips over to perfectly capture photos, sketches, notes, books, creative ideas, and Field Notes brand pocket notebooks.

  • Doxie Go is the tiny, rechargeable paper scanner that scans anywhere, with no computer required, then syncs directly to your Mac. Create searchable PDFs with a click. It’s the perfect way to go paperless, with great Mac software to boot.

They’re both great products. I’ve had a Doxie Go for over a year and it works exactly as advertised. I love hardware products from small indie companies, and Doxie is one of my favorite examples.

Steve Ballmer on His Retirement as Microsoft CEO 

Monica Langley, writing for the WSJ:

Microsoft lagged behind Apple Inc. and Google Inc. in important consumer markets, despite its formidable software revenue. Mr. Ballmer tried to spell out his plan to remake Microsoft, but a director cut him off, telling him he was moving too slowly.

“Hey, dude, let’s get on with it,” lead director John Thompson says he told him. “We’re in suspended animation.” Mr. Ballmer says he replied that he could move faster.

Apple and Samsung Combine to Take 109 Percent of Handset Industry Profits 

Neil Hughes, writing for AppleInsider:

The latest data from Canaccord Genuity, shared with AppleInsider by analyst T. Michael Walkley on Thursday, estimates that Apple took 56 percent of the operating profits for feature phones and smartphones in the third quarter of calendar 2013. Coming in close second was Samsung, which took 53 percent of industry profits.

In contrast, all of the competition lost money, with the exception of Sony, which broke even during the quarter.

‘Jony Makes Some of His Greatest Decisions While Having a Drink’ 

Paul Goldberger, writing for Vanity Fair, on Jony Ive and Marc Newson’s collaboration for Product Red:

In 2007, at Larry Gagosian’s town house, following the opening of the Newson show, Bono spoke to Newson about the possibility of doing something for Product (Red). Bono has also known Ive for years. They met through Steve Jobs, whom Bono had approached back in 2004 when the iPod was new, offering his band, U2, for an iPod commercial. Part of the deal included a special-edition iPod that Bono had requested, manufactured in black with a red dial. (At the time, iPods came only in white.) When the deal seemed like it might founder, Ive was dispatched in person to take the prototype black-red iPod to Bono at his home in Dublin. The two men went drinking in a pub and sorted out the remaining issues in the deal. “Jony makes some of his greatest decisions while having a drink,” Bono said to me over the phone, speaking from his home in France.

30 for 30 Shorts: The Schedule Makers 

Lovely 12-minute short film from ESPN on The Stephensons — a husband and wife team who for 25 years created the entire Major League Baseball schedule.

iBooks Updated With iOS 7 Design 


(I’m not surprised, but it’s interesting that they kept the page-curl animations.)

The Family Tree of Bourbon Whiskey 

“The complicated kissing cousins of the bluegrass state’s bourbon industry.”

Google BBS Terminal 

Speaking of links gleaned via Coudal (this one from Michele Seiler), here’s what Google would have looked like in the ’80s.

On the Perfect Size for a Pizza 

Speaking of pizza, here’s a brief paper by Eugenia Cheng of University of Sheffield:

We investigate the mathematical relationship between the size of a pizza and its ratio of topping to base in a median bite. We show that for a given recipe, it is not only the overall thickness of the pizza that is is affected by its size, but also this topping-to-base ratio.

(Via Jim Coudal.)

‘When I Look at Your Deep Dish Fucking Pizza, I Don’t Know Whether to Eat It or Throw a Coin in It and Make a Wish. And if I Made a Wish, It Would Be That I’d Wish for Some Real Fucking Pizza.’ 

Jon Stewart on Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

Microsoft Axes Its Controversial Stack-Ranking HR System 

Good move by Microsoft; this system was just poisonous. But it’s a curious decision to be made while the company’s senior leadership is in flux. And the sign-off on the company-wide memo from HR chief Lisa Brummel struck me as a little cultish:

There is nothing we cannot accomplish when we work together as One Microsoft.

Polygon’s PlayStation 4 Review 

Well-written, well-considered, and splendidly designed review of Sony’s new console. Dig those animated vector illustrations.

Why Apple Released the Retina iPad Mini Softly 

Ed Dale:

By soft releasing the iPad Mini Retina, Apple achieved three crucial things.

  • Apple’s biggest fans got theirs first. Who knew about this first? The people who follow the Apple blogs and digerati. Judging by Twitter, this worked perfectly.

  • The grey market queueing for the iPad Mini Retina was going to be immense. By going online the incredibly poor optics (the front of Apple lines, which attracts a lot of media, was full of people who were not fans but paid to be there) are mitigated.

  • The last thing Apple wants is hundreds of customers turning up everyday to be disappointed in a store which is meant to be a happy place — Apple does not want their stores to be associated with disappointment and frustration!

Bingo. It sucks that the new retina iPad Mini is severely supply-constrained, but given that it is constrained, the best way to put it on sale is quietly. They’re going to sell them as fast as they can make them for the foreseeable future, no use queueing people up to be disappointed.

WSJ Reports That Snapchat Rejected $3 Billion Buyout Offer From Facebook 


Mobile messaging startup Snapchat rejected an acquisition offer from Facebook Inc that would have valued the company at $3 billion or more, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday.

Facebook representatives reached out to Snapchat in recent weeks to discuss the all-cash deal, which would have been Facebook’s largest acquisition ever, the report said, citing anonymous sources.

It wasn’t too long ago that Facebook was on the other side of such a decision.

Overheating Chargers Lead to HP Chromebook Being Pulled From Market 

If a Chromebook gets pulled from the market, but no one was buying them anyway, does it make a sound?

Verizon Admits Network Faces Traffic Pressure in Big Cities 

Roger Cheng, reporting for CNet:

The carrier said it is facing pressure to deliver increased amounts of bandwidth in big cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. In a rare admission on Tuesday, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo admitted the rapid growth in traffic was starting to hamper the quality of the service.

“There are certain pockets where we’re absolutely going to experience that down tick from the LTE network down to 3G because of capacity constraints,” Shammo said during an investor conference.

I was in New York yesterday, and saw this firsthand. Verizon LTE has gone to shit in Midtown Manhattan.

Update: On Twitter, reader Rory Berger reports, “I work in Midtown East and I turn off LTE all day. Verizon 3G is much more reliable (although still shit).”

And Carl Peluso asks an intriguing question: “Is Verizon finally feeling the pressure of iPhone on their network like AT&T in past, or is that [an] invalid issue nowadays?”

Put another way: How much of the pressure on Verizon’s LTE network in these big cities is from the iPhone in particular?

Twitter Introduces Custom Timelines, Including Developer API 

Like Storify, built right into Twitter itself.

Retina iPad Mini Now Available for Purchase From Apple’s Online Store 

Sort of a strange rollout, but here it is.

One More Gem From the Bloomberg iPhone Claim Chowder File 

Argin Chang, writing for Bloomberg back on July 17 of this year:

Apple Inc. may delay the introduction of the iPhone 5S until the end of the year after the design was changed to feature a bigger 4.3-inch retina display screen, the Commercial Times reported.

It’s based on a Commercial Times report, but it was Bloomberg’s decision to pass it along, despite the fact that the 5S going to a 4.3-inch screen made no sense whatsoever, and that Apple making design changes like this in July for a product slated for October defies belief.

Apple can do things like removing a camera at the last minute; the size of a display, on the other hand, is decided over a year in advance.

‘People Who Have Been Briefed on the Plans’ 

Another gem from the Bloomberg iPhone claim chowder file, this one reported by Peter Burrows and Gregory Bensinger back in February 2011:

Apple has considered selling the new iPhone for about $200, without obligating users to sign a two-year service contract, said the person who has seen it. Android phones sell for a range of prices at AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and other carriers, and typically come with agreements that include a fee for broken contracts. The iPhone 4, sold in the U.S. by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, costs $200 to $300 when subsidized by a contract.

While Apple has aimed to unveil the device near mid-year, the introduction may be delayed or scrapped, the person said. Few Apple employees know the details of the project, the person said. Apple often works on products that don’t get released. The prototype was about one-third smaller than the iPhone 4, and it had no “home” button, said the person, who saw it last year.

None of this is actually wrong, technically, given the “introduction may be delayed or scrapped” dodge — but none of this came to pass. None of it.

From the Annals of Bloomberg iPhone Punditry 

Matthew Lynn, writing for Bloomberg back in January 2007:

Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it matters. The big competitors in the mobile-phone industry such as Nokia Oyj and Motorola Inc. won’t be whispering nervously into their clamshells over a new threat to their business.

The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks. In terms of its impact on the industry, the iPhone is less relevant. [...]

Likewise, who is it pitched at? The price and the e-mail features make it look like a business product. But Apple is a consumer company. Will your accounts department stump up for a fancy new handset just so you can listen to Eminem on your way to a business meeting?

Horace Dediu: The Innovator’s Curse 

I somehow missed this Horace Dediu piece from back in August (even though I linked to and commented upon his follow-up piece):

But just like Disruption Theory is beautifully illustrated through the ageless David vs. Goliath parable, The Innovator’s Curse is but a retelling of this fable:

A cottager and his wife had a Goose that laid a golden egg every day. They supposed that the Goose must contain a great lump of gold in its inside, and in order to get the gold they killed it. Having done so, they found to their surprise that the Goose differed in no respect from their other geese.

Even if the cottagers were naive enough to have faith in the replicating miracle of golden egg laying geese, wise men would quickly advise them to kill it and get the gold more quickly. The Goose is doomed no matter what.

The regularity of the goose in the parable makes its owners seem more obviously foolish. Imagine instead a goose that lays golden eggs not every day, but only every once in a while, with an unpredictable and irregular periodicity. That’s Apple.

What Google Lost When Apple Dropped It From iOS Maps 

Charles Arthur, in The Guardian:

But a year on, a total of 35m iPhone owners in the US used Apple’s maps during September 2013, according to ComScore, compared to a total of 58.7m Google Maps across the iPhone and Android.

Of those, about 6m used Google Maps on the iPhone, according to calculations by the Guardian based on figures from ComScore. That includes 2m iPhone users who have not or cannot upgrade to iOS 6, according to data from MixPanel.

Two factors:

  1. The inherent advantage of the built-in Maps app over any app that has to be downloaded from the App Store. The App Store makes downloading third-party apps easier than ever, but nothing can beat the convenience of an app pre-installed with the system.

  2. Apple Maps has gotten to the point where it’s pretty good, and it continues to get better.

WSJ: ‘Apple Finds Surprising Growth Market in Japan’ 

Why is the word “surprising” in this headline:

Sales got another boost in late September when NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest wireless carrier, began offering the iPhone for the first time to its 61.8 million customers. Even before that, the iPhone was Japan’s best-selling smartphone, with a 37% market share in the six months ended Sept. 30, according to Tokyo’s MM Research Institute. That’s comparable to the iPhone’s 36% share in the U.S. in the third quarter, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

The iPhone was already the best-selling smartphone in Japan, before it was available on the country’s largest carrier, and somehow it’s “surprising” that Japan is a growth market?

Design Project Z 

How Nissan designed the Datsun 240-Z in the mid-’60s: full-size high-quality clay models.

Update: Hand-drawn styling analysis of the 240-Z from the April 1970 issue of Road and Track. (Thanks to Joe Clark for both of these links.)

One Advantage to Concave Displays for Smartphones: Reducing Reflections 

Display expert Raymond M. Soneira:

Introducing a slightly curved cylindrically concave screen is a very important and major innovation in Smartphone display technology — very far from being a marketing gimmick as has been widely reported. The Galaxy Round screen curvature is very subtle, just 0.10 inches away from flat, which is similar to the slight curvature in a handheld magnifying mirror. But that small curvature is the key to a series of optical effects that result in significantly reducing interference from reflected ambient light by a large factor. It substantially improves screen readability, image contrast, color accuracy, and overall picture quality, but can also increase the running time on battery because the screen brightness and display power can be lowered due to the reduced light interference from ambient light reflections.

But that’s for a concave display. Bloomberg’s report regarding Apple’s supposedly forthcoming displays describes “larger displays with glass that curves downward at the edges” — downward sounds like convex, not concave. It’s possible that Bloomberg’s source is describing a design where the display is flat but the glass surface above the display tapers at the edge of the device.

‘Anti-Elop Bias’ 

On the latest episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, I’m joined by special guest Paul X. Kafasis to discuss planned obsolescence and Apple, Stephen Elop and Nokia, the Twitter IPO, and more.

Brought to you by three excellent sponsors:

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About That Bloomberg Report on Next Year’s iPhones 

Tim Culpan and Adam Satariano, reporting for Bloomberg yesterday:

Apple Inc. is developing new iPhone designs including bigger screens with curved glass and enhanced sensors that can detect different levels of pressure, said a person familiar with the plans.

Two models planned for release in the second half of next year would feature larger displays with glass that curves downward at the edges, said the person, declining to be identified because the details aren’t public. Sensors that can distinguish heavy or light touches on the screen may be incorporated into subsequent models, the person said.

With screens of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, the two new models would be Apple’s largest iPhones, the person said, and would approach in size the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 that Samsung Electronics Co. debuted in September.

I don’t understand the bit about “glass that curves downward at the edges”. Downward how? Sounds like they’re saying the display would be convex, and I can’t imagine why that would be desirable. (I don’t see the point of concave displays either.) And it also seems rather curious that Apple would introduce two new displays sizes at the same time. Apple has only introduced one new iPhone display size since 2007, but they’re going to introduce two at the same time next year? That smells fishy to me.

And whither the 4-inch display? I would like to see any report of next-generation iPhones with larger displays explain Apple’s plans for the existing 4-inch size. Would it be relegated only to the second-tier C-class model? Or would they continue to produce top-tier models at that size as well? A person familiar with Apple’s plans should be able to explain this.

Update: Another thing I’d like to know about future iOS device displays sporting new physical dimensions — the pixel counts. Will they be like the iPad Air and Mini (same pixel count, different pixels-per-inch resolution)? Or will they introduce new pixel dimensions? Again, any person familiar with Apple’s plans should be able to answer that.

On Gestures 

Tim Carmody, writing for the new publication STET:

Touchscreens typically register just points of contact: they don’t register the pressure with which the device has been touched, the angle and articulation of the hand, or velocity of movement. Interaction, Buxton says, is about both look and feel, but most multitouch systems overwhelmingly emphasize look over feel, sight over touch.

Related: Bloomberg reported over the weekend that Apple is working on pressure-sensitive touchscreens.


My thanks to Igloo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Igloo is an intranet you’ll actually like. I say “intranet” and you probably think “gross”, because most intranet software was designed in 1997 and hasn’t changed much since.

Igloo is modern and designed for easy customization. It’s completely white-label, so you can completely control the design. Igloo’s own website is itself built on the Igloo platform. They support SSO, SSL, and all sorts of other technology essential for enterprise use. And it’s easy enough to use that teams can design their own work areas through simple drag-and-drop, which means customization doesn’t have to be done by the IT department.

Best of all, it’s free for up to ten people — you can evaluate it for free before paying a nickel.

Intriguing Bloomberg Report on Stephen Elop and Microsoft 

Peter Burrows and Dina Bass, reporting for Bloomberg:

Stephen Elop, a candidate to replace Steve Ballmer as Microsoft Corp.’s chief executive officer, would consider breaking with decades of tradition by focusing the company’s strategy around making the popular Office software programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint available on a broad variety of smartphones and tablets, including those made by Apple Inc. and Google Inc., said three people with knowledge of his thinking.

Elop would probably move away from Microsoft’s strategy of using these programs to drive demand for its flagship Windows operating system on personal computers and mobile devices, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the 49-year-old executive hasn’t finalized or publicly discussed his analysis of the business. Most of Microsoft’s software has been tied to running on Windows.

Whether that’s actually a good plan for Microsoft, I don’t find all that interesting. What I do find interesting is how Bloomberg landed this story. Either (a) this is Elop’s way of tacitly leaking his “Here’s how I would run the company if I get the CEO job” plan publicly, or (b) three of Elop’s confidants have betrayed his trust. I’m going to go with (a). Not sure why he’d do that, though. If I were on Microsoft’s board, trying to decide on Ballmer’s successor, I’d look unkindly upon a candidate who leaked like this.

Also fun:

Doug Dawson, a spokesman for Nokia, declined to comment or to grant an interview with Elop.

“We appreciate Bloomberg’s foray into fiction and look forward to future episodes,” said Frank Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft.

I really do enjoy Frank Shaw.

Why an 80 Percent Market Share Might Only Represent Half of Smartphone Users 

Charles Arthur has written the best piece I’ve ever seen on the folly of putting too much stock into “market share” as a metric. Bookmark this one:

But if the market share figure is so useless, why does everyone quote it all the time?

Now we get to the key point. Because it’s easy to measure market share — much easier than measuring installed base, which requires large panels of people who you interview on a regular, repeated basis. (ComScore does this in the US, where it provides a picture of the installed base of smartphone users that is consistent back to the end of 2009. Its figures for the three months to September 2013 show a 51.8% installed base for Android — that’s 76.6m — and 40.6% for iPhone — that’s 60m. It’s not 80% Android; not even close.)

Plus “market share” gives journalists who like nothing better than a metaphorical horse race (look at the preponderance of polls, especially in the US presidential election) something to write about. Trouble is, it doesn’t necessarily give us useful information.

Felix Salmon: ‘How Money Can Buy Happiness, Wine Edition’ 

Felix Salmon:

I, for instance, am absolutely convinced, on an intellectual level, that the whole concept of “super-premium vodka” is basically one big marketing con. Vodka doesn’t taste of anything: that’s the whole point of it. As such the distinction between a super-premium vodka and a premium vodka is entirely one of price and branding. And yet, it works! The genius of Grey Goose was that it created a whole new category above what always used to be the high end of the vodka market — and in doing so, managed to create genuine happiness among vodka drinkers who spent billions of dollars buying up the super-premium branding. But if someone asks me what kind of vodka I’d like in my martini, I still care, a bit. And if I my drink ends up being made with, say, Tito’s, I’m going to savor it more than I would if I had no idea what vodka was being used.

What’s more, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on first-growth Bordeaux for this to work. You just need to spend a little bit more than you normally do — enough that you consider it to be a special bottle of wine. That’s it! When you sit down and pop it open, probably with people you love, in pleasant surroundings, everything is set for a very happy outcome.

Wait, Wasn’t Twitter Supposed to Be Dead by Now? 

An awful lot of “Twitter killers” over the years.

Apple Releases Mavericks Mail Update to Address Gmail Compatibility Issues 


Everpix and Everyone 

Khoi Vinh:

First, it’s incredibly hard to build a service that unseats an incumbent as entrenched as the iPhone’s Photos app. That is essentially what Everpix was doing with its own iOS app, which looked very much like a photo browser. Worse, what Everpix was actually competing on was superior cloud storage, putting it in the same game as iCloud, which of course is also free. So it was never immediately apparent to the average consumer why one would need Everpix if one had the Photos app and iCloud. Never mind that Everpix offered a stark advantage by backing up every photo you have while iCloud only backs up the last month or so; the distinction between the two services was fuzzy for those who barely understand cloud computing to begin with. (As an aside, I personally found iCloud and Everpix to be highly complementary, but then again I think a lot about having redundant backups.)

I hate to say this, because it’s glib and ignores numerous complexities that would ensue, but: I wish Apple had acquired Everpix.

Update: One of the glib things a simple “I wish Apple had bought them” statement glosses over is that I have zero idea whatsoever whether Everpix, which worked great for me — a terrific, reliable, fast service and great apps — would work just as well, or even at all, going from tens of thousands of users to tens of millions. Could be that Apple took a look at Everpix and deemed it unfeasible for the massive scale they would need.

Another possibility is that Apple’s executives don’t see the need for something like Everpix as a part of iCloud. That’s almost outlandish though. The utility of having your entire photo library in the cloud is so obvious, and so perfectly aligned with the entire stated purpose of iCloud, that it’s unimaginable that Apple’s leadership doesn’t see it. My hope is that it’s something Apple has a team hard at work on, and simply as yet unfinished.

‘So I Could Keep All My Shit Like Papers and Notes’ 

Erin McCarthy, writing for Mental Floss: The History of the Trapper Keeper. A seminal product from my grade school days.

Thoughts on the Google Nexus 7 From the Perspective of a Longtime iOS User 

Richard Gaywood:

During my first few days with the device, I kept some detailed notes on what I saw that I liked, as well as what I didn’t. I present these notes now for your consideration. I’m not going to pretend that this is any sort of a review; I don’t use enough different tablets to be a capable judge. It’s just my personal take after a few days of intensive use, from the perspective of a long-term iOS loyalist.

Thoughtful piece.

The Knock Against Snowfalling 

David Sleight, writing in A List Apart, on “Snow Fall“-style experiments in web design:

As overdue experiments in art direction and editorial design for the web, these things are important. They’re also polarizing. People either love ’em or hate ’em (or hate on them, anyway). So more than a year after it joined the common news parlance, the question remains: is “snowfalling” worth it?

The biggest knock against “Snow Fall”–style pieces is that they seem to take a lot of time and effort to produce. Now, last time I checked, plenty of things worth doing take time and effort. But let’s give this argument its due. These stories can take a lot of time and effort to produce — at first. The more attempts, the better and more robust the tools become and the smarter organizations get about building them efficiently.

To me, the biggest knock against “Snow Fall”-style designs is that they make the article harder to read. I didn’t actually read much of “Snow Fall”. I spent a lot of time on the page and was certainly impressed by the design, but as a reader I felt lost.

I’m in complete agreement with Sleight that experiments like “Snow Fall” are important. I’d rather see failed experiments than no experiments. But I think it’s essential to keep in mind that the primary purpose of any story design is for it to be read.

Andy Ihnatko Reviews the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 

Andy Ihnatko:

But the best features of the HDX are the ones that make it a Kindle. No other tablet — the iPad included — is so keenly tuned to the needs of content consumption.

Steven Soderbergh’s Paean to ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ 

Steven Soderbergh:

So what’s wrong with it? George Lazenby, but not for the reasons you might think. I actually like him — a lot — and think he could have made a terrific Bond had he continued (allegedly he decided before the shoot was over he would only play the part once). What seems obvious to me, though, is no one was helping him during the shoot or the edit (they won’t even let him finish a fucking sentence onscreen). It feels like everyone was so focused on what he wasn’t (Sean Connery) that they didn’t take the time to figure out what he was (a cool-looking dude with genuine presence and great physicality). For instance, they should have known that a lot of the one-liners that would have worked with Connery don’t work with Lazenby. This isn’t because he’s bad, it’s because his entire affect is different, less glib. This, to me, is a lack of sensitivity and understanding on the part of the filmmakers and not a shortcoming of the lead actor, because Lazenby has one thing you can’t fake, which is a certain kind of gravitas.

Makes me want to watch it again. Also makes me want to see a Soderbergh-directed Bond movie.

Burger King Commercial Admitting They Rip McDonald’s Off 

After yesterday’s piece on Burger King’s “Big King” ripoff of the Big Mac, a few readers pointed me to this 2010 Burger King Commercial. The honesty is refreshing. (How long until Samsung starts running ads like this?)

Also: McDonald’s Big Mac is itself copied from Bob’s Big Boy sandwich.

About the New iWork for Mac: Features and Compatibility 

New Apple support document:

In rewriting these applications, some features from iWork ’09 were not available for the initial release. We plan to reintroduce some of these features in the next few releases and will continue to add brand new features on an ongoing basis.

They go on to list “features in upcoming releases in the next 6 months”.

I’m reminded of this short piece I wrote back in 2011.

Update: I’m also reminded of this piece, just three days ago:

I wouldn’t hold my breath, though, waiting for Apple to explain its plans for restoring lost features to the iWork apps.

Happy to be wrong on that one.

Football Great Tony Dorsett Diagnosed With Signs of Brain-Damaging Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy 

Really sad story about one of my boyhood idols. Getting hard to enjoy football knowing what the players are doing to themselves.

Analyst Claims Microsoft Earns $2 Billion Per Year From Android Patent Royalties 

Jay Yarow, writing for Business Insider:

Microsoft is generating $2 billion per year in revenue from Android patent royalties, says Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund in a new note on the company. He estimates that the Android revenue has a 95% margin, so it’s pretty much all profit. [...]

Sherlund says that if you back out the Android profits, Microsoft is probably losing $2.5 billion on Skype, Xbox, and Windows Phone. Of that, $2 billion in losses are attributable to the Xbox platform.

Take all of this with the usual grain of salt for anything attributed to an analyst, but if it’s all true, it’s rather stunning — both in terms of how much money Microsoft is making on Android’s back, and in terms of Xbox being a sinkhole. (If it’s true that Xbox is losing billions of dollars per year, it certainly puts Sony’s and Nintendo’s console struggles in a different light. It’s hard to compete against a rival that is willing to lose billions year after year after year.)

‘Fuck These Guys’ 

Mike Hearn:

Recently Brandon Downey, a colleague of mine on the Google security team, said (after the usual disclaimers about being personal opinions and not speaking for the firm which I repeat here) - “fuck these guys”:

I now join him in issuing a giant Fuck You to the people who made these slides. I am not American, I am a Brit, but it’s no different - GCHQ turns out to be even worse than the NSA. [...]

Thank you Edward Snowden. For me personally, this is the most interesting revelation all summer.

Burger King Rips Off McDonald’s Big Mac With Lookalike ‘Big King’ 

Just shameless. For chrissake even the name is a rip-off. If they wanted to do something interesting, they should have tried ripping off the superior quality of a chain like Five Guys or In-N-Out. (Via Farhad Manjoo.)

‘The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders’ 

Alex Buono on the making of a very funny SNL short film. Great story.

Apple: ‘Report on Government Information Requests’ (PDF) 

Interesting information, and glad to see Apple publishing it. Looks like they reject many requests for customer information.

This bit jumped out to me on the first page:

Perhaps most important, our business does not depend on collecting personal data. We have no interest in amassing personal information about our customers. We protect personal conversations by providing end-to-end encryption over iMessage and FaceTime. We do not store location data, Maps searches, or Siri requests in any identifiable form.

Also interesting: the U.S. government only permits Apple to report account-based requests in increments of 1000. Update: And here’s Apple’s amicus brief with the U.S. FISA court, arguing to allow the disclosure of the exact aggregate number of national security requests. A rare dispute these days where Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all on the same side.

Update 2: Another interesting nugget: “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.” The ACLU has a good rundown on the odious nature of Section 215. If Apple had been served with an order under Section 215, they would not be permitted even to say that they’d received it. So the clever bit here is that if such a statement (that Apple has not received any orders under Section 215) does not appear in a future version of this report from the company, we can assume that they have been served with such an order.

Actors Recast in Different Roles in James Bond Movies 

I knew about a few of these (Anthony Dawson, Charles Gray, Maud Adams, Joe Don Baker), but most were news to me.

‘Out of the Picture: Why the World’s Best Photo Startup Is Going Out of Business’ 

Splendid narrative journalism by Casey Newton for The Verge:

The immediate concern in the room was a forthcoming bill from Amazon Web Services, which hosts the 400 million photos stored with Everpix; the team estimated the bill would be about $35,000. “Our AWS bill is going to be due on the third. We’re not going to be able to pay,” said Pierre-Olivier Latour, who had the idea for Everpix four years ago after a vacation left him struggling to organize the hundreds of photos he took on the trip. Behind him, a poster advertised San Francisco’s minimum wage of $10.55 an hour, which he had been paying his employees for the past month. “Amazon is going to reach out to us saying, ‘Your card doesn’t work.’” He paused. “So that’s going to be fun.”

In two short years, Everpix has gone from a dream shared by two French graphics experts to one of the world’s best solutions for managing a large library of photos. It attracted 55,000 users and earned enough each month to cover the cost of the service, if not employees’ salaries.

Everpix Shutting Down 


It is with a heavy heart we announce that Everpix will be shutting down in the coming weeks.

We started this company two years ago with the goals of solving the photo mess and designing better ways for people to enjoy their memories. We are very proud of the work we’ve done — from the cutting-edge semantic analysis and syncing technology, right down to every pixel on our website and mobile apps.

Everpix sponsored the DF RSS feed twice this year, which is how they first came to my attention. As soon as I tried it though, I was hooked. Everpix is how photo storage should work. Really a shame to see them close.

Back in August I linked to a great piece by Bradley Chambers, “Regular People Have No Idea How to Manage Photos on Their iPhone”, and I quoted the following:

Also, photo stream needs to be reversed. Apple should store all photos/video taken with your iPhone and just store the most recent 1000 (or 30 days) locally on the device.

That’s how Everpix worked. All of your photos, stored online.

Acer CEO Resigns Amid Slump in PC Sales 

Eric Pfanner, reporting for NYT Bits:

Acer is the fourth-largest PC maker in the world, but it has been hit hard by a decline in sales of desktop computers as more consumers and businesses turn to tablets and other devices. The company said Tuesday that its sales in the most recent quarter were 92.15 billion Taiwan dollars, down 12 percent from a year ago. It posted an after-tax loss of 13.12 billion Taiwan dollars, or $446 million, for the quarter.

The post-PC era has another victim.

Lenovo Pursued BlackBerry Bid, but Canadian Government Rejected Idea 

Steven Chase and Boyd Erman, reporting for The Globe and Mail:

Beijing-based computer manufacturer Lenovo Group Ltd. actively considered a bid for BlackBerry Ltd., but the Canadian government told the smartphone company it would not accept a Chinese takeover because of national security concerns, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Financial Times Interview With Bill Gates 

Wide-ranging interview with Gates by Richard Waters:

“Innovation is a good thing. The human condition — put aside bioterrorism and a few footnotes — is improving because of innovation,” he says. But while ­“technology’s amazing, it doesn’t get down to the people most in need in anything near the timeframe we should want it to”.

It was an argument he says he made to Thomas Friedman as The New York Times columnist was writing his 2005 book, The World is Flat, a work that came to define the almost end-of-history optimism that accompanied the entry of China and India into the global labour markets, a transition aided by the internet revolution. “Fine, go to those Bangalore Infosys centres, but just for the hell of it go three miles aside and go look at the guy living with no toilet, no running water,” Gates says now. “The world is not flat and PCs are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs.”


Gates fends off questions about Microsoft, though he says — contrary to persistent speculation — that he is not about to step back in to run it as Steve Jobs once returned to revive Apple. He also admits that the company is taking up a much bigger slice of his time than the one day a week to which he signed up after he left. As chairman and a member of the committee searching for a replacement to Steve Ballmer as chief executive, Gates says he still holds regular meetings with some of the company’s product groups and that he expects to spend considerable time working with the next boss after an appointment is made.

Apple to Open Another U.S. Factory: Sapphire Plant in Mesa, Arizona 

Jake Smith, Pocket-Lint:

“We are proud to expand our domestic manufacturing initiative with a new facility in Arizona, creating more than 2,000 jobs in engineering, manufacturing and construction,” Apple told Pocket-lint in a statement. “This new plant will make components for Apple products and it will run on 100% renewable energy from day one, as a result of the work we are doing with SRP to create green energy sources to power the facility.”

The purpose of the factory hasn’t been named specifically by Apple, though GT Advanced says it has entered “into a multi-year supply agreement with Apple Inc. to provide sapphire material.” Sapphire is used abundantly in Apple products, including the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and camera lens in the iPhone 5S. This gels nicely with the word about “components” Apple gave us.

Another possible use: sapphire displays. Sapphire is harder than Gorilla Glass, and thus more scratch resistant.

MacRumors had a piece over the summer regarding a Swiss news site’s interview with an executive from Vertu, who claimed Apple had investigated sapphire displays (and recruited Vertu employees with experience designing them):

According to Oosting, Apple ultimately shelved the sapphire project because the material is unsuitable for production in the numbers that Apple requires at the current point in time.

Could be what this factory is for.

Why Are So Many Social Media Managers Dipshits? 

Mark Copyranter Duffy:

Today, many of the social media managers at large and important companies are, by contrast, not very smart ad men. To say that they regularly underestimate their customers’ intelligence would be a great understatement. They seem to believe their customers have the brain power of a baked potato.

I’ve collected eight recent social media posts by large companies. Most of these updates are from the last month. To try to pick the abjectly stupidest one would not be easy. You can go ahead and give it a try, though.

MacKenzie Bezos’s Amazon Review of Brad Stone’s Book About Jeff Bezos and Amazon 

MacKenzie Bezos:

If this were an isolated example, it might not matter, but it’s not. Everywhere I can fact check from personal knowledge, I find way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over every episode in the book. Like two other reviewers here, Jonathan Leblang and Rick Dalzell, I have firsthand knowledge of many of the events. I worked for Jeff at D. E. Shaw, I was there when he wrote the business plan, and I worked with him and many others represented in the converted garage, the basement warehouse closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush distribution centers, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in the early years of Amazon’s history. Jeff and I have been married for 20 years.

(Via Matthew Panzarino.)

Understanding iCloud Keychain 

Jon Brodkin, writing for Ars Technica:

Unfortunately, it’s kind of a mess. iCloud Keychain does accomplish the most basic things you’d expect a password manager to do, but it often does so in an awkward manner. Important functionality is hard enough to find that it may be effectively hidden from the average user, particularly on iPhones and iPads.

Ultimately, iCloud Keychain can be put to good use if you’ve carefully examined what it does well and doesn’t do well. It works best as a complement to a complete service like 1Password or LastPass, but it just isn’t convenient and robust enough to act as a standalone password manager.

I think it’s a bit harsh to call it a “mess”, but Brodkin provides a good overview of what iCloud Keychain does. Complaining that it’s not as full-featured as 1Password is like complaining that iPhoto doesn’t do everything Lightroom or Aperture do.

‘I’d Prefer Not to Talk to Anybody About That’ 

Brian Krebs:

A hacker break in at a U.S. company that brokers reservations for limousine and Town Car services nationwide has exposed the personal and financial information on more than 850,000 well-heeled customers, including Fortune 500 CEOs, lawmakers, and A-list celebrities.

Amateur Hour Still Over 

Boyd Erman, reporting for The Globe and Mail:

BlackBerry Ltd. is abandoning a plan to find a buyer and will instead raise $1-billion of new funds and replace its chief executive and some directors, sources said.

Thorsten Heins, we hardly knew you.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere Trashes the Wireless Business Model 

Brendan Greeley and Scott Moritz, writing for Businessweek:

In October, T-Mobile announced it would offer a small amount of wireless data, free for life, to every customer who bought a tablet. “These aren’t carrier moves,” Legere told reporters. “We try to design them to be things even we can’t believe we’re doing.” The company is also taking old tablets from customers as a trade-in for a new iPad. Any old tablet will do. “We may take a bushel of corn,” Legere said. He is a midway barker, promising something marvelous if we’ll just step through the curtain.

200 MB of data isn’t much, but for people who mostly use Wi-Fi and only occasionally want cellular networking, you can’t beat “free for life”.

Tim Cook: Workplace Equality Is Good for Business 

Tim Cook, in an op-ed for the WSJ:

So long as the law remains silent on the workplace rights of gay and lesbian Americans, we as a nation are effectively consenting to discrimination against them.

Update: Here’s a link that should get around the WSJ’s paywall.

Michael Dell on Carl Icahn 

Connie Guglielmo, reporting for Forbes on Michael Dell’s successful attempt to take Dell private:

“It’s a big poker game to him,” says Dell. “It’s not about the customers. It’s not about the people. It’s not about changing the world. He doesn’t give a crap about any of that. He didn’t know whether we made nuclear power plants or French fries. He didn’t care.”

Lawrence Lessig on Apple’s Customer Communication 

Lawrence Lessig:

For example, if the problem I have confronted with using Gmail (which I describe more below) is something Apple considers a bug, then I’m willing to live with it for a while till Apple fixes it. If it isn’t a bug, but is a feature (insanely but whatever), then I will spend the time (and incredible bandwidth waste) to deal with the problem in the way the Apple volunteers suggest — either by changing the way Gmail works, or getting a new mail application.

So in a line, it is indecent for Apple to sit by silently while its customers waste thousands of hours (in the aggregate) trying to deal with the problems its “upgrades” create, when the simple act of describing what it intends to fix could save its customers those thousands of hours.

The Apple Mail/Gmail thing in particular demands some sort of explanation. From the outside, it’s not possible to determine whether this new behavior is a bug or feature. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though, waiting for Apple to explain its plans for restoring lost features to the iWork apps.

Using Mavericks Mail With Gmail Accounts 

Gmail has always been a weird service to use via IMAP, because of the way that Gmail’s message organization is designed around labels (where one message can have several labels), whereas IMAP is designed around a traditional folder/mailbox metaphor (where any given message resides in one and only one mailbox at a time). Gmail’s metaphor is superior, but IMAP is the only standard we have for email clients.

As Joe Kissel documents in this piece for TidBITS, the relationship between Apple Mail and Gmail has gotten more complicated than ever in Mavericks. I’m surprised this didn’t boil to the surface during Mavericks’s beta period.

Update 1: I am informed that Apple is aware of the problem, and has a fix for Mail already seeded to employees for testing, and they’re scrambling to ship it as soon as they can.

Update 2: See also: Kissel’s “Why (and How) I’m Saying Goodbye to Gmail” for Macworld.


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They’ve got a special offer for Daring Fireball readers: save $50 on the purchase of a Transporter at their online store using code “DF50” (valid thru 11 November 2013).

The Big Web Show 

Speaking of podcasts on Mule Radio, Dan Cederholm is on the latest episode of Jeffrey Zeldman’s The Big Web Show, to talk about his new book on the CSS pre-processor Sass and the amazing Dribbble design community.

‘A Dog Named Maverick’ 

Special guest John Siracusa joins me on this week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show. We talk about Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks and Siracusa’s as-ever epic review thereof, and I teach about Circus Atari.

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From the DF Archive: More on Google and Patents 

Yours truly, two years ago:

And yes, there are some who will argue that there are no “worthy patents”, that the entire U.S. patent system should simply be abolished. That’s not going to happen. Google’s blog post comes across as whining that Apple and Microsoft (Microsoft especially) aren’t sitting back and allowing Android to destroy their businesses. Maybe the patent system should be killed. It certainly should be reformed. But these are the laws we have. Google’s ace in this fight: search revenue. Microsoft’s ace: its patent library. You fight with what you have.

Two thoughts.

First, the dynamite in Rockstar’s suit against Google filed yesterday is that it is going after Google’s search revenue.

Second, it’s cute how even I thought, just two years ago, that Google was pursuing a mobile patents portfolio only for “defensive” purposes.

iOS 7 and the Iconography of ‘Alien’ 

Dave Brasgalla, The Iconfactory:

It makes me smile to think that 35-year-old designs can suddenly feel current and even trendy again. It’s tempting to say that Cobb was ahead of his time with his Semiotic Standard, but I think the larger point here is simply that good design is timeless.

Asymco: Advertising Budgets Over the Years for a Few Companies 

Bookmark this chart for the next time someone tries to tell you that Apple’s success is just “marketing”.

JD Power Explains Why Samsung Beat Apple in Its Latest Tablet Study: Price 

Matthew Panzarino:

So I reached out to JD Power and spoke to Kirk Parsons, senior director of telecommunications services. What he told us wasn’t too surprising, but may help clear up some of the confusion. First off, the ‘power circle’ chart that’s being widely circulated is simply a visual tool, and not representative of the actual scores given to the brands evaluated in its survey.

The power circle chart showed Apple winning handily in four categories including performance, ease of use, physical design and tablet features. Only one category showed a clear win for Samsung: cost. But most folks were a bit skeptical, considering that the JD Power report only weights cost as 16% of the overall score.


Headline from The Verge, yesterday at 2 PM: “Android 4.4 KitKat: Google’s Simpler, Integrated Operating System Designed for Every Phone”.

Headline from The Verge, yesterday at 3:30 PM: “Google Says the Galaxy Nexus Will Not Be Upgraded to Android 4.4 KitKat”.

Lucida Grande ‘Retina-Optimized’ in OS X Mavericks 

Apple, sweating the details.