Linked List: August 2014


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Paczkowski: Apple Wearable Won’t Ship Until Next Year 

John Paczkowski:

So that new wearable device Apple is introducing on September 9? It’s going to be a while before anyone is actually wearing it. Sources in position to know tell me it won’t arrive at market for a few months. “It’s not shipping anytime soon,” said one. So when does Apple plan to ship its eagerly anticipated wearable? That’s not clear, but my understanding is that we’re unlikely to see it at retail until after the holiday season — think early 2015.

If true, why? I’m guessing something similar to why they pre-announced the original iPhone — otherwise it would leak through regulatory filings with various governments around the world. Plus, they have no worries about the Osborne Effect with a new product category.

Gizmodo Is Off Apple’s Shitlist 

Brian Barrett, writing for Gizmodo:

Apple has just sent out its invitations to an event on September 9th. You can expect at least one iPhone, and possibly an iWatch as well. And hey... we’ll be there!

Some subtle changes so far in the post-Katie Cotton era. Gizmodo hasn’t been invited to an Apple event since the unpleasantness back in 2010. They’re holding the event at The Flint Center, a big venue the company hasn’t used in over a decade. And they sent the invitations out a week earlier than usual.

Paczkowski: ‘Apple Plans to Announce Wearable in September’ 

John Paczkowski, writing at Recode:

Remember back in June when I said Apple hoped to schedule a special event in October to show off a new wearable device? Remember how I also said this: “Could things change between now and fall? That’s certainly possible.” Turns out that was a prescient hedge, because things have changed. Apple now plans to unveil a new wearable alongside the two next-generation iPhones we told you the company will debut on September 9. (Funny “joke,” Gruber.) The new device will, predictably, make good use of Apple’s HealthKit health and fitness platform.

I’ve been working on a new joke — about NFC and a new secure enclave where you can store your credit cards, so you can pay for things at brick and mortar retail stores just by taking out your iPhone, but only if it’s one of the new iPhones — but no one seems to get my sense of humor.

Follow-up joke: It would be cool, and would make a lot of sense, if the new wearable thing had the same magic payment apparatus.

Amazon Is Now Aggressively Going After Google’s Core Business 

Dan Frommer:

Amazon also is aggressively building out its advertising technology portfolio. The company is “developing its own software for placing ads online that could leverage its knowledge of millions of web shoppers,” the WSJ reports (paywall). Amazon supposedly has told potential partners that it could start testing a “new placement platform, dubbed Amazon Sponsored Links” this year. Amazon also recently debuted a new service that runs banner ads on other sites, called Amazon CPM Ads. (“CPM” is ad-industry jargon for “cost per thousand” ad impressions — referring to the way that banner ads often are priced and publishers often are paid.)

Together, these services broadly sound like Google’s AdWords product, which allows advertisers to buy sponsored links on Google and other sites, and AdSense, which is Google’s ad network for publishers. And Amazon is investing in more: The company has 45 job listings for its Ad Platform team, ranging from general manager to various engineering and sales roles.

Uber’s Playbook for Sabotaging Lyft 

Casey Newton, reporting for The Verge:

But one Uber contractor The Verge spoke with said Lyft’s complaint had merit. “What’s simply untrue is that not only does Uber know about this, they’re actively encouraging these actions day-to-day and, in doing so, are flat-out lying both to their customers, the media, and their investors,” the contractor said. Until now, the canceled Lyft rides have been understood as a kind of prank call designed to keep competitors’ drivers off the road. But interviews and internal documents suggest another reason: Uber’s recruitment program has vastly increased in size and sophistication, and recruiters cancel rides in part to avoid detection by Lyft.

Great service, dirtbag tactics.

(And kudos to The Verge for the excellent investigative reporting.)

Estimating Amazon Fire Phone Sales Through Web Usage Stats 

Charles Arthur:

Amazon famously never gives sales figures for any of the devices it sells, preferring to let its financial results do the talking. Analysts can make estimates of how many devices have been sold, based on their information from sales channels and any guidance the company might give. But it’s not as definitive as, say, the smartphone sales that Apple or BlackBerry include in their financial figures. (They are now the only two companies which give specific values for device sales in their financial results; Apple goes farther by giving the revenue from those sales too.)

But we can have a stab at estimating how many Fire Phones are in use, based on data from Chitika, which runs an ad network.

According to a release from Chitika, looking at activity on its ad network in the 20 days after the Fire Phone’s release, the Fire Phone accounted for 0.02% of activity — although a more precise figure, in another graph, shows it as around 0.015%.

Slow start.


New iOS/Mac indie developer conference right here in Philadelphia, October 24-26. Great speaker lineup, including my Q Branch colleagues Dave Wiskus and Brent Simmons.

New ‘Hyperlapse’ App From Instagram 

Very cool new video time-lapse/stabilization app for iOS from Instagram. I’d never heard of “hyperlapse” until that research paper from Microsoft a few weeks ago. But while Microsoft was publishing research, Instagram was building an app that will soon be in the hands of hundreds of thousands of people.

From the profile by Cliff Kuang for Wired:

By 2013, Dimson was at Instagram. That put him back in touch with Alex Karpenko, a friend from Stanford who had sold his start-up to Instagram in 2013. Karpenko and his firm, Luma, had created the first-ever image-stabilization technology for smartphone videos. That was obviously useful to Instagram, and the company quickly deployed it to improve video capture within the app. But Dimson realized that it had far greater creative potential. Karpenko’s technology could be used to shoot videos akin to all those shots in Baraka. “It would have hurt me not to work on this,” says Dimson.

“It would have hurt me not to work on this” — that’s the sort of passion that leads to great new products.

Two Countries, Two Vastly Different Phone Bills 

Anna Bernasek, writing for the NYT, compares typical iPhone monthly bills in the U.S. (Verizon) and U.K. (Three UK):

So why the $41.50-a-month difference in price? Several factors are involved, but an important one is regulatory policy. Britain has forced companies to lease their networks to competitors at cost. The United States has not, allowing a formidable barrier against competitors.

Update: Benedict Evans says the Times is all wrong:

Odd fact-checking failure by the NYT. MVNOs aren’t mandated in the UK & aren’t why mobile is so much cheaper than US.

‘In Hong Kong, Getting to the Roofs Is Quite Easy’ 

Just looking at these photos made me break into a serious sweat. (Via Dave Winer.)

Speaking of ‘iOS First’ 

Semil Shah, “iOS First. Android Much, Much Later”:

The most common trap here is the early iOS app which gets some buzz. All of a sudden, the founders hear “When are you building for Android?” The natural, enthusiastic response to sincere requests of the Android chorus is to go ahead and build for Android and seek more downloads, more growth, more revenue. I have a different view though. The proper response is: “No. Buy an iPhone.”

Columbia Journalism Review Interviews John Siracusa 

Chris Ip:

Still, why does criticism about Apple’s operating system matter? For one, it reflects the story of Apple the company, whose game-changing contribution to computing was humanizing it with the now-ubiquitous desktop, folders, and mouse. Ever since, Apple has been the company of aesthetics and usability within the cold, efficient tech world. But the operating system is also the medium through which we have every interaction with our phones, computers, and tablets. The development of the operating system tracks the story of the human relationship to technology.

Recode: Amazon to Acquire Twitch for More Than $1 Billion 

Peter Kafka and Eric Johnson, reporting for Recode:

Amazon is buying videogame streaming site Twitch for more than $1 billion to edge past Netflix and Youtube in a race for younger viewers, according to a source.

Google had been in talks to acquire the company, but that deal died, according to the source. Amazon then entered the picture and completed what is one of its biggest acquisitions to date, this person said.

For the uninitiated, Twitch is a platform for making and talking about videos of videogame play. About a million users a month record themselves playing videogames, while the rest — pegged at 50 million unique viewers in July — watch and comment on the videos. In January, Twitch reported that 58 percent of its viewers spent more than 20 hours per week on the site.

The future of TV is online streaming, not traditional “channels” that come through cable or satellite. It occurs to me that Google’s 2006 purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion has proven to be one of the smartest and most important acquisitions of the Internet era. My son and his friends watch far more YouTube content than they do traditional TV. Cable TV is dying.

British Man Sentenced to Nearly Three Years in Prison for Movie Piracy 

The guy seems like a total dickhead, but man, three years in the can for movie piracy? Madness.

Android Phones Hit by ‘Ransomware’ 

Nicole Perlroth, reporting for the NYT:

You are guilty of child porn, child abuse, zoophilia or sending out bulk spam. You are a criminal. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has locked you out of your phone and the only way to regain access to all your data is to pay a few hundred dollars.

That message — or variations of it — has popped up on hundreds of thousands of people’s Android devices in just the last month. The message claims to be from the F.B.I., or cybersecurity firms, but is in fact the work of Eastern European hackers who are hijacking Android devices with a particularly pernicious form of malware, dubbed “ransomware” because it holds its victims’ devices hostage until they pay a ransom.

Seems like some apps do get written for Android first.


My thanks to TopBrewer for again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Designed in Denmark, TopBrewer is a revolutionary coffee system that dispenses espresso, coffee, cappuccino, latte, sparkling water, cold and hot filtered water, and other drinks on demand with just a tap on your iPhone or iPad. (Good coffee and fizzy water are just about all I need to work each day, and TopBrewer covers both.) I’ve heard from a few little birdies who work at places with a TopBrewer installed, and they called it “amazing”.

With a fully integrated under-counter design, all you’ll see is the graceful sweep of the beautiful, above-counter swan neck, stainless steel tap. And the TopBrewer’s commercial-grade components are perfect for home installations as well as small offices and commercial settings. It’s the perfect marriage of beautiful design, exquisite coffee, and the iOS user experience. Check out their website and see for yourself.

Samsung Fudges ALS Challenge 

Samsung made a video purporting to show the Galaxy S5 taking the “ice bucket challenge”, not to raise awareness for ALS, but in order to mock competing phones (including the iPhone 5S) for their lack of water resistance.

But here’s the thing: Watch the time at the top right of the Galaxy’s status bar. Samsung lacks integrity even when doing something ostensibly for a charity. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

The Talk Show: ‘That New Laptop Smell’ 

Special guest Joanna Stern. Topics include Joanna’s recent review of over 20 laptops; the HTC One M8 for Windows Phone; why Windows Phone is still struggling to gain traction; the role of Microsoft Office in today’s world; and speculation on Apple’s upcoming iPhone event.

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Ode to Susan Kare’s Chicago 

Alissa Walker:

It was square, squat, and inherently cute. It was friendly. It was easy to use. I’m talking about the beige box with the blue grinning face that came to live with us in 1985. But I’m also talking about the font that came with it. It was the typeface Chicago that spelled out “Welcome to Macintosh,” ushering us into a new age of personal computing. But it was also a new age for digital type. Here was a typeface created explicitly for the Macintosh, part of designer Susan Kare’s strategy to customize everything from the characters to the icons — that happy computer, the wristwatch, an actual trashcan — to make it feel more human and less machine.

Area Facebook User Incredibly Stupid 

The Onion responds to Facebook’s test of a “satire” flag.

Ed Bott: ‘How Apple Took Over the Only Segment of the PC Market That Still Matters’ 

Ed Bott:

In recent years, most attention has been focused on the eye-popping numbers associated with the iPhone and iPad lines, which sold 150 million and 71 million units, respectively, in Apple’s 2013 fiscal year.

Compared to those stratospheric sales volumes, the Mac division appears downright anemic, selling a total of only 16.3 million units in the company’s 2013 fiscal year, the last full year to be reported. Macs similarly represent only a tiny percentage of the global PC market, with less than 6 percent of the 300 million PCs sold last year having an Apple logo on them.

But those numbers are deceiving. Macs are still enormously profitable, and their high average selling price makes this division a formidable cash cow. In addition, Apple’s product planners have shrewdly targeted the most important segment of the market, the only segment that’s growing and the one that is by far the most profitable.

Focus on quality, and the sort of customers who are willing to pay for it. That’s what Apple does with all its products.

Xiaomi Mi3 Product Quality 

Arjit Singh, Android Origin:

Several enraged Xiaomi Mi3 customers have now taken it upon themselves to fill the official Mi India fanpage at Facebook, with reports of how their newly bought smartphone has turned out to be a nightmare for them. Apparently, apart from suffering from severe manufacturing defects such as the SIM tray not working properly, exceptionally low screen quality for a smartphone which is supposed to have Gorilla Glass 3, troubles with the microUSB port, and unusually high overheating issues, the phone is also suffering from some serious software bugs, such as contacts mysteriously not showing up when accessed through the dialer app, and several other complaints of unstable software and random WiFi/cellular signal drops.

What is even worse is that, even though Xiaomi Mi3′s official product listing page on Flipkart clearly states that the customers are entitled for “1 year manufacturer warranty for the phone,” so far we’re yet to find even a single customer who was able to get his phone replaced successfully (one user has been waiting for nearly 3 weeks now).


Wired: ‘Apple’s iMessage Is Being Taken Over by Spammers’ 

Robert McMillan, reporting for Wired:

A year ago, Tom Landesman — who works for security and anti-spam company Cloudmark — had never seen an iMessage spam. But he and his company now say that, thanks to one particularly aggressive campaign from a junk mailer, it accounts for more than 30 percent of all mobile spam messages.

These kinds of spam campaigns come and go. Cloudmark spotted its first one late last year, when the scammers were flogging imitation designer handbags. Lately, the spammers have been pushing deals on knock-off Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses. [...]

“It’s almost like a spammer’s dream,” says Landesman. “With four lines of code, using Apple scripts, you can tell your Mac machine to send message to whoever they want.”

I think the headline is hyperbole, but I have gotten two iMessage spams this month, both of them hawking those knock-off Ray-Bans. I just went ahead and reported them to Apple.

Google’s Growth Since Its IPO 

Speaking of Dan Frommer, he has a good post noting the 10-year anniversary of Google’s IPO.

Twitter Now Officially Says Your Timeline Is More Than Just Tweets From People You Follow 

Dan Frommer on Twitter’s updated definition of what goes into your timeline. This is a terrible decision on Twitter’s part, and I’ve seen nothing but complaints about it. That your timeline only shows what you’ve asked to be shown is a defining feature of Twitter.

So far, these changes are only evident when using Twitter’s first-party clients, but it’s a bad sign even if you use a third-party client like Tweetbot or Twitterrific. However, tweets that you favorite using a third-party client might start showing up in the timelines of your followers who do use Twitter’s own interfaces.

Sharp’s New Aquos Crystal Phone 

Interesting new design from Sharp: a display that goes edge-to-edge on the left, right, and top. (I.e. it has no forehead, only a chin.)

Jason Kottke on “The Nine Principles of Policing” that served to establish the Metropolitan Police of London in 1829:

As police historian Charles Reith noted in 1956, this philosophy was radical when implemented in London in the 1830s and “unique in history and throughout the world because it derived not from fear but almost exclusively from public co-operation with the police, induced by them designedly by behaviour which secures and maintains for them the approval, respect and affection of the public”. Apparently, it remains radical in the United States in 2014.

Police Impunity in Ferguson 

One more on the police in Ferguson. Matt Yglesias:

The other two men in the photograph, despite presumably being police officers, are not identifiable at this time. Unlike normal police officers, they are not wearing name tags or badges with visible numbers on them. When police arrested the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly, they weren’t wearing badges or name tags either. Reasonable people can disagree about when, exactly, it’s appropriate for cops to fire tear gas into crowds. But there’s really no room for disagreement about when it’s reasonable for officers of the law to take off their badges and start policing anonymously.

There’s only one reason to do this: to evade accountability for your actions. [...]

Policing without a name tag can help you avoid accountability from the press or from citizens, but it can’t possibly help you avoid accountability from the bosses. For that you have to count on an atmosphere of utter impunity. It’s a bet many cops operating in Ferguson are making, and it seems to be a winning bet.

Disgraceful. Every police officer should not only always wear their badge and name tag while on duty, they should be proud to do so. (And in most cases, that’s true.)

The Police State 

Sunil Dutta, “professor of homeland security” at Colorado Tech University and 17-year veteran of the LAPD, in a surprisingly candid op-ed in the Washington Post:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge.

“If you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.” Don’t question authority or you might get beaten or shot. Astounding.

Here’s this mentality in action: local police near Ferguson threatening Al Jazeera journalists — “I’ll bust your head right here” — simply for having the temerity to ask him why he wouldn’t allow them to photograph a sign.

Update: Here’s video footage of officer Sunil Dutta on the job.

If Police in Ferguson Treat Journalists Like This, Imagine How They Treat Residents 

Max Fisher, writing for Vox:

That police in Ferguson are targeting journalists so openly and aggressively is an appalling affront to basic media freedoms, but it is far scarier for what it suggests about how the police treat everyone else — and should tell us much about why Ferguson’s residents are so fed up. When police in Ferguson are willing to rough up and arbitrarily arrest a Washington Post reporter just for being in a McDonald’s, you have to wonder how those police treat the local citizens, who don’t have the shield of a press pass.

Steve Ballmer Steps Down From Microsoft Board 

The WSJ:

“I think it would be impractical for me to continue to serve on the board, and it is best for me to move off,” Mr. Ballmer said in a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft published the letter on its website Tuesday. “I see a combination of the Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking a lot of time,” he wrote.

Translation: “Good luck.”

AAPL Hits $100, Closes in on Record 

I was going to make a joke asking what happened to all the dopes who were calling for Tim Cook to be fired 18 months ago, but I suspect Apple’s stock is being driven now by pump-and-dump manipulators. I just saw an “analyst” projecting 75 million iPhones sold in the holiday quarter, when the best they’ve ever done previously (last year) was only 52 million. That just seems like nonsense.

Swift Performance 

Jesse Squires has been benchmarking Swift against Objective-C during the beta releases:

If you recall the results from the previous post, then this should be quite shocking (in a good way). Take a deep breath. Yes, yes this is real life. The tables have completely turned (no pun intended). I’ve been running these trials since the first beta, and this is the first time that Swift has performed better than Objective-C for every single algorithm, with standard optimizations. And not only is Swift faster, but it is faster by significant margins.

There were some worrisome results from the first few Swift betas, but given that the language was designed by a compiler expert, I’m not surprised performance is going to be impressive in the 1.0 release.

Resuscitating a Drowned iPhone 5 

Rob Griffiths, writing at Macworld:

Thanks to (I’m guessing) some time in the rice and a healthy dose of compressed air, I now have a fully functional iPhone 5, as seen in the image at right. I find this simply amazing, given the amount of time it spent 10 feet deep in a lake. So what did I learn during this incident?

(Via Shawn King.)

Josh Ginter Reviews Vesper 

One of my favorite reviews of Vesper yet.

On Apple and Deadlines 

Mark Kawano, CEO of Storehouse and formerly a user experience evangelist at Apple:

But the theory that Apple doesn’t have deadlines isn’t just slightly inaccurate, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Not only does the company set internal deadlines, it also creates deadlines for deadlines that have their own deadlines. Every aspect of the company’s production cycle, from conception to ship date, is calculated. But — and this is a big “but” — what makes Apple different is that it is a company that is willing to move those deadlines. If a product in development isn’t ready to be released, the deadline is pushed back. If an idea isn’t perfect, or isn’t considered truly magical and delightful internally, it’s held back, revised, and the product given an entirely new launch date.

Against Editors 

Hamilton Nolan, writing for Gawker:

In the writing world, there is a hierarchy. The writers are on the bottom. Above them are editors, who tell the writers what to change. This is backwards. [...]

Good editors are valuable. They are also rare. If we simply kept the good ones and dismissed the bad ones, the ranks of editors would immediately shrink to saner levels. Editors are an important part of writing — a subordinate part. Their role in the industry should be equally subordinate. It is absurd that most writers must choose between a career spent writing and a career that offers raises and promotions. The “new” online media, happily, tends to be less editor-heavy than the big legacy media outlets that have sprouted entire ecosystems of editors and sub-editors over the course of decades. This is partly because the stark economics of online journalism make clear just how wasteful all those extra editors are. To hire a new editor instead of a new writer is to give up actual stories in favor of... some marginal improvements, somewhere, or perhaps nothing at all.

I’m reminded of a 2005 essay by Paul Graham:

My experience of writing for magazines suggests an explanation. Editors. They control the topics you can write about, and they can generally rewrite whatever you produce. The result is to damp extremes. Editing yields 95th percentile writing — 95% of articles are improved by it, but 5% are dragged down. 5% of the time you get “throngs of geeks.”

On the web, people can publish whatever they want. Nearly all of it falls short of the editor-damped writing in print publications. But the pool of writers is very, very large. If it’s large enough, the lack of damping means the best writing online should surpass the best in print. And now that the web has evolved mechanisms for selecting good stuff, the web wins net. Selection beats damping, for the same reason market economies beat centrally planned ones.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization 

Spot-on summary of the entire situation in Ferguson, Missouri, and militarization of U.S. police forces.

‘The Most Fascinating Profile You’ll Ever Read About a Guy and His Boring Startup’ 

Good profile by Mat Honan on Stewart Butterfield and Slack.


David Carr, writing for the NYT:

Perhaps even absent the conflagration on Twitter, journalists would have shown up. Perhaps cable news would have turned hard toward the story, and the kind of coverage that eventually drew the attention of the president and the governor of Missouri would have taken place. Perhaps all the things that led to the security situation in Ferguson being handed over to cooler heads would have ensued. But nothing much good was happening in Ferguson until it became a hashtag.

PaintCode 2 

My thanks to PaintCode for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. PaintCode is a unique vector drawing app — it turns your drawings into Objective-C or Swift code, acting as a bridge between developers and graphic designers. PaintCode lets you develop apps that are truly resolution independent. It’s every bit as cool as it sounds. You draw the interface just like you would in any other vector drawing app, and the output is code instead of a slew of image assets.

PaintCode has been successfully adopted by numerous companies, including industry giants such as Apple, Evernote, Google, The New York Times, Pixar, and Twitter. To learn more or download a free demo version, visit PaintCode’s website.

‘Humans Need Not Apply’ 

Fascinating and persuasive short film by C.G.P. Grey on the inevitable upheaval in employment opportunities wrought by automation:

Horses aren’t unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There’s little work a horse can do that pays for its housing and hay.

And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own.


I’m not sure who should be more upset. Apple, because this is such a preposterously shameless ripoff of iOS. Or Samsung, because Xiaomi is so much better at ripping off Apple than they are.

Update: Keep in mind, too, that Xiaomi VP Hugo Barra keeps insisting they don’t copy designs from Apple. Even Thom Holwerda agrees that this is just shameless.

Gus Mueller: ‘Apple Should Open a Seattle Office’ 

Gus Mueller:

Hire a manager, and open an Apple developer office in Seattle. There are plenty of places across the county where Apple has offices for historical reasons or acquisitions. Why not have a remote office on purpose this time?

Then you could quietly steal the best and brightest from MS, Adobe, and wherever. And you just solved a big part of your hiring problem.

I agree; Seattle is just lousy with great Cocoa developers.

Mo’ne Davis Dominates at Little League World Series 

Two-hit complete game shutout from the most popular athlete in Philadelphia. She struck out the side in the sixth inning to end the game.

MacLovin’ Bundle 

Bundle of great Mac apps — Keyboard Maestro, Hype, Moom, Boom, and more — for just $40. Regular price for all these apps, purchased separately: $861.

(StackSocial, the company running the bundle, has an affiliate code system, but I’m not using it. I won’t get a penny if you buy the bundle through this link — I just think they’re great apps at a great price.)

A Thought on the Pricing of the Upcoming New iPhones 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ yesterday:

Apple is considering using sapphire screens in more expensive models of the two new, larger iPhones it plans to debut this fall, if it can get enough of the material, people familiar with the matter say. Some analysts expect Apple to charge more for the phones than previous new models, because of increased component costs.

First, I don’t understand how a report on August 14 could plausibly imply that Apple still doesn’t know what material they’re going to use for the displays on the new iPhones they plan to introduce on September 9, and which (if the schedule is like last year) they probably plan to ship to customers on September 19. I would think that people who are truly “familiar with the matter” already know, today, whether the new iPhones are going to use sapphire displays.

As for the persistent rumors that the new iPhone is going to cost $100 more, I have a thought. Last year, Apple put two phones at the $199 subsidized price point: the 16 GB 5S, and the 32 GB 5C. What Apple could do this year is drop the 16 GB size from the top-tier new device(s), and start the new iPhone(s) at 32 GB/$299. Raising the entry price, not the price. That’d leave the $199 pricing tier for the mid-range iPhone (maybe the 16 or 32 GB 5S?).

Even better would be if Apple doubled storage capacities at each price point: start the new iPhone(s) at $299 for 64 GB, and $399 for 128 GB. And then start the mid-tier phone at 32 GB instead of 16, and switch the lowest-tier “free” iPhone (the 5C?) to 16 GB. A bump in storage capacities feels due.

Update: Abdel Ibrahim tweets:

What @gruber maybe forgets to realize is how important price is to people. Nobody wants to be forced to pay $299 for the newest iPhone.

I didn’t say Apple should raise the entry price for the new top-tier iPhone from $199 to $299. What I’m saying is, if the rumors are true that they’re going to raise the price, dropping the lowest storage tier could be how they do it. Honestly, I think it sounds weird and somewhat un-Apple-y for them to raise the entry price for any product, let alone for their most important product. Entry prices tend to go down over time, not up.

Another possible explanation: the new iPhone ships (as widely rumored) in both 4.7- and 5.5-inch sizes, and the 5.5-inch model costs $100 more than the corresponding 4.7-inch one with the same specs.

Apple Expands Leadership Page to Include Five Vice Presidents 

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:

Apple today updated its Apple Leadership press page to add the bios of five vice presidents, including Paul Deneve, Lisa Jackson, Joel Podolny, Johny Srouji, and Denise Young Smith.

The inclusion of several vice presidents on the executive team is a new move for the company, as the page previously only listed the company’s lineup of senior vice presidents.

Interesting on a few fronts. It significantly expands the diversity of this listing. You can see in Apple’s just-published company-wide diversity report that they have a significant number of women and non-white people in “leadership” positions, but that was not reflected on this public-facing senior leadership page.

Second, it shows where Tim Cook is placing new-found importance: the environment, human resources, and Apple University. Oh, and “special projects” — under the leadership of former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve. No idea what that could be about.

‘Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet’ 

Alexis Madrigal, writing for The Atlantic:

Perhaps the way, then, to recover some of the old web, before the dominance of Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, isn’t to build new competitors to those companies, but to redouble our use and support of good old email.

Email — yes, email — is one way forward for a less commercial, less centralized web, and the best thing is, this beautiful cockroach of a social network is already living in all of our homes. 

The Best Podcasting Apps for iPhone 

Thoughtful, detailed comparative review by Robert McGinley Myers of all the top iPhone podcasting apps.

Diversity of Various Tech Companies by the Numbers 

Nick Heer:

With Apple’s report today (finally), major tech companies have all published information about racial and gender diversity. I thought it might be useful to run the numbers and compare them against the demographics of the United States as a whole, for reference. All data is as-reported from each company.

How to Be Polite 

Paul Ford:

Politeness buys you time. It leaves doors open. I’ve met so many people whom, if I had trusted my first impressions, I would never have wanted to meet again. And yet  —  many of them are now great friends. I have only very rarely touched their hair.

Such a lovely piece.

Uber Playing Dirty With Competitors 

Erica Fink, reporting for CNN/Money:

Uber employees have ordered and canceled more than 5,000 rides from rival Lyft since last October, according to new data provided by Lyft. The data was obtained at CNNMoney’s request when reporting another story on the companies’ competition.

It’s the latest in a pattern of aggressive and questionable tactics by Uber to control the car-on-demand market, according to rivals.

Love the Uber service, but it’s hard to like the company.

The Talk Show: ‘BlackBerry Is Still Technically in Business’ 

Special guest Dan Frommer joins me on The Talk Show. Topics include speculation — seriously, just speculation — on Apple’s purported upcoming wrist wearable thing, Apple’s fall event schedule, polarized sunglasses, market share in the post-PC era, and Beats’s integration into Apple (including a clever idea from Dan about the potential for a Beats Music channel on Apple TV).

Sponsored by:

Apple Publishes Employee Diversity Numbers 

Tim Cook:

Apple is committed to transparency, which is why we are publishing statistics about the race and gender makeup of our company. Let me say up front: As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page. They’re not new to us, and we’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we’re committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products.

Harassment in Science, Replicated 

Christie Aschwanden, writing for the NYT:

Most men are not creeps, and they have a powerful role to play here. During a field trip at a journalism conference a few years ago, I had an engaging conversation with a keynote speaker. As we parted, he told me, in front of two other men, “Your husband shouldn’t let you out of the house.”

The two bystanders brushed off this insulting attempt at a compliment. It was easier for them to let it go than to call out a friend, and their behavior said it was all right to treat me like that. [...]

It will take chief executives, department heads, laboratory directors, professors, publishers and editors in chief to take a stand and say: Not on my watch. I don’t care if you’re my friend or my favorite colleague; we don’t treat women like that.

Amazon Takes on Disney in DVD Pricing Fight 


The move signals that Amazon, the world’s largest Web retailer, is increasingly willing to keep certain items from consumers to put pressure on its vendors. It also spotlights the extent of Amazon’s clout in the home-entertainment market. Studios count on sales of DVD and Blu-ray versions of their movies to help deliver profits because few films reach profitability in theaters.

“They are squeezing studios on DVD pricing, understandable given their market position,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. “Disney can’t cut them off, and Amazon can cut Disney off, so I would say Amazon has the leverage.”

Sounds like it’s time for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Apple again.

Robin Williams, Beloved Genius, Dies at 63 

Portrait of Robin Williams in 2011

(Photo: Peter Hapak.)

Mat Honan Liked Everything He Saw on Facebook for Two Days 

Mat Honan:

Likewise, content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post. As I went to bed that first night and scrolled through my News Feed, the updates I saw were (in order): Huffington Post, Upworthy, Huffington Post, Upworthy, a Levi’s ad,, Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Verge, Huffington Post,, Upworthy,

If a corporation could have a wet dream, this would be Facebook’s.

Inside Apple University 

Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT:

Randy Nelson, who came from the animation studio Pixar, co-founded by Mr. Jobs, is one of the teachers of “Communicating at Apple.” This course, open to various levels of employees, focuses on clear communication, not just for making products intuitive, but also for sharing ideas with peers and marketing products.

In a version of the class taught last year, Mr. Nelson showed a slide of “The Bull,” a series of 11 lithographs of a bull that Picasso created over about a month, starting in late 1945. In the early stages, the bull has a snout, shoulder shanks and hooves, but over the iterations, those details vanish. The last image is a curvy stick figure that is still unmistakably a bull.

“You go through more iterations until you can simply deliver your message in a very concise way, and that is true to the Apple brand and everything we do,” recalled one person who took the course.

Kudos for Chen for getting a few sources to speak about Apple University. Pretty sure no other company has anything like it. (Well, except Pixar.)

Christopher Wright on the Amazon vs. Hachette Fight 

Christopher Wright:

Here is the secret to understanding my take on Amazon: they’re not part of the publishing industry, although the things they do certainly affect it. They’re not a service and retail company, though that is the way they make all their money. At its core, Amazon is and always has been part of the computer industry, and if you view them from that perspective their business practices should scare the shit out of you.

Chinese Regulation/Censorship of Social Media 

Lily Kuo, writing for Quartz:

For the past four years, China’s government and its far-reaching bureaucracy have embarked on a campaign to take back China’s weibo microblog scene from the masses, who have been using social media services to expose corrupt officials, circulate news, and air their opinions.

And it’s working. According to a new study by media researchers based in China and the US, the government’s 176,000 microblogs are trying to control much of the discussion online, by offering official interpretations of public events, while contrary views are ruthlessly deleted by Great Firewall censors.

In the latest government maneuver, China released new restrictive regulations today seemingly aimed at Tencent’s popular WeChat chat service, which has also become a de facto town square where current events are discussed. According to the People’s Daily, only the public accounts of media agencies can post or re-post political news on instant messaging apps like WeChat. New users will also have to provide their real names and sign a contract promising they will “obey the law and respect the socialist system.”

We in the U.S. are fortunate that our most popular social media site has a completely transparent and open system for what people see in their news feeds. Wait, what.

New Microsoft Surface Ads Take on MacBooks (and iPads) Directly 

I think these are pretty good ads. They make the case for Surface — one device that serves both as a traditional laptop PC and an iPad-style tablet — succinctly.

What’s more interesting to me is how by mocking Apple’s products by name, these spots illustrate how clearly the tables have turned in the last decade. Apple could run the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” campaign a decade ago because they were the underdog. It’s nearly impossible for the market leader to belittle its competition by name without appearing small, defensive, bullying — or all of the above. Pepsi makes fun of Coke, but Coke never even mentions Pepsi.

It’s another pillar of the Church of Market Share crumbling. MacBooks don’t have even close to a market share lead in laptops, and the iPad doesn’t have one in tablets, either — but Apple is the clear leader in both markets because they dominate the profitable high-end in both.

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps Usage Data From U.K. Carrier EE 


EE, the UK’s most advanced digital communications company, today released the latest 4GEE Mobile Living Index. The Index, which has analysed mobile data use and 4G customer trends since early 2013, reveals that although the amount of time people spend on mobile internet has remained stable, customers are doing more on their devices. Average data usage has also increased by 66% in the last 12 months, outstripping 3G customers on both Orange and T-Mobile plans. [...]

Traffic on the new Apple Maps now represents 70% of mapping traffic on the 4G network, from 60% in the second half of 2013, taking market share from Google maps, which is down 7ppts. This difference is even more marked over 3G where Apple Maps is up 19ppts and Google Maps is down 15ppts.

That’s just one carrier, in one country, and presumably EE mobile usage skews heavily toward the iPhone over Android, given the above maps usage stats. But interesting nonetheless.

(Via Tom Watson.)

First-Person Hyperlapse Videos 

Very impressive work from Microsoft Research:

We present a method for converting first-person videos, for example, captured with a helmet camera during activities such as rock climbing or bicycling, into hyperlapse videos: time-lapse videos with a smoothly moving camera.

The difference between the before and after footage is astounding.

Throw Like a Girl 

Awesome local news:

Female pitcher Mo’Ne Davis led her team into the Little League World Series, throwing a three-hitter Sunday to lead Taney Youth Baseball Association Little League of Philadelphia to an 8-0 victory over a squad from Delaware.

Davis struck out six in the six-inning game in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship game.

The 13-year-old will become only the 17th girl to play in the Little League World Series in 68 years. It starts Thursday in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

More on the game here, from Max Cohen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Taney is the league my son plays in and I’ve coached for; it’s a great league. Mo’Ne has been the talk of the league all year: “You’ve got to see this girl pitching for the 12/13 travel team.” She throws a 70 MPH fastball and a mean curveball that just drops.

Now we can all watch her — on ESPN.

Vesper 2.002 

Brent Simmons:

Vesper 2.002 adds a new feature — when you’re viewing a single note, tap at the bottom of the screen to see the date it was created. Tap again to see the modification date. Tap again to character or word count. (Character count if the note is short; word count if not short.)

I really like how this feature turned out. These were all oft-requested features — some people were asking for modified/creation dates, some for word count, some wanted both — but I was reluctant to add them, because it seemed like it would add a lot of visual clutter to include all these things, and didn’t seem right to add just one of them. Using one status field for all these fields, and allowing it to be blank, feels just right. It’s all there when you want it, but there’s no additional visual clutter when you don’t.

It’s small, but focusing so much attention on every little thing is what I love about working on Vesper.

iOS at Google 

My thanks to Google — that’s right, Google (kind of awesome, right?) — for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. They’re hiring developers and designers for their iOS app teams, which operate like a start-up within the walls of Google.

Google’s iOS apps are really good, and incredibly popular. How many people do you know who don’t have at least one installed on their iPhone or iPad (probably on their first home screen, if not in their dock)? If working on Google’s iOS apps sounds like your kind of gig, you can apply to job openings in San Francisco, Mountain View, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Paris, or London.

Paul O’Neill Secures Place in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium 

The Yankees had so many great players on those late-1990s dynasty teams, but O’Neill was my favorite. Nobody played harder, and he always struck me as one of those guys who hated to lose more than he wanted to win. Every time they had a comeback in a big game, it seemed like O’Neill had a part in it. When O’Neill joined the team in 1992, the Yankees had just finished a fourth-place 76-86 season and hadn’t won a World Series title since 1978. They hadn’t even played in the postseason since 1981. When he retired in 2001, they’d played in seven straight postseasons and five World Series, winning four.

I wish I could find a higher-quality version, but the 9th-inning chant in Yankee Stadium in game 5 of the 2001 World Series — O’Neill’s final home game — still tears me up.

Seven-Film Stanley Kubrick Collection on iTunes for Just $40 

No Dr. Strangelove, oddly, but a great deal nonetheless. I love every one of these movies.

John Scalzi on Amazon/Hachette 

John Scalzi:

Amazon is not your friend. Neither is any other corporation. It and they do what they do for their own interest and are more than willing to try to make you try believe that what they do for their own benefit is in fact for yours. It’s not. In this particular case, this is not about readers or authors or anyone else but Amazon wanting eBooks capped at $9.99 for its own purposes. It should stop pretending that this is about anything other than that. Readers, authors, and everyone else should stop pretending it’s about anything other than that, too.

I largely agree with Scalzi’s piece, but regarding the above, I think Apple cares about music in a way that Amazon does not care about books. Maybe only because Steve Jobs personally cared about music in a serious way, but now it’s ingrained in Apple’s culture.

(And if we want to be cynical, let’s admit that it’s possible for Apple to care about music for music’s sake because they sell tens of millions of expensive gadgets on which we listen to music every quarter.)

Dispute Between Amazon and Hachette Takes an Orwellian Turn 

David Streitfeld, writing for the NYT Bits blog:

The retailer argues that people against e-books are against the future, and talks about how the book industry hated cheap paperbacks when they were introduced in the 1930s, and said they would ruin the business when they really rejuvenated it. Unfortunately, to clinch its argument it cites the wrong authority:

“The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if ‘publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.’ Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.”

Could the Amazon Books Team, which is credited as the source of this post, have really written this? Because a moment’s Googling would have revealed that the team is misrepresenting this “famous author.”

How India Is Different Than China 

Ben Thompson, regarding the aforelinked Bloomberg piece on Apple selling the iPhone 4 in India:

Ultimately, I think these numbers confirm my hypothesis: Apple is indeed the preferred vendor for people at the top of the market, but because the iPhone is priced (about) the same everywhere in the world, its market share is a function of a country’s average income and the way in which that income is distributed.

To be fair, this is hardly a controversial thesis: the more pertinent takeaway is that as long as Apple has globally available iPhones (which I don’t think will ever change), the chief constraint on Apple going downmarket in countries like India is the risk of forgoing profits in countries like China or in the West, both of which have plenty of people who can afford Apple’s prices. That’s why I continue to doubt we’ll see Apple abandon its lower-cost iPhone = old iPhone strategy in favor of releasing a new-to-the-world low cost device.

The iPhone in India 

Bianca Vázquez Toness, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc., which has struggled in emerging markets because of the price of its new iPhones, has devised a strategy for India that’s starting to pay off: It’s pushing older models that offer cachet at affordable prices.

The iPhone 4, which was released in the U.S. in June 2010, is still available. So is the iPhone 4s that went on sale in October 2011.

“You flaunt an iPhone, but you don’t flaunt an Android,” said Punit Mathur, a 42-year-old vice president of a digital media company who switched to a new iPhone 4s from a Nexus 4. An iPhone 5s that would cost 53,500 rupees ($874) is too expensive, “but the 4s is still an upgrade,” he said.

That’s one quote from one guy, and I’m sure there are literally millions of Indian mobile phone buyers who have no desire to “flaunt” an iPhone, who genuinely prefer Android, etc. But there are millions of people who do see the iPhone — even older ones — as carrying a prestige.

For developers, though, this strategy means supporting older hardware for years longer than we’ve been used to here in the U.S., at least for apps targeting a worldwide audience.

The Best Beer in Baseball 

The Washington Post ranks every ballpark in Major League Baseball by the quality and breadth of their beer offerings. Yankee Stadium gets rightly nailed: their beer selection truly stinks. The Phillies’ Citizen’s Bank Park scores pretty well, and rightly so.

The Verge: ‘This Is How You’ll Charge a Moto 360 Smartwatch’ 

It looks like Motorola’s designers tried to draw as much attention as they could to the 360’s stupid flat-tire display shape.

The only way this could get funnier would be if it doesn’t even ship until after Apple announces their wrist wearable thing next month.

Layer Tennis: Season 4 

“There go our Fridays”, indeed.

‘Google and Barnes & Noble Unite to Take on Amazon’ 

Alexandra Alter, reporting for the NYT:

Google and Barnes & Noble are joining forces to tackle their mutual rival Amazon, zeroing in on a service that Amazon has long dominated: the fast, cheap delivery of books.

Starting on Thursday, book buyers in Manhattan, West Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area will be able to get same-day deliveries from local Barnes & Noble stores through Google Shopping Express, Google’s fledgling online shopping and delivery service.

I can see why Barnes & Noble agreed to this — they need to compete with Amazon and need help. But my gut feeling is that this too will end badly for them.

Netflix Passes HBO in Subscriber Revenue 

Reed Hastings, posting on Facebook:

Minor milestone: last quarter we passed HBO is subscriber revenue ($1.146B vs $1.141B). They still kick our ass in profits and Emmy’s, but we are making progress. HBO rocks, and we are honored to be in the same league. (Yes, I loved Silicon Valley and yes it hit a little close to home.)

Short, sweet, and honest.

Computerworld: ‘Microsoft Has Lost About $1.7 Billion on Surface So Far’ 

This is another reason why those iSuppli-type “it costs Apple/Microsoft/Amazon XXX dollars to make each tablet” estimates are so useless — there are a slew of expenditures related to any product that can’t be captured by “the display costs this much, the graphics chip costs this much, the camera costs this much...”.

Apple, Samsung Agree to End Patent Suits Outside U.S. 

Adam Satariano and Joel Rosenblatt, reporting for Bloomberg:

The companies said in a joint statement today that they have agreed to drop all suits against each other in countries outside the U.S. Claims are being abandoned in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Netherlands, the U.K., France and Italy. [...]

Still, they said in the statement that they aren’t ending the legal battles completely, nor have they reached any cross-licensing agreement.

Why not drop them everywhere? What’s different about the U.S.? (My only guess: the U.S. is the country where Apple is faring the best against Samsung, and so that’s where Apple wants to concentrate its remaining efforts.)

Update: Amicus brief arguing that Apple is entitled to $400 million in Samsung’s U.S. profits.

Brian Krebs’s Q&A on the Reported Theft of 1.2 Billion Email Accounts 

Brian Krebs:

Q: Is this for real?

A: Alex isn’t keen on disclosing his methods, but I have seen his research and data firsthand and can say it’s definitely for real. Without spilling his secrets or methods, it is clear that he has a first-hand view on the day-to-day activities of some very active organized cybercrime networks and actors.

Russell Brandom at The Verge cast some well-reasoned skepticism on Hold Security’s claims, but Krebs vouching for them is huge.

‘Rob Frankel Has Been Called “The Best Branding Expert on the Planet”’ 

He has been called other things as well.

Bizarro Insider 

The Macalope, quoting Jay Yarow:

If there’s one thing that’s clear today it’s that Apple has been completely right in its smartphone strategy so far.

Oh! Oh! Gosh, if only someone had tried to tell Business Insider that for the past four years. What a tragedy. You know, there are those who engage in a destructive lifestyle and those who enable those who engage in a destructive lifestyle. Sure, the Macalope wrote possibly hundreds of columns telling Business Insider’s Yarow and Henry Blodget how wrong they were, but did he drive over to their houses and stage an intervention? No he did not.

Like I said the other day, it seems to be getting through everyone’s heads, finally, that Apple doesn’t need to pursue market share via low-cost iPhones. It’s reflected both in punditry such as Yarow’s Business Insider piece and in Apple’s stock price.

Macintel: The End Is Nigh 

Jean-Louis Gassée:

In the first place, Apple’s drive to own “all layers of the stack” continues unabated years after Steve’s passing. As a recent example, Apple created its own Swift programming language that complements its Xcode IDE and Clang/LLVM compiler infrastructure. (For kremlinology’s sake I’ll point out that there is an official Apple Swift blog, a first in Apple 2.0 history if you exclude the Hot News section of the site. Imagine what would happen if there was an App Store blog… But I digress.)

Secondly, the Mac line is suspended, literally, by the late delivery of Intel’s Broadwell x86 processors. (The delay stems from an ambitious move to a bleeding edge fabrication technology that shrinks the basic building block of a chip to 14 nanometers, down from 22 nanometers in today’s Haswell chips.) Of course, Apple and its An semiconductor vendor could encounter similar problems – but the company would have more visibility, more control of its own destiny.

I’d say Gassée’s two points are different sides of the same coin. The delay in truly-new Mac hardware while waiting for Broadwell chips is exactly the sort of reason why Apple wants to own the whole stack. Anything they depend upon, they want under their control — and on the Mac, they depend upon Intel for CPUs. Maybe Apple will never pull it off and thus won’t ever make such a switch, but I’d be shocked if there isn’t a team inside Apple working on it already.

India, Too 

Reuters, “Micromax Pips Samsung as India’s Leading Mobile Phone Brand”:

Indian budget smartphone maker Micromax has ousted Samsung Electronics Co Ltd as the leading brand in all types of mobile phones in the April-June quarter, grabbing a 16.6 percent market share, a recent research report showed.

Samsung had 14.4 percent market share, down from 16.3 percent in the first quarter, said the report by Counterpoint Research. In the smartphone segment, however, Samsung still came out tops.

It just occurred to me that I don’t see nearly as many analysts clamoring for Apple to release a “low-priced iPhone” this year as last. Market share is a fool’s game in price-sensitive countries like India and China.

(Via The Loop.)

‘Bad Call’ 

Fritz Huber, writing for The Paris Review, on the sorry state of US televised sports commentary:

After a prolonged TV spectacle like college football’s Bowl Week (whose contests last year included the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and the Bowl, the latter being only a slight improvement on the all-time most absurd Bowl), watching English Premiership matches or Six Nations rugby on BBC feels like a cultural upgrade. There’s less advertising. There’s less analysis of bullshit statistics (“Headed into this matchup, the Kentucky Wildcats are 11-3 in games played within four days of their coach’s annual colonoscopy”). And, on British television, the commentators’ linguistic repertoires don’t feel as inhibited; there’s more room for an occasional flourish. Why can’t we have a color analyst like Ray Hudson, who, in his exuberance, will announce that we’ve just witnessed “a Bernini sculpture of a goal,” or claim that watching Lionel Messi “softens the hard corners of our lives”?

Xiaomi Overtakes Samsung in Chinese Smartphone Market Share 

Eva Dou, reporting for the WSJ:

Xiaomi led China’s second-quarter smartphone shipment rankings with 14% market share, following by Samsung, Lenovo and Yulong each with 12%. It’s quite a jump from the first quarter, when Xiaomi’s 10.7% market share trailed Samsung’s 18.3% and Lenovo’s 11%. And an even bigger leap from a year ago, when Xiaomi only held 5%. [...]

Xiaomi’s devices typically sell for more than $100, while Samsung’s high-end Galaxy smartphones typically cost more than $500.

Market share as a first priority generally doesn’t end well. When you compete on quality, “almost the best” will often still do pretty well. When you compete on price, “almost the cheapest” always loses.

How Gary Gygax Lost Control of Dungeons & Dragons 

Terrific reporting of 30-year-old corporate politics by Jon Peterson. (Via Khoi Vinh.)

I find this story tragic. I was never a huge D&D player, but I was fascinated by the game as a teenager. It was Gygax’s D&D that drew me in, though. It was so clearly his creation.

Regarding Wired’s Puff Piece on Roboto and the Priorities for UI Fonts 

Thomas Phinney on this piece by Cliff Kuang for Wired last month hailing Google’s Roboto typeface:

There are seven substantial paragraphs to the article, but both the people quoted are on the Android team. Thus it avoids mentioning the most famous thing anybody has said about Roboto, ever: Stephen “Stewf” Coles calling it a “four-​​headed Frankenfont” in a strong attack on the design philosophy behind it.

This is also why there is so much puffery throughout the article emphasizing how the typeface is designed for performance rather than aesthetics. Such choices do certainly explain most of the changes from v1 to v2 of Roboto, but “performance over aesthetics” is clearly false as a general proposition about the typeface. My big problem with Roboto is that the choice of closed counterforms for many letters and numbers (35CGSacs) is an inherently anti-​​legibility choice. Yes, they had more of these before the revision, and some (5) have been slightly improved, but they need to finish the process of transforming it into a different typeface if they want it to be an outstanding UI typeface.

Roboto is way better than the old Droid Sans typeface, but it’s not great at anything. It’s neither beautiful nor especially legible. “Frankenfont” is exactly right. What’s telling in Wired’s piece is that no one outside Google has anything good to say about it.

That said, to be fair, Apple is doing a much worse thing in choosing Helvetica Neue as their UI typeface, first for iOS and soon for the next version of OS X.

Now, if Google/​Android and Apple want to claim that they are making their UI font choices for design reasons, that’s fine. But when they (or Wired) start touting the awesome legibility of their choices, I have to call them out on it. Nonsense.

Here I disagree with Phinney. I don’t think Apple has ever promoted Helvetica Neue as being more legible than, say, Lucida Grande. Apple has moved to Helvetica because it’s more attractive, and, with modern display resolutions (especially retina displays), Helvetica is legible enough. One may fairly argue that legibility should always trump aesthetics — but one could argue thus for all font choices, not just UI fonts.

The same was true of Mac OS X 10.0’s pervasive system-wide anti-aliasing. It was less legible but more aesthetically pleasing. In the long run, as displays got better and better, people stopped complaining about it.

Comcast’s Internal Handbook for Talking Customers Out of Canceling Service 

Adrianne Jeffries, writing for The Verge:

“We locked down the ability for most customer service reps to disconnect accounts,” a billing systems manager who worked for Comcast from 2008 to 2013 told The Verge. “We queue the calls for customers looking to disconnect to a retention team who are authorized to give more deeply discounted products to keep subscribers. Even if the subscriber disconnects cable, maybe we can keep them on internet or voice.”

A current employee at Comcast who participated in the Comcast Confessions series provided The Verge with a copy of the 20-page guidelines the company uses for retention specialists.

This will be the cable industry’s downfall. No company with such disregard for their own customers will succeed for long.

‘The Old House at Home’ 

If you’re looking for something good to read to finish the weekend, you’ll find nothing better than Joseph Mitchell’s 1940 profile of McSorley’s Old Ale House, newly (but I think only temporarily) freed from the confines of The New Yorker’s paywall.

Just read the first paragraph and see how Mitchell pulls you in. So great.

(If you like Mitchell’s writing as much as I do, I heartily recommend Up in the Old Hotel, a collection of his remarkable work.)

Last Call for DF T-Shirts 

Thumbnail of a slate gray Daring Fireball baseball t-shirt.

We start printing tomorrow, so today’s the last day to order for this batch of shirts.

Update: Alas, the shirt store is now closed. We should have another round later in the year, before the holidays.

Not Taking It Seriously 


Top executives at Dell and BlackBerry Ltd scoffed at the threat posed by the alliance this week, arguing the tie-up is unlikely to derail the efforts of their own companies to re-invent themselves.

“I do not think that we take the Apple-IBM tie-up terribly seriously. I think it just made a good press release,” John Swainson, who heads Dell’s global software business, said in an interview with Reuters in Toronto on Thursday.

This story is a little over a week old, but it popped into my head today what the above quote reminds me of.

Drop: Your New Digital Baking Assistant 

My thanks to The Blueprint for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Drop, their new iPad-connected kitchen scale that makes perfect baking easy with interactive recipes, smart ingredient substitutions, mobile alerts, and more. Check out their video and see for yourself — it’s a simple great-looking device with a beautiful, clever app to go along with it.

Drop is shipping this fall. Pre-order today and you’ll save 20 percent off the regular price.

Dinosaur’s Pen 

Lovely Tumblr devoted to historic computers.

Dan Frommer on Samsung: ‘There’s No Easy Fix’ 

Dan Frommer:

Today in Seoul, Samsung “reported its worst quarterly profit in two years and flagged uncertain earnings prospects for its key handset business,” Reuters’ Se Young Lee reports. Of course, Samsung thinks its new products will fix the situation.

But we’ve seen this story before. This particular chart shows Nokia’s adjusted closing price from the day Apple released the first iPhone, in 2007, to the day in 2013 when Microsoft announced it would acquire Nokia’s struggling handset business.

First, Samsung has to answer a major question: Do they continue their efforts as Android’s leading handset maker (and remain under Google’s thumb), or do they forge their own path with Tizen? Hard to see how they can have it both ways.

Microsoft Sues Samsung to Collect Unpaid Patent Royalties 

David Howard, Microsoft deputy general counsel:

After becoming the leading player in the worldwide smartphone market, Samsung decided late last year to stop complying with its agreement with Microsoft. In September 2013, after Microsoft announced it was acquiring the Nokia Devices and Services business, Samsung began using the acquisition as an excuse to breach its contract. Curiously, Samsung did not ask the court to decide whether the Nokia acquisition invalidated its contract with Microsoft, likely because it knew its position was meritless.

They just stopped paying. You have to love Samsung’s shamelessness.

A Lot Can Change in 6 Years 

Allen Pike:

In many ways, the iOS app market is where the web was in 2001. The easy wins have been won, and a lot of developers have hangovers. Still, successful products will continue to surprise and delight us from those who stick with it.

Our first three products at Steamclock were paid iOS apps. The two products we have in the lab are not. One is a web app, and one a Mac app, both on subscription models. We’ll be building software for iOS for a long time, but it’s time to experiment as well.

A Different Kind of Indie Success 

Stephen Orth on his experience as an iOS indie developer:

The app never turned my business into a product-based powerhouse with a hockey-stick growth chart. Instead, the app gave me the skills to build another sort of business: a business where I call all the shots, where I decide my own schedule, where I can be truly present, every day, as my boys grow up. And, I still get to create things and use my brain to solve real problems. I’ve even released a couple of other apps. But most of all, the business has let me live a rich, simple life.

Buzzfeed Upset About Twitter Account That Spoils Their Clickbait Headlines 

File this one under “That’s rich.”

IE on Windows Phone Now Spoofing iPhone Safari’s Useragent String 

Totally understandable on Microsoft’s part, but man, what a sign of how much the iPhone has turned the industry upside-down. IE used to be the browser whose useragent string others had to spoof.