Linked List: January 2014

Sunrise Calendar App No Longer Sends iCloud Credentials Over Network 

Remember the kerfuffle last week about iOS calendar app Sunrise asking users for their iCloud user name and password? Scary news travels faster than good, so I thought it worth pointing out that they’ve implemented a nice improvement:

Update: since our 2.11 version, we are not sending iCloud credentials to our servers, the app generates the secure token client-side. We use them to generate a secure token from Apple. This secure token is the only thing we store on our servers, we never store your actual iCloud credentials.

Two Months Ago 

Lenovo CEO Yuanqing Yang, in an interview with Fortune’s Miguel Helft:

Right after Google bought Motorola [in 2012], I invited [Google executive chairman] Eric Schmidt to have a dinner at my house. I told him, “If you think you want run the hardware business, you can keep the business; but if you are not interested in the hardware business, we definitely can handle that, take over that.”

He remembered that, and two months ago, he sent me an e-mail. I called him back, and he asked me, “Are you still interested in Motorola?” I said, “Definitely.” We started to discuss it. I went to Silicon Valley many times. [Google CEO] Larry Page invited me to his house to have a dinner. Very quickly — in just two months — we closed the deal.

In other words, right around the time when they started dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on the deal to acquire Nest.

Nokia ‘Here’ Maps Confirmed to Support Tizen 

This is old news from November, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Samsung partner with Here Maps on Android, too. If they’re not planning for a divorce from Google, they should.

CleanMyMac 2 

My thanks to MacPaw for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote CleanMyMac 2. CleanMyMac is a utility that helps you find and remove unnecessary apps and data stored on your Mac, potentially freeing up gigabytes of space. Uninstall unwanted apps and remove the corresponding data — CleanMyMac uses a “Safety Database” to identify files that are safe for you to remove. Read the reviews, and download the free demo.

For a limited time, Daring Fireball readers can save 30 percent off the regular price using coupon code “DF2014”.

ABI Research: ‘Is Google Losing Control of the Android Ecosystem?’ 

Interesting market share trend:

ABI Research reports that Android once again dominated the Q4 2013 shipment numbers for smartphone advanced operating systems with 77% market share of over 280 million smartphones shipped in Q4 2013. Nearly one billion smartphones were shipped in 2013, Android accounting for 78% across the year.

Android’s dominance is not quite as rosy as it seems though, with most of the growth coming from forked Android operating systems (137% year-on-year), mainly in China, India, and adjacent markets. Forked Android or AOSP accounted for 25% market share with 71 million unit shipments, as opposed to certified Android’s share of 52%, of a total of 77% market share.

In other words, one-third of Android smartphones don’t ship with any of Google’s services or apps installed.

TSA Agent Confession 

Former TSA screener Jason Edward Harrington, writing for Politico:

Once, in 2008, I had to confiscate a bottle of alcohol from a group of Marines coming home from Afghanistan. It was celebration champagne intended for one of the men in the group — a young, decorated soldier. He was in a wheelchair, both legs lost to an I.E.D., and it fell to me to tell this kid who would never walk again that his homecoming champagne had to be taken away in the name of national security.

There I was, an aspiring satire writer, earnestly acting on orders straight out of Catch-22.

I quickly discovered I was working for an agency whose morale was among the lowest in the U.S. government. In private, most TSA officers I talked to told me they felt the agency’s day-to-day operations represented an abuse of public trust and funds.

Resurrecting a Prototype ‘Twiggy’ Mac 

This great story by Adam Rosen from August is a good postscript to my “Special” piece the other day. Note the pre-release version of the Finder, which had the following menus: @, File, Edit, Arrange, and Interim. And dig those “Steve Sez…” dialog boxes.

Google Plus Claim Chowder 

Dave Llorens, one year ago:

But I’m willing to stake my reputation on the following statement: If Google Plus doesn’t have a staggering number of active users by the end of 2013, you can all come over to my office and pie me in the face.

Sounds like fun.

Typeset in the Future: ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ 

Dave Addey has started a new site, Typeset in the Future, dedicated to the typography in science fiction films. His first subject, no surprise, is 2001: A Space Odyssey.

(Re: those curious Gill Sans-like M’s in the otherwise Futura titles — I asked Jonathan Hoefler about that, years ago, and he replied, “A number of 20th century faces — Futura and Gill Sans among them — were outfitted with all kinds of ‘alternate sorts’ that could basically turn them into better approximations of their competitors. (Nothing ever changes.)” So it’s not that Kubrick or his title designer swapped in the M from Gill Sans, but rather that they chose a version of Futura that came with Gill Sans-like M’s. It’s a good look. But it’s never quite sat right with me that some of the titles are set in Gill Sans, and the rest in Futura.)

Brent Simmons: The Point of View of the Mouse 

I thought this was going to be another “30 years of the Mac” remembrance. I was wrong.

The Super Bowl, in Which the Machine Bleeds to Death 

Jon Bois, writing for SB Nation:

For this, the season finale of Breaking Madden, there will be bitter cold and heavy snowfall. There will also be, Lord willing, the most one-sided result in the history of sports. In the greatest American football rout of historical record, Georgia Tech beat Cumberland College, 222-0. I want to multiply that. I want a thousand points in one game.

This is how we’re going to try.

You know it’s bad when the computer loses track of the score.

Bloomberg: ‘Microsoft Said to Be Preparing to Make Satya Nadella CEO’ 

Dina Bass, Peter Burrows, and Jonathan Erlichman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Microsoft Corp.’s board is preparing to make Satya Nadella, the company’s enterprise and cloud chief, chief executive officer and is discussing replacing Bill Gates as chairman, according to people with knowledge of the process.

TechCrunch: Nest Team Will Become Google’s Core Hardware Group 

Romain Dillet, writing for AOL/TechCrunch:

Recently, Google acquired Nest, and TechCrunch has learned that Google has big plans for the team behind the connected device company. [...]

Moreover, Fadell managed to attract great Apple engineers when he started working on Nest. They wanted to follow Fadell’s plans and were good engineers. And that’s exactly what Google was looking for when it acquired Nest. When it comes to budget, Google is willing to let the Nest team use as many resources as it needs. In other words, the company is getting serious about consumer hardware, and Motorola was just a false start.

That’s what I thought, right from the start. The key is Tony Fadell’s ambition and track record. He’s not looking to make Google thermostats; he’s looking to change the world.

Google selling Motorola to Lenovo isn’t a sign that Google isn’t interested in Apple-style hardware/software product development — it’s a sign that they’ve found a much better way to do it in Nest.

John Kirk on Unifying iOS and Mac OS X Into One System 

John Kirk:

Last week, Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi and Bud Tribble were interviewed as part of the Mac’s 30th anniversary. They — in no uncertain terms — slammed the door shut on the idea that Apple was planning on merging iOS (the operating system for their phones and tablets) with OS X (the operating system for their notebooks and desktops). [...]

“And that”, I thought to myself, “finally puts an end to that discussion.”

Boy, was I wrong.

Kirk’s argument pairs well with the aforelinked piece by Dr. Drang. If you design a system that affords generous touch targets, it’s going to feel simplistic while using a mouse/trackpad and keyboard. And if you design a system well-suited for a mouse/trackpad and keyboard, it’s going to be terrible to use with touch.

MacBook Touch 

Dr. Drang, showing a screenshot of his MacBook, explaining why Mac OS X wouldn’t work well as a touchscreen OS:

Look at all the targets. If they were all increased to a size that’s easy to tap with a fingertip, there’d be very little room left on the screen for content.

This is why iOS apps are so simple. More features means more big targets on the screen, which means less room for what you’re supposed to be looking at and working with.

This Is Not a Conspiracy Theory 

New documentary film project with a novel distribution/funding plan, from Kirby Ferguson (Everything Is a Remix). Great premise, can’t wait to see where he takes it.

Google’s Own Collection of Claim Chowder Regarding Its Acquisition of Motorola 

Eleanor Fox, antitrust professor, New York University School of Law:

One way to look at this is, how is Microsoft going to complain? How is Apple going to complain? What are they going to want?... In order to have a consent decree, they are going to have to find an anticompetitive angle.

Pretty sure Microsoft and Apple don’t have any complaints about this.

Even better, this one from Mike Voka, Android engineer at GroupMe:

I’m hoping that this is the push that really changes the whole game.

Samsung to Take Over 60 Carphone Warehouse Stores in Europe 

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge:

60 Carphone Warehouse stores across Western Europe will be converted into dedicated Samsung outlets, according to a company press release and spokesperson. The European phone retailer, which has some 1,400 stores across the continent, will continue to operate the shops in question, but they’ll sell only Samsung gear, spanning “products across Samsung’s full range of mobiles, tablets, laptops and wearables.”

The planned overhaul will take place over the next three months and follows the successful pilot operation of three such Samsung stores in Spain. It adds significantly to Samsung’s retail footprint in Europe. The UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and the Netherlands will all see familiar Carphone Warehouse locations turning into Samsung retail stores “with a premium look and feel.”

Let me guess: they’re going to look like Microsoft Stores.

Jay Haynes: ‘Apple’s $3 Trillion Valuation’ 

Jay Haynes:

If we assume that Apple will grow its owner earnings at 5% for the next 10 years, and then 2% for all years after that (with adjustments for cash and debt), Apple’s market cap wouldn’t be $453 billion. It wouldn’t even be $1.2 trillion. It would be $3 trillion. This is a share price of $3,275 in contrast to today’s share price of $506. At just 5% annual growth for Apple.

That doesn’t mean the market is wrong. It just means the market thinks Apple’s growth is over, that it won’t even manage single-digit growth for the next decade.

How Much Did Google Really Lose on Motorola? 

Michael de la Merced, writing for NYT Dealbook:

When Google bought Motorola, the hardware maker had about $3 billion in cash on hand and nearly $1 billion in tax credits. So that brings the original deal’s price down to about $8.5 billion.

Then, Google sold Motorola’s set-top box business to Arris for nearly $2.4 billion. That lowers the price down to roughly $6.1 billion.

Now, Google is selling Motorola Mobility — primarily the handset business, along with a few patents — for $2.9 billion. So we’re at about $3.2 billion.

I’m with him so far, but when he takes Google’s claims that Motorola’s patents (which Google will retain rights to) are worth $5.5 billion, because that’s what Google claims they’re worth, that’s where he loses me. Motorola’s patents have lost in court every time they’ve taken them to court. E.g. the chart on this post from The Verge.

Update: De la Merced doesn’t take into account that under Google, Motorola lost money every single quarter — several billion dollars in total.

Reuters: ‘Lenovo Nears $3 Billion Deal to Buy Google’s Motorola Unit’ 

Nadia Damouni, reporting for Reuters:

China’s Lenovo Group is nearing a deal to buy Google Inc’s Motorola handset division for close to $3 billion, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday, buying its way into a heavily competitive U.S. handset market dominated by Apple Inc. [...]

A sale of Motorola would mark the end of Google’s short-lived foray into making mobile devices and a pullback from its largest-ever acquisition. Google bought the U.S. cellphone giant in 2012 for $12.5 billion but has struggled to revamp the money-losing business.

I bet it would take longer to literally flush $9.5 billion in cash down a toilet than it took for Google to do so figuratively on the Motorola acquisition.

Recode: ‘After Google Pressure, Samsung Will Dial Back Android Tweaks, Homegrown Apps’ 

Liz Gannes and Ina Fried, writing for Recode:

In early January, while the rest of the consumer technology world at CES marveled at the sheer size of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy tablet, Google execs were dismayed by what they saw on the screen of the massive 12.1-inch slate — a fancy new user interface called Magazine UX. As Re/code’s Bonnie Cha wrote at the time: “The Magazine UX looks like a mix of Flipboard and Microsoft’s Metro user interface with its dynamic dashboard and app shortcuts.” In other words, the interface was a dramatic departure from Google’s vision for Android.

Multiple sources familiar with the companies’ thinking say the two technology giants began hammering out a series of broad agreements at CES that would bring Samsung’s view of Android in line with Google’s own. The results of the talks, which have only just begun dribbling out to the public, also underscore the extent to which Google is exerting more of its influence to control its destiny in the Android open source world.

I’m sure Samsung loves getting pushed around like this. Samsung doesn’t have a replacement for Google Maps, for example, so their backs are to the wall on this — and from what I’ve heard from a little birdie, Maps is one of the services Google is using to get Samsung to fall in line. It’s not really much of a negotiation — it’s Google telling Samsung to stick to near-default Android or they won’t license Maps and other Google services.

How Naoki Hiroshima Lost His Twitter Name Through Extortion 

Naoki Hiroshima:

I had a rare Twitter username, @N. Yep, just one letter. I’ve been offered as much as $50,000 for it. People have tried to steal it. Password reset instructions are a regular sight in my email inbox. As of today, I no longer control @N. I was extorted into giving it up.

The attacker called PayPal on the phone, and convinced them to give him the last four digits of his credit card number. He then used that information to convince GoDaddy to hand over control of Hiroshima’s domain name. Flabbergasting.

What I don’t understand: Now that this story has been publicized, why hasn’t Twitter intervened to give back Hiroshima his Twitter name?

See also: This very similar story from Josh Bryant.

Apple TV Graduates From Hobby/Accessory to Product Line 

Nice catch by Mark Gurman: Apple TV has moved to a top-level category in Apple’s online store. Until this week, it had been tucked away as an iPod accessory.

‘We’re Gonna Get Email’ 

My pal Marco Arment joins for the first of a two-part episode of my podcast, The Talk Show. Topics include the history of the Mac, the differences between programming for the web and native apps, iPhone sales numbers, and the clear advantages of Fahrenheit over Celsius.

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Computer History Museum: The Very First ‘Stevenote’ 

28-year-old Steve Jobs introduces the original Macintosh to the Boston Computer Society — so early in his career, he felt the need to introduce himself.

Engadget’s Pebble Steel Review: ‘At Last, a Stylish Smartwatch’ 

Put aside for the moment whether you think Pebble Steel qualifies as a stylish man’s wristwatch. Do you think it looks like a watch most women would consider stylish? To me, the design says “man’s watch” — significantly more so than the plastic first-generation Pebble. In and of itself, that’s not necessarily a problem. The traditional watch market is segmented into men’s and women’s models. But with smartwatches, you can see the problem: women’s watches are (generally) much smaller than men’s, but how do you fit a usable display on a significantly smaller watch face?

What It’s Like to Be a Woman at a Bitcoin Meetup 

Arianna Simpson:

I walk in and a group of people are already sitting at a long table. I say hi and hover for a second, determining where to sit. Entirely uninvited, and before I even have a chance to react, one guy proceeds to grab me by the waist and pull me into an awkward, grope-y side hug next to him on the bench. To reiterate, I’ve never met this man in my life. I try giving him the benefit of the doubt and make some quip about his being a friendly sort, but it gets uncomfortable pretty quickly when he puts his hand on my leg and leaves it there until I squirm uncomfortably.

Why Mr. Market Is Still Wrong About Apple 

Best piece I’ve seen today on the stock market’s response to Apple’s quarterly results. Don’t miss the link to Warren Buffet’s description of Ben Graham’s “Mr. Market”.

Jared Sinclair on the Redesigned Dark Sky App 

Jared Sinclair:

The raw idea for the redesign is good; the three-panel view with a side panel for the globe is an interesting riff on two established navigation patterns. But the execution is sloppy. It lacks clarity. It fails to shape the data into visually coherent elements. Titles are indistinguishable from content.

Of the three panels — current conditions, Next 24 Hours, and the week view — only the middle panel has a title, but in context the title is easily confused for a subhead. It took deliberate focus while preparing this post for me to recognize the purpose of all three tabs. I suspect a casual user will not undertake that much effort.

I agree with his assessment. There’s something muddled about the visual relationship between the various screens. The new map view is brilliant though.

Flag — App That Prints and Mails Your Photos for Free 

Count me in for this new Kickstarter project from Sam Agboola:

To make photo printing fun — for the first time by our reckoning — we’ve designed a photo finishing system ready for the 21st century. Museum quality (Giclée) printers, German 220 gram photo paper from sustainable sources, laser cutters, and robots with carbon fiber arms will allow Flag to deliver prints, for free, that are better than any you can pay for today. We want to turn your memories into mementos you can be proud of.

Our secret to making photo printing free? An advertisement on the back of each print. It will always be tasteful, and we are steadfast in our commitment to never sell or share your personal information with advertisers.

Genius if they can pull it off.

‘Insanely Great’, 20th Anniversary Edition 

New Kindle edition of Steven Levy’s seminal 1994 book on the Macintosh’s origin and first decade, with a new appendix containing Levy’s 11,000-word interview with Steve Jobs back in 1984.

Smartphone Market Share Is Not a Metric 

Ben Evans:

There was a point in time where talking about share of smartphone sales was a meaningful and important metric. That time has passed. It’s rather like talking about Toyota’s share of sales of Japanese cars in the USA: it tells you something, and was very useful in the past, but not any more.

There are lots of issues and questions about Apple’s future, and lots of different things going on in those charts, including a clear decline in the growth of sales. But ‘smartphone share’ is not a helpful way to think about those questions.

I’ve been arguing this for years. It should have been clear to everyone as early as 2008 that soon, all mobile phones will be “smartphones”. Market share in and of itself is overrated as a primary metric — it matters, to be sure, but not as much as most observers seem to think — but what matters for the iPhone is its share of the overall mobile phone market, not its share of the “smartphone” market.

An analogy, inspired by all the recent 30th anniversary of the Mac nostalgia: what mattered for the Mac was its share of the PC market, not its share of the “GUI PC” market. It took a decade or so, but eventually all PCs were GUI PCs. That’s what we’re seeing with phones.

The Wizards of Odds 

Nice little video from the NYT on Vegas oddsmakers and the Super Bowl.

(I’ll take Denver -2.5 and parlay on the over.)

Nilay Patel Reviews the Pebble Steel 

The current smartwatch lineup reminds me of this situation.

The New York Filming Locations of ‘The Godfather’, Then and Now 

Scouting NY:

Because the film is a period piece, The Godfather actually presents a fascinating record of what 1940s-era New York City locations still existed in the early-1970s. Sadly, many of them are now gone. What still remains? Let’s take a closer look.

(Via Shawn King.)

AppleScript Returns in Latest Update to Numbers 

Ben Waldie, writing for Macworld:

The latest update of Numbers reintroduces AppleScript support in a big way. While Apple could have taken an iterative approach, reintroducing a few commands here and there, it chose instead to go whole-hog: The entire suite of scripting terminology originally supported by Numbers in the 2009 edition of iWork has returned.

And right on cue, here’s an excellent guide to Numbers’s AppleScript support at Mac OS X Automation.

On First Thought 

Linus Edwards:

I recently stumbled upon a 1984 New York Times review of the original Mac, and it was fascinating to see a person’s first reactions to a computer that has become so incredibly influential over the years. This made me search out first reviews of a few other Apple products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. I’ve always found these first reviews to be incredibly interesting, and a way to go back and see what people at the time thought of products that would become so historically significant. What I found was that most reviewers couldn’t see the revolution that was happening right before their eyes and instead were stuck in the past and mostly focused on relatively insignificant concerns.

The reviews he quotes all read like classic attempts at “balance” — the idea that any “fair” review should be at least somewhat balanced between pros and cons.

Small Update to My JavaScript Bookmarklet Builder 

Small update (and new Gist mirror) of a little helper script I wrote for creating bookmarklets a few years ago.

Apple Q1 2014 Results 


The Company sold 51 million iPhones, an all-time quarterly record, compared to 47.8 million in the year-ago quarter. Apple also sold 26 million iPads during the quarter, also an all-time quarterly record, compared to 22.9 million in the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 4.8 million Macs, compared to 4.1 million in the year-ago quarter.

Average selling price for iPhones is up from the previous quarter, and just a hair down year-over-year (from $642 to $637), which means the 5S had a very good quarter, and that the 5C didn’t really change things much from Apple’s prior practice of selling year-old iPhones at the mid-tier price point.

Shawn Blanc’s Grandpa’s iPad 

Shawn Blanc:

The iPad was a gift from my aunt. It’s a 3rd generation and she doesn’t use it that often so she gave it to him hoping he could use it. (Perhaps as a giant remote control for the TV?)

But my Grandpa discovered a use for it that none of us had considered. It is the best camera he’s ever owned.

With so many people using their iPads as their primary cameras, I really hope Apple can figure out a way to get the same camera used in the top-of-the-line iPhone into the same model year’s new iPads. And I worry about how someone like Blanc’s grandfather is backing up those photos.

Socioeconomic Acrophobia 

I really enjoyed this piece by Josh Marshall, going deep on Kleiner-Perkins founder Tom Perkins’s comparing the rising critique of income inequality to the Nazis’ Final Solution:

And then there’s the other really important variable in the equation. We know now that Wall Street came out of the financial crisis pretty nicely. But that was far from clear in the fall of 2008. The titans, under-titans and sub-titans saw the entire financial system spin on the edge of un-self-regulating collapse, something the reigning ideology of recent decades said shouldn’t have been possible along with the real prospect of whole personal fortunes evaporating in an instant. That kind of scare is not easy to forget. Mix it with the need to run to the political class hat in hand and that ocean of animus from the public at large and you get the makings of a political and psychological toxicity that breeds Perkinsonian nonsense at the extreme end and more pervasively the sense of embattlement and threat verging on persecution complex that I described above.


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How the ‘Lost’ Original Mac Intro Video Was Found (And Got Scott Knaster’s Name Stuck to It) 

Young Steve Jobs, in all his bow-tied glory.

A Machine That Changed Everything 

Stephen Fry:

What cannot be denied is that the first Macintosh changed my life completely. It made me want to write, I couldn’t wait to get to it every morning. If you compare computers to offices, the Mac was the equivalent of the most beautifully designed colourful space, with jazzy carpets on shiny oak floors, a pool table, wooden beams, a cappuccino machine, posters and great music playing. The rest of the world trudged into Microsoft’s operating system: a grey, soulless partitioned office, with nylon carpets, flickering fluorescent lamps and a faintly damp smell. I made that architectural design analogy time after time and no one seemed to notice, thought I was just pretentious. But now of course, MS are as aware of sick building/OS syndrome as anyone else, and have, since the launch of iPad and new range of OS X operating systems gone out of their way to tread the true path to deliciousness, colour, feel, joy, pleasure and taste without which function cannot… well… function.

‘But on the Whole, It’s Gambling That the World Is Ready to Accept a New Standard. My Personal Point of View Is That the World Is Not.’ 

NPR serves up some delicious vintage 1984 claim chowder.

Marathon and Broadcast 

Matt Drance:

But for me, it was more than games and chats and word processors and desktop pictures and custom icons. I wanted to understand why Apple thought RISC processors were better than CISC. How those menus and windows got on the screen. How I could make my own. And so I started flunking classes because I was too busy coding for no discernible reason. At that point, my father, bless him, said “I think you need to make a decision.” I went into college an aspiring veterinarian. I came out an aspiring software developer. The rest is, well, now I’m where I am.

On the WSJ’s ‘iPhones to Come Out With Bigger Screens’ Story 

Yesterday’s top tech story was this report from Lorraine Luk, Eva Dou, and Daisuke Wakabayashi in the WSJ (paywall, alas):

Facing competition from rivals offering smartphones with bigger screens, Apple Inc. is planning larger displays on a pair of iPhones due for release this year, people familiar with the situation said.

The people said Apple plans an iPhone model with a screen larger than 4½ inches measured diagonally, and a second version with a display bigger than 5 inches. Until now, Apple’s largest phone has been the 4-inch display on the iPhone 5.

The phones, expected in the second half, won’t include a curved display, a feature recently introduced by rivals including Samsung Electronics Co., the people said. They cautioned that Apple’s plans weren’t final and that the company could change course.

Emphasis added. Translation: These are just rumors and none of this may come to pass.

The smaller of the two models is further along in development, and is being prepared for mass production, the people said. The larger-screen version is still in preliminary development, they said.

There’s so much more I could write about this, but for now, I’ll simply point out that any device “still in preliminary development” has no chance of coming out this year. The Journal’s reporters should know this. And as, always, I ask: what are the pixel dimensions of these bigger screens?

Both new models are expected to feature metal casings similar to what is used on the current iPhone 5S, with Apple expected to scrap the plastic exterior used in the iPhone 5C, these people said.

So the 5C won’t stick around for another year, moving down into the free-with-contract slot now occupied by the iPhone 4S?

iFixit: Macintosh 128K Teardown 


‘It Opened With a Smile’ 

Nice piece by Steven Levy on the birth of the original Macintosh.

Business Partners Fighting Over Fonts 

From the Department of Nothing New Under the Sun.

Apple: Thirty Years of Mac 

Lovely, expansive, (and responsive) look at the Mac’s first 30 years, from Apple itself. When people play the “Apple wouldn’t have done this if Steve Jobs were still in charge” card, they generally do so in the sense of, Apple has done something I don’t like and/or which I perceive to be a mistake. I use this card rarely, but I’m going to play it now, but in the sense of, Steve Jobs seemed almost averse to celebrating past accomplishments, and in general that served Apple well, keeping the company’s focus always on the future, not the past, but this, this is a milestone worth celebrating. I don’t think Apple would be celebrating this milestone if Jobs were still in charge — I don’t recall much of a fuss over the 25th or 20th anniversaries — but I’m glad they are.

It’s fun to see the old hardware presented in Apple’s modern branding style. And, it’s great — no, insanely great — to see Jobs himself on Apple’s website again.

How Silicon Valley’s Most Celebrated CEOs Conspired to Drive Down Engineer Salaries 

Mark Ames, reporting for Pando Daily:

In early 2005, as demand for Silicon Valley engineers began booming, Apple’s Steve Jobs sealed a secret and illegal pact with Google’s Eric Schmidt to artificially push their workers wages lower by agreeing not to recruit each other’s employees, sharing wage scale information, and punishing violators. On February 27, 2005, Bill Campbell, a member of Apple’s board of directors and senior advisor to Google, emailed Jobs to confirm that Eric Schmidt “got directly involved and firmly stopped all efforts to recruit anyone from Apple.”

Later that year, Schmidt instructed his Sr VP for Business Operation Shona Brown to keep the pact a secret and only share information “verbally, since I don’t want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?”

Amazing story.


Steve Cichon: “Everything From 1991 Radio Shack Ad I Now Do With My Phone”.

2014 Gates Annual Letter: Myths About Foreign Aid 

An informative read and an attractive presentation.


Worth a re-read: Jason Snell’s interview with Steve Jobs 10 years ago, marking the Mac’s 20th anniversary. This bit from Jobs made me smile:

Like, when you make a movie, you burn a DVD and you take it to your DVD player. Someday that could happen over AirPort, so you don’t have to burn a DVD — you can just watch it right off your computer on your television set.

Ten years is a long time.

Apple Executives on the Mac at 30: ‘The Mac Keeps Going Forever.’ 

Interview by Jason Snell with Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, and Bud Tribble, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the original Macintosh. Lots of good stuff, but the key thing I took from it is Apple’s enthusiasm for and ongoing commitment to the Mac. The idea that the Mac is going away or will somehow be merged with or subsumed by iOS couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘OK Glass, Pull Out’ 

Sex with Google Glass:

Just say “ok glass, it’s time” and Glance on Google Glass will stream what you see to each other. If you feel like stopping everything, just say “ok glass, pull out”.

Pretty sure this is not a joke.

‘Sunrise’ Calendar App Asks for Apple ID and Password 

Michael Tsai:

These days, your Apple ID is the master key to all sorts of personal information and privileges, including the ability to remote wipe iOS devices and access your Mac, even if you didn’t share your FileVault 2 recovery key with Apple. It doesn’t seem prudent to share it with anyone.

The same is true for third-party email clients, though, too — and I can’t see Apple preventing you from accessing your iCloud email from third-party email clients. I’m not sure what the solution is here — but I’d be wary of sending my Apple ID credentials to any third party.

The Truths Behind ‘Dr. Strangelove’ 

Eric Schlosser, writing for The New Yorker:

Half a century after Kubrick’s mad general, Jack D. Ripper, launched a nuclear strike on the Soviets to defend the purity of “our precious bodily fluids” from Communist subversion, we now know that American officers did indeed have the ability to start a Third World War on their own. And despite the introduction of rigorous safeguards in the years since then, the risk of an accidental or unauthorized nuclear detonation hasn’t been completely eliminated.

David Pogue: ‘How Sony Is Ushering In a Golden Age of Photography’ 

David Pogue, on Sony’s industry-leading push to fit bigger sensors into smaller cameras:

In short, the single most important statistic about a camera is not the number of megapixels (which actually means very little to picture quality). It’s sensor size.

Worth noting: iPhone cameras use Sony sensors.

See Also: Pogue’s review of the new Sony A7 full-frame camera.

Arrest Made in Fabled ’78 Lufthansa Heist 

Joseph Goldstein, reporting for the NYT:

The indictment reads like a greatest hits collection of the Mafia: armored truck heists, murder, attempted murder, extortion and bookmaking. But the crime that garnered the most attention was the Lufthansa robbery, where a group of robbers stole about $5 million in cash and nearly $1 million in jewels from a Lufthansa cargo building in December 1978 — the largest cash robbery in the nation’s history at the time.

The robbery, a key plotline in the movie “Goodfellas,” was also infamous for how it frustrated investigators; the only person ever convicted in the heist was a Lufthansa cargo agent, described as the “inside man” in the plot.

I said, no more shines. Maybe you didn’t hear about it, you’ve been away a long time. They didn’t go up there and tell you. I don’t shine shoes anymore.

‘Did She Do a Billion Dollars Worth of Work?’ 

David de Jong, reporting for Bloomberg on the news that Sheryl Sandberg’s fortune surpassed $1 billion yesterday:

“Did she do a billion dollars-worth of work? I don’t know,” David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, a history of the company, said in a telephone interview. “She had the good fortune to land in the right place where her talents could really be applauded.”

Would Kirkpatrick have asked this of a man? And if he had, would Bloomberg have run the quote?

I searched Google for the phrase “Did he do a billion dollars worth of work?” and the only hit was this tweet from Jezebel editor-in-chief Jessica Coen, retweeting this tweet from Alex Leo pointing out the absurd gender bias in this article.

Universal Orlando Hires Samsung’s Ad Agency? 

They realize that everyone who watches TV saw the original, right? I’d love to read the minutes from the meeting where they decided to go through with this. (Via Christina Warren.)

Photos of New York’s Graffiti-Covered Subway in the 1980s 


New York was a very different place in the 1980s. Throughout America, and the world, it had a reputation for being a crime-riddled, dirty metropolis — one much changed from its bustling, mid-twentieth century prime. And nowhere was this more evident than on the city’s subway trains and platforms. Once the pride of Manhattan and the boroughs, the network had become a virtual no-go area both at night and during the day.

Great photos by Christopher Morris.


Horace Dediu:

A brand dies not from hate but from apathy.

His piece is about Apple and Google, but does not the above line perfectly capture what ails Microsoft today?

Ukrainian Government Mass-Texts Cell Phones Near Protests 

Brian Merchant, writing for Vice:

“Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”

That’s a text message that thousands of Ukrainian protesters spontaneously received on their cell phones today, as a new law prohibiting public demonstrations went into effect. It was the regime’s police force, sending protesters the perfectly dystopian text message to accompany the newly minted, perfectly dystopian legislation. In fact, it’s downright Orwellian (and I hate that adjective, and only use it when absolutely necessary, I swear).

But that’s what this is: it’s technology employed to detect noncompliance, to hone in on dissent. The NY Times reports that the “Ukrainian government used telephone technology to pinpoint the locations of cell phones in use near clashes between riot police officers and protesters early on Tuesday.” Near. Using a cell phone near a clash lands you on the regime’s hit list.

Bill Gates Demurs 

Nick Wingfield, writing for the NYT Bits blog:

The reality of Mr. Gates’s status at the company is a bit more nuanced. According to a person with knowledge of board discussions, who asked to remain anonymous because that dialog is private, Mr. Gates is willing to dial up or down his involvement with Microsoft based on the wishes of the new chief.

If the new chief executive wants Mr. Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft and one of the founding fathers of the tech industry, to chime in more often on company matters, Mr. Gates will do it, this person said. If the new chief executive wants Mr. Gates doing less around Microsoft, Mr. Gates will respect that, too.

Here’s the video interview with Bloomberg TV.

‘“Apple Must...”: A Brief History of People Giving Apple Advice’ 

Harry McCracken:

There are, however, a few problems with this approach to Apple commentary:

  1. The stuff Apple must do usually amounts to following an industry trend in much the same way that everybody else is doing it, right this very moment.
  2. Though Apple does frequently respond to industry trends, it’s not in the company’s nature to do so in precisely the way that everybody expects, and it often bides its time before doing anything at all.
  3. Time and time again, Apple doesn’t do what Apple must do… and yet the results aren’t calamitous.
  4. In some instances, the things people insist Apple must do — such as make a netbook — are not only not necessities, but terrible ideas.

Classic piece.


New iPhone app from Manton Reece and Jonathan Hays that lets you collect photos and text into stories. Similar purpose to Storehouse, but very different execution. Sunlit has an interesting collaboration and sync model, based on, and a clever integration of maps. You can publish stories on the web, but most of the features are geared toward private group sharing and collaboration through the app.

Free to try, with a $4.99 in-app purchase to unlock all features.

Yankees Sign Japanese Ace Masahiro Tanaka for $155M 

Andrew Marchand, reporting for ESPN:

The Yankees spent much of 2013 scouting right-hander Masahiro Tanaka in Japan. After seeing him go 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA, they came away convinced his stuff would translate to the major leagues.

On Wednesday, before Tanaka has thrown a major league pitch, they confirmed their conviction by signing the 25-year-old starter to a seven-year, $155 million contract, his agent, Casey Close, confirmed to

He’s going to look great in pinstripes.

Snow Day 

My boy running through an empty Washington Square in the snow.

Early dismissal today; school already canceled for tomorrow. Jackpot.

The Demise of QuarkXPress 

Great feature by Dave Girard for Ars Technica, “How QuarkXPress Became a Mere Afterthought in Publishing”:

Quark’s demise is truly the stuff of legend. In fact, the story reads like the fall of any empire: failed battles, growing discontent among the overtaxed masses, hungry and energized foes, hubris, greed, and... uh, CMYK PDFs. What did QuarkXPress do — or fail to do — that saw its complete dominance of desktop publishing wither in less than a decade? In short, it didn’t listen.

One thing that is often overstated is the notion that designers always despised QuarkXPress. Not so. The company was always problematic — tech support, software updates, everything was always a pain in the ass with them. And as Girard documents, they were arrogant, and felt as though they didn’t need to listen to their users. But the app was simply outstanding up through the 3.x releases. (I still remember my favorite release, which I used for years and years: 3.32r5.) QuarkXPress was fast and powerful, and once you understood the Quark way of doing the basics, it was easy to figure out the Quark way of accomplishing advanced tasks.

But the app and the company were easily conflated — everyone called them both “Quark”, and the company never really had any other app that mattered. As the years passed, disdain for the company turned into disdain for all things Quark. The biggest thing I wanted in QuarkXPress was better advanced typography — and that’s exactly what InDesign offered, right from the start. Then, a year or so later, Mac OS X shipped, and InDesign was native and QuarkXPress wasn’t. To top it off, none of the stuff in QuarkXPress 4 actually seemed like an improvement over 3.32r5. Game over.


Ingenious new video camera app for the iPhone: it uses the accelerometer to always shoot horizontal (and perfectly level) footage, no matter how you’re holding your iPhone. It’s not magic — it does this by cropping — but it’s a damn clever idea. Worth a buck, that’s for sure. (Via MacRumors).

How to Knock Off a Saddleback Leather Bag 

Helpful tips for the aspiring rip-off bag-maker. (Via Michael Moore.)

‘Apple Expands Worldwide Access to Educational Content’ 

Apple press release:

iBooks Textbooks bring Multi-Touch textbooks with dynamic, current and interactive content to teachers and students in 51 countries now including Brazil, Italy and Japan; and iTunes U Course Manager, available in 70 countries now including Russia, Thailand and Malaysia, allows educators to create and distribute courses for their own classrooms, or share them publicly, on the iTunes U app.

Funny, I just wondered about iBooks Textbooks last week. Sounds like it’s growing pretty fast.

Benedict Evans Joins Andreessen Horowitz 

Great for Andreessen Horowitz; Evans is a crackerjack.

‘The Floppy 2: The Zip Disk’ 

Special guest John Moltz joins me on the latest episode of my podcast, The Talk Show. Topics include A-Rod’s suspension, Google’s acquisition of Nest and the meaning of “innovation”, Tim Cook’s public speaking, larger iPads, full screen mode on Mac OS X, and Moltz’s new podcast.

Brought to you by three great sponsors:

  • Enables iOS apps to be playable in any browser. No plugins or downloads.
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  • OmniGraffle: Sketchy mockups or pixel-perfect designs for UX, UI, and diagrams.
The Five Best Punctuation Marks in Literature 

Kathryn Schulz, writing for Vulture:

Some forms of punctuation seem less marked out for fame than others; if anyone knows of a noteworthy comma, I’d love to hear about it. But what follows is a — well, what follows is a colon, which sets off a list, which contains the most extraordinary examples I could find of the most humble elements of prose:

Farhad Manjoo Takes Over Pogue’s ‘State of the Art’ Column at The New York Times 

Tech journalism has been a game of musical chairs these last few months.

Adware Vendors Buy Chrome Extensions to Send Ad- and Malware-Filled Updates 

Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:

To make matters worse, ownership of a Chrome extension can be transferred to another party, and users are never informed when an ownership change happens. Malware and adware vendors have caught wind of this and have started showing up at the doors of extension authors, looking to buy their extensions. Once the deal is done and the ownership of the extension is transferred, the new owners can issue an ad-filled update over Chrome’s update service, which sends the adware out to every user of that extension.

Devious strategy.

Speaking of DF RSS Feed Sponsors 
Another last-minute scheduling change has left next week’s spot open.

Update: That didn’t take long.

The next open spot after that isn’t until the end of February. If you’ve got a product or service to promote to DF’s discerning audience, get in touch.

Duplicate: A New Typeface From Commercial Type 

My thanks to Commercial Type for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Duplicate, a collection of new typefaces by Christian Schwartz and Miguel Reyes, paying homage to legendary French type designer Roger Excoffon.

Duplicate comes in three varieties: Duplicate Sans, Duplicate Slab, and Duplicate Ionic, each in 6 weights from Thin to Black. Designed for use in publications, websites, and corporate identities, Duplicate works beautifully at a wide range of sizes, from captions to headlines, and all 36 styles have been manually hinted for use on screen.

These are great typefaces — attractive, readable, and very distinctive. Duplicate is available now from Commercial Type for print, mobile apps, and as self-hosted webfonts.

Products for Nobody 

Abdel Ibrahim, writing at The Tech Block:

Just look at Chromebook Pixel for example. How many people are really going to spend $1300 on a high-resolution Chromebook? Are techies going to? No so much. Are everyday consumers going to? Hell no. Why even build it? To prove that they can build a high-resolution laptop for $1300? At this point, any hardware manufacturer can do that. Just go to your local Best Buy. [...]

But at least they’re trying, right? Absolutely. I’m glad they are. But it would awesome if the brilliant minds at Google worked on something everyone reading this would actually want to buy. Not something we probably won’t see for years, maybe even decades.

Om Malik on Google’s Smart Contact Lenses 

Om Malik:

One in 19 people on this planet have diabetes. I am one. [...]

So when I read about Google’s “smart contact lens project,” which allows these lenses to measure blood sugar levels, for a very brief instant I was excited.

Before and After 

The Joy of Tech on Google’s acquisition of Nest.

Motorola Cuts Moto X’s Wood Finishes From $100 to $25 

Always a good sign.

NPD: Apple and Samsung Widen Lead in U.S. Phone Market 

Brian X. Chen, writing for NYT Bits:

Nokia, whose smartphones primarily run Microsoft’s Windows operating system, was not even worth mentioning in the study. In general, Nokia’s Windows phones have not gained traction in the United States, although Nokia’s phones are selling stronger in overseas markets like Argentina, India, Poland and Russia.

The NPD numbers underscore especially disappointing results for Motorola. Last year, the company aggressively promoted the Moto X, its first flagship smartphone made under its new owner, Google. Yet despite these efforts, Motorola’s presence in the United States last year dwindled compared with 2012, according to the study.

Update: The story has now been updated to read:

The report did not track phones using the Windows Phone operating system, so Nokia, which uses that software, did not appear. In general, Nokia’s phones have not gained traction in the United States, although Nokia’s phones are selling stronger in overseas markets like Argentina, India, Poland and Russia.

The 2015 Honda Fit 

Raphael Orlove, writing for Jalopnik:

The last and best feature of the car is Honda’s GPS solution: it’s your phone. You can order the car with navigation for something around $1500, or you can download the HondaLink app from Honda for $59.99 and get something better. With the app, the car will display your phone’s GPS on its seven-inch display. That means as you upgrade your phone, you’ll be upgrading your GPS, too. I can’t think of a better system.

Way of the future.

Nintendo Racks Up $240 Million Annual Loss 

Masatsugu Horie and Takashi Amano, reporting for Bloomberg:

“We are thinking about a new business structure,” Iwata said at a press conference today in Osaka, Japan. “Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game-player business. It’s not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone.”

Hurry up, I say.

Hoefler Response 

Press release:

Last week, designer Tobias Frere-Jones, a longtime employee of The Hoefler Type Foundry, Inc. (d/b/a “Hoefler & Frere-Jones”), decided to leave the company. With Tobias’s departure, the company founded by Jonathan Hoefler in 1989 will become known as Hoefler & Co.

Following his departure, Tobias filed a claim against company founder Jonathan Hoefler. Its allegations are not the facts, and they profoundly misrepresent Tobias’s relationship with both the company and Jonathan. [...] It goes without saying that all of us are disappointed by Tobias’s actions. The company will vigorously defend itself against these allegations, which are false and without legal merit.

The New York Times’ Most Popular Story of 2013 Was Not an Article 

Robinson Meyer, writing for The Atlantic:

Think about that. A news app, a piece of software about the news made by in-house developers, generated more clicks than any article. And it did this in a tiny amount of time: The app only came out on December 21, 2013. That means that in the 11 days it was online in 2013, it generated more visits than any other piece.

I’ll repeat: It took a news app only 11 days to “beat” every other story the Times published in 2013. It’s staggering.

Somewhere, Adrian Holovaty is smiling.

Consumer Reports: ‘Google Play Store Lets Your Kid Spend Like a Drunken Sailor’ 

Their headline, not mine.

Walter Isaacson on Google and Innovation 

Matthew Belvedere, reporting for CNBC:

Case in point — he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday: Google buying Nest Labs is a bigger development than Apple selling iPhones on China Mobile’s network.

While acknowledging the China Mobile partnership is a “big deal” for Apple, he said Google-Nest exemplifies the “amazingly strong integrated strategy that Google has to connect all of our devices, all of our lives, from our car, to our navigation system, to how our garage doors are going to open.”

It’s perfectly reasonable to argue that Google has become the most innovative company in the world. Many of us would disagree, also reasonably, but still, no argument a good case could be made, and I think we could all agree that Google and Apple are both among the most innovative companies. But isn’t the evidence cited by Isaacson here irrelevant in the big picture? Google buying Nest and the iPhone hitting China Mobile just happen to be the two newsworthy things related to Google and Apple this week.

To play catch-up, Cook has to think about what industry he wants to disrupt next, Isaacson said. “I think Steve Jobs would have wanted as the next disruptive thing to either have wearable-like watches or TV, an easy TV that you can walk into the room and say put on ‘Squawk Box’ … or disrupt the digital camera industry or disrupt textbooks.”

I’m not sure how the textbook thing is going, actually, and I’m curious to know. But if you don’t think the iPhone and iPad are disrupting the camera industry, I don’t know what to tell you.

The Infinity Augmented Reality Concept Video 

Tough three minutes to get through, but trust me, it’s worth it. Not even sure where to start with this concept. Our protagonist uses his glasses to cheat at billiards and glean personal information and analyze the emotional responses of a bartender he’s hitting on. (You’d think his smart glasses would help him order something more specific than “whiskey”.)

Heads-up displays and augmented reality are coming, no doubt. But a lot of the people who are excited about it today seem to be men with very troubling issues. (Via Alexis Madrigal’s Five Intriguing Things newsletter.)

Tobias Frere-Jones Is Suing Jonathan Hoefler 

This came as a total shock. I’m a longtime customer and fan of H&FJ’s remarkable library of typefaces, and I’ve known Jonathan Hoefler as an online friend for just about as long as I’ve been writing Daring Fireball.

No matter how this turns out, it’s a terribly sad turn of events. I feel obligated, however, to point out that there is no little irony in the fact that Frere-Jones’s complaint is set in Arial.

Update: Via Other Means, here is Frere-Jones’s complaint set in Gotham, his masterpiece.

Brian Krebs: ‘A First Look at the Target Intrusion, Malware’ 

Brian Krebs:

Target has yet to honor a single request for comment from this publication, and the company has said nothing publicly about how this breach occurred. But according to sources, the attackers broke in to Target after compromising a company Web server. Somehow, the attackers were able to upload the malicious POS software to store point-of-sale machines, and then set up a control server within Target’s internal network that served as a central repository for data hoovered by all of the infected point-of-sale devices.

“The bad guys were logging in remotely to that [control server], and apparently had persistent access to it,” a source close to the investigation told KrebsOnSecurity. “They basically had to keep going in and manually collecting the dumps.”

In what I suspect is not a coincidence, my wife’s credit card, which she used at Target once during the compromised window, was used for fraudulent purchases two days ago.


Very similar to Storehouse in some ways, Exposure is a web publishing/hosting service for “creating beautiful photo narratives”. Two big differences: (1) Exposure is web-based, not app-based (but they do use responsive design, so everything looks good on any sized device); and (2) they are charging for subscriptions:

Far too many services start free in an effort to sign up as many users as possible, only to eventually surround your content with ads to try to keep the lights on.

Collecting Underpants 

When something cool like Storehouse launches, free of charge and free of ads, I always get a bad feeling in my gut. There must be some kind of catch in the future. At some point, something will have to change. They’ll either have to start charging money for something, or start selling ads against the content, or get acquired by one of the giants (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo).

Charging money up front is no panacea. Everpix is a perfect example of that — they charged money for subscriptions and they saw growth, but they didn’t grow fast enough for the revenue to put them in the black. But at least when you signed up and committed to the service, you could see how they wanted to make it work financially. With Storehouse, we have no idea.

Storehouse: Visual Storytelling 

New iPad app and publishing service, with a bunch of ex-Apple talent on the team (including CEO and co-founder Mark Kawano.)

Storehouse is two things: (1) a creative tool for collecting photos and videos into elegant stories, where a “story” is a single scrolling page; and (2) a hosting service for all published stories. So you use Storehouse both to create your own stories, and also to view/read the stories published by everyone else. Drafts are stored locally on your iPad; once published, all stories are public. You can follow individual users, a la social apps like Twitter and Instagram.

The app is really well done. It feels ahead of the curve in terms of direct manipulation, and it’s marvelously clear in terms of navigation. Published stories are available on the web for anyone and everyone to see, but everything else — creation, editing, discovery — is only available on the iPad app. And the whole thing is (for now at least) free of charge, and free of ads.

Jim Beam and the Myth of Bourbon 

Ian Crouch, writing for The New Yorker:

Bourbon seems like a sturdy marker of a freedom-loving American identity, but that narrative is mostly a pleasant fiction. The truth of the tale lies in mergers and holding companies and transnational distribution rights. George Jones never sang about any of that. The real story of the modern whiskey industry is less romantic but no less American. The country’s “native spirit,” as bourbon is often called, is one of capitalization and consolidation.

I somehow missed the news that Japanese whiskey-maker and beverage conglomerate Suntory is going to buy Jim Beam — for $16 billion.

Apple Agrees to FTC Consent Decree Over In-App Purchases 

Tim Cook, in a company-wide email obtained by Recode:

Apple is a company full of disruptive ideas and innovative people, who are also committed to upholding the highest moral, legal and ethical standards in everything we do. As I’ve said before, we believe technology can serve humankind’s deepest values and highest aspirations. As Apple continues to grow, there will inevitably be scrutiny and criticism along our journey. We don’t shy away from these kinds of questions, because we are confident in the integrity of our company and our coworkers.

This paragraph strikes me as the central thesis of the entire memo. In a nut, it’s a sincere version of “Don’t be evil.”

Our Cable Bill Payments, Hard at Work: Comcast to Build Second Philly Skyscraper 

New tallest building in the city, and the eighth tallest in the country. 59 floors, with the top 13 serving as the new Four Seasons hotel. Can’t say I’m a fan of how it looks externally, but the inside is designed to be filled with sunlight, which I dig. Should be great for the city — the corner where it’s going has been a parking lot for as long as I can remember.

Rethinking the Airline Boarding Pass 

Peter Smart redesigns the boarding pass. Great work, especially the emphasis on hierarchy.

I think paper boarding passes are going the way of the dodo, but even so, his design would work pretty well for a pass on a mobile phone, too.

Update: Fireballed. Cached here, albeit without much of the styling.

Hardware Keyboards for the iPhone 

Joanna Stern reviews two hardware keyboard cases for the iPhone.

Great reviews.

(I watched the video with my 10-year-old son; he thinks the entire notion is ludicrous.)

‘Why Is Everyone Disappointed by Google Buying Nest?’ 

Nilay Patel, The Verge:

It’s a strange set of affairs: an innovative young company led by some of the best engineers and executives in the business being acquired and validated by one of the great American businesses of the past 20 years should be a slam dunk of good PR. Instead, there’s a chorus of concern — some sincere, some contrived, but all of it grounded in fear of an unchecked Google.

Another Amazing Coincidence 


First, let’s get the most mysterious thing about the Galaxy S5 out of the way: Yes, it will come in both metal and plastic versions as has been rumored, with the metal version costing around 800 Euros and the plastic model coming in at around 650 Euros. It’s pretty much similar to what Apple has done, offering both a plastic iPhone (iPhone 5c) and a metallic one (iPhone 5s).

Winning and Losing in the Net Neutrality Decision 

Stuart Benjamin, writing for The Volokh Conspiracy:

But right now I will take a longer view. I am reasonably confident that if I were a member of Verizon’s board of directors and someone could have accurately predicted the content of today’s opinion before Verizon filed its lawsuit, as a director I would have said, “Then let’s not file the suit and let’s hope no one else does, either.”

What? You say. Didn’t Verizon win? Yes, but there are three caveats.

Glassboard 3.0 for iOS Now Available 

Justin Williams:

Recently we announced that we had acquired Glassboard from our friends at NewsGator. Since then we have been hard at work on an update to Glassboard for iPhone to bring it to iOS 7. I’m happy to announce that Glassboard 3.0 is now available on the App Store!

Happy to see an app/service I rely upon daily in good hands.

Court Strikes Down FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules 

Jeff John Roberts, writing for Gigaom:

The upshot of Tuesday’s ruling is that it could open the door for internet giants like Verizon and Time Warner to cut deals with large content providers — say Disney or Netflix — to ensure that their web content was delivered faster and more reliably than other sites. This could not only restrict consumer choice but also provide a threat to smaller websites that do not have the resources to pay for any “express lanes” that the broadband providers choose to create.

Depressing news.

Dan Hon on Google Acquiring Nest 

A sort of essay in the form of a string of tweets (collected by Paul Mison):

It’s quite simple. People invited Nest into their houses. Not Google.

It might in reality be an acquisition, but to some people it will feel instead like an annexation.

I think Google should be concerned about the number of people who are unhappy about this acquisition. Google used to be a company most people trusted; what I’m seeing as I read reactions to this Nest acquisition is that that’s no longer true.

On Google and Consumer Hardware 

Ian Betteridge:

In fact, Google has independently designed two pieces of hardware: The Chromebook Pixel and Nexus Q. But that, I think, makes John’s point stronger. Both the Pixel and Q were expensive, high-end pieces of hardware which could never have scaled to selling tens of millions of units. The Pixel was (and is) effectively a flagship demonstrator the potential for Chromebooks; and the Nexus Q was a unique media device which, because of its design, cost about four times as much as its competition.

The Q was a joke — it never even shipped. The Pixel is a good example, though. It’s meant to be nice, a genuinely high-quality Chromebook. But it had no chance of mass market success, if only because of its price.

This Nest acquisition makes me think Google didn’t want these things to be jokes. That they want to make devices that tens of millions of people will buy and use in the way that they buy and use Apple devices. It will be interesting to see whether all of Google’s consumer electronics efforts go under the Nest/Fadell umbrella, or, if “Google” will keep introducing devices on its own, outside of Nest.

Which in turn brings us back to the notion that “Google is getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at web services.” Perhaps a better way to put that is that Google is getting better at what Apple is best at faster than Apple is getting better at what Google is best at. I don’t necessarily believe that, but acquiring Nest and Tony Fadell certainly makes for a stronger case.

Florida Man Is Shot to Death for Texting During Movie Previews 

Frances Robles, reporting for the NYT:

An argument over texting at the movies ended in a cellphone user’s death, when a retired police officer in the audience shot him at a theater near Tampa, Fla., on Monday afternoon, the authorities said. [...]

The killing underscored the increased debate about when to use smartphones in public.

On Twitter, Billmon writes:

When someone is shot in cold blood over texting, and NYT thinks the issue is smart phones, safe to say we’ve gone completely nuts as a country.

Update, 2:20a EST: The “underscored” sentence has been removed from the story. It got a lot of attention while it was there, though.

Salon: ‘Amazon’s Bogus Anti-Apple Crusade’ 

Kathleen Sharp, writing for Salon:

Which gets to the heart of this bizarre case: The numbers show that, far from hurting the market, the publishers’ and Apple’s agency model actually helped it. They allowed Barnes & Noble to gain a foothold in the e-book market, provided relief to the independent brick-and-mortar stores, and gave consumers lower rather than higher prices.

She joins a chorus of critics of Judge Denise Cote’s decision and handling of the case.

Apple Platform Devices vs. Windows PCs 

Fascinating analysis from Horace Dediu. The number of Windows PCs vs. Macs sold changed dramatically starting in 2004, three years before the iPhone, and a year before they announced the switch from PowerPC to Intel processors. I think the core factors behind this pivot point were:

  • Mac OS X was pretty good by 2004, and getting better annually.
  • Windows development had stagnated; XP came out in 2001, and Windows Vista didn’t ship until 2006.
  • More people started buying laptops instead of desktops, a trend that played to Apple’s advantages — the integration of hardware and software.
  • More and more of what most people did on a computer was done in a web browser, which made switching from Windows to Mac a lot easier.
  • Millions of people had their first Apple product experience with the iPod, and they liked it.

Even without iOS, the Mac’s fortunes changed dramatically starting in 2004. But when you do factor in iOS, that’s when things really changed.

‘Google Was the Only Serious Bidder’ 

Liz Gannes, reporting for Recode:

Nest had been close to completing a funding round of upward of $150 million that would have valued it at more than $2 billion, Re/code reported earlier this month. That round never closed, because Google swept in. Sources familiar with details of the acquisition said that Google was the only serious bidder and Apple was not in the mix.

Does Google acquiring Nest change Apple’s mind about selling Nest products in Apple Stores?

Nest Says Customer Data From Devices Will Only Be Used for Nest Products and Services 

Tony Fadell:

Will Nest customer data be shared with Google?

Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services. We’ve always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.

That’s a good answer, but I’m not sure how tenable that is, long-term. Who is to say the privacy policy won’t change post-acquisition. Does anyone seriously think Google doesn’t want the information Nest’s devices provide?

Google to Acquire Nest for $3.2 Billion in Cash 

Google PR:

Tony Fadell, CEO of Nest, said: “We’re thrilled to join Google. With their support, Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world.”

Nest will continue to operate under the leadership of Tony Fadell and with its own distinct brand identity. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals in the US. It is expected to close in the next few months.

Tony Fadell at Google is an interesting turn of events.

Everpix Intelligence 

Data dump from the now-shuttered photo service: “Uncensored Everpix metrics, financials and slides for your perusing”. Interesting to me: their daily website traffic, which shows a nice bump from their first DF RSS feed sponsorship. Nice jump in sales, too.

Thomas Boswell on Greg Maddux 

Thomas Boswell, writing for The Washington Post:

First, Maddux was convinced no hitter could tell the speed of a pitch with any meaningful accuracy. To demonstrate, he pointed at a road a quarter-mile away and said it was impossible to tell if a car was going 55, 65 or 75 mph unless there was another car nearby to offer a point of reference.

“You just can’t do it,” he said. Sometimes hitters can pick up differences in spin. They can identify pitches if there are different releases points or if a curveball starts with an upward hump as it leaves the pitcher’s hand. But if a pitcher can change speeds, every hitter is helpless, limited by human vision.

“Except,” Maddux said, “for that [expletive] Tony Gwynn.”

(Thanks to Paul Timmins.)

‘Your Verse’ 

Remarkable new 90-second ad from Apple for the iPad. (Apple is going all-in on the iPad as a camera.)


My thanks to Harvest for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Harvest lets you track billable hours from anywhere, effortlessly, via web, Mac, or iPhone. Tracked hours appear in visual time reports designed to finish projects on time and within budget. When projects are completed, you can even use Harvest to send detailed, professional invoices. In short, Harvest is a complete time-tracking and invoicing service designed for and by creative professionals.

Best of all: you can get started today with a free 30-day trial.

Goodbye, Cameras 

Craig Mod, writing for The New Yorker:

This past October, just before the leaves changed, I went on a six-day hike through the mountains of Wakayama, in central Japan, tracing the path of an ancient imperial pilgrimage called the Kumano Kodo. I took along a powerful camera, believing, as I always have, that it would be an indispensable creative tool. But I returned with the unshakeable feeling that I’m done with cameras, and that most of us are, if we weren’t already.

The non-networked, non-app-enabled camera’s days are numbered.

Do not miss Mod’s extensively illustrated companion piece on his own site, “Photography, Hello”.

Paul Thurrott on the Future of Windows 

Paul Thurrott:

Windows 8 is tanking harder than Microsoft is comfortable discussing in public, and the latest release, Windows 8.1, which is a substantial and free upgrade with major improvements over the original release, is in use on less than 25 million PCs at the moment. That’s a disaster, and Threshold needs to strike a better balance between meeting the needs of over a billion traditional PC users while enticing users to adopt this new Windows on new types of personal computing devices. In short, it needs to be everything that Windows 8 is not. [...]

In some ways, the most interesting thing about Threshold is how it recasts Windows 8 as the next Vista. It’s an acknowledgment that what came before didn’t work, and didn’t resonate with customers. And though Microsoft will always be able to claim that Windows 9 wouldn’t have been possible without the important foundational work they had done first with Windows 8 — just as was the case with Windows 7 and Windows Vista — there’s no way to sugarcoat this. Windows 8 has set back Microsoft, and Windows, by years, and possibly for good.

‘Geared Up for CES’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest star Dan Frommer. We discuss the news from CES this week — 4K TV sets, wearables, phone integration with car dashboards, and much more. Also: Pappy Van Winkle.

Brought to you by three great sponsors:

  • An Event Apart: The design conference for people who make websites.

  • Squarespace: Everything you need to build exceptional websites.

  • Tonx: The best fresh roasted coffee right to your door.

‘Although, It’s Shown Being Deleted So I’m Not Sure That Really Counts.’ 

John Moltz on Network, another promising new iPhone podcast client. Seems like podcast clients are the new Twitter clients.

The Penalty of Leadership 

1915 ad from the Cadillac Motor Car Company, written by copywriter Theodore F. MacManus:

The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy — but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as human passions — envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains — the leader.

The Wirecutter’s ‘Realist’s Guide to CES 2014’ 

The Wirecutter:

After plenty of research, input from experts and old-fashioned shoe leather reporting, our team identified about a dozen items that they think could be reflective of tech in 2014. This isn’t a list of the flashiest or most obscure products of 2014, but rather things that could actually hold up to critical scrutiny, and possibly even challenge the leaders in their respective categories. Things that actually make sense in our daily lives that we’re excited to see pan out over the next 12 months.

I love The Wirecutter’s approach.

Got to say, though, nothing in this list other than the Oculus Rift makes me go “Wow”.

Apple Wins Appeal in Motorola’s Smartphone Patent Case 

Susan Decker, reporting for Bloomberg:

Google, based in Mountain View, California, inherited the case when it bought Motorola Mobility in 2012 for $12.4 billion. The purchase was made in part to get Motorola Mobility’s trove of more than 17,000 patents, which Google hoped would be used to counter attacks that its Android operating system was infringing Apple and Microsoft Corp. patents. Thus far, the strategy hasn’t resulted in a significant legal victory against either company.

The Verge: ‘Closing Windows: Microsoft and Its Platforms Are Nowhere to Be Found at CES’ 

Tom Warren:

Although Apple and Google officially sit out the biggest tech trade show of the year, their platforms are well represented by the third parties that create thousands of products for their platforms. This year it feels like Microsoft is simply being left out.

How and When the iMac and Mac Pro Can Go Retina 

Marco Arment:

All Apple needs to do to deliver desktop Retina is ship a 27″ 4K Thunderbolt 2 monitor and enable the software scaling modes for it in an OS X update.

Sounds about right to me.

Tim Bray on the State of Software Development in 2014 

Tim Bray at his best: broad perspective, well-informed, measured voice.

The Record 

Great new podcast co-hosted by Chris Parrish and Brent Simmons:

The Record brings you the stories you should know about the Mac and Cocoa development community.

iOS Device Stats From David Smith’s Audiobooks App 

Interesting, but not surprising. Two that caught my eye:

  • The iPhone 5s appears to be outselling the 5c by around a 2.5-to-1 margin.

  • Across all device types around 80% have retina screens. On iPhones this is 97%. On iPads it is only 52%, due in large part to the widespread use of the iPad 2 and iPad mini.

Barnes and Noble’s Nook Sales Hurt by Amazon’s Lower E-Book Prices 

Brad Stone, writing for Businessweek:

Some of the blame here lies with the U.S. Department of Justice. Its successful lawsuit against Apple and major book publishers, for conspiring to set fixed, industrywide prices on e-books, now allows Amazon to set its own often ridiculously low prices. “The Justice Department came in at a time when agency pricing was weakening Amazon’s hold and dispersing the e-book market,” says Mike Shatzkin, CEO of the Idea Logical, a book industry consultancy. “By eliminating fixed prices for e-books, they have handed the advantage back to Amazon. Now everyone else is losing share.”

So the result of a successful DOJ antitrust case is that the undisputed market leader, Amazon, is better able to destroy smaller competitors through predatory pricing. Got it.

Google Plus and Gmail, Sitting in a Tree 

Dante D’Orazio, reporting for The Verge:

A new Gmail setting lets you choose whether you want people to be able to send an email to your Google+ profile — even if they don’t have your email address in their contacts. [...]

By default, the setting will allow anyone on Google+ to send you an email through Gmail. To be clear, Gmail users will be able to type anyone’s name into the recipient field and even if you don’t know that person’s email address. Google will auto-suggest the names of Google+ users, though your actual email address will not be revealed unless you reply to the email.

This has to be a mistake. Surely Google will change this from opt-out to opt-in.

More From Charles Arthur on Smartphone Market Share Numbers 

Charles Arthur:

The conclusion? As before - don’t put your belief in market share numbers. When Nokia had a 63% market share of smartphones (back in the third quarter of 2007), the entire smartphone market comprised just 17m handsets for the quarter. These days, you’d get that many Android handsets sold in a week. The reality is that the only people to whom market share matters is the people who sell the stuff, and they’re probably more focussed on total numbers - and profitability.

Truly remarkable, clarifying analysis. Arthur has just been killing it on “market share”. In the above quoted bit, he touches on something that I think has largely gone right over most industry watchers’ heads: that smartphone share numbers, expressed as a percentage, don’t tell the story in a market where in 2007 smartphones constituted only a sliver of the overall phone market and just six years later now account for a majority of the market. All phones will soon be smartphones.

Phone market share, period, has always been the number to watch. There’s a natural cap on the size of the phone market: the number of people on the planet. Apple has always had their eye on the ball here — seven years ago (today, in fact) at the iPhone introduction at Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs’s stated goal was one percent of the phone market, not some percentage of the “smartphone” market.

Clash of Clans 

Matt Bai, writing for the NYT on George Yao, who spent six months as the world’s top-ranked player in Clash of Clans:

To grasp the extent of Mr. Yao’s immersion in the game, you have to understand a little more about the strategy of Clash. In order to keep your trophy count high, a premier player has to avoid being attacked by other top contenders. You can do this either by staying constantly online or by the protection of a “shield” that usually lasts for 12 hours. You automatically get a shield when an attacker destroys 40 percent of your village or your town hall. [...]

In time, he found another, simpler way to shield himself. When a member of North 44 would quit the game, Mr. Yao would take over his account. Then Mr. Yao would use one of his multiple accounts to attack himself when he needed a shield. In order to pull this off, though, he had to keep all of these other accounts highly ranked, which meant playing as many as five accounts at the same time, around the clock. Another wealthy clan member in the United Arab Emirates bought Mr. Yao three iPads to make this feasible — but even then, it was feasible only in the technical sense. At one point, he was bringing five iPads into the shower with him, each wrapped in a plastic bag, so that none of his accounts would go inactive.

Yao is obviously an extreme case, but in-app purchases are driving game design more towards addiction and less towards fun.

The Markdown File Extension 

My friend Jonathan Wight tweeted last night:

Really wish @gruber had designated a file extension when he invented Markdown.

Too many extensions.

Too late now, I suppose, but the only file extension I would endorse is “.markdown”, for the same reason offered by Hilton Lipschitz:

We no longer live in a 8.3 world, so we should be using the most descriptive file extensions. It’s sad that all our operating systems rely on this stupid convention instead of the better creator code or a metadata model, but great that they now support longer file extensions.

(I personally use “.text” for my own files, and have BBEdit set to use Markdown syntax coloring for that extension, which is why I never saw a need to endorse an official extension.)

Kara Swisher: ‘Microsoft CEO Selection Unlikely to Come in January’ 

Kara Swisher, writing for Recode:

Gates is a key player in the CEO search, despite the high profile of another director, John Thompson, who is heading the search process. “This is a Gates search, even though the board is very involved,” said one source with knowledge of the situation. “But nothing is going to happen without him, especially since he will be much more involved in the company going forward.”

If he’s going to be “much more involved”, Gates should just take the job himself. Otherwise, he should be much less involved, and let the new CEO run the company.

From the Department of Not-News 

I’ve linked here to a synopsis at The Next Web; here’s what Jessica Lessin reported behind The Information paywall:

Apple appears to have run into some challenges with the screen technology, according to two people close to the company. Toward the end of last year, Apple considered going in a different direction with the screen due to some battery issues, one of these people said.

The company also halted advanced prototyping of some unknown pieces with one manufacturer late last year, according to an industry executive. That may not mean much. Apple spins manufacturers up and down all the time.

How is this news, other than the implicit confirmation that Apple is working on some sort of wearable device with a small screen? The real news would be if a totally new product from Apple didn’t push the envelope in terms of design, component technology, and manufacturing. That would be a sign of Apple coasting.

Oklahoma High School Student Suspended for Casting a Magic Spell 

If she’s not a witch, she should prove it.

Update: This story is from 2000; in my defense, I didn’t start Daring Fireball until 2002, and I’m still working through my backlog of good links before that. Also: she lost the suit, and her story was turned into a Lifetime TV movie.

Fast Company Profile of Incoming Apple Retail Chief Angela Ahrendts 

Jeff Chu, in a profile for Fast Company conducted entirely before Ahrendts took the job at Apple:

For a talented and ambitious merchandiser like Ahrendts, though, revitalizing Apple’s enormous retail business might be the ultimate challenge. The Apple Stores’ annual revenue of just over $20 billion is more than six times Burberry’s, its 30,000-strong staff is almost three times as large, and — due respect to the trench coat — its products have insinuated themselves more thoroughly into consumers’ daily lives.

Interesting comparison to today’s App Store announcement. Apple’s retail stores, which the company started in 2001 and which sell hardware costing thousands of dollars a pop, generate $20 billion in annual revenue. The App Store, which started in 2008 and predominantly sells apps costing a few bucks a pop, is already at $10 billion in annual revenue.

Yet Apple’s retail business has also fallen into relative stasis. Its per-square-foot sales are still the envy of retail — just over $6,000, about twice what runner-up Tiffany records — and net sales rose 7% in fiscal 2013, but per-store numbers were flat, since Apple opened 26 new stores during the year.

Per-store revenue growth would be good for Apple, no doubt. But if Apple’s per-square-foot sales lead the industry, twice that of second-place Tiffany, combined with the fact that Chu himself acknowledges receiving excellent customer service from the stores, what justifies Fast Company’s headline, “Can Apple’s Angela Ahrendts Spark a Retail Revolution”? Just like with Apple’s products, the key to its future retail success is more about iteration than revolution.

When was the last time Tiffany’s retail experience underwent a revolution?

Yahoo Tech 

Yahoo’s new David Pogue-helmed tech site launches with the simple (and exclamation-mark-free) name Yahoo Tech.

Update: There’s some dispute over what constitutes an exclamation-mark-free name. Here’s what I mean: Yahoo’s logo still has the bang. And some of the headlines end with one — “Come Take a Tour of the New Yahoo Tech!” — but there, I think it’s clearly meant as punctuation for the headline, to convey a sense of Pogue-ish happy enthusiasm, not as part of the name of the site. E.g., here’s Pogue’s first paragraph:

Let us take you on a tour of the new Yahoo Tech. Hey, that’s the site you’re on right now!

I’ve never included the bang in Yahoo’s name, but for years, they tried to assert that the bang was part of it. That one should write, Yahoo! is a website, and not, Yahoo is a website. Thankfully, they seem to have abandoned that under Marissa Mayer. Even the <title> tag on the Yahoo home page now reads simply “Yahoo”.

Android Tablets Now Being Positioned as TVs 

Makes sense — small tablets are a great form factor for a portable “TV”. But it doesn’t make much sense to pit these against iPads or high-end Android tablets in terms of market share categorization.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 

Here’s a phone announced at CES that caught my eye: the first top-tier specs Android phone in a roughly iPhone-sized form factor. Finally.

Apple: App Store Sales Top $10 Billion in 2013 

Good tweet from Horace Dediu on the notion that digital distribution doesn’t pay.

Jessica Lessin: On the Information and How We Operate 

Jessica Lessin:

Mr. Graham’s said that the reason for the interview was for a profile of his wife, which we published. That is true. But it is only half the story.

The on-the-record interview covered significantly more topics than we could include in the profile of Ms. Livingston. It was more than two hours. Given the unusual length and breadth of the interview, we decided to publish it as a story.

But we didn’t spring it on him. Quite the opposite. We notified Mr. Graham and his PR person and went the extra mile and refreshed their memory on some of the topics. No one expressed any objection.

The lesson: if you’re speaking to a journalist on-the-record, treat everything you say as part of a carefully considered interview — never a casual, off-the-cuff conversation. If you’re speaking off-the-cuff, make sure you emphasize the entire conversation is off-the-record before it starts. And be sure to clarify that both sides agree on what “off-the-record” means.

When a (Partial) Tweet Becomes an Ad, What Are the Rules? 

Interesting question here. I think whatever you tweet is effectively said in public, and thus quotable. My problem with this ad isn’t that they quoted A.O. Scott against his wishes, but that they edited the tweet without indicating that they’d done so. He did not tweet what their ad clearly suggests that he tweeted.

Netflix’s Dumbed-Down Algorithms 

Felix Salmon:

Netflix’s big problem, it seems to me, is that it can’t afford the content that its subscribers most want to watch. It could try to buy streaming rights to every major Hollywood blockbuster in history — but doing so would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and could never be recouped with $7.99 monthly fees. What’s more, the studios can watch the Netflix share price as easily as anybody else, and when they see it ending 2013 at $360 a share, valuing the company at well over $20 billion, that’s their sign to start raising rates sharply during the next round of negotiations. Which in turn helps explain why Netflix is losing so many great movies.

Netflix’s movie selection is getting so bad that I’m quite surprised when it actually has a movie I’m looking for.

See also: Can I Stream It — a unified search service for movies and TV shows across iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, HBO Go, and more.

MacRumors: ‘Apple Said to Be Targeting Fall 2014 Launch for 12-Inch iPad Focused on Enterprise’ 

“Focused on enterprise”. An Apple product. And this analyst gets taken seriously?

The Verge: ‘The Striking Pebble Steel Could Change Your Mind About Smartwatches’ 

Well, that’s one way of looking at it.

Count me in with Rob Beschizza, though:

Pebble’s ‘high-end’ new smartwatches look like stuff from the wobbly plastic carousel of $15 Diesel knockoffs at Macys.

It’s not merely that the new Pebble Steel is not to my liking, not my style. To me they look downright crude.

Darrell Etherington: ‘Go Ahead, CES 2014 – Prove There’s Tech I Want to Wear’ 

Darrell Etherington, writing for TechCrunch:

Gadgets don’t interest general consumers by virtue of their potential or their value as objects unto themselves, they appeal because of their use value, and because they answer a specific question consumers have of “How I can I do x, y or z?” They gain mass adoption and traction when they can provide the best possible answer to that question, and when they can do those things consistently and reliably with a minimum of frustration and a maximum of joy.

Exactly. Reminded of Tim Cook’s relatively forthright response at the D11 conference last May, when asked about Google Glass:

“There are lots of gadgets in the space. I would say that [of] the ones that are doing more than one thing, there’s nothing great out there that I’ve seen. Nothing that’s going to convince a kid that’s never worn glasses or a band or a watch or whatever to wear one. At least I haven’t seen it. So there’s lots of things to solve in this space. It is an area for exploration. It is ripe for getting excited about. There are a lot of companies in the space.”

‘The Type Is All Off, Sorry’ 

Samsung brought film director Michael Bay on stage at CES to tout their new TV sets. It did not end well.

Gareth Beavis: ‘Apple: Make an iPhad or Get Ready to iPhail’ 

This piece by Gareth Beavis for TechRadar is pretty much exactly what Ben Bajarin was addressing in the previous item:

I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but 2014 could well be the year that Apple makes its biggest mistake in recent history.

No, I’m not talking about the iWatch - I still think that could actually be rather good - no, Apple has to, HAS TO, bring out a large screen version of the iPhone or it’s going to really struggle to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.

Again, I think it’s quite possible that Apple will release a bigger-screened iPhone this year. But if they don’t, it’s nonsensical to argue that Apple will be struggling for relevance a year from today.

Apple’s Strategy 

Ben Bajarin, arguing that we shouldn’t be surprised if Apple releases none of the new products in 2014 — TV set, smartwatch, bigger iPad, bigger iPhone — that many pundits claim it “has to”:

The broad claims that are made about what Apple should do are almost always based around competitive reasons. Folks claim that because Apple’s competition is doing something that Apple should also or they will lose. Yet what I love about Apple’s strategy is that it is never around what the competition is doing. Apple marches to beat of their own drum. This is fundamentally mis-understood by so many. In fact, Apple’s strategy is best understood within the view that internally they literally believe they have no competition (I personally believe this also but that’s the subject of a much longer essay.) Apple has customers not competition. The decisions they make as a company are not based around what their competition is doing but around what is best for their customers. Like it or not, this is their strategy.

It’s an interesting way to think about Apple, and it mostly fits. It certainly helps explain why Apple, and Apple alone, has never been part of the CES herd. [Update: The final clause of that sentence originally read, “… and Apple alone, is sitting out CES again this year.” The “again” was my main point, thus the rewrite, but as Nilay Patel points out, other big American tech companies like Google and formerly-perennial CES keynoter Microsoft aren’t at CES 2014, either.]

Phones are the one major product line where Apple clearly has competition — not because any other phone maker has produced a rival device that Apple need worry about, but because of the role that carriers play. Carriers own the networks, and carriers sell most of the phones on their networks. And so of the four aforementioned new products Apple is widely speculated to be releasing this coming year, the one I think we’re most likely to see is an iPhone with a bigger display. Make the iPhone line-up akin to the iPad Air/Mini — simply a difference in size and price, with no significant difference in quality or performance.

Pebble Steel 

To me, these look even uglier than the first-gen Pebble. The first-gen Pebble has a casual plastic look — it’s far from elegant, but it at least feels true to itself, in a low-res digital watch sort of way. These new Steel models are aping the design cues from high-end wristwatches but fall horribly short. They reside in an uncanny valley. And the huge “Pebble” logo below the display? Gross.

If Pebble, or any “smartwatch” maker, wants to succeed in the real world, they need to make watches that look good compared to any watch, not just “looks good compared to other even uglier smartwatches”.

See also: iMore’s interview with Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky.

The Period vs. The Unpunctuated, Un-Ended Sentence 

Ben Crair, story editor for The New Republic:

In most written language, the period is a neutral way to mark a pause or complete a thought; but digital communications are turning it into something more aggressive. “Not long ago, my 17-year-old son noted that many of my texts to him seemed excessively assertive or even harsh, because I routinely used a period at the end,” Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, told me by email. How and why did the period get so pissed off?

I used to write more formally in texts and IMs, but as time goes on I’ve developed/accepted more of a dashed-off style, super terse, and without thinking about it, I do often omit the trailing period. Hitting “Send” feels like punctuation enough.

(Via Kevin Drum.)

Macminicolo 2014 Promo 

My thanks to Macminicolo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. They have a great promotion to celebrate the new year and their tenth year of hosting Mac Minis: a quad-core Mac Mini with 500 GB SSD drive, 16 GB of RAM, an external drive for backups, and a full year of hosting. The price: $2014 — a savings of $645.

At Q Branch, we use a Macminicolo server for Xcode automated testing, our internal wiki, web development staging, and more, and we couldn’t be happier with it. Low cost, high performance, and terrific customer support. I can’t think of a better way to host a Mac server.

Matthew Panzarino: ‘Apple Says It Has Never Worked With NSA To Create iPhone Backdoors, Is Unaware Of Alleged DROPOUTJEEP Snooping Program’ 

Amidst all the NSA-related revelations stemming from Edward Snowden is a recent one reported by Der Spiegel of a program called “DROPOUTJEEP”, which purportedly gave the NSA full control over a target’s iPhone. Everything: location, the cameras, the microphone. The NSA’s description claimed a “100% success rate”, which in turn prompted questions as to whether Apple was aiding and abetting the NSA and had provided some sort of backdoor. Apple issued a statement denying any such cooperation.

It seems pretty clear that DROPOUTJEEP was/is a jailbreak — full control, but requires access to the device. It’s not some sort of remote switch they can flip. Der Spiegel’s information dates back to 2008, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that anything the jailbreak community can do, the NSA can do better. If you’re an NSA target and they get their hands on your iPhone, game over.

The Builder’s High 

Michael Lopp:

The things we’re giving to the future are feeling increasingly unintentional and irrelevant.

John Siracusa Grades Apple’s 2013 

He’s a tough but fair grader.

(An F for TV seems rough though. Apple TV added a bunch of channels this year. It’s not the “show them how it’s really done” revolution we all pine for, but it’s a very good little box.)

Alicia Keys Loses ‘Global Creative Director’ Job With BlackBerry 


Chris Rawson of TUAW on 9to5 Mac’s 2013 Rumor Reporting 

Chris Rawson:

I examined all of 9to5 Mac’s articles between January 1 and December 28 2013. This was 326 pages of content, at 6 articles per page, for a total of 1956 articles. [...]

9to5 Mac posted an impressively high 73 rumor articles that turned out to be entirely true, and this included all of the articles derived from their own original sources — a truly impressive and commendable 30 articles in total. 9to5 Mac absolutely does have someone inside Apple (probably several someones) feeding them accurate information.

If that were the whole story, then it’d be time for me to shut up and retire. Unfortunately, 9to5 Mac isn’t content to stick with its own trusted sources, and it takes the same “shotgun” approach as everyone else by posting idiotic analyst speculation and Digitimes-derived BS with only occasional nods in the general direction of skepticism.

In short: Mark Gurman’s rumor reporting: excellent. All the random “some analyst says…” / “some random site is reporting…” bullshit that they parrot: crap.

Court Upholds Willy-Nilly Gadget Searches Along U.S. Border 

David Kravets, reporting for Wired Threat Level:

A federal judge today upheld a President Barack Obama administration policy allowing authorities along the U.S. border to seize and search laptops, smartphones and other electronic devices for any reason.

Paul Haddad raises an interesting point on Twitter:

Laptop border searches are legal, but so is strong encryption. I don’t love the decision, but who doesn’t travel with everything encrypted?

They can’t force you to reveal your password — although they will “demand” you provide it to them, and most people comply — but they can confiscate your devices.

‘A Speck in the Sea’ 

Riveting story by Paul Tough for the New York Times Magazine:

Looking back, John Aldridge knew it was a stupid move. When you’re alone on the deck of a lobster boat in the middle of the night, 40 miles off the tip of Long Island, you don’t take chances. But he had work to do: He needed to start pumping water into the Anna Mary’s holding tanks to chill, so that when he and his partner, Anthony Sosinski, reached their first string of traps a few miles farther south, the water would be cold enough to keep the lobsters alive for the return trip. In order to get to the tanks, he had to open a metal hatch on the deck. And the hatch was covered by two 35-gallon Coleman coolers, giant plastic insulated ice chests that he and Sosinski filled before leaving the dock in Montauk harbor seven hours earlier. The coolers, full, weighed about 200 pounds, and the only way for Aldridge to move them alone was to snag a box hook onto the plastic handle of the bottom one, brace his legs, lean back and pull with all his might.

And then the handle snapped.

‘Re/code’: Swisher and Mossberg’s Successor to AllThingsD 

Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg:

We are thrilled to announce that we are forming our own new and independent media company, Revere Digital, with a pair of respected investors and partners — the NBCUniversal News Group and Terry Semel’s Windsor Media. Revere will be operating news sites and apps, as well as a series of conferences.

First up is Re/code, a new tech and media news, reviews and analysis site launching today, with the same talented team we’ve worked with for many years at the former All Things Digital site we ran for Dow Jones & Co beginning in 2007.

As expected, it appears they took the entire AllThingsD reporting staff with them, and have added even more. Not sure what to make of the slash in the name.

(Mossberg’s first column for Re/code, “It’s Not a Church, It’s Just an Apple Store” struck me as a bit vapid, seemingly targeted at Artie MacStrawman.)

Motorola ‘Continuing Its Assault’ 

WSJD is off to an inauspicious start, judging by this story by Rolfe Winkler on Motorola’s price cuts for the four-month-old Moto X:

Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility unit dropped the price on its flagship smartphone Wednesday, continuing its assault on the high margins of its smartphone rivals.

In a blog post, the company said its Moto X with 16 gigabytes of memory would now cost $399 without a wireless contract for U.S. customers, down from $550. The company offered the Moto X for brief periods in December at $349, but the latest price drop isn’t a temporary promotion.

For one thing, they don’t link to the original blog post. What is this, a printed newspaper? For another, why buy into this spin that it’s an aggressive offensive move against Samsung and Apple? The more obvious explanation is that the Moto X has not been selling well, and they’re slashing the price in response.

If Apple had yesterday cut the price of the iPhone 5C by 25 percent, would the WSJD headline call it an assault on Apple’s rivals? The real story here is that Motorola, even as a Google subsidiary, continues to flounder to make a popular Android phone.

(And, no, this is nothing like the price cut of the original iPhone in 2007. For one thing, the original iPhone sold well at its original price, and faced supply shortages all summer long. For another, Apple had no experience making cell phones of any kind, nor iOS devices, when the original pricing was announced in January 2007. They were flying by the seat of their pants, and rather than announce no pricing at all in January, Apple instead announced a conservative price — one which, once production started smoothing out, they realized they could undercut.)

Introducing WSJD 

Jonathan Krim, introducing the Wall Street Journal’s replacement for AllThingsD. The Journal learned a lesson: this one feels like part of the Journal itself, everything from the name to the visual design. AllThingsD always looked and felt like an independent entity.

The Problem Is With the Product 

Robert Scoble, in a long ramble on Google Glass:

I’m also worried at a new trend: I rarely see Google employees wearing theirs anymore. Most say “I just don’t like advertising that I work for Google.” I understand that. Quite a few people assume I work for Google when they see me with mine. I just hope it doesn’t mean that Google’s average employee won’t support it. That is really what killed the tablet PC efforts inside Microsoft until Apple forced them to react due to popularity of iPad.

Scoble has the cause and effect backwards. If Glass were a good product, people who have them would wear them. It’s that simple. Same with tablet PCs — the problem wasn’t that Microsoft employees wouldn’t use them and that the product thus lost momentum and didn’t catch on with consumers. The problem is that tablet PCs were crap products.

When your own employees don’t use or support your product, the problem is with the product, not the employees.