Linked List: August 2015

iMore’s Apple Watch Survey 

Some fascinating numbers. Just one example: stand alerts:

  • 25% stand up every time they get an alert.
  • 46% stand up most of the time.
  • 15% stand up some of the time or less.
  • 14% turn them off.
  • 1% leave them on but ignore them.
Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorships 

DF’s RSS feed sponsorships are sold out through the end of October, with one exception: next week. If you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s audience, get in touch.

Update: This week’s spot has been sold, but a few spots later in the year remain open. My thanks to everyone who inquired about this week’s spot.

Mapbox Mobile 

My thanks to Mapbox for again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Mapbox Mobile for iOS, their newest open source SDK for adding maps and location to any app. Mapbox comes with beautiful, pixel-perfect vector maps in a variety of styles: detailed streets for navigating cities, terrain for adventuring, and satellite imagery for seeing the world up close.

Mapbox’s analytics dashboard provides a continuously updated view of the map usage in your app, from places where your app is popular to average daily users. Mapbox’s Cocoa API works just like Apple’s MapKit — just swap out MKMapView for MGLMapView. Their “First Steps With the Mapbox iOS SDK” guide shows just how easy it is to switch. Start developing with Mapbox Mobile for free today.

The Talk Show: ‘90 Minutes or Bust’ 

Special guest Ben Thompson returns to the show. Topics include: our top complaints about Apple Watch, Apple making a car, the New York Times’s profile of Amazon’s work culture, and more.

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Reading the Apple Event Tea Leaves With Actual Witches 

Katie Notopoulos, writing for BuzzFeed:

When Apple sends out invitations to its events, like the one coming up on Sept. 9, the tech press loves to try to “read the tea leaves” in a search for clues as to what will be announced. But what the hell do a bunch of tech bloggers know about divination? In order to find out what’s really going to happen at the Sept. 9 Apple event, you need someone who can actually read tea leaves. Professional journalists are useless at this. So I asked professional psychics.

Probably more accurate.

Apple Is About to Lay Down Its TV Cards 

Matthew Panzarino:

Some very smart people I’ve been talking to suggest that, by building a platform, Apple is generating leverage that it can use to great effect in these negotiations. A mid-market breakout box offering is one thing, but a huge, rumbling platform with an upward trajectory of living-room dominating apps and third-party content is another beast. If, obviously if, Apple is successful with the Apple TV, it could be in a position to dominate content in a way that no other “smart” TV platform has before it.

If Apple did indeed “delay” the Apple TV from being released at WWDC, then it probably had a reason. And, if my sources are correct, that reason could well be polish, polish, polish. The experience of using it is said to blow away the types of junky smart TV interfaces we’ve had to deal with so far. This is the first real Apple TV product.

This, my friends, is the most-informed, best-written piece on Apple TV that you will find before September 9.

Apple Sends Invitations for Wednesday, 9 September Special Event 

Jim Dalrymple:

Apple on Thursday sent out invitations for a special event to be held on September 9, 2015. The event will be held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco at 10:00 am.

That’s a big venue. Kudos to Andrew Dudley at Hoodline for deducing the venue earlier this week.

Swift as a First Language 

Aaron Block wants to (eventually — perhaps soon) use Swift to teach introductory computer science:

For those who haven’t used Java or Python before, those two languages are at one end of the “memory management continuum.” In these languages, you never explicitly delete a memory reference. Java and Python run “garbage collection” routines that remove memory when they are no longer necessary. On the other end, C and C++ require developers to explicitly destroy memory allocations. Swift uses a technique called Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) that lives in the middle. Under ARC, developers do not explicitly destroy objects but instead must correctly organize their memory references and classify them as “strong”, “weak”, or “unowned” so that they can be automatically destroyed without needing to run an additional memory management process. While ARC doesn’t require developers to directly manage memory, it helps students learn how to organize memory and think about how objects are stored in memory without harassing them about the details. (Students should still learn explicit memory management, just not in their first year.)

My beef with Java as a learning language is that it’s so verbose and ungainly. Python is a much better choice. Why not use a language that can be fun and elegant?

(I’m glad I went through college before Java became entrenched as a teaching language. Drexel’s introductory computer science courses in the early ’90s taught Pascal — a language that, now that it’s fallen out of favor, no longer gets the credit it deserves.)

Harvard Business Review vs. Charmin 

The headline of this Harvard Business Review article sure caught my eye: “How Samsung Became a Design Powerhouse”. You can save a lot of time and angst by just scrolling to the bottom and reading the bios of the piece’s authors:

Youngjin Yoo is the Harry A. Cochran Professor in Management Information Systems and the founding director of the Center for Design+Innovation at Temple University. He is also an overseas advisory fellow of the Samsung Economic Research Institute and consults for Samsung Electronics.

Kyungmook Kim is a principal designer at Samsung Electronics’ Corporate Design Center.

In next month’s issue: “How Comcast Became a Paragon of Friendly, Responsive Customer Service and Fair Competitive Practices”, by Comcast chief lobbyist David Cohen.

Prepaying for Gogo In-Flight Wi-Fi 

Brian X. Chen has a piece on Gogo, too:

Another way to get a cheaper rate for Gogo is ordering the service before boarding the plane. People can buy an all-day pass to use Wi-Fi on any Gogo-equipped flight for $16, while frequent travelers can purchase a monthly subscription for $50.

These solutions are small comfort to Ms. Lu. “How am I going to remember for a 6 a.m. flight, of all the things I have to do, to log on at 4 a.m. and prepay for my Wi-Fi?” she said. “Are you kidding me?”

That makes for a compelling conclusion to his column, but it’s terrible advice and a gross disservice to his readers. I have a lot of problems with Gogo’s pricing and service quality, but this isn’t one. You don’t have to prepay for a $16 day pass on the same day as your flight. You can do it today, and redeem it a month from now. It’s like a voucher in your Gogo account.

IDC Estimates Apple Shipped 3.6 Million Watches Last Quarter 

James Vincent, writing for The Verge (my apologies to those of you on mobile devices):

With only a single product to its name, Apple has already taken the number two spot in the global wearables market, according to market analysts IDC. The agency’s quarterly wearable report claims that Apple shipped a total of 3.6 million units in the second quarter of 2015, putting it just behind market leader Fitbit, shipping 4.4 million devices. These figures are only estimates of course, but if they’re close to the truth then it’s a sizable achievement for Apple. Not only is the Apple Watch the company’s debut product in the market, but it’s also so much more expensive than the competition.

Imagine how much better Apple Watch would be doing if it weren’t flopping.

Alongside Apple and Fitbit, the other big players in the market are Xiaomi (which launched its aggressively priced $13 fitness tracker last July), Garmin (which has focused on sophisticated fitness-trackers), and Samsung (which is set to unveil its redesigned Gear S2 soon). IDC’s analysts, though, say that the industry’s focus is mainly on Apple to see where the company will go next.

According to IDC, Samsung’s unit sale numbers dropped from the same quarter in 2014, from 800,000 to 600,000.

Businessweek: ‘Why Gogo’s Infuriatingly Expensive, Slow Internet Still Owns the Skies’ 

Sam Grobart, writing for Businessweek:

Gogo differs from Uber in another way. While the taxi app’s surge prices tamp down demand, thus preventing the service from becoming overloaded, they also encourage idle drivers to hit the streets and increase capacity. When Gogo charges more, capacity doesn’t improve. “They’re participating in something we like to call ‘incremental value capture’ without also offering a better service,” says Frances Frei, a professor at Harvard Business School. “If I’m going to raise your rates, I also have to give you a better value proposition.”

I was on an American flight recently (SFO-PHL, flying home from WWDC) where the only Gogo option for a flight pass was to sign up for a $50 monthly subscription. The only other option was an exorbitant hourly rate. The solution, I learned, is to purchase a day pass from Gogo before you’re on the plane.

Swatch CEO: ‘Apple Watch Is an Interesting Toy’ 

Samuel Gibbs, reporting for The Guardian:

Nick Hayek Jr. said that later this year Swatch will sell smartwatches that last nine months per battery. The company launched its first smartwatch in 2003 in partnership with Microsoft, and have sold connected watches since 1996.

In an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, Hayek Jr. said: “The Apple watch is an interesting toy, but not a revolution.”

Sounds familiar.

How Many Women Actually Used Ashley Madison? 

Interesting analysis of the Ashley Madison data dump by Annalee Newitz, writing for Gizmodo:

What I discovered was that the world of Ashley Madison was a far more dystopian place than anyone had realized. This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.

Those millions of Ashley Madison men were paying to hook up with women who appeared to have created profiles and then simply disappeared. Were they cobbled together by bots and bored admins, or just user debris? Whatever the answer, the more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.

Sounds about right.

Acorn 5.0 

We’re blessed these days with a plethora of outstanding image editing Mac apps from indie developers. The one I depend on most, and have for years, is Flying Meat’s Acorn. (Flying Meat is a two-person company: Gus and Kirstin Mueller.) Version 5 is a great upgrade with all sorts of new features, but my favorite thing from the release notes is this:

We fixed hundreds of minor bugs and annoyances. Little things that built up over the years that very few people ever encountered, like “the shortcut key for zooming in doesn’t work when the keyboard layout is set to Dvorak - Qwerty ⌘”. So we fixed pretty much all of those. It took months and months of work, it was super boring and mind numbing and it was really hard to justify, and it made Acorn 5 super late. But we did it anyway, because something in us felt that software quality has been going downhill in general, and we sure as heck weren’t going to let that happen to Acorn. So we took a long break from adding features and just fixed stuff.

That sense of craftsmanship truly shows in the app. For a limited time, Acorn 5 is available for just $25, an absolute steal. Just buy it.

AT&T Says Injecting Ads Into Airport Wi-Fi Was a Now-Ended Test 

Ina Fried, reporting for Recode:

AT&T said on Wednesday it has ended an experiment that had the company serving ads to those using its free Wi-Fi at two Washington, D.C.-area airports.

“We trialed an advertising program for a limited time in two airports (Dulles and Reagan National) and the trial has ended,” AT&T told Re/code in a statement. “The trial was part of an ongoing effort to explore alternate ways to deliver a free Wi-Fi service that is safe, secure and fast.”

AT&T came under fire this week after computer scientist Jonathan Mayer blogged about his experience encountering the ads while browsing the Web at Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C.

JavaScript injection in all HTTP traffic is unsafe, insecure, by definition slows down page loading. The only thing they were testing is whether they could get away with it without a public outcry.

Google Identifies Hiring Prospects Via Search Queries 

Max Rosett:

I was in the midst of a career transition. I had spent three years working as a management consultant and then at a startup, but I wanted to become a computer engineer. I was earning a Master’s in computer science through Georgia Tech’s online program. I knew that I was slowly developing the skills that I would need in an engineering role, but I still lacked the confidence to apply for a full-time software role.

One morning, while working on a project, I Googled “python lambda function list comprehension.” The familiar blue links appeared, and I started to look for the most relevant one.

But then something unusual happened.

The search results split and folded back to reveal a box that said “You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?”

Like much of what Google does, this is both incredibly clever and incredibly creepy.

It makes me wonder how much Google knows and tracks about queries from programmers at competing companies. Do companies like Apple have policies or recommended practices regarding what employees do with Google services?

AT&T Hotspots: Now With Advertising Injection 

Jonathan Mayer, investigating how AT&T’s “free” Wi-Fi at Dulles International Airport injects ads into all non-HTTPS web pages:

AT&T has an (understandable) incentive to seek consumer-side income from its free wifi service, but this model of advertising injection is particularly unsavory. Among other drawbacks: It exposes much of the user’s browsing activity to an undisclosed and untrusted business. It clutters the user’s web browsing experience. It tarnishes carefully crafted online brands and content, especially because the ads are not clearly marked as part of the hotspot service. And it introduces security and breakage risks, since website developers generally don’t plan for extra scripts and layout elements.

It’s dishonest and dangerous.

Felix Salmon on How Well UberX Pays 

Spoiler: nowhere near as well as Uber would have you believe.

In Conversation With Quentin Tarantino 

Great Lane Brown interview with Quentin Tarantino for New York Magazine:

Q: Who do you see as your competition right now? Are you competitive with someone like Paul Thomas Anderson?

A: No. It’s a friendly thing. This might come across as egotistical, but I don’t really feel in competition with anybody anymore. I’m in competition with myself. David O. Russell can have the biggest hit of the year, and that doesn’t take anything away from me. I couldn’t have been happier that Rick Linklater was at the Oscars this year.

The last time that I felt competitive was when I was doing Kill Bill and my competition was The Matrix Reloaded. That was the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. I saw Matrix Reloaded at the Chinese Theatre the day it opened, and I walked out of the cinema singing that Jay Z song: “S-dot-Carter / Y’all must try harder / Competition is nada.” I was like, Bring it the fuck on. I was worried about that? Ho-ly shit.

‘All Websites Look the Same’ 

Have you noticed a certain sameness to website design in recent years? Dave Ellis captures it brilliantly.

How Lobbying Works 

Dylan Matthews, writing for Vox on a Senate bill passed at the behest of H&R Block lobbyists, that significantly increases the complexity of the tax forms for lower income Americans:

Think about what tax breaks are being targeted here. These are all refundable credits, which, with the exception of the college credit, overwhelmingly help low-income and working-class people. H&R Block is not pushing to make the mortgage interest deduction more complicated, or to make the charitable deduction more confusing. Tax breaks that mostly help rich people go untouched. H&R Block knows that rich people already use TurboTax or hire accountants; because it wants new business, it has decided to prey upon the poor.

In a better world, companies like H&R Block wouldn’t exist, because the IRS would fill out returns itself. But if H&R Block must exist, the least it can do is not try to actively harm poor people. Sadly, even that appears to be asking too much.

Virginia TV Reporter and Photographer Shot to Death by Madman During Seemingly Innocuous Live Broadcast 

Another fine day for America’s “well regulated militia”.

On Comparing Samsung’s S-Pen Design Flaw to the iPhone 4 Antenna 

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge on the growing controversy over the new Galaxy Note S-Pen slot:

It’s a big problem that can result from a very small mistake. Samsung has now issued a response, and well, the answer is that you should read and adhere to the manual.

“We highly recommend our Galaxy Note 5 users follow the instructions in the user guide to ensure they do not experience such an unexpected scenario caused by reinserting the S pen in the other way around.”

With the iPhone 4, the joke was “You’re holding it wrong.” With the Note 5, it’s apparently “You’re sliding it in wrong.” Either way, it’s not very funny.

I’ve seen a lot of people make this comparison, but it’s specious. If you held your GSM iPhone 4 “wrong”, it didn’t break your phone. If you put the stylus in the Note 5 wrong, it breaks the phone.

Banksy’s Dismaland 

Banksy goes big: an actual theme park built on the grounds of an abandoned public swimming pool. Brilliant. See the “commercial” here.

Janice Min Interviews Donald Trump 

Telling that the most interesting interview with any 2016 presidential candidate I’ve seen this year is this interview with Trump for The Hollywood Reporter. Say what you want about his policies (off the top of my head: asinine, buffoonish, racist, misogynous), he is remarkably media-savvy.

iOS 9 and Content Blockers: Safari Can Reload Any Page With Blockers Disabled 

Good tip from David Chartier:

One of the nice perks of Safari in iOS 9 is that, even if you have blockers installed, you can long-press the reload button to reload the site with nothing blocked.

Windows 10 ‘Family Accounts’ Feature Emails Parents a Dossier of Children’s Activity 

Email from a BoingBoing reader:

This weekend we upgraded my 14-year-old son’s laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Today I got a creepy-ass email from Microsoft titled “Weekly activity report for [my kid]”, including which websites he’s visited, how many hours per day he’s used it, and how many minutes he used each of his favorite apps.

I don’t want this. I have no desire to spy on my boy. I fixed it by going into my Microsoft account’s website, hitting the “Family” section, then turning off “Email weekly reports to me” and “Activity reporting”.

Seems really wrong that this is opt-out rather than opt-in. Even as an opt-in feature it feels creepy to me. And if you turn these features off, is it only disabling the reports, but still collecting the data? Via MetaFilter.

Galaxy Note 5 Design Flaw: A Backwards S-Pen Can Permanently Damage the Device 

The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war.

iSight vs. FaceTime Cameras 

Regarding my confusion over the weekend over which camera, front or rear, is the “iSight” camera on an iPhone 6, Wikipedia explains:

Apple introduced iSight at the 2003 Worldwide Developers Conference, intended to be used with iChat AV, Apple’s video-conferencing client. iMovie (version 4 and later) could also be used to capture video from the device. In April 2005, Apple released a firmware update for the iSight to improve audio performance. As of December 16, 2006, the external iSight was no longer for sale in the Apple online store or in retail locations.

Meanwhile, Apple began using the term to refer to the camera built into Apple’s iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro computers, and Cinema Display. In November 2010, Apple began calling them “FaceTime cameras”. However, the term was not retired, as the third-generation iPad, the fifth-generation iPod Touch, the iPhone 5S, the iPhone 5C, iPhone 5, the iPhone 4S, and the iPhone 4 all incorporate an “iSight” rear camera in addition to a front-facing “FaceTime” or “FaceTime HD” camera.

So “iSight” used to be Apple’s name for front-facing video chat cameras. Then they started calling the front-facing cameras “FaceTime”. Then they brought back the “iSight” name for rear-facing cameras.

Speaking of ‘Glory Days’ 

Speaking of “Glory Days”, here’s my favorite live performance of the song, from the 1993 series finale of Late Night With David Letterman. Springsteen’s appearance was a true surprise, and served as a perfect ending.

Time Slips Away, and Leaves You With Nothing, Mister 

Microsoft, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of Windows 95:

On Aug. 24, 1995, Windows 95 arrived. And if you were around then, you may remember the song that accompanied the commercial introducing it: “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this release, download the classic song for free until 11:59 p.m. PST from the Windows Store.

I humbly suggest a more apt song to mark the occasion.

Pac-Man 256 

Jason Kottke:

From the developer of Crossy Road (aka Infinite Frogger) comes Pac-Man 256, a Pac-Man game with an infinite board that gets eaten from below by the kill screen glitch from the 256th level of the original game. I love riffs on old school video games like this, and the infinite board is a particularly clever one.

Curse you, Kottke. Curse you. I play very few games, but Pac-Man 256 gives me joy.

(Unlike Kottke, I think the option to buy unlimited “credits” with a one-time $7.99 in-app purchase is a fair deal. Think of it as an $8 game that you can optionally play for free if you’re willing to watch ads. That’s a good price for a great game.)

Real-World Results of iOS 9 Safari Content Blocking 

Owen Williams, writing for The Next Web:

The effect of using a content blocker on iOS is, to be honest, something publishers should be deeply afraid of. I don’t really care about advertising actually appearing on sites, I just care about how fast the site itself loads over a constrained connection.

Bloomberg and iMore are some of the worst offenders — both sites have almost finished loading entirely with Crystal enabled, before the page with advertising even shows on the screen.

Like I wrote last month, a reckoning is coming. iOS 9 Safari content blockers will dramatically speed up web page loading times, and they will remove unwanted cruft junking up the page. Everyone who finds out about them will install and use one.

Alan Adler, Inventor of the AeroPress Coffee Maker and Aerobie Flying Disc 

Great short film profile of inventor Alan Adler by David Friedman.

Tim Cook to CNBC’s Jim Cramer: Still Bullish on China 

Tim Cook, in a statement given to CNBC:

As you know, we don’t give mid-quarter updates and we rarely comment on moves in Apple stock. But I know your question is on the minds of many investors.”

A large part of the current market sell-off is driven by fears about China’s economy, and a significant factor in Apple’s valuation is the company’s extraordinary growth in China. So this is a rare case where Apple’s recent stock price drop is arguably rational: investors see problems in China’s economy, and it is a fact that China is Apple’s second-most important market. And in the long-term, it’s quite possible — inevitable, perhaps — that China will one day be Apple’s most important market.

I get updates on our performance in China every day, including this morning, and I can tell you that we have continued to experience strong growth for our business in China through July and August. Growth in iPhone activations has actually accelerated over the past few weeks, and we have had the best performance of the year for the App Store in China during the last 2 weeks.

Obviously I can’t predict the future, but our performance so far this quarter is reassuring. Additionally, I continue to believe that China represents an unprecedented opportunity over the long term as LTE penetration is very low and most importantly the growth of the middle class over the next several years will be huge.

Translation: Apple is still doing great in China, right now, but the real prize remains the long-term opportunities.

The trading day isn’t over, but as I type this, Cook’s email seems to have resonated.

Advice After Stock Market Drop: Take Some Deep Breaths, and Don’t Do a Thing 

NYT investing columnist Ron Lieber:

Nobody knows for sure whether we’re in for a decline in the stock market of 25 percent or more. But if such a decline does happen and you are a regular investor, you’ll be buying more when prices are lower.

Which brings us to point No. 4: Long-term investors have time to recover. I know too many 70-year-olds who sold all of their stocks in 2009 and are healthy enough to live to 100. They’d be going on a lot more vacations now and be worrying less about long-term care if they had held firm.

Buy low, sell high.

Mapbox Mobile 

My thanks to Mapbox for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Mapbox Mobile for iOS, their newest open source SDK for adding maps and location to any app. Mapbox comes with beautiful, pixel-perfect vector maps in a variety of styles: detailed streets for navigating cities, terrain for adventuring, and satellite imagery for seeing the world up close.

Mapbox’s analytics dashboard provides a continuously updated view of the map usage in your app, from places where your app is popular to average daily users. Mapbox’s Cocoa API works just like Apple’s MapKit — just swap out MKMapView for MGLMapView. Their “First Steps With the Mapbox iOS SDK” guide shows just how easy it is to switch. Start developing with Mapbox Mobile for free today.

iSight Camera Replacement Program for iPhone 6 Plus 


Apple has determined that, in a small percentage of iPhone 6 Plus devices, the iSight camera has a component that may fail causing your photos to look blurry. The affected units fall into a limited serial number range and were sold primarily between September 2014 and January 2015.

I wonder how many people know which camera, front or rear, the “iSight” camera is? Apple clarifies in the third paragraph, but I guessed wrong.

Headline of the Day: MarketWatch: ‘Don’t Expect iPhone 6S to Save Apple’ 

Nothing can save Apple at this point. Time to pack it in.

Research on the Predictability of Android Lock Patterns 

Dan Goodin, writing for Ars Technica:

Marte Løge, a 2015 graduate of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, recently collected and analyzed almost 4,000 ALPs as part of her master’s thesis. She found that a large percentage of them — 44 percent — started in the top left-most node of the screen. A full 77 percent of them started in one of the four corners. The average number of nodes was about five, meaning there were fewer than 9,000 possible pattern combinations. A significant percentage of patterns had just four nodes, shrinking the pool of available combinations to 1,624. More often than not, patterns moved from left to right and top to bottom, another factor that makes guessing easier. […]

Data breaches over the years have repeatedly shown some of the most common passwords are “1234567”, “password”, and “letmein”. Løge said many ALPs suffer a similar form of weakness. More than 10 percent of the ones she collected were fashioned after an alphabetic letter, which often corresponded to the first initial of the subject or of a spouse, child, or other person close to the subject. The discovery is significant, because it means attackers may have a one-in-ten chance of guessing an ALP with no more than about 100 guesses. The number of guesses could be reduced further if the attacker knows the names of the target or of people close to the target.

Interesting research. It’s human psychology — our natural tendency toward laziness — that makes something like Touch ID so much more secure than a passcode in actual practice.

When Will New iPads Launch? 

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

This morning, analytics company AppSee found an “iPad6,8” with a resolution of 2,732 x 2,048 in its logs. We asked AppSee to check what version of iOS the iPad had installed on it, and as it turns out, it’s running iOS 9.1, suggesting Apple’s work on iOS 9.1 coincides with the development of the iPad Pro.

Rumors this morning have also suggested the iPad Pro will be entering mass production in September or October, pointing towards a late October or November launch date. It’s possible Apple plans to stick to the same October iPad unveiling timeline it’s used for the past several years, introducing the iPad Pro in mid-October and shipping it at the end of the month.

More than “possible”, I’d say it’s probable that Apple will introduce new iPads at a second event in October.

First, Apple is a company of patterns. Sometimes they change those patterns, and sometimes (but rarely) they make exceptions to those patterns, but all things being equal, they stick to them. And for the past three years, Apple has held two product introduction events each fall: an iPhone event in September, and an iPad event in October.

It’s certainly possible that Apple could introduce new iPads alongside new iPhones in a single event, but that seems unlikely. My guess is that the September event will be: new iPhones, iOS 9, Watch OS 2.0, and the new Apple TV. Maybe throw in some new bands for the watch, in time for the holidays? That’s a lot to cover in one event, especially if the new Apple TV platform is as ambitious as rumored, with a new UI, new input device(s), and an App Store.

If a brand-new 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” is indeed imminent, there is no way Apple would rush through the introduction in a brief segment in an already crowded September event. They’d hold it for October, just like they did in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and use the second event as an opportunity to show off the release version of OS X El Capitan (10.11).

Research Firm Claims Apple TV Has Fallen to Fourth Place in U.S. Sales 

Parks Associates:

A new Parks Associates report on streaming media devices reports four brands — Amazon, Apple, Google, and Roku — accounted for 86% of all units sold to U.S. broadband households in 2014. […]

“Roku continues to lead streaming media device sales in the U.S. with 34% of units sold in 2014. Google is second with 23%, and new entrant Amazon overtook Apple for third place,” said Barbara Kraus, Director of Research, Parks Associates.

I’m curious how they assembled these numbers, given that Apple doesn’t reveal sales numbers for Apple TV, and Amazon doesn’t reveal sales numbers for any of its products. (I presume they conduct a survey, which, like political polling, can be pretty accurate.) But there’s a truthy ring to the basic gist of their story: Apple TV is slipping.

The stakes are very high for Apple with next month’s new Apple TV. In some ways, I’d argue they’re under more pressure than they were for Apple Watch. Apple Watch’s biggest competition is the idea of wearing a watch at all. It doesn’t really compete against other smart watches. If you own an iPhone and want a connected digital watch, Apple Watch is it. If you don’t own an iPhone, you can’t use an Apple Watch.

With TV it’s different. There are serious competitors already ahead of Apple in market share, and their products are generally well reviewed. There are some tie-ins between iPhone and Apple TV — we all presume Apple Music, for example, will be available on the new system. But it’s not like the watch, where they’re tied together. iPhone owners can (and do) easily use Roku or Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV. Apple TV has to win on merit.

Gawker Is Really Great 

Julia Greenberg, writing for Wired:

Gawker wants you to know it’s great — like really great.

So great, in fact, that acting executive editor John Cook publicly shared a memo he sent to staff this morning (and that Gawker’s PR sent to us) touting the company’s great reporting.

Someone’s feeling insecure.

Game Developers Wring Their Hands Regarding the Long Slow Death of Adobe Flash 

Patrick Klepek, writing for Kotaku last month:

Basically, people want to kill Flash on the web. Before he died, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously wrote an open letter to Adobe about why the iPhone wouldn’t support Flash. He spent hundreds of words explaining his reasoning, but here’s the summary: Flash totally sucks.

“Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.

Jobs was mostly right. But while Flash might suck, that doesn’t mean it’s not vital or important.

Jobs wasn’t “mostly” right. He was totally and completely right about Flash.

“Steve Jobs and his ‘reality distortion field’ was probably the worst thing to happen to Flash,” said Newgrounds co-founder Tom Fulp. “There were valid concerns about the security of Flash but the reality was that Steve had an ax to grind with Adobe ever since they didn’t have his back when he returned as the head of Apple. […] But he was a dick, so that’s how it goes.”

This is just delusional. People who see themselves as being tied to Flash — either because they’re Flash developers or because they run websites that heavily rely upon it — are kidding themselves if they think Flash’s demise is the result of some sort of personal, petty vendetta on the part of Steve Jobs.

Flash’s decline was mostly certainly precipitated by iOS’s extraordinary popularity and Apple’s steadfast refusal to support it, but Apple’s opposition to Flash was first and foremost on technical grounds — terrible security, terrible performance.

How Is the Apple Watch Doing? 

Ben Evans:

But luxuries are good. If we only bought things that we need, and that have clear use cases, then we’d all wear nothing but overalls and have a single bare lightbulb in each room of our homes.

This is also the source of the confusion, I think. Reading the Watch’s launch reviews, I sometimes got the sense that the tech press was writing about it as though the luxury goods industry didn’t exist and that the luxury press was writing as though technology didn’t exist: no-one spends money on things because they’re just nice and no-one buys things that don’t last forever. The gold version brought this out best - a tech product that’s $10,000 but has the same spec as the $350 one - heresy! And a gold watch that probably doesn’t last a lifetime - again, heresy! But all rules can be broken with the right product - that’s how progress happens. Meanwhile, the irony is that it’s not actually the gold that’s the luxury but the software - that tap on the wrist telling you to turn left. In a sense, the gold case is an accessory to the software in the same way that the strap is an accessory to the watch.

Perfectly said.

Ashley Madison Account Data Released by Hackers 

Brian Krebs:

Many news sites and blogs are reporting that the data stolen last month from 37 million users of — a site that facilitates cheating and extramarital affairs — has finally been posted online for the world to see. In the past 48 hours, several huge dumps of data claiming to be the actual AshleyMadison database have turned up online. […]

I’ve now spoken with three vouched sources who all have reported finding their information and last four digits of their credit card numbers in the leaked database.

John Herrman, writing for The Awl:

We associate the cost of hacks mostly with identity theft and financial loss, from which most victims are pretty well insulated. Target assessed the cost of that hack at $148 million; outside financial institutions added another $200 million to that figure. You may know someone affected by that hack, but the resulting damages were likely mostly absorbed by their bank or credit card company. It was unsettling, yes, but it wasn’t widely ruinous.

This, on the other hand, is basically unprecedented? Most leaks of this size don’t implicate people in anything aside from patronizing major companies. This is new territory in terms of personal cost. The Ashley Madison hack is in some ways the first large scale real hack, in the popular, your-secrets-are-now-public sense of the word. It is plausible — likely? — that you will know someone in or affected by this dump.

This feels like the plot from a movie — it’s hard to imagine a large scale hack that would create more schadenfreude than this.

Google’s Modular Project Ara Phone Delayed 

These phones are going to look so great while you’re wearing your Google Glasses.

Google, HTC Vets Prep ‘Friggin’ Awesome’ Smartphone for September 1 Launch 

Roger Cheng, reporting for CNet:

Nextbit, which began life as a secretive software startup focused on a cloud-based tool that allowed you to move files and settings between Android devices, has shifted gears into hardware and intends to launch its own smartphone. The company, which boasts Google Ventures as a backer, Android veterans Tom Moss and Mike Chan and former HTC design chief Scott Croyle, plans to unveil its smartphone on September 1, Moss said in an interview.

“It’s going to be friggin’ awesome,” said Moss, the chief executive of Nextbit.

Good luck with that.

I toss that line out sarcastically every few weeks, but this time I mean it both ways. I really do hope they shake up the phone market and succeed. But I think their chances are between slim and none.

‘Star Wars’ Themed Lands Coming to Disneyland, Disney World Parks 

Big Toy Story addition at Hollywood Studios in Orlando, too.

Comcast Launching YouTube Competitor Named Watchable 

Hot damn, let’s do a shittier version of it and put it in our terrible set top boxes.

Bold Poker 

I love all my sponsors, but this week’s DF RSS feed sponsor is really cool. Bold Poker isn’t online poker, or a poker game you play solo — it’s a way to play real Hold’em poker with your friends using your devices instead of an actual deck of cards. An iPad serves as the board. Each player holds their own hand on their iPhone or Android device. Host or join a table with a single tap. It could not be simpler or easier.

You save time on shuffling and thus play more hands. It’s like having a personal dealer right at the table. Bold Poker is my favorite type of app: a simple, original, useful idea, implemented with exquisite taste and attention to detail. The artwork and animation are drop-dead gorgeous. They even pay attention to the math behind the shuffling algorithm.

The latest version even includes VoiceOver support:

Starting today, VoiceOver users can connect their headphones at the table and have their cards read out to them. There will still be rough edges as we weren’t always sure how verbose we want VoiceOver to be but we consider this to be a solid start of a larger effort in being more inclusive. We would love to hear your feedback (especially if you’re visually impaired).

That is just so great. If you play poker and haven’t tried Bold Poker yet, do yourself and your friends a favor and check it out.

The Guardian: ‘Documents Confirm Apple Is Building Self-Driving Car’ 

Mark Harris, writing for The Guardian:

Apple is building a self-driving car in Silicon Valley, and is scouting for secure locations in the Bay Area to test it, the Guardian has learned. Documents obtained by the Guardian show the oft-rumoured Apple car project appears to be further along than many suspected.

It sure looks like Apple is getting ready to test drive a car, but I didn’t see anything in this report that justifies the assumption that it’s a self-driving car. Did I miss something?

Finding iPad’s Future 

Neil Cybart, writing at Above Avalon:

The tablet market is in complete disarray. Only five short years ago, the iPad helped jumpstart the category, ushering in multi-touch computing and the modern-day app revolution to large-screen devices. Today, there has never been a time when the tablet market faces so much unknown.

A quick look at iPad and tablet shipment data would show that things have gotten bad in recent quarters. However, in reality, things are much worse than quarterly shipment data would suggest. The seasonality found in the tablet segment makes it difficult to see these long-term problems. A much better way at understanding what has been taking place is to look at the year-over-year change in shipments on a trailing 12-month (TTM) basis, highlighted in Exhibit 1. This smoothing effect highlights that the iPad and tablet have been on the decline for years and things continue to worsen with the overall tablet market hitting negative territory for the first time. All momentum has been lost.

Periscope, by the Numbers 

Periscope, on why their primary metric for growth is “time watched”, not daily or monthly “active users”:

Optimizing for DAU/MAU doesn’t properly motivate our team to create a product that people love. Here’s why: if we were motivated to grow DAU, we’d be incentivized to invest in a host of conventional growth hacks, viral mechanics, and marketing to drive up downloads. This direction doesn’t necessarily lead to a better product, or lead to success for Periscopers. We hold ourselves accountable to Time Watched as an organizational measure because it reflects the kernel of our product, and our core values.

See also: Ev Williams on monthly active users back in April.

Apple’s 2015 Diversity Report 

Tim Cook:

Some people will read this page and see our progress. Others will recognize how much farther we have to go. We see both.

2007 Called… 

Dan Seifert, writing for The Verge:

It’s definitely a novel and different idea, unlike anything I’ve seen before. Unfortunately, in the few minutes I spent demoing the keyboard, I didn’t find it particularly easy to type on. The keys are not very well separated, and they kind of all blend together under my thumbs (the skeptic in me thinks that it was specifically designed to avoid looking like a BlackBerry keyboard and the inevitable lawsuits that would come with that), and I missed the conveniences of a virtual keyboard like tracing.

If it doesn’t feel like a BlackBerry keyboard, who is supposed to buy this?

Philadelphia Asks Comcast Why It’s Not Treating Its Hometown as Well as Other Cities 

Chris Morran, writing for The Consumerist:

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philly City Council has drafted a pair of letters to Comcast addressing the shortcomings of service in the city and what the company plans to do if it wants to keep operating here.

In April, the city released the results of a long-delayed customer service survey undertaken as part of the franchise-renewal process. For the most part, the results were not flattering for Comcast.

Not only did customers complaint about bad service, long wait times, and questionable billing practices, but the report found that Philadelphians were paying more for their service than customers in other markets.

My internet service was out all afternoon today. Comcastic.

Apple Pay, Google Wallet Now Accepted at Rite Aid 

Speaking of CurrentC, one of their members has changed course:

Apple Pay and Google Wallet are once again welcome at Rite Aid stores.

The pharmacy chain announced on Tuesday that all of its almost 4,600 stores in the US will start accepting mobile payments as of August 15, including Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Further, the company will also accept Google’s upcoming Android Pay. Rite Aid added that its stores will also support tap and pay credit and debit cards.

I saw a bunch of headlines today describing CurrentC as a rival to Apple Pay, but that’s not right. Apple Pay isn’t exclusive — part of its appeal to retailers is that it works with the same NFC terminals that work with Google Wallet and whatever else. Retailers that work with Apple Pay aren’t locking out other platforms.

CurrentC May Not Launch Until Next Year 

Jason Del Rey, reporting for Recode:

CurrentC, the payments app being created by a consortium of big retailers known as MCX, may not launch widely this year as originally planned, MCX CEO Brian Mooney told Re/code in an interview on Tuesday. The company will begin a public pilot of its app in Columbus, Ohio, in a few weeks and will not rush a wider rollout if the product is not ready, he said.

“This is a long game,” Mooney said. “Certainly going faster is always better — that’s not necessarily a debatable point. But we’re going to do it right.”

Where by “we’re going to do it right”, he means “we are doing it all wrong”.

Bubble Cloud Widget Plus 

Jen Karner, writing for Android Central:

Convenience is the name of the game when it comes to smartwatches, but at times getting to the app you need quickly can be a hassle in Android Wear. Bubble Cloud Widgets Plus Wear is a launcher that brings you gorgeous icons for all of your apps within swiping range. You’ve also got tons of options, and choices to personalize how everything looks and behaves.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out below.

I feel like I have seen this before. Can’t quite put my finger on it.


Ben Thompson:

That, though, begs a bigger question: why should all of these disparate ventures be a part of the same company at all? While conglomerates were in vogue in the late 60s and early 70s, over the last thirty years the accepted wisdom has been it is better for companies to specialize and for investors to diversify on their own, a viewpoint I agree with: one need only look at Microsoft’s litany of failed acquisitions to appreciate how wasteful many companies can be, and how justified investors usually are in demanding a return of their money. What right does Alphabet have to buck this trend?

That is actually an easy one to answer: Page and Brin can do whatever they want because of Google’s dual-class structure.

Liz Stinson and Margaret Rhodes, writing for Wired:

Whereas Google’s goofy logo reflected a not-quite-mature web, Alphabet’s rational, bright red wordmark signals a growing-up phase. If Google’s logo reflects a campus with multi-story slides and themed conference rooms, Alphabet’s says, “I have a lobby full of Knoll furniture.”

It’s a good, simple mark.

The Ethics of Modern Web Ad-Blocking 

Marco Arment:

All of that tracking and data collection is done without your knowledge, and — critically — without your consent. Because of how the web and web browsers work, the involuntary data collection starts if you simply follow a link. There’s no opportunity for disclosure, negotiation, or reconsideration. By following any link, you unwittingly opt into whatever the target site, and any number of embedded scripts from other sites and tracking networks, wants to collect, track, analyze, and sell about you.

That’s why the implied-contract theory is invalid: people aren’t agreeing to write a blank check and give up reasonable expectations of privacy by clicking a link. They can’t even know what the cost of visiting a page will be until they’ve already visited it and paid the price.

And it’s all getting so much worse, so quickly.

It’s not just about privacy. There are other costs: network bandwidth (which for many of us is metered on cellular), page load times, and increased CPU usage, are real costs — paid entirely by the visitors to websites.

I don’t want to block “ads”. I want to block garbage JavaScript. I’ve been using Ghostery on my Macs for a few months now, and the results are impressive. I expect the results to be even more significant on the phone with content blockers in iOS 9.

The Big AlphaBet 

Om Malik:

The new company is called Alphabet. We should think of its as the Berkshire Hathaway for the Burning Man crowd — where instead of good, old fashioned value investments, the management is betting big on the future possibilities. And every single one of those efforts if done right could be Google sized companies in their own right. […]

Just like Berkshire Hathaway, Alphabet can contemplate betting for the long term, either by controlling the companies or having substantial stakes, that allow them to also skirt the regulatory limitations. In his blog post, Page said Alphabet is about “businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence. In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed.”

Berkshire Hathaway is a good comparison. But Berkshire Hathaway has only 24 employees. I think staying that lean and mean at the top is central to Berkshire Hathaway’s success. Is Alphabet going to be that lean?

Google Shakeup Theory: Sundar Pichai Offered Twitter CEO Job 

Matt Rosoff, writing for Business Insider:

There’s an interesting theory making the rounds among some Silicon Valley insiders today.

Twitter is looking for a new CEO. Perhaps it made an offer to Sundar Pichai, who’s been leading Google’s core businesses since last October. To keep Pichai, Google decided to pull the trigger on an organizational change it’s been considering for some time, giving Pichai the CEO title while keeping the same set of duties.

I’ve gotten at least a dozen emails and tweets from DF readers suggesting this same theory, but I don’t buy it. Twitter may well have been looking at Pichai, but I don’t buy it that Page and Brin would radically change the structure of Google just to keep Pichai. Pichai is obviously very smart, and very talented. He’s kicking ass. But I don’t see him as irreplaceable. And even if he is that important to Google, would co-founders Page and Brin see him that way? And why the hell would Pichai be tempted to go to Twitter? The company is a mess and its executive history is a mess.

I think this Alphabet move is about what Page and Brin want for themselves and want for the company, not about making Sundar Pichai happy. But I think Page was being straightforwardly honest in his praise for Pichai in today’s announcement.

Google Does Not Own @alphabet or 

They don’t need either of these things, especially if Alphabet is not a consumer-facing brand. But Chris Andrikanich might be in for a bit of a windfall if he’s willing to change Twitter handles.

YouTube and Android Stay With Google; Nest and Fiber go to Alphabet 

Google’s SEC filing on the big shake-up:

On August 10, 2015, Google Inc. (“Google”) announced plans to create a new public holding company, Alphabet Inc. (“Alphabet”), and a new operating structure to increase management scale and focus on its consolidated businesses. Under the new operating structure, its main Google business will include search, ads, maps, apps, YouTube and Android and the related technical infrastructure (the “Google business”). Businesses such as Calico, Nest, and Fiber, as well as its investing arms, such as Google Ventures and Google Capital, and incubator projects, such as Google X, will be managed separately from the Google business.

Here are the legal nuts and bolts:

Later this year, Google intends to implement a holding company reorganization (the “Alphabet Merger”), which will result in Alphabet owning all of the capital stock of Google. Alphabet will initially be a direct, wholly owned subsidiary of Google. Pursuant to the Alphabet Merger, a newly formed entity (“Merger Sub”), a direct, wholly owned subsidiary of Alphabet and an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Google, will merge with and into Google, with Google surviving as a direct, wholly owned subsidiary of Alphabet. Each share of each class of Google stock issued and outstanding immediately prior to the Alphabet Merger will automatically convert into an equivalent corresponding share of Alphabet stock, having the same designations, rights, powers and preferences and the qualifications, limitations and restrictions as the corresponding share of Google stock being converted. Accordingly, upon consummation of the Alphabet Merger, Google’s current stockholders will become stockholders of Alphabet. The stockholders of Google will not recognize gain or loss for U.S. federal income tax purposes upon the conversion of their shares in the Alphabet Merger.

So Alphabet starts as a Google subsidiary, then they make a subsidiary of Alphabet, then that subsidiary of Alphabet will “merge with and into Google”, and then Google will be an Alphabet subsidiary.

In the end, what are now shares of Google will be shares of Alphabet, so I think it’s fair to say they’re changing the name of the parent company and refocusing what “Google” means and does. But the logic of a subsidiary of a subsidiary “merging with and into” the parent company, leaving the first subsidiary the new parent, somehow reminds me of the deals I made as a kid playing Monopoly.

Alphabet’s Website 

Not much here, other than Page’s press release announcing the change. Here’s another quote from it, though, regarding the name “Alphabet”:

We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha‑bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for! I should add that we are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products — the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.

Notable is the domain name: That’s pretty clever. It also implies wanting to span the gamut from A-Z — just like Amazon’s “A→Z” logo.

Branding-wise, it’s loosely Google-y, but different. The website and logo mark are set using Circular, a geometric sans serif by Laurenz Brunner.

No word on whether they considered the name “Qwikster” before settling on “Alphabet”.

Google Breaks Itself Apart or Something 

Larry Page, announcing big changes at Google:

Our company is operating well today, but we think we can make it cleaner and more accountable. So we are creating a new company, called Alphabet. I am really excited to be running Alphabet as CEO with help from my capable partner, Sergey, as President.

What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main internet products contained in Alphabet instead.

Sundar Pichai will be the new CEO of Google.

Google itself is also making all sorts of new products, and I know Sundar will always be focused on innovation — continuing to stretch boundaries. I know he deeply cares that we can continue to make big strides on our core mission to organize the world’s information. Recent launches like Google Photos and Google Now using machine learning are amazing progress. Google also has some services that are run with their own identity, like YouTube. Susan is doing a great job as CEO, running a strong brand and driving incredible growth. […]

Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly-traded entity and all shares of Google will automatically convert into the same number of shares of Alphabet, with all of the same rights. Google will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet. Our two classes of shares will continue to trade on Nasdaq as GOOGL and GOOG.

So YouTube is a subsidiary of Google, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet, which trades under the symbol “GOOG”. Got it.

Researchers: HTC Stored User Fingerprints as Image File in Unencrypted Folder 

Samuel Gibbs, reporting for The Guardian:

Researchers from FireEye have found that data that could be used to clone a user’s fingerprint was stored as an unencrypted “world readable” image file on HTC smartphones.

Four security researchers discovered that the image file, which is clear replica of a user’s fingerprint, could be stolen by rogue apps or hackers.

“While some vendors claimed that they store user’s fingerprints encrypted in a system partition, they put users’ fingerprints in plaintext and in a world readable place by mistake,” the authors wrote. “On the HTC One Max X the fingerprint is saved as /data/dbgraw.bmp with a 0666 permission setting (world readable). Any unprivileged processes or apps can steal user’s fingerprints by reading this file.”

Bugs happen, but this is reckless by design. Clearly fingerprint data should never be written to world-readable storage — but in a properly designed system it should not even be possible to access fingerprint data.

HTC Trading Below Cash on Hand 

Tim Culpan, reporting for Bloomberg:

A 60 percent plunge in HTC Corp.’s stock this year pushed its market value to below its cash on hand. That means investors were effectively saying the smartphone maker’s brand, factories and buildings were worthless.

HTC’s market price fell Monday to NT$47 billion ($1.5 billion), below the NT$47.2 billion cash it had at the end of June. A drop of as much as 9.8 percent in its stock before a late rally signaled investors put no value on the rest of the company. […]

HTC’s fall from a market capitalization of more than NT$900 billion in 2011 charts the perils of a product and marketing strategy that’s failed in the face of stiffer competition from Samsung Electronics Co. and Huawei Technologies Co. Once the best-selling brand in the U.S., the failure of its One, Butterfly and Desire smartphones to drive sales has pushed HTC outside a global top-10 now dominated by Chinese brands.

Things move fast in this industry. In 2009 HTC was responsible for 80 percent of Windows Mobile handset sales. Two years later they were flying high as the best Android handset maker. Now the entire company is worthless.

The Talk Show: ‘Did You Ever Take a Photograph?’ 

For your listening pleasure, a new episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Matthew Panzarino. Topics include Twitter (their musical chairs game at CEO, the @MagicRecs feature, and whether their declining stock price makes them an acquisition target), the end of Google Plus, why the new Photos app for Mac is inadequate as a replacement for Lightroom for us, Apple’s new San Jose real estate acquisition, Apple Car speculation, and Apple’s spree of hiring writers from the Apple media.

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Lucy to Allow Charlie Brown to Kick Football 

Joseph Menn, reporting for Reuters:

The change came after security researcher Joshua Drake unveiled what he called Stagefright, hacking software that allows attackers to send a special multimedia message to an Android phone and access sensitive content even if the message is unopened. […]

Ludwig said improvements to recent versions of Android would limit an attack’s effectiveness in more than nine out of 10 phones, but Drake said an attacker could keep trying until the gambit worked. Drake said he would release code for the attack by Aug. 24, putting pressure on manufacturers to get their patches out before then.

Nexus phones are being updated with protection this week and the vast majority of major Android handset makers are following suit, Ludwig said.

Samsung Vice President Rick Segal acknowledged that his company could not force the telecommunications carriers that buy its devices in bulk to install the fixes and that some might do so only for higher-end users.

“If it’s your business customers, you’ll push it,” Segal said in an interview. Samsung is the largest maker of Android phones.

Google, back in 2011:

To start, we’re jointly announcing that new devices from participating partners will receive the latest Android platform upgrades for 18 months after the device is first released, as long as the hardware allows… and that’s just the beginning. Stay tuned for more details.

Igloo: The Intranet You’ll Actually Like 

My thanks to Igloo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Most intranets suck — they’re ugly, they’re hard to use, their content is stale, and they don’t work well on your phone.

Igloo is different. It’s an intranet you’ll actually like. It’s packed full with cool features like microblogs, file sharing, and calendars to coordinate work between teams. And it’s mobile friendly — it renders great on any modern phone.

Sound too good to be true? Sign up now and try Igloo yourself — completely free of charge for up to 10 team members.

Paczkowski: Apple’s Fall iPhone Event to Be Held Week of September 7 

John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed:

Sources familiar with Apple’s plans tell BuzzFeed News the company intends to hold a special event the week of Sept. 7, with Wednesday the 9th being the most likely date. Sept. 9 is the same day on which Apple held this event last year.

Like Apple fall events past, this one too will focus on the company’s next-generation iPhones, which are expected to arrive at market with a pressure-sensitive Force Touch display, an improved camera system, and a significantly faster and power-efficient wireless chip. Sources say Apple executives are likely to show off the company’s latest iPads as well, though that 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” seems to be a wildcard, still.

Also expected to debut at this event is the long-awaited successor to Apple TV.

If it pans out this way, it’ll be a change from the previous three years. Since 2012, Apple has held separate events for the iPhone (September) and iPad (October) each year. Would be simpler to put them all into one event.

Evan Blass Leaks Image of Galaxy S6 Edge Plus With Hardware Keyboard  

The hardware keyboard cover speaks for itself. What I like is Samsung’s utter shamelessness in naming their bigger S6 Edge the “Plus”.

New Website Encompasses Built-In Store 

You know how Apple has a regular website (with product information and marketing material), and a separate online store site where you go to actually buy things? Well, no more. They’ve just rolled out a new, simpler, integrated site. Looks pretty good, with simpler URLs (WebObjects no more?). Feels faster, too, but maybe that’s the new-and-shiny placebo effect.

Knowing what I know about the old online store, this was a massive behind-the-scenes undertaking, but the result looks and works like what most people would have expected all along. (Someone should count the instances of “finally” in the headlines about this change.) The old two-site approach was like having separate rooms in a physical retail store — a showroom up front, and a sales room in the back. Now it’s just one room. (And in another subtle parallel to the physical Apple stores, the website now uses a shopping bag instead of a cart.)

Speaking of the Post-PC Industry 

Remember a few months ago when Microsoft announced an Objective-C bridge for porting iOS apps to Windows? Today they released it as open source on GitHub:

Windows Bridge for iOS (also referred to as WinObjC) is a Microsoft open source project that provides an Objective-C development environment for Visual Studio/Windows. In addition, WinObjC provides support for iOS API compatibility.

Defining ‘Terrorism’ Down 

Glenn Greenwald, writing for The Intercept:

The FBI on Friday announced the arrests in Oakland of two animal rights activists, Joseph Buddenberg and Nicole Kissane, and accused the pair of engaging in “domestic terrorism.” This comes less than a month after the FBI director said he does not consider Charleston Church murderer Dylann Roof a “terrorist.” The activists’ alleged crimes: “They released thousands of minks from farms around the country and vandalized various properties.” That’s it. Now they’re being prosecuted and explicitly vilified as “terrorists,” facing 10-year prison terms.

The politicization of the word terrorism is not new, but at this point, it’s devolved into a term of pure propaganda. From the FBI announcement:

“Whatever your feelings about the fur industry, there are legal ways to make your opinions known,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “The conduct alleged here, sneaking around at night, stealing property and vandalizing homes and businesses with acid, glue, and chemicals, is a form of domestic terrorism and can’t be permitted to continue.”

“Today’s indictment represents the collective efforts of several FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) around the country,” said Eric S. Birnbaum, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office. “The FBI and our JTTF partners will continue to investigate and seek the prosecution of those who engage in similar criminal conduct for the purpose of advancing their own personal agenda.”

We’ll all sleep so much better tonight knowing the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces are hard at work pursuing animal rights activists who are gluing the door locks of mink farmers.

TechCrunch Apple Reporter Darrell Etherington Hired by Apple for PR 

Mark Gurman:

TechCrunch’s lead Apple reporter Darrell Etherington quietly stopped writing for the news site at the end of June, and we’ve learned that he left to take up a job in Apple’s PR office in Toronto, Canada. […] Etherington’s move is just the latest in a string of journalists who have been hired by Apple, but none of the career changes appear to be related.

‘Made Recruiting Here More Difficult’ 

New Reddit CEO and cofounder Steve Huffman, on the policy changes announced today that include banning the utterly racist “CoonTown” sub-reddit:

We didn’t ban them for being racist. We banned them because we have to spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with them. If we want to improve Reddit, we need more people, but CT’s existence and popularity has also made recruiting here more difficult.

If they didn’t ban them for being racist — for god’s sake their name was offensively racist — but because they forced Reddit “to spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with them”, well, I don’t know that that’s going to change Reddit’s recruiting problems. The message seems to be that they’ll host racist/sexist/whatever communities, just not troublemaking racist/sexist/whatever communities.

From the Department of Strange Bedfellows 

Robert McMillan, reporting for the WSJ:

International Business Machines Corp. and Apple Inc. used to be bitter rivals, but lately they have been spending quality time together. More than 100 IBM employees occupy Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., campus helping build iPhone and iPad apps for IBM customers such as Citigroup Inc., Sprint Corp. and Japan Post Holdings Co.

Things are looking different inside IBM, too. Once a company of blue suits, Wintel personal computers and BlackBerrys, Big Blue is on track to become the world’s largest corporate user of MacBooks. On Wednesday, the company began to apply lessons it has learned, introducing a service intended to help other companies adopt Macs.

Every time I think about this growing partnership between Apple and IBM, I think of this photo. I’ll bet you know exactly what photo I’m talking about, too.

I don’t know if this IBM partnership in and of itself is a big deal, but I think the general trend toward MacBooks being the de facto standard laptop for any sort of professional use, across all fields, is a huge deal.

Back in 2007 I doubted the iPhone would ever gain traction in “the enterprise”. But for it to happen with the Mac? Unimaginable. Everyone knows new product markets move quickly. What I take away from the Mac’s continuing growth is that it’s worth remembering that even established markets can change in fundamental ways. It’s human nature to be blind to changes like this until after they’ve happened.

Update: Darth provides an updated photo for 2015.

It’s Our Duty to Support the Troops and the Second Amendment in Case We Ever Need to Kill Them All 

“Russell Mandel”, writing for Clickhole:

These days, America faces its most troubling threats, both from the outside and the inside. Between terrorist groups like ISIS vowing daily to attack our citizens and our own government seemingly hellbent on infringing on our civil liberties, the American way of life as we know it is in constant danger.

That’s why I believe that, regardless of politics, it’s everyone’s duty to support the troops, and also to support the Second Amendment should the day come when we need to overthrow the government and kill those troops.


Update: For those of you unfamiliar with the right-wing political fringe here in the U.S., here’s a news story today that provides some context.

The ‘Illegal’ Index: Which News Organizations Still Use the Term ‘Illegal Immigrant’? 

Felix Salmon, writing for Fusion back in November:

This might well be the only article you ever read on Fusion that contains the phrase “illegal immigrant.” If necessary, we’ll quote individuals who use the offensive term. But we’ll never use it ourselves to describe people living and working in the United States without every necessary bureaucratic authorization.

The reason is simple: People who speed aren’t “illegal drivers,” nor are people who fall behind on their taxes “illegal filers.” Even soldiers fighting against the United States without belonging to a formal national army are generally referred to as “unlawful” rather than “illegal” combatants. The use of the term “illegal” to refer to a person is a usage which is confined to exactly one group of people: Migrants. As a result, “illegal,” when used as a noun, always means immigrants — people whose only crime is the victimless pursuit of liberty and prosperity.

Jeffrey Toobin, writing for The New Yorker (which has no policy on the term):

Salmon, and most others who abjure “illegal” immigrant, prefer to use the adjective “undocumented,” which I also used several times in my article. The term is clearly accurate, but also incomplete. The problem of the family in my piece is not simply that it lacks a document, like an American who, say, is kept from voting because he or she lacks a driver’s license or other photo I.D. The problem is that the law currently forbids the family from living in the United States. The family is not authorized to be here, which is different, I think, from simply needing a piece of paper. […]

An erudite friend, Michael O’Hare, a professor of public policy at Berkeley, pointed out that there are apt terms in French — sans papiers, and situation irrégulière — but I write in English. If we were being technical, it may be more accurate to describe these individuals’ status as “unauthorized” rather than undocumented or illegal. In the end, though, I think my third category is dispositive. There does seem to be a consensus against the use of the term by the people most affected by it, who happen to be a vulnerable minority seeking a better life, and that’s good enough for me. Personally, I’m dropping the use of the term “illegal immigrant.”

Hackers Exploit Adobe Flash Vulnerability in Yahoo Ads 

Dino Grandoni, writing for the NYT Bits blog:

“Right now, the bad guys are really enjoying this,” said Jérôme Segura, a security researcher at Malwarebytes, the security company that uncovered the attack. “Flash for them was a godsend.”

The scheme, which Yahoo shut down on Monday, worked like this: A group of hackers bought ads across the Internet giant’s sports, news and finance sites. When a computer — in this case, one running Windows — visited a Yahoo site, it downloaded malware code.

The sooner we completely eliminate the use of Flash, the better. Just get rid of it.

Mark Bergen: ‘Three Reasons Why Google Is Unlikely to Buy Twitter’ 

Mark Bergen, Google beat reporter for Recode:

As markets closed yesterday, Twitter’s stock sank to its lowest level ever — a drop that raised speculation, yet again, that another company would take it over. At only a $19 billion market valuation, that’s not a surprise.

Neither is the other company most often cited as its obvious buyer: Google.

“At some point, it is just simple math that Google grabs it,” said one person close to the situation. “Why they haven’t yet is a mystery.” […]

Still, that talk has gone nowhere, and there is good reason for that. Despite the seemingly natural fit, there is a just as strong if not stronger case that Google should not make the move.

Apple Denies It Plans to Launch MVNO 


“We have not discussed nor do we have any plans to launch an MVNO,” said an Apple spokeswoman in a statement on Tuesday.

So much for that.

Why get out in front of this with a flat-out denial, instead of their usual policy of ignoring rumors? My guess is to keep things amicable with the various carriers around the world. That’s always been the problem with this “Apple running its own phone service”. Ostensibly, as a handset maker, Apple is a partner with all the carriers around the world that support iPhone. They can’t compete against them while partnering with them. So I’m guessing Apple wants to signal, clearly, that they aren’t conspiring against their carrier partners.

Inside the Sad, Expensive Failure of Google Plus 

Remember Google Plus? Seth Fiegerman goes behind the scenes on its creation for Mashable:

For those elsewhere in the company, Google’s approach to Plus represented a radical departure. Most Google projects started small and grew organically in scale and importance. Buzz, the immediate predecessor to Plus, had barely a dozen people on staff. Plus, by comparison, had upwards of 1,000, sucked up from divisions across the company. One employee on a different team recalled thinking at this time, “Where have our engineers gone?”

That’s no way to make a successful product. Google Plus was never anything more than chasing Facebook.

Update: Tony Fadell on Apple Watch 

A few weeks ago I linked to a BBC interview with Tony Fadell, in which I thought Fadell took a backhanded shot at the software design of Apple Watch. The BBC’s Leo Kelion kindly emailed me with a full transcript of Fadell’s remarks, which makes clear that my original interpretation was flat-out wrong. I’ve updated the post accordingly.

The Declining Marginal Value of Crazy 

Josh Marshall:

In a crowded field, for almost everyone but Bush, it’s critical to grab hold of the mantle of anger and grievance. But the Huckabees and Cruzes simply cannot compete with Trump, who is not only willing to say truly anything but also has — whatever else you can say about his nonsense — a talent for drama and garnering press attention honed over decades. With a mix of aggression, boffo self-assertion and nonsense, Trump has managed to boil modern Republicanism down to a hard precipitate form, shorn of the final vestiges of interest in actual governing.

Rob Rhinehart: ‘How I Gave Up Alternating Current’ 

I read this like eight or nine hours ago, and I still don’t know what to think of it. It’s worth knowing going in that Rhinehart is the creator of Soylent, and Soylent 2.0 launched today. So I think Andy Baio is right that this post was purposefully written to go viral.

The thing is, I can’t tell whether this is parody or not. Seems like certain aspects have to be a joke (e.g., his wardrobe: once-worn clothing custom-made in China), but I thought Soylent was a joke when I first heard about it. Even if it is a PR ploy, it’s a damn clever one — at once both deeply thought-provoking and enragingly obnoxious.

Samsung Computer Display With Built-In Wireless Phone Charger 

Clever new product from Samsung. Filed under “Words I didn’t expect to write today”. (Via Chandana Kulatunga.)

Update: Of course, since it’s Samsung, they ripped off the old iOS 6 battery image.


Dan Moren, speculating back in May on Apple launching its own cell service:

I can think of a few reasons that Apple would be tempted to launch its own mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), but the overriding one is philosophical. Apple’s a company that notoriously likes to control everything related to its business. In its earliest days, that meant creating both hardware and software to form an integrated whole, but in recent years, that’s increasingly meant the whole shebang. A to Z. Soup to nuts. I mean, this is a company that hired metallurgists for the Apple Watch, invested heavily in a (now mostly defunct) firm to make sapphire glass, and, of course, launched its own hugely successful retail stores in an era when that seemed like pure folly.

Business Insider: ‘Apple in Talks to Launch an MVNO in the US and Europe’ 

James Cook, reporting for Business Insider:

Apple is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service in the US and Europe, Business Insider has learned.

Sources close to Apple say the company is privately trialling an MVNO service in the US but is also in talks with telecoms companies in Europe about bringing the service there too. […]

There is no guarantee Apple’s service will launch beyond a test phase, and if it does, it will not roll out anytime soon. Telecoms sources say Apple is looking long-term with its MVNO and could take at least five years to fully launch the service. Apple has been in talks with telecoms companies for years over its MVNO plans, those sources say, adding that it’s an “open secret” among carriers that a virtual Apple network is on the way.

Dave Wiskus asks:

If Apple becomes a wireless carrier, what would the phone say for carrier in the status bar?

The Mullet Watch 

Like a $10,000 harness to connect your automobile to your horse.

Web Designer News: Curated Stories for Designers 

My thanks to Web Designer News for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. It’s a great news site, sourced by designers for designers. Topics include tools and apps, case studies, code demos, inspiration, videos, and more. Sign up for their newsletter for daily updates, or create an account and archive your favorite posts.

Web Designer News has a clean, simple design and great content. Perusing their home page today, I see a bunch of posts that are right down the alley for DF readers, like this piece from Brand New on the merged Kraft Heinz Company’s “fugly” new logo. Check it out.

Switching for Security 

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, who covers the security beat for Motherboard:

I’ve been antagonistic with Apple products ever since I was a teenager, when Apple used to try to shove its apps down my throat (cough iTunes cough) whenever I just wanted to watch a movie trailer on Quicktime. I never liked Apple’s walled garden and “we-control-everything” approach, and I particularly disliked Apple fanboys’ dumb “oh my god there’s a new iThing coming out” reverence and hysteria.

So when the original iPhone came out a few years ago, I swore in multiple heated discussions with friends and strangers that I’d never buy an iPhone. Since then, I’ve only owned Android phones. First a few HTC ones, now a Sony phone.

Well, I’m sick of it. And I’m ready to go to the dark side.

Reminds me of my old definition of “Apple fanboy”: “anyone who’s been an enthusiastic Apple user since before I switched”.

Reuters: ‘Apple, BMW in Courtship’ 

Edward Taylor and Julia Love, reporting for Reuters:

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook went to BMW’s headquarters last year and senior Apple executives toured the carmaker’s Leipzig factory to learn how it manufactures the i3 electric car, two sources familiar with the talks told Reuters.

The dialogue ended without conclusion because Apple appears to want to explore developing a passenger car on its own, one of the sources said. […]

During the visit, Apple executives asked BMW board members detailed questions about tooling and production and BMW executives signaled readiness to license parts, one of the sources said. News of the Leipzig visit first emerged in Germany’s Manager-Magazin last week.

“Apple executives were impressed with the fact that we abandoned traditional approaches to car making and started afresh. It chimed with the way they do things too,” a senior BMW source said.

I’ll bet Apple executives were not so impressed with BMW executives’ inability to keep their mouths shut.