Linked List: December 2015

Original Apple Watch = Original iPhone 

Interesting eight-months-in review of Apple Watch by Michael Shear:

There was never any doubt that I would buy an Apple Watch on the day it was released. I’m a White House correspondent for The New York Times, but I’m also that early-adopter guy.

Buying the watch has led to the inevitable questions from friends and family: “What do you think? Should I get one of those?”

My search for an answer reminds me of a similar period nearly a decade ago, in the months after I stood in line for several hours at an Apple Store in Arlington, Va., to be among the first to spend $599 on the original iPhone. The Apple employees cheered as I emerged with the phone.

The next day, I was on a Southwest flight to New Hampshire to cover Fred Thompson, the late actor and senator, who was then running for president. As I sat in my aisle seat, playing with the phone, a crowd formed. First the flight attendants. Then passengers. They all wanted to see the crazy new device in action.

But back then, it was hard to recommend to my fellow reporters on the campaign trail that they ditch their BlackBerrys. The iPhone’s on-screen keyboard made typing a clunky business. The phone couldn’t connect with most workplace email systems. Cell service (limited to AT&T) was slow and flaky at best. Battery life was short. There was no App Store. The iPhone didn’t even have a “cut and paste” feature.

I remember the original iPhone differently — I loved it immediately and found it life-changing. AT&T’s EDGE network was indeed dreadfully slow, but it was still better than no internet-in-my-pocket-at-all, which is where I was coming from as a dumb-phone user. But I can totally see how, from a BlackBerry user’s perspective, the original iPhone was hard to recommend.

‘Two Kinds of Silence’ 

Moisés Chiullan put together a special episode of his Electric Shadow podcast:

20 guests are asked to pick just one thing in (or about) Star Wars: The Force Awakens to talk about for two minutes or less. This episode includes a spoiler warning.

Up first is yours truly. I had a little trouble with the two-minute rule.

The Talk Show: ‘Apple’s 2015 Year in Review’ 

Rene Ritchie returns to the show for a look back at the Apple year that was: the new one-port MacBook, Apple Watch’s launch, WWDC and Apple Music, the iPhones 6S, iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, Apple TV, iPad Mini 4, iOS 9, Mac OS X 10.11, and, of course, the most important new product of the year, the Smart Battery Case.

This episode contains absolutely no Star Wars talk, except for a little.

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‘I Was Having My Second Frogasm of the Night When Dinner Got Weird.’ 

Pete Wells reviews Señor Frog’s in Times Square for the NYT.

A Visit From Saint Nicholas (In the Ernest Hemingway Manner) 

Classic 1927 James Thurber piece for The New Yorker:

The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn’t move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.

“Father,” the children said.

There was no answer. He’s there, all right, they thought.

“Father,” they said, and banged on their beds.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“We have visions of sugarplums,” the children said.

(Via Kottke.)

Doomsaying Apple Analyst Loses Job 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

It’s been three years since Berenberg Bank analyst Adnaan Ahmad began predicting doom for Apple, setting a split-adjusted price target of $60 a share and — five months later — flipped the stock’s rating from Buy to Sell.

This spring, with the iPhone 6 selling like hotcakes and the stock trading above $124, Ahmad raised his target (to $85) but not his rating. “We sense,” he wrote, “that the company is over-earning, over-loved and, in our view, the stock should be ‘over-and-out’ soon.”

Email from Ahmad this morning:

As you may already know, Daud Khan and I have unfortunately been let go at Berenberg. It has been a pleasure debating and discussing the sector with you all. I have strived to be as honest, independent and give a high level of integrity in my research as possible throughout my career. As many of you know, my views have been controversial in the global tech space and I have taken a fair amount of abuse but I have enjoyed the two way dialogue immensely.

Where by “controversial” he means “totally wrong”.

Ahmad can take solace in the fact that his record doesn’t hold a candle to, say, Per Lindberg’s. In 2010 Lindberg was, according to this report in The Globe and Mail, “the only sell-side analyst covering Apple Inc., out of roughly 40, who has a ‘sell’ rating on the company”. As I type this today, Apple’s stock price is about 8 times higher today than it was in 2009 when Lindberg called it a “sell”.

Benedict Evans: 16 Mobile Theses 

Benedict Evans, surveying the state and future of the entire industry. Here, on the “Internet of Things”:

Our grandparents could have told you how many electric motors they owned - there was one in the car, one in the fridge and so on, and they owned maybe a dozen. In the same way, we know roughly how many devices we own with a network connection, and, again, our children won’t. Many of those use cases will seem silly to us, just as our grandparents would laugh at the idea of a button to lower a car window, but the sheer range and cheapness of sensors and components, mostly coming out of the smartphone supply chain, will make them ubiquitous and invisible - we’ll forget about them just as we’ve forgotten about electric motors.

Miami Is Flooding 

Elizabeth Kolbert, writing for The New Yorker on south Florida’s battle against rising sea levels:

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century. The United States Army Corps of Engineers projects that they could rise by as much as five feet; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to six and a half feet. According to Wanless, all these projections are probably low. In his office, Wanless keeps a jar of meltwater he collected from the Greenland ice sheet. He likes to point out that there is plenty more where that came from.

“Many geologists, we’re looking at the possibility of a ten-to-thirty-foot range by the end of the century,” he told me.

We got back into the car. Driving with one hand, Wanless shot pictures out the window with the other. “Look at that,” he said. “Oh, my gosh!” We’d come to a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes where the water was creeping under the security gates and up the driveways. Porsches and Mercedeses sat flooded up to their chassis. […]

In Miami-Dade County, the average elevation is just six feet above sea level. The county’s highest point, aside from man-made structures, is only about twenty-five feet, and no one seems entirely sure where it is. (The humorist Dave Barry once set out to climb Miami-Dade’s tallest mountain, and ended up atop a local garbage dump nicknamed Mt. Trashmore.) Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, is equally flat and low, and Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, is even more so.

But South Florida’s problems also run deeper. The whole region — indeed, most of the state — consists of limestone that was laid down over the millions of years Florida sat at the bottom of a shallow sea. The limestone is filled with holes, and the holes are, for the most part, filled with water.

It’s like trying to protect a sand castle against the tide, just with a longer time scale.

Radiohead: ‘Spectre’ 

Radiohead:

Last year we were asked to write a theme tune for the Bond movie Spectre. Yes we were. It didn’t work out, but became something of our own, which we love very much. As the year closes we thought you might like to hear it.

Merry Christmas. May the force be with you.

Update: Here’s the Radiohead song with a samizdat recording of the Spectre opening credits. Probably won’t be up for long. I’m not in love with this Radiohead song, but it’s so much better than the Sam Smith song they went with instead. I can’t imagine what Sam Mendes and EON were thinking when they made this change.

WinterFest 2015 

Another great holiday indie app promotion, featuring Mac stalwarts such as BBEdit, Nisus Writer Pro, Tinderbox, TextExpander, and more.

IP-Boxes 

From a New York Daily News story about a judge tossing out evidence police obtained from a suspect’s iPhone:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security special agent David Bauer had testified in Djibo’s case that a “fairly new” device called an IP-Box can be used to “systematically attempt every passcode from 0000 to 9999.”

But in the other case before the magistrate, Johnson noted, different federal prosecutors argued that the IP-Box is unreliable and could result in a “non-trivial risk of data destruction.”

These devices are easily obtained, and only cost $100-200. It takes about 17 hours to run through all the codes from 0000 to 9999. (A smart one would start by trying the most commonly used four-digit passcodes first, instead of starting at 0000.) Anyway, if you haven’t switched to a six-digit passcode, you should. And if you have anything truly sensitive on your devices, you should enable the option to erase all data after 10 failed attempts.

Netflix’s New Video Compression Strategy 

Don Melton:

The tl;dr of it all is simply that Netflix plans on scaling bitrates up and down based on the complexity of their video. So, slightly higher bitrates for busy action blockbusters and possibly lower bitrates for relatively static, flat cartoons.

Basically what we’ve all been doing for years with variable bitrate (VBR) encoding. But they’re trying to control that variance a lot more than an encoder like x264 typically allows. In fact, as near as I can tell, Netflix still plans on encoding everything with a constant bitrate (CBR), but they want to be really particular about the target number.

To do that, Netflix will transcode every one of their videos a bazillion times at different resolutions and at different bitrates, finally selecting the smallest one for a particular title that doesn’t suck visually. Seriously, their algorithm for all of this is quite clever.

App Santa 2015: Award-Winning Apps, Up to 80 Percent Off for Christmas 

One of my favorite holiday traditions is this promotion from a bunch of truly great indie app developers for Mac and iOS.

Transcript of 60 Minutes’s Feature on Apple 

Charlie Rose and the 60 Minutes team did a great job on this. There were a few interesting tidbits for those of us who follow the company closely, but the main audience for 60 Minutes is the broad public — and for them, I think this was a very accurate profile of the company and its executive leadership.

The Photojojo Iris Phone Lens 

My thanks to Photojojo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Their new Iris Phone Lens system offers wide, macro, and fisheye lenses for your iPhone — and they cleverly mount over any case. Check out their website to see how it works, and to view example photos taken with each of the lenses.

Order today — Tuesday — and get it by Christmas.

The Deck 

You know the ads in the sidebar here on Daring Fireball? They’re from The Deck Network — and they’re booking first quarter and 2016 schedules now. There are efficient packages available for multi-month campaigns, and The Deck can offer a nice price to first-time advertisers, too. If you want to get your message in front of millions of curious and savvy readers, start your new year marketing right, and drop a note to The Deck.

How to Make Icons for Safari’s Pinned Tabs 

Craig Hockenbery:

The recent release of Safari 9.0 brought a great new feature: pinned tabs. These tabs are locked to the lefthand side of your tab bar and stay in place, even when you open a new window or relaunch the browser.

The default behavior is to display the first letter of the site’s name on a color from the site’s theme. If you work on a site with a strong branding element, you’ll want to customize the icon on the pinned tab. Anthony Piraino and I have been working on one for the Iconfactory and would like to share some of the things we learned.

Not coincidentally, DF now has a proper icon when pinned. (Not quite identical to the one Craig created as an example for this article, but close.)

Why Facebook Switched From Flash to HTML5 Video 

Daniel Baulig, Facebook:

We recently switched to HTML5 from a Flash-based video player for all Facebook web video surfaces, including videos in News Feed, on Pages, and in the Facebook embedded video player. We are continuing to work together with Adobe to deliver a reliable and secure Flash experience for games on our platform, but have shipped the change for video to all browsers by default.

From development velocity to accessibility features, HTML5 offers a lot of benefits. Moving to HTML5 best enables us to continue to innovate quickly and at scale, given Facebook’s large size and complex needs.

“Security” isn’t mentioned, but don’t forget that Alex Stamos, Facebook’s new chief security officer, has called on Adobe to announce an end-of-life date for Flash Player.

Disney No Longer Selling Toy Guns in Theme Parks 

Chip and Co.:

Disney is discontinuing the sales of toy guns of any kind at the theme parks, including bubble guns and Buzz Lightyear toy blasters. All of the gun merchandise is being pulled off the shelves and guests are encouraged to leave their own toy guns at home or not being allowed to gain entry to the park. Lightsabers and swords are still for sale as of right now. No word if they will be pulled later.

It’s being framed as a security measure, but there’s clearly a cultural aspect as well — like the candy cigarettes of my childhood.

How to Kill Your MacBook Battery: Leave an iTunes Store Page Open in iTunes 

Kirk McElhearn:

If you use a laptop, and your battery dies quickly, check and see if you accidentally left iTunes open on an iTunes Store page, even in the background. Look how much CPU it uses to simply display a front page, and rotate graphics in the carrousel at the top of the page.

It’s easy to pick on iTunes, but this is pretty egregious.

Bezos Takes Hands-On Role at Washington Post 

Lukas Alpert and Jack Marshall, writing for the WSJ:

When Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos received an email from a reader complaining about the time it took for the mobile app to load, he immediately fired off a note to the newspaper’s chief information officer. The message was simple: fix it.

“We looked at the problem and I told Jeff I thought we could improve the load time to maybe two seconds. He wrote back and said, ‘It needs to be milliseconds,’” said Shailesh Prakash, who heads the Post’s technology team as chief information officer. “He has become our ultimate beta tester.”

Traffic to the website is up:

This year, the Post’s site has registered striking gains in traffic. In October, the Post passed its rival, the New York Times, in unique traffic for the first time. The next month it drew a record 71.6 million unique visitors, putting it right behind digital media giant BuzzFeed, according to comScore Inc. The November figure marks a nearly threefold increase in traffic since Mr. Bezos took over, and he recently boasted that the Post was on its way to becoming “the new paper of record.”

Anecdotally, I feel like I’m reading a lot more articles from the Post than I used to.

Toshiba Predicts $4.5 Billion Loss, Plans to Fire 7,000 Employees 

Charlie Osborne, reporting for ZDNet:

Toshiba’s financial struggles have reached breaking point, leading to a restructuring effort which will see thousands lose their jobs and a loss of $4.5 billion over the fiscal year.[…] In a punishing effort to keep the company afloat, Toshiba executives have revealed plans to shed businesses, streamline corporate practices and bring down operating costs.

Under the “Toshiba Revitalization Action Plan,” the Japanese conglomerate will axe 6,800 jobs in its consumer electronics business, which is roughly 30 percent of the workforce, by 31 March 2016. In addition, “indirect” employees — such as contractors — will be axed, bringing labor costs down further. […]

In September, Toshiba admitted to overstating its profits by almost $2 billion over the past seven years in an accounting scandal which was caused by unit managers overstating profits in order to reach corporate targets.

$2 billion in accounting fraud followed by billions more in losses this year — really does seem like a company on the brink.

Obscura Camera 2.0 

Nice update to my favorite third-party iPhone camera app (and the only one that’s on my first home screen). My favorite new feature: a Photos extension, so you can apply Obscura’s filters to any image in your Photo library.

Apple Music Reportedly Preparing New ‘Hi-Res’ Audio Streaming 

Macotakara:

According to several insiders familiar with Apple, whose products are exhibited at PORTABLE AUDIO FESTIVAL 2015, the company has been developing Hi-Res Audio streaming up to 96kHz/24bit in 2016.

The Lightning terminal with iOS 9 is compatible up to 192kHz/24Bit, but we do not have information on the sampling frequency of Apple Music download music.

Also, many high-end audio manufacturers plan to add audio cables for Lightning to their lineups in 2016, and they apparently are preparing themselves for Apple Music’s Hi-Res Audio.

Yet another indication that the analog headphone jack might be a goner.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review at The Verge 

Tom Warren, The Verge:

Continuum is really the star of the show, however. It lets the phone transform into a low-powered PC, with a few catches. In addition to the phone, you’ll need Microsoft’s $99 Display Dock (or a Miracast adapter), a mouse and keyboard (Bluetooth or USB), and a monitor or TV. You plug the Lumia 950 XL into the dock or connect wirelessly, and the phone simply beams itself to the display. It looks very similar to a Windows 10 desktop PC, minus a few features like app snapping and full multitasking.

Microsoft designed this with universal apps in mind, but most of them don’t support Continuum yet. Microsoft’s own apps all work fine, but third-party ones need to be updated to support the feature, and the vast majority haven’t yet.

Continuum feels like a glimpse into the future, though. Every app developer is focusing their efforts on smartphones right now, not tablets or desktop PCs. If we arrive at a future where phones can be a single computing device, then Microsoft is well positioned to offer this. If Microsoft builds an Intel-powered phone with true desktop apps, Continuum could get very interesting. But that’s not where the 950 XL is at, and it’s little more than a parlor trick in its current state.

I’ve seen Continuum demoed, and technically it is impressive. I’m not sure though that it’s something anyone wants or needs. Philip Greenspun predicted something like this 10 years ago, but one of the things that was hard to foresee before the iPhone was just how good the phone by itself could be as a computer. Why bother plugging it in to a desktop display and keyboard when the phone’s own display and on-screen keyboard are good enough? I could be wrong, because Continuum is so new, but my hunch is that Microsoft has built something technically impressive that very few people have any desire to use.

The rest of Warren’s review is pretty scathing. The dearth of native apps is suffocating the platform.

StackSocial’s Mac Bundle 

My thanks to StackSocial for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their Black Friday Mac Bundle. It’s your last chance to get this impressive collection of top-rated apps including: Drive Genius 4 ($99), AfterShot Pro 2 ($79.99), PDFpen 7 ($74.95), Mixtape Pro ($69.99), MacX DVD Ripper Pro ($59.95), and more. For one more day, you can get this entire bundle for just $39.99 — a total savings of over $450. It’s the perfect gift for any Mac enthusiast this holiday season, and you can get a second bundle for yourself while you’re at it.

As an extra bonus, Daring Fireball readers can save an extra 10% off with coupon code “MAC-DF10”. This is it, though — the bundle ends tomorrow.

Big ‘60 Minutes’ Feature on Apple This Sunday 

Set your TiVo, this should be good.

Apple Pay Now in China 

Apple:

Apple and China UnionPay today announced a partnership to bring Apple Pay, which transforms mobile payments with an easy, secure and private way to pay, to China. China UnionPay cardholders will be able to easily add their bank cards to Apple Pay on iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad, providing added convenience and security to everyday shopping.

Ad Age on Tor Myhren Joining Apple 

Ann-Christine Diaz, reporting for Ad Age:

Mr. Myhren is a creative leader who accomplished what other top execs have attempted yet failed to do: transform a once-stodgy and sluggish big shop into one of advertising’s most creative companies. During his time at Grey, the agency delivered ETrade’s talking baby and a stream of hits for DirecTV, including the “Cable Effects” campaign that President Bill Clinton cited as his favorite advertising, as well as the more recent spots starring Rob Lowe and his bizarre doppelgangers.

Ad Age named Grey its Agency of the Year in 2014. So it seems his new post will be fitting for Apple, a company that has been negotiating how to handle its advertising and marketing going forward following the passing of its founder Steve Jobs.

Seems like a good hire. (Just me, or is he a dead ringer for Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner?)

Apple Names Jeff Williams Chief Operating Officer, Phil Schiller Now in Charge of App Stores 

Apple:

Apple today announced that Jeff Williams has been named chief operating officer and Johny Srouji is joining Apple’s executive team as senior vice president for Hardware Technologies. Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, will expand his role to include leadership of the revolutionary App Store across all Apple platforms. Apple also announced that Tor Myhren will join Apple in the first calendar quarter of 2016 as vice president of Marketing Communications, reporting to CEO Tim Cook.

“We are fortunate to have incredible depth and breadth of talent across Apple’s executive team. As we come to the end of the year, we’re recognizing the contributions already being made by two key executives,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Jeff is hands-down the best operations executive I’ve ever worked with, and Johny’s team delivers world-class silicon designs which enable new innovations in our products year after year.”

Tor Myhren is a new hire, but Williams’s and Srouji’s promotions are only making official what’s been known internally for a while.

Cook continued, “In addition, Phil is taking on new responsibilities for advancing our ecosystem, led by the App Store, which has grown from a single, groundbreaking iOS store into four powerful platforms and an increasingly important part of our business. And I’m incredibly happy to welcome Tor Myhren, who will bring his creative talents to our advertising and marcom functions.”

Schiller taking over the App Stores is very interesting — and is definitely a shake-up that seemingly wasn’t widely known internally until today’s announcement. Up until now, the App Stores were in a weird place in terms of the org chart — they were officially under Eddy Cue because the stores are extensions of the iTunes Store, but partly under Schiller with regard to developer relations. The problem wasn’t that there was conflict between Schiller and Cue, but that without one person in charge of the whole thing, some problems inevitably fell through the cracks.

Treating the App Stores as part of developer relations instead of “media content” is clearly the right way to go. The stores are built on the iTunes Server platform (WebObjects, still!), but running an App Store is nothing like distributing movies, TV shows, books, and music. There are far more improvements that need to be made on the developer relations side of things than the technical side of things (although better search would be welcome).

Putting Schiller in charge might be particularly good news for the Mac App Store. One story I’ve heard — third-hand at best, so take it with a grain of salt — is that it was Schiller who personally pushed for the creation of the Mac App Store, and that he convinced Steve Jobs to go ahead with it. (Jobs, so the story goes, thought the Mac didn’t need an App Store — that the existing means of distributing apps was good enough.) I think Schiller has a personal interest in seeing the Mac App Store succeed.

Yahoo’s Year-End Party 

Written by an anonymous contributor to Motherboard:

When I reached the actual party, the first thing I saw was CEO Marissa Mayer herself behind a series of velvet ropes, dressed in a long sequined gown and seated on a pure white arm chair. Attendees could sit next to her on an adjacent couch and pose for a photo. She was very pregnant and ended up giving birth to twins less than a week later. […]

How could something like this be sustainable, I wondered, especially for a down-on-its-luck company like Yahoo which, as we speak, is poised for a fire sale of epic proportions?

The reported cost of the party is in the millions. (Editor’s note: One shareholder pegged the price at $7 million; a source with knowledge of the cost of the party told Motherboard the price was less than a third of that.)

For a company Yahoo’s size, a $2-3 million year-end party is not exorbitant — even considering the company’s current travails. To me the weird part is the queue for employees to get their picture taken with Mayer.

Update: One plausible explanation: Mayer wanted to say hi to as many employees as possible, but needed to sit because she was one week away from delivering twins. I.e., that it was about being able to sit and rest. Even then, though, the optics of this setup were terrible — particularly in light of shareholder criticism about lavish spending on things like private jets to Davos.

Morgan Stanley Analyst Katy Huberty Predicts First-Ever Year-Over-Year Drop in iPhone Sales 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, writing for Fortune:

According to Huberty, rising international prices and smartphone market oversaturation outside China are weighing on Apple’s primary source of revenue (52% of fiscal 2015 sales).

The same surveys that showed iPhone sales rising 6.8% in fiscal 2016 now show them falling 5.7%. In the current quarter — the so-called “tough compare” because last year’s blow-out iPhone 6 unit sales will be hard to beat — what was going to be a 6.1% increase is now a 0.6% decline.

Has to happen eventually, but somehow I don’t think 2016 will be the year. Apple’s stock price took a dive on this “news”, of course.

On the conference call Huberty was joined by Jasmine Lu, who covers the Asian supply chain for Morgan Stanley. Lu’s iPhone component order estimates have been cut significantly: 10% in the December quarter and 20% in March. iPhone demand, she said, seems to be weaker than Apple had expected only two months earlier.

Trying to predict iPhone demand from Apple’s supply chain orders hasn’t worked out so well in the past. Here’s a January 2013 report from the WSJ:

Apple Inc. has cut its orders for components for the iPhone 5 due to weaker-than-expected demand, people familiar with the situation said Monday.

Apple’s orders for iPhone 5 screens for the January-March quarter, for example, have dropped to roughly half of what the company had previously planned to order, two of the people said.

According to Apple’s actual results for that January-March quarter, iPhone sales were up modestly year over year, from 35.1 to 37.4 million iPhones. It’s possible that Apple had expected or at least hoped to sell more; it makes no sense that they expected or even hoped to sell double that amount.

Last Call on New DF T-Shirts 

Thumbnail of an athletic gray t-shirt with ‘Daring Fireball’ printed in a baseball-style script.

We don’t have much room for inventory, so when we sell new Daring Fireball t-shirts, we take orders first, then do a print run to fulfill the orders. The print run for this batch starts tomorrow (Wednesday), so if you want one (or all three), order now or wait until next year.

‘Sometimes a Battery Case Is Just a Battery Case’ 

The Macalope on Will Oremus’s piece for Slate arguing that the Smart Battery Case “is a sign of trouble in Cupertino”.

The Talk Show, With Special Guests Craig Federighi and John Siracusa 

Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi joins the show for a wide-ranging half-hour discussion about Swift. (With transcript.)

Next, John Siracusa returns to the show to follow up on Federighi’s segment. Other topics include Apple’s new Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 6/6S, and our mutual (and perhaps futile) desire to head into this week’s premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens knowing as few spoilers as possible.

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13 Million MacKeeper Users Exposed 

Brian Krebs:

The makers of MacKeeper — a much-maligned software utility many consider to be little more than scareware that targets Mac users — have acknowledged a breach that exposed the usernames, passwords and other information on more than 13 million customers and, er … users.

That there are 13 million Mac users who’ve fallen for the MacKeeper scam is just heartbreaking. It’s bad enough they were ripping people off in the first place — now they’ve exposed their passwords.

New DF T-Shirts 

Thumbnail of an asphalt gray Daring Fireball baseball t-shirt with a hand-lettered ‘DF’ monogram design.

A new batch of DF t-shirts, including two new designs from the inimitable Jon Contino, are going into production this week. If you want them in time for Christmas, order now.

Traveling Indonesia With an iPhone 6S 

Nick Heer’s travelogue of a three-week trip to Indonesia is one of the best iPhone reviews I’ve ever read.

Slide 

Fun new $2 iPhone camera app by William Wilkinson and Deepak Mantena. Slide lets you make brief “3D” animated photos. Don’t miss the FAQ. Here’s one I made a few days ago.

Adobe’s Record Revenue Proves Successful Business Transformation Is Possible 

Ron Miller, writing for TechCrunch:

As we watch organizations like IBM, HP and EMC struggle to transform, Adobe is an interesting contrasting case. It went from selling boxed software to a cloud subscription model in shorter order, and judging from its financial report that came out last week, it’s done quite well making that leap.

First, let’s have a look at the numbers. Adobe reported a record $1.31 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 22 percent year over year increase. It disclosed record annual revenue of $4.8 billion. Mind you these are significant, but the big number to me is that recurring revenue from subscriptions now represents 74 percent of Adobe’s business. What’s more, just under $3 billion in revenue in 2015 came from digital media-related annual recurring revenue (ARR).

Adobe is making this switch to subscription pricing look easy. It’s not.

Apple Pushes Ads Promoting iPhone 6S to Users on Older iPhones 

Very strange decision on Apple’s part to do this. It’s uncouth.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred Upholds Lifetime Ban on Pete Rose 

Reading Manfred’s report, it seems like he gave Rose a fair shake. Rose’s only chance was to be completely honest, and he wasn’t.

Sundar Pichai: ‘Let’s Not Let Fear Defeat Our Values’ 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai:

I debated whether to post this, because lately it seems that criticism of intolerance just gives more oxygen to this debate. But I feel we must speak out — particularly those of us who are not under attack. Everyone has the right to their views, but it’s also important that those who are less represented know that those are not the views of all.

Let’s not let fear defeat our values. We must support Muslim and other minority communities in the US and around the world.

Well said.

Doxie 

My thanks to Doxie for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their new Doxie Go scanners. Doxie is a new kind of scanner that you can take with you — it helps you go not just paperless, but wireless. It’s portable, easy to use, and about as small as it could be. Doxie’s software makes it easy to sync your scanned documents (in searchable PDF format) to just about any online service you’d want to, including Dropbox, OneNote, and Evernote. It’s a great holiday gift idea. Even better: this week only, they’re offering Daring Fireball readers $60 off the Doxie Go Plus and Doxie Go Wi-Fi.

(See also: the clever holiday-themed poem they wrote for the sponsored entry in the RSS feed earlier this week.)

New Daring Fireball T-Shirts 

You know what you should buy? You should buy a couple of these brand-new Daring Fireball t-shirts. The classic logo design is now available on a tri-blend American Apparel shirt for the first time. The other two are brand-new hand-lettered designs by the amazing Jon Contino.

Orders placed by Monday will ship in time for Christmas.

New Banksy Piece Depicts Steve Jobs 

Christopher Jobson, writing for Colossal:

Based on an update to his website this morning it appears Banksy visited the Jungle Refugee Camp in Calais, France, one of the largest refugee camps in western Europe. The artist left behind four new artworks, most notably a piece featuring Steve Jobs carrying an early Macintosh computer and a sack over his shoulder noting his background as a “son of a migrant from Syria,” (Jobs was adopted, but his biological father was from Syria).

An Unusual Commission 

Mark Harris:

I’ve accepted a commission to write a story about the collapse of the Zano drone project on Kickstarter, its largest project ever to have been funded in Europe.

In itself, that’s hardly news. I’ve written a number of investigative features in the past, and have covered crowdfunding numerous times, too. Usually, I work for technology editors at newspapers like The Guardian and The Economist, magazines like Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum and MIT Technology Review, or online publications like Backchannel and Quartz.

This time, however, I’ve been commissioned by Kickstarter itself. The company wants to help the backers of this failed project get the information they are entitled to under their agreement with the project creator. They would like to uncover the story of Zano, from its inception to the present, and decided that the best way to do that was to hire a journalist. The primary audience for the story is the 12,000+ backers of the project, although I will also make the story publicly available once I’ve completed it, most likely in the middle of January.

Fascinating — and I think admirable — move by Kickstarter.

Reddit ‘Ask Us Anything’ With Google Pixel C Team Goes Awry 

Not sure who at Google thought this would be a good idea. Brutal.

Some strong feelings about devices that don’t allow for storage expansion with SD cards as well. I understand the mindset there — there’s a certain type of person who believes everything should, in a moral sense, be priced near the cost of goods. And clearly the cost of goods for 32 vs. 64 GB of storage is not even close to $100. But the passion some of these people express about this is eye opening. With PCs, these sorts of people can get what they want by building their own systems. That doesn’t work with phones and tablets (and to some degree, laptops), where everything needs to be tightly integrated and intricately assembled. These sort of people have never been fans of Apple, but in the old days, they had alternatives. Now that the entire industry is moving toward Apple-style devices, their frustration is palpable.

The Trump Effect, and How It Spreads 

The New York Times editorial board:

This is the force that Mr. Trump feeds on and that propels him. It is bigger than he is, and toxic. Not a vote has been cast in the 2016 presidential race. But serious damage is already being done to the country, to its reputation overseas, by a man who is seen as speaking for America and twisting its message of tolerance and welcome, and by the candidates who trail him and are competing for his voters.

Mr. Trump has not deported anyone, nor locked up or otherwise brutalized any Muslims, immigrants or others. The danger next year, of course, is giving him the power to do so. And the danger right now is allowing him to legitimize the hatred that he so skillfully exploits, and to revive the old American tendency, in frightening times, toward vicious treatment of the weak and outsiders.

Gizmodo and Wired Apparently Taken by Bitcoin Creator Hoax 

Sarah Jeong, writing for Motherboard:

A lot of this evidence isn’t authenticated, so there’s that. But there’s one really big problem with the case for Craig S. Wright as Satoshi: at least one of the key pieces of evidence appears to be fake. The “Satoshi” PGP keys associated with the Wired and Gizmodo stories were probably generated after 2009 and uploaded after 2011.

We say keys, because there are two entirely different keys implicated by Wired and by Gizmodo. And neither of them check out.

FBI Director James Comey Calls on Tech Companies Offering End-to-End Encryption to Reconsider ‘Their Business Model’ 

Dan Froomkin and Jenna McLaughlin, reporting for The Intercept:

Comey had previously argued that tech companies could somehow come up with a “solution” that allowed for government access but didn’t weaken security. Tech experts called this a “magic pony” and mocked him for his naivete.

Now, Comey said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday morning, extensive conversations with tech companies have persuaded him that “it’s not a technical issue.”

“It is a business model question,” he said. “The question we have to ask is: Should they change their business model?”

It’s not in the headline, but Betteridge’s Law applies. Business models have nothing to do with this. It’s a right-to-privacy issue, which is why the FBI is so confused — they’re blinded by their institutional values, which place investigative power and surveillance capabilities above all else.

Tumult Hype 3.5 

It’s easy to just say that the world should finish the transition from Flash Player to HTML5. But designers need tools, and one reason for Flash’s longstanding popularity is that Adobe provided tools to create Flash content. For HTML5 animation, I think Tumult Hype is as good as it gets, and there’s a lot to like in the new 3.5 update.

tvOS 9.1 Update Restores Ability to Use iOS Remote App, Adds Apple Music Support to Siri 

I think it’s a safe bet these were things that were planned for the new Apple TV all along, but simply were dropped for the 9.0 release because they ran out of time. Being able to ask Siri to “play some Christmas music” is fun.

Apple also released minor bug-fix updates to WatchOS and Mac OS X El Capitan.

iOS 9.2 Allows iPhone to Import Photos From External Cameras and SD Cards 

Michael Zhang, writing for PetaPixel:

Apple is rolling out iOS 9.2 today, and among a host of minor features and fixes is new iPhone support for Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter. This means you can now connect your camera to your iPhone and import photos directly without having to use a computer as the middleman.

The feature should be a boon for Instagram users who prefer to shoot photos with a dedicated camera before sharing them on the service. After connecting the adapter to your iPhone and connecting your camera to the adapter using a USB cable, your iPhone will open up its Photos app and allow you to choose which photos (JPEG or RAW) and videos you’d like to import.

It also works with the Lighting to SD Card Reader. I’ve long been curious why the iPhone didn’t support these.

Google Pixel C Reviews: Not Good 

Joanna Stern, writing for the WSJ:

You can’t attach wings to a car and expect it to fly. And you can’t attach a keyboard to a tablet and expect it to get stuff done. Software is the main issue at the heart of the chaotic tablet transition right now.

I’ve said that the Surface Pro’s full-blown Windows operating system lacks the mobile essentials and battery life to make it a stellar tablet, but when the keyboard is attached, it’s a great workhorse. Apple’s iPad is a stellar tablet, but still lacks productivity essentials. (Maybe the next iOS will bring it closer to the optimal tablet/laptop middle ground.) Google just hasn’t tried with Android. Perhaps development efforts are focused on the merger of Android and the Chrome desktop operating system, which my colleagues reported.

Walt Mossberg, writing at The Verge:

Google has long mostly ignored the notion of tablet-optimized apps. When I have asked the company’s executives about this, they’ve typically responded that well-designed phone apps can do the job on multiple screen sizes. But anyone who looks at an iPad-optimized app can see the difference.

Even though the Pixel C is a Google hero product, it lacks the software to make it great. As on Android tablets from other companies, almost all the Android apps I used on the Pixel C looked like blown-up phone apps. It doesn’t appear that Google worked with key third parties to take advantage of the company’s first-ever tablet hardware.

Dieter Bohn, also for The Verge:

This tablet is the Pixel hardware team’s response. It’s a simple, well-considered, uncomplicated glimpse into what a tablet computer ought to be. “Get on the train,” it says, “this is the future.”

Except, well: Google’s Android and developer relations teams never even got to the station.

Consensus: good display, good battery life, good build quality, decent keyboard with a very sturdy magnetic connection to the tablet — but the whole thing is spoiled by the lack of tablet-optimized apps for Android.

Mozilla Will Stop Developing and Selling Firefox OS Smartphones 

Ingrid Lunden:

Farewell Firefox OS smartphones. Mozilla today announced an end to its smartphone experiment, and said that it would stop developing and selling Firefox OS smartphones. It will continue to experiment on how it might work on other connected devices and Internet of Things networks.

My Firefox OS phone is without question the worst mobile device I’ve ever tried. So bad it’s hard to believe they shipped it.

Wristly Survey of Dissatisfied Apple Watch Owners 

Bernard Desarnauts, writing for Wristly:

Some perspective to keep in mind first. While about 12% of our panelists have mentioned in prior survey knowing at least one person who wasn’t happy with Apple Watch, the same panel gave Apple Watch a 97% satisfaction rating in July confirmed by a 96% approval rating in October.

We have had to wait until earlier this month and the help of Philip Elmer-DeWitt who wrote about our intent earlier this month, to garner sufficient voices. We have now captured completed surveys from just over 330 people who stated that they owned an Apple Watch and were not satisfied with it. A final point to note, since we do not have a technical way to verify if someone has truly owned the Watch, we relied on basic data scrubbing to prevent contributions of a spammy nature.

Google Deceptively Tracks Students’ Internet Browsing, EFF Says in FTC Complaint 

The EFF (last week):

While Google does not use student data for targeted advertising within a subset of Google sites, EFF found that Google’s “Sync” feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools. This allows Google to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords. Google doesn’t first obtain permission from students or their parents and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, many parents are unable to prevent Google’s data collection.

Google’s practices fly in the face of commitments made when it signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document whereby companies promise to refrain from collecting, using, or sharing students’ personal information except when needed for legitimate educational purposes or if parents provide permission.

Roundup of iPhone Secrets Revealed During Apple-Samsung Lawsuit 

Great post from Yoni Heisler, writing at BGR:

One of the more interesting aspects of Apple’s legal battle with Samsung is that it gave us an unprecedented look behind the veil of secrecy that typically shrouds all aspects of Apple’s product development and day-to-day operations. Over the course of discovery, innumerable court filings, and a fascinating trial, the inner workings of Apple were brought to the forefront for the fist time in history. From photographs of iPhone prototypes to how Apple conducts market research, Apple’s legal battles with Samsung provided tech enthusiasts with a treasure trove of previously top-secret information.

With Samsung now agreeing to pony up for damages, we thought it’d be a good time to take a step back, reminisce, and take a look at some of the more interesting nuggets of information the hard-fought patent dispute brought to light.

So interesting to see Apple’s unreleased prototypes. Some of them hinted at things to come, but some of them were clearly dead ends.

Here’s an interesting nugget:

An Apple survey revealed that upwards of 78% of iPhone users buy cases for their devices.

Anecdotally, four-out-of-five sounds about right.

Ookla’s New Speedtest No Longer Requires Flash 

One less reason to keep Flash Player around.

The Talk Show: ‘I’ve Been Using Mine More in Bed’ 

Joanna Stern returns to the show to talk about the iPad Pro, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, what’s going on with Yahoo (spoiler: not much), how best to sell old iPhones when upgrading, and Mark Zuckerberg promising to donate 99 percent of his fortune to charitable causes.

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Low-Hanging Fruit 

Brent Simmons:

I got email from my Dad where he describes a bug in Mail on El Capitan and how he solved it by going back to Yosemite.

I was never able to get Mail to work. In the end, it was a resource hog. Somehow between Yosemite on September 28 and yesterday, my available storage space went from 71GB to 3GB (on a 320GB hard drive). For the last week and a half, I could not even open mail with El Capitan. Even in “safe” mode, I could not get Mail to work.

…So, I am living with Yosemite, and it works fine.


Last night I edited the Safari bookmarks on my development machine. The changes didn’t sync to my laptop.

I gave it overnight — they still haven’t synced. I tried turning Safari syncing on and off, on both machines, and that didn’t help. I ended up making the changes manually on my laptop to match my development machine.

I waited until last week to upgrade my iMac to El Capitan. (I’m usually pretty reckless about upgrading my MacBook to new OS versions, including betas. I’m usually pretty conservative about upgrading my desktop.) This is a relatively new iMac with 5K Retina Display — when I bought it last year, it started with a clean installation of Yosemite. I didn’t use Migration Assistant to move over anything from an older Mac.

When the upgrade to El Capitan finished on my iMac, three of my email accounts in Mail were missing. They happened to be the accounts for my three most important email addresses. Two of them were still configured in Mail’s settings, but had been disabled — I just needed to toggle the “Enable this account” checkbox for each of them. The third account I had to reconfigure from scratch. All three accounts needed to re-download all of my mail — about 280,000 messages all told. These are IMAP accounts, so the mail was (and remains) on the server. I sure hope this bug doesn’t affect POP accounts (where the mail is only stored locally). This sort of bug would be terrifying for normal people, who don’t understand how IMAP works. If this happened to my parents, I’m certain they would just assume their email was gone, forever.

Also: Here’s a screenshot of my text replacements shortcuts (System Prefs: Keyboard: Text) after the upgrade to El Capitan. This I “fixed” by restarting the Mac.

Brent:

What I’m hoping for — what I’m nearly begging for, more as a user than as developer — is that Apple spend a year making things better. Nothing new. Just make things work better.

Spark 

Mailbox users looking for a new alternative to Apple’s built-in Mail app ought to take a look at Spark, from Readdle. Really interesting, well-done email client.

Apps Don’t Last 

Mailbox:

When the Mailbox team joined Dropbox in 2013, we shared a passion for simplifying the way people work together. And solving the email problem seemed like a strong complement to the challenges Dropbox was already tackling.

But as we deepened our focus on collaboration, we realized there’s only so much an email app can do to fundamentally fix email. We’ve come to believe that the best way for us to improve people’s productivity going forward is to streamline the workflows that generate so much email in the first place.

Carousel:

When we introduced Carousel in April 2014, we believed a standalone app would be a better way to experience photos. We’re proud to have created a photo app that many of you use and love. However, over the past year and a half, we’ve learned the vast majority of our users prefer the convenience and simplicity of interacting with their photos directly inside of Dropbox. With this in mind, we’ve had to make a difficult decision.

On March 31st, we’re shutting down Carousel as a standalone app and returning to a single Dropbox photo experience.

Brent Simmons:

Apps that get acquired don’t last. Apps that don’t get acquired also don’t last. (Exceptions are rare.)

Travel Wallet From Bellroy 

My thanks to Bellroy for once again sponsoring the DF RSS feed. Made from full-grain leather, Bellroy’s Travel Wallet holds your passport, airline tickets and cards, and even comes with a mini pen for completing customs forms and other paperwork. Pretty much the ideal travel companion.

Check out their site for their full range of excellent wallets and iPhone cases.

Samsung Executives Investigated for Possible Insider Trading 

The AP:

South Korea’s financial regulator said Friday it is investigating possible insider trading by Samsung executives related to a contentious takeover deal. […]

South Korea’s Yonhap News reported that nine Samsung executives purchased as much as 50 billion won ($43 million) of Cheil Industries stock before Samsung announced a deal to combine Cheil and another Samsung company in May.

Shares of Cheil, which has members of Samsung’s founding Lee family as majority shareholders, surged after the announcement.

Shocking that this could happen at a company as scrupulous as Samsung.

The iPad Pro Has a Next-Generation Lightning Port 

Andrew Cunningham, writing last month for Ars Technica:

Our full review of the iPad Pro covers a lot of ground, but there is one small item that escaped our notice. When iFixit tore the device apart, it found a USB 3.0 controller, and Apple has confirmed to us that the new iPad Pro will in fact support USB 3.0 transfer speeds over its Lightning port. USB 3.0 supports theoretical transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps, a little over 10 times faster than USB 2.0’s 480Mbps.

But those faster transfer speeds will cost you. The Lightning cable that ships with the iPad Pro is a standard USB 2.0-speed cable, and you’ll need to purchase USB 3.0 cables separately when they’re released at some undisclosed point in the future.

My old college pal Scott Boone asked me the other day if I could peep into the Lightning port on my iPad Pro review unit and check if it had pins on both the top and bottom inside the port. I looked, and indeed, it does. All previous Lightning ports, including in the new iPhones 6S, only have pins on the bottom.

iFixit, strangely, didn’t take note of this in their teardown. Scott even left a comment on their teardown asking about it:

Starting to see rumor sites picking up on the USB 3.0 thing. iFixit didn’t spend any time on that Lightning port in Step 15. Any chance you could dig deeper and see if the Lightning connector receptacle is now electrically double-sided? That sh/would provide the pin-count needed for USB 3.

I don’t know when we’ll see Apple take advantage of this new Lightning port (the cable that ships with the iPad Pro is still just USB 2), but I think it’s every bit as capable as USB-C. I bet it can handle not just USB 3, but also Thunderbolt and DisplayPort/HDMI 4K.

Nevada Lawmaker Sends Christmas Card Featuring Fully Armed Family 

Beautiful way to mark a holiday celebrating the most famous pacifist in history.

Gun Industry Executives: Mass Shootings Are Good for Business 

Lee Fang, reporting for The Intercept:

Last year, Tommy Millner, the chief executive of Cabela’s, a retailer that sells guns, boasted at an investor conference in Nebraska that his company made a “conscious decision” to stock additional weapons merchandise before the 2012 election, hoping Obama’s reelection would result in increased sales. After the election, the Newtown mass shooting happened, and “the business went vertical … I meant it just went crazy,” Millner said, according to a transcript of the event. Describing the “tailwinds of profitability,” Millner noted Cabela’s “didn’t blink as others did to stop selling AR-15 platform guns,” and so his company “got a lot of new customers.” The AR-15 is a high-powered assault rifle based on the military’s M-16 model but without the full automatic capacity,

Steven Miller, the chief executive of Big 5 Sporting Goods, another gun retailer, was asked by investor analysts in 2013 to describe the state of the market during a conference call that year. The “real surge” in firearm sales, Miller said, “took place following the tragedy in Sandy Hook.”

Should be a busy weekend for Cabela’s.

On Guns, We’re Not Even Trying 

Nicholas Kristof, writing for the NYT:

For similar reasons, Ronald Reagan, hailed by Republicans in every other context, favored gun regulations, including mandatory waiting periods for purchases.

“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns,” Reagan wrote in a New York Times op-ed in 1991 backing gun restrictions. “This level of violence must be stopped.”

He added that if tighter gun regulations “were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”

Introducing the IBM Swift Sandbox 

Looks like IBM really is getting on board with Swift:

Hi, I’m John Petitto, one of IBM’s Swift developers located at IBM’s Mobile Innovation Lab in Austin. We love Swift here and thought you would too so we are making our IBM Swift Sandbox available to developers on developerWorks.

The IBM Swift Sandbox is an interactive website that lets you write Swift code and execute it in a server environment — on top of Linux! Each sandbox runs on IBM Cloud in a Docker container. In addition, both the latest versions of Swift and its standard library are available for you to use.

All you need now to start writing Swift code is a web browser. Very cool.

Final Play of Last Night’s Packers-Lions Game 

Moments like this are why we Americans love football.

The second-to-last play of the game, not so much.

Update: This fan video on Instagram better illustrates just how athletically incredible Rodgers’s throw was.

Farhad Manjoo: ‘Transformation at Yahoo Foiled by Marissa Mayer’s Inability to Bet the Farm’ 

Farhad Manjoo, writing for the NYT:

Yet the initial success followed by recent sluggishness is beside the point. The larger story of Ms. Mayer’s tenure at Yahoo is one of a transformation so modest it borders on stasis. Over all, Yahoo remains much the same business it was three years ago. It is a far-flung collection of news, entertainment and communications destinations supported by ads. Ms. Mayer was hired to build something novel. Instead, at best, she appears to be building a better Yahoo — with debatable results.

“Inability” to bet the farm might be the wrong word — it could just be “unwillingness”. But I agree with his main point — Yahoo needed a major shake-up, and thus far it hasn’t happened.

New Typeface From Tobias Frere-Jones: Mallory 

First font from his new foundry:

Mallory began as an experiment in mixing typographic traditions, building a new design with British and American traits. The family offers a broad range of voices, from the prim and austere Thin to the loud and gregarious Ultra.

Strikes me as a friendly-feeling modern take on Gill Sans — I see the British traits more clearly than the American ones. (I do see it in the lowercase “g”, though.) Hard not to compare Mallory to Hoefler and Co.’s Ideal Sans, which, I’ll admit, is my favorite new workhorse sans of the last 15 or 20 years.

Colin Nissan: ‘It’s Rotting Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers’ 

Colin Nissan:

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get these decorative gourds the fuck out of my house. The clock expired on these goofy goose-necked bastards about six weeks ago, but I pushed it and the shit got real on me. It’s Autumn overtime up in here and these fuzzy fuckers need to go. When my guests come over I’m gonna be like, SORRY! My bad on all these rancid ornamental vegetables, you guys. I really should have stayed on top of this perishable shit.

The rare sequel that lives up to the original. (Via Kottke, of course.)

Study Finds Quitting Facebook Makes You Happier and Less Stressed 

Jack Lowe, writing for Huh:

Researchers at the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen (yep, that does exist) decided to find out. They took a group of 1,095 Facebook users and split them into two groups. The first group were allowed to continue using the social network on a daily basis, while the other group were forced to go completely cold turkey, staying off the site for the duration of the experiment.

The results were incredibly revealing — after just 7 days 88% of the group that left Facebook said they felt “happy” as opposed to 81% in the group still using the site. They also felt less angry, less lonely, less depressed, more decisive, more enthusiastic, and enjoyed their lives more. Ditching Facebook also appeared to reduce stress levels by as much as 55%. They’re some pretty strong results…

As time goes on, I feel better and better about never having signed up. (Via Michele Seiler at Coudal.)

Twitter Announces Digits for tvOS, to Simplify Signing In to Apps 

Chris Oryschak, Twitter’s product manager for Digits:

Using Digits’ device authorization, your app on the Apple TV will show a short alphanumeric code. Your user then simply enters the code on digits.com/appletv via their laptop or smartphone to authorize the device to their account. Once that’s done, the TV device receives a Digits session for the user’s account which you can use to instantly identify your user and personalize their experience.

This follows hot on the heels of Facebook’s tvOS SDK with login support.

This is a problem that Apple should have solved (and still should solve, as soon as possible).

Craig Federighi Talks Open Source Swift 

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica:

In open-sourcing Swift, Apple has two main goals in mind. The first and most obvious is to make Swift code more portable and versatile, enabling its use in projects outside of apps for Apple’s platforms.

The company’s long-term vision is even more ambitious. “We think [Swift] is how really everyone should be programming for the next 20 years,” Federighi told Ars. “We think it’s the next major programming language.

“A number of developers, including enterprise developers like IBM, very early on as they began developing their mobile applications in Swift, really wanted to be able to take the talents that their developers were developing and even some of the code and be able to deploy it in the cloud, for instance,” Federighi continued. “We thought the best way [to enable that], ultimately, was open source.”

Update: Nate Swanner at TNW has an interview with Federighi, too:

“In terms of where we hope the open source project will take Swift, it comes back to the original goals of making Swift the language you learn to program in from the outset, and know that when you learn it you’ll be able to use it to accomplish everything you want to accomplish, all the way from building mobile applications to cloud development. Open sourcing it creates a really clear path to what was already starting to happen.

“If a university wants to revise their core curriculum and start teaching programming in Swift, it being open source really makes that an easy decision for them to make.”

Apple TV Ad Campaign Harks Back to Classic Six-Color Logo 

Great concept. Love the billboard campaign too.

Swift Goes Open Source 

Back at WWDC, Apple promised Swift would go open source by the end of the year. Today’s the day. The website has been overwhelmed most of the day, so if you can’t reach it, you can peruse Apple’s GitHub project.

A lot of interesting reading, including this page on the evolution of the language. For example, Swift 3.0, scheduled for late next year, will eliminate the ++ and -- operators.

Also interesting: Swift 3 is set to include a parallel implementation of the Foundation framework:

This project provides an implementation of the Foundation API for platforms where there is no Objective-C runtime. On OS X, iOS, and other Apple platforms, apps should use the Foundation that comes with the operating system. Our goal is to abstract away the exact underlying platform as much as possible.

See also:

Microsoft Holiday Spot Features Employees Caroling in Front of Fifth Avenue Apple Store 

Nice, but I fail to see how it benefits Microsoft to solidify the iconic Apple Store as the destination on Fifth Avenue.

Ballmer Chides Microsoft Over Cloud Revenue Disclosures 

Bloomberg reporter Dina Bass apparently got to attend Microsoft’s shareholder meeting with Steve Ballmer:

Microsoft reports an annualized revenue run rate — or sales at a certain point in time carried out to a yearly rate — for its commercial cloud business and has said it is aiming to reach $20 billion on that basis by 2018. Ballmer, who handed the reins to Satya Nadella in 2014, derided the use of run rate as “bullshit.” […]

“We enjoy a regular dialogue with Steve, and welcome his input and feedback, as we do from our other investors.” said Chris Suh, Microsoft’s general manager for investor relations.

Translation: “We wish Steve would stick to basketball.”

Me, I’m enjoying this post-Microsoft Steve Ballmer. Satya Nadella probably isn’t enjoying him as much.

BBC World News: ‘Just Another Day in the United States of America’ 

Mass shootings in the U.S. are being treated like car bombings in Baghdad. An aspect of daily life.

United Airlines to Equip Airport Customer Service Reps With iPhone 6 Plus 

United Airlines:

United will begin distributing the devices to its more than 6,000 hub-based customer service representatives next year. The iPhones will enable agents to assist customers who have checked into their flights with several pre-departure actions, including printing boarding passes and baggage tags anywhere in the airport. Customer service representatives will also be able to assist customers with alternate flight options, helping employees at customer service locations provide additional attention to those with more complex needs.

Instead of printing the boarding passes, wouldn’t it be nice if they could AirDrop the pass to passengers’ iPhones?

Rich Siegel at Cingleton 2014 on BBEdit Leaving the Mac App Store 

Rich is one of the smartest and most thoughtful people I’ve ever met — his talk boils a complex argument down to a single word: sanity.

Michael Tsai on Sketch Leaving the Mac App Store 

Michael Tsai:

One of my bug fix updates for El Capitan is still in review after 59 days.

Bohemian Coding Pulls Hit App Sketch From Mac App Store 

Bohemian Coding:

We don’t expect this decision to be unanimously popular, but we want to share how we arrived at it. We take your satisfaction and support seriously, and hope you can understand the choice we have made.

There are a number of reasons for Sketch leaving the Mac App Store — many of which in isolation wouldn’t cause us huge concern. However as with all gripes, when compounded they make it hard to justify staying: App Review continues to take at least a week, there are technical limitations imposed by the Mac App Store guidelines (sandboxing and so on) that limit some of the features we want to bring to Sketch, and upgrade pricing remains unavailable.

We should also add that this move is not a knee-jerk reaction to the recent certificate expiration problems that affected so many Mac App Store customers. However, in light of what happened, we can’t help but feel vindicated in our decision that the Mac App Store is not in our customers’ best interests right now.

Deeply troubling indictment of the Mac App Store. Sketch isn’t the first big name professional app to be pulled from the Mac App Store (Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit, Panic’s Coda, Quicken, just to name a few). But Sketch is the poster child for Mac App Store era professional Mac software. It’s the sort of app Apple might demo in a keynote — and the winner of an Apple Design Award. Apple thinks so highly of it that they provide Sketch templates for Apple Watch UI designers. It’s incredibly popular (and was among the top-grossers on the Mac App Store), Mac-only, and they want no part of the Mac App Store.

The Mac App Store should be designed to make developers like Bohemian Coding (and Bare Bones, and Panic, etc.) happy. It should make developing for the Mac better, not worse than selling outside the App Store. These are among the best apps on the platform, from developers who have been loyal to Apple and the Mac for decades.

The Mac App Store is rotting, at least for productivity software. There’s no other way to put it. If this hasn’t set off alarm bells within Apple, something is very wrong.

Bloomberg: ‘Apple Gets More Bang for Its R&D Buck’ 

Adam Satariano, writing for Bloomberg:

Compared with its resources, Apple has remained relatively quiet. It spent just 3.5 percent ($8.1 billion) of its $233 billion in revenue in fiscal 2015 on research and development, a lower percentage than every other large U.S. technology company, data compiled by Bloomberg show. By contrast, Facebook spent about 21 percent ($2.6 billion) on R&D, chipmaker Qualcomm 22 percent ($5.6 billion), and Alphabet 15 percent ($9.2 billion).

Apple’s success belies the conventional wisdom that a leading tech company must reinvest a sizable chunk of its sales in R&D or risk being overtaken. Apple has never subscribed to that philosophy. Steve Jobs said in 1998 that “innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have.” He liked to point out that when the Mac was introduced, IBM was spending about 100 times more than Apple on research.

I’ve always believed (and there are many public statements from him that back it up) that Jobs was averse to “pure” research and development spending — meaning research for the sake of research itself. Jobs wanted it to be product-focused. Figure out exactly what you want to make, then do the research to invent what you need to make it. Lots of great things (Unix, to name a big one) have come from companies that do or did spend big on pure R&D, but it’s seldom wound up benefiting the companies doing the spending.

‘Adobe Is Telling People to Stop Using Flash’ 

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:

Adobe is finally ready to say goodbye to Flash. In an announcement last night, Adobe said that it will now “encourage content creators to build with new web standards,” such as HTML5, rather than Flash. It’s also beginning to deprecate the Flash name by renaming its animation app to Animate CC, away from Flash Professional CC.

Adobe is also now ready to congratulate the new president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Fraser Speirs: ‘Can the MacBook Pro Replace Your iPad?’ 

So great. The note at the bottom says it all:

The original title for this piece was “If journalists reviewed Macs like iPads”.