Linked List: November 2015

The Talk Show: ‘Peak Rumor Season’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with first-time guest John Moltz. Topics include rumors about the iPhone 7 not having a standard headphone jack and purported new MacBook Airs.

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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Huxley vs. Orwell 

Apt in light of my earlier item on Trump and the outright rejection of the truth is this comic by Stuart McMillen, illustrating the opening of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death.

I don’t agree, though, that this means “Huxley, not Orwell, was right.” I’d simply say that Huxley was remarkably prescient regarding what could go wrong in an open, free society.

Hacker Obtained Childrens’ Headshots and Chat Logs From Toymaker VTech 

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Motherboard:

If storing the personal data of almost 5 million parents and more than 200,000 kids wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that hacked toymaker VTech also left thousands of pictures of parents and kids and a year’s worth of chat logs stored online in a way easily accessible to hackers.

Why in the world was VTech storing these things in the first place?

An Ode to Kobe Bryant, in Two Charts 

In the chart showing his remarkable scoring efficiency during the 2005-06 season, it’s interesting to me how much more accurate he was shooting threes from the right baseline than the left.

Donald Trump Still Says He Saw Muslims in New Jersey Celebrate 9/11 

The whole Trump phenomenon has been bizarre, but this particular incident strikes me as a genuine turning point in U.S. politics. I’m appalled by much of Trump’s rhetoric, but I’m not surprised that 20-30 percent of Republican voters support it. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am surprised by this, though. He insists he saw something truly dreadful on TV — “thousands” of American Muslims “dancing in the streets” — that never happened, and he isn’t suffering in the polls for it. Video footage broadcast on TV doesn’t just disappear — not in today’s day and age. It’s unadulterated demagoguery.

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” —Thomas Jefferson

In totalitarian states, there is no free and open news media to inform the citizenry. I’m not sure anyone ever imagined something like this, where the news media has laid bare the fact that what Trump says he saw with own eyes never happened, showing that he’s either lying or delusional, and a scarily large slice of the electorate still supports his campaign to become the ostensible leader of the free world.

It’s like the climate change debate writ small. In a democracy, good truthful journalism is difficult to suppress — but simply denying the truth, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, appears to be an effective political strategy.

Update: I am reminded that someone did predict this sort of situation. It really only could have been predicted through satire.

Chris Ware’s Animated Cover for The New Yorker 

Wonderful collaboration between Ware, Ira Glass, animator John Kuramoto, and others.

Rumor: Apple May Replace 3.5mm Headphone Jack on iPhone 7 With All-in-One Lightning Connector 

This would be a totally Apple-y thing to do. The standard headphone jack is old (ancient, really), thick, and deep. The only thing good about it is compatibility with existing headphones, and “compatibility with old stuff” is never high on Apple’s list of priorities.

Measuring Computer Power 

Dr. Drang:

And the power of a computer is always more dependent on the carbon-based unit outside the case than on the silicon inside.

iBedside and Prop ’n Go 

My thanks to Padded Spaces for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their iBedside and Prop ’n Go. iBedside is an elegant bedside caddy for storing — and charging — your iPad and iPhone. A magnetic shelf flips down with a flick, and three full-size pockets hold gadgets or books. Well-designed cable management keeps everything tidy.

Prop ’n Go is a comfortable stand for iPad and MacBook with 14 easily adjustable angles. Wrapped in memory foam, it’s perfect for keeping gadgets at just the right angle while lounging on the couch or laying in bed.

iBedside and Prop ’n Go also ship for free via Amazon US, CA, and EU, and they’re made in Seattle by crafters making livable wages. These are great holiday gifts.

Fill-in-the-Blanks Journalism 

If you ever feel like much of what you read in mainstream online journalism is written in advance — that it’s mostly just filling in the blanks of pre-written templates — your hunch is probably right.

Dead Again: Another Apple Watch Killer 

The Macalope:

Writing for the lovely people and robots and angry raccoons and SEO generation algorithms at Business Insider, Matthew DeBord warns that “The TAG Heuer Connected is the first smartwatch that Apple should be worried about.”

Google Claims Mobile Search Result Impacting Yelp, TripAdvisor Is Bug 

Mark Bergen, writing for Recode:

Over the weekend, executives from public Internet companies Yelp and TripAdvisor noted a disturbing trend: Google searches on smartphones for their businesses had suddenly buried their results beneath Google’s own. It looked like a flagrant reversal of Google’s stated position on search, and a move to edge out rivals.

Nope, it’s a bug, claims Google. “The issues cited were caused by a recent code push, which we’re working quickly to fix,” a Google spokeswoman said.

In the meantime, the “issues” may be diverting tons of traffic from Google’s competitors. Some, particularly Google’s longtime rival Yelp, are not pleased. “Far from a glitch, this is a pattern of behavior by Google,” said its CEO Jeremy Stoppelman.

It’s a bug and a feature.

Yankees President Calls Comcast ‘Gutless’ 


“It’s a typical gutless act by a cable carrier seeking to promote its own self-interest,” Levine told the NY Daily News. “This amounts to nothing more than a money grab. Comcast, who said it had an agreement in principle with YES, is saving millions of dollars now by not airing YES in the offseason.”

Gus Mueller on Apple Pencil 

Gus Mueller:

Every single stylus that has been made for the iPad or iPhone has been a pile of dog shit when compared to what you can do with a Wacom tablet. Even compared to what you could do 20 years ago with a Wacom tablet. The KoalaPad on an Apple //e was probably better.

It’s been hard, and upsetting. And so much money wasted on crappy iOS styluses. I stopped paying attention whenever a new stylus was announced, since I was inevitably let down.

And then this week I got the Apple Pencil (which is Apple speak for a stylus) and an iPad Pro. This new tablet from Apple has the hardware support needed to make a useful stylus. Hardware support that has been missing for five long, very long, agonizing years.

And It’s God Damn Amazing.

The Highest Possible Authority 

Andy Ihnatko:

The scale of the crisis is immaterial. People are fleeing the homeland that their families have known for several generations, carrying only what they were able to gather up in the two minutes they had before they fled. We are commanded to accept them. The order comes from the highest possible authority: our humanity.

The Great Melting Pot — that’s the beacon of America.

‘Frightened, Ignorant, and Cowardly Is No Way to Go Through Life, Son’ 

John Scalzi:

This has been a bad week for the United States, folks. France was directly attacked by terrorists and its response was to promise to house 30,000 Syrian refugees; we weren’t and one branch of our government fell over itself to put the brakes on accepting a third of that number. France is defying the very organization that attacked it while we, on the other hand, are doing exactly what that organization hoped we would do. We’re being the cowardly bigots they hoped we would be, and as loudly as possible.

Bellroy’s New 3-Card Phone Case 

My thanks to Bellroy for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Their new 3-card super-slim case for iPhone 6 and 6S is made from full-grain leather, a soft microfiber lining, and includes room for up to three credit cards and some cash. Color choices: black, java, tamarillo, and blue steel.

They’ve got two other similar products — 1 card and cardless — and of course, their regular lineup of slim, elegant wallets. Get some holiday gift shopping done early.

Update 9 December 2015: I’ve been using their cardless case (in charcoal), and it is the nicest, thinnest iPhone case I’ve ever tried. I’ve carried my iPhones without a case ever since the original iPhone in 2007. This is the first case I’ve ever tried that makes me reconsider that.

The Talk Show: ‘Fully Charged Pencil’ 

Special guest Jason Snell joins the show to talk about iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, how iOS still feels like iPhone OS at a fundamental level. Also: Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini’s Fast Company article, “How Apple Is Giving Design a Bad Name”.

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Man Wields Samurai Sword at Fifth Avenue Apple Store 


A man was taken into custody after whipping out a samurai sword at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store on Friday afternoon and terrifying shoppers, police and witnesses said. [...]

An Apple Store employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said that at one point the deranged man yelled “I just want an iPhone!” as he swung the sword on a staircase landing.

Hardware Is Hard 

Peter Ludwig, product manager for Android Wear, nine days ago:

No more worrying about Bluetooth or Wi-Fi — your watch will automatically switch to a cellular connection when you’re out of range. As long as your watch and phone are connected to a cellular network, you’ll be able to use your watch to send and receive messages, track fitness, get answers from Google, and run your favorite apps. And yes, you’ll even be able to make and take calls right from your watch, for when your hands are full, or your phone is elsewhere.

The first Android Wear watch with cellular support is the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE.

LG, today:

We understand that you are currently reviewing our latest smartwatch; however, late in the quality assurance process for the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, our engineers were made aware of a hardware issue which affects the day-to-day functionality of the device. After further investigation, the decision was made to cancel the rollout of the Urbane 2nd Edition LTE due to the complicated nature of the issue.

Whether the device will be available in the future will be decided at a later time. For now, our top priority is to ensure that only products that meet our very specific quality standards are available for purchase.

Jimmy Iovine: ‘I’ve Always Known That Women Find It Very Difficult at Times — Some Women — to Find Music’ 

Really looking forward to Jimmy Iovine’s comments on women drivers when the Apple car comes out.

PowerPhotos 1.1 

Remember the app iPhoto Library Manager — a Mac utility that let iPhoto users split their photo collections across multiple iPhoto libraries? The company behind it, Fat Cat Software, has a sequel called PowerPhotos, which fills a similar role for the new Photos for Mac. It lets you do things like split a large library into multiple smaller ones (e.g. one for MacBook’s internal SSD, and an “archive” library you store on an external hard drive) or take multiple smaller libraries and merge them into one single library.

Here’s Glenn Fleishman’s take on PowerPhotos 1.0 from back in August. (Not a bad app icon, either.)

Update: It occurs to me that PowerPhotos is also exactly the sort of utility that couldn’t exist for iOS, and couldn’t go through the Mac App Store. That’s not to say I think this sort of thing should be possible on iOS — only that this is why I continue to love the Mac.

Serenity Caldwell on Apple Pencil 

Great piece on the Pencil from an inveterate sketcher.

A thought that has occurred to me about the Pencil is that it’s the ultimate Apple peripheral. It has no buttons. Not even an on-off switch. It doesn’t even have a light that blinks when it’s turned on. You just use it. The only un-Apple-like aspect of it is that easily-lost cap for the Lightning plug.

Bloomberg: ‘Swiss Watch Exports Fall Most in Six Years on Hong Kong Drop’ 


Swiss watch exports had their biggest decline in six years in October, led by a 39 percent slump in shipments to Hong Kong, the industry’s largest market.

Shipments declined 12 percent to 2 billion Swiss francs ($2 billion), the Swiss customs office said in a statement Thursday. Adjusted for fewer working days, the drop was 7.6 percent. Exports to the U.S. dropped 12 percent.

Could be coincidence, of course. Maybe Apple Watch debuted in a year in which Swiss watch sales would have fallen even Apple Watch didn’t exist.

Maybe not, though.

Update: Here’s the data published by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

‘My White Neighbor Thought I Was Breaking Into My Own Apartment. Nineteen Cops Showed Up.’ 

Harrowing story by Fay Wells, writing in The Washington Post:

I said it was only me and, hands still raised, slowly descended the stairs, focused on one officer’s eyes and on his pistol. I had never looked down the barrel of a gun or at the face of a man with a loaded weapon pointed at me. In his eyes, I saw fear and anger. I had no idea what was happening, but I saw how it would end: I would be dead in the stairwell outside my apartment, because something about me — a 5-foot-7, 125-pound black woman — frightened this man with a gun. I sat down, trying to look even less threatening, trying to de-escalate. I again asked what was going on. I confirmed there were no pets or people inside.

I told the officers I didn’t want them in my apartment. I said they had no right to be there. They entered anyway. One pulled me, hands behind my back, out to the street. The neighbors were watching. Only then did I notice the ocean of officers. I counted 16. They still hadn’t told me why they’d come.

Use the iPad Pro Like a Wacom Cintiq 

Serenity Caldwell:

Using Astropad, I turned my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil into a Wacom Cintiq-like tablet for my Mac and Photoshop.

On the Size of the Speaker Cavities in the iPad Pro 

From iFixit’s iPad Pro teardown:

It appears that the Pro’s self-balancing, four-speaker audio comes at the cost of battery capacity. Based on our measurements, the speaker enclosures occupy about half as much space as the battery.

That’s space that could have potentially been used for an extra 50% battery capacity. We’re sure Apple was very careful setting the balance between battery capacity, weight, and sound quality.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, writing about iFixit’s teardown for ZDNet, takes this as the central theme of his article (headline: “iPad Pro: 4-Speaker System Takes Up a Huge Amount of Potential Battery Space”):

According to a teardown carried out by repair specialists at iFixit, the speaker enclosures take up about half as much space as the battery does. And the battery in the iPad isn’t small either, featuring a power capacity of 38.8Wh, which is 40 percent bigger than the one found inside the iPad Air 2, and a shade bigger than the 38.2Wh unit Microsoft uses in the Surface Pro 4.

But the speaker units — which consist of the speakers themselves and the volume chambers — take up about half the space that the batteries do. In other words, if Apple had put small speakers into the iPad Pro, it could have made the battery almost 50 percent bigger.

Kingsley-Hughes wasn’t alone. That was the main thrust of MacRumors’s and Macworld’s write-ups, too. I don’t get it. The iPad Pro gets excellent battery life. I could see making an argument about the relative merits of audio quality and battery life on a battery-constrained device like the iPhone 6S. And iFixit themselves wrote, “We’re sure Apple was very careful setting the balance between battery capacity, weight, and sound quality.”

This suggestion makes no sense. A heavier iPad Pro with worse sound quality from its speakers would be a worse device, no matter how much longer the battery would last. Lots of the trade-offs are very tricky — like how thick to make the overall device. This one was not a tricky trade-off.

Update: A few readers are complaining that I’m being too kind to these dopes. They’re right. Maybe I’m losing my edge. Here’s how stupid the idea is. If the iPad Pro had smaller speaker cavities and a larger battery, it would be an improvement in one way:

  • Longer battery life.

It would be objectively worse in these ways:

  • Weight.
  • Time to completely charge the battery.
  • Audio quality.

And people are already — reasonably — criticizing the iPad Pro for how heavy it is and how long it takes to fully charge. A bigger battery would make two of its weaknesses even worse, all in the name of further improving battery life, an aspect of the iPad Pro that no one is complaining about.

Instagram Pulls a Twitter, and Announces the End of Third-Party Clients 

Russell Brandom, writing for The Verge:

Third-party Instagram developers just got some very bad news. Today, the service announced major revisions to its API policy, effectively killing off an entire class of Instagram-reader apps and instituting serious restrictions on any apps that remain. According to the announcement, the changes are being made “to improve people’s control over their content and set up a more sustainable environment built around authentic experiences on the platform.”

Paul Haddad:

I’m not surprised Instagram killed off API access to its feed. I’m surprised they had it in the first place.

I sure hope this means an iPad version of the official Instagram app is coming soon.

Apple Responds to Developers Regarding Expired Mac App Store Security Certificates 

Husain Sumra, writing for MacRumors:

Last week some users and developers experienced an issue that displayed a “damaged” error when attempting to open select apps from the Mac App Store, including popular apps like 1Password, Tweetbot, and Byword. Today, Apple has sent an email to developers explaining what happened and how to fix their apps.

Put aside the argument about whether a fiasco like this should have ever happened in the first place. Why did it take six days for Apple to publicly respond and explain what happened?

An Interview With Tinder CEO Sean Rad 

Charlotte Edwards, interviewing Tinder co-founder Sean Rad for The Evening Standard:

“She’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen but it doesn’t mean that I want to rip her clothes off and have sex with her. Attraction is nuanced. I’ve been attracted to women who are ...” he pauses “... well, who my friends might think are ugly. I don’t care if someone is a model. Really. It sounds clichéd and almost totally unbelievable for a guy to say this, but it’s true. I need an intellectual challenge.”

He continues: “Apparently there’s a term for someone who gets turned on by intellectual stuff. You know, just talking. What’s the word?” His face creases the effort of trying to remember. “I want to say ‘sodomy’?”

Rosette shrieks: “That’s it! We’re going to be fired” and Rad looks confused. “What? Why?”

I tell him it means something else and he thumbs his phone for a definition. “What? No, not that. That’s definitely not me. Oh, my God.”

When he recovers he explains that Tinder is launching an education and workplace add-on that will helps users identify their intellectual equals.

Something tells me this guy doesn’t have to look hard to find his intellectual equals.

Oxford Dictionaries Selects an Emoji as Word of the Year 

Explain to me how 🖕 did not win.

Update: Screenshot, for those of you using older systems without the newest emoji.

Microsoft’s Cyber Defense Operations Center 

Bret Arsenault, chief information security officer for Microsoft:

To support a comprehensive, cross company approach to security, Microsoft invests more than a billion dollars in security research and development, every year. Deepening this commitment, we announced plans to enhance our protection of customer data with a new Cyber Defense Operations Center. This state-of-the-art facility brings together security response experts from across the company to help protect, detect and respond to threats in real-time. Staffed with dedicated teams 24×7, the center has direct access to thousands of security professionals, data analysts, engineers, developers, program managers, and operations specialists throughout Microsoft to ensure rapid response and resolution to security threats. Informed by decades of experience working with the industry to fight threats on a global scale, the center maintains critical connections with industry security partners, governments and enterprise customers, and engages Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit when law enforcement needs arise.

At first I just wanted to crack a joke about this sounding very Bond-ian. But here’s a serious question: why doesn’t Apple have a senior executive with this purview?

‘iPad Pro Proves That Apple’s iPad Is on Its Last Legs’ 

Daryl Deino:

Apple needs to get with the times. Sure, you can run Photoshop. But can you run a full desktop version of Photoshop? The answer is no.

He forgot to mention it doesn’t run Flash Player.


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Look for the Helpers 

Fred Rogers, long ago:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Last night in Paris:

He said people were trampling each other trying to escape. He was lucky enough to be able to climb onto the stage and find an exit while the terrorists were reloading.

“When I went on the street I saw 20, 25 bodies lying on the floor. People were very badly injured with gunshot wounds. I took a small girl, a teenager; she was bleeding very badly. I ran with her for like 200 meters and I found a cab, a taxi, and let her in and I told the cabdriver, ‘Go to the hospital.’”

Tim Cook’s Company-Wide Memo on Black Teens Kicked Out of Melbourne Apple Store 

Tim Cook:

While I firmly believe that this was an isolated incident rather than a symptom of a broader problem in our stores, we will use this moment as an opportunity to learn and grow. Our store leadership teams around the world, starting in Australia, will be refreshing their training on inclusion and customer engagement. These are concepts and practices they know well, but can always stand to reinforce.

‘Next Year’ 

James Vincent, writing for The Verge under the headline “Bluetooth Will Get Much More Powerful Next Year”:

The ever-growing number of connected gadgets on the market is putting a strain on our Bluetooth connections. To keep up with the increased burden, the Bluetooth standard is getting an upgrade, with longer range, faster speeds, and mesh networking all in the works for 2016. The incorporation of these new features is being overseen by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), an industry body that counts companies such as Apple, Intel, Microsoft, and Lenovo among its backers.

“Next year it will work great” should be the motto of Bluetooth.

Michael Tsai: ‘No One Minding the Store’ 

Michael Tsai:

The Mac App Store is supposed to make things easier, but it’s also a single point of failure. Not only is it neglected, but sometimes even the existing functionality stops working. Mac OS X 10.9 introduced a code signing bug that prevented me from submitting updates for several months. In June 2015, there was a month-long iTunes Connect bug that prevented my uploaded build from entering the review queue. And I currently have a bug fix update that Apple has been reviewing for 33 days (with 8 days of waiting before that). When I inquired about the status, Apple told me that everything was normal and that I should just keep waiting. In short, the system is broken on multiple levels, and there is no evidence to suggest that things will get better.

Harsh words, but I don’t see how anyone could disagree.

He also has a collection of tweets regarding the App Store’s expired certificate fiasco. The last one made me laugh.

UIFocusEngine Hidden in iOS 9.1 

Speaking of the intrepid developer Steven Troughton-Smith, last night on Twitter he uncovered that tvOS’s UIFocusEngine is built into iOS 9.1. That means, using private APIs, you can build an app for iPhone or iPad that has a UI that is entirely navigable using the keyboard — up, down, left, right, Return, Esc.

Steven sent me a small demo project so I could try it out, and it worked like a charm. For something that is clearly not even close to being ready for real-world use, it looks and feels pretty cool. The only hiccup I ran into is that there is no Esc key on the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard.

To be clear, this isn’t useful today, at all. Not only are they all private APIs, but the controls are only accessible through a hardware keyboard. So if you make a regular button with UIKit, it can be tapped (with your finger), but can’t be navigated to using a keyboard; if you make a button using UIFocusEngine, you can select it and trigger it using the keyboard, but it doesn’t respond to touch. But perhaps it’s a sign that Apple is thinking deeply about making iOS navigable using the keyboard — which is something they really need to do.

(One last note: I paired my SteelSeries Nimbus game controller to the iPad Pro. On Apple TV, you can use a game controller to navigate the entire UI. On iOS, it doesn’t work. It only works with an actual keyboard.)

Apple’s List of ‘Amazing Apps for iPad Pro’ 

These apps all take advantage of the bigger display or make good use of the Pencil, but as Steven Troughton-Smith observed, it’s more like a list of great “pro” apps for iOS, period.

Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Shipping Estimates Now ‘4-5 Weeks’ 

Dave Mark, writing at The Loop:

Want an iPad Pro? You can find some models in stock at your friendly neighborhood Apple Store. You can order one on line and have it arrive as early as Monday. Even the most expensive models will ship to you within two weeks (at least in the US).

Want an Apple Pencil to go with that? Yeah, sorry, you’ll have to wait 4 to 5 weeks.

We can hope that Apple is simply under-promising here, and these orders might ship sooner. But if the estimates are accurate, you better order now if you’re thinking of these items as holiday gifts.

Update: Apple is acknowledging that both the Pencil and Smart Keyboard are in short supply:

“Customers are very excited for iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard,” an Apple spokesperson told Mashable. “We have limited supply of Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard in Apple Retail stores. Our stores will continue to receive regular shipments and we encourage customers to visit for online availability and delivery dates.”

Why the iPad Pro Needs Xcode 

Steve Streza:

Xcode running directly on the iPad Pro could fix many of those problems. You now have a tablet powerful enough to run an IDE, with a very nice keyboard cover, and a screen big enough to encompass all the functionality of Xcode, capable of testing almost every feature of every iOS device ever made. You can code with your keyboard and test with multitouch. You could work on a desk and take your whole development environment with you on the couch, bed, or plane.

Streza’s argument is that Xcode for iPad would help developers write better iPad apps. In the long run, maybe. The build and run cycle sure would be better if you were running the app right on an iPad, not in the Simulator on your Mac.

I don’t know if it’s going to be a WWDC 2016 thing, or a WWDC 2017 thing, but I can feel it in my gut that this is going to happen. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if it starts in some sort of limited fashion. Maybe Xcode for iPad starts out only offering Swift playgrounds — a tool that lets you tinker and learn, but not a full-fledged IDE for apps.

Update: Federico Viticci:

Fortunately, I want to believe there’s some hope here. Over the past few months, I’ve personally heard about an iPad Pro version of Xcode in early stages, being demoed internally at Apple. I don’t know if this will ever actually happen, but it sure would make for a nice surprise at WWDC next year.

I’ve heard the same thing. I don’t know that it’s iPad Pro-only — it might be for any iPad. But it’s definitely a real project.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Twitter on the iPad Pro’ 

Somewhere, Loren Brichter is rolling over in his grave. Twitter’s iPad app has devolved from one of the most innovative and thoughtful designs in iPad history into a fucking joke.

‘Showrooming’ Amazon Books 

Paul Constant:

If you were unaware, Amazon has actively promoted “showrooming”, which is the act of standing in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, looking at a book, and then buying it on Amazon, rather than from the bookstore. You’re using the bookstore as a showroom for Amazon, but the bookstore, which pays rent and salaries and all the other expenses of running a small business, gets absolutely nothing. BuzzFeed picked up my above tweet and ran it as part of a listicle about Amazon Books. My issue with BuzzFeed’s listicle was that they included my tweet as a “joke.” I was dead serious. So this morning, the good people at Shelf Awareness gave my tweet a signal boost and I clarified that I absolutely meant what I said:

Serious offer: first person who showrooms Amazon Books gets a gift certificate to @ElliottBayBooks. Send pictures.

It didn’t take long for someone to bite.

This is glorious.

Guns, Drugs, and Money 

Marijuana is legal in Colorado, but because it is illegal under federal law, and even state-chartered banks fall under federal regulations, the completely legal weed dispensaries must operate as all-cash operations. Here’s a great little 10-minute documentary from The New York Times showing just how onerous — and dangerous — this situation is. As my pal Jim Ray quipped in a text message, these guys probably own a few of those 1M Hauly bags I just linked to.

SDR Traveller 1M Hauly 

I absolutely love that this company exists:

The 1M Hauly is designed for the discreet, comfortable carry of up to US$1 Million in used bank notes.

(Via Jürgen Siebert.)

Om Malik on Amazon Opening a Retail Store 

Om Malik:

The Seattle Times reveals that the 7,500 square foot store will feature books that based on data. “We’re taking the data we have and we’re creating physical places with it,” Jennifer Cast, VP of Amazon Books told The Seattle Times. “We’re completely focused on this bookstore. We hope this is not our only one. But we’ll see.”

However, it is towards the end of the press release accompanying the news that Cast tips her hand and why I believe why this is one of the many stores to come. “At Amazon Books, you can also test drive Amazon’s devices. Products across our Kindle, Echo, Fire TV, and Fire Tablet series are available for you to explore, and Amazon device experts will be on hand to answer questions and to show the products in action.” she writes.

The growing arsenal of devices, intelligence derived from data, and desperate need to create physical experiences around books were my three reasons why I had predicted in June 2010 that Amazon will eventually have to open physical locations.

Good call by Om.

The fact that they’re all-in on Fire TV — refusing to sell Apple TV or Chromecast, and (apparently) refusing to build a Prime app for Apple TV — shows that they’re serious about getting people to buy their devices.

Mac Apps Break Due to Security Certificate Lapse 

Alex Hern, writing for The Guardian:

Mac users faced trouble with their apps overnight after the security certificate Apple uses to prevent piracy expired late on Wednesday. Applications downloaded from the Mac App Store were temporarily unavailable from 10pm UK time, when a security certificate expired, five years after its creation, with no replacement immediately available.

Even once Apple fixed the error, issuing a new certificate for the apps (with an expiry date of April 2035, this time), users were still faced with problems. Those who could not connect to the internet couldn’t verify the new certificate, while those who had forgotten their password or couldn’t log in to iCloud for some other reason are also unable to use the downloaded apps until they can log in to the service.

Inexcusable for a service that is absolutely essential to users and developers.

iPad Pro Benchmarks 

From Andrew Cunningham’s iPad Pro review for Ars Technica, here are GeekBench, GFXBench, Sunspider, Kraken, and Octane scores — and comparisons to recent iPads, MacBooks, and the Surface Pro 4. The performance of the A9X is truly impressive.

Horace Dediu: ‘Desktop Computer’ 

Lots of reviews of the iPad Pro (and associated kit) today. My favorite so far is Horace Dediu’s video review, which is based on a simple premise that rings completely true to me after a week and a half using it: it’s the first iOS device meant to be used on a desk. I wrote this in my review:

It occurs to me that for many people, the Smart Keyboard might best be thought of not as a thick cover, but as a thin very portable desktop docking station.

But Horace makes the point more forcefully.

It makes it all the more curious to me, though, that Apple decided to ship the iPad Pro to stores today without either the Pencil or Smart Keyboard available. It’s these accessories, in addition to the iPad Pro’s size, that make it feel like a desktop device. My review would have been very different if I had spent the last week using the iPad Pro without either the Smart Keyboard or Pencil — but that’s the only configuration people can buy today. It’ll all work out in the long run, but in the short term, getting a new iPad Pro without a Smart Keyboard or Pencil is no fun. Sort of a joyless launch.

Sony Will Stop Selling Betamax Video Cassettes in March 2016 

How many people still say they’re going to “tape” something on TV when they record it to their DVR?

Any technology that gains even a minor foothold — like Betamax, the format that “lost” to VHS — can take a long time to truly vanish.

‘The Little Hamburger They Use on the Top’ 

Matthew Panzarino spoke to Eddy Cue about the launch of the Apple Music public beta for Android:

Apple Music is a beta on Android, which means it’s missing a couple of features. Music Videos are not available on Android, and neither is signing up for a family membership within the app. If you already have a family plan purchased elsewhere, you can log in with an authorized Apple ID to get access.

Cue says they decided to go with the standard Android conventions when designing Apple Music.

“It’s a full native app, so it will look and feel like an Android app. The menus will look like Android, you know the little hamburger they use on the top. It’ll definitely feel very much like an Android app,” says Cue.

He makes the case that the best experience for an Android user would be to feel familiar with Apple Music right on launch. “We wanted customers on Android to naturally be able to use it — what they’ve learned and how they interact is common. Things as simple as [that] the share icon looks like an Android share icon; the menu structure being where it is; these are things that most Android customers are familiar with. We wanted to make sure that they felt very familiar with Apple Music when they sat down to use it.”

Trying it out on my Moto X, it feels more like a native Android app than Google’s apps feel like native iOS apps, but that just could be that I’m so keenly attuned to idiomatic iOS UI conventions. I wouldn’t be surprised if Android UI-super-tasters see Apple’s Music app the way I see Google’s iOS apps: foreign. But for example (in addition to the sharing icons and hamburger menu): Apple Music for Android uses Roboto, the Android system font; Google’s iOS apps use Roboto, the Android system font.

Mobile, Ecosystems, and the Death of the PC 

Great piece by Benedict Evans, attempting (and I say succeeding) to define just what we should mean by “mobile”:

You can’t use the screen size or the keyboard to define ‘mobile’ as distinct from a ‘PC’.

It certainly isn’t the performance - at least, not for much longer. An iPhone 6S beats the Macbook on some benchmarks, an iPad Air beats Surfaces from prior years and it seems pretty likely that the iPad Pro will be close enough to a Surface for there not to be much point arguing about it.

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the iPad Pro will outperform the x86-based Surface Pro 4 in most benchmarks — at least the Core-m3 and Core-i5 models that have already shipped. (The $1599 Core-i7 Surface Pro 4 isn’t shipping until December.)

The lines on the Moore’s Law chart are converging for anything with a battery. The same applies to the visible differences in the software. Saying that a PC is distinguished by multitasking and multiple windows is pretty short-sighted. It’s just software. It changes.

Meanwhile, most of the form factor differences seem to me to have little to do with the essence of the device. They’re a matter of superglue. If I superglue a keyboard onto an iPad and install Office, have I made a laptop? How many of those 1.5bn PCs are running applications that I cannot run on this iPad - and, to my earlier point, how many people will always need to run those specific applications? If I hack Android onto a Surface, and install Office, what exactly have I lost, or gained? Is the difference between a ‘smartphone’ and ‘tablet’ any more meaningful than the difference between a PC with a large or small monitor?

So well said. I would go so far as to say that this piece by Evans is essential reading before you read any reviews or analysis of the iPad Pro. If you don’t understand what Evans is pointing out here, you have no chance of understanding the purpose and potential appeal of the iPad Pro.

New York Attorney General Tells Daily Fantasy Sports to Stop Taking Bets 

The New York Times:

The New York State attorney general on Tuesday ordered the two biggest daily fantasy sports companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, to stop accepting bets in New York, saying that their games constituted illegal gambling under state law, according to people with knowledge of his investigation.

The cease-and-desist order by the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, is a major blow to a multibillion-dollar industry that introduced sports betting to legions of young sports fans and has formed partnerships with many of the nation’s professional sports teams. Given the New York attorney general’s historic role as a consumer-protection advocate, legal experts say the action will most likely reverberate in other states where legislators and investigators are increasingly questioning whether the industry should operate unfettered by regulations that govern legalized gambling.

You can argue about whether sports gambling should be legal, but it’s silly to argue that these fantasy sports outfits aren’t “sports gambling”.

Popular Instagram Client ‘InstaAgent’ Is Password-Collecting Malware 

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

An app developer from Peppersoft downloaded InstaAgent — full name “Who Viewed Your Profile - InstaAgent” — and discovered that it reading Instagram account usernames and passwords, sending them via clear text to a remote server - [...]

While InstaAgent isn’t particularly popular in the United States, it is currently the number one free app in both the United Kingdom and Canada, with thousands of downloads that puts a huge number of Instagram users at risk of having their information stolen. In the Google Play store, the app had between 100k and 500k users, and the install numbers could be similar for iOS.

Hats off to “David L-R”, who uncovered this.

Joanna Stern’s BlackBerry Priv Review 

Joanna Stern, writing for the WSJ, has a more positive take than Bohn:

A few performance issues aside, the Priv is the first BlackBerry in years that I have loved using — and that I can recommend. [...]

Typing on real keys with a phablet-sized 5.4-inch screen towering over them is odd at first, but once I found my acrobatic balance, my fingers were scurrying around at up to 60 words per minute. That’s about 20% faster than I type on my iPhone (though still 15% slower than on the BlackBerry Classic’s larger, wider, backlit keyboard).

The sculpted plastic keys were great when I had to write a lengthy email and make edits to a story. The keyboard also doubles as a touch-sensitive trackpad, allowing you to move the cursor. But even I, a former physical keyboard addict, ended up using the on-screen keyboard most of the time. It’s more convenient and easier to use one-handed. Our broad on-screen keyboards with smart predictive text have rendered BlackBerry’s classic keyboard the smartphone equivalent of a Colonial butter churn.

Switching to Android is probably the way to go, since the developer ecosystem for BlackBerry’s own BB10 never got off the ground. I’m not sure hanging their hat on a hardware keyboard is the way to go in 2015, though, even for BlackBerry. Like Joanna says, if they’d come out with this phone four or five years ago, maybe they could have kept their existing users. But today, almost everyone has moved on.

Introducing Six Colors Subscriptions 

Jason Snell:

I love doing Six Colors. I’ve been doing it for 14 months now, and I want to keep doing for the rest of my career.

Our weekly sponsors allow me to assign Six Colors a big chunk of what I do with my overall work week (in addition to all the podcasting and freelance writing). But to keep the site thriving, it needs even more of my attention. That requires the support of readers like you. The more support Six Colors has, the more time I can devote to it, rather than taking on more outside work to make ends meet.

So today I’m introducing Six Colors subscriptions. This is a way for you to support Six Colors, either on a monthly or annual basis.

I’m in.

Dieter Bohn Reviews the BlackBerry Priv 

Dieter Bohn:

Therein lies the beginning of the true story about the Priv. This thing is chock-full of really good ideas, badly executed.

Turn out the lights.

New ‘Star Trek’ Series Premieres in January 2017 

Star Trek PR:

CBS Television Studios announced today it will launch a totally new Star Trek television series in January 2017. The new series will blast off with a special preview broadcast on the CBS Television Network. The premiere episode and all subsequent first-run episodes will then be available exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access, the Network’s digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service.

Are they putting it on CBS All Access because it isn’t good enough to be a regular CBS show? I find that hard to believe, given how much complete garbage CBS airs. So I guess they’re putting it on CBS All Access because they think it’s appealing enough to get people to actually sign up for CBS All Access.

Will it have commercials? I’d find that unconscionable.

Update: Sounds like not only does CBS All Access have commercials — it has tons of them, and the streaming quality is crap. Terrible news for Star Trek fans if this is the only legit way to watch.

‘Steve Jobs’ Tanks, Pulled From Theaters 

Luke Dormehl, writing for Cult of Mac:

Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs movie had another disastrous showing at the box office over the weekend. With earnings declining more than 69 percent from the previous weekend to just $823,000, the movie was dumped from 2,072 screens — more than any other film.

By comparison, the new Bond movie Spectre took $73 million in its opening weekend.

Should have gone straight to home video.

Tim Cook: ‘iPad Pro Is a Replacement for a Notebook or a Desktop for Many, Many People’ 

Tim Cook, in London for iPad Pro promotional interviews, to The Telegraph:

“Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones,” Cook argues in his distinctly Southern accent (he was born in Alabama). He highlights two other markets for his 12.9 inch devices, which go on sale online on Wednesday. The first are creatives: “if you sketch then it’s unbelievable... you don’t want to use a pad anymore,” Cook says.

Cook told The Independent in a separate interview that the only devices he’s traveling with are his iPad Pro and iPhone.

Interesting tidbit here:

Cook hints that Apple may have more plans for the health sphere, in a revelation which will intrigue Wall Street, but he doesn’t want the watch itself to become a regulated, government-licensed health product. “We don’t want to put the watch through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. I wouldn’t mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long. But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it — maybe an app, maybe something else.”

Some good remarks on government-mandated encryption backdoors, as well.

The Onion Reviews ‘Spectre’ 

“A chilling character study of a man suffering from debilitating alcoholism.”

Hewlett Packard’s 1977 HP-01 

What comes around goes around — just look at that steel link bracelet.

TAG Heuer Connected Watch Side-by-Side With Vintage Heuer Carrera 

It’s a really big watch.

See also: Video of TAG’s announcement event today (for real this time — sorry for the wrong link on this earlier), hosted by Hodinkee’s Ben Clymer. Say what you will about the watch itself, you certainly can’t fault TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver for a lack of enthusiasm. Skip to the 28:00 mark to hear him explain the “connected to eternity” trade-in program.

And whatever you do, don’t miss the ending, when Biver cuts the cheese right on stage.

WordPress Now Powers 25 Percent of Websites 

Matt Mullenweg:

Sometimes it goes up and down through the course of a month, but it’s still a pretty fun milestone that we can now say about one in four websites are now powered by the scrappy open source underdog with its roots stretching all the way back to a single person in Corsica, France. We should be comfortably past 25% by the end of the year.

The big opportunity is still the 57% of websites that don’t use any identifiable CMS yet, and that’s where I think there is still a ton of growth for us (and I’m also rooting for all the other open source CMSes).

What a great success story WordPress is.

Adobe Creative Cloud Apps on iPad Pro 

Adobe has released a new video with artists talking about using Creative Cloud apps on the iPad Pro:

Watch and hear what some of the world’s most creative people think about using Illustrator Draw, Photoshop Mix, Photoshop Sketch, Photoshop Fix and other Creative Cloud apps on the new iPad Pro.

David Chartier, on Twitter:

Interesting iPad Pro video from Adobe, but it bugs me how nearly everyone seems to draw deliberately palm-less.

Michael B. Johnson (who works at Pixar):

@chartier The palm rejection is great. The vids do it that way so you can see what they’re drawing and the low lag.

TAG Heuer Unveils $1500 ‘Connected Watch’, Made in Collaboration With Intel and Google 

Stephen Pulvirent and Chris Rovzar, writing for Bloomberg:

The Connected Watch is big at 46.2mm across and 12.8mm thick, but it’s made of titanium, so it’s surprisingly light. The bezel is marked in five-minute increments and has a black carbide coating that gives some contrast against the case’s brushed and sandblasted surfaces. Paired with one of seven colors of vulcanized rubber strap and a matching titanium buckle, it looks and wears a lot like one of TAG’s mechanical watches. From a distance it’s nearly indistinguishable from TAG’s Heuer 01. Still, though, I wish it were a lot smaller (maybe something closer to 42mm), and the fact that brands such as Motorola are sizing down their offerings tells me I’m probably not the only one.

46mm is a big watch, and the styling is decidedly masculine. But it definitely looks like a TAG Heuer. It doesn’t have a heart rate sensor, which seems curious. The watch faces are skeuomorphic copies of TAG’s mechanical watches. Like Apple Watch, it’s “splash proof”.

Now, one thing TAG can offer that none of its competitors can is a service it calls “connected to eternity.” (Again, I don’t know who’s coming up with the names here, but they’ve got some serious work to do.) After two years, a Connected Watch owner can bring the watch into a TAG Heuer retailer, trade it in with an additional $1,500, and receive a mechanical TAG Heuer watch in return. Sure, it’s not a one-for-one trade, but it’s definitely a big step up over letting a $1,500 Connected Watch sit dormant in a drawer for the next decade after its software becomes obsolete, until you finally toss it in the garbage.

This seems weird. If the reason for upgrading is that the technology in your watch is outdated, wouldn’t you want to upgrade to a new Connected Watch? It seems oddly pessimistic to assume that two years from now Connected Watch owners will want to go back to a mechanical watch.

Apple: iPad Pro Available to Order Online Wednesday, Arrives in Stores Later This Week 


Apple today announced iPad Pro is available to order online on Wednesday, November 11, from and will arrive at Apple’s retail stores, select carriers and Apple Authorized Resellers starting later this week. Apple Pencil and Apple’s new Smart Keyboard, also available to order on Wednesday, bring breakthrough levels of precision and utility to iPad Pro.

AnandTech’s Review of the iPhones 6S 

To call this review “thorough” is an understatement. Truly a deep dive. I particularly enjoyed the analysis of the A9 SoC and the new cameras. A snippet from the conclusion:

This year, more than ever it feels like Android smartphones at the high end have stood still, as if smartphone improvements have become a zero sum game. To make the best phone this year is therefore a pretty low bar to clear. However, the iPhone 6s, even when compared to iPhones alone, is especially noteworthy for the improvements to overall user experience.

Vintage 1998 Hiawatha Bray Claim Chowder 

1998 Hiawatha Bray column, lamenting the lack of a floppy drive in the original iMac:

The iMac doesn’t include a floppy disk drive for doing file backups or sharing of data. It’s an astonishing lapse for Jobs, who should have learned better. [...]

There’s still time for Apple to wise up, before the iMac goes into full production.

Just in case you’ve ever doubted whether critics really did think the iMac’s lack of a floppy drive was a dealbreaker. (Thanks to Dan Morris.)

The Economist Delivered Malware 

The Economist:

On Oct. 31, 2015, one of’s vendors, PageFair, was hacked. If you visited at any time between Oct. 31, 23:52 GMT and Nov. 1, 01:15 GMT, using Windows OS and you do not have trusted anti-virus software installed, it is possible that malware, disguised as an Adobe update, was downloaded onto your PC.

Appalling. PageFair is an anti-ad-blocking company — they give websites tools to circumvent ad-blocking plugins. Make no bones about it: PageFair was the company that got hacked, but The Economist is responsible for what it serves. People are furious at The Economist for this, and rightly so.


My thanks to Bellroy for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Bellroy specializes in making slim, stylish, functional wallets and iPhone cases. I’ve been using a Slim Sleeve since last year, and I still think it’s the best wallet I’ve ever seen. Looks great, feels great, and very cleverly designed.

I only carry cards in my wallet, not cash. For those who keep their cash in their wallets, their newest models, the Low Down and High Line, keep bills flat and crisp while staying super slim. They’re simply great wallets for anyone who appreciates simple, minimalist design. (Great gift idea, too.)

The Talk Show: ‘Put a Nipple on It’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show. This week’s very special guest is Adam Lisagor, and our topic of conversation is the new Apple TV.

Brought to you by these excellent sponsors:

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Scrambled, Not Shirred 

Tom Weiss, writing for Lucky Peach:

James Bond’s favorite meal of the day was breakfast. It was also the favorite meal of Ian Fleming, 007’s creator. Fleming made breakfast not only “Bond’s favorite meal of the day,” but also “an important part of Bond’s day.” This was not mere rhetoric. Among the five hundred meals mentioned in the entire Bond oeuvre, 115 were breakfasts, eighty of them described in appetizing detail.

Top Ten Tweets From Philadelphia’s New Mayor-Elect, Jim Kenney 

Dan McQuade, writing for Philadelphia Magazine:

Other Philadelphia mayors might shy away from calling Lou Dobbs an asshole over Twitter. Not our new one!

Pretty sure I’m going to like this guy.

Claim Chowder: Ming-Chi Kuo / iPhone 6S 3D Touch Edition 

Apple Insider, back in April:

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities issued a research note on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by AppleInsider, in which he reaffirmed that Apple’s next-generation iPhone will indeed feature Force Touch input. [...]

According to Kuo, Force Touch on the iPhone will represent “the most significant change” to date in the iPhone user interface. In fact, the change will be so substantial that he believes Apple may decide to call the handset the “iPhone 7,” rather than an “iPhone 6s.”

Wrong, and rather foolish.

“We believe that iPhone’s Force Touch sensor doesn’t directly detect the pressure applied by fingers,” Kuo said. “Instead, it monitors the contact area on which the finger touches the screen to decide how big the pressure is.”

Totally wrong.

Kuo has had some scoops before — he was the first to call the iPhone 6 Plus’s 1920x1080 pixel resolution — but his record is far from perfect.

Silicon Valley Business Journal: Apple Considering Massive San Jose Campus 

Nathan Donato-Weinstein:

Apple Inc. and the city of San Jose are working toward a development agreement that would allow the Cupertino-based juggernaut to build a north San Jose campus of up to 4.15 million square feet, according to city records — an amount larger than Apple’s “spaceship” campus under construction in Cupertino.


Ben Carson Believes the Egyptian Pyramids Were Built by the Old Testament Character Joseph for Grain Storage 

This would be a lot funnier if this lunatic weren’t currently leading most polls in the Republican primary.

Markdown, Strikethrough, and Slack 

Katie Notopoulos, complaining at BuzzFeed about the way Slack now renders text wrapped in tildes (“~like this~”) as strikethrough:

Ok, so this is almost certainly because of Markdown, a tool that turns text into HTML. In Markdown, putting tildes around a word makes it appear as strikethrough text. Using Markdown makes some sense, I ~guess~, since many of Slack’s clients use it for coding and other technical purposes.

But what about the rest of us? Those of us who don’t know shit about Markdown or coding or who John Gruber is or ~whatever~ man? What about the people who NEED our tildes back so we can actually communicate with each other in the language that is ~native~ to online discussion???? WHAT ABOUT US???????

There is no strikethrough syntax in Markdown. Go ahead and look at the official syntax. Tildes have no meaning, and are passed through as-is by any good Markdown processor. If Slack didn’t have their heads up their asses and actually used Markdown-style formatting syntax, there’d be no problem. (And we’d get italics instead of bold when we did *this*, as we should.)

Adding support for a strikethrough syntax is a longstanding request for Markdown, but I omitted it by design. For one thing, there is no good punctuation to represent strikethrough. Tildes don’t look like strikethrough at all — tildes are squiggly, but a strike is a straight line. The most-requested syntax — wrapping the to-be-struck-through text in hyphens, like -this- — is visually hard to distinguish from dashes used to indicate a pause or parenthetical clause. To me, there is no punctuation that better represents struck-through text than the raw HTML <del> tag. The primary goal of Markdown is to remain readable as plain text.

For another thing, strikethrough isn’t used frequently enough to justify a shortcut. If Markdown provided its own syntax for all of the various HTML tags that people think that they want, it would be a minefield of special cases that you’d need to be aware of at all times while writing. A big part of Markdown’s (still growing) success is that I kept the syntax relatively small.

Update: Tildes-for-strikethrough comes from the GitHub-Flavored Markdown (which is a Markdown variant I like a lot — I just don’t think the syntax for a programmer-oriented variant is applicable to a general-purpose audience like Slack’s). BuzzFeed has updated Notopoulos’s article accordingly.

HTC’s New Ad for the One A9 

9to5Mac is calling it a “copy of Apple’s iconic 1984 commercial” for the original Mac. If that’s the intention, they did a terrible job. The phone itself is a great copy of the iPhone 6 — it looks good. The commercial, though, is downright cringe-inducingly bad. The vague and floundering nature of this spot underscores HTC’s institutional helplessness. Nothing they do works to actually sell a meaningful number of phones, they don’t understand why, and they don’t know what to do. So, this.

Thematically, the message is that iPhones are for parents and squares, HTC phones are for kids and rebels. That’s a message HTC started telling themselves four years ago. Meanwhile, in the real world, kids think green text message bubbles are gross.

One last point: is “Android Marshmallow” a selling point for the mass market? How many people know that means “the latest version of Android”? One percent?


Here’s something new that I played a small role in: Backchannel. Backchannel provides an open source SDK for iOS developers to include in the beta versions of their apps. It allows beta testers and developers to communicate with each other in simple message channels, right there in the app itself. No extra app to install.

The way beta testing usually works is nothing at all like a community: bug reports from users come in, release notes from developers go out, and that’s it. With Backchannel, it’s easy to create a community where beta testers and developers can share and discuss ideas with everyone involved. Here’s one example of Backchannel’s cleverness (and an advantage to being built-into the app itself): it can detect when users have just taken a screenshot of the app, and prompt them to post it to the feedback channel with the image already attached to the post.

If you’re an iOS developer, you should check it out. I think it’s a great idea, and there’s nothing else like it.

Full disclosure: Backchannel is largely the work of my friend Soroush Khanlou (formerly of Genius). I’m an advisor, along with Dave Wiskus.

Jason Snell and Myke Hurley Talk About the New Apple TV 

On the new episode of Upgrade, Jason Snell and Myke Hurley talk about their first impressions of the new Apple TV. Their take is a lot more negative than mine and Guy English’s — but both Jason and Myke clearly had worse first-run experiences. Jason had to jump through an absurd number of hoops to get App Store purchases working, and Myke couldn’t get the “just put your iPhone near your new Apple TV to transfer your Wi-Fi and Apple ID settings” thing to work.

The Red Heart for ‘Like’ Is a Problem 

Dave Winer:

On Facebook, there is no Heart for liking. They use a thumb-up. A lot of thought must have gone into this. We like things we don’t actually like, and shrug off the confusion. But labeling it with a red heart pushes it further.

Example: You may have Favorited something about a terrorist group, but would you have clicked on a red heart? At the very least that’s going to take some getting used to.

A lot of people, including me, have used “favorite” on Twitter both for marking tweets we liked/enjoyed, and as a sort of bookmark for tweets we simply want to refer to later. Using a red heart implies affection in a way that a star — or even a thumbs-up — does not.

This wouldn’t be a problem if Twitter were new, or, if Likes were a new feature that replaced Favorites. But that’s not what they’re doing — they’re renaming “Favorites” to “Likes”, which means every tweet you’ve favorited/starred in the last nine years is now liked/hearted instead.

All Twitter Clients Will Change From Stars/Favorites to Hearts/Likes 

Twitter’s developer blog:

If you’re showing Tweets without using our Embedded Tweet rendering, you’ll need to update the icons and strings in your apps and websites to comply with our updated display requirements:

  • In your apps and websites, the star icon should be replaced with the heart icon. Reference Twitter’s developer brand resources for heart icons and changes to hover, pressed, and active icon colors.

  • The string “favorite” should be replaced with the string “like” in viewer-facing text. A count should be represented as the string “like(s).”

This whole thing seems like particularly bad news for Favstar.

Twitter Concedes in Stars/Hearts Battle, Changes ‘Favorites’ to ‘Likes’ 

Twitter product manager Akarshan Kumar:

We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.

On their website, they’ve already put this in place. They have an effusive little animation that plays when you tap the heart button to like something. But there is no animation for when you tap the heart again to un-like something — like say setting it on fire or turning it to ice.

Anyway, who can blame Twitter? Nobody likes stars.

Activision Buys King Digital, Maker of Candy Crush, for $5.9 Billion 

They were only going to pay $1 billion, but then they got stuck on a couple of levels, bought some gold bars, and, well, here they are.

Philly Restaurant Inspections to Be Public ASAP 

Sam Wood, reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The city Health Department, which has had a long-standing policy of keeping restaurant inspection reports secret for 30 days, announced Monday that it will move to publicly post the reports “as quickly as possible.”

The change follows an Inquirer/ report that found Philadelphia was the only major city in the United States to withhold its inspection results from the public for any significant length of time.

The 30-day delay meant that diners could unknowingly patronize restaurants cited for serious hygiene problems.

In late February, nearly 100 lawyers and law students became violently ill after attending a banquet at Joy Tsin Lau in Chinatown. Several were treated in local emergency rooms. Seventeen days before the banquet, the restaurant had been cited by the health department for five serious risk factors for food-borne illness, and was deemed to have “unacceptable public health or food-safety conditions.”

This policy change seems obvious when put in such stark terms, but to me it shows the power and importance of strong local newspapers (regardless of whether they’re printed on actual paper).

The Guardian Runs Piece on Apple Written by Mike Daisey 

Here’s Daisey’s deep conclusion:

It is possible we will look back in a decade and know we couldn’t have seen that this was the moment of Peak Apple because it is always clearer in retrospect when something is past its peak.

Time will tell. It always does.


But the serious problem is that The Guardian ran this piece (in the Tech section, not Opinion, no less) without any sort of note alluding to the fact that Mike Daisey is a known fabulist who completely made up stories about labor abuses in Apple’s Chinese supply chain.

Mike Daisey doesn’t have zero credibility regarding Apple — he has negative credibility. He’s a liar.

Shame on The Guardian.

ZDNet’s Apple TV Review 

David Gewirtz’s review of the new Apple TV is rather scathing:

To be blunt, the new remote is terrible. Swiping isn’t nearly as accurate at lean-back distances and as a game controller, it’s mediocre at best. I found it very frustrating attempting to select items. Rubbing a finger (usually a thumb) across the trackpad surface invariably selected the wrong item or overshot what I was aiming for.

I completely disagree with this.

It’s very difficult to tell top from bottom on the remote. It’s almost entirely symmetrical, and the only difference is the top is less shiny, the surface you’re supposed to use as a touch surface. In the dark, I expect people will be pushing the wrong buttons and talking into the wrong end.

I completely agree with this.

Where is Safari? We have a touch screen remote, why not a browser? After all, even the Wii had a browser.

The Wii has a terrible browser that no one uses. It’s possible that Safari for Apple TV will come in a software update, but I think complaining about this is like complaining about the lack of a floppy drive on the original iMac, or that the iPhone needed Flash Player.

Google: ‘Chrome OS Is Here to Stay’ 

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google SVP for Android, Chrome OS, and Chromecast:

Over the last few days, there’s been some confusion about the future of Chrome OS and Chromebooks based on speculation that Chrome OS will be folded into Android. While we’ve been working on ways to bring together the best of both operating systems, there’s no plan to phase out Chrome OS.

Take that as you will, but to me it reads as a non-denial denial.

WSJ: ‘Google to Fold Chrome Operating System Into Android’ 

Alistair Barr, reporting for the WSJ:

Google engineers have been working for roughly two years to combine the operating systems and have made progress recently, two of the people said. The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year, one of the people said.

I think this was inevitable. Android can (and does) run Chrome. Chrome can’t run Android. And the browser-based web is decreasing in importance.

Kansas City Royals Beat Mets to Win World Series 

I watch a lot of baseball, including a lot of the postseason games this year. The Royals, to my eyes, deserved this. The best team won, and they did it with a great style — athletic, smart, aggressive — that was fun to watch.


My thanks to Makerbase for sponsoring last week’s DF RSS feed. Makerbase is like an IMDB for people who make apps, websites, and podcasts. New features include the ability to get notified — optionally! — when your friends make a new project, or when someone says you inspire them.

Makerbase is one of those things that in hindsight seems like a really obvious idea, but somehow no one made it until now. (The entry for me makes me think I ought to be creating more new things.)

Roger Moore’s Recipe for a Perfect Dry Martini 

Roger Moore, writing for The Guardian:

The sad fact is that I know exactly how to make a dry martini but I can’t drink them because, two years ago, I discovered I was diabetic. I prefer one with gin, but James Bond liked a vodka martini, “shaken not stirred” — which I never said, by the way. That was Sean Connery, remember him?

The worst martini I’ve ever had was in a club in New Zealand, where the barman poured juice from a bottle of olives into the vodka. That’s called a dirty martini and it is a dirty, filthy, rotten martini, and should not be drunk by anybody except condemned prisoners.

My dry martinis taste amazing and the day they tell me I’ve got 24 hours to live I am going to have six. Here’s how I make them.

Moore’s recipe should please you gin aficionados who always email me to complain when I link to Jim Coudal’s recipe. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend Moore’s recipe — you need significant stirring, and there’s no need to put the cocktail shaker in the freezer. But I found Moore’s affection for martinis, and the poignancy of his inability now to drink them, irresistible.

How Bond Got Stuck With a Sony Xperia Phone 

I missed this from back in April:

Sony offered James Bond star Daniel Craig a $5 million fee to put the forthcoming Sony Xperia Z4 smartphone in the forthcoming film Spectre, but Craig and Spectre director Sam Mendes resisted because “James Bond only uses the ‘best.’”

Craig and Mendes had concerns other than cash, it seems from that second email.

“BEYOND the $$ factor, there is, as you may know, a CREATIVE factor whereby Sam and Daniel don’t like the Sony phone for the film (the thinking, subjectively/objectively is that James Bond only uses the ‘best,’ and in their minds, the Sony phone is not the ‘best’),” wrote Andrew Gumpert, President of Worldwide Business Affairs and Operations for Columbia Pictures.

Seems pretty obvious which phone Bond ought to be using.

(Via Henry Mance, writing for The Financial Times.)