The Talk Show: ‘Field Sobriety Test’ ★
New episode of The Talk Show, with special guest Guy English. The topic: Apple TV.
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Six Ways Apple TV Could Be Even Better ★
Serenity Caldwell, writing at iMore:
Previous Apple TVs had a solution in the form of the Remote app,
which let you use your iPhone’s virtual keyboard to enter any text
you might need to type. Unfortunately, that app has yet to see an
update that supports the fourth-generation Apple TV.
Nor can the new Apple TV connect to a Bluetooth keyboard — it
just doesn’t show up in the Bluetooth menu — so you are, as of
now, completely confined to one-letter-at-a-time text entry.
I don’t really need to say it, but I’m going to: Apple, this
sucks. It’s so easy to set up the Apple TV with an iPhone; why
can’t there be an option for all password prompts bounce over to a
nearby unlocked iOS device? Or, barring that — give us an update
to Remote app. Or a Bluetooth keyboard. This is painful.
It’s also pretty frustrating that you can only log into one Game Center account at a time. That seems downright wrong for a shared family device. I can only guess that a lot these seemingly obvious things are just the usual low-hanging fruit that doesn’t make it in to a 1.0 release.
Abdel Ibrahim: ‘Apple Wants to Sell You a Television Set, Just Not Today’ ★
Yet, despite it not being a hobby, it’s still going to be
connected via HDMI 2 on most of our televisions, something even
Eddy Cue admits. Of course, the major reason for this is because
Apple has yet to announce their own television service to go along
with their box. If and when they announce such a service, that’s
when we can expect Apple TV to start utilizing HDMI 1.
I believe the new box, and the soon-to-be streaming service, is a
setup to start selling a true Apple television in the coming
years. What makes me feel this way? The iMac. [...]
I know what you’re thinking. “The TV business is horrible. There
are no margins there!” That may be true, but guess what? There
are no margins in the PC or smartphone business either. The
margins only go to those who are making premium products with an
OS they own and control. And guess who does that better than
Ibrahim’s point about the new Apple TV not being “HDMI 1” is a strong one. But that’s more about Apple’s long-rumored, supposedly-still-in-the-works content streaming service than about making actual TV sets. (To be clear, Ibrahim is talking about Input 1 on your TV, not a version number or spec for HDMI. For most people their cable box or DVR remains Input 1.)
But 4K is an interesting opportunity. If 4K takes off, that means there’s an upgrade cycle coming for everyone with 720p/1080p HD TVs. That would be the time for Apple to make an iMac-style all-in-one TV set.
Thirsty Work ★
Speaking of quantifying the beverages consumed by James Bond, Futility Closet has an excerpt from Ben MacIntyre’s 2008 book, For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond, listing all 46 drinks Bond consumed in Fleming’s 11th novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:
According to one Bondologist, these include: unspecified
quantities of Pouilly-Fuissé white wine, Taittinger champagne,
Mouton Rothschild ’53 claret, calvados, Krug champagne, three
bourbons with water, four vodka and tonics, two double brandy
and ginger ales, two whisky and sodas, three double vodka
martinis, two double bourbons on the rocks, at least one glass
of neat whisky, a flask of Enzian schnapps, Marsala wine, the
better part of a bottle of fiery Algerian wine (served by M),
two more Scotch whiskies, half a pint of I.W. Harper bourbon, a
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whisky with water, on the rocks, a
bottle of Riquewihr wine, four steins of Franziskaner beer, and
a double Steinhäger gin.
James Bond by the Numbers ★
The Economist quantifies the 24 James Bond movies: everything from box office results to martinis consumed.
Daniel Craig on ‘Spectre’ and His Advice to Future Bonds ★
Another interview, this one with TimeOut:
Q: Do you care who plays Bond after you?
A: Look, I don’t give a fuck. Good luck to them! All I care about
is that if I stop doing these things we’ve left it in a good
place and people pick it up and make it better. Make it better,
Q: You won’t be backseat-driving then?
A: Oh Christ, no. How fucking sad would that be? “Oh look, it’s
Daniel Craig, he’s on set again!” No!
Q: If an actor was offered Bond and came to you looking for
advice, what would you say to him — or her?
A: Literally I’d say two things. Firstly, it’s your decision.
Don’t listen to anybody else. Well, do listen to everybody, but
you have to make the choice at the end of the day. It’s your
bed to lie on. And don’t be shit! Don’t be shit. You’ve got to
step up. People do not make movies like this any more. This is
really rare now. So don’t be shit.
It’s pretty clear that Craig does not relish the press tours that accompany the release of a new Bond movie, but I appreciate that he doesn’t just phone in his interviews with empty platitudes.
Daniel Craig on James Bond ★
Daniel Craig, in an interview with The Red Bulletin:
Q: Bond has actually become a bit more chivalrous in the most
recent films, hasn’t he?
A: That’s because we’ve surrounded him with very strong women who
have no problem putting him in his place.
Q: And this time you’ve gone one better, showing 007 succumbing
to the charms of an older woman.
A: I think you mean the charms of a woman his own age. We’re
talking about Monica Bellucci, for heaven’s sake. When someone
like that wants to be a Bond girl, you just count yourself
Mashable: ‘Inside Apple’s Perfectionism Machine’ ★
Terrific behind-the-scenes piece by Lance Ulanoff, with extensive interviews with Phil Schiller and John Ternus (VP of Mac and iPad engineering):
As the cloud looms larger, will the hardware we use still matter?
Schiller rejects this notion.
“No. 1, the importance and value of great hardware has not
diminished in any way,” he said. “Across the board, our goal is to
make the best in the categories we choose to compete in. It’s what
we’re doing and it’s reflected in customers choosing our products
over anyone else’s. So I do think people are showing with their
choice that they do value quality and beauty of the hardware and
that is not diminishing.”
“I have never heard anyone say, ‘Because I like to keep my stuff
in the cloud, I will take a cheap piece of hardware and I want it
to be ugly.’ All things being equal, of course, nobody wants
that,” Schiller said.
It’s a blockbuster piece, truly a must-read. Here’s a bit with Ternus on fit-and-finish:
In fact, Apple is apparently taking the time to custom-fit all
sorts of pieces in the MacBook through a process it calls
“binning.” Since there can be minuscule variances that might make,
for instance, the Force Touch trackpad not a perfect fit for the
body or the super-thin Retina display not exactly a match for the
top of the case, Apple finds matching parts from the production
line. Even the thickness of the stainless steel Apple Logo, which
replaced the backlit logo on previous MacBook models, can vary by
a micron or so, meaning Apple needs to find a top with the right
cutout depth. [...]
The result is that every MacBook is, in a way, special and
imperceptibly different. I joked that every MacBook is like a
Cabbage Patch Kid. “Every one is unique,” I said. Ternus finished
the thought: “all in an effort to make them the same.”
It’s an almost unprecedented attention to detail. And with each
successive generation of Mac, Apple is getting better at it.
Google’s Podcast Play ★
Elias Roman, writing for the Official Android Blog:
To that end, today we’re launching a portal for podcasters to
start uploading their shows to Google Play Music before we open up
the service to listeners. Along with direct searches and browsing
for podcasts, the service will connect new listeners with podcasts
based on what they’re doing, how they’re feeling, or what they’re
interested in. Similar to our contextual playlists for music, this
will give podcast fans and new listeners a way of finding and
listening to content that’s unique to Google Play Music.
Marco Arment, two weeks ago:
Podcasts are hot right now. Big Money is coming.
Charting Apple’s Fourth-Quarter Results ★
Dan Frommer, at Quartz:
Apple shipped 48 million iPhones last quarter, up 22%
year-over-year. iPhones represented 63% of Apple’s overall
revenue, about the same as last quarter.
There’s no question that the iPhone warps Apple’s financials. But consider this: Apple’s non-iPhone business generated around $75-80 billion for the just-completed 2015 fiscal year.
Apple Reports Record Fourth Quarter Results ★
Apple press release:
Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2015 fourth
quarter ended September 26, 2015. The Company posted quarterly
revenue of $51.5 billion and quarterly net profit of $11.1
billion, or $1.96 per diluted share. These results compare to
revenue of $42.1 billion and net profit of $8.5 billion, or $1.42
per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 39.9
percent compared to 38 percent in the year-ago quarter.
International sales accounted for 62 percent of the quarter’s
The growth was fueled by record fourth quarter sales of iPhone,
the expanded availability of Apple Watch, and all-time records for
Mac sales and revenue from services.
“Fiscal 2015 was Apple’s most successful year ever, with revenue
growing 28% to nearly $234 billion. This continued success is the
result of our commitment to making the best, most innovative
products on earth, and it’s a testament to the tremendous
execution by our teams,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.
The most profitable company on the planet today, and revenue and profit are still growing at around 30 percent annually.
It’s easy to lose sight of what that sort of growth means. Here’s an example, though: five years ago, Steve Jobs was impressed that Apple had grown to become a company with $50 billion in annual revenue.
BuzzFeed to Withdraw From SXSW Over Canceled Anti-Harassment Gaming Panels ★
Tasneem Nashrulla, reporting for BuzzFeed:
BuzzFeed plans to withdraw its participation from the South by
Southwest Interactive festival after organizers decided to
cancel two gaming and online harassment panels after receiving
“numerous threats of on-site violence.”
In a letter to the organizers of the Austin-based media festival
sent Tuesday, President of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures Ze Frank,
BuzzFeed Publisher Dao Nguyen, and BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben
Smith wrote, “We will feel compelled to withdraw … if the
conference can’t find a way to do what those other targets of
harassment do every day — to carry on important conversations in
the face of harassment.”
I sympathize with SXSW — these threats have to be taken seriously. But canceling anti-harassment panels because of harassing threats — that’s just wrong.
State of Web Type ★
“Up-to-date data on support for type and typographic features on the web.” Great resource for web developers.
It’s disappointing how poorly Safari fares here. Mac OS X has had wonderful built-in typographic features for over a decade — Apple led the industry. But now, on the web, Apple trails the industry.
Greenland Is Melting Away ★
Fascinating story with excellent interactive design from The New York Times:
The midnight sun still gleamed at 1 a.m. across the brilliant
expanse of the Greenland ice sheet. Brandon Overstreet, a doctoral
candidate in hydrology at the University of Wyoming, picked his
way across the frozen landscape, clipped his climbing harness to
an anchor in the ice and crept toward the edge of a river that
rushed downstream toward an enormous sinkhole.
If he fell in, “the death rate is 100 percent,” said Mr.
Overstreet’s friend and fellow researcher, Lincoln Pitcher.
The video footage from their drones is simply amazing.
The DF RSS feed sponsorship schedule is almost sold out through the end of the year, but this week’s spot is now open. If you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s audience, get in touch.
Chase Pay ★
Jason Del Rey, reporting for Recode:
Gordon Smith, Chase’s CEO of consumer and community banking, made
the announcement at the Money20/20 payments conference in Las
Vegas on Monday. In a video outlining the new product, Chase
showed shoppers paying in stores by displaying a QR code to the
cashier, not by tapping and paying through NFC technology like
Apple Pay and Android Pay. The video also shows a diner paying at
a restaurant by taking a photo of the bill.
Nothing involving QR codes has ever taken off. Good job wasting time on this, Chase.
Update: A few points in response to feedback:
QR codes are huge in China. Who cares? Chase isn’t a Chinese bank. Chase Pay is for the United States.
Starbucks has had great success with their code-scanner system. OK, that’s a good data point. Touché. I still say it stinks, though — and Apple Pay is coming soon.
Snapchat uses QR codes. Boarding passes for airlines and trains are usually QR codes. Not going to help Chase Pay. Boarding passes in particular: the QR code scanning is so flaky that most of the TSE checkpoints I’ve gone through recently require you to place your phone face down on their scanner.
When you pair your Apple Watch with your iPhone using the camera, that animation on the watch face is just a fancy equivalent of a QR code. Sure, I agree — but I’ve gone through that pairing process at least half a dozen times, with multiple watches and OS restores, and in my experience it can be so flaky that it doesn’t work.
I admit it was hyperbole to say that nothing involving QR codes has taken off — but I think it’s fair to say that nothing involving QR codes results in a good experience.
Studio Neat: Apple TV Remote Stand ★
Nice-looking stand for the new remote from Studio Neat:
The Apple TV Remote Stand is produced right here in Austin, TX. In
Tom’s garage, to be precise. We are using an X-Carve CNC machine
to mill the walnut. This is our first product we’ve produced
entirely in house.
Kangaroo: $99 Pocket-Size Windows 10 PC ★
Emil Protoalinski, writing for VentureBeat:
The pitch is simple: Kangaroo offers the power of a cheap
full-sized computer with the convenience and mobility of a cell
phone. The black satin aluminum device is powered by an Intel
Cherrytrail (Z8500) SOC, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage (only about
18GB is free when you first start it, but storage is expandable
via a microSD card), and an on-board battery (up to four hours
of “casual use”). The standalone Kangaroo Dock, which you can
swap out for other future docks, includes an HDMI port and two
Cheap isn’t that interesting. Small isn’t that interesting. But really cheap and really small at the same time — that seems interesting to me.
‘Steve Jobs’ Bombs at Box Office ★
After racking up the year’s best per-screen average in its opening
weekend and doing strong business in limited expansion, Steve
Jobs hit a stumbling block in its national release. It debuted to
a measly $7.3 million, only a little more than the $6.7 million
that Jobs, a critically derided film about the iPhone father
with Ashton Kutcher, made in its initial weekend. Going into the
weekend, some tracking suggested that the picture would do as much
as $19 million.
So what went wrong?
There’s talk that word-of-mouth will help, but I think otherwise. It’s a movie about a man’s strained relationship with his daughter. That’s not what people should or do expect from a film titled Steve Jobs.
Facebook Engineering on Excessive Background Activity in Their iOS App ★
Ari Grant, iOS engineering manager for Facebook:
The second issue is with how we manage audio sessions. If you
leave the Facebook app after watching a video, the audio session
sometimes stays open as if the app was playing audio silently.
This is similar to when you close a music app and want to keep
listening to the music while you do other things, except in this
case it was unintentional and nothing kept playing. The app isn’t
actually doing anything while awake in the background, but it does
use more battery simply by being awake. Our fixes will solve this
audio issue and remove background audio completely.
The issues we have found are not caused by the optional Location
History feature in the Facebook app or anything related to
location. If you haven’t opted into this feature by setting
Location Access to Always and enabling Location History inside the
app, then we aren’t accessing your device’s location in the
background. The issues described above don’t change this at all.
This is in response to widespread complaints that Facebook’s iPhone app was consuming inordinate battery life in the background — even when background updates were turned off. The suspicion was that Facebook was doing this deliberately, to work around iOS’s background processing restrictions. I’m curious to see how these bug fixes change things for Facebook users.
Update: Via Twitter, a few DF readers claim that the new version of the Facebook app still consumes a lot of energy in the background, even with background refresh disabled in Settings: General: Background App Refresh. Anyone else?
New Apple TV Orders Start Today ★
Free shipping for delivery November 2-4, $17 for delivery on Friday.
Airbnb Doubles Down on Douchebaggery ★
Speaking of ill-considered ad campaigns, this one from Airbnb pretty much boggles the mind. It’s so bad that when the ads started going up, most people thought they were part of a propaganda compaign from an anti-Airbnb group, not Airbnb itself.
PC Companies Did What? ★
Ken Segall, on a stupid new ad campaign:
Even more amazing, four companies happily signed up for the
effort: Dell, HP, Intel and Lenovo. (Hereafter referred to as
“co-conspirators.”) It boggles the mind that at least one person
in each of these four PC companies (and likely far more) thought
this was a good strategy. [...]
The goal was to dial up the PC lust factor by screaming that PCs
can do things other devices can’t. And what better way to do this
than come up with a catch phrase: “PC does what?” And for extra
catchy-ness, the line can be shouted instead of spoken.
Good idea, except (A) it’s not catchy, and (B) it’s embarrassingly
The desperation is palpable.
Update: Also, this.
Walt Mossberg: ‘The Steve Jobs I Knew Isn’t in This Movie’ ★
In 1941, the brilliant writer and director Orson Welles made a
movie loosely based on a famous, powerful, contemporary American
business figure — the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst — that showed him in a bad light. He took artistic liberties with
the character. But he didn’t call the movie Citizen Hearst. He
called it Citizen Kane, and it’s now regarded by many as the
best film ever made.
In 2015, the brilliant writer Aaron Sorkin made a movie loosely
based on a famous, powerful, contemporary American business figure — the technology innovator Steve Jobs — that showed him in a bad
light. He, too, took artistic liberties with the character, and
with events. But, his entertaining work of fiction isn’t labeled
for what it is. It’s called Steve Jobs and is based in part on
Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of the man.
I made the same comparison to Citizen Kane on last week’s episode of The Talk Show, with Serenity Caldwell. What I didn’t mention during the show is that calling this movie “Steve Jobs”, and using real names of real people to tell a largely fictional story, is purely cynical. They’re selling a lot more tickets to a movie about “Steve Jobs” and “Apple Computer” than they would if were about, say, a Jobs-like character named Dave Gibbs (or whatever) who was the headstrong founder of Orange Computer.
There’s a term for this in fiction: roman à clef. Other examples I can think of, in cinema: Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology) and Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas and Casino (both adapted from non-fiction books by Nicholas Pileggi).
I think Tim Cook was exactly right in calling this film “opportunistic”. It wouldn’t sell without the “Steve Jobs” name, but it’s only loosely — very loosely — about the real Steve Jobs.
If you want to see a movie where Steve Wozniak is begging Steve Jobs to thank the Apple II engineering team on stage in 1998’s iMac introduction, and in which Jobs blames Woz for the Newton, go buy a ticket. (In the real world, Woz left Apple as a full-time employee in 1985, and the last Apple II models were discontinued in 1993.)
See also: Mossberg talking with Nilay Patel about his experiences with Steve Jobs on their new-ish podcast, Ctrl-Walt-Delete.
My thanks to Jonathan Zufi for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote his remarkable book, Iconic: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation. Now in its second edition, Iconic is a beautiful coffee table book with over 650 photos, covering nearly every product Apple has made. The entire history of the company, in one book — including several prototypes. It’s a terrific resource for anyone who covers Apple, and a great gift for anyone who appreciates great design.
It’s hard for me to imagine just how much work went into it. Even the cases for the various editions are remarkable. It’s quite simply a great book. A great deal, too: Daring Fireball readers can save 25 percent off the Classic Plus, Special, or Ultimate editions — all with free shipping.
HTC One A9 Photos Leak ★
Looks a little familiar. Can’t quite put my finger on it.
VentureBeat: Intel Has 1,000 People Working on Chips for the iPhone ★
Mark Sullivan, writing for VentureBeat:
Intel now has a thousand people or more working to outfit a 2016
iPhone with its lauded 7360 LTE modem chip, sources say. If all
goes well, Intel may end up providing both the modem and the
fabrication for a new Apple system on a chip.
Sources close to the matter say Intel is pulling out the stops to
supply the modems for at least some of the iPhones Apple
manufactures in 2016. This phone will likely be the iPhone 7.
VentureBeat was the first to report on the two companies’ work
together, and more pieces are falling into place as the project
progresses and grows.
If you can’t beat them, join them.
Sources with knowledge of the situation say that Apple eventually
would like to create a system-on-a-chip (SOC) that includes both
the phone’s Ax processor and the LTE modem chip. A
system-on-a-chip design could deliver significant returns in
improved speed and better power management.
Including the LTE modem on the SoC would also make it a lot smaller, right? Which in turn would make it more likely to fit inside, say, a watch.
Notes on Notes.app ★
Stephen Hackett has a great look at the new Apple Notes app:
When Apple showed off iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, the built-in
Notes app got a lot of attention. Gone was the old,
let’s-sync-via-IMAP-and-hope-for-the-best system. In its place, a
more modern backend — powered by CloudKit — to an app with a lot
more features than before.
The new Notes app allows users to style their text easily,
add checklists, photos and even hand-drawn sketches. But is
it any good?
In a word, yes.
Apple Announces New ResearchKit Studies for Autism, Epilepsy, and Melanoma ★
“We’re honored to work with world-class medical institutions and
provide them with tools to better understand diseases and
ultimately help people lead healthier lives,” said Jeff Williams,
Apple’s senior vice president of Operations. “In just six months,
ResearchKit apps studying everything from asthma and diabetes to
Parkinson’s disease, are already providing insights to scientists
around the world and more than 100,000 participants are choosing
to contribute their data to advance science and medical research.”
Tim Cook Announces New ‘Restricted Stock Units’ Program for Apple Employees ★
Mark Gurman, 9to5Mac:
Apple today announced a significant new initiative internally for
employees that “effectively [makes] everyone who works for Apple
eligible for an RSU grant.” RSU grants, or Restricted Stock Units,
have typically been reserved for top Apple management and product
engineering roles as a way to retain employee talent for long
periods of time. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook was granted 1
million shares in 2011, following the succession of Steve Jobs,
that will vest over time through 2021. According to an email from
Cook to all employees today, a similar plan, with obviously much
smaller amounts of shares, is now starting.
Apple’s biggest problem: retention of talent. This is clearly aimed at that problem.
The Wall Street Journal has the story as well, and credits “website 9to5mac.com” with the scoop. Why call them by URL rather than by name? Would anyone call the Journal “the website wsj.com”?
Adobe Confirms Major Flash Vulnerability, and the Only Fix Is to Uninstall Flash ★
Way ahead of you, Adobe. Way ahead of you.
Pixelmator 3.4 ★
Includes an extension for Photos for Mac:
Pixelmator Photos Extension features a collection of powerful
Distort tools, so you can retouch photos, create artistic
effects, or simply have fun with your images right inside your
Photos app. Built from the ground up on Metal, Pixelmator Photos
Extension lets you reshape images with stunning quality and
They’ve also added Force Touch support to adjust the strength of the tools you’re using.
Apple Updates iWork Mac and iOS Apps With Support for Latest Versions of OS X and iOS ★
Huge update to the iWork suite, for both iOS and OS X (and iWork.com is no longer labelled “beta”). My favorite:
Enhanced support for OpenType font features like small caps,
contextual fractions, alternate glyphs, and more.
Pages for Mac is thus once again as OpenType-capable as Pages ’08 was. Or, you know, TextEdit.
Gary Allen, Writer of ifo Apple Store, Dies at 67 ★
Sad news from Michael S. Rosenwald, writing for The Washington Post:
In March, Allen announced his blog was ending, saying so many
others were following the stores now. “Who am I to keep up with
them?” he wrote. “So, I’m going to focus on my family and friends,
drop the demands of writing and get back to what it was before — just fun.”
Apple bloggers marked the moment: “Well, this is a bummer,” Cult
of Mac said. “Thank You, Gary Allen,” MacStories said.
The real reason he gave it up, his brother said, was the brain
cancer diagnosis. He didn’t want people to worry or fuss over him.
The site is down, likely for good. Allen leaves behind another
brother, Bob Allen, his wife Nancy, son Devin, and an incredible
It breaks my heart that his site is down. We shouldn’t have to depend on The Internet Archive to keep online writing available in perpetuity.
Rene Ritchie on the Siri ‘Distance Activation Hack’ ★
Editors are drawn to “Your iPhone is susceptible to a malicious new attack” stories like moths to a flame. This vector is certainly clever, but it sounds more like a way to prank someone than to do anything malicious.
Only 5 Percent of Mac Users at IBM Need Help Desk Support, Compared to 40 Percent of PC Users ★
Neil Hughes, writing for AppleInsider:
Speaking to more than a thousand Apple IT administrators was
Fletcher Previn, vice president of Workplace-as-a-Service at IBM.
Big Blue began offering employees the ability to use a Mac at work
starting on June 1, and adoption has been a tremendous success.
Previn revealed that IBM is now deploying 1,900 Macs per week, and
there are currently 130,000 iOS and Mac devices at use within the
company. All of these devices are supported by just 24 help desk
Further, Previn revealed that just 5 percent of Mac users call
IBM’s internal help desk for assistance, compared to 40 percent of
I felt a great disturbance in the Force. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out, “We’ve been telling you this for 30 years!”
Update: Some additional notes, taken by an attendee of the event.
Historical Price Trends for Tech Products ★
Matt Rosoff, writing for Business Insider:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks prices for broad
categories of goods over time. As this chart of prices for the
last 18 years shows, prices have dropped dramatically in almost
every tech sector. The drop in computer hardware is
The one exception? Cable, satellite TV, and radio service.
This is exactly the sort of thing the Justice Department should be investigating if they are actually concerned about lack of competition affecting consumers.
The Red Drum Getaway ★
Fun Hitchcock-Kubrick mashup by Adrien Dezalay, Emmanuel Delabaere, and Simon Philippe. (Via Scott Immergut.)
Apple Loses Patent Lawsuit to University of Wisconsin ★
Mike Segar, reporting for Reuters:
Apple Inc could be facing up to $862 million in damages after a
U.S. jury on Tuesday found the iPhone maker used technology owned
by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s licensing arm without
permission in chips found in many of its most popular devices.
The jury in Madison, Wisconsin also said the patent, which
improves processor efficiency, was valid. The trial will now move
on to determine how much Apple owes in damages. [...]
The jury was considering whether Apple’s A7, A8 and A8X
processors, found in the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, as well as
several versions of the iPad, violate the patent.
Cupertino, California-based Apple denied any infringement and
argued the patent is invalid, according to court papers. Apple
previously tried to convince the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
to review the patent’s validity, but in April the agency rejected
AppleInsider has more on the patent in question:
The IP in question, U.S. Patent No. 5,781,752 for a “Table
based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer,”
was granted to a University of Wisconsin team led by Dr. Gurindar
Sohi in 1998. According to WARF and original patent claims, the
‘752 patent focuses on improving power efficiency and overall
performance in modern computer processor designs by utilizing
“data speculation” circuit, also known as a branch predictor.
For what it’s worth, in 2012 Business Insider ranked the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation fifth on its list of most-feared patent trolls. Rockstar Consortium, which is partially owned by Apple, was third on that list, so don’t shed any tears for Apple. The whole system is rotten.
Update: The more I think about it, the more sure I am that it’s wrong to call WARF a patent “troll”. They are a non-practicing entity, but a university almost has to be. Universities don’t produce commercial products, they conduct research. And WARF uses its patent royalties to fund research. I have no idea whether this particular patent is a “good” one — I lack the expertise to make heads or tails out of it. But “patent troll” has a specific meaning beyond simply “entity that sues to enforce patent rights”, and WARF doesn’t fit.
Fixed, the App That Fixes Your Parking Tickets, Gets Blocked in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles ★
Sarah Perez, reporting for TechCrunch:
Founder David Hegarty once noted that over half of tickets have
an issue that would make them invalid, but the city didn’t tend
to play by its own rules when arbitrating disputes. That made
Fixed’s “win” rate only 20%-30% on tickets, as of earlier this
year. (When the company won, it charged a success fee of 25% of
the original fine — a reduction in what a customer would have
otherwise paid.) [...]
Of course, the cities haven’t been welcoming to an app that was
aimed at helping locals not pay their tickets by automating the
process of jumping through legal loopholes. When Fixed began
faxing its submissions to SFMTA last year, the agency emailed the
startup to stop using their fax machine. When Fixed pointed out
that it was legal to do so, the agency simply shut off their fax.
Pretty telling that rather than close the loopholes or stop handing out erroneous tickets, they unplugged their fax machine and added captchas to block Fixed. Municipal parking is a cesspool of corruption.
Clicker 1.0 ★
New Apple Watch app from Craig Hockenberry and Iconfactory:
The app is just one big button. Every time you tap your watch face
you get a little haptic feedback and the counter goes up. If you
force press, you can decrement or reset the counter. There is also
a watch complication that lets you see the current count on your
watch face. Seriously, it’s that simple. [...]
Clicker is free with no in-app purchases or other crap.
Sure it’s super simple — but that’s exactly what Watch apps should be. My only quibble with Clicker is that the complication for the Utility face has a color icon. Come on, people, make those Utility complications monochrome.
Fred Imbert, reporting for CNBC:
Twitter named Omid Kordestani, Google’s former chief business
officer, as its new executive chairman on Wednesday. Kordestani
had worked at Google since 1999.
Kordestani has tweeted 12 times, ever — and only 6 times prior to this week. He follows 27 accounts — most of them venture capitalists and senior executives from Silicon Valley companies.
Computer Show ★
Sandwich Video has been making wonderful short films for clients for a few years. Now, they’ve made something for themselves. The first episode premiered at XOXO last month, and it brought the house down. I think you’re best off going in cold — just grab a beverage and watch.
On Apple’s ‘Insurmountable’ Platform Advantage ★
Provocative piece by Steve Cheney:
The truth is the best people in chip design no longer want to work
at Intel or Qualcomm. They want to work at Apple. I have plenty of
friends in the Valley who affirm this. Sure Apple products are
cooler. But Apple has also surpassed Intel in performance. This is
insane. A device company — which makes CPUs for internal use — surpassing Intel, the world’s largest chip maker which practically
invented the CPU and has thousands of customers.
This pedigree that Apple developed now has a secondary powerful
force: portable devices serve as the reference platform whereby
all chip design starts. Components from the smartphone market now
power almost all other markets, giving Apple’s in-house team a
comparative advantage as they enter new product categories, like
wearables and electric cars.
In the old days, when Macs ran on PowerPC chips (or even older days, when they ran on Motorola 680x0 chips), Macs were generally slower than their PC counterparts. Every once in a while Apple could jump ahead, but only briefly. In the long run, Apple couldn’t compete with Intel-based PCs on specs. Then, Apple switched to Intel chips, and the competition was over — raw computational power was no longer a factor, because all personal computers were using Intel CPUs.
I don’t think it has gotten through the heads of many people that Apple has now turned the old dynamic on its head. Apple’s ARM chips are years ahead of the commodity chips used by its competition, and are set to surpass even Intel’s x86 chips in terms of performance-per-watt. (Worth keeping in mind: performance-per-watt was Steve Jobs’s primary justification for the switch from PowerPC to Intel when the transition was announced at WWDC 2005.)
Interesting tidbit toward the end of Cheney’s piece:
It’s also known in inner circles that Apple has embarked on design
of radio interface (RF) chips that traditionally were off limits
to all but the most advanced chip makers like Qualcomm. These
chips rival CPUs in complexity. Apple is now designing these to
spec and will be putting its own radios into future mobile
devices. This has physical layer impacts on bandwidth,
connectivity, latency and user experience — all critical for
Bluetooth sucks. In my opinion it’s the single-biggest problem with Apple Watch. Would be interesting if Apple created its own better-than-Bluetooth wireless protocol. Proprietary, of course.
Update: We should clarify one point from Cheney’s headline — Apple’s lead is formidable, not insurmountable. Nothing in tech is insurmountable.
Behind the Scenes on the Design of Apple’s New Trackpads, Keyboards, and iMacs ★
Steven Levy scores another scoop for Medium’s Backchannel:
The input device, dubbed the Magic Mouse 2, would look to users
exactly like the previous model. But on the inside and underneath,
everything would be different, mainly because Apple was switching
to a rechargeable lithium battery instead of the previous
replaceable alkaline ones.
Late in the process, everything seemed to be going fine. The
internal lithium battery was custom-engineered to fit the cavity.
The redesigned antenna — necessary to deal with the potential
interference from an internal battery — was working well.
But one thing was totally unacceptable.
The mouse didn’t sound right.
That’s what Apple engineering leaders Kate Bergeron and John
Ternus told me recently, when I became the first reporter to
venture into the Input Design Lab.
Great read. Update: This bit from Phil Schiller explains Apple’s entire product line, including why they keep making devices ever thinner:
Schiller, in fact, has a grand philosophical theory of the Apple
product line that puts all products on a continuum. Ideally, you
should be using the smallest possible gadget to do as much as
possible before going to the next largest gizmo in line.
“They are all computers,” he says. “Each one is offering computers
something unique and each is made with a simple form that is
pretty eternal. The job of the watch is to do more and more things
on your wrist so that you don’t need to pick up your phone as
often. The job of the phone is to do more and more things such
that maybe you don’t need your iPad, and it should be always
trying and striving to do that. The job of the iPad should be to
be so powerful and capable that you never need a notebook. Like,
Why do I need a notebook? I can add a keyboard! I can do all these
things! The job of the notebook is to make it so you never need a
desktop, right? It’s been doing this for a decade. So that leaves
the poor desktop at the end of the line, What’s its job?”
Android Security a ‘Market for Lemons’ That Leaves 87 Percent Vulnerable ★
Liam Tung, reporting for ZDNet:
Consumers, regulators, and corporate buyers face a common problem
when assessing Android smartphones, in that no one knows which
vendor will supply patches after Google develops fixes for Android
“The difficulty is that the market for Android security today is
like the market for lemons,” Cambridge researchers Daniel Thomas,
Alastair Beresford, and Andrew Rice note in a new paper.
“There is information asymmetry between the manufacturer, who
knows whether the device is currently secure and will receive
security updates, and the customer, who does not.”
Their analysis of data collected from over 20,000 Android
devices with the Device Analyzer app installed found that 87
percent of Android devices were vulnerable to at least one of 11
bugs in the public domain in the past five years, including the
recently discovered TowelRoot issue, which Cyanogen fixed last
year, and FakeID.
Looks like March and April 2013 were the high-water mark for Android security.
iMac: Then and Now ★
Fun comparison from Apple, pitting a 1998 iMac against today’s newest.
Playboy to Drop Nude Photos ★
Ravi Somaiya, reporting for the NYT:
Last month, Cory Jones, a top editor at Playboy, went to see its
founder Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion.
In a wood-paneled dining room, with Picasso and de Kooning prints
on the walls, Mr. Jones nervously presented a radical suggestion:
the magazine, a leader of the revolution that helped take sex in
America from furtive to ubiquitous, should stop publishing images
of naked women.
Mr. Hefner, now 89, but still listed as editor in chief, agreed.
As part of a redesign that will be unveiled next March, the print
edition of Playboy will still feature women in provocative poses.
But they will no longer be fully nude.
Insert joke here about reading Playboy for the articles.
Playboy’s heyday was before my time, but at its height, it had remarkable reach:
Playboy’s circulation has dropped from 5.6 million in 1975 to
about 800,000 now, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
Many of the magazines that followed it have disappeared. Though
detailed figures are not kept for adult magazines, many of those
that remain exist in severely diminished form, available mostly in
specialist stores. Penthouse, perhaps the most famous Playboy
competitor, responded to the threat from digital pornography by
turning even more explicit. It never recovered.
Compare a circulation of 5.6 million in 1975 to this list of top U.S. magazine circulations from 2013.
Apple E-Book Antitrust Monitoring May End ★
Pamela A. Maclean, reporting for Bloomberg:
The U.S. Justice Department said it’s satisfied Apple Inc. put in
place reforms to comply with antitrust laws even though the
company fought with a monitor appointed to oversee its sale of
The government on Monday recommended that the monitoring not be
A reminder that the e-book market share leader still has 80 percent share.
Rewriting Jack Dorsey’s ‘Jargon-Free’ Firing Memo ★
Gideon Lichfield, writing for Quartz, disagrees that Dorsey’s memo announcing layoffs is “jargon-free”, and offers his own revision:
For its genre, Dorsey’s memo is indeed admirably brief and to the
point. But it’s still riddled with jargon. Why is it so hard for
executives to write in a truly straightforward manner? Here is
Dorsey’s memo, with our suggested cuts in strikethrough and
additions in bold.
A few of these were a little euphemistic, but in the annals of translating from corporate-talk to plain English, this is pretty tame. Dorsey’s opening sentence is a clunker — “We are moving forward with a restructuring of our workforce so we can put our company on a stronger path to grow” — but after that, I think it’s pretty clear.
Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode:
Twitter plans to lay off as much as 336 people, or 8 percent of
its staff, as part of an internal restructuring plan, according to
a filing submitted with the Securities and Exchange Commission
Tuesday morning. [...]
“Product and Engineering are going to make the most significant
structural changes to reflect our plan ahead,” CEO Jack Dorsey
said in a letter Tuesday morning. “We feel strongly that
Engineering will move much faster with a smaller and nimbler team,
while remaining the biggest percentage of our workforce. And the
rest of the organization will be streamlined in parallel.”
They’ve also got a copy of Jack Dorsey’s company-wide memo announcing this. That’s a tough memo to write, but Dorsey does a good job of being honest and humane. Count me as a bull on Twitter.
Why the Words for ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ Sound So Similar in So Many Languages ★
John McWhorter, writing for The Atlantic:
Is there anything inherently “doggy” about the word “dog”?
Obviously not — to the French, a dog is a chien, to Russians a
sobaka, to Mandarin Chinese-speakers a gǒu. These words have
nothing in common, and none seem any more connected to the canine
essence than any other. One runs up against that wall with pretty
much any word.
Except some. The word for “mother” seems often either to be mama
or have a nasal sound similar to m, like nana. The word for
“father” seems often either to be papa or have a sound similar
to p, like b, in it — such that you get something like
baba. The word for “dad” may also have either d or t, which
is a variation on saying d, just as p is on b. People say
mama or nana, and then papa, baba, dada, or tata,
Update: T-Rex explains.
Apple Says Battery Performance of New iPhones’ A9 Chips Vary Only 2-3 Percent ★
Apple, in a statement to TechCrunch on the allegations that Samsung-made A9s get worse battery life than TSMC-made ones:
Certain manufactured lab tests which run the processors with a
continuous heavy workload until the battery depletes are not
representative of real-world usage, since they spend an
unrealistic amount of time at the highest CPU performance state.
It’s a misleading way to measure real-world battery life. Our
testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the
iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable
component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other.
Real-world testing seems to bear that out.
The 2-3% difference Apple is saying it sees between the battery
life of the two processors is well within its manufacturing
tolerances for any device, even two iPhones with the same exact
processor. In other words, your iPhone and someone else’s iPhone
with the same guts likely vary as much as 3%, regardless of who
Basically, if you can tell the difference in real-world usage
between the two processors, you should take a Voight-Kampff test.
Bloomberg on Apple’s Utter Dominance of Phone Market ★
Ashlee Vance, writing for Bloomberg:
Apple’s utter dominance of the money-making end of the industry
stems from its business model and unique brand. Since stumbling in
2013 with the slightly down-market iPhone 5C, the company has
redoubled its focus on an annual, highly desired flagship phone at
a high price, turning its back on cheaper models for the masses.
With the iPhone as its main profit center, the world’s biggest
company has been able to invest in developing its own speedy,
power-efficient chips and sturdy, lightweight materials, as well
as continuing to refine its software.
The 5C wasn’t a stumble. It’s fair to say it wasn’t a hit, but it didn’t hurt their overall business at all. The alternative would have been for Apple to keep selling the then-year-old iPhone 5 for another year at the same price points the 5C debuted at — and margins on the 5S were lower. Apple’s 2013 “stumble” was that they still didn’t have larger displays in the then-new top-of-the-line 5S. Which in turn means the real stumble was back in 2010, when they began planning for the form factors for the iPhone 5/5S form factor.
Other large companies, including China’s Lenovo, have a tougher
time rationalizing their phone businesses. Lenovo bought Motorola
from Google last year for $2.9 billion, hoping to boost its
fortunes by expanding beyond PCs. No such luck: In its last
quarter, Lenovo’s mobility unit posted a $292 million loss that
just about wiped out its PC business profits. The company says it
can fix things by paring back the number of devices it sells,
combined with a “faster, leaner business model.”
Remember when Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion back in 2011? Good times.
Important Domain Name Registration ★
Whois records show that Google is now the owner of
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.com. Prior to the acquisition, the
domain name was privately owned and appears to have been parked.
At the time of publication, abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.com does
not resolve, although it would seem wise for the company to
forward it to the Alphabet website.
Enhanced Editions of Harry Potter Series Now Available Exclusively on iBooks ★
Apple today announced that enhanced editions of all seven books in
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series are now available exclusively
on the iBooks Store for readers around the world to enjoy on their
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac. Customers can download
individual books featuring full original text, interactive
animations and elaborate artwork bringing these beloved stories to
life in a unique way. Harry Potter fans will also find annotations
throughout their literary journey, written by the author herself.
“I’m thrilled to see the Harry Potter books so beautifully
realised on iBooks for the digital world; the artwork and
animations in these enhanced editions bring the stories alive in a
delightful new way,” said J.K. Rowling. [...]
Until now, the Harry Potter digital books have only been
available for readers to purchase through the Pottermore Shop.
Starting today, iBooks users can experience the books with all
new exclusive custom covers for each title, and typography
including the custom Harry Potter typefaces and new section
headers and drop caps.
I’m intrigued about the strategic implications of an exclusive like this. But as a book reader, somehow it feels wrong for books to be “exclusive” to a proprietary software platform.
Microsoft Lumia 950 ★
Why put that glaring, obnoxious “Microsoft” on the front face? Nobody wants to see that. Nobody. This is one of the things Apple does that everyone should copy but few do.
I had a few minutes to spare this morning and decided it would be
worth it to see what a Fat Tweet might look like, one that has
room for more than 140 chars, that doesn’t force you to click a
link to see the rest.
Dave’s idea is that you could type as much text as you want for the tweet, but your timeline would only show the first 140 characters (preserving the scrollability of your timeline), and you’d click or tap “See More” to expand the whole thing.
I think Twitter will do something different. I think they’ll preserve the 140-character limit for the tweet itself, but add “text” or maybe something richer, like “story”, as an attachment type. So in the same way that you can now attach an image to a tweet, you could attach a chunk of text. You’d see a preview/thumbnail of the text attachment in the timeline, and you’d click/tap on it to see the whole thing.
It’d be pretty cool if they used Markdown for formatting, but that might be too nerdy for mass market use.
iPulse 3 ★
Iconfactory’s iPulse epitomizes the indie Mac developer ethos. It’s such a nerdy utility — it displays system stats and status for your Mac — but it’s absolutely gorgeous. And really, really tweakable. It warms my heart to see something like this near the top of the Mac App Store chart.
NYT: ‘Chinese Hackers Breached LoopPay, Whose Tech Is Central to Samsung Pay’ ★
Nicole Perlroth and Mike Isaac, reporting for the NYT:
“Samsung Pay was not impacted and at no point was any personal
payment information at risk,” Darlene Cedres, Samsung’s chief
privacy officer, said in a statement. “This was an isolated
incident that targeted the LoopPay corporate network, which is a
physically separate network. The LoopPay corporate network issue
was resolved immediately and had nothing to do with Samsung Pay.”
But two people briefed on the investigation, as well as security
experts who have been tracking the Codoso hackers as they have
targeted hundreds of victims around the world, said it would be
premature to say what the hackers did and did not accomplish since
they were discovered in August.
Comprehensive, astute, and well-illustrated review of Tweetbot 4 — and really, what it means to design a great modern iPad Twitter client. It is a long article, but it has to be, given how much is new in Tweetbot 4, and the ways that iOS 9 has raised the bar for iPad app design.
Speaking of indie developers doing great work, Tapbots is on fire. The new Tweetbot 4 for iOS is now a universal app for both iPhone and iPad, and has a slew of great new features. Long story short, Tweetbot for iOS is my single favorite and most-used iOS app. It is remarkably well-designed and well-crafted. The only other app that comes close to it — both in terms of the amount of time I spend using it and my affection for its design and usability — is Mobile Safari.
The regular price will be $10, but for now, Tweetbot 4 is available for just $5 — including for users of Tweetbot 3 or the old non-universal Tweetbot for iPad. This is the closest Tapbots can get to charging for an upgrade on the App Store, and paid upgrades are the only way developers can afford to keep working on existing apps.
$5 for the fruits of all of this talent, hard work, and craftsmanship. If you don’t see that as an absolute bargain, there is no hope for you.
Fantastical Updates ★
One of my favorite indie apps in recent years has been Fantastical. I use it on my Mac and iPhone. I prefer it over Apple’s system Calendar apps in just about every regard. And they’re moving really fast: today they released free updates for the iPad and iPhone versions (including split-screen multitasking support on iPad, and a new Apple Watch companion app for iPhone). Last month they released a solid update to the Mac app.
Snowball: New Rugged Storage Appliance From Amazon for Importing Data to AWS Via Fedex ★
Frederic Lardinois, writing for TechCrunch:
Amazon surprised developers today with the launch of Snowball, a
new physical appliance that will allow AWS users to ship huge
amounts of data for import into AWS by shipping the device back
and forth between their offices and the AWS data centers.
The appliance is a bit larger than an old-school desktop case and
it can hold up to 50 terabytes of data. It has a Kindle on the
side, which functions as an automatic shipping label.
Reminds me of the old Andrew Tanenbaum quote: “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.”
Universal Search on Apple TV Will Be an API for Developers ★
John Paczkowski, writing for Buzzfeed last week:
In a recent interview with BuzzFeed News, Apple CEO Tim Cook said
universal search in Apple TV is not something that the company
plans to reserve for key content partners. “At launch we’ll have
iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, and HBO — so we’ll have five
major inputs into universal search initially,” Cook said. “But
we’re also opening an API, so that others can join in.”
I figured this would be open to all third-party apps, but it’s good to hear confirmation. (Sounds like it’s similar to Spotlight’s open search APIs on OS X.)
(Another Apple TV-related thought: even though Amazon won’t sell Apple TV hardware, that doesn’t necessarily preclude them from making a Prime app for Apple TV. And if the universal search API is open, Prime video could be included in that, too.)
Waterstones Is Removing Kindles From Stores ★
Lisa Campbell, writing for The Bookseller:
Waterstones is removing Amazon’s Kindle devices from many of it
stores as sales “continue to be pitiful”.
The company’s m.d James Daunt said there had been no sign of a
“bounce” in Kindle sales, so the company was “taking the display
space back” to use for physical books instead.
He told The Bookseller: “Sales of Kindles continue to be pitiful
so we are taking the display space back in more and more shops. It
feels very much like the life of one of those inexplicable
bestsellers; one day piles and piles, selling like fury; the next
you count your blessings with every sale because it brings you
closer to getting it off your shelves forever to make way for
something new. Sometimes, of course, they ‘bounce’ but no sign yet
of this being the case with Kindles.”
Easiest explanation for this is that Kindle users are Amazon users, and Amazon users buy their Kindles direct from Amazon. I’ve owned a few Kindles over the years, and it never even occurred to me to buy one anywhere else.
Tim Cook Marks the Fourth Anniversary of Steve Jobs’s Death in Memo to Employees ★
What is his legacy? I see it all around us: An incredible team
that embodies his spirit of innovation and creativity. The
greatest products on earth, beloved by customers and empowering
hundreds of millions of people around the world. Soaring
achievements in technology and architecture. Experiences of
surprise and delight. A company that only he could have built. A
company with an intense determination to change the world for
And, of course, the joy he brought his loved ones.
WSJ: Laurene Powell Jobs ‘Tried to Kill’ Upcoming Hollywood Biopic ★
Ben Fritz and Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:
Mr. Jobs’s allies, led by his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, say the
film “Steve Jobs,” and other recent depictions, play down his
accomplishments and paint Mr. Jobs as cruel and inhumane. Ms. Jobs
repeatedly tried to kill the film, according to people familiar
with the conversations. She lobbied, among others, Sony Pictures
Entertainment, which developed the script but passed on the movie
for financial reasons, and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures,
which is releasing the $33.5 million production on Friday. [...]
People behind “Steve Jobs” say they offered to include Ms. Jobs in
the film’s development, but she declined.
“She refused to discuss anything in Aaron’s script that bothered
her despite my repeated entreaties,” producer Scott Rudin said in
an emailed response to questions from The Wall Street Journal. He
said Ms. Jobs “continued to say how much she disliked the book,
and that any movie based on the book could not possibly be
I’ll keep an open mind until I’ve seen the movie, but given my thoughts on Isaacson’s book, I tend to agree. What a terrible decision Jobs made when he picked Isaacson to be his authorized biographer.
Google’s Cute Cars and the Ugly End of Driving ★
Mat Honan, writing for Buzzfeed after getting to ride in a Google self-driving car:
Cars are giant, inefficient, planet-and-people-killing death
machines. Self-driving cars — especially if they are operated as
fleets and you only use one when you need it, summoning it
Uber-style — would mean we could have fewer vehicles per person,
less traffic congestion, less pollution, far fewer vehicles
produced per year (thus lowering the environmental impact of
production), and, best of all, safer streets. The blind, people
with epilepsy, quadriplegics, and all manner of others who today
have difficulty ferrying themselves around as they go through the
mundanities of an average day will be liberated. Eliminating the
automobile’s need for a human pilot will be a positive thing for
Business Insider: ‘Evernote Is in Deep Trouble’ ★
Eugene Kim, writing for Business Insider:
Evernote has laid off roughly 18% of its workforce in the past
nine months, and said it will shut down three of its 10 global
offices last week. Earlier this year, it replaced its long-time
CEO Phil Libin with former Google exec Chris O’Neill.
“It’s going to be a tough road ahead,” one source familiar with
the matter told us. “They want to go public, and, to do that, the
focus on revenue now has to be a ruthless prioritization on things
that make money.”
Depending on where you stand, Evernote is either a sinking ship or
a maturing company going through a normal transition cycle. But
most people we spoke to seem to agree that the company has failed
to take advantage of its red-hot growth and make enough money from
much of its huge user base — and is starting to show early signs
of being an ailing unicorn.
Evernote has some very cool features — most impressive to me is that when you attach a photo to a note, they do OCR on any signage or text in the image so you can search for it. But the interface has always seemed so convoluted, I could never get into it. It looks like the result of a company that is focused on adding features, not focused on creating something well-designed.
CNet’s Amazon Fire Review: ‘Not Good, but Good for the Price if You’re a Prime Member’ ★
Translation: “The food here is terrible, and the portions are so small.”
Charting Episode Lengths of The Talk Show ★
Interesting (to me, at least) chart from friend of the show Todd Vaziri.
Many listeners definitely prefer longer episodes, but I know others feel the opposite. My take is that if you prefer shorter episodes, you can just listen to the long ones across multiple hour-long listening sessions. It’s also somewhat cyclical — at different times of the year, there is more to talk about.
Update: Todd has posted an updated version.
American Apparel Files for Bankruptcy ★
Hiroko Tabuchi, reporting for the NYT:
American Apparel, the one-time arbiter of edgy made-in-America
cool, filed for bankruptcy protection early Monday, its business
crippled by huge debts, a precipitous fall in sales, employee
strife and a drawn-out legal battle with the retailer’s ousted
founder, Dov Charney.
The Chapter 11 petition, approved by the board, was filed in
federal bankruptcy court in Delaware. The filing followed a deal
struck with most of American Apparel’s secured lenders to reduce
the retailer’s debt through a process known as a debt-for-equity
conversion, where bondholders swap their debt for shares in the
The deal, which also includes extra financing from the
participating bondholders, would enable American Apparel to keep
its manufacturing operations in Los Angeles and its 130 stores in
the United States open, the company said.
I like their T-shirts (DF shirts have been printed on AA tees for many years), and I like that their products are proudly made in America, so I’m really hoping they recover from this. But I hope they recover with their brand intact.
Patreon Hacked; Gigabytes of Source Code and User Data Dumped Online ★
Dan Goodin, Ars Technica:
Hunt said the release appears to include the entire database taken
in the hack, including a fair number of private messages sent and
received by users. “Obviously all the campaigns, supporters and
pledges are there too,” he wrote in one tweet. “You can determine
how much those using Patreon are making.” In a separate tweet, he
wrote: “The dollar figure for the Patreon campaigns isn’t the
issue, it’s supporters identities, messages, etc. Everything
private now public.”
Given that they stole the site’s source code, if you have a Patreon account, you should presume your password is compromised.
Apple Buys UK-Based Speech Technology Start-Up VocalIQ ★
The Financial Times:
Apple has acquired a UK-based start-up whose
artificial-intelligence software helps computers and people speak
to each other in a more natural dialogue, according to people
familiar with the deal.
VocalIQ uses machine learning to build virtual assistants that
try to recreate the type of talking computers that appear in
science-fiction films such as Samantha in Her or Jarvis in Iron
Man. The deal marks Apple’s third acquisition of a UK company
The VocalIQ company blog, back in March:
All major technology companies are pouring billions into building
up of services like Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa. Each was
launched with a huge bang, promising great things but fell well
short of consumer expectations. Some ended being used only as
toys, like Siri. The rest, forgotten. Unsurprisingly.
Recode on Jack Dorsey ★
Jason Del Ray and Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode:
He seems to be a completely different man than the one who
returned to Twitter in March 2011 as executive chairman and
product czar. Former colleagues recall a man looking for payback
for his 2008 ouster; loyalty was key, and many who were loyal to
Twitter’s other co-founder, Ev Williams, were booted from the
company. Back then, Dorsey would routinely sit in on meetings
without saying a word. When he did speak, his contributions were
so abstract that few understood what he was talking about. In some
cases, he’d simply write a single word or two up on the
He no longer sits silently in meetings — current colleagues say
he provides the kind of direct, constructive feedback you’d expect
from someone with Dorsey’s reputation as a product guru. There’s
still some fear that Dorsey will send people packing, but the chip
on his shoulder appears to be gone. Even Twitter co-founder and
good friend Biz Stone said something has changed with his friend
in the last few years at Square.
“I feel like he went into a time chamber and studied for 40 years
and came out after one,” Stone said. “It’s like, what happened?
Where did you get all this confidence and great answers and
specificity? He seems to be much deeper now. It’s like talking to
a much older person.”
The Normalization of Gun Massacres in America ★
The Economist, back in June:
The regularity of mass killings breeds familiarity. The rhythms of
grief and outrage that accompany them become — for those not
directly affected by tragedy — ritualised and then blend into the
background noise. That normalisation makes it ever less likely
that America’s political system will groan into action to take
steps to reduce their frequency or deadliness. Those who live in
America, or visit it, might do best to regard them the way one
regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard
which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political
reasons, the country is incapable of addressing. This may,
however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on
As Toynbee Tiles Dwindle, Philadelphia Streets Department Surfaces as Unlikely Hope for Preservation ★
Streets employees may be the least likely city workers to be found
spending Sunday at the Barnes or catching a gallery opening on
First Friday. And yet it’s probably the only city department
that’s baked an art-preservation clause into its standard, bid-out
The city’s paving agreements stipulate that paving contractors
must halt resurfacing and notify a Streets engineer if they come
across a Toynbee Tile, those strange mosaic messages embedded into
the pavement across Philadelphia.
The tiles are at once part of our local lore and art known the
world over, the purported product of a South Philly man with a
tenuous grip on reality and a tremendous amount of creativity. The
tiles have inspired imitators and thieves alike, not to mention
numerous news pieces and one award-winning documentary. And with
all signs suggesting the mysterious tiler has left the city for
good, the tiles are becoming ever more rare and in danger of
extinction in their native habitat, Philadelphia.
As a Philadelphian whose favorite film is 2001, I’ve always loved these tiles. They’re everywhere in Center City. It’s crazy that there are even a few on I-676, I-95, and the Schuylkill Expressway.
The Decline of ‘Big Soda’ ★
Margot Sanger-Katz, writing for the NYT’s The Upshot:
Over the last 20 years, sales of full-calorie soda in the United
States have plummeted by more than 25 percent. Soda consumption,
which rocketed from the 1960s through 1990s, is now experiencing a
serious and sustained decline.
Sales are stagnating as a growing number of Americans say they are
actively trying to avoid the drinks that have been a mainstay of
American culture. Sales of bottled water have shot up, and bottled
water is now on track to overtake soda as the largest beverage
category in two years, according to at least one industry
The drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change
in the American diet in the last decade and is responsible for a
substantial reduction in the number of daily calories consumed by
the average American child.
Millions of Facebook Users Have No Idea They’re Using the Internet ★
Leo Mirani, writing for Quartz:
Indonesians surveyed by Galpaya told her that they didn’t use the
internet. But in focus groups, they would talk enthusiastically
about how much time they spent on Facebook. Galpaya, a researcher
(and now CEO) with LIRNEasia, a think tank, called Rohan
Samarajiva, her boss at the time, to tell him what she had
discovered. “It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not
exist; only Facebook,” he concluded.
You should not be surprised by this.
Vlad Savov: ‘Google’s Nexus Phones Are Just Ads’ ★
Vlad Savov, writing at The Verge:
Unlike predecessors such as the Nexus One and Nexus 5, these
phones don’t have a clear reason for being, and are not in
themselves terribly unique. That’s led me (and others) to question
Google’s overall aim with the Nexus line of pure Android
smartphones, and I think I’ve finally arrived at an answer. The
Nexus program is not so much about carrier independence or purity
of Android design as it is about presenting Google in an
overwhelmingly positive light. In other words, Google, the
ultimate ad seller, sells Nexus phones as ads for itself. [...]
It almost seems innocuous, except that it’s not. There isn’t a
single Android device manufacturer that is happy with the Nexus
program, and I’ve spoken with them all. Those who build Nexuses
for Google often do so reluctantly — with the possible exception
of Huawei this year, whose US reputation stands to improve
dramatically from the halo effect of being associated with Google
by manufacturing the Nexus 6P.
In other words, a vanity project.
Looks Like It’s Time for the U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate Apple Again ★
Spencer Soper, reporting for Bloomberg, “Amazon to Ban Sale of Apple, Google Video-Streaming Devices”:
Amazon.com Inc. is flexing its e-commerce muscles to gain an edge
on competitors in the video-streaming market by ending the sale of
devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc. that aren’t easily
compatible with Amazon’s video service.
The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace
sellers that it will stop selling Apple TV and Google’s
Chromecast. No new listings for the products will be allowed and
posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon
said. Amazon’s streaming service, called Prime Video, doesn’t run
easily on its rival’s hardware.
“Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important
part of Prime,” Amazon said. “It’s important that the streaming
media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to
avoid customer confusion.”
Given that they have Amazon Prime apps for iPhone and iPad, why not just make an Amazon Prime app for Apple TV? When they say “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion”, do they mean that they’ll only sell media players that include Amazon Prime by default?
The Cost of Mobile Ads on 50 News Websites ★
The New York Times:
Ad blockers, which Apple first allowed on the iPhone in September,
promise to conserve data and make websites load faster. But how
much of your mobile data comes from advertising? We measured the
mix of advertising and editorial on the mobile home pages of the
top 50 news websites — including ours — and found that more than
half of all data came from ads and other content filtered by ad
blockers. Not all of the news websites were equal.
What is wrong with the people running Boston.com? What they’re doing is shameful.
Upgrade Episode 56: The Migration Experience ★
Great episode of one of my favorite podcasts: Jason Snell and Myke Hurley’s Upgrade. They cover, in depth, something I’ve been meaning to write about: the lousy, painstaking, and at times downright confusing experience of migrating to a new iOS device. If Apple wants people to upgrade to new iPhones annually, they really need to take a long hard look at reducing the friction.
(I enjoy that this episode of Upgrade was literally about upgrading.)