My thanks to Procreate for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Procreate is an advanced, beautifully-designed painting app for iPad. It works with any iPad, of course, but with an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil it is simply amazing. If you’ve got an iPad Pro and Pencil, you owe it to yourself to get Procreate. This is one of those apps that is simply pushing the limits of “pro” app design.
And: it’s yours for a one-time $6 purchase. No subscription model or anything like that. You pay $6, you get an amazing, professional painting app.
Instagram Is Testing a New Black-and-White Design ★
Looks like a great redesign. I’ve been using Instagram since the day it shipped, and I’m still thrown off by the way the camera tab always looks selected because it has a blue background.
Rovi Buys TiVo for $1.1 Billion ★
Tony Maglio, reporting for The Wrap:
Entertainment technology company Rovi has purchased original DVR
service TiVo for $1.1 billion, or $10.70 per share. Talks of such
an acquisition heated up last month, and now it’s official —
pending customary regulatory approval, of course.
That $10.70 per-share price represents a premium of approximately
40 percent over TiVo’s closing stock price of $7.66 on March 23 —
the last trading day prior to media speculation about a possible
transaction. It breaks down into $2.75 in cash and $7.95 in the
new company’s common stock. Rovi stockholders will have an easy
1-for-1 swap for their own new stock.
The merged firms will be led by Rovi CEO Tom Carson, though it
will adopt the TiVo brand as the new company name.
We’ve had a TiVo for the last 16 years. I really hope this isn’t the end of the line for TiVo as we know it. Crazy cool feature they added recently: they index the commercial breaks in many popular shows, and for those shows, you can precisely skip the entire commercial break with one button. Press the button, fun noise plays, and boom, your show is back on.
Carl Icahn Sells His Shares in Apple ★
Icahn said China’s attitude toward Apple largely drove him to exit
“You worry a little bit — and maybe more than a little — about
China’s attitude,” Icahn said, later adding that China’s
government could “come in and make it very difficult for Apple to
sell there … you can do pretty much what you want there.” He
added, though, that if China “was basically steadied,” he would
buy back into Apple. […]
Last May, Icahn said he had a $240 per share price target on Apple
when it traded around $130 per share. As recently as September,
Icahn told CNBC he considered buying more of the company’s stock,
saying it looked cheap.
Engadget: ‘Apple iPhone Sales and Revenue Finally Decline’ ★
Finally, a headline where finally is actually apt.
Peter Kafka, writing for Recode:
And to be very clear: Twitter now has an ad problem because of
its user problem. It doesn’t have enough scale to compete with
Facebook and Google.
For a while, this didn’t matter, because Twitter and its ad boss,
Adam Bain, had done a very good job of courting big brand
advertisers and the ad agencies that spend their money. They got
them to take a flier on Twitter. But Twitter isn’t novel anymore,
and brands and agencies who want to play with a new shiny object
can go to Snapchat. […]
Twitter’s answer to all of this is the same answer that everyone
else on the web has: We’ll fix it with video.
Japanese Magazine Publishes Purported Schematics of Next iPhone, Showing Smart Connector ★
Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:
Schematics featuring the dual-camera 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus or
“Pro” that’s set to launch in the fall of 2016 have been published
in the June issue of Japanese magazine MacFan, reiterating many of
the design details that have been previously rumored for the
Also depicted in the schematic is the dual camera setup that’s
rumored for the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus, a Smart Connector, and the
absence of a headphone jack. Apple is planning to remove the
headphone jack in its 2016 devices, with headphones instead
connecting via Lightning or Bluetooth. Though some rumors have
suggested the iPhone 7 will include stereo speakers, the design
drawing features a single speaker.
I’ve ignored the rumors about a Smart Connector on the next iPhone until now. But now there’s enough smoke for me to wonder about it. If it’s true, what would it be used for? The iPad Pro Smart Connectors seem perfectly suited to the purpose of attaching keyboards. Is that what this is for on the iPhone? Maybe a magnetic charger, similar to (but incompatible with) that of the Apple Watch? I’m stumped on this one.
Update: Best ideas so far:
A battery case that uses this connector could be thinner and simpler (no “chin”). The problem I see with this idea is that they’d have to announce the battery cases along with the new iPhones, which would open Apple to accusations that the built-in batteries are too small and “need” $80 battery cases. I think the quiet November debut of the iPhone 6S Smart Battery Case was planned. But maybe now that they’ve broken the ice on first-party battery cases, it’s not a marketing problem to introduce better ones?
If the new iPhone charges via this magnetic connector, it would allow you to charge the device while using the Lightning port for your headphones. Or vice-versa: maybe we’ll see Smart Connector headphones?
Cases with camera peripherals, like external microphones and lenses? Or a waterproof “camera case”?
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi Wants MLB to Ban the Shift ★
Andrew Marchand, writing for ESPN:
If New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi were the commissioner of
baseball, he says he would ban the shift.
“It is an illegal defense, like basketball,” said Girardi,
referring to defensive three seconds in the NBA. “Guard your man,
guard your spot. If I were commissioner, they would be illegal.”
I like Girardi a lot — he’s a good manager, and a smart guy (he has an industrial engineering degree from Northwestern). But this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard him say.
The rules have never said where the fielders need to stand, and infield shifts date back to the 1870s. Beating the shift is simple: Hit ’em where they ain’t.
Yours Truly on This Week’s Episode of The Dalrymple Report ★
Fun show. We talked about the iPhone SE, new iPad Pro, and Apple Watch.
The Encryption Farce ★
Scathing editorial from the WSJ in the wake of the Department of Justice dropping another last-minute “never mind”, this time with an iPhone in a drug case in Brooklyn:
Such assertions were as false in Brooklyn as in San Bernardino.
Two hours and a half before a deadline on Friday night, the
government withdrew the case after “an individual provided the
passcode to the iPhone,” according to legal filings. This second
immaculate conception in as many months further undermines the
FBI’s credibility about its technological capabilities. Judges
ought to exercise far more scrutiny in future decryption cases
even as Mr. Comey continues to pose as helpless. […]
Yet forgive us if this “conversation” now seems more like a Jim
Comey monologue. The debate might start to be productive if the
FBI Director would stop trying to use the courts as an ad hoc
policy tool and promised not to bring any more cases like the one
The Obama administration does not escape their attention:
Meanwhile, the White House has taken the profile-in-courage stand
of refusing to endorse or oppose any encryption bill that Congress
may propose. If the Obama team won’t start adjusting to the
technological realities of strong and legal encryption, they could
at least exercise some adult supervision at Main Justice.
The Talk Show: ‘The Greatest Mic Drop I’ve Ever Seen’ ★
New episode of America’s favorite three-star podcast, featuring special guest Guy English. Topics include Ben Thompson’s argument that Apple’s functional organizational structure is hindering their efforts in online services, recalling our first Apple computers and the elegance of the classic Mac OS’s conceptual design, Prince (and his early use of Macs for creating music), WWDC 2016, and yours truly’s youthful foray into on-the-job vandalism.
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Casey Chan on Abandoning His Apple Watch ★
It’s Gizmodo so there’s a heavy dollop of clickbait in the headline, but Casey Chan’s critique of the Apple Watch makes several salient points:
First, I still don’t know what the buttons do. This is ridiculous
(and probably very stupid on my part) because, well, there are
only two buttons, the digital crown and the side button. Most of
the times, pressing the digital crown acts like an iPhone home
button. But sometimes it’s a back button (like when you’re in the
Favorites contact screen). It gets more confusing because you can
scroll through a list with the crown but you can never select, you
have to tap the screen for that to work. Most of these things you
eventually figure out, but these little inconsistencies just add
to the frustration of using it.
“When do I use which button and what do the buttons do?” needs to be obvious for the Apple Watch to truly feel Apple-y. And it fails. The longer I own mine the more obvious it is that Apple dropped the ball on the buttons:
- Single-press on the crown takes you to the app screen. I almost never launch any apps from the “home screen”.
- Single-press on the bottom button takes you to the “favorite contacts” screen. I almost never use this.
My hope is that Apple does more than just make the second generation watch faster/thinner/longer-lasting, and takes a step back and reconsiders some of the fundamental aspects to the conceptual design.
A Rolex-Sized Flop ★
Last year, Rolex did $4.5 billion in sales. A solid year for the
premium watchmaker. Of course, it was no Apple Watch. That
business did roughly $6 billion in sales, if industry estimates
The point here isn’t to compare the two devices — an Apple Watch
is just about as comparable to a watch as an iPhone is to a phone.
But it does provide an interesting context for Apple’s fledgling
business — a new product category which has come under a lot of
scrutiny since its launch a year ago. Many have called it a
“flop,” which, again, is interesting in context.
Apple Watch, One Year In ★
Daisuke Wakabayashi, writing for the WSJ:
Apple Inc. sold twice as many Watches as iPhones in each device’s
debut year. Yet the smartwatch is dogged by a perception that
seems premature given the history of Apple’s most popular devices:
As the Watch marks its first anniversary on Sunday — two days
before Apple’s quarterly earnings announcement — the product’s
fate is critical to the company. It is Apple’s first all-new
product since the iPad and a test of its ability to innovate under
Chief Executive Tim Cook, when sales of iPhones are slowing.
So far, the numbers appear solid. Apple doesn’t disclose sales,
but analysts estimate about 12 million Watches were sold in year
one. At an estimated average price of $500, that is a $6 billion
business — three times the annual revenue of activity tracker
Apple Watch can’t be neatly summarized with a one-word description like “hit” or “flop”. It has some serious, deep flaws, but it has sold well — especially considering those flaws. And the people who own one tend to really like it.
It’s a misconception that what Apple does best is unveil mind-blowing new products. What Apple does best is iterate year after year after year — exactly what Apple Watch needs.
On that front, Wakabayashi writes:
There are relatively easy fixes for some concerns. Apple is
working on adding cell-network connectivity and a faster processor
to its next-generation Watch, according to people familiar with
LeEco CEO Jia Yueting Says Apple Is ‘Outdated’ ★
Apple is “outdated” and losing momentum in China, billionaire
entrepreneur Jia Yueting told CNBC in his first international
Jia is chief executive and chairman of Chinese conglomerate LeEco
(formerly LeTV), which is best known for being the “Netflix of
China,” but has a product range that includes smartphones,
televisions, mountain bikes and, most recently, electric vehicles.
As Michael Simmons quipped, that’s pretty rich coming from “the guy wearing gray sneakers, long-sleeved black t-shirt, and jeans.”
Panic’s Lost 1982 Artwork ★
Worth a re-link, in light of the aforelinked The Art of Atari — Panic’s “alternate-universe, time-warped re-imaginings” of their Mac apps.
‘The Art of Atari’ ★
I dare you to keep me away from this upcoming book. I dare you.
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Looking at the Future ★
Craig Hockenberry, writing about the new iPad Pro display’s expanded color gamut:
After using this iPad for a couple of weeks, I’ve realized it’s
like the advances of Retina in an important way: I never want to
use a lesser display again. And as with higher density, I think
it’s obvious that Apple will eventually update all its products to
use this improved screen technology. I can’t wait!
It also wouldn’t surprise me to see these wider color gamuts
coming to the cameras in our devices. All iOS devices currently
create images in the sRGB gamut, while professional gear can
produce images in ProPhoto or AdobeRGB. High dynamic range (HDR)
photos need a wider range of color, too.
iTunes Movies and iBooks Store Shut Down By Chinese Government ★
Paul Mozur and Jane Perlez, reporting for the NYT:
For years, there has been a limit to the success of American
technology companies in China. Capture too much market share or
wield too much influence, and Beijing will push back.
Apple has largely been an exception to that trend. Yet the Silicon
Valley company is now facing a regulatory push against its
services in China that could signal its good relations in the
country may be turning.
Last week, Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movies were shut down
in China, just six months after they were started there.
Initially, Apple apparently had the government’s approval to
introduce the services. But then a regulator, the State
Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television,
asserted its authority and demanded the closings, according to two
people who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
China being China.
Microsoft’s Android Patent-Licensing Revenue Is Falling ★
Matt Rosoff, reporting on Microsoft’s fiscal results:
In the release, Microsoft noted that its patent-licensing revenue
was down 26% from a year ago. And it’s because of Android. […]
Suh also noted that not every Android manufacturer has a licensing
deal with Microsoft. He didn’t name names, but Chinese phone
makers typically take a very loose approach toward licensing
American intellectual property, and as those inexpensive phones
take over the world, Microsoft doesn’t benefit as much.
At one point, Microsoft was reported to be booking $2 billion a
year from licensing its patents and other intellectual property to
Android handset makers like Samsung and HTC. Microsoft has never
confirmed that number, but it’s probably a drop in the bucket
compared to the overall Windows business, which booked revenue
around $4.2 billion this quarter. (“Windows revenue decreased $292
million or 7%,” the release says.)
Still, the Android gravy train is slowing down for everybody.
Patton Oswalt’s Advice to His Fellow Bernie Sanders Supporters ★
Maxwell Strachan, writing for The Huffington Post:
In anticipation of the special, The Huffington Post caught up with
the comedian to discuss his stand-up tips, the state of the
Internet, and, of course, the 2016 Election. Oswalt has been a
supporter of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, but
made it clear in the interview that he’s not “Bernie or bust.”
“I will vote for whoever the Democrats nominate against either of
those two psychopaths,” he said. “I think they’re both equally
dangerous and backward-facing for this country.”
Asked what he would say to a Bernie supporter who would rather
not vote than cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in the
November general election, Oswalt replied, “Well, then you’re
a fucking child.”
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe Restores Voting Rights to Felons ★
Sheryl Gay Stolberg, reporting for the NYT:
Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia used his executive power on
Friday to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted
felons, circumventing his Republican-run Legislature. The action
overturns a Civil War-era provision in the state’s Constitution
aimed, he said, at disenfranchising African-Americans.
This passage from the end of her report floored me:
In researching the provisions, advisers to the governor turned up
a 1906 report quoting Carter Glass, a Virginia state senator (and
later, a member of Congress who was an author of the 1933
Glass-Steagall Act that regulated banks) as saying they would
“eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this State in less
than five years, so that in no single county of the Commonwealth
will there be the least concern felt for the complete supremacy of
the white race in the affairs of government.”
Prince Composing Music on a Mac SE in 1990’s ‘Graffiti Bridge’ ★
Ahead of his time, as ever.
European Commission Charges Google With Abuse of Android’s ‘Dominant Position’ ★
Mark Scott, reporting for the NYT:
Google has long stressed that Android, its popular mobile
software, is open for anyone to use, including its rivals.
But the company’s claims are now under threat after Europe’s
antitrust authorities on Wednesday charged the company with
unfairly using Android to promote its own services — like mobile
search — over those of its rivals. In doing so, regulators
brought particular scrutiny to Google’s relationships with some of
the world’s biggest cellphone makers, which have helped expand the
reach of Android.
Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, said
Google had required some of the cellphone manufacturers to
preinstall the company’s services, including its Google Play
smartphone application store, and had given them unfair
financial incentives to favor Google’s services on their mobile
devices. Those practices undermined competition and consumer
choice, she said.
Does Google play hardball? Yes. That’s the game. This seems like a bunch of bullshit. I agree with Nilay Patel here: “The EU’s idea of ‘potentially superior versions of Android’ is some real magical thinking.”
Researchers: Dyson Hand Dryers Spread Viral Germs ★
Beth Mole, reporting for Ars Technica:
By far, the jet dryer was the biggest viral spreader in all
Clumping the data from all six heights together, the Dyson
produced 60 times more plaques than the warm air dryer and 1,300
times more than paper towels. Of the viruses launched by the jet
dryer, 70 percent were at the height of a small child’s face.
Looking across the distances tested, most of the jet
dryer-launched viruses landed about 0.25 meters away. But at three
meters, the number of plaque-forming viruses spread by the jet
dryer was 500-fold greater than that from the warm air dryer
(paper towels launched zero to this distance). In total across the
distances, the jet dryer spread 20 times more viruses than the
warm dryer and more than 190 times more than the paper towels.
It’s just one research project, but it seems pretty compelling. I’ve always preferred paper towels to any sort of air dryer. Speaking of which, from the DF archive: “How to Use a Paper Towel” — one of my favorite links ever.
Jason Snell on the Speed-Bump Update to the MacBook ★
It’s faster, but the biggest change is that it’s now available in rose gold. Still just one port, and that port is USB-C, not Thunderbolt 3.
‘Humanae’ — A Color Palette of Human Skin Tones ★
Photographer Angélica Dass’s Humanae is an ongoing project, matching portrait photos with Pantone colors of their skin tones. Perhaps someone should show this wide range of colors to Samsung’s marketing department. (Via Kottke.)
Manton Reece: Don’t Give Up on WWDC ★
I think it’s possible to go out to WWDC without spending a
fortune. You can attend AltConf, find an Airbnb room for
$150/night, and stay a few days instead of all week. I downgraded
my expectations for WWDC and booked a cheaper hotel room a couple
of months ago. It’s about how much you want to be there.
In fact, I’d still argue that it’s less expensive to “attend”
WWDC now because it has been proven how much you can get out of
AltConf and other events without the $1600 conference ticket.
When I went to my first WWDC back when it was held in San Jose
(and the same could be said for the early years in San
Francisco), hotels and flights were cheaper but it was pointless
to attend without a ticket.
The problem with Manton’s idea is that there aren’t many Airbnb options within a walkable distance of Moscone. (Even if you don’t have a conference ticket, most of the social stuff you might want to attend is in the general area of SOMA or Union Square.) I count 83 results at this moment, and some of them are “shared rooms” (gross) and others are just as expensive as a decent hotel room.
WWDC as Community Hub, in the Face of San Francisco’s Hotel Prices ★
Folks say that WWDC is the one time where everyone in our
community can get together, but frankly, the price of hotels in
San Francisco has made that statement a bit disingenuous. Many —
if not most — of us can’t afford to make it to this party, so
maybe this is no longer the party for “everyone.” Maybe it’s time
we acknowledged that WWDC has become a bit of a luxury, as much as
that pains me to say.
San Francisco hotels have gotten really expensive. Looking at Priceline, four-star hotels in the general vicinity of Moscone are double — if not more — the price they were just a few years ago. To name just one example, the Parc 55 cost me around $250/night in June 2013. In 2011, I booked a room at the Parc 55 through Hotwire for $115/night. That seems downright comical today. This year, rooms at the Parc 55 are running over $400/night. That’s a lot of money for the whole week — particularly considering that the Parc 55 really stretches the definition of “4-star”.
It costs more to book a decent hotel in San Francisco now than it does in Manhattan.
Update: San Francisco hotels aren’t just expensive — according to Bloomberg they are now the most expensive in the entire world. Thanks to Chris Mohajer.
Ken Auletta on Bill Campbell ★
Ken Auletta, writing for The New Yorker:
In the world capital of engineering, where per-capita income can
seem inversely related to social skills, Campbell was the man who
taught founders to look up from their computer screens. He was
known throughout the Valley as “the Coach,” the experienced
executive who added a touch of humanity as he quietly instructed
Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Marc Andreessen,
Ben Horowitz, the founders of Twitter, Sheryl Sandberg, and
countless other entrepreneurs on the human dimensions of
management, on the importance of listening to employees and
customers, of partnering with others. His obituary was not
featured on the front of most newspapers, or at the top of most
technology news sites, but it should have been.
San Francisco Mono ★
Apple’s WWDC 2016 website is sporting a “source code” theme, and is typeset using what appears to be a monospaced variant of San Francisco. Looks pretty good — I hope this is something they’re going to release at WWDC. I’d wager that it is.
(The parentheses should be rounder, and thus more distinctive, though. Compare the relatively flat parentheses on the WWDC 2016 site with the parentheses in a few of my favorite monospaced fonts. I wonder if this is simply a decorative decision made by the designers of the site. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at smaller sizes typically used by developers while actually editing code, the parentheses are rounder.)
Harriet Tubman to Replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 Bill ★
Jackie Calmes, reporting for the NYT:
The Treasury Department will announce on Wednesday afternoon that
Harriet Tubman, an African-American who ferried hundreds of slaves
to freedom, will replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the
center of a new $20 note, according to a Treasury official, while
newly popular Alexander Hamilton will remain on the face of the
Other depictions of women and civil rights leaders will also be
part of new currency designs.
The new designs, from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, would
be made public in 2020 in time for the centennial of woman’s
suffrage and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. None of the
bills, including a new $5 note, would reach circulation until the
The Hamilton musical is so wildly popular that it changed the course of this decision — the original plan was to put Tubman on the $10 bill, not the $20. Whatever the reason, this is a much better outcome — Jackson was opposed to paper currency. Good riddance to a terrible “great President”.
1986 in Photos ★
Great collection of photos from 1986. Check out the watch on Woz in photo 6.
I’m more sports-minded than most, but it seems almost criminal not to include a shot of 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus tearing up the back nine at Augusta, en route to winning The Masters for the sixth time. Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics should have been in there too. Update: And Diego Maradona’s infamous “hand of god” goal in the World Cup.
Intel to Cut 12,000 Jobs, Forecast Misses Amid PC Blight ★
Ian King, reporting for Bloomberg:
Intel Corp. will eliminate 12,000 jobs, or 11 percent of its
workforce, embarking on the deepest cutbacks in a decade to gird
for a fifth year of declines in the personal-computer market.
The world’s biggest maker of semiconductors said it’s shifting
focus to higher-growth areas, such as chips for data center
machines and Internet-connected devices. Intel also posted
disappointing first-quarter revenue and gave a second-quarter
sales forecast that fell short of analysts’ estimates.
Shipments of PCs, a market that provides Intel with more than half
of its sales, fell to their lowest level in a decade in the first
three months of 2016.
Intel’s decline has been rapid. They missed the boat on the mobile revolution. Microsoft — Intel’s partner during the go-go “Wintel” years — has missed the mobile boat, too, but has thrived by diversifying into areas such as cloud services. Intel can only thrive by selling chips, and they still don’t make the chips that device makers want for mobile devices.
I’m not counting them out yet, but this is ominous. Intel needs something new, because PCs have entered a permanent decline.
Custom Ringtones on iOS Are a Huge Pain in the Ass ★
Dieter Bohn has a good piece for The Verge on what a complicated, confusing process it is to put a custom ringtone on an iPhone:
I find this eight-step process to be legitimately insane. It
exists because Apple made a decision a long time ago that the
iPhone should be made “simpler” in some very specific ways. You
could argue that it’s about locking things down. You could
definitely argue that Apple is constrained by music industry
interests and can’t make the process for putting your own
ringtones on a phone too simple or else it’ll get into hot water
with record labels.
But whatever the historical or philosophical reasons behind
abstracting access to a file system and ringtones might be, that
doesn’t change the fact that this is a broken user experience.
I don’t agree with his main thesis, aptly summarized by the headline: “Why the iPhone Sometimes Feels Stuck in the Past”. Bohn points to Android’s method, where users can just move a ringtone file into the folder where the OS looks for them. That is less confusing and more straightforward than what iOS requires now, but to me, “give users access to the file system and expect them to move files into special folders” is the idea that is stuck in the past.
Setting a custom wallpaper in iOS shows the way to do this without exposing the file system. Open any image, hit the Share button, and choose “Use as Wallpaper”. There’s no reason iOS couldn’t do the same thing for setting an audio file as a ringtone or alert. Do it right from iCloud Drive or Dropbox.
Another gripe: custom ringtones don’t make the trip when you set up a new iPhone from a backup of an old one. A real annoyance every time I set up a new iPhone. People who work at Apple and restore their iPhones more frequently than I do must stick to the system ringtones — otherwise they’d go mad. Update: A ton of readers wrote in to say that their ringtones restore just fine when setting up new iPhones. But a few wrote in to say they’d had the same experience as me — they had to put their ringtones back on their phone manually. I just tried a fresh restore on a spare iPhone here, and this time, all my custom ringtones were restored. I don’t know what’s going on here, but there might be some sort of edge-case bug.)
Another Instance of ‘MacOS’ Appears ★
For a short time yesterday, Apple’s newly updated page on the company’s environmental initiatives read:
Years of use, which are based on first owners, are assumed to be
four years for MacOS and tvOS devices and three years for iOS and
They’ve since changed “MacOS” to “OS X”, but still. Intriguing that they might even capitalize the “M”.
(Previous posts: here and here.)
Photo-Realistic Renderings of People’s Sketches of Bicycles ★
Back in 2009 I began pestering friends and random strangers. I
would walk up to them with a pen and a sheet of paper asking that
they immediately draw me a men’s bicycle, by heart. Soon I found
out that when confronted with this odd request most people have a
very hard time remembering exactly how a bike is made. Some did
get close, some actually nailed it perfectly, but most ended up
drawing something that was pretty far off from a regular men’s
I decided my job was going to be presenting the potential and the
beauty inside these sketches. I selected those that I found most
interesting and genuine and diverse, then rendered them as if they
were real. I became the executor of these two minute projects by
people who were mainly non-designers and confirmed my suspicion:
everyone, regardless his age and job, can come up with
extraordinary, wild, new and at times brilliant inventions.
This is amazing. (Via David Chapman.)
Apple Has Probably Killed the ‘Air’ Brand ★
I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that Apple will never
release a new product with the ‘Air’ branding again.
For starters, the words ‘Light’ and ‘Professional’ are no longer a
dichotomy, though they were when the original MacBook Air was
launched in 2008. For Apple to achieve the title of ‘World’s
Thinnest Notebook’ they had to compromise on performance and
expansion slots. It was a very niche and expensive product, only
for people with the primary priority of portability. In 2016 —
where nearly all products from Apple and competitors are thin and
light — Apple’s distinction of ‘Air’ is redundant.
It’s possible they could do a minor CPU speed bump for the MacBook Air, but at this point I think it’s clear that the only reason MacBook Airs are still sold is to have laptops at sub-$1000 price points. The action going forward is entirely on the just-plain MacBook (thin, lightweight, super sleek design) and MacBook Pro (which will probably soon be about as thin and lightweight as the MacBook Air). At this point, “Air” just means “lower cost”. (“MacBook LC”, anyone?)
Bloomberg: Apple Exploring Google-Like ‘Paid Search’ for App Store ★
Adam Satariano and Alex Webb, writing for Bloomberg:
Apple Inc. has constructed a secret team to explore changes to the App Store, including a new strategy for charging developers to have their apps more prominently displayed, according to people familiar with the plans.
Every team at Apple is “secret”.
Among the ideas being pursued, Apple is considering paid search, a
Google-like model in which companies would pay to have their app
shown at the top of search results based on what a customer is
seeking. For instance, a game developer could pay to have its
program shown when somebody looks for “football game,” “word
puzzle” or “blackjack.”
Paid search, which Google turned into a multibillion-dollar
business, would give Apple a new way to make money from the App
Store. The growing marketing budgets of app developers such as
“Clash of Clans” maker Supercell Oy have proven to be lucrative
sources of revenue for Internet companies, including Facebook Inc.
and Twitter Inc.
This sounds like a terrible idea. The one and only thing Apple should do with App Store search is make it more accurate. They don’t need to squeeze any more money from it. More accurate, reliable App Store search would help users and help good developers. It’s downright embarrassing that App Store search is still so bad. Google web search is better for searching Apple’s App Store than the App Store’s built-in search. That’s the problem Apple needs to address.
About 100 employees are working on the project, including many
engineers from Apple’s advertising group iAd that’s being scaled
back, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the
plans are private. The effort is being spearheaded by Apple Vice
President Todd Teresi, who led iAd.
Just make search better. That’s it.
Motherboard: How Canadian Police Intercept and Read Encrypted BlackBerry Messages ★
Jordan Pearson and Justin Ling, reporting for Motherboard:
The key, according to Boismenu, is so powerful that it could be
used to “illegitimately” decipher any “prerecorded communications
encrypted with that key” — so it’s striking that the RCMP had
access to it.
Indeed, Crown attorney Robert Rouleau stated in an ex parte
hearing: “So right now, with my device, if I’m not on the
[Business Enterprise Server], I’m a dead chicken. That’s the
reality of it, that’s what we don’t want the general public
RCMP inspector Mark Flynn testified in a heavily redacted
transcript that BlackBerry “facilitated the interception process,”
however, Flynn also stated that facilitation could mean mere
information sharing or a physical action to aid interception.
Flynn further testified that revealing the key would jeopardize
the RCMP’s working relationship with BlackBerry, and harm
BlackBerry itself, since “it is not a good marketing thing to say
we work with the police.”
You don’t say.
Apple Hires NFL Lobbyist Cynthia Hogan to Head Washington Office ★
Tony Romm, reporting for Politico:
Apple has hired Cynthia Hogan, a top lobbyist for the National
Football League and former aide to Vice President Joe Biden, as
the new head of its Washington office — a major pickup for the
tech giant as it continues to battle law enforcement officials who
seek greater access to its customers’ data.
Hogan will become the iPhone maker’s vice president for public
policy and government affairs for the Americas, a role that
oversees not only the company’s D.C. operations but also Canada
and Latin America. She’ll report to Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice
president of environment, policy and social initiatives, who
previously led the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Cynthia’s intellect and judgment have consistently distinguished
her as a uniquely talented professional and we’re lucky to have
her join the team at Apple,” Jackson said in a statement.
New Identity for Charlie Rose by Jessica Svendsen ★
This identity is so spot-on perfect for Charlie Rose that it feels like it’s been his brand for decades. But it’s actually new work by Jessica Svendsen while she was at Pentagram. Svendsen, it turns out, left Pentagram for Apple last year.
(Via Stephen Coles, writing at Fonts in Use.)
Microsoft Sues U.S. Justice Department Over Secret Customer Data Searches ★
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer:
We believe that with rare exceptions consumers and businesses have
a right to know when the government accesses their emails or
records. Yet it’s becoming routine for the U.S. government to
issue orders that require email providers to keep these types of
legal demands secret. We believe that this goes too far and we are
asking the courts to address the situation.
To be clear, we appreciate that there are times when secrecy
around a government warrant is needed. This is the case, for
example, when disclosure of the government’s warrant would create
a real risk of harm to another individual or when disclosure would
allow people to destroy evidence and thwart an investigation. But
based on the many secrecy orders we have received, we question
whether these orders are grounded in specific facts that truly
demand secrecy. To the contrary, it appears that the issuance of
secrecy orders has become too routine.
The urgency for action is clear and growing. Over the past 18
months, the U.S. government has required that we maintain secrecy
regarding 2,576 legal demands, effectively silencing Microsoft
from speaking to customers about warrants or other legal process
seeking their data. Notably and even surprisingly, 1,752 of these
secrecy orders, or 68 percent of the total, contained no fixed
end date at all. This means that we effectively are prohibited
forever from telling our customers that the government has
obtained their data.
Kudos to Microsoft to taking a strong stance on this.
From the NYT story on the lawsuit:
In its suit, filed Thursday morning in Federal District Court in
Seattle, Microsoft’s home turf, the company asserts that the gag
order statute in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986
— as employed today by federal prosecutors and the courts — is
The statute, according to Microsoft, violates the Fourth Amendment
right of its customers to know if the government searches or
seizes their property, and it breaches the company’s First
Amendment right to speak to its customers.
Microsoft’s suit, unlike Apple’s fight with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation over access to a locked iPhone, is not attached to a
single case. Instead, it is intended to challenge the legal
process regarding secrecy orders.
Canadian Police Have Had Access to BlackBerry’s Global Decryption Key Since 2010 ★
Justin Ling and Jordan Pearson, reporting for Vice:
According to technical reports by the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police that were filed in court, law enforcement intercepted and
decrypted roughly one million PIN-to-PIN BlackBerry messages in
connection with the probe. The report doesn’t disclose exactly
where the key — effectively a piece of code that could break the
encryption on virtually any BlackBerry message sent from one
device to another — came from. But, as one police officer put it,
it was a key that could unlock millions of doors.
Government lawyers spent almost two years fighting in a Montreal
courtroom to keep this information out of the public record.
And while neither the RCMP nor BlackBerry confirmed that the
cellphone manufacturer handed over the global encryption key, and
both fought against a judge’s order to release more information
about their working relationship, the Crown prosecutors admitted
that the federal police service had access to the key.
This is why more recent messaging protocols, like iMessage and WhatsApp, are designed without a “golden key”.
Motor Trend Speculates on the Apple Car ★
I almost didn’t link to this because it’s such gratuitous clickbait (“Exclusive!”), but it’s so terrible it’s worth it just for the laughs.
Update: Harry McCracken on Twitter:
$5 says Motor Trend’s visualizations of Apple’s car are on par
w/pre-2007 iPhone renderings.
The Talk Show: ‘Option P’ ★
Serenity Caldwell returns to the show. Topics include the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, using an iPad for “work”, podcasting microphones, the damn Siri Remote for the new Apple TV, the Star Wars: Rogue One teaser, and more.
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Bez 1.0 ★
Wow. Bez is a new vector graphics editor for iPad by developer Mike Swanson of JuicyBits, with great support for the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. I’m just blown away by how good this app is. It’s a serious, professional-quality design tool. Fascinating to me, too, as a long-time Mac UI nerd, at how “pro” style iOS apps are evolving.
It’s a free download with just about everything enabled, and a single $8 in-app purchase unlocks the rest. Just remarkable. I even love the name.
Glenn Fleishman on TextExpander 6 ★
Glenn Fleishman, writing at Macworld:
Scown says Smile stores snippets at rest in unencrypted form on
database servers operated by Compose.io, an IBM company. The
company evaluated using solutions in which data is always
encrypted except during the moments items are needed for syncing
or updating, and found the other security elements — such as how
passwords were restricted — were lacking in its evaluation.
There’s a difference between unencrypted and insecure, and it’s
not de facto unsafe that Smile has made this choice. An attacker
has to defeat multiple lines of defense to obtain the raw data —
like two-factor authentication — and the raw data in snippets
isn’t likely to be as valuable (and thus it’s much less likely to
be a target) as, say, information stored by a password-syncing
company like AgileBits or LastPass. Data encrypted “at rest” is
yet another bar an attacker has to pass, but it’s not
However, I believe Smile’s approach is naive given the current
This is my primary concern about TextExpander 6. I see some amount of risk, and no benefit, with storing my text snippets on Smile’s servers.
Smile Adjusts TextExpander Pricing ★
Greg Scown from Smile:
We will apply a lifetime discount of 50% off the Life Hacker
pricing to customers of any past version of TextExpander. That
amounts to just US $20 per year. In our initial rollout, we
offered the discount for the first year only, and that was a
mistake. We value our long-term customers, and it’s important for
us to demonstrate that in our actions. Thanks for bearing with us
as we sorted this out.
(To those who’ve already purchased an annual upgrade plan, we’ll
apply two months of credit to make up the difference. Please give
us a few days for this to be reflected in your account.)
Some people just don’t like subscription pricing, so no adjustment on the price will make everyone happy. But $20 per year feels much more in line with TextExpander’s scope. Kudos to Smile for addressing this — I’m sure it’s been a rough week for them.
We will continue to sell and support TextExpander 5 for OS X and
TextExpander 3 + Custom Keyboard for iOS for those who need it.
Some of you can only use Dropbox and/or iCloud at work. Some of
you cannot or will not purchase subscription software. You’ve told
us that it’s important to serve you in this way, and so we shall.
This seems untenable in the long run. How long are they going to keep developing TextExpander 5 in parallel with 6? It’s hard enough to keep one version of an app up to date, let alone two. And TextExpander 5 won’t be generating any revenue. Plus, these sorts of system-wide utility apps often need significant work when major new versions of MacOS ship.
The Macs Apple Was Selling in 1996 ★
In recent times I have often seen mentioned a specific moment in
Apple’s history — when Steve Jobs came back in 1997 and started
streamlining the Macintosh product line as part of the plan to
save the company from bankruptcy. This bit tends to surface every
time Apple introduces new hardware; there’s always someone
pointing out how today’s Apple is slowly reverting to the chaotic
product line the company had around 1996, before being simplified
by Steve Jobs. […]
Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to offer an overview of
the Macintosh models Apple was selling in 1996 and make a few
related observations. In a nutshell: there was some level of
organisation in what many have called the chaos of Macs available
back then, and despite the long list of Mac models, the families
and form factors were just a few; one of the main causes that
generated confusion in the Macintosh product line was the frequent
rebranding, and the progressive meaninglessness of the Performa
line as the consumer choice versus the Power Macintosh as
synonymous of ‘Pro’ machine.
What a mess. That product lineup was even more confusing than I remembered it being.
The Trouble With 3D Touch ★
Jason Snell, writing at Macworld:
Although Apple’s proud of the peek/pop interface that it unveiled
with the iPhone 6s, I’m skeptical of its utility. Most of the
time, when I accidentally initiate a “peek” of the content behind
whatever I’m pressing on, it’s content I was already trying to see
by tapping. Loading a “peek” doesn’t really take any more time
than actually tapping on an item and loading the result, and
returning back to the previous screen seems a lot less work than
holding your finger on the glass while you peruse a “peek” to see
if it’s worth opening the rest of the way.
In other words, most of the time I don’t see any benefit to using
3D Touch to reveal content in apps over just tapping to reveal
that content the usual way. It’s a solution to a problem we didn’t
have. And this says a lot about the problem with the way Apple has
deployed 3D Touch in iOS.
The gimmicky nature of peek/pop is alarming. I never got into “peeking” while using my 6S — like Jason argues, it solves a problem we didn’t have. It’s not any faster than just tapping whatever it is you want to see, and worse, it’s harder to read because your thumb is still there covering the display. It’s a demo feature, not a real feature, and I find that deeply worrisome.
That’s why the right thing for Apple to do is to change the
behavior of 3D Touch in a future version of iOS so that it has a
non–3D-Touch equivalent. In other words, 3D Touch should just be a
faster, more efficient version of a gesture that every iOS user
can perform. That way, users of devices with 3D Touch will get a
benefit, but app developers don’t have to think about implementing
a feature that won’t work with most devices.
The logical gesture to use is the long press, a gesture that’s
common on Android but used a lot less frequently on iOS.
I couldn’t agree more. A force touch should just be a shortcut to a long press. In fact, a few weeks ago, I got confused while using the system’s Weather app. I wanted to reorder my list of saved cities. It took me around 45 seconds to figure out how to do it. My first few attempts were by force tapping the city I wanted to move. But this just opened a peek. Then I tried looking around for an “Edit” button, but there isn’t one. I started to wonder whether the list was not re-orderable. Then it finally occurred to me to long-press on a city. My natural instinct was to do that by force tapping.
Also worth noting: after two and a half weeks using an iPhone SE, I don’t miss 3D Touch at all. (Update: I do miss forcing tapping the keyboard to move the insertion point around. That’s a clever idea.)
Bruce Springsteen Cancels North Carolina Show Over North Carolina ‘Bathroom’ Law ★
Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in
North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative
developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is
a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom
fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated
fans in Greensboro, we have canceled our show scheduled for
Sunday, April 10th. Some things are more important than a rock
show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is
happening as I write — is one of them.
Good for him.
The Senate’s Draft Encryption Bill Is ‘Ludicrous, Dangerous, Technically Illiterate’ ★
Andy Greenberg, reporting for Wired:
On Thursday evening, the draft text of a bill called the
“Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016,” authored by offices of
Senators Diane Feinstein and Richard Burr, was published online
by the Hill. It’s a nine-page piece of legislation that would
require people to comply with any authorized court order for data
— and if that data is “unintelligible,” the legislation would
demand that it be rendered “intelligible.” In other words, the
bill would make illegal the sort of user-controlled encryption
that’s in every modern iPhone, in all billion devices that run
Whatsapp’s messaging service, and in dozens of other tech
products. “This basically outlaws end-to-end encryption,” says
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for
Democracy and Technology. “It’s effectively the most anti-crypto
bill of all anti-crypto bills.”
Kevin Bankston, the director of the New America Foundation’s Open
Technology Institute, goes even further: “I gotta say in my
nearly 20 years of work in tech policy this is easily the most
ludicrous, dangerous, technically illiterate proposal I’ve ever
seen,” he says.
The good news:
The Burr/Feinstein draft text may in fact be so bad for privacy
that it’s good for privacy: Privacy advocates point out that it
has almost zero likelihood of making it into law in its current
form. The White House has already declined to publicly support the
bill. And Adam Schiff, the top Democratic congressman on the House
of Representatives’ intelligence committee, gave WIRED a similarly
ambivalent comment on the upcoming legislation yesterday.
The Voyeur’s Motel ★
This story by Gay Talese — 84 years old and still killing it — is one of the most arresting things I’ve read all year.
I know a married man and father of two who bought a
twenty-one-room motel near Denver many years ago in order to
become its resident voyeur. With the assistance of his wife, he
cut rectangular holes measuring six by fourteen inches in the
ceilings of more than a dozen rooms. Then he covered the openings
with louvred aluminum screens that looked like ventilation grilles
but were actually observation vents that allowed him, while he
knelt in the attic, to see his guests in the rooms below. He
watched them for decades, while keeping an exhaustive written
record of what he saw and heard. Never once, during all those
years, was he caught.
Macminicolo Merges With MacStadium ★
Big news from Brian Stucki, founder of Macminicolo:
In short, I’ve decided to sell ownership of Macminicolo and merge
it with another company. I will stay on as President of
Macminicolo and also serve as a Vice President of the parent
Now, I could just announce this with no explanation and be done
with it . I could also write one of those generic acquisition
posts focused on sunsets and brands and blah. Instead, I’ll be
forthright and real like I’ve always tried to be with customers.
Macminicolo is one of my favorite companies. Yes, they’re a longtime sponsor, but I’ve used their services personally and recommend them wholeheartedly. And Brian is the guy behind Fireballed.org, which attempts to cache all sites linked from DF.
The Loop Magazine App Is Dead ★
It is with tremendous sadness that I write this post today. I have
tried to figure out a way for The Loop Magazine app to work on the
App Store, for the last few months. It turns out, it just won’t.
This morning, I removed the app from the App Store.
Wasn’t meant to be.
TJ Luoma on TextExpander 6’s Subscription Pricing ★
TJ Luoma, on Smile shipping the newest version of TextExpander as a $45/year subscription service:
To be clear, I’m not saying that the Smile folks are bad, evil,
mean, money-grubbers or anything like that. What I am saying is
this: as an experienced power-user of your software, I do not have
the slightest clue why you decided to make this service
mandatory when it seems to offer very little for individual
users, and I have no idea why I should pay a monthly fee for
something that has worked fine before. What problem does
TextExpander 6 solve for me?
I can’t answer that question.
And if I can’t answer that question, Smile has a big problem.
Subscription pricing makes sense, but I do think $45/year is a bit high.
Update: Joe Cieplinski has a good take, too.
WhatsApp Enables End-to-End Encryption ★
WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton:
From now on when you and your contacts use the latest version of
the app, every call you make, and every message, photo, video,
file, and voice message you send, is end-to-end encrypted by
default, including group chats.
The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who
can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message
to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not
hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end
encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private — sort
of like a face-to-face conversation.
If you’re interested in learning more about how end-to-end
encryption works, you can read about it here. But all you need to
know is that end-to-end encrypted messages can only be read by the
recipients you intend. And if you’re using the latest version of
WhatsApp, you don’t have to do a thing to encrypt your messages:
end-to-end encryption is on by default and all the time.
Wired has a good story on this, but with a headline that makes it sound like they were trying to hit their quota of Apple-related stories: “Forget Apple vs. the FBI: WhatsApp Just Switched on Encryption for a Billion People”. WhatsApp’s use of end-to-end encryption doesn’t have anything to do with Apple — and the last thing anyone who cares about encryption and private communication should do is “forget” about Apple and the FBI. So strange.
‘Superman’ Director Richard Donner Tells the Inside Story of the 1978 Superhero Movie ★
Stephen Galloway interviews Superman director Richard Donner for The Hollywood Reporter:
I called [writer] Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a friend for
years. He said, “I don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to do
a comic book.” I said, “Tom it’s more than a comic book. Please
I got a little stoned, smoked some weed, put on the Superman
costume. I was in pretty good shape then. It was like elastic. And
Tom pulled up, and I ran across the lawn and Tom turned and looked
at me and ran back to his car.
Tom says, “You’re crazy. Get the fuck away from me!” I said, “Tom,
listen. You’ve got to read this.” I gave him all my feelings about
what we should do. I said, “The most important thing when you look
at it is this: Make a love story. And prove a man can fly.” So he
read it and he called me that night and said, “You know, there’s a
lot we can do with this.”
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‘I Can See the Wind, Feel the Flowers’ ★
Dillan’s Voice — wonderful two-minute film about teenager Dillan Barmache, who is autistic and non-verbal, and who uses his iPad to express himself.
40 Years Later: Apple 3.0 ★
Nice piece by Jean-Louis Gassée on Apple’s 40th anniversary.