From the DF Archive: ‘Short and Curlies’ ★
Yours truly, back in 2003, arguing for proper typography on the web:
Cory Doctorow says he hates curly quotes in web content.
While I agree with him that there’s a problem, I completely
disagree about the solution.
Let’s be clear: I’m the author of SmartyPants, a plug-in for
Movable Type (and soon, Blosxom) weblogs which automatically
generates the typographically-correct punctuation Mr. Doctorow is
complaining about, so I’m not exactly an unbiased observer — I’m
partially responsible for the growing movement toward using proper
punctuation on weblogs.
And I couldn’t be prouder.
Doctorow’s solution is for everyone to just stick with 7-bit
ASCII characters. My solution is to fix or discard any
retarded software that still insists on such restrictions. It’s
And here we are 14 years later, still arguing about this, and struggling with CMSes that don’t make it easy despite the fact that, algorithmically, it’s a solved problem.
(My 2003 self has successfully amused today’s self with the headline and sub-heads of this piece.)
Glenn Fleishman: ‘Has the Internet Killed Curly Quotes?’ ★
Glenn Fleishman, writing for The Atlantic:
Many aspects of website design have improved to the point that
nuances and flourishes formerly reserved for the printed page are
feasible and pleasing. But there’s a seemingly contrary motion
afoot with quotation marks: At an increasing number of
publications, they’ve been ironed straight. This may stem from a
lack of awareness on the part of website designers or from the
difficulty in a content-management system (CMS) getting the curl
direction correct every time. It may also be that curly quotes’
time has come and gone.
Major periodicals have fallen prey, including those with a long
and continuing print edition. Not long ago, Rolling Stone had
straight quotes in its news-item previews, but educated them for
features; the “smart” quotes later returned. Fast Company opts
generally for all “dumb” quotes online, while the newborn
digital publication The Outline recently mixed straight and
typographic in the same line of text at its launch. Even the
fine publication you’re currently reading has occasionally
neglected to crook its pinky.
I solved this problem with SmartyPants back in November 2002, three months after starting Daring Fireball. The key appeal of SmartyPants is that you can keep your source prose in dumb ASCII — the transformation to proper typographic punctuation occurs in the output.
Unsurprisingly, the third post ever published on Daring Fireball was devoted to the topic. Over 26,000 posts later, I just fixed a few broken links in that post to point to versions of those pages cached by the amazing Internet Archive.
Many Americans — Especially but Not Exclusively Trump Voters — Believe Crazy, Wrong Things ★
Catherine Rampell, writing for The Washington Post:
Many Americans believe a lot of dumb, crazy, destructive, provably
wrong stuff. Lately this is especially (though not exclusively)
true of Donald Trump voters, according to a new survey.
The survey, from The Economist/YouGov, was conducted in
mid-December, and it finds that willingness to believe a given
conspiracy theory is (surprise!) strongly related to whether that
conspiracy theory supports one’s political preferences.
Speaking of Deepak Chopra and Bullshit ★
While searching the DF archives prior to posting the previous two items on bullshit, I came across the single previous mention of Deepak Chopra — mocking his bullshit in Microsoft’s short-lived 2008 “I’m a PC” ad campaign. Perfect.
Why Bullshit Is No Laughing Matter ★
Speaking of bullshit, this piece by Gordon Pennycook for Aeon is excellent:
To understand how we investigated bullshit empirically, consider
the following examples:
The invisible is beyond new timelessness.
As you self-actualise, you will enter into infinite empathy that
These statements are, definitively, bullshit. I can say this
directly because they were generated using two websites:
wisdomofchopra.com and the New Age Bullshit Generator. Both
select buzzwords at random and use them to form sentences. They
have no intended meaning and use vagueness to mask their vacuity.
They are bullshit.
Across four studies and with more than 800 participants, we found
that people consistently rate blatant bullshit such as this as at
least somewhat profound. More importantly, this tendency — which
we referred to as bullshit receptivity — was more common among
people who performed worse on a variety of cognitive ability- and
thinking-style tests, and who held religious and paranormal
beliefs. Put differently, more logical, analytical and skeptical
people were less likely to rate bullshit as profound, just as you
And an important conclusion:
Bullshit is much harder to detect when we want to agree with it.
The first and most important step is to recognise the limits of
our own cognition. We must be humble about our ability to justify
our own beliefs. These are the keys to adopting a critical mindset — which is our only hope in a world so full of bullshit.
(Via Michael Lopp.)
Harry Frankfurt’s ‘On Bullshit’ ★
I could have sworn I’ve linked to this book before, but apparently not. I’ve read it at least twice, and plan to read it once again over the holiday weekend:
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is
so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his
share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people
are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to
avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much
deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what
bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it
serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of
what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes,
“we have no theory.”
Frankfurt, one of the world’s most influential moral philosophers,
attempts to build such a theory here. With his characteristic
combination of philosophical acuity, psychological insight, and
wry humor, Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bullshit and the
related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that
bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as
liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what
is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.
Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of
themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all
is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the
conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are
irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take
many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually
undermine the practitioner’s capacity to tell the truth in a way
that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters
what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a
greater enemy of the truth than lies are.
Essential reading in the era of Trump. Don’t think it’s silly because the word bullshit is in the title — it’s a magnificent, thoughtful, and thought-provoking book.
HandBrake 1.0.0 Released After 13 Years of Development ★
Finally out of beta, just in time for the demise of the optical disc.
Backchannel: ‘Voice Is the Next Big Platform, and Alexa Will Own It’ ★
Jessi Hempel, in an oddly-certain (to me at least) piece for Backchannel:
Yet Amazon has a two-year jump on its competition, having first
introduced the Echo speaker in November 2014. Sure, only five
percent of American households have an Alexa-powered device right
now. But, says longtime Forrester tech analyst James McQuivey,
“Qualitatively, Amazon’s position is more secure than the numbers
would indicate.” […]
Second, Alexa’s users are hooked on it. About a third of them turn
to the tech three times or more every single day. “People are
latching on to the idea that once it is in their home, they should
use it,” says McQuivey. “It turns out having microphones in your
environment is a lot more convenient than pulling out your phone.”
My devil’s advocate take:
- Amazon never releases device sales figures, so that estimate of 5 percent of U.S. households is just that, an estimate.
- Echo is still
only officially available in the U.S.. Update: Whoops, it’s now also available in the U.K. and Germany. But still, very limited worldwide.
- If it’s true that only “a third of them turn to the tech three times or more every single day”, that means two-thirds of Echo users use it fewer than three times a day. Some Echo users are clearly “hooked on it”, but the data Hempel herself is citing suggests that most Echo users are not hooked.
Again, that’s just my devil’s advocate argument. There are some actual factual signs that Amazon’s early lead in this market is meaningful. I just don’t see any such facts in Hempel’s piece here.
Wynn Las Vegas to Equip 4,748 Hotel Rooms With Amazon Echo ★
John Cook, writing for GeekWire:
Alexa, open the curtains?
You may soon be able to ask that question when traveling to the
Wynn Las Vegas hotel, which announced today that it will place
Amazon’s Echo device — powered by the voice assistant Alexa — in
all 4,748 hotel rooms. Wynn Resorts called it an “industry first,”
and founder Steve Wynn seems extremely excited about the concept
of allowing hotel guests to get basic information about their
rooms and the hotel rather than calling the front desk.
“I have never, ever seen anything that was more intuitively
dead-on to making the guest experience seamlessly delicious,
effortlessly convenient, with the ability to talk to your room and
say: ‘Alexa, I am here, open the curtains, lower the temperature,
turn on the news.’ She becomes our butler at the service at each
of our guests.”
There’s an argument that we’re still in the very early stages of voice-driven personal computing. That, for example, Apple is not too late in putting out an Echo-like dedicated appliance. But Amazon is running full steam ahead here. 5,000 hotel rooms here, 5,000 hotel rooms there, and all of a sudden Echo is the entrenched market leader.
Controlling the drapes, lights, and TV in a hotel room is a perfect example where voice control is the right interface. I’ve stayed at the Wynn, and their hardware interface for those things isn’t bad, but there’s only a controller on one side the bed. Voice works from anywhere in the room.
I am curious, though, how Wynn is going to handle the privacy issue. With good reason, hotel guests might not want an always-on recording device in their rooms.
Sidenote: Just me, or is Steve Wynn starting to dress like a Bond villain?
Apple’s AI Team Publishes First Research Paper ★
Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:
Earlier in December, Apple announced that it would begin allowing
its artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers to
publish and share their work in papers, slightly pulling back the
curtain on the company’s famously secretive creation processes.
Now, just a few weeks later, the first of those papers has been
published, focusing on Apple’s work in the intelligent image
The details of the paper don’t matter so much as that it was published, period. Apple’s previous refusal to allow researchers to publish was severely hindering the company’s ability to attract top AI researchers.
App Santa 2016: Great Apps, Up to 80 Percent Off for Christmas ★
Great deals on some great apps. The promotion is only through the end of the day, today, however, so go buy them now.
My thanks to StoryWorth for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. The holidays are here — Christmas is just two days away — and StoryWorth is a terrific and meaningful gift idea. It’s a way to get to know family members better. Here’s how it works: Each week, StoryWorth will send them a new question. They answer it with a story, which gets shared with you. After a year, all of their stories are bound in a beautiful keepsake book. It’s a great way to get to know your loved ones better.
StoryWorth is the rare gift that can be purchased at the very last minute, but is still truly personal and meaningful. Even better: StoryWorth is offering Daring Fireball readers $20 off, just by following this link to buy.
On North Carolina and Democracy ★
Andrew Reynolds, professor of political science at the University of North Carolina:
In 2012 Elklit and I worked with Pippa Norris of Harvard
University, who used the system as the cornerstone of the
Electoral Integrity Project. Since then the EIP has measured 213
elections in 153 countries and is widely agreed to be the most
accurate method for evaluating how free and fair and democratic
elections are across time and place.
When we evolved the project I could never imagine that as we enter
2017, my state, North Carolina, would perform so badly on this,
and other, measures that we are no longer considered to be a fully
In the just released EIP report, North Carolina’s overall
electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places
us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like
Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North
Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table — a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly
ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the
This is not left versus right. This is not politics as usual. This is not something both sides do. This is about a party — the Republican Party — that no longer believes in democracy.
Update: I do believe that what is going on in North Carolina is utterly anti-democratic, but the study cited here looks like complete garbage.
Uber Explains Why It Looks Like Its App Is Still Tracking Your Location, Long After Rides End ★
Great story from Sarah Perez at TechCrunch, following up on my report that some DF readers reported Uber being listed as having checked their location long after they last used the app, even though Uber claims they’re only using the “Always” location privilege for “five minutes after the trip ends”:
However, Uber says the location tracking is not intentional
behavior on the part of its app.
Uber investigated the issue today, at our request, and found the
issue is related to the iOS Maps extension. This also explains why
not everyone was seeing the problem.
Uber’s map extension feature was made available in September, and
is based on Apple’s protocol for Map extensions. Other map
extensions from Uber competitors would work the same way, then.
According to an Uber spokesperson: “For people who choose to
integrate ride sharing apps with iOS Maps, location data must be
shared in order for you to request a ride inside the Maps app. Map
extensions are disabled by default and you can choose to turn them
on in your iOS settings,” they said.
In other words, it’s not a bug, it’s feature. And it’s a
feature of iOS.
I think this might explain it. I’m thinking Apple should change this so that these extensions only load when you tap the “Ride” tab in Maps. As it stands now, they load (and check your location) every time you enter the Maps app, period.
Rene Ritchie on Consumer Reports’s MacBook Pro Testing ★
Rene Ritchie, responding to Consumer Reports’s scathing but incredibly inconsistent battery life tests on the new MacBook Pros:
If I were running the tests, that right there would be a red flag.
A huge, glowing, neon red flag.
Those results make very little sense and I’d take apart my chain,
link by link, until I found out what was going on. I’d check and
re-check my tests, I’d watch the systems like a hawk, and I’d do
everything possible to find what was causing the variance. I’d
even — gasp — try testing different machines and something other
than web pages to see if that revealed more information.
Inconsistent results from battery life tests, for responsible
publications, aren’t a reason to rush out a headline in time for
the holidays. They’re a reason to start questioning everything,
and to diligently retrace every step along the way, until you can
get repeatable, reputable results.
I do think Consumer Reports rushed this out. There’s a lot of “We have no idea what’s going on” here. But something is going on.
Anecdotally, reports from DF readers are all over the map. Many are complaining that battery life is poor — not based on the “time remaining” estimate that Apple removed from the battery menu item in 10.12.2, but on real-world usage. Some though, are getting excellent battery life (as I did in my review, mostly using a Core i5 13-inch model with Touch Bar). Others are claiming they were getting poor battery life but it has greatly improved after upgrading to MacOS 10.12.2.
A friend pointed out the other day that this is where we really miss the old magazine testing labs, like Macworld’s. They’d buy all the various hardware models, test them thoroughly (and document the exact nature of the tests), and copiously report the results. It was a very useful service, and they were trustworthy.
Update: Phil Schiller, tweeting a link to Ritchie’s story:
Working with CR to understand their battery tests. Results do not
match our extensive lab tests or field data.
Matthew Panzarino, in a series of tweets about Consumer Reports’s results:
Apple hasn’t given me anything on this, but I’ve had folks in know
tell me that big data scoop (all MBP users) is NOT showing these
Consumer Reports Slams New MacBook Pros ★
Jerry Bellison, Consumer Reports:
Apple launched a new series of MacBook Pro laptops this fall, and
Consumer Reports’ labs have just finished evaluating them. The
laptops did very well in measures of display quality and
performance, but in terms of battery life, we found that the
models varied dramatically from one trial to another.
As a result, these laptops are the first MacBooks not to receive
recommended ratings from Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports embarrassed itself during the iPhone 4 “antennagate” story, but they’ve long rated Apple’s notebooks highly.
For instance, in a series of three consecutive tests, the 13-inch
model with the Touch Bar ran for 16 hours in the first trial,
12.75 hours in the second, and just 3.75 hours in the third. The
13-inch model without the Touch Bar worked for 19.5 hours in one
trial but only 4.5 hours in the next. And the numbers for the
15-inch laptop ranged from 18.5 down to 8 hours.
That’s absolutely bonkers. You expect minor variance from one run to another, but not like this. Either something is seriously wrong with these new MacBook Pros, or something is seriously wrong with Consumer Reports’s testing (or both).
Once our official testing was done, we experimented by conducting
the same battery tests using a Chrome browser, rather than Safari.
For this exercise, we ran two trials on each of the laptops, and
found battery life to be consistently high on all six runs. That’s
not enough data for us to draw a conclusion, and in any case a
test using Chrome wouldn’t affect our ratings, since we only use
the default browser to calculate our scores for all laptops. But
it’s something that a MacBook Pro owner might choose to try.
This is crazy too. Whatever the benefits of Chrome are, everyone knows it’s an energy hog. There is no way that using Chrome should result in better (and more consistent) battery life than Safari.
Pokémon Go Arrives on the Apple Watch ★
Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:
Following an erroneous report claiming that Niantic’s plans to
bring Pokémon Go to the Apple Watch were canceled, the company
today put those rumors to rest with more than a mere statement: it
has now launched the Apple Watch version of its popular game. The
new smartwatch app lets you more easily play Pokémon without
having to always pull out your phone. Instead, you can tap to find
nearby Pokémon, collect items from PokéStops, and even log your
gameplay as a “workout.”
That “erroneous report” is a real doozy. Chance Miller, writing for 9to5Mac just five days ago:
After rumors emerged claiming that Niantic had ceased development
of Pokémon Go for Apple Watch, 9to5Mac has confirmed with a source
with knowledge of the plans that the Apple Watch app has for now
From the Department of ‘Headlines Matter’ ★
Headline from The Verge: “Google Will Launch Two Flagship Smartwatches Early Next Year”. But from the story, by Dan Seifert:
The new models will not have Google or Pixel branding, but will be
branded by the company that is manufacturing them. Chang says that
Google collaborated with the manufacturer — which he wouldn’t
name, but said has produced Android Wear devices in the past — on
the hardware design and software integration for the watches. He
likened the partnership to Google’s Nexus smartphone program in
terms of collaboration and goals.
So if they’re not “Google” or “Pixel” watches, why does the headline say Google is launching them? (Answer: because that headline gets more clicks than one with “LG” or whoever it is who’s making these.)
And, conversely, if, as The Verge has claimed, Google is finally getting serious about hardware and “wants to be another Apple”, why don’t these smartwatches have Google or Pixel branding?
Trump Scrambling to Book Performers for Inauguration ★
Itay Hod, reporting for TheWrap:
Donald Trump is so displeased with his team’s inability to lock
in A-list talent for his inauguration events next month that
he’s ordered a “Hail Mary” shakeup of his recruiters to try to
book performers, a person familiar with the situation told
The Trump transition has been struggling for weeks to secure
A-list talent for the inauguration celebration. The only person
confirmed to perform at the event is Jackie Evancho, a 16-year-old
former “America’s Got Talent” contestant. She is set to sing the
national anthem before he takes the oath of office
You know this is killing him.
David Pogue’s AirPods Review: ‘You’re Worrying About the Wrong Thing’ ★
They stay in snugly when you’re dancing, bopping, shivering. They
stay in under conditions when the wired EarPods would have fallen
out. In other words, here’s what most people miss: The weight and
tug of the earbud cord add to the falling-out problem, rather than
So if that’s what you’re worried about, forget it.
What you do have to worry about is dropping the AirPods. They’re
tiny and shiny-slick; Apple may as well have covered them with
Teflon. In the three months I’ve been testing them, I’ve dropped
‘em a few times onto the floor of the commuter train or the bowels
of my airplane seat, simply in the process of transferring them
between their two homes: the case and your earholes. (A
replacement AirPod costs $70, although of course you could always
just forage in couch cushions in public places.)
Totally agree about this. After three months, I’ve never once had one fall out (your ears may vary, of course), but I have dropped them a few times.
iTunes’s Top Five Best-Selling Holiday Movies of All Time ★
Elf and Christmas Vacation are perennial favorites at our house (“Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol”) — but it feels downright criminal that Die Hard isn’t on this list.
Uber Location Tracking ★
After writing about how you can verify that Uber is not tracking your location other than within five minutes of ending a ride, Daring Fireball readers on Twitter started sending me screenshots of their Location Services settings, showing that the Uber app is still checking for their location days or even weeks after they last used the app.
I’m not seeing this, and I don’t think most people are, but it’s not good.
What Super Mario Run Would Look Like as a Free-to-Play Game ★
Spoiler: it would look like trash.
Nintendo Share Prices Decline in Reaction to ‘Super Mario Run’ Pricing ★
Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:
Nintendo and developer DeNA’s shares have declined over the
weekend in reaction to negative user reviews facing the new mobile
game Super Mario Run, which currently averages a 2.5/5 star rating
on the iOS App Store, based on around 54,000 user reviews. Shares
in DeNA have gone down 14 percent since Super Mario Run launched
on December 15, while Nintendo’s stock has fallen about 13 percent
in the same time frame.
Although many of the top reviews for the game remark on Super
Mario Run’s better qualities, the harshest criticism remains to
be Nintendo’s decision to make the game free-to-download, but $10
to unlock all of its content. Users can play nearly all of World
1 for free, but gaining deeper access to the remaining five
Worlds, along with Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder modes, requires
the $10 fee.
I looked through the reviews on the App Store — the first 20 or so negative reviews were entirely about the price. It’s an embarrassment that a game this good, and this high profile, has such terrible reviews because it costs $10.
There are legitimate things to complain about, particularly the always-on-internet requirement, but if you look at the reviews, it’s all about the price.
Bloomberg on Apple’s Search for an OLED Display Provider ★
Pavel Alpeyev and Takashi Amano, reporting for Bloomberg:
Now OLED is the big goal. The technology has been included on
top-end smartphones for years, including almost all of Samsung
Electronics Co.’s high-end phones. While LCDs rely on a backlight
panel, OLED pixels can glow on their own, resulting in thinner
displays, better battery life and improved contrast. OLED screens
can also be made on flexible plastic, allowing for a wider variety
of shapes and applications.
“OLEDs aren’t just for flat areas, but can be used on edges, so
smartphone makers will challenge themselves by building displays
with new shapes,” Tsugami said. “These qualities in OLED will give
it an advantage.”
The machines that build OLED screens are almost all made by Canon
Tokki, which was founded by the current CEO’s father in 1967
(tokki means “special equipment” in Japanese). The company
doesn’t disclose production details and earnings figures. Its
current annual output capacity is less than 10 units, according to two
people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified
because the information is confidential.
To call Canon Tokki’s product a machine is something of an
understatement. Each one is a vacuum production line 100 meters
(328 feet) long. Glass panels, roughly the size of a large TV
screen, are propelled by robotic arms through several chambers.
Red, green and blue pixels are deposited on the surface by
evaporating organic materials.
I see the appeal from Apple’s perspective in terms of OLED displays being thinner and flexible, but the thing about this story that has never sat right with me is that OLED displays reproduce colors poorly. Colors look terrible on my Google Pixel, and I don’t think they look good on Apple Watch, either. I’d hate to see a Pixel-caliber display on an iPhone.
Vesper Open Source ★
It’s presented as a historical artifact rather than as a living
project. It’s definitely not an example of how to write apps
these days — and it’s not even an example of how to write apps
in 2013. […]
It was written while iOS 6 was current, and it still looks like an
iOS 6 app under the hood. But, at the same time, we were
anticipating iOS 7, and so Vesper was an art project — we wanted
Vesper to join Letterpress and Twitterrific and a few others as
one of the first Modernist apps.
But we hadn’t actually seen iOS 7, and so we invented Vesper’s
look and feel from scratch, though with some idea of where the
puck was heading. That — combined with wanting to use Ideal Sans
everywhere, even in standard things like alerts — meant we had to
do a ton of custom UI and animations.
It’s interesting to me that 2013 was about the last time you could
plausibly think that that’s the right thing to do. It’s clearly
too expensive now — and was too expensive then, too, but we
hadn’t realized it yet.
The irony is that we thought Vesper was one of the first apps of a
new era — the era that officially kicked-off with iOS 7 — but,
in the end, it was one of the last apps of the era where it was
not uncommon for developers to spend massive amounts of time in UI
That last point is so true.
The Elephant in the Smartwatch Room ★
There have been only three legitimate players in the smartwatch
Combined, these three companies have represented 78 percent of
smartwatch shipments over the past two years. Even more
remarkable, no other company has come close to these three in
terms of unit sales. Since the beginning of 2015, only seven
companies have shipped more than 200,000 smartwatches in any given
quarter. Out of those seven, one will soon be broken up in a fire
sale (Pebble), another just announced it was getting out of
smartwatches (Motorola), and two have shown little interest in
releasing new smartwatches (Huawei and LG). This leaves Apple,
Garmin, and Samsung.
Super Mario Run Is Out ★
Nice FAQ by Jeffrey Parkin and Dave Tach at Polygon.
I played for a bit today. I’ve always been terrible at side-scrolling games, even back when I used to play a lot of games. I’m still bad. Super Mario Run is fun enough for me to have blown an hour or so on it, and I happily coughed up the $10 to unlock the whole game.
The first-run on-boarding process is clunky though. You have to pick your country, and the United States is way down at the bottom of a long alphabetically sorted list. I’d rather be asked to grant access to my location — my phone knows where I am. And there was some confusing shit about creating a Nintendo account.
- The game looks and sounds and I think even feels like a real Mario game.
- Nintendo and Apple are going to make a ton of money on this.
- Now my thumb hurts.
Zinc is a terrific “watch later” video bookmarking service from Stunt Software. I’ve been using it for months and love it. It’s become part of my daily life.
You install a Safari extension (or a bookmarklet if you use Chrome or Firefox) on your Mac, and buy the app for your iPhone and Apple TV. It’s just $3 — cheap! Then whenever you encounter a web page with a video you want to watch later, you just click the button or bookmarklet, or, on your iPhone, tap the Zinc action in the sharing sheet. Boom: whatever videos are on the current web page are added to your queue. It always works with embedded video from YouTube and Vimeo, and works with many other embedded players as well.
Then, when you’re in the mood to watch videos, fire up the app on your iOS device or Apple TV, and there they are. I do most of my Zinc watching from the couch on Apple TV. Zinc’s a great example of a video-based indie app that’s perfect for Apple TV. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Apple TV app, I don’t think I’d use Zinc — it’s the lynchpin of its appeal for me.
Steve Wozniak, Fifth Grade Computer Teacher ★
Syambra Moitozo, writing for Motherboard:
Thinking back to that class, I remember looking out the classroom
window on our first day. It was raining and Steve walked across
the playground wearing a red, white, and yellow umbrella hat — indicative of his love for quirky innovations. He walked in, took
off his hat, and asked us to gather around. Then he pulled a
floppy disk out of his pocket and proceeded to take it apart to
show us what each piece did. In the back of the room were 30 brand
new Apple Macintosh PowerBooks (1400c) on loan to us. He said that
those who mastered the concepts would get to keep theirs at the
end of the year.
Managed Apple IDs and the 5 GB iCloud Storage Limit ★
Frustrating thread on Twitter from Fraser Speirs, who runs a 1:1 deployment of iPads in a secondary school in the U.K.:
Our new deployment has been running for about 18 weeks now and
kids are starting to run out of iCloud space again on their new
School Apple IDs still only get 5 GB free space…. Hard to believe
this is an ongoing problem.
No idea how anyone is doing a serious Shared iPad deployment with
this kind of limitation.
Especially in a world where iPads shoot 12MP/4K/60 FPS.
According to Speirs, they can’t even buy their way out of the problem, because you can’t buy more storage for managed Apple IDs.
This 5 GB tier is just untenable. I shot a 6-minute video last night at a school event, at 30 FPS and 1080p, and it was 750 MB.
Video Captures Uber Self-Driving Car Running Red Light in San Francisco ★
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, reporting for the San Francisco Examiner:
The cab pulls up to a red light on Third Street in South of
Market, by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A pack of cars
flies through a yellow light, and one even drives through the
first moment of a red light.
About three seconds after the light turned red, an Uber
self-driving car can apparently be seen traveling through the red
light at moderate speed as a pedestrian walks across the
intersection on the right side of the intersection.
In its blog Wednesday, Uber wrote it launched self-driving
vehicles in California without self-testing permits from the
DMV because it has drivers in the vehicles. “We have looked at
this issue carefully and we don’t believe we do (need
permits),” Uber wrote.
Earlier Wednesday, a social media report spotted another
self-driving vehicle running a red light near the Marina District.
Maybe they ought to look at the issue even more carefully. Uber’s institutional arrogance is astounding.
I wrote yesterday, with regard the Trump campaign’s spat with Twitter over what the New York Times described as “Twitter had killed a #CrookedHillary emoji”:
I can’t believe the Times didn’t put quotes around that hashtag.
And whatever it is they’re talking about, a sticker or whatever,
is not an emoji.
I stand by that — I think the word emoji should be used exclusively for the icons in the official Unicode spec. Something that is like an emoji but not in the spec is a sticker or an icon or whatever, but it’s not an emoji.
Obviously, others disagree, because Twitter is selling these hashtag icons as “Branded Emojis”. I think that’s a gross misuse of the word. (This is another one of those Twitter things about which I was unaware because they’re only visible in Twitter’s first-party clients, which I almost never use.)
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, after comparing a regular week in the life of an NFL player to a week when they play on Thursday night:
Like I’ve said before, the NFL is a bottom-line business. As
long as fans are tuning in and advertisers are paying to be
featured on Thursday Night Football, it’s not going anywhere. So I
don’t know what the solution is. Maybe the league should take away
one preseason game and add a second bye week for each team, which
would occur before its Thursday game. That way, at least teams
would have a full week to recover and prepare. (Or we could get
rid of the preseason altogether … but that’s another issue for
I guess this is what happens when you have people in suits who
have never played the game at this level dictating the schedule.
I’d like to put Roger Goodell in pads for a late game on a Sunday,
in December, in Green Bay, on the frozen tundra — then see what
time he gets to the office on Monday morning, knowing that he
would have to suit up again on Thursday.
Then maybe he’d understand….
I’ve often thought that the abbreviated weeks for Thursday night games must make a big difference in how the players feel. Sherman confirms it. Interesting too to see an active player calling out Goodell by name.
Yahoo Says 1 Billion User Accounts Were Hacked Before Those 500 Million Accounts Were Hacked ★
Vindu Goel and Nicole Perlroth, reporting for the NYT:
Yahoo, already reeling from its September disclosure that 500
million user accounts had been hacked in 2014, disclosed Wednesday
that a different attack in 2013 compromised more than 1 billion
No wonder Yahoo was in no rush to come clean about the 2014 hack — it was small potatoes by their standards.
Transcript of the Introductory Remarks at Trump’s Tech Exec Meeting ★
At the start, everyone in attendance went around the table introducing themselves.
Tim Cook: “Tim Cook, very good to be here. And I look very forward to
talking to the president-elect about the things that we can do to
help you achieve some things you want.”
Two things. First: Cook is the only executive who didn’t say what company he worked for. Sort of like how the Apple stores just have the logo, and iPhones are the only phones (other than Google’s lookalike Pixels) that don’t have anything printed on the front — he didn’t have to.
Second: “some things you want”. That’s not an accident.
Larry Page: “Larry Page, Alphabet and Google, probably the
youngest company here.”
Donald Trump: “Looks like the youngest person.” [Laughs]
Mr. Page: “Really excited to be here.”
Page was sitting right next to Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, which was founded in 2004 — six years after Google. I suppose “Alphabet” is technically the younger company, but come on — it’s just a new name, not a new company. (Update: Palantir (2004), Tesla (2003), and SpaceX (2002) were also all founded years after Google. If only there were some website where Larry Page could search for the founding years of companies, perhaps he wouldn’t have said something so goofily wrong.)
The Wall Street Journal also had this intriguing tidbit, which The New York Times (and a few other reports I’ve read) missed:
After Wednesday’s meeting, Mr. Cook of Apple and Mr. Musk of Tesla
stayed at Trump Tower to meet privately with Mr. Trump.
The Journal also had a seating chart (reproduced, without permission but not behind a paywall, at 9to5Mac, along with a photo where Tim Cook looks absolutely delighted to be there).
Trump’s Meeting With Tech Executives ★
David Streitfeld, reporting for the NYT:
Even after the press was ushered out, the meeting continued its
genial way. Among the topics discussed, according to several
corporate executives and a transition official briefed on the
meeting, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized
to speak publicly, were vocational education and the need for more
of it, the promise and peril of trade with China and immigration
(Mr. Trump wants “smart and talented people here”). The
president-elect also asked the executives to see if they could not
apply data analysis technology to detect and help get rid of
Vocational education is one of Tim Cook’s issues. He has often stated that vocational training, not wages, is the primary reason nearly all Apple products are assembled in China. Given the attendees at this meeting, I’m not even sure who else would have brought this up. Elon Musk, perhaps.
Some tech companies were also notable for their absence. Twitter,
the president-elect’s medium of choice for communication, was not
Twitter declined to comment on why it was not included. A campaign
official complained last month in a Medium post that Twitter had
killed a #CrookedHillary emoji. On Wednesday, Sean Spicer, a
spokesman for Mr. Trump, said that Twitter had been left out of
the meeting because of space considerations in a gathering that
many other technology executives were “dying to get into.”
I can’t believe the Times didn’t put quotes around that hashtag. And whatever it is they’re talking about, a sticker or whatever, is not an emoji.
The meeting lasted more than 90 minutes, longer than expected. Mr.
Trump was seated next to Peter Thiel, the tech investor who is a
member of the president-elect’s transition team. In another sign
of Mr. Trump mixing family, business and government hats, three of
his adult children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — also
So there wasn’t room for Jack Dorsey but there was room for three of his children. I’m not saying Dorsey should’ve gotten a seat, but if you’re not deeply bothered by the fact that Trump is treating the presidency of the United States as a family business, you’re not hooked up right.
Michael Tsai on the Battery Time Remaining Estimate ★
I tend to think that an inaccurate (but constantly updating)
estimate is better than none. Otherwise, people will have to make
their own estimates, which takes attention and is likely to be
even less accurate. I never liked how the estimate claimed to be
accurate down to the minute. I would like to see an estimate with
fewer significant digits, both to hide the erratic changes and to
avoid over-representing the accuracy.
My earlier “This is like being late for work and fixing it by breaking your watch” analogy was a little unfair. It’s more like having a watch that doesn’t keep accurate time and fixing the problem by no longer wearing any watch, rather than fixing or replacing the broken one. That’s not as funny though.
I know iOS has never had a time remaining estimate. That’s fine for iOS. I think it’s useful on MacBooks, especially just as a loose estimate.
(And the code that estimates battery life is definitely way off on the new MacBook Pros. With a 100 percent charge on the 13-inch MacBook Pro (with Touch Bar), MacOS 10.12.1 was estimating I only had 4:50 of battery life. I used the machine for web browsing, email, and Slack for 45 straight minutes, at a high display brightness, and the estimate was at 5:09.)
MacOS Sierra 10.12.2 Release Notes ★
Joking about the removal of the “time remaining” estimate for the battery aside, there’s actually a lot of good stuff in this update. They’ve addressed a lot of the biggest complaints about Sierra in this update.
Remember the problem where people who turned on iCloud Desktop and Documents syncing thought their existing files in those folders disappeared? They didn’t, but it looked like they did. Now Sierra explains to you what’s going on.
Apple Fixes MacBook Pro Battery Life Issues by Removing ‘Time Remaining’ Estimate From the Battery Menu ★
Jim Dalrymple, on the just-released MacOS 10.12.2 update:
However, to help users better determine the battery life, Apple
has removed the “time remaining” indicator from the battery icon
in the menu bar with the latest update. You can still see the
image on the top of the screen, and you can see the percentage,
but you will no longer be able to see how much time is remaining
before your battery dies.
The reason for removing it is very simple: it wasn’t accurate.
Apple said the percentage is accurate, but because of the dynamic
ways we use the computer, the time remaining indicator couldn’t
accurately keep up with what users were doing. Everything we do on
the MacBook affects battery life in different ways and not having
an accurate indicator is confusing.
This is like being late for work and fixing it by breaking your watch.
Apple Delays Beats X Release Until February ★
Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:
Apple is delaying the release of its Beat X wireless earbuds until
February, a full five months after the company first announced
them. Apple confirmed the timeline on its website listing for
the $149.95 earbuds, but even with this update we still don’t have
a specific release date. At least we know the Beats X will
eventually be released?
We figured this delay was coming after retailer B&H Photo sent an
email to customers that stated the earbuds wouldn’t be available
for two to three months. Apple was originally targeting a “fall
2016” release for the Beats X.
The big on-ear Beats Solo3 wireless headphones shipped right on time and remain in stock. It makes sense that the small earphones — the AirPods and the BeatsX — were the ones where manufacturing/assembly problems cropped up.
AirPods Are Now Available, Backordered Into January Already ★
Available today from Apple.com and will start delivering to
customers and arriving at Apple Stores, Apple Authorized Resellers
and select carriers next week.
AirPods will be shipping in limited quantities at launch and
customers are encouraged to check online for updates on
availability and estimated delivery dates. Stores will receive
regular AirPod shipments.
They were briefly available with arrival dates before Christmas, but only briefly. As I type this, they’re at “4 weeks”. Better late than never, but it’s a huge miss for Apple not to have them in wide availability for the holidays. AirPods are the most natural sub-$200 gift in Apple’s entire product lineup, and they blew it.
“Stores will receive regular AirPod shipments” is interesting, though. Good way to drive foot traffic into the stores these last two weeks of the season.
Apple Activates iCloud.com Calendar Spam Reporting Feature ★
Apple on Sunday instituted a new junk content reporting feature on
its iCloud.com web portal, the first step in what appears to be an
activation of countermeasures against iCloud Calendar spam invites
users began to receive in volume last month.
A good first step, but the iCloud web interface is surely the least used client for iCloud calendaring. That said, after that burst of calendar spam around Thanksgiving, I haven’t seen any in the last week or two. So I’m hoping they now have some server-side filters that are keeping it from even appearing.
Uber’s Privacy Data Problems ★
Scathing investigative report by Will Evans, writing for Reveal:
For anyone who’s snagged a ride with Uber, Ward Spangenberg has a
warning: Your personal information is not safe.
Internal Uber employees helped ex-boyfriends stalk their
ex-girlfriends and searched for the trip information of
celebrities such as Beyoncé, the company’s former forensic
“Uber’s lack of security regarding its customer data was resulting
in Uber employees being able to track high profile politicians,
celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees,
including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses,” Spangenberg
wrote in a court declaration, signed in October under penalty of
After news broke two years ago that executives were using the
company’s “God View” feature to track customers in real time
without their permission, Uber insisted it had strict policies
that prohibited employees from accessing users’ trip information
with limited exceptions.
But five former Uber security professionals told Reveal from The
Center for Investigative Reporting that the company continued to
allow broad access even after those assurances.
They’re currently under investigation by the FTC:
The Federal Trade Commission, the consumer protection agency, is
investigating Uber’s information security practices and recently
deposed Sullivan, according to security sources.
iOS 10.2 Emoji Changelog ★
Netflix, Amazon, and HBO Combined for 70 Percent of the Best TV Show Golden Globe Nominations ★
Nathan McAlone, reporting for Business Insider:
The only network that beat the streaming giants in top TV show
nominations this year was HBO, which got three nominations.
Netflix and Amazon individually got as many nominations as all
the broadcast networks combined, and more than the cable ones
I despise awards like the Golden Globes. But I think the TV awards generally are more reflective of actual merit than the movie awards. (Seriously, don’t get me started on the Oscars.)
But in the big picture, these Golden Globe nominations have it right: the best TV shows are on HBO, Netflix, Amazon, and cable networks like AMC. Netflix and Amazon have no part in traditional cable TV, and the most traditional producers of TV content — the commercial broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox — produce almost nothing but garbage.
One can reasonably argue that the broadcast networks have always produced mostly garbage, but the real change is that the broadcast networks have completely missed the boat on the megamovie revolution — shows that “take television seriously as a medium”. That’s obviously true for dramas like Game of Thrones and Westworld, but I think it’s true for comedies, too. Consider the elimination of the laugh track.
Eero Wi-Fi System ★
My thanks to Eero for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Give your family (and your family’s devices) the gift of hyper-fast, whole-home Wi-Fi with the Eero Wi-Fi System. The world’s first — and best-selling — Wi-Fi system has just been updated with the next generation of mesh technology, Alexa Skills, and an app overhaul to help better optimize your network.
It’s so easy to set up. Each Eero device is the same. You hook one of them up to your cable modem. You spread the other ones around your house (they recommend one for every 1,000 square feet). Then they mesh together and form a single network with strong signal everywhere in your home. Eero is one of my favorite new products of 2016 — I’d say that even if they weren’t sponsoring DF.
Tim Cook Will Attend Trump’s Tech Summit Wednesday ★
Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode:
Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook COO
Sheryl Sandberg are among the small group of top tech leaders who
will attend a summit with President-elect Donald Trump on
Wednesday at Trump Tower in Manhattan, according to numerous
sources with knowledge of the situation. […]
Those who will be attending (although most of the companies
declined to comment to Recode) along with Page, Cook and
Sandberg, include: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella; Cisco CEO Chuck
Robbins; IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; Intel CEO Brian Krzanich; and
Oracle CEO Safra Catz.
As Gabe Rivera notes, the invitation list seems to correspond to those companies with $100 billion market caps.
“I plan to tell the President-elect that we are with him and will
help in any way we can,” said Catz in a statement. “If he can
reform the tax code, reduce regulation and negotiate better trade
deals, the U.S. technology industry will be stronger and more
competitive than ever.”
“We are with him and will help in any way we can” sounds like “I’m ready to spit-shine his shoes” to my ears. I expect all of them to be polite — or perhaps better put, politic — in their public statements on the meeting, but there’s no need for these CEOs to fall in line.
I expect Tim Cook to handle himself just fine. I think he’ll leave Trump Tower with his dignity, integrity, and Apple Inc.’s interests under a Trump administration intact. (Getting a bill passed to repatriate foreign-held dollars at a reasonable tax rate could happen in the post-Trump political climate.) But, man, to be a fly on the wall in that room if Steve Jobs were still alive….
The entirety of the Trump transition team’s response to the extraordinary news that the CIA believes Russia interfered with the election with the intention of helping Trump win:
These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of
mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the
biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to
move on and “Make America Great Again.”
Put aside that every single word of that statement is false. (It was George W. Bush’s White House that claimed to be convinced that Iraq had WMDs, not CIA intelligence officers. The election was only a month ago — we’re still closer to election day than we are to Trump’s first day in office. Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes and his Electoral College win ranks 46th out of 58 in history.) Put aside that the statement doesn’t even claim the report is false — the implication is that it doesn’t matter whether or not Russia interfered in a U.S. election to help one side, when, clearly, anyone with an interest in ours being an honest democracy would call for a thorough and immediate investigation of these claims.
That’s a lot to put aside. But here’s the best part. One of the people who did claim in 2002 that Iraq had stockpiled hidden weapons of mass destruction was John R. Bolton, then Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Today comes news that Trump’s team is considering nominating Bolton to be Deputy Secretary of State.
So within the span of a breath, Trump’s team is claiming that the people who claimed Iraq had WMDs in 2002 have no credibility on matters of foreign intelligence, and are thinking about nominating one of them as second-in-command at the State Department.
Washington Post: ‘Secret CIA Assessment Says Russia Was Trying to Help Trump Win White House’ ★
Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, reporting for The Washington Post:
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia
intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the
presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S.
electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections
to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of
hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others,
including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S.
officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors
known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian
operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s
goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump
get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an
intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the
No surprise to anyone who’s had their eyes open, but chilling nonetheless.
Good thread from Marc Ambinder on what this means:
I’m in favor of doing everything to get to the bottom of what
they did. But can’t say more than their actions “may have helped”
Also related: Trump’s purported leading candidate for Secretary of State, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, has close ties to Vladimir Putin:
Friends and associates said few U.S. citizens are closer to Mr.
Putin than Mr. Tillerson, who has known Mr. Putin since he
represented Exxon’s interests in Russia during the regime of Boris
“He has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than
probably any other American with the exception of Henry
Kissinger,” said John Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary
during the Clinton administration and president of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank where
Mr. Tillerson is a board member.
In 2011, Mr. Tillerson struck a deal giving Exxon access to prized
Arctic resources in Russia as well as allowing Russia’s state oil
company, OAO Rosneft, to invest in Exxon concessions all over the
world. The following year, the Kremlin bestowed the country’s
Order of Friendship decoration on Mr. Tillerson.
I’m so old I remember when the Republicans were the hardline party against Russia.
Only One Candidate in Louisiana’s Senate Runoff Embraces Climate Change Facts ★
Megan Geuss, writing for Ars Technica:
On Saturday December 10, Louisiana residents will cast their final
ballots for the last unclaimed Senate seat of the 2016 elections.
[…] Foster Campbell, the top remaining Democratic candidate, has
been vocal about the fact that climate change could cause
“irreversible damage” to Louisiana’s ample coastline. John
Kennedy, the Republican candidate and current polling favorite,
has largely avoided the subject. Kennedy told Louisiana-based
paper The Advocate this fall that although he accepts the fact
that global temperatures are rising, he does not think there is
evidence to explain why this is happening.
As Ars has noted before, this is false. There is more than
sufficient evidence to show that human activity is the
dominant cause of global warming.
What’s surprising about Kennedy’s statement is that he’s running
for a Senate position in Louisiana, one of the states most
vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Looks like a long shot for Campbell in the polls, but as we saw a month ago, long shots in the polls sometimes win. If you’re in Louisiana, vote. If you know someone in Louisiana, send them a reminder to vote.
Super Mario Run Needs a Constant Internet Connection to Run ★
Brian Heater, writing for TechCrunch:
It a bit of news that will surely shift the value proposition of
Mario’s long-awaited iPhone debut for legions of underground
commuters, Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed this week that Super
Mario Run will only work on a device with a constant internet
The legendary game creator chalked up the decision to security
concerns, fears that an offline mode would make the game unstable
and open it up to piracy. Those worries are likely due in no small
part to the fact that Nintendo simply isn’t accustomed to
developing games for platforms it doesn’t have on lock-down.
“Unlike our dedicated game devices, the game is not releasing in a
limited number of countries,” Miyamoto explained. “We’re launching
in 150 countries and each of those countries has different network
environments and things like that. So it was important for us to
be able to have it secure for all users.”
Other than when I’m on a plane or riding a subway, my phone does have network access most of the time. But people on planes and subways do play games on their phone.
Update: Another big problem: kids with iPod Touches and old SIM-less iPhones. They’re often not on Wi-Fi.
WSJ Report on Apple’s Mysterious AirPods Delay ★
Tripp Mickle, reporting for the WSJ:
The AirPod delay marks the first time Apple has postponed release
of a product since its white iPhone 4 in 2010, Mr. Moorhead said.
Then, Apple cited manufacturing challenges.
In the case of AirPods, the cause remains unclear. The earbuds
contain a new chip that Apple developed. But the same chip is
included in two models of headphones, which are available for
sale, from Apple’s Beats unit.
A person familiar with the development of the AirPod said the
trouble appears to stem from Apple’s effort to chart a new path
for wireless headphones. In most other wireless headphones, only
one earpiece receives a signal from the phone via wireless
Bluetooth technology; it then transmits the signal to the other
Apple has said AirPod earpieces each receive independent signals
from an iPhone, Mac or other Apple device. But Apple must ensure
that both earpieces receive audio at the same time to avoid
distortion, the person familiar with their development said. That
person said Apple also must resolve what happens when a user loses
one of the earpieces or the battery dies.
The rest of the article is useless speculation. I’m not even sure that this one source — the “person familiar with the development of the AirPod” — is correct. My prototype AirPods have no trouble staying in sync. They’ve never once been out of sync, in fact. There have been a small handful of times when one of the two buds turns off, and audio only plays through one of them. But I’ve only seen that three or four times, tops, and in each case it was fixed by putting the AirPods back in the case for a second or two.
If Apple could mass produce AirPods that worked exactly like my review unit pair does, it would be great. Not perfect, but totally great. These AirPods are my favorite new Apple product in years — exactly as they are. It makes more sense to me that Apple has run into a manufacturing problem, not that they discovered a design defect after they were announced.
“More difficult to manufacture at scale than expected” is also what I’ve heard through the grapevine, from a little birdie who knows someone on the AirPods engineering team. Things like what happens when you lose one or the battery dies — Apple solved those problems during development.
Update: After publishing this, I’ve heard from another little birdie who heard the same thing: unexpected manufacturing problem at scale.
John Markoff Retires From The New York Times ★
Yes, I’m retiring from the New York Times. This is obviously
bittersweet, but it’s also very weird. Whenever I tell someone I’m
leaving the paper they immediately say “congratulations.”
What the hell? Congratulate me for bailing on one of the best
jobs in the world?
The simple fact is that I lasted longer than a lot of my friends.
But until I changed my mind last summer and took the buyout, I was
sure I was going to go out like those guys at the Examiner — the
copy editors who worked at night in their t-shirts. And then
keeled over on their CRTs and were taken out feet first.
But what the heck.
Nice introduction from Steven Levy, too.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve linked to Markoff quite a few times over the years.
Samsung Will Render the Note 7 Useless With Imminent Update ★
Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:
Samsung will render remaining Galaxy Note 7s in the United States
useless and inoperable with its next and final update for the
recalled smartphone. Today the company confirmed that it
plans to release an update on December 19th — to be distributed
across all major carriers within 30 days — that will “prevent US
Galaxy Note 7 devices from charging and will eliminate their
ability to work as mobile devices.”
Verizon, however, doesn’t agree with the timing:
Today, Samsung announced an update to the Galaxy Note7 that would
stop the smartphone from charging, rendering it useless unless
attached to a power charger. Verizon will not be taking part in
this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy
Note7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will
not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for
the Note7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday
travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact
family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency
Why didn’t Verizon push Samsung to do this sooner?
Apple Analyst Gene Munster Leaving Piper to Start VC Firm ★
Mark Gurman and Arie Shapira, reporting for Bloomberg;
Gene Munster, a 21-year veteran analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos., is
leaving the firm to co-found a venture capital firm focusing on
virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
Perfect time for Apple to release a TV set.
A Chat With Shigeru Miyamoto on the Eve of Super Mario Run ★
Andrew Webster, writing for The Verge:
The experience of creating Super Mario Run hasn’t been exactly
like the old days, however. As games have progressed from the NES
to modern devices, the teams required to make them have similarly
grown larger and more complex. Mobile, on the other hand, offers
the potential for a small team to make a modest-sized game — though that wasn’t the case with Super Mario Run. In addition to
its main “tour” mode, which closely resembles a typical Mario
title, the game also features a competitive “toad rush” mode and a
city-building mode that lets you build your own version of the
Mushroom Kingdom. Each of these modes was developed by a separate
team. “I was hoping that by developing for mobile things would get
simpler,” Miyamoto says, “but they actually didn’t.”
Nintendo made a great commercial for Super Mario Run, too.
Trump’s Pick for Labor Secretary: Pro-Immigration Fast Food CEO Andrew Puzder ★
Noam Scheiber and Maggie Haberman, reporting for the NYT:
President-elect Donald J. Trump is expected to name Andrew F.
Puzder, chief executive of the company that operates the fast food
outlets Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. and an outspoken critic of the
worker protections enacted by the Obama administration, to be
secretary of labor, people close to the transition said on
Mr. Puzder has spent his career in the private sector and has
opposed efforts to expand eligibility for overtime pay, while
arguing that large minimum wage increases hurt small businesses
and lead to job loss among low-skilled workers.
The Times report focuses on the obvious stuff: his opposition to increasing the minimum wage, regulations that protect workers, etc. No surprise.
But here’s the fun part, as noted on Twitter by David Frum:
Let’s absorb the magnitude of the Puzder appointment. Trump’s
signature issue was immigration restriction. Number 1.
He slammed hard the Bush family in general and Jeb Bush in
particular as weak and low energy on immigration.
The Labor Department enforces immigration law in the workplace — the key way that immigration laws are enforced.
And the person Trump names to head Labor? Perhaps the most
outspoken advocate of Bush-style immigration policy in US business
Trump’s biggest issue throughout the entire campaign was anti-immigration. Keeping immigrants out, and throwing the millions of undocumented immigrants currently here out of the country. His labor secretary is pro-immigration and views undocumented immigrants as future employees for his fast food restaurants and deserving of sympathy, not scorn. He supported President Obama’s 2013 immigration reform bill — and the only part of it he didn’t like was the increase in border security.
Try to wrap your head around just how much disdain Trump has for his own supporters — the “build the wall” crowd.
‘If the Pope’s Talking Poop, You Know We’re in Deep Doo-Doo’ ★
Great segment from Stephen Colbert on conspiracy theorists and fake news.
Really Bad Chess ★
I seldom play video games of any sort, but every once in a while, I find one that I can really get into. Really Bad Chess is one of those games. The basic premise sounds so simple, but in practice it is brilliant: it’s just like regular chess, but you start with random pieces. Except the pieces aren’t totally random — when you win, you start getting worse pieces to start; when you lose, you start getting better pieces. It’s a handicap system.
It’s engaging and a lot of fun. It’s a free download, and a one-time purchase of $3 to unlock the full game. You can also buy packs of 100 undos for $1 each.
See also: Jason Snell’s review, which prompted me to give it a try.
Daring Fireball T-Shirts Now Available ★
On sale now through next week. U.S. orders will ship in time for Christmas.
Comfy and stylish.
Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A. ★
Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton, reporting for the NYT:
Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal
battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that
fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr.
Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused
global warming as a hoax, vowed to “cancel” the Paris accord
committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate
change, and attacked Mr. Obama’s signature global warming policy,
the Clean Power Plan, as a “war on coal.”
Mr. Pruitt has been in lock step with those views.
Here’s a story from just two years ago, on how Pruitt served as a lackey for the fossil fuel industry while serving as attorney general of Oklahoma:
The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney
General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation:
Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air
pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas
wells in his state.
But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter
was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest
oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief
“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed
government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr.
Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken
Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with
only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the
attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is
great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the
Mr. Whitsitt then added, “Please pass along Devon’s thanks to
Attorney General Pruitt.”
Inside Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Brutal Antidrug Campaign ★
New York Times photojournalist Daniel Berehulak, who photographed 57 homicides in 35 days in the Philippines:
I have worked in 60 countries, covered wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and spent much of 2014 living inside West Africa’s
Ebola zone, a place gripped by fear and death. What I experienced
in the Philippines felt like a new level of ruthlessness: police
officers’ summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even
using drugs, vigilantes’ taking seriously Mr. Duterte’s call to
“slaughter them all.”
He said in October, “You can expect 20,000 or 30,000 more.”
On Saturday, Mr. Duterte said that, in a telephone call the day
before, President-elect Donald J. Trump had endorsed the brutal
antidrug campaign and invited him to visit New York and
Washington. “He said that, well, we are doing it as a sovereign
nation, the right way,” Mr. Duterte said in a summary of the call
released by his office.
Beyond those killed in official drug operations, the Philippine
National Police have counted more than 3,500 unsolved homicides
since July 1, turning much of the country into a macabre house of
Gruesome images, but worth looking at to see just what Donald Trump endorses.
Pebble Is Shutting Down After Fitbit Acquisition ★
- Pebble is no longer promoting, manufacturing, or selling any
- Pebble devices will continue to work as normal. No immediate
changes to the Pebble user experience will happen at this time.
- Pebble functionality or service quality may be reduced in the
I love the idea of a plucky startup creating their own hardware platform, but Pebble was a dud. The first model was, perhaps, a decent proof of concept. I couldn’t stand it, personally, but I know a few people who wore it. The best feature was getting notifications on your wrist, but I found the way it vibrated to be unpleasant. Their e-ink displays were great for battery life, but terrible in every other regard.
But their follow-up models just weren’t big enough improvements. The Pebble Steel was a complete waste of the company’s time — their problem was that their technology wasn’t good enough, not that they didn’t look enough like traditional watches.
Bluetooth 5 Spec Approved ★
Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget:
Bluetooth is about to become a lot less hassle-prone. The wireless
standard’s Special Interest Group has officially adopted the
Bluetooth 5 spec, clearing the way for device makers to use the
much-improved technology in everything from phones to wearables to
smart home equipment. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see it right
away, of course. The group expects Bluetooth 5-equipped products
to hit the market in the next 2 to 6 months, or right around when
the next wave of smartphones is likely to arrive.
Yours truly, one year ago:
“Next year it will work great” should be the motto of Bluetooth.
That Viral Graph About Young People’s Declining Support for Democracy Is Very Misleading ★
Remember the story last week in The New York Times, showing an alarming drop in support for democracy by young people around the world? I described the accompanying chart as “terrifying”. There’s good news — the Times’s chart was deliberately misleading, to greatly exaggerate the survey result. Erik Voeten, writing for The Washington Post, explains:
The data for the graph are from the fifth wave of the World Values
Survey (WVS), which asked people to place themselves on a 10-point
scale where 1 meant that living in a democracy is “not at all
important” and 10 “absolutely important.”
So where does this graph go wrong? It plots the percentage of
people who answer 10, and it treats everyone else the same. The
graph treats the people who place themselves at 1 as having the
same commitment to democracy as those who answer 9. In reality,
almost no one (less than 1 percent) said that democracy is “not at
The graph below uses the exact same data, but it plots the average
scores rather than the percentages who place themselves at the top
end of the scale.
Voeten’s accurate chart does show a decline in the average support for democracy by age, but it’s subtle, not dramatic, and shows that young people still believe democracy is important. The New York Times should be ashamed of itself for its original chart.
‘Let’s Make the Facts Louder Than the Opinions’ ★
Weather.com meteorologist Kait Parker has a message for Breitbart.
Google: ‘We’re Set to Reach 100% Renewable Energy’ ★
Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure:
I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100%
renewable energy for our global operations — including both our
data centers and offices. […]
Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60
percent and 80 percent, respectively, proving that renewables are
increasingly becoming the lowest cost option. Electricity costs
are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our
data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable
power provides protection against price swings in energy.
Interesting: Google’s renewable purchasing is overwhelmingly wind, not solar. Same for Microsoft. Amazon looks like about one-third solar, two-thirds wind. Apple is almost entirely solar.
Update: Interesting email from a longtime DF reader:
I work in renewable energy with corporations who are seeking to do
exactly what Google is about to achieve.
The best reason to explain “Apple is almost entirely solar” has to
do with renewable production — solar produces during the day and
U.S. wind sites mostly at night. Since daytime hours align with
higher power prices, Apple seems to have strategically gone for
value with many, smaller solar projects, while Google and others
have gone after fewer and larger wind deals.
SamMobile: ‘Galaxy S8 Is Not Going to Feature a 3.5mm Headphone Jack’ ★
I love how the headline says that the phone “is not going to feature” a headphone jack, rather than saying that Samsung is going to remove it.
Anyway, this was utterly predictable by anyone who had their head out of their ass. As I wrote back in September, iPhone 7 reviews that obsessed over the removal of the headphone jack are “going to age about as well as a 2007 review of the original iPhone that devoted the same amount of attention to the lack of a hardware keyboard.”
Samsung won’t face anywhere near the amount of criticism Apple did, because Apple went first and took most of the arrows. Which, yes, took courage.
New build-your-own-web-app service from Fog Creek Software, debuting alongside the announcement of Anil Dash as CEO. Here’s how Anil describes it:
Many geeks of my cohort came of age building things on the desktop
using HyperCard or Visual Basic, or by using View Source in their
browser to tweak HTML pages that they uploaded to Geocities. The
web’s gotten a lot more mature and a lot more powerful, but the
immediacy of that kind of creation has been lost. Today, even if
you’re a skilled developer, the starting point you’re working from
is usually a pile of unassembled parts.
Gomix lets you start from a working app (or bot, or site, or
whatever) and then remix it into exactly the app of your dreams.
If you just want to change a button from blue to green, or add
your logo, you can be running instantly. See a fun or smart Alexa
skill or Slack bot? You can jump in, edit the responses to be the
text you want, and have your own version running in just a few
Anil Dash Is the New CEO of Fog Creek Software ★
Fog Creek is a weird company here, with unique values that you
don’t find in a lot of other companies. That’s why we’re so
successful, and that’s why we love working here. Some of the weird
stuff we do is non-negotiable. We would never dream of having just
any competent person from outside the company come in, let alone
give them the CEO role, if we weren’t convinced that they were
100% fanatical and excited about Fog Creek Software’s unique
operating system. We’ve been friends with Anil for so long that
we’re confident that the combination of his talents and worldview
with our quirky operating system will be a stellar combination. […]
What are you doing, Joel?
I’m the full-time CEO of Stack Overflow, which just hit 300
employees and really takes all my time now.
Tim Cook: Apple Watch Sales Set Record in Holiday Week ★
Julia Love, reporting for Reuters:
Responding to an email from Reuters, Cook said the gadget’s
sell-through — a measure of how many units are sold to
consumers, rather than simply stocked on retailers’ shelves -
reached a new high. […]
“Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be
one of the most popular holiday gifts this year,” Cook wrote.
“Sales growth is off the charts. In fact, during the first week of
holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than
any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on
track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch,” he said.
This is in response to a widely-circulated report from IDC yesterday, claiming Apple Watch sales fell 71 percent in the third calendar quarter. IDC often pulls numbers out of its collective ass — they’re the outfit that claimed back in 2011 that Windows Phone would overtake the iPhone by 2015 — but these things could both be true. (Although it does look like IDC’s estimate is far short.)
Comparing Apple Watch sales in the third calendar quarter this year to last year is not meaningful. Last year the Apple Watch was still a brand-new product in July–September, drawing sales from early adopters. And remember that Apple Watch was extremely supply-constrained when it hit the market in May 2015. Many models were back-ordered for 6–8 weeks. This year, Apple Watch was a year-old product in those months, with many would-be purchasers correctly predicting that Apple would introduce new models in September.
Common sense suggests that the Apple Watch sales cycle is going to look a lot like the iPod’s — with truly humongous spikes in the holiday quarter. That’s when the new models come out, and it’s a natural gift.
Smartwatches in general might be suffering, but it’s looking more and more like Apple Watch is a hit.