Linked List: February 2016

Apple Wins Major Court Victory Against FBI in a Case Similar to San Bernardino 

Glenn Greenwald and Jenna McLaughlin, reporting for The Intercept:

Judge Orenstein applied previous legal decisions interpreting the AWA and concluded that the law does not “justif[y] imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will.” In a formulation extremely favorable to Apple, the judge wrote that the key question raised by the government’s request is whether the AWA allows a court “to compel Apple — a private party with no alleged involvement in Feng’s criminal activity — to perform work for the government against its will.”

The court ruled that the law permits no such result — both because relevant law contains limits on what companies like Apple are required to do, and because Congress never enacted any such obligations. Moreover, the judge said of the government’s arguments for how the AWA should be applied: “The implications of the government’s position are so far-reaching — both in terms of what it would allow today and what it implies about congressional intent in 1789 — as to produce impermissibly absurd results.”

This seems like great news for Apple and supporters of civil liberties in this case.

Read Orenstein’s decision here.

San Bernardino Survivor’s Husband to Judge: Terrorist iPhone ‘Unlikely’ to Hold Valuable Information 

I hope I don’t have to keep repeating this, but this is the wrong argument to make. The implication is that the result should be different if the iPhone in question was “likely” to contain valuable information. That’s wrong. Civil liberties apply equally in all situations.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad they’re saying this particular iPhone is unlikely to actually contain useful information. But someday there will be a locked iPhone that is either likely or certain to contain useful information.

Fred Wilson: ‘The Twitter Contradiction’ 

Fred Wilson:

I just don’t understand the narrative around Twitter. “It is in trouble. It isn’t growing. It’s time has come and gone. The kids all use Snapchat and Instagram.”

That last part is true, to a degree. But it isn’t as simple as that.

The presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States has largely conducted his campaign on Twitter and in massive public appearances that feel like rock concerts. He has avoided the traditional media channels and taken his message direct to the people on Twitter. Not on Facebook. Not on Instagram. Not on Snapchat. Not on Pinterest. Not on his website or mobile app. On Twitter.

He makes a good point, but I don’t think there’s a contradiction. On the one hand, Twitter is a powerful publishing platform that has become the de facto official medium for famous people to make public statements about what is going on right now.

The problem is, that’s not the description of a social network. It’s a description of a publishing platform. Twitter’s trouble is that it’s being viewed by investors as a social network.

Getting Called Up From the Big Leagues 

M.G. Siegler, on Bill Simmons putting his new publication, The Ringer, on Medium:

In a way, it almost feels like the thing to do now is the opposite of what is typical in professional sports. In most leagues, athletes play in minor leagues (or college) before graduating up to the big leagues. In our new era of publishing, writers may start at the big leagues, building up their skills and brands, before venturing out on their own (or with a group of peers).

The Washington Post on Industry Support for Apple in Encryption Fight 

Ellen Nakashima, writing for The Washington Post:

Former Justice Department official Jennifer Daskal said both sides are overstating their arguments. “The government is wrong to say this is just about one case,” said Daskal, a law professor at American University. “On the other hand, it is wrong to say that if Apple loses this case, there’s absolutely no limits to what the government can order a company to do” in cases involving encrypted communications.

This is false equivalence. The government really is wrong about this case being about just this one particular phone. But nobody (and certainly not Apple) is using words like “absolutely no limits to what the government can order a company to do” to describe what will happen if the government wins and sets precedent. The results will be significant, and I think chilling — but not limitless. This is just a bullshit quote to make the story sound “balanced”.

One argument that companies and civil liberties groups are expected to make is that if the government’s order is upheld, then the FBI might be able to order a technology firm to create, say, malicious software to send to a user’s device in the form of a routine update. “That is the third rail for tech companies — to be forced to deliver a software update that breaks the security of the device,” said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is also filing a brief in support of Apple.

This would be one of the worst case scenarios I can imagine.

The State of Apple Music Connect 

Dave Wiskus:

If Connect is a social network, it fails miserably. There’s nothing inherently social about the experience, which feels more like a local bulletin board than a way for artists to engage with fans.

It’s also not a very good broadcast medium. Sure, I can post to Connect and share out to Twitter and whatnot, but why? There’s nothing unique or powerful about Apple’s system that makes it a good hub. Because I have no idea how many followers we have, I can’t even make a numerical argument for Connect-first posting. And since we can’t even invite people from other places to follow us on Connect, there’s no incentive to try.

As a fan, it’s a confusing mess. As an artist, it’s a black hole. All media, no social.

Connect was a big part of the Apple Music introduction back in June, but I haven’t heard a word about it since other than when Dave writes about it.

Apple’s Statement to Congress on the FBI Warrant Fight 

Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell testifies before Congress tomorrow. From his prepared opening statement:

As we have told them — and as we have told the American public — building that software tool would not affect just one iPhone. It would weaken the security for all of them. In fact, just last week Director Comey agreed that the FBI would likely use this precedent in other cases involving other phones. District Attorney Vance has also said he would absolutely plan to use this on over 175 phones. We can all agree this is not about access to just one iPhone.

The FBI is asking Apple to weaken the security of our products. Hackers and cyber criminals could use this to wreak havoc on our privacy and personal safety. It would set a dangerous precedent for government intrusion on the privacy and safety of its citizens.

It Doesn’t Matter Whether the San Bernardino iPhone Contains Useful Information 

Jeff Gamet, writing for The Mac Observer:

The iPhone recovered from Syed Farook after he shot and killed 14 coworkers and then died in a shootout with police most likely doesn’t hold any valuable information. So says San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan. Chief Burguan was asked about the phone during an NPR interview and he replied:

I’ll be honest with you, I think that there is a reasonably good chance that there is nothing of any value on the phone. What we are hoping might be on the phone would be potential contacts that we would obviously want to talk to.

There’s a small point to be made here, insofar as it suggests the FBI is being disingenuous. They’re saying that it’s not about precedent, it’s just about this one phone, this one investigation. But the real reason they’re making a big deal out of it is that it’s politically useful. The phone itself likely isn’t important but the situation surrounding the phone — “terrorism” and the tragedy of 14 innocent people being killed — lends sympathy to their desire for access to encrypted devices all the time.

But for those of us on Apple’s side, this is not a point to hang our hats on. Even if law enforcement claimed to know with certainty that the phone contained useful information, Apple’s arguments would all still stand. Eventually there will be such a phone.

And, likewise, I’m glad law enforcement is doing their best to check the contents of the phone. We want law enforcement to pursue all leads — within the confines of the law — even those that are unlikely to produce useful information.

Dan Frommer Named Editor in Chief at Recode 

Kara Swisher:

As Re/code has grown and morphed, we have always been on the lookout for great talent to take the site to a new level.

That’s why I’m very excited to announce that we’ve hired Dan Frommer as the new editor in chief of Re/code. Dan brings our site the energy, curiosity and tech-savvy we need to succeed in digital publishing, an industry that gets more exciting — and challenging — daily.

Congratulations, pal.

Apple Product Event: Monday March 21 

Kara Swisher, writing at Recode, broke the news:

Attention Apple nerds, investors, media and everyone else who needs to know when Tim Cook’s next product event is going to be held: It’s going to be the week of March 21.

Or to put it another way, it’s not going to be on March 15, the time frame that other outlets previously reported, according to several sources. It is not clear if the event was moved or if this was the same timing as Apple had always planned.

Swisher doesn’t have the exact date, although the <title> tag on her story reads “Apple Product Event Will Be Held March 22”. John Paczkowski (who usually gets these leaks first), confirms the week change, and says the event will be on Monday 21 March:

Sources in position to know say the company has settled on March 21st as the date it will show off a handful of new products. These people declined to say why Apple postponed the date by a week, but it’s worth noting that it is one day prior to the company’s March 22 showdown with the government over a motion to compel it to help hack the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

For what it’s worth, last year’s March event was on a Monday as well.

Update: Jim Dalrymple:

This sounds right to me.

Manuscripts and Findings 

My thanks to Nucleobytes for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Nucleobytes is a fascinating company. They specialize in creating Mac and iOS software for scientists and researchers, and they do it with great style — their apps have won multiple Apple Design Awards.

Their latest creations are two apps for researchers, useful for anyone who researches anything from lab results, cooking recipes, or research for blog posts: Manuscripts and Findings.

  • Manuscripts is a writing tool that helps you concentrate on your story. Outline, plan and edit your project, insert figures, tables and math, then format citations using a killer workflow. Manuscripts supports both importing and exporting Markdown, Word, LaTeX, and HTML.

  • Findings is a lab notebook app that helps you keep a journal of your research, connected to notes, photos, and files. Plan your week, track progress, and share your findings with your colleagues or the world.

Try the free basic versions, and use coupon DARINGFIREBALL for a special discount on the unlimited versions, this week only. (They have an even better offer for students.)

Donald Trump Vows to ‘Open Up’ Libel Laws 

Hadas Gold, writing for Politico:

During a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, Trump began his usual tirade against newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, saying they’re “losing money” and are “dishonest.” The Republican presidential candidate then took a different turn, suggesting that when he’s president they’ll “have problems.”

“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” Trump said.

Not worrisome at all. No sir.

Most Android Phones Are Not Encrypted 

Jose Pagliery, writing for CNN Money:

Although 97% of Android phones have encryption as an option, less than 35% of them actually got prompted to turn it on when they first activated the phone. Even then, not everybody chooses that extra layer of security.

A Google spokesman said that encryption is now required for all “high-performing devices” — like the Galaxy S7 — running the latest version of Android, Marshmallow. But only 1.2% of Android phones even have that version, according to Google.

By comparison, most Apple products are uniformly secure: 94% of iPhones run iOS 8 or 9, which encrypt all data. Apple (AAPL, Tech30) makes its devices, designs the software, and retains full control of the phone’s operating system.

“If a person walks into a Best Buy and walks out with an iPhone, it’s encrypted by default. If they walk out with an Android phone, it’s largely vulnerable to surveillance,” said Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Google is moving in the right direction, but here’s an area where the slow uptake of new versions of Android has a serious effect.

9to5Mac: ‘Apple Likely to Drop the “5”, Call New 4-Inch Model the “iPhone SE”’ 

Mark Gurman:

In January, we reported that Apple is preparing a new 4-inch iPhone that is essentially 2013’s iPhone 5s with upgraded internals. At the time, we heard that Apple would call the device the “iPhone 5se” based on it being both an enhanced and “special edition” version of the iPhone 5s. Now, we are hearing that Apple appears to be going all in on the special edition factor: sources say that Apple has decided to drop the “5” from the device’s name and simply call it the “iPhone SE.” This will mark the first iPhone upgrade without a number in its name and would logically remove it from a yearly update cycle.

A few points:

  • Apple was never going to call this phone the “5 SE”. I don’t know where Gurman got that, but that was never going to happen. Why would Apple give a new phone a name that makes it sound old?

  • Isn’t it more accurate to think of this as an iPhone 6S in a 4-inch body than as an iPhone 5S with “upgraded internals”? Other than the display, aren’t the “internals” the defining characteristics of any iPhone?

  • Dropping the number entirely fits with my theory that this phone is intended to remain on the market for 18-24 months.

Gogo Wi-Fi and Email Security 

Reporter Steven Petrow published a scary first-hand tale in USA Today, claiming that his email was hacked by another passenger on a Gogo-enabled flight. The implication was that you shouldn’t use email on Gogo unless you’re using a VPN.

But Petrow’s email didn’t get intercepted because of some flaw with Gogo. It got intercepted because he wasn’t connecting to the POP or SMTP servers via SSL. In fact, his email provider, Earthlink, doesn’t even support SSL for email.

Robert Graham at Errata Security explains:

Early Internet stuff wasn’t encrypted, because encryption was hard, and it was hard for bad guys to tap into wires to eavesdrop. Now, with open WiFi hotspots at Starbucks or on the airplane, it’s easy for hackers to eavesdrop on your network traffic. Simultaneously, encryption has become a lot easier. All new companies, those still fighting to acquire new customers, have thus upgraded their infrastructure to support encryption. Stagnant old companies, who are just milking their customers for profits, haven’t upgraded their infrastructure.

You see this in the picture below. Earthlink supports older un-encrypted “POP3” (for fetching email from the server), but not the new encrypted POP3 over SSL. Conversely, GMail doesn’t support the older un-encrypted stuff (even if you wanted it to), but only the newer encrypted version.

Gogo is far from perfect, but it certainly wasn’t at fault in this case.

Update: Like a lot of you, I’m not even sure I buy the whole story. Whole thing seems fishy.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft Plan to Support Apple 

Deepa Seetharaman and Jack Nicas, reporting for the WSJ:

Several tech companies, including Google parent Alphabet Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp., plan to file a joint motion supporting Apple Inc. in its court fight against the Justice Department over unlocking an alleged terrorist’s iPhone, according to people familiar with the companies’ plans.

At least one other tech company plans to be included in a joint amicus brief next week generally supporting Apple’s position that unlocking the iPhone would undermine tech firms’ efforts to protect their users’ digital security, these people said. Twitter Inc. also plans to support Apple in a motion, though it is unclear if it will join the combined filing, another person familiar said.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith told Congress on Thursday that his company would file a motion supporting Apple.


Apple’s Motion to Vacate FBI Order 

A clear, cogent read. I often shy away from reading legal motions because they’re so often written in dense legalese, but this one is clear.

This stuck out to me:

Congress knows how to impose a duty on third parties to facilitate the government’s decryption of devices. Similarly, it knows exactly how to place limits on what the government can require of telecommunications carriers and also on manufacturers of telephone equipment and handsets. And in CALEA, Congress decided not to require electronic communication service providers, like Apple, to do what the government seeks here. Contrary to the government’s contention that CALEA is inapplicable to this dispute, Congress declared via CALEA that the government cannot dictate to providers of electronic communications services or manufacturers of telecommunications equipment any specific equipment design or software configuration.

In the section of CALEA entitled “Design of features and systems configurations,” 47 U.S.C. § 1002(b)(1), the statute says that it “does not authorize any law enforcement agency or officer —

(1) to require any specific design of equipment, facilities, services, features, or system configurations to be adopted by any provider of a wire or electronic communication service, any manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, or any provider of telecommunications support services.

(2) to prohibit the adoption of any equipment, facility, service, or feature by any provider of a wire or electronic communication service, any manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, or any provider of telecommunications support services.

What Apple is arguing is that the All Writs Act is intended only to fill the gaps covering scenarios not covered by other laws, but CALEA (the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) is a law that was passed specifically to cover exactly this sort of scenario. This strikes me as a very compelling argument.

Microsoft Will File Amicus Brief Supporting Apple 

Dina Bass, reporting for Bloomberg:

Microsoft Corp. backs Apple Inc. in its fight with the U.S. government over unlocking a terrorist’s iPhone, said President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith.

The company will file an amicus brief to support Apple next week, Smith said at a congressional hearing to discuss the need for new legislation to govern privacy, security and law enforcement in the age of Internet-based cloud services.


Apple to Tighten iCloud Backup Encryption 

Tim Bradshaw, reporting for the Financial Times:

Apple is working on new ways to strengthen the encryption of customers’ iCloud backups in a way that would make it impossible for the company to comply with valid requests for data from law enforcement, according to people familiar with its plans.

The move would bolster Apple customers’ security against hackers but also frustrate investigators who are currently able to obtain data from Apple’s servers through a court order. Apple has complied with thousands of such orders in the past.

Developing such technology is in some ways more complex than adding the kind of device-level security that Apple introduced to the iPhone in 2014 with its iOS 8 update.

Building new protections that mean Apple no longer has access to iCloud encryption keys may inconvenience some customers. Such a change would most likely mean that customers who forget their iCloud password may be left unable to access their photos, contacts and other personal information that is backed up to Apple’s systems.

The Dangerous All Writs Act Precedent in the Apple Encryption Case 

Amy Davidson, writing for The New Yorker:

It is essential to this story that the order to Apple is not a subpoena: it is issued under the All Writs Act of 1789, which says that federal courts can issue “all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” Read as a whole, this simply means that judges can tell people to follow the law, but they have to do so in a way that, in itself, respects the law. The Act was written at a time when a lot of the mechanics of the law still had to be worked out. But there are qualifications there: warnings about the writs having to be “appropriate” and “agreeable,” not just to the law but to the law’s “principles.” The government, in its use of the writ now, seems to be treating those caveats as background noise. If it can tell Apple, which has been accused of no wrongdoing, to sit down and write a custom operating system for it, what else could it do?

Lost amid the technical debate over encryption is the legal debate over this incredibly broad application of the All Writs Act.

Twitter’s Missing Manual 


Here, then, is a list of all the non-obvious things about Twitter that I know. Consider it both a reference for people who aren’t up to their eyeballs in Twitter, and an example of how these hidden features can pile up. I’m also throwing in a couple notes on etiquette, because I think that’s strongly informed by the shape of the platform.

Sharp Accepts Foxconn Takeover Bid 

Huge news for both companies. Interesting for Apple, too.


A deal to take over Japanese electronics giant Sharp by Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn, has been thrown into question by a last minute delay.

Foxconn said it had received new information from Sharp which needed to be clarified.


The Next Step in iPhone Impregnability 

Matt Apuzzo and Katie Benner, reporting for the NYT:

Apple engineers have already begun developing new security measures that would make it impossible for the government to break into a locked iPhone using methods similar to those now at the center of a court fight in California, according to people close to the company and security experts.

If Apple succeeds in upgrading its security — and experts say it almost surely will — the company would create a significant technical challenge for law enforcement agencies, even if the Obama administration wins its fight over access to data stored on an iPhone used by one of the killers in last year’s San Bernardino, Calif., rampage. The F.B.I. would then have to find another way to defeat Apple security, setting up a new cycle of court fights and, yet again, more technical fixes by Apple. […]

Apple built its recent operating systems to protect customer information. As its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, wrote in a recent letter to customers, “We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.”

But there is a catch. Each iPhone has a built-in troubleshooting system that lets the company update the system software without the need for a user to enter a password. Apple designed that feature to make it easier to repair malfunctioning phones.

The way the iPhone works today, when put into recovery mode you can restore the operating system without entering the device passcode. The only restriction is that the version of iOS to be installed must be properly signed by Apple.

I just tried it here with my old iPhone 6, which had been turned off for weeks. I powered it up, but did not unlock it. I put it in recovery mode, and then updated it to iOS 9.3 beta 4. Then it restarted. Now it’s running iOS 9.3 beta 4, and I still have not unlocked it. All my data is still on the phone — but it’s running a new version of iOS, without my having unlocked it.

What the FBI wants Apple to do is create (and sign) a new version of iOS that they can force the San Bernardino suspect’s phone to install as an update — and this new version of iOS will allow them to easily brute-force the passcode.

I think what Apple is leaking here is that they’re going to change this (perhaps as soon as this year’s new iPhone 7), so that you can’t install a new version of iOS, even in recovery mode, without entering the device’s passcode. (I think they will also do the same for firmware updates to the code that executes on the Secure Enclave — it will require a passcode lock.)

If you do a full restore, you can install a new version of the OS without the passcode, but this wipes the data. See also: Activation Lock, which allows you to bypass the passcode to completely wipe an iPhone, but requires you to sign into iCloud before you can use it.

Scalia in 1987: ‘The Constitution Sometimes Insulates the Criminality of a Few in Order to Protect the Privacy of Us All’ 

NYT report on a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in 1987:

Justice Scalia’s opinion was forcefully denounced as an unjustified obstacle to law enforcement in dissenting opinions by Associate Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Lewis F. Powell Jr. Chief Justice Rehnquist joined in both of the dissents.

Justice Scalia, however, said, “There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all.” […]

Justice Scalia’s majority opinion today said that although the search for weapons was lawful — a shot had just been fired through the floor of the apartment, injuring a man below — the police were not justified in moving the stereo components even slightly to check the serial numbers without “probable cause” to believe they were stolen. He thus affirmed a ruling by an Arizona appellate court that the stereo components, which turned out to have been stolen in an armed robbery, could not be used as evidence against the occupant of the apartment.

Associate Justice William J. Brennan Jr., the Court’s senior member, who is its leading liberal, apparently assigned Justice Scalia to write the majority opinion, which he joined. Under the Supreme Court’s procedures, the Chief Justice assigns opinions when he is in the majority. When the Chief Justice dissents, as in the Arizona case, the senior member of the majority has assignment power.

Conservative judges, as a general rule, tend to side with law enforcement in search and seizure cases. Scalia was certainly a conservative, but by no means was he in lockstep with them.

ABC News Posts Extensive Interview With Tim Cook on FBI/iPhone Case 

Solid, thorough, and I think very fair interview by David Muir. Cook made his case about as well as it could be made — a passionate defense of civil liberties. It’s 30 minutes long and worth every minute of it.

Former Bush Administration Official Argues Supreme Court Should Count Scalia’s Vote in Pending Cases 

This is how we get from here to there.

David Ortiz Makes a Final Plea to Yankees Fans 

Kevin Kernan, writing for the NY Post:

When Ortiz, 40, makes his final Yankee Stadium appearance on Sept. 29, this is what he wants, and it speaks volumes about Ortiz the player, the competitor, the enemy, the star.

“You know what I want most of all?’’ Big Papi told The Post on Tuesday at JetBlue Park. “I would love it if the fans at Yankee Stadium gave me a standing ovation.’’

That’s what he wants, and that would be the perfect tribute to Ortiz, who owns 503 home runs.

I would wholeheartedly join in that ovation. Great player, great rival, and his retirement really marks the end of the epic Yankees-Sox rivalry from the early 2000s. I would expect appearances from Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Joe Torre. Just thinking about it makes me want to buy tickets.

Spotify Moves Infrastructure to Google Cloud Platform 

You heard it here first: this presages Google acquiring Spotify. (I heard it from Om Malik first.)

Was Pew’s Polling Question on the Apple/FBI Debate Misleading? 

Mike Masnick, writing for TechDirt:

The question asked was

As you may know, RANDOMIZE: [the FBI has said that accessing the iPhone is an important part of their ongoing investigation into the San Bernardino attacks] while [Apple has said that unlocking the iPhone could compromise the security of other users’ information] do you think Apple [READ; RANDOMIZE]?

(1) Should unlock the iPhone (2) Should not unlock the iPhone (3) Don’t Know.

But that’s not the issue in this case!

As noted in the past, when it’s possible for Apple to get access to data, it has always done so in response to lawful court orders. That’s similar to almost every other company as well. This case is different because it’s not asking Apple to “unlock the iPhone.” The issue is that Apple cannot unlock the iPhone and thus, the FBI has instead gotten a court order to demand that Apple create an entirely new operating system that undermines the safety and security of iPhones, so that the FBI can hack into the iPhone. That’s a really different thing.

He makes a good point. But when it comes to public polling on an issue like this, you can’t expect the public to understand the technical issues. Ideally, yes, the language used by Pew would have been much more precise. But basically what they were asking is “Do you think Apple should do whatever the FBI wants them to do to get the information from the San Bernardino suspect’s iPhone?” For polling purposes, I don’t think it matters much what “whatever” is.

It’s true that if phrased differently, it’s quite possible you’d get a polling showing more support for Apple. But the bottom line is that a lot of Americans think Apple should just do what the FBI is asking them to do.

On Ribbons and Ribbon Cutters 

Jonathan Zdziarski (who has been killing it with his analysis of the Apple/FBI fight):

With most non-technical people struggling to make sense of the battle between FBI and Apple, Bill Gates introduced an excellent analogy to explain cryptography to the average non-geek. Gates used the analogy of encryption as a “ribbon around a hard drive”. Good encryption is more like a chastity belt, but since Farook decided to use a weak passcode, I think it’s fair here to call it a ribbon. In any case, let’s go with Gates’s ribbon analogy. […]

Instead of cutting the ribbon, which would be a much simpler task, FBI is ordering Apple to invent a ribbon cutter — a forensic tool capable of cutting the ribbon for FBI, and is promising to use it on just this one phone. In reality, there’s already a line beginning to form behind Comey should he get his way.

Apple to Restore UI Navigation With Pencil in Next iOS 9.3 Beta 

That didn’t take long. Apple, in a statement to iMore and a few other publications:

Apple Pencil has been a huge hit with iPad Pro users, who love it for drawing, annotating and taking notes,” an Apple spokesperson told iMore. “We believe a finger will always be the primary way users navigate on an iPad, but we understand that some customers like to use Apple Pencil for this as well and we’ve been working on ways to better implement this while maintaining compatibility during this latest beta cycle. We will add this functionality back in the next beta of iOS 9.3.

One thing I take away from the vocal reaction to this: the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro have passionate users.

Apple vs. FBI: ‘Just This Once’? 

Julian Sanchez, writing for Just Security:

Consider: Possibly the next iPhone simply eliminates Apple’s ability to assist in any way. But it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the designer and key-holder for a device designed to be used by normal humans can do literally nothing, at the margin, to assist an attacker. That means every improvement in device security involves a gamble: Maybe the cost of developing new ways to attack the newly hardened device becomes so high that the courts recognize it as an “undue burden” and start quashing (or declining to issue) All Writs Act orders to compel hacking assistance. Maybe. But Apple is a very large, very rich company, and much of the practical “burden” comes from the demands of complying securely and at scale. The government will surely continue arguing in future cases that the burden of complying just this one time are not so great for a huge tech company like Apple. (And, to quote The Smiths, they’ll never never do it again — of course they won’t; not until the next time.)

Sanchez makes an interesting point here about Apple being disincentivized from improving iPhone security if they lose this case. Imagine if Apple made safes, but the government could compel them to crack their own safes under warrant. The harder they make these safes to crack, the more work they bring upon themselves when compelled to crack them.

I don’t think Apple would succumb to that and stop improving their device security, but it shows what an untenable position the government is trying to put Apple in. The only easy way out for Apple, if they lose, is to stop making iPhones truly secure.

High-Profile Attorney Ted Olson Joins Apple’s Fight Against FBI Terror Probe 

Taylor Goldenstein, reporting for the LA Times:

Olson and Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. are the attorneys of record representing Apple, according to a court filing. Boutrous and Olson worked together to fight California’s previous ban on same-sex marriage.

Olson is best known for successfully arguing on behalf of George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case Bush vs. Gore, which decided the 2000 presidential election, and for challenging California’s Proposition 8, the measure that banned gay marriage, before the Supreme Court.

Olson is truly an extraordinary figure, both in terms of his career (winning landmark cases for conservatives, like Bush v. Gore and Citizens United; then winning the case that legalized gay marriage nationwide), and his personal life (his wife was a passenger on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11).

iOS 9.3 Betas Remove the Ability to Navigate iPad UI With Apple Pencil 

Serenity Caldwell, at iMore:

Unfortunately, whether by bug or intentional design, the Pencil’s navigational prowess appears to have vanished in the iOS 9.3 public betas. With 9.3, you can no longer scroll or manipulate text; the only places the Pencil works are on canvas or when pressing digital buttons.

Normally, I don’t write about beta bugs and features, because it’s a beta: There are always bugs, and features change. But this functionality is important enough that I wanted to talk about it before Apple submits its final 9.3 release. It could be a bug, yes: But several betas in, we’ve seen fixes for Smart Connector keyboards and new features, and the Pencil remains crippled. Which makes me think, more and more, that this is a conscious decision on the part of Apple’s engineering team. (I did reach out to the company about the issue, and will update if and when I receive a response.)

Myke Hurley and CGP Grey talk about this on the latest episode of their podcast, Cortex. Grey says:

Sources in the know confirm that removing the functionality of the Apple Pencil is a decision inside of Apple. It is not a bug they have overlooked for three betas. It is a decision.

My only guess as to why Apple would change this is that they want to enable you to scroll/pan (with your finger) while drawing/marking-up with the Pencil. If so, the mistake wasn’t making this change in iOS 9.3 — the mistake was allowing the Pencil to control the UI in the first place.

I hate to say it, but now that iPad Pro users have gotten used to using the Pencil to navigate the UI, maybe it should be a setting? Maybe under Accessibility? Grey, for example, says using the Pencil to navigate the UI helps him avoid RSI pain.

Update, two hours later: Apple has told The Verge that UI navigation via Pencil will return in the next iOS 9.3 beta.

Bill Gates Breaks Ranks Over FBI Apple Request 

Stephen Foley and Tim Bradshaw, writing for The Financial Times:

“This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case,” Mr Gates told the Financial Times.

“It is no different than [the question of] should anybody ever have been able to tell the phone company to get information, should anybody be able to get at bank records. Let’s say the bank had tied a ribbon round the disk drive and said, ‘Don’t make me cut this ribbon because you’ll make me cut it many times’.”

Gates is so smart — surely he understands that if the FBI prevails, this will set precedent that will be used again and again. It seems to me he’s arguing that we should not be allowed to have devices protected by strong encryption.

Update: Gates said today he thinks the FT mischaracterized his position, but I’m not really seeing it. He certainly isn’t siding with Apple — his stance seems, at best, lukewarm, like Sundar Pichai’s.

Poll Shows More Support for Justice Department Than for Apple 

Pew Research Center:

As the standoff between the Department of Justice and Apple Inc. continues over an iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, 51% say Apple should unlock the iPhone to assist the ongoing FBI investigation. Fewer Americans (38%) say Apple should not unlock the phone to ensure the security of its other users’ information; 11% do not offer an opinion on the question.

News about a federal court ordering Apple to unlock the suspect’s iPhone has registered widely with the public: 75% say they have heard either a lot (39%) or a little (36%) about the situation.

This is exactly why Apple’s stance on this issue is so commendable. They’re doing what they believe to be right, even though it is unpopular.

WSJ: ‘Justice Department Seeks to Force Apple to Extract Data From About 12 Other iPhones’ 

Devlin Barrett, reporting for the WSJ:

The Justice Department is pursuing court orders to make Apple Inc. help investigators extract data from iPhones in about a dozen undisclosed cases around the country, in disputes similar to the current battle over a terrorist’s locked phone, according to a newly-unsealed court document.

The other phones are evidence in cases where prosecutors have sought, as in the San Bernardino, Calif., terror case, to use an 18th-century law called the All Writs Act to compel the company to help them bypass the passcode security feature of phones that may hold evidence, according to a letter from Apple which was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday. […]

The letter doesn’t describe the specific types of criminal investigations related to those phones, but people familiar with them said they don’t involve terrorism cases. The 12 cases remain in a kind of limbo amid the bigger, more confrontational legal duel between the government and the company over an iPhone seized in the terror case in California, these people said.

But it’s really just about that one, single iPhone in the San Bernardino case.

‘Absolutely Right’ 

Katie Benner and Matt Apuzzo, reporting for the NYT on whether the FBI’s request for Apple to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone will open the door to more such requests:

In a note posted to its website on Monday, Apple reiterated that the government’s request seems narrow but really isn’t. “Law enforcement agents around the country have already said they have hundreds of iPhones they want Apple to unlock if the F.B.I. wins this case,” the company said.

To that point, the New York City police commissioner, William J. Bratton, and the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., criticized Apple after it refused to comply with the court order and said that they currently possessed 175 iPhones that they could not unlock.

Charlie Rose recently interviewed Mr. Vance and asked if he would want access to all phones that were part of a criminal proceeding should the government prevail in the San Bernardino case.

Mr. Vance responded: “Absolutely right.”

Mark Zuckerberg Stole Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Show 

Interesting marriage of convenience. Samsung has hardware but no interesting software. Facebook has interesting software but no hardware.

MDM Software Would Have Unlocked San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone 

CBS News:

If the technology, known as mobile device management, had been installed, San Bernardino officials would have been able to remotely unlock the iPhone for the FBI without the theatrics of a court battle that is now pitting digital privacy rights against national security concerns.

The service costs $4 per month per phone.

Instead, the only person who knew the unlocking passcode for the phone is the dead gunman, Syed Farook, who worked as an inspector in the county’s public health department.

I had assumed they weren’t using MDM, but it’s good to have confirmation.

FBI Director James Comey Publishes Op-Ed on Apple/Encryption Case 

James Comey, in a brief op-ed published last night by Lawfare:

The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message. It is about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That’s what this is. The American people should expect nothing less from the FBI.

It is very difficult to take Comey’s opening sentence seriously. Everyone — on both sides of the issues — knows that this is about setting precedent.

The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve. We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That’s it. We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land. I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that. Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn’t. But we can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead.

This is a purely emotional appeal. By Comey’s logic here, FBI agents should be considered above the law, able to pursue any and every avenue possible in the pursuit of information in a case with high stakes. That’s not how our system works. We are governed by the rule of law. Encryption is legal.

Ultimately, that is where Comey and the FBI are going to take this. They’re going to try to make strong encryption illegal.

In Internal Email, Apple CEO Tim Cook Says Refusal to Unlock iPhone Is an Issue of Civil Liberties 

Tim Cook, in a company-wide memo:

Apple is a uniquely American company. It does not feel right to be on the opposite side of the government in a case centering on the freedoms and liberties that government is meant to protect.

Our country has always been strongest when we come together. We feel the best way forward would be for the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and, as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms. Apple would gladly participate in such an effort.

Apple Publishes FAQ on Their Fight Against the FBI 


The Talk Show: ‘iTools or Whatever’ 

For your enjoyment, a new episode of my podcast, with special guest Jim Dalrymple. Topics include the Apple/FBI legal showdown, the debate over Apple software quality, and more.

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White House Petition to Side With Apple in FBI Fight 

I don’t have high hopes for this (the Obama administration seems hopelessly tied to law enforcement on this subject), but I signed:

The FBI, is demanding that Apple build a “backdoor” to bypass digital locks protecting consumer information on Apple’s popular iPhones.

We the undersigned, oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

New York Times Publishes Report on iPhone Security and China 

Katie Benner and Paul Mozer, reporting for the NYT and revisiting the topic excised from a report earlier this week:

In China, for example, Apple — like any other foreign company selling smartphones — hands over devices for import checks by Chinese regulators. Apple also maintains server computers in China, but Apple has previously said that Beijing cannot view the data and that the keys to the servers are not stored in China. In practice and according to Chinese law, Beijing typically has access to any data stored in China.

If Apple accedes to American law enforcement demands for opening the iPhone in the San Bernardino case and Beijing asks for a similar tool, it is unlikely Apple would be able to control China’s use of it. Yet if Apple were to refuse Beijing, it would potentially face a battery of penalties.

Analysts said Chinese officials were pushing for greater control over the encryption and security of computers and phones sold in the country, though Beijing last year backed off on some proposals that would have required foreign companies to provide encryption keys for devices sold in the country after facing pressure from foreign trade groups.

“People tend to forget the global impact of this,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, policy director at Access Now, a nonprofit that works for Internet freedoms. “The reality is the damage done when a democratic government does something like this is massive. It’s even more negative in places where there are fewer freedoms.”

Another way to look at this is a choice between the lesser of two evils. Is it a bad thing if law enforcement loses access to the contents of cell phones as state of the art for security increases? Yes. But it would be far, far worse — for entirely different reasons — if we eliminate true security by mandating back doors.

San Bernardino Officials: Apple ID Password for Terrorist’s iPhone Reset at FBI Request 

This story keeps getting weirder. John Paczkowski, at BuzzFeed:

The FBI has claimed that the password was changed by someone at the San Bernardino Health Department. Friday night, however, things took a further turn when the San Bernardino County’s official Twitter account stated, “The County was working cooperatively with the FBI when it reset the iCloud password at the FBI’s request.”

County spokesman David Wert told BuzzFeed News on Saturday afternoon the tweet was an authentic statement, but he had nothing further to add.

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday; an Apple spokesperson said the company had no additional comment beyond prior statements.

The additional wrinkle here is that when the FBI first revealed this, in this footnote (screenshot) of their legal motion (whole motion linked above, on “claimed”), they strongly implied that the San Bernardino Health Department did this on their own, like they were a bunch of yokels who panicked and did the wrong thing. Instead, it turns out, they were following the FBI’s instructions.

The FBI says this happened “in the hours after the attack”. My question: How many hours?

DevMate by MacPaw 

My thanks to MacPaw for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to announce that their developer platform DevMate is now available free of charge. DevMate is a single SDK that provides a slew of back-end services for Mac developers: in-app purchasing, software licensing, update delivery, crash reports, user feedback, and more. Plus real-time analytics, with sales and downloads, are available from DevMate’s dashboard.

Among the indie Mac developers using DevMate for their apps are MacPaw themselves (for CleanMyMac), Smile Software, and Realmac. It’s a robust, dependable solution for developers who want to sell their Mac apps outside the App Store.

More Mac App Store Certificate Problems 

Lost amid the FBI/iPhone encryption hubbub was another bad week for the Mac App Store — apps just stopped launching, with the only solution being to delete the app(s) and re-install from the store. Michael Tsai (as usual) compiled a thorough roundup of information and commentary.

Donald Trump Calls for Boycott on Apple 

It’s easy to laugh (especially since the Trump Twitter account continues to post from an iPhone), but it really is no joke when the leading Republican presidential candidate is calling for a boycott against a U.S. company. This is why other companies are being so tepid in their support for Apple.

Worth noting that in the afternoon conference call with reporters (where Apple revealed that the suspect’s Apple ID password had been reset, thwarting the chances to get the phone to do an iCloud backup), they responded to Trump:

Sr. Apple exec, says Trump’s call for Apple boycott puts the company in standing with other good people he has criticized - Reuters

Justice Department Calls Apple’s Refusal to Unlock iPhone a ‘Marketing Strategy’ 

Eric Lichtblau, reporting for the NYT:

The Justice Department, impatient over its inability to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers, demanded Friday that a judge immediately order Apple to give it the technical tools to get inside the phone.

It said that Apple’s refusal to help unlock the phone for the F.B.I. “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy,” rather than a legal rationale.

As though providing genuine security to users is not meaningful, valuable, and genuinely important.

From the government’s filing:

Apple has attempted to design and market its products to allow technology, rather than the law, to control access to data which has been found by this Court to be warranted for an important investigation.

As Ashkan Soltani noted:

DoJ’s updated motion essentially attempts to describe encryption as an illegal technology.

Apple: San Bernardino Suspect’s Apple ID Password Was Changed in Government Custody, Blocking Access 

John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed:

The Apple ID password linked to the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists was changed less than 24 hours after the government took possession of the device, senior Apple executives said Friday. If that hadn’t happened, Apple said, a backup of the information the government was seeking may have been accessible. […]

The executives said the company had been in regular discussions with the government since early January, and that it proposed four different ways to recover the information the government is interested in without building a back door. One of those methods would have involved connecting the phone to a known wifi network.

Apple sent engineers to try that method, the executives said, but the experts were unable to do it. It was then that they discovered that the Apple ID password associated with the phone had been changed.

Was the Apple ID (iCloud) password changed by the FBI, or by the San Bernardino County government, to whom the phone belongs?

Update: The password was changed by the county, according to the DOJ’s filing (page 18, footnote 7). Thanks to James Grimmelmann for the source.

Do We Have a Right to Security? 

Rich Mogull:

Don’t be distracted by the technical details. The model of phone, the method of encryption, the detailed description of the specific attack technique, and even the feasibility are all irrelevant.

Don’t be distracted by the legal wrangling. By the timing, the courts, or the laws in question. Nor by politicians, proposed legislation, Snowden, or speeches at think tanks or universities.

Don’t be distracted by who is involved. Apple, the FBI, dead terrorists, or common drug dealers.

Everything, all of it, boils down to a single question.

Do we have a right to security?

New York Times Removes Passage on China From Story on Apple/FBI Encryption Fight 

Edward Snowden noted the following passage from this NYT report, but it was subsequently removed from the article:

China is watching the dispute closely. Analysts say the Chinese government does take cues from United States when it comes to encryption regulations, and that it would most likely demand that multinational companies provide accommodations similar to those in United States.

Last year, Beijing backed off several proposals that would have mandated that foreign firms providing encryption keys for devices sold in China after heavy pressure from foreign trade groups. …

“… a push from American law enforcement agencies to unlock iPhones would embolden Beijing to demand the same.”

I have no idea why The Times removed this, because it’s one of the most important but so far least talked about issues in this case. U.S. culture is in many ways insular, making it easy to see this as a “U.S.” issue. But it’s not — it’s a worldwide issue.

I’ve long wondered why China allows companies like Apple to sell devices without back doors for their government. A big part of why they tolerate it seems to be the fact that no government gets this.

Update: Daniel Roberts has posted a screenshot of the entire segment on China that was cut from the article.

Update, 20 February 2016: The NYT has published a new report revisiting the Chinese angle.

Businessweek Profiles Johny Srouji  

Brad Stone, Adam Satariano, and Gwen Ackerman, profiling Johny Srouji for the Businessweek cover story:

At the center of all this is Srouji, 51, an Israeli who joined Apple after jobs at Intel and IBM. He’s compact, he’s intense, and he speaks Arabic, Hebrew, and French. His English is lightly accented and, when the subject has anything to do with Apple, nonspecific bordering on koanlike. “Hard is good. Easy is a waste of time,” he says when asked about increasingly thin iPhone designs. “The chip architects at Apple are artists, the engineers are wizards,” he answers another question. He’ll elaborate a bit when the topic is general. “When designers say, ‘This is hard,’ ” he says, “my rule of thumb is if it’s not gated by physics, that means it’s hard but doable.”

Update: This bit toward the end of the article has stuck in my craw all day:

It also lags behind Samsung in some areas of chip development, such as adding a modem to the central processor to conserve space and power and transitioning from a 20-nanometer chip design to a more compact 16-nanometer format, which means even more transistors can be crammed into a smaller space. “If I was just arguing hardware and not Apple’s marketing, I would say Samsung has the best processor,” says Mike Demler, a senior mobile chips analyst at the Linley Group, a technology consulting firm in Silicon Valley.

This quote just reeks of false balance — the notion that at the end of an article whose central thesis is that Apple has the industry’s best mobile chip design team, Businessweek needed a quote from someone saying it’s all just marketing hype and that Samsung actually designs better CPUs. That’s nonsense. Nobody who knows what they’re talking about disputes the fact that Apple’s in-house-designed A-series chips lead the industry.

What are the odds that the Linley Group has Samsung as one of its consulting clients?

Bruce Schneier: ‘Why You Should Side With Apple, Not the FBI, in the San Bernardino iPhone Case’ 

Bruce Schneier, writing for The Washington Post:

Either everyone gets security, or no one does.

No, Apple Has Not Unlocked 70 iPhones for Law Enforcement 

Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch:

When it comes to the court order from the FBI to Apple, compelling it to help it crack a passcode, there is one important distinction that I’ve been seeing conflated.

Specifically, I keep seeing reports that Apple has unlocked “70 iPhones” for the government. And those reports argue that Apple is now refusing to do for the FBI what it has done many times before. This meme is completely inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst.

Jack Dorsey and Twitter ‘Stand With Tim Cook and Apple’ 

Jack Dorsey:

We stand with @tim_cook and Apple (and thank him for his leadership)!

Short, sweet, and unambiguous. Kudos to Dorsey and Twitter.

Why Apple? 

Kieran Healy:

As a sidelight to this debate, I want to ask why is it that Apple, of all companies, is the one taking such a strong stand on this issue? It’s clear that Apple wants to resist the court order because of the precedent it would set — essentially requiring firms to break the security on their own products when investigators demand it. But that doesn’t answer my question. Why is Apple, specifically, fighting so hard on this?

I very much agree with Healy on this — Apple is in a unique position on this front.

Om Malik on Instagram Ads 

Om Malik:

There is no denying that I am obsessed with Instagram. I check the app as often as I drink water, which is a lot. As a wannabe photographer, it is a source of inspiration: I love looking at perfectly curated lives of people, things and places. I ignore the harsh reality that perfection is almost always nothing more than perception. In fact, Instagram is the only social app that has survived the purge of social media on my iPhone; Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter are all gone. (I use Facebook and Twitter mostly from my iPad Pro, which is my computer of choice these days and a replacement for my laptop.)

Over the past few days, though, I have been contemplating if it is time to get Instagram off my home screen as well. Why? Because it has been infesting my feed with too many ads — and not just any ads but terrible ads. Video ads. Ads that make absolutely no sense to me. Ads that have less relevance to my feed and me than dumb follow-me-everywhere banners on the web.

I check Instagram almost every day, and for reasons that I don’t understand, I have never seen an ad. Not one. But yet more and more I see other people complaining about the ads on Instagram.

Update: My best guess, and a few readers have made the same guess, is that I don’t see ads on Instagram because I don’t have a Facebook account.

NYT: ‘Apple Letter on iPhone Security Draws Muted Tech Industry Response’ 

Nick Wingfield and Mike Isaac, writing for the NYT:

The range of reactions highlights the complicated set of factors influencing tech companies’ responses to government demands for customer data in the era after revelations by Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor, of widespread government surveillance. Some companies may be keeping their heads low to avoid becoming targets during the raucous presidential campaign, while others may fear that being too vocal will jeopardize government sales and relationships with law enforcement, privacy experts said.

“The issue is of monumental importance, not only to the government and Apple but to the other technology giants as well,” said Tom Rubin, a former attorney for Microsoft and the United States Department of Justice, who is now a law lecturer at Harvard University. “Those companies are undoubtedly following the case intently, praying that it creates a good precedent and breathing a sigh of relief that it’s not them in the spotlight.”

Henry Blodget’s reaction:

Smart. Shows awareness of other side — impact of unbreakable encryption on law enforcement and Nat security.

This is not smart. We either all get strong encryption built into our devices — including criminals and enemies — or none of us do. And the smart criminals and enemies will just use third-party encryption software for their communication. This whole debate hinges upon a sheer fantasy, that somehow there can exist secure encryption that the “good guys” can break when they want to.

Reform Government Surveillance Statement Regarding Encryption and Security 

“Reform Government Surveillance” is a coalition group including AOL, Apple, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo. Their statement:

Reform Government Surveillance companies believe it is extremely important to deter terrorists and criminals and to help law enforcement by processing legal orders for information in order to keep us all safe. But technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure. RGS companies remain committed to providing law enforcement with the help it needs while protecting the security of their customers and their customers’ information.


A link to it was tweeted by Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, and his tweet was retweeted by Satya Nadella, which is the closest Microsoft has come to commenting on Apple’s fight against the FBI.

Apple Apologizes and Updates iOS to Restore iPhones Disabled by Error 53 

Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch:

The update is not for users who update their iPhones over the air (OTA) via iCloud. If you update your phone that way, you should never have encountered Error 53 in the first place. If, however, you update via iTunes or your phone is bricked, you should be able to plug it into iTunes to get the update today, restoring your phone’s functionality.

Apple, in a statement to TechCrunch:

“Some customers’ devices are showing ‘Connect to iTunes’ after attempting an iOS update or a restore from iTunes on a Mac or PC. This reports as an Error 53 in iTunes and appears when a device fails a security test. This test was designed to check whether Touch ID works properly before the device leaves the factory.

Today, Apple released a software update that allows customers who have encountered this error message to successfully restore their device using iTunes on a Mac or PC.

We apologize for any inconvenience, this was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers. Customers who paid for an out-of-warranty replacement of their device based on this issue should contact AppleCare about a reimbursement.”

Weird that it only affected those who update their phones via iTunes. Maybe I’m forgetting something, but I can’t recall any previous issues that differed between OTA updates and iTunes updates.

Apple Fights for Precedent in iPhone Unlocking Case 

Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch:

And herein lies the rub. There has been some chatter about whether these kinds of changes would even be possible with Apple’s newer devices. Those devices come equipped with Apple’s proprietary Secure Enclave, a portion of the core processing chip where private encryption keys are stored and used to secure data and to enable features like TouchID. Apple says that the things that the FBI is asking for are also possible on newer devices with the Secure Enclave. The technical solutions to the asks would be different (no specifics were provided) than they are on the iPhone 5c (and other older iPhones,) but not impossible.

If I had to bet, Apple is probably working double time to lock it down even tighter. Its reply to the next order of this type is likely to be two words long. You pick the two.

The point is that the FBI is asking Apple to crack its own safe, it doesn’t matter how good the locks are if you modify them to be weak after installing them. And once the precedent is set then the opportunity is there for similar requests to be made of all billion or so active iOS devices. Hence the importance of this fight for Apple.

So now we know why Apple is drawing the line with this case: it really is a slippery slope that would affect all current devices, not just the ones prior to the A7 CPU and the Secure Enclave.

Sundar Pichai on the Apple/FBI Encryption Fight 

Sundar Pichai, in a series of tweets:

Important post by @tim_cook. Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy.


We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism.

We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders.

But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent.

Could be?

Looking forward to a thoughtful and open discussion on this important issue.

Could Pichai’s response be any more lukewarm? He’s not really taking a stand, and the things he’s posing as questions aren’t actually in question. I’m glad he chimed in at all, and that he seems to be leaning toward Apple’s side, but this could be a lot stronger.

Apple’s iOS Security Guide on Passcodes and the Secure Enclave (PDF) 

From page 12 of Apple’s most recent iOS security whitepaper:

By setting up a device passcode, the user automatically enables Data Protection. iOS supports six-digit, four-digit, and arbitrary-length alphanumeric passcodes. In addition to unlocking the device, a passcode provides entropy for certain encryption keys. This means an attacker in possession of a device can’t get access to data in specific protection classes without the passcode.

The passcode is entangled with the device’s UID, so brute-force attempts must be performed on the device under attack. A large iteration count is used to make each attempt slower. The iteration count is calibrated so that one attempt takes approximately 80 milliseconds. This means it would take more than 5.5 years to try all combinations of a six-character alphanumeric passcode with lowercase letters and numbers.

The stronger the user passcode is, the stronger the encryption key becomes. Touch ID can be used to enhance this equation by enabling the user to establish a much stronger passcode than would otherwise be practical. This increases the effective amount of entropy protecting the encryption keys used for Data Protection, without adversely affecting the user experience of unlocking an iOS device multiple times throughout the day.

To further discourage brute-force passcode attacks, there are escalating time delays after the entry of an invalid passcode at the Lock screen. If Settings → Touch ID & Passcode → Erase Data is turned on, the device will automatically wipe after 10 consecutive incorrect attempts to enter the passcode. This setting is also available as an administrative policy through mobile device management (MDM) and Exchange ActiveSync, and can be set to a lower threshold.

On devices with an A7 or later A-series processor, the delays are enforced by the Secure Enclave. If the device is restarted during a timed delay, the delay is still enforced, with the timer starting over for the current period.

The question of the day is whether the code on the Secure Enclave that enforces these brute force countermeasures can be flash-updated (by Apple) to circumvent them. With the iPhone 5C in the current debate, the FBI wants Apple to update iOS itself to circumvent the brute force countermeasures. With an iPhone 5S or any of the 6-series iPhones, iOS is not involved. But if Apple can technically update the code that executes on the Secure Enclave, then the point is moot. The same kind of court order that requires Apple to provide the FBI with a custom (insecure) version of iOS could compel them to provide the FBI with a custom (insecure) ROM for the Secure Enclave.

Update: Rich Mogull, on Twitter, responding to my question here:

@gruber It is my understanding, from background sources, that all devices are vulnerable.

And Farhad Manjoo:

By the way according to Apple it is not true that an iOS rewrite of the sort the FBI is asking for here wouldn’t work on newer iPhones.

In other words, a flash update to the Secure Enclave could make new iPhones more susceptible to brute force passcode cracking.

Edward Snowden on Google’s Silence 

Edward Snowden, responding to a call for Google to publicly side with Apple:

This is the most important tech case in a decade. Silence means @google picked a side, but it’s not the public’s.

Update: Sundar Pichai has chimed in.

Apple Court Order Heats Up Encryption Battle on Capitol Hill 

Hamza Shaban, reporting for BuzzFeed

“Apple chose to protect a dead ISIS terrorist’s privacy over the security of the American people,” Sen. Tom Cotton says, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein vows to introduce a bill to force Apple to comply with a court order giving the FBI access to the San Bernardino shooters’ phone.

Expect this sort of rhetoric to heat up. The emotional component of the San Bernardino attack is explosive.

As for Feinstein, I think any such bill would make for a terrible law — but I’d rather see an actual law passed than see the All Writs Act of 1789 abused by the FBI in this way. The more I think about it, though, the more I think that this is actually the FBI’s goal here — to create a political controversy driven by fear of terrorism committed by Muslims, and get egregious new anti-encryption legislation passed. I think the FBI knew Apple would fight this, and that the laws currently on the books are on Apple’s side. They want to get a new law on the books.

Apple Versus the FBI 

Ben Thompson:

This is why I’m just a tiny bit worried about Tim Cook drawing such a stark line in the sand with this case: the PR optics could not possibly be worse for Apple. It’s a case of domestic terrorism with a clear cut bad guy and a warrant that no one could object to, and Apple is capable of fulfilling the request. Would it perhaps be better to cooperate in this case secure in the knowledge that the loophole the FBI is exploiting (the software-based security measures) has already been closed, and then save the rhetorical gun powder for the inevitable request to insert the sort of narrow backdoor into the disk encryption itself I just described?

Then again, I can see the other side: a backdoor is a backdoor, and it is absolutely the case that the FBI is demanding Apple deliberately weaken security. Perhaps there is a slippery slope argument here, and I can respect the idea that government intrusion on security must be fought at every step. I just hope that this San Bernardino case doesn’t become a rallying cry for (helping to) break into not only an iPhone 5C but, in the long run, all iPhones.

I am convinced that Apple is doing the morally correct thing here, by fighting the court order. I’ll bet most of you reading this agree. But like Thompson, I’m not sure at all Apple is doing the right thing politically. The FBI chose this case carefully, because the San Bernardino attack is incendiary. Do not be mistaken: Apple is sticking its neck out, politically, and they risk alienating potential customers who believe — as many national political figures do — that Apple should comply with this order and do whatever the FBI wants.

By fighting this, Apple is doing something risky and difficult. It would be easier, and far less risky, if they just quietly complied with the FBI. That’s what makes their very public stance on this so commendable.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum Supports Apple and Tim Cook in Encryption Fight 

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum:

I have always admired Tim Cook for his stance on privacy and Apple’s efforts to protect user data and couldn’t agree more with everything said in their Customer Letter today. We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set. Today our freedom and our liberty is at stake.

Good for him. Where are the leaders of other tech companies on this? I hear crickets chirping in Mountain View and Redmond.

Uber’s Atomic Meltdown 

Eli Schiff on Uber’s incoherent new branding:

The team admitted that it took them eighteen grueling months to come up with the brand’s core values. That should have been a warning sign. But for Kalanick, the time flew by. Kalanick reminisced about the experience, “This change didn’t happen overnight, but it sure feels like it did.” One can be sure that Uber’s Design Director, Shalin Amin, and the team would disagree with Kalanick on that. Indeed, Amin explained that he “basically gave up understanding what your [Kalanick’s] personal preference was.”

It remains unclear why Uber allowed Wired to publish this statement, but it is telling: “Truth be told, Amin and Kalanick didn’t fully understand what they were trying to do.”

In general, it is not a great idea to put the brand of a company valued in the tens of billions of dollars in the hands of people who readily admit they don’t know what their own intentions are.

ACLU Comment on FBI Effort to Force Apple to Unlock iPhone 

Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project:

This is an unprecedented, unwise, and unlawful move by the government. The Constitution does not permit the government to force companies to hack into their customers’ devices. Apple is free to offer a phone that stores information securely, and it must remain so if consumers are to retain any control over their private data.

The government’s request also risks setting a dangerous precedent. If the FBI can force Apple to hack into its customers’ devices, then so too can every repressive regime in the rest of the world. Apple deserves praise for standing up for its right to offer secure devices to all of its customers.

The EFF on the Legality of Using the All Writs Act of 1789 to Compel Apple to Engineer a Back Door 

Andrew Crocker, writing for the EFF blog back in October:

Reengineering iOS and breaking any number of Apple’s promises to its customers is the definition of an unreasonable burden. As the Ninth Circuit put it in a case interpreting technical assistance in a different context, private companies’ obligations to assist the government have “not extended to circumstances in which there is a complete disruption of a service they offer to a customer as part of their business.” What’s more, such an order would be unconstitutional. Code is speech, and forcing Apple to push backdoored updates would constitute “compelled speech” in violation of the First Amendment. It would raise Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues as well. Most important, Apple’s choice to offer device encryption controlled entirely by the user is both entirely legal and in line with the expert consensus on security best practices. It would be extremely wrong-headed for Congress to require third-party access to encrypted devices, but unless it does, Apple can’t be forced to do so under the All Writs Act.

Unsurprisingly, the EFF today announced it is supporting Apple.

Apple Can Comply With the FBI Court Order 

Dan Guido has a good piece on the technical aspects of what the FBI wants Apple to do:

Again in plain English, the FBI wants Apple to create a special version of iOS that only works on the one iPhone they have recovered. This customized version of iOS (*ahem* FBiOS) will ignore passcode entry delays, will not erase the device after any number of incorrect attempts, and will allow the FBI to hook up an external device to facilitate guessing the passcode. The FBI will send Apple the recovered iPhone so that this customized version of iOS never physically leaves the Apple campus.

As many jailbreakers are familiar, firmware can be loaded via Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU) Mode. Once an iPhone enters DFU mode, it will accept a new firmware image over a USB cable. Before any firmware image is loaded by an iPhone, the device first checks whether the firmware has a valid signature from Apple. This signature check is why the FBI cannot load new software onto an iPhone on their own — the FBI does not have the secret keys that Apple uses to sign firmware.

Guido thinks the situation would be very different if the iPhone were newer than a 5C:

At this point it is very important to mention that the recovered iPhone is a 5C. The 5C model iPhone lacks TouchID and, therefore, lacks the single most important security feature produced by Apple: the Secure Enclave.

If the San Bernardino gunmen had used an iPhone with the Secure Enclave, then there is little to nothing that Apple or the FBI could have done to guess the passcode. However, since the iPhone 5C lacks a Secure Enclave, nearly all of the passcode protections are implemented in software by the iOS operating system and, therefore, replaceable by a firmware update.

Why the FBI’s Request to Apple Will Affect Civil Rights for a Generation 

Rich Mogull, writing at Macworld:

Make no mistake: This is unprecedented, and the situation was deliberately engineered by the FBI and Department of Justice to force a showdown that could define limits our civil rights for generations to come. This is an issue with far-reaching implications well beyond a single phone, a single case, or even Apple itself.

As a career security professional, this case has chilling implications. […]

Apple does not have the existing capability to assist the FBI. The FBI engineered a case where the perpetrators are already dead, but emotions are charged. And the law cited is under active legal debate within the federal courts.

The crux of the issue is should companies be required to build security circumvention technologies to expose their own customers? Not “assist law enforcement with existing tools,” but “build new tools.”

Really good take on just how high the stakes are in this case. It is not about one single iPhone 5C.

Vox Hires Choire Sicha to Oversee Partnerships With Facebook, Snapchat 

Lukas Alpert, reporting for the WSJ:

Vox Media has long counted its own content platform as a key to its success. But now it says the future lies in platforms run by others, so it’s bringing in a digital media stalwart to help strengthen those ties.

The company has hired veteran Choire Sicha, co-founder of the Awl Network and a well-known figure in digital media, to become its director of partner platforms.

Not sure what this means for The Awl, but it seems like a clear win for Vox.

The Entire First Episode of ‘Making a Murderer’ 

Jason Kottke:

If you don’t have Netflix but want a taste of what everyone has been talking about for the past two months, the entire first episode of Making a Murderer is up on YouTube.

(I do wonder how many DF readers don’t have Netflix.)

Apple Posts Open Letter to Customers on Encryption 

Blockbuster letter, signed by Tim Cook:

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

‘That’s a Really Good Question, John’ 

Rich Stevens parodies my interview with Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi — and like any good comic, hits a little too close to home.

Google ‘Retires’ Picasa 

Anil Sabharwal, head of Google Photos, writing on the Picasa blog:

Since the launch of Google Photos, we’ve had a lot of questions around what this means for the future of Picasa. After much thought and consideration, we’ve decided to retire Picasa over the coming months in order to focus entirely on a single photo service in Google Photos. We believe we can create a much better experience by focusing on one service that provides more functionality and works across mobile and desktop, rather than divide our efforts across two different products

Given that the previous entry on the Picasa blog was from December 2011, I think the writing has been on the wall on this one.

Alexa, Unlock the Internet 

MG Siegler:

Admittedly, I’m less than a week into using the device. And honestly, I’m still not 100 percent sure how we’ll use the thing day-to-day. But I now believe in the power of Alexa, Echo’s female voice, as a platform.

In fact, I think Echo makes it very clear that Apple (and to a lesser extent, Google) dropped a ball here. This is exactly how Siri should exist in your home. And this is what that orb thing Google made a few years back should have been.

Apple’s Elephant in the Room 

Alexandra Mintsopoulos on the argument that Apple’s software quality is declining:

If the biggest example that can be pointed to is iTunes or its back-end (which seem to generate the most criticism) then there isn’t any validity to the idea that Apple’s software quality is declining. iTunes has been the target of complaints for as long as anyone can remember and it seems clear that it will be reworked much like Photos, iWork, or Final Cut have been (and likely receive the same backlash for missing functionality). The reason it hasn’t been done sooner is obvious: it has hundreds of millions of users and transacts billions of dollars in sales, revamping it from the ground up is akin to fixing an airplane while it’s in flight and won’t be done lightly.

There is a massive disconnect between enthusiasts and Apple’s broader customer base on the perception of Apple’s software quality. That is a PR problem for Apple to solve, not a software one.

Logo for Paris’s 2024 Olympics Bid 

They should get the Olympics simply on the basis of the quality of the logo. It’s been a while since a city put forth an Olympics logo that wasn’t shit — this, on the other hand, is a very nice mark.

Craig Mod on the Leica Q 

Craig Mod, after six months with the Leica Q:

If the iPhone is the perfect everyperson’s mirrorless, then the Q is some specialist miracle. It should not exist. It is one of those unicorn-like consumer products that so nails nearly every aspect of its being — from industrial to software design, from interface to output — that you can’t help but wonder how it clawed its way from the R&D lab. Out of the meetings. Away from the committees. How did it manage to maintain such clarity in its point of view?

Beautifully illustrated with photos taken with the Q, and wonderfully written and considered. My only complaint about this review is that it might wind up costing me $4000, because this camera is right up my alley.


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Why a Die-Hard Mechanical Watch Lover Can’t Get the Apple Watch Off His Wrist 

Jack Forster, who has covered the mechanical watch industry professionally for two decades, writing for Hodinkee:

I think the Apple Watch is winning the smartwatch wars right now for several reasons: better UI is one (I struggle to find Android Wear compelling, in any form, at least so far) and its ability to keep your phone in your pocket, and your head up, is another. One of its biggest secrets, though, is this: it shows every indication of having been made by people who love and understand watches, and who know that for any kind of wearable to succeed, it has to be love at first sight. And that’s why it’s not only a threat to other smartwatches, but to mechanical watchmaking. It’s a truism in watchmaking that the face sells the watch, but that truism is based on something bigger, which is that for something you’re going to have on your skin all day, you decide in microseconds, and with your heart, not your head, whether it’s for you. I used the word “seduced” several times in writing about Apple Watch, because its ability to be instantly seductive is the reason you give everything else about it a chance. The Apple Watch is seductive; Google Glass was not, and the rest is history.

Ad Age Retracts Claim That Google Will Favor AMP Pages in Search Results 

Important correction from Ad Age, regarding the claim earlier this week that Google would favor AMP page in search results. The story now reads:

And, crucially, Google favors faster* sites over others with the same search score in the results it shows consumers, said Richard Gingras, senior director, news and social products at Google.

“Clearly, AMP takes speed to a point of extreme,” Mr. Gingras said. “So, obviously we look to leverage that. Again, it is only one signal. AMP doesn’t mean adopt AMP and get a massive boost in search ranking. That is not the case. All of the other signals need to be satisfied as well. But without question speed matters. If we had two articles that from a signaling perspective scored the same in all other characteristics but for speed, then yes we will give an emphasis to the one with speed because that is what users find compelling.”

The footnote on “faster” reads:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Google would favor AMP sites in search results over others with otherwise identical scores. Google will simply favor faster sites. We regret the error.

Good to know.

Hollywood Reporter: ‘Dr. Dre Filming Apple’s First Scripted Television Series’ 

Michael O’Connell and Lesley Goldberg, reporting for The Hollywood Reporter:

Apple is making its first original television show. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the technology giant is backing a top-secret scripted series starring one of its own executives, Beats co-founder and rap legend Dr. Dre.

Multiple sources say the 50-year-old mogul is starring in and executive producing his own six-episode vehicle, dubbed Vital Signs, and the production is being bankrolled by Apple. The series likely will be distributed via Apple Music, the company’s subscription streaming site, but it’s not clear if Apple TV, the iTunes store or other Apple platforms (or even a traditional television distributor) will be involved. Apple and a rep for Dre declined to comment.

If only this news had broken before I had Eddy Cue on my podcast. Interesting to think about how Apple would (will?) charge for exclusive content. Making it free for Apple Music subscribers is one idea, but if that’s the case, why did they call it “Apple Music”? What if it’s free for anyone with Apple TV?

It doesn’t sound very Disney-like, either:

While technically a half-hour, the show is not a comedy. Instead, it is described as a dark drama with no shortage of violence and sex. In fact, an episode filming Monday and Tuesday this week featured an extended orgy scene. Sources tell THR that naked extras simulated sex in a mansion in the Bird Streets neighborhood of Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills.

The Talk Show, With Very Special Guests Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi 

Drop what you’re doing and find a pair of headphones: my guests on this special episode of my podcast are Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi. It’s a wide-ranging discussion, and includes a bunch of interesting scoops: the weekly number of iTunes and App Store transactions, an updated Apple Music subscriber count, peak iMessage traffic per second, the number of iCloud account holders, and more.

If you’re new to the show, you can subscribe via iTunes or RSS.

This special episode was sponsored exclusively by

Gravitational Waves Explained 

Fun follow-up to today’s big news — a cartoon explaining how gravitational waves work.

Gravitational Waves Exist: The Inside Story of How Scientists Finally Found Them 

Great piece by Nicola Twilley for The New Yorker on the team that made this discovery:

Just over a billion years ago, many millions of galaxies from here, a pair of black holes collided. They had been circling each other for aeons, in a sort of mating dance, gathering pace with each orbit, hurtling closer and closer. By the time they were a few hundred miles apart, they were whipping around at nearly the speed of light, releasing great shudders of gravitational energy. Space and time became distorted, like water at a rolling boil. In the fraction of a second that it took for the black holes to finally merge, they radiated a hundred times more energy than all the stars in the universe combined. They formed a new black hole, sixty-two times as heavy as our sun and almost as wide across as the state of Maine. As it smoothed itself out, assuming the shape of a slightly flattened sphere, a few last quivers of energy escaped. Then space and time became silent again.

NYT: Pandora Is Said to Have Held Talks About Selling Itself 

Leslie Picker and Ben Sisario, reporting for the NYT:

Pandora Media, the largest Internet radio service, has held discussions about selling the company, according to people briefed on the talks. […]

For Pandora, it would be a curious time to sell. Its shares are yielding a market value of $1.8 billion, down from more than $7 billion two years ago. The stock has fallen more than 60 percent since October.

Pandora has the largest number of users for music streaming, but the competition is encroaching. Spotify is said to be arming itself with another $500 million in capital, and Apple Music recently surpassed 10 million paying users. Pandora’s users peaked at 81.5 million at the end of 2014, declining to 78.1 million in the third quarter.

The streaming business is cutthroat.

Time Inc. Acquires Myspace 

Lara O’Reilly, reporting for Business Insider:

Time Inc., the owner of Time, Fortune, and People magazines, has acquired Viant, the parent company of Myspace. Joe Ripp, chairman and CEO of Time Inc., described the acquisition as “game changing” in a press release.

What year is it?

American Pharoah’s Second Life as a $200k-a-Night Stud 

Fascinating feature by Monte Reel for Bloomberg on the business and process of putting champion thoroughbred horses out to stud:

The verb to use in polite company is “cover.” The stud covers the mare. Or: About 11 months after she was covered, the mare gave birth to a healthy foal.

The deed itself, here in the hills of Kentucky horse country, is governed by strict rules. Section V, paragraph D of The American Stud Book Principal Rules and Requirements is clear: “Any foal resulting from or produced by the processes of Artificial Insemination, Embryo Transfer or Transplant, Cloning or any other form of genetic manipulation not herein specified, shall not be eligible for registration.” No shortcuts, no gimmicks. All thoroughbreds must be the product of live, all-natural, horse-on-horse action.

There are some guys in this industry with really, really weird jobs.

(Via Dave Pell’s excellent NextDraft.)

Gravitational Waves Detected, Confirming Einstein’s Theory 

Dennis Overbye, reporting for the NYT:

A team of physicists who can now count themselves as astronomers announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago (Listen to it here.). And it is a ringing (pun intended) confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.

More generally, it means that scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest.

Remarkable science, and a testimony to Einstein’s extraordinary genius.

Don’t skip the video — it’s wonderful.

The Talk Show: ‘Anthropomorphic Human Bowel’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Ben Thompson. Topics include last Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 (and its mostly terrible commercials), Tim Cook’s tweet with a photo he took from the sidelines post-game, Twitter’s algorithmic timeline and the state of today’s Google- and Facebook-dominated online advertising industry, Yahoo’s gloomy prospects, and more.

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Comparing Tech Companies by Revenue and Profit Per Employee, 2015 

Two tweets from Dustin Curtis that tell a big story.

Donald Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal: The Movie’ 

Long-thought lost, but recovered by Ron Howard. Looking forward to watching this tonight.

(Interesting sidenote: “For the best viewing experience, get the Funny Or Die app for Apple TV.”)

Google AMP Launch Looms 

George Slefo, reporting for Advertising Age:

In short, AMP is like a diet version of HTML. It is extremely fast and incredibly quick when it comes to loading. JavaScript is essentially non-existent, for now at least, and images won’t load until they’re in the user’s view. AMP will also deliver content much faster because it will be cached via the cloud, meaning Google won’t have to fetch it from a publisher’s site each time a request is made.

The end result is a near instantaneous content delivery system.

Sounds great.

Come launch, publishers will be able to track analytics and sell ads. Solutions for paywalls were put into place Tuesday. And, crucially, Google will favor AMP sites over others with the same search score in the results it shows consumers, said Richard Gingras, senior director, news and social products at Google.


Update: Rafe Colburn:

Does Google AMP offer any advantage (other than reduced effort) over building something yourself with the same goals as AMP?

What if it doesn’t even involve reduced efforts. What about a site that already delivers clean HTML markup, minimal-to-no JavaScript, and images that load on demand (or, cough, a site with few-to-no images)? Why would Google favor an AMP site over such a site in search results?

Update 2: Ad Age has filed a correction to the story that retracts the claim that Google will favor AMP pages in search results.

Amazon’s Updated AWS Service Terms 

Lengthy, as you’d expect for the terms of service for something like AWS. I’ll simply draw your attention to section 57.10, near the end.

A UX Designer’s Review of iPad Pro 

Amanda Somers:

Starting with an inspiration phase we would look for imagery online while we sketch and hash out rough ideas. After sketching, erasing, sweeping up eraser dust off our desks and repeating that a dozen times, we would draw iPhone or iPad sized screens on paper to eventually fill with promising candidates from our sketching session. After a couple iterations we usually share a version for a design review. […]

iPad Pro eliminates eraser dust and stacks of unnecessary paper sketches. Now we are able to copy and paste a sketch we’ve done, erase parts we don’t like and iterate on top of that. From there, we can simply Airdrop the sketch to our computers.

It’s easy for many people to forget just how much design and illustration work still happens on paper — iPad Pro and Apple Pencil seem to be moving the needle on this.

Vector Networks, an Alternative to Paths 

Evan Wallace:

Before I co-founded Figma my background was in game development, not in design. I remember being very surprised when I first encountered modern vector editing tools. Many of the interactions felt broken. Why couldn’t you just manipulate things directly? Why did connecting and disconnecting stuff only sometimes work? Is this the best we can do?

The pen tool as we know it today was originally introduced in 1987 and has remained largely unchanged since then. We decided to try something new when we set out to build the vector editing toolset for Figma. Instead of using paths like other tools, Figma is built on something we’re calling vector networks which are backwards-compatible with paths but which offer much more flexibility and control.

I have never been able to make heads or tails out of Illustrator’s vector design tools. (R.I.P. Freehand.) The Figma designers have come up with something truly novel — looking forward to trying this.

Free as in Frightening 

From a Wired profile of Android founder Andy Rubin:

Rubin is typically tight-lipped about his plans — he refused to comment, for instance, on a recent report in The Information that he’s building a new Android phone. When pressed, he says he is in fact working on a dashcam, which he plans to give away in exchange for its data — potentially allowing Playground to build a real-time visual map of the world. And he has other ideas, he says, “that I’m not willing to talk about.”

I like the Engadget piece on this: “Android Creator Andy Rubin Is Making a Free Dashcam: You’ll Just Have to Give Up Its Data in Exchange.”

That’s one hell of a “just”.

Getting Ahead vs. Doing Well 

Seth Godin:

One unspoken objection to raising the minimum wage is that people, other people, those people, will get paid a little more. Which might make getting ahead a little harder. When we raise the bottom, this thinking goes, it gets harder to move to the top.

After a company in Seattle famously raised its lowest wage tier to $70,000, two people (who got paid more than most of the other workers) quit, because they felt it wasn’t fair that people who weren’t as productive as they were were going to get a raise.

They quit a good job, a job they liked, because other people got a raise.

This is our culture of ‘getting ahead’ talking.

This is the thinking that, “First class isn’t better because of the seats, it’s better because it’s not coach.” (Several airlines have tried to launch all-first-class seating, and all of them have stumbled.)

Teenagers and Snapchat 

BuzzFeed’s Ben Rosen interviewed his 13-year-old sister to learn how she uses Snapchat:

I’m mesmerized. What’s even the point of sending snaps to each other if you don’t look at them? Am I crazy? That seems so unnecessary. Still, this is adult-brain talking. If I wanted to be one of the teens, I needed to just accept it and press on.

ME: What does Dad say when he sees you doing this?

BROOKE: Parents don’t understand. It’s about being there in the moment. Capturing that with your friends or with your expression. One of the biggest fights kids have with their parents is about data usage.

ME: Really? Because you’re using too much?

BROOKE: Yeah. This one girl I know uses 60 gigabytes every month.

ME: 60 GIGS?!?!? Is that for real??

BROOKE: Yeah. [laughs]

ME: Wow. OK, what else do you do during the day?

BROOKE: I look at the new filters. Those are VERY big. I’ve only bought about three of them, but there are new ones, like, every day.

ME: How often are you on Snapchat?

BROOKE: On a day without school? There’s not a time when I’m not on it. I do it while I watch Netflix, I do it at dinner, and I do it when people around me are being awkward. That app is my life.

The Reality of Missing Out 

Ben Thompson:

But remember the adage: it’s the customers that matter, and from an advertiser’s perspective Facebook and Twitter are absolutely comparable, which is the root of the problem for the latter. Digital advertising is becoming a rather simple proposition: Facebook, Google, or don’t bother.

Arriving at San Francisco 

Speaking of typography and new typefaces, Nick Keppol of MartianCraft has put together an epic two-part series analyzing Apple’s new San Francisco UI font system. (Part one is a little less about San Francisco in particular and more about the fundamentals of typography in general.)

Operator — New Monospace Typeface From Hoefler & Co. 

New from Hoefler & Co.: “a monospace typeface, a monospace-inspired typeface, and a short film about type design”. Jonathan Hoefler:

In developing Operator, we found ourselves talking about JavaScript and CSS, looking for vinyl label embossers on eBay, renting a cantankerous old machine from perhaps the last typewriter repair shop in New York, and unearthing a flea market find that amazingly dates to 1893. Above is the four-minute film I made, to record a little of what went into Operator, and introduce the team at H&Co behind it.

I heard that Hoefler & Co. were working on a monospace typeface a few months ago, and the result is everything I expected: distinctive, attractive, and practical. The script face for the italics is a little wild, but why not go a little wild on the italics in a monospace typeface? (Meta note: I’m posting this from MarsEdit with Operator Mono as my editing font.)

Roger Goodell’s Unstoppable Football Machine 

Great feature by Mark Leibovich for the NYT Magazine on Roger Goodell and the state of the NFL:

And yet, everyone wants a piece of the Shield. Put it on TV, and people will watch; put it on a jersey, they will wear it. The N.F.L.’s total revenue in 2015 ($12.4 billion) is nearly double that of a decade earlier ($6.6 billion). The price of television ads during the Super Bowl has increased by more than 75 percent over the last decade. This year’s conference championship games set yet another viewership record for the league: 53.3 million people watched the A.F.C. game on CBS; 45.7 million watched the N.F.C. game on Fox. Goodell talks constantly about ‘‘growing the pie,’’ finding new revenue streams and ways to make the N.F.L. a ‘‘year-round’’ experience rather than just during fall and winter. He has said he wants the N.F.L. to achieve $25 billion in gross revenue by 2027. No league is as relentless when it comes to growth and making cash for its billionaire cartel. It’s reminiscent of a shark that will die if it doesn’t keep moving and ripping little fish to shreds.

Just to put that in context with my regular beat, Apple booked over $233 billion in revenue in its 2015 financial year. The NFL is a pervasive, overwhelming cultural force in the United States, but Apple is almost 20 times bigger financially. It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison, for sure, but it helps put into perspective just how big Apple has gotten.

Super Bowl 50 and the Denver Broncos’ Defense 

Michael Rosemberg, writing for Sports Illustrated:

I’m sure we can all agree, right?: The story of Super Bowl 50 was Denver’s defense. Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said “the game plan was so simple” — don’t blitz too much, gang up on the run — and so is this story.

Denver’s defense dominated Cam Newton and the Panthers in a 24–10 victory. Forget the total yards, which were 315–194 in Carolina’s favor, and forget that Carolina had 10 more first downs. It was obvious by halftime that Carolina’s offense, which led the league in scoring, was overmatched.

I had Carolina winning in a blowout. That didn’t work out so well.

An Old-School Reply to an Advertiser’s Retro Threat 

Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway has written the best “go fuck yourself” piece I’ve seen in a long time.

Flash-Free Video in 2016 

Scott Wolynski and Flavio Ribeiro, writing for the NYT Open blog:

At the beginning of this year, we officially turned off Flash support for VHS, the New York Times video player. We now use HTML5 video technology for all video playback on desktop and mobile web browsers.

This might have happened eventually no matter what, but the fact that this is happening now is because of the iPhone, iPad, and Apple’s steadfast refusal to allow browser plugins on iOS.

The Apple Watch Got Marco Arment Hooked on Mechanical Watches 

Marco Arment:

A big part of that joy, for me, is that this isn’t like anything else in my life, and the difference is refreshing.

Most of my work and hobbies involve technologically cutting-edge digital electronics reliant on complex, inconsistent software, with a typical lifetime of a few years at most. Almost everything else I use and make is effectively disposable.

This is a huge part of the appeal of mechanical watches for me. No electricity. Just mechanics. They’re tangible in a way that software never can be.

For similar reasons, I still read most books on paper.


My thanks to Igloo for once again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Igloo is an intranet you’ll actually like. It can help your company or team share information and collaborate in one unified space — from any device.

Igloo knows love doesn’t happen overnight, so they’ll let you try Igloo free of charge — forever.

‘Error 53’ 

Christina Warren, writing for Mashable:

What is Error 53? Well, it basically turns your iPhone into a brick. Why? Well it all ties into the Touch ID sensor on your phone. […]

The problem occurs when an unauthorized repair center replaces a home button. At first, the phone might work — with everything, including Touch ID, seeming perfectly fine.

But as soon as you go to update to a newer version of iOS (or you attempt to restore your phone from a backup), the software checks to make sure the Touch ID sensor matches the rest of the hardware. If it finds that there isn’t a match, your phone is basically bricked.

It seems very reasonable to me that iOS should check for a trusted Touch ID sensor. But, if the sensor can’t be trusted, clearly the whole phone should not be bricked — it should simply disable Touch ID and Apple Pay. And, obviously, it should inform the user why. Putting up an alert that just says “Error 53” is almost comically bad.

Microsoft, Nokia, and the Burning Platform 

Evan Blass, writing for VentureBeat:

When Microsoft acquired Nokia’s Devices and Services division in late 2013 and began integrating the storied Lumia brand into its offerings, it was hailed by Microsoft’s then-CEO Steve Ballmer as “a bold step into the future — a win-win for employees, shareholders, and consumers of both companies.” Since then, Microsoft has folded much of its $7.5 billion acquisition into other divisions of the company, laid off thousands of former Nokia employees, slashed its output of smartphones per year, and eventually wrote off the entire purchase in a $7.6 billion impairment charge. Fast forward to early 2016, when we will soon see a quiet launch of what’s widely believed to be the final Microsoft Lumia-branded handset, the Lumia 650.

The most amazing part of this whole saga is that Nokia was worth only $7.5 billion in 2013. In 2000, they had a market cap of $245 billion.

Spencer Hall: ‘I Won the Super Bowl in a McLaren 570S’ 

Nice take on what it’s like to drive a $190,000 sports car.

Update on That Atlanta House Where Dozens of Missing Phones Think They Are 

Kashmir Hill, following up on this story from a few weeks ago:

Maynor thinks it’s possible that an app seeking to better locate a phone might take the IP-based location and then look next to a mapping database of wireless devices it knows in the area; with little to choose from there, it may be locking onto Lee and Saba’s router as the closest to the IP-chosen location and then pinpoint them as the exact location of the phone.

But he’s still uncertain. Maynor says he feels like Sherlock Holmes trying to solve this tech mystery.

“These are theories and I am trying to prove them. It’s like that Conan Doyle quote, ‘Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth,’” said Maynor. “But I’m still not satisfied. I want to find more of a smoking gun. We need to know what app people are using to find their phones and then look at what databases they’re relying on for location.”

Completely tangential sidenote: Longtime DF readers will recall Dave Maynor’s name.

Fred Wilson Criticizes Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for Waiting to IPO 

Biz Carson, writing for Business Insider:

“I agree with Bill Gurley on this. Man up! Woman up! Fucking do it! Don’t be chicken!” Wilson ranted, referring to another outspoken VC.

One company in Wilson’s crosshairs is Uber, the ride-hailing company valued at more than $62 billion in the private market. Its CEO, Travis Kalanick, does not appear to be in any hurry to take the company public. Kalanick sees an Uber IPO as being a few years off still, and has compared its situation to being like an eighth-grader while people are telling them to go to the prom.

Wilson, who isn’t an investor in the company, doesn’t buy it. “He’s wimping out. That should be a publicly traded company,” Wilson said.

A VC upset that a company is not going public, thus preventing other VCs from reaping huge profits? Shocker.

Tim Cook Holds Company-Wide Town Hall 

Mark Gurman, 9to5Mac:

In the days following Apple’s record Q1 earnings announcements, Apple CEO Tim Cook and other top Apple executives held a Town Hall meeting at the Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino to reveal new announcements and take attendee questions.

Multiple sources in attendance at the event said that Cook as well as newly appointed Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams each spoke and made announcements and teases related to new employee benefits, future iPad growth, Apple Watch sales, future retail stores in China, Apple Campus 2, and the future product pipeline. […]

Lots of interesting tidbits, including the fact that Apple Watch sold better in its first holiday quarter than the original iPhone did in 2007.

He also touched upon the new Cupertino Apple Campus 2, noting that Apple employees will likely first begin moving into the new campus by the end of January 2017. He emphasized how important the new theater will be in giving Apple flexibility to hold larger events on its own campus versus relying on places in San Fransisco or San Jose. Cook reportedly called the new campus a “gift” to the future of Apple employees.

It occurs to me that next month’s Apple Event might be the last one ever held in the small theater on Apple’s existing campus.

Louis C.K. on Why He Charged $5 for the First Episode of ‘Horace and Pete’ 

Louis C.K.:

So why the dirty fuckballs did I charge you five dollars for Horace and Pete, where most TV shows you buy online are 3 dollars or less? Well, the dirty unmovable fact is that this show is fucking expensive.

The standup specials are much more containable. It’s one guy on a stage in a theater and in most cases, the cost of the tickets that the live audience paid, was enough to finance the filming.

But Horace and Pete is a full on TV production with four broadcast cameras, two beautiful sets and a state of the art control room and a very talented and skilled crew and a hall-of-fame cast. Every second the cameras are rolling, money is shooting out of my asshole like your mother’s worst diarrhea. (Yes there are less upsetting metaphors I could be using but I just think that one is the sharpest and most concise). Basically this is a hand-made, one guy paid for it version of a thing that is usually made by a giant corporation.

I watched the first episode. It’s a really unusual show. On the surface level, it feels very familiar, with a cast of well-known actors and a very traditional old-school multi-camera look and feel. Horace and Pete looks like an old CBS show, in particular, to my eyes.

But what the characters do and say, and what is going on in their lives, is nothing at all like traditional TV. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition — familiar comfort-food in terms of how it looks, but unconventional in terms of what is actually going on.

In just two words: “dystopic Cheers”.

Amazon’s Retail Store Plans Go Beyond Books 

Jason Del Rey, reporting for Recode:

Amazon will indeed open up more bookstores, but it also plans to eventually unveil other types of retail stores in addition to bookstores, according to two sources familiar with the plans. It’s not yet clear what those stores will sell or how they will be formatted, but the retail team’s mission is to reimagine what shopping in a physical store would be like if you merged the best of physical retail with the best of Amazon.

So they’ll start with books, then expand to other products. Sounds familiar.

Yours Truly on Josh Topolsky’s ‘Tomorrow’ Podcast 

What I like about doing podcasts with Josh is that we disagree on so much — it’s fun, and he always makes me think.

Music Memos Is a Songwriter’s Best Friend 

Dave Wiskus, writing for iMore:

If Voice Memos are Post-Its — a quick and dirty tool to make sure I didn’t forget an idea — then Music Memos is a sketchbook. This is where I start the songwriting process, and every part of the app is designed to help facilitate the process and, most shockingly of all, guide me to the next step in fleshing the song out. […]

Music Memos has so many other tricks up its sleeves that I almost feel like someone at Apple has been reading my dream journal. An app for recording song ideas that uses a robust tagging system is something I’ve personally wanted to build for a long time, but throw in a guitar tuner, chord and tempo detection, exporting to GarageBand, and magical automatic backing instruments, and the dream becomes borderline pornographic.

I’m not a songwriter, so the app isn’t useful to me personally, but I’m really impressed by the design of this app. It is attractive, well-organized, simple, and thoughtful. And judging by Dave’s take (and Serenity Caldwell’s), it’s genuinely useful and solves a heretofore unsolved problem.

So all is not lost when it comes to Apple putting out high-quality apps.

Mossberg: Apple’s Apps Need Work 

Walt Mossberg:

But there’s more than just metal, glass, and silicon to these products. Apple’s built-in software is a huge part of the experience, and has been since the company introduced the first Mac in 1984. Whether it’s the operating systems or the core apps, a major aspect of what makes both users and reviewers value Apple products is software that melds power, reliability, and ease of use. “It just works!” was a favorite Steve Jobs phrase.

In the last couple of years, however, I’ve noticed a gradual degradation in the quality and reliability of Apple’s core apps, on both the mobile iOS operating system and its Mac OS X platform. It’s almost as if the tech giant has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to these core software products, while it pursues big new dreams, like smartwatches and cars.

In particular, Mossberg singles out iTunes (on the desktop), Mail, and iCloud sync issues.

Uber Rebrands 

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick:

Have you ever looked at someone’s hairstyle and thought “oh my, you peaked in the 1990s?” Well that’s a bit how I feel about Uber’s look today. It’s not just that we were young and in a hurry when we replaced our red magnet logo with today’s black badge four years ago. It’s that we were a fundamentally different company. […]

So today, we’re excited to roll out a new look and feel that celebrates our technology, as well as the cities we serve.

The new logo mark feels like a solid improvement over the old. It feels familiar, but sturdier. Everything else they’re doing with this refresh seems like a bunch of nonsense. I just don’t get it. I think it’s fine for a company as young as Uber to start over from scratch with their brand. It’s risky, because Uber is already pretty well known, but, if you decide you need a change, the sooner you do it the better. But their new brand doesn’t make for a cohesive whole. It doesn’t feel like a new version of the old Uber brand, and it gives me no sense of what the new Uber brand feels like.

I concur with Armin Vit (writing at Brand New):

The bigger issue with the redesign — far more troubling — than the logo redesign is the app icon. In this case the app icon gets more action than the logo itself. That’s the first interaction from most users. If I wasn’t a fan of the curl in the “U” of the old logo I was even less of a fan of the inward serifs of the old icon. But, hey, it was a “U” for Uber and it was shiny like the badge on the grill of a car. The new icon is completely unidentifiable in any way as Uber other than it saying “Uber” underneath. Let’s assume that it’s a matter of being used to poking on that icon for the last five or six years and that we just need to get used to poking at this new one but, even then, it seems like this is an icon for something else altogether. I don’t think there is enough strength in the bit as the principal (and literal) touchpoint. Having a separate icon for drivers that looks even less like anything doesn’t help the cause of establishing a consistent, recognizable mobile environment.

Update: Everyone I know thinks of Uber as the company whose app you use to hail a car to drive you somewhere. Uber has greater ambitions than that. That’s fine. But they created this new brand to fit with their ambitions, and as a result, it doesn’t fit with what everyone who uses them thinks of them right now. Compare and contrast to Amazon. Amazon has expanded to major new initiatives like developer web services and online streaming of video. But along the way they never broke the original brand that says “This is where you go to buy books”. This new Uber brand (and especially the app icon) does not say “This is what you use to hail a ride.”

Uber’s new icon looks like a logo for Cyberdyne Systems.

Draplin Design Co.: ‘Pretty Much Everything’ 

I got a sneak peek at this back in September, when I visited DDC’s Portland headquarters with a few friends. Chock full of great design work and hilarious prose. You should get this book.

Apple Press Event: March 15 

John Paczkowski, BuzzFeed:

Apple has finally set the date for its first big event of 2016: The Ides of March.

Sources in position to know tell BuzzFeed News the company has chosen March 15 as the date it will show off a handful of new products.

Among the devices Apple plans to unveil are the next generation version of the iPad Air and a new smaller iPhone. Approximately the same size as the iPhone 5s, this smaller iPhone will feature a 4-inch display and a faster chip. Also on board: Support for Apple Pay, the company’s mobile payment service. A selection of new Apple Watch bands is also expected.

Matthew Panzarino and Mark Gurman are both reporting the same date.

The Imperious Elon Musk 

Back in September, Stewart Alsop wrote a post on Medium telling Elon Musk “he should be ashamed of himself” because the launch event for the Tesla Model X started late and Alsop didn’t get to actually see a Model X.

In response, Musk has cancelled Alsop’s $130,000 order for a Model X. I love this guy. Sure, it seems a little childish, vindictive, and petty. But it’s fun to watch.

Reporting Scandal at The Intercept 

Betsy Reed, editor of The Intercept:

The Intercept recently discovered a pattern of deception in the actions of a staff member. The employee, Juan Thompson, was a staff reporter from November 2014 until last month. Thompson fabricated several quotes in his stories and created fake email accounts that he used to impersonate people, one of which was a Gmail account in my name.

An investigation into Thompson’s reporting turned up three instances in which quotes were attributed to people who said they had not been interviewed. In other instances, quotes were attributed to individuals we could not reach, who could not remember speaking with him, or whose identities could not be confirmed. In his reporting Thompson also used quotes that we cannot verify from unnamed people whom he claimed to have encountered at public events. Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods.

This sort of scandal can sink a publication. Seems like The Intercept is handling this as best they can, by getting out in front of it.

But it gets even stranger: in an email sent to Gawker, Thompson says:

I’ve been undergoing radiation treatment for testicular cancer and, since I no longer have health insurance, I’ve been feverishly struggling and figuring out how to pay for my treatment. All of this, of course, has taken up my time and energy; except for the few moments I’ve spent searching for some relief.

With regards to verifying the comments, I’m in STL undergoing treatment, again, and not in NY, thus I lack access to my notebooks (which I took for most stories) to address these matters. Moreover, after finally looking over the notes sent to me, I must say this: I had a habit of writing drafts of stories, placing the names of ppl I wanted to get quotes from in there, and then going to fetch the quotes.

Dealing with a serial fabulist is so hard. Does he really have cancer? I hope not, and if he does, I of course wish him well. But what The Intercept is alleging goes far beyond getting the names wrong of sources he quoted — and being ill is no excuse for it.

MacRumors Scoop on iPhone 7 Design 

Eric Slivka, writing for MacRumors:

Apple’s iPhone 7 isn’t expected to launch until the usual September timeframe, but we’re starting to get our first hints of what we might be able to expect for the new device. According to a source who has provided reliable information in the past, the iPhone 7 body will appear very similar to the design used for the iPhone 6 and 6s, with two significant exceptions.

The first involves the rear camera, which protrudes slightly on the iPhone 6 and 6s. On the iPhone 7, the camera is said to sit flush with the rear casing, enabled by a thinner camera module. Recent rumors have indicated Apple is considering equipping the iPhone 7 Plus with a dual-lens rear camera, but the smaller iPhone 7 is expected to include a more traditional camera.

I hate that damn camera bump, so it’d be great to see it go. But man, I’m going to be disappointed if the 5.5-inch model gets the new two-lens camera and the 4.7-inch one does not.

LG’s First-Ever Super Bowl Ad 

As with many Super Bowl ads, I feel like they would’ve gotten more bang for their buck by just setting fire to a few million dollars in cash and putting the video on YouTube.

On Apple’s Share Price 

Kirk Burgess:

Fancy owning Apple Inc, the entire company, for no money down? Well if the current share price level doesn’t go any higher, in less than 8 years time someone will be able to pick up the company effectively for free.

Duke Unranked in Associated Press Top 25 for First Time in More Than Eight Years 

First Alphabet passes Apple as the most valuable company in the world, now this. Not a good day for Tim Cook.

Alphabet Passes Apple as World’s Most Valuable Company 

Jack Clark, reporting for Bloomberg:

Google reported profit and sales that topped estimates, lifted by robust sales of online ads and tighter cost controls, putting parent Alphabet Inc. on track to overtake Apple Inc. as the world’s most valuable company.

The results, reported for the first time under a new structure that separates Google’s main search and advertising operations from riskier investments, show that fourth-quarter revenue, excluding sales passed on to partners, rose 19 percent to $17.3 billion. That exceeded analysts’ average projection for $16.9 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Profit, before certain items, was $8.67 a share, beating the prediction for $8.08. […]

The shares of Mountain View, California-based Alphabet rose as much as 9.4 percent in extended trading. The stock advanced 1.2 percent to $770.77 at the close in New York, giving the company a market capitalization of $523.1 billion, compared with $534.7 billion for Apple.

I saw this coming a few weeks ago.

Update: To be clear, Alphabet’s closing price today left it around $11 billion behind Apple, but their stock is way up in after-hours trading (what Bloomberg calls “extended trading”).