Linked List: August 2017

Breakfast With Tim Cook 

Andrew Ross Sorkin, writing for the NYT’s Dealbook:

As Mr. Cook’s breakfast arrived — two scrambled egg whites, crispy bacon (they didn’t have his preferred turkey bacon), sugar-free cereal with unsweetened almond milk — he described his week, punctuated by a visit the night before to the L.B.J. Presidential Library, the museum of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“One of the things that hits you,” he said, is “all of the major acts, legislation, that happened during just his presidency.” His eyes widened as he listed some: “You have the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Act, you have Medicare, you have Medicaid, you have several national parks, you have Head Start, you have housing discrimination, you have jury discrimination.”

“Regardless of your politics,” he continued, “you look at it and say, ‘My gosh.’”

I feel like this is Tim Cook being Tim Cook. He is not the guy who calls up a New York Times columnist and tells him he’s “a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong”, and he has never pretended to be. Cook is, at least in public, preternaturally calm, and a serious student of history. Without being overtly political, Cook seems to be stepping into a leadership role that is above and beyond Apple.

WSJ: Apple to Hold iPhone Launch Event on 12 September 

Tripp Mickle and Drew FitzGerald, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. has scheduled a product-announcement event on Sept. 12, according to people briefed on its plans, reinforcing expectations that the technology giant will release new iPhones and a smartwatch well ahead of the holiday shopping season.

That’s the date I would have bet on. Last few years it’s been the Wednesday after Labor Day, but that felt too early this year.

The company is expected to unveil three iPhones, according to other people familiar with its plans. Those include a showcase iPhone to mark the product’s 10th anniversary that is larger and pricier and features an edge-to-edge display and facial-recognition technology, as well as updates to the two iPhone 7 models that started selling last year.

They’re not launching D22 this year because it’s the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. They’re launching it this year because it’s ready. If it had been ready last year, they would have launched it last year. They might well mention the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone on stage at the event, but I would be very surprised — and probably a little alarmed — if they make it part of the marketing campaign for the device. Again, they might put it in the keynote event (like they did with the company’s 40th anniversary), but that was never part of any advertising campaign.

The trick Apple needs to pull off here is making all three new iPhones look new and exciting. Calling D22 the special 10th Anniversary iPhone makes the 4.7- and 5.5-inch models seem non-special.

In the past two years it has used San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, but people close to the company say it is aiming to use the 1,000-seat Steve Jobs Theater on its new headquarters campus. The new headquarters, however, aren’t finished, and the construction timetable could affect the timing or location of the event, those people said.

We’re two weeks away from the event. The Journal’s sources may not know where it’s being held, but Apple does. (But it leaves me hanging where I should book a hotel room.)

New York Police Departments Needs to Replace 36,000 Windows Phones 

Tina Moore, reporting for The New York Post:

The NYPD has to scrap the 36,000 smartphones it gave cops over the past two years because they’re already obsolete and can’t be upgraded, The Post has learned.

The city bought Microsoft-based Nokia smartphones as part of a $160 million NYPD Mobility Initiative that Mayor Bill de Blasio touted as “a huge step into the 21st century.”

But just months after the last phone was handed out, officials plan to begin replacing them all with brand-new iPhones by the end of the year, sources said.[…]

Law enforcement sources blamed the boondoggle on NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Information Technology Jessica Tisch, with one saying, “She drove the whole process.”

“Nobody purchases 36,000 phones based on the judgment of one person,” a source said.

“I don’t care if you’re Jesus Fucking Christ, you get a panel of experts.”

Really does seem baffling that they’d invest so heavily in Windows Phone in 2014, long after it was clear that the platform was dying.

Uber’s New CEO: Dara Khosrowshahi 

Ben Thompson:

And, at the end of all that drama — and this is only a partial list (as of the time of this writing Techmeme has had 280 posts about Uber in 2017) — Dara Khosrowshahi, the very successful, very stable, and very well-compensated CEO of Expedia, jumped at the opportunity to take the helm, beating out GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt and and Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman for the honor…it’s an honor, right?

In fact, I think Khosrowshahi is a great choice for CEO, and understanding why goes a long ways towards explaining why the Uber job remains an attractive one, even after the worst seven-month stretch in startup history.

The Ionic, Fitbit’s Watch 

It’s like an Apple Watch that got hit by the ugly stick.

Jamf Now 

My thanks to Jamf for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed.

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The Talk Show: ‘Prison Oreos’ 

Special guest Jason Snell returns to the show. Topics include Daring Fireball’s 15th anniversary, fruit fly infestations, clicky keyboards, sandwich cookies, the birth of Markdown, iOS 11’s new “cop mode”, favicons in Safari, Apple’s Project Titan, last week’s total solar eclipse, and Jerry Lewis.

Sponsored by:

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  • Fracture: Your photos printed directly on glass.
Brian X Chen: ‘premium model priced at around $999’ 

Pricing scoop in the midst of Brian X. Chen’s Personal Tech column for The New York Times:

Chief among the changes for the new iPhones: refreshed versions, including a premium model priced at around $999, according to people briefed on the product, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

If true, I would wager that means starting at $999, with a higher storage capacity model at $1099 and maybe another at $1199.

CrashPlan Exits Consumer Backup Business 

Joe Payne, writing for CrashPlan parent company Code42:

Today we announced our decision to no longer offer the consumer version of our product, known as CrashPlan for Home. We will honor all of our existing agreements with consumers, but we will no longer renew any consumer subscriptions, nor will we sign up any new consumers for CrashPlan for Home.

Allow me to take this opportunity to endorse Backblaze. Now, Backblaze has sponsored this website and my podcast so many times that I’d be a fool not to disclose that fact up front. But I’m not posting this because of that. They’re not paying me to say this. I’m just a delighted (and paying!) customer of their service, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Really, the fact that Backblaze is a frequent sponsor made me hesitate to post this, to avoid any appearance of playing favorites for sponsors, but online (and thus off-site) backups are so important that I’m doing it anyway. If you don’t have an off-site backup system in place for your Macs, I implore you to check out Backblaze.

iOS 11 Will Strip AMP Garbage From Shared URLs 

Nice discovery by Federico Viticci: when you share an AMP URL (or copy it), iOS 11 will strip the AMP garbage so you get the URL that points to the original article. Great feature.

‘You Must Go Offline to View This Page’ 

Thoughtful bit of cleverness from Chris Bolin.

Jason Snell’s Notes From a Road Trip 

Jason Snell, reporting from an 11-day family road trip:

Two of the three places we’ve stayed on this trip have been rentals, rather than hotels. (They’re mostly ski condos repurposed for the summer months.) Both of them advertised Wi-Fi as a feature, but that’s an incredibly vague concept that can encompass a lot of different experiences. The first place was connected to the Internet via DSL, which is quite slow, and the connection was unreliable on top of it. The second place offered cable internet, at pretty fast speeds, but once again the Internet seems to keep dropping and then resuming. The Wi-Fi at the hotel was fast and reliable, which isn’t a given.

In the meantime we’ve blown through a giant chunk of our cellular data allotment for the month. Oh well. Life on the road.

He’s got a lot of good observations about the changing state of what he travels with (he took no Mac on this trip, which would make me feel naked) but this bit about internet access matches my experience as well. I almost solely rely on cellular networking while traveling nowadays. This, rather than using Wi-Fi at home, is mostly what I was talking about when I linked to that XKCD comic on Wi-Fi vs. cellular a few weeks ago.

Public Policy Polling: 45 Percent of Trump Voters Think Whites Face the Most Racial Discrimination in U.S. 

Public Policy Polling:

The reason Trump hasn’t lost more ground for his widely panned response to the attack is probably that many of his supporters agree with some of the beliefs that led white supremacists to rally in Charlottesville in the first place. Asked what racial group they think faces the most discrimination in America, 45% of Trump voters say it’s white people followed by 17% for Native Americans with 16% picking African Americans, and 5% picking Latinos. Asked what religious group they think faces the most discrimination in America, 54% of Trump voters says it’s Christians followed by 22% for Muslims and 12% for Jews. There is a mindset among many Trump voters that it’s whites and Christians getting trampled on in America that makes it unlikely they would abandon Trump over his “both sides” rhetoric.

The idea that white Christians are the most discriminated against group in America is both bonkers and disgusting. And that’s how we wound up with a bonkers, disgusting president.

Overall 89% of Americans have a negative opinion of neo-Nazis to 3% with a positive one, and 87% have an unfavorable opinion of white supremacists to 4% with a positive one. Just 11% agree with the sentiment that it’s possible for white supremacists and neo-Nazis to be ‘very fine people,’ to 69% who say that’s not possible.

These numbers are much less depressing. But I’m really curious about the people in the middle, who have neither a positive nor negative opinion of Nazis. Who is neutral or undecided on Nazism and white supremacy?

Jackass of the Week: James Damore 

If you’re still looking for a succinct, pin-point-accurate, easily grasped explanation for what was wrong about Google engineer James Damore’s essay arguing against Google’s efforts to address gender (and, I think implicitly, racial) diversity in its workforce, look no further than Damore himself, in this series of tweets:

Imagine your company spent $250 million on programs that assumed Santa Claus is real.

Then you wrote a document detailing why Santa Claus is a myth, which upset the brainwashed employees that believe in Santa Claus.

It’s your fault if you make a 3 year old cry by telling them Santa Claus isn’t real. It’s society’s fault if that makes 30 year olds cry.

I found his original document extraordinarily tedious to read because it contained about two pages worth of ideas spread across 10 pages of a sort of academic-ese-like writing. He used that abstract, detached, wordy point-of-view to make his thesis come across as non-confrontational. I’m not against women in tech, I’m just pro facts, and here are some facts.

Now, unleashed from any pretense of evenhandedness or detachment, we get a succinct summary of his argument: the notion that women should, based on merit and talent, constitute a larger percentage of the tech industry is like believing in Santa Claus. A fantasy.

Fuck this guy.

Also, nobody cried after reading his “document”. They simply explained, often in point-by-point painstaking detail, why he was wrong and needed to be fired.

Giuseppe Stuto: US Teens Engage With iMessage More Than Any Other Social Platform 

Giuseppe Stuto, co-founder and CEO of Fam:

The Piper Jaffrey data shows how commanding iPhones are in today’s smartphone landscape for teens. This is in line with our various surveying here at Fam, in which we have approximated over the past year that 75% of US teens use iPhones. In terms of why this may be the case, there are several factors to consider: design, iTunes, network effects, and of course what we believe to be the most important one, iMessage.

By no means am I commenting on what device is better, more powerful, better looking, or any of that. Simply laying the groundwork for this thesis at large.

iMessage IS a social platform for teens. It’s currently the center of their immediate, social universe.

Absolutely true for my son and his friends. Apple said two years ago that iMessage was the single most-used app on iOS. And as I wrote last year, there is nothing inadvertent or lucky about iMessage’s success — and yet it is largely overlooked.

Here’s a Reddit thread chock full of anecdotes about how dominant iMessage and iPhones are among US teens.

Jack-Off Hysteria Subsided Quickly 

Nilay Patel’s review of the iPhone 7 for The Verge last year contained 31 references to the word “headphone”. Dieter Bohn’s review this week of the headphone-jack-less Essential Phone contains three, all in one paragraph:

There is no standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which is basically a trend now. But at least it ships with a USB-C dongle (though not USB-C headphones). Trends be damned, I’m going to continue to be a curmudgeon about it, if only because once this week I left both the dongle and my Bluetooth headphones at the office, so I couldn’t listen to music or podcasts the next day.

As I wrote last year, “Nilay’s review is going to age about as well as a 2007 review of the original iPhone that devoted the same amount of attention to the lack of a hardware keyboard.”

I think Bohn devoted exactly the right amount of attention to this — it’s certainly worth pointing out, and that’s about it. I did find it slightly curious that Bohn didn’t complain about the fact that the Essential Phone doesn’t even ship with a pair of USB-C headphones, though — you either have to use the included dongle or third-party Bluetooth headphones. Seems nickel-and-dimey for a $700 phone.

‘Tell Them That They Not Only Get to Yell at Nazis, but That Cake Will Be Served’ 

Dan Savage devoted the first 9 minutes of his Savage Lovecast podcast this week to last week’s Charlottesville and Boston protests, and the controversy over Tina Fey’s brilliant sheet cake segment on SNL’s Weekend Update. Includes a nice reference to my piece on this.

AccuWeather Caught Sending User Location Data, Even When Location Sharing Is Off 

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet:

Popular weather app AccuWeather has been caught sending geolocation data to a third-party data monetization firm, even when the user has switched off location sharing. […]

Security researcher Will Strafach intercepted the traffic from an iPhone running the latest version of AccuWeather and its servers and found that even when the app didn’t have permission to access the device’s precise location, the app would send the Wi-Fi router name and its unique MAC address to the servers of data monetization firm Reveal Mobile every few hours. That data can be correlated with public data to reveal an approximate location of a user’s device.

We independently verified the findings, and were able to geolocate an AccuWeather-running iPhone in our New York office within just a few meters, using nothing more than the Wi-Fi router’s MAC address and public data.

In other words, if you deny AccuWeather permission to use the Location Services APIs on you iPhone, they’ll go around your back and send your Wi-Fi router name and the router’s MAC address to these shitbirds at Reveal Mobile, and they maintain a database that maps Wi-Fi routers to locations.

To me this is a one strike and you’re out situation. Apple should remove this version of the AccuWeather app from the App Store, and any of you reading this who have it installed should delete it from your devices and never re-install it. How can you trust them? There are plenty of excellent weather apps in the App Store that would never blatantly abuse your privacy like this. Off the top of my head: Dark Sky, Weather Line, and Carrot, to name just three. Also, the built-in Weather app that comes with iOS is really good and has gotten a lot better in the last few years.

Android 8.0 Oreo 

I get it, Oreos are famous. But if you like Oreos you should try Newman-O’s, which are way way better. Newman-O’s are the cookies Oreos pretend to be.

The Verge’s Essential Phone Review 

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

It won’t be long now before we take edge-to-edge screens like the one on the Essential Phone for granted, but for the moment it’s still something special. There’s a cutout at the top for the selfie camera (and a couple of sensors) shaped like a little U, splitting the status bar in half between notifications and your radio status icons.

That cyclops eye seems like the sort of thing that would be distracting, but in my experience it becomes invisible almost immediately. Ninety-five percent of the time Android doesn’t put anything of value in that particular part of the screen anyway, and the phone is adept at keeping apps that go truly full screen (like video) letterboxed in. Every now and then you will have something like an image that will be full screen and cut off by the camera, but it’s rare. […]

Even though we’ve seen the no-bezel trick on phones like the Galaxy S8, it still feels remarkable to have such a large display on such a small phone. The 5.7-inch screen on the Essential Phone is bigger than what you’ll get on an iPhone 7 Plus or a Pixel XL, yet the phone itself is much smaller. It’s much closer in size to the smaller counterparts of those phones, the iPhone 7 and Pixel, and their significantly smaller displays.

It does look like a beautiful device. And it deserves kudos for lacking a camera bump. But: the camera is, in The Verge’s terms, “somewhat disappointing”. There’s one and only one reason why recent iPhones have camera bumps: to improve the quality of the images and videos shot by the camera. I hate the bump, but I’d rather have the bump and better image quality than no bump and worse image quality. Wake me up when someone figures out how to make a best-of-breed phone camera with no bump.

Update: Google’s Pixel phones don’t have a bump, and are top-tier cameras. Neglecting to mention them is an inexplicable brain fart on my behalf, given that I own a Pixel and like it far more than any other Android phone I’ve ever seen. But it’s not like the Pixel achieve a no-bump design without a significant compromise: the entire form factor of the phone is wedge-shaped — the top (the camera end) is noticeably thicker than the bottom. In some ways that’s better, and in others it’s worse. But what I want is what the iPhone SE has: no bump, no wedge — just a perfect slab with a flush camera lens. I fear the bump is here to stay, though.

Ellen Pao: ‘This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley’ 

Ellen Pao, in an excerpt at The Cut from her new book Reset:

In my own interview, when I mentioned that my colleagues had talked about a porn star when we were on a plane together, the investigator asked if it was Sasha Grey. I said no. He pressed the point, saying that Sasha Grey was crossing over into legitimate acting. At another point, the investigator asked, in a “gotcha” tone, “Well, if they look down on women so much, if they block you from opportunities, they don’t include you at their events, why do they even keep you around in the first place?”

I hadn’t thought about it before. I replied slowly as the answer crystallized in my mind: If you had the opportunity to have workers who were overeducated, underpaid, and highly experienced, whom you could dump all the menial tasks you didn’t want to do on, whom you could get to clean up all the problems, and whom you could create a second class out of, wouldn’t you want them to stay?

It is remarkable and admirable what Pao chose to go through rather than accept a multi-million-dollar buyout and sign a non-disclosure agreement, simply so she could tell her story.

Update: One niggle: the headline on this piece ought to be “This Is How Sexism Works in the VC Industry”, not “in Silicon Valley”.

Apple’s New Instructional Videos for iPad Pro and iOS 11 

These are, as usual, very well done, but I’m a little curious about the timing, given that iOS 11 won’t ship to non-beta-testers until next month.

Om Malik Interviews Louis Rossetto 

Terrific interview by Om Malik with Wired magazine co-founder Louis Rossetto. Rossetto:

Life is funny, because you’re supposed to — well, at least when I was growing up — you were supposed to have this clear idea of the trajectory of your life, a career that you could envision how it’s going to turn out, and the steps that you would take along the way to make that dream real. My life has been about serial obsessions, which I compare to love affairs. You can’t will yourself to fall in love, but suddenly you find yourself in love, and then it becomes something amazing.

I think people do their best work when they’re obsessed by something they have to work out. That’s been the story of my life. It certainly hasn’t been linear. It’s been about following passions along the way. Sometimes it’s been about being a journalist, or an editor, or an entrepreneur, and other times it’s been about being a father, or a chocolate company guy. Now it’s about being a writer. Each of these have had their own moment; they’ve each absorbed my full being in order to work out whatever it was I had to deal with.

Rosetto has a new book, a novel titled Change Is Good, that is being designed and printed by Erik Spiekermann. The first edition is available exclusively through Kickstarter.

Those early years of Wired were just incredibly inspiring to me. I loved everything about the early Wired — what they wrote about, how they wrote about it, the typography and design of the magazine itself, and even the quality of the inks and papers they used. It was so good, and so perfectly captured a hard-to-capture revolution.

Jerry Lewis, Mercurial Comedian and Filmmaker, Dies at 91 

Dave Kehr, writing for The New York Times:

When they found themselves on the same bill again at another Manhattan nightclub, the Havana-Madrid, in March 1946, they started fooling around in impromptu sessions after the evening’s last show. Their antics earned the notice of Billboard magazine, whose reviewer wrote, “Martin and Lewis do an afterpiece that has all the makings of a sock act,” using showbiz slang for a successful show.

Mr. Lewis must have remembered those words when he was booked that summer at the 500 Club in Atlantic City. When the singer on the program dropped out, he pushed the club’s owner to hire Mr. Martin to fill the spot. Mr. Lewis and Mr. Martin cobbled together a routine based on their after-hours high jinks at the Havana-Madrid, with Mr. Lewis as a bumbling busboy who kept breaking in on Mr. Martin — dropping trays, hurling food, cavorting like a monkey — without ever ruffling the singer’s sang-froid.

The act was a success. Before the week’s end, they were drawing crowds and winning mentions from Broadway columnists. That September, they returned to the Havana-Madrid in triumph.

Their reunion, brokered by Frank Sinatra on stage during the 1976 Jerry Lewis telethon, is one of my favorite clips on YouTube.


My thanks to Outlier for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Outlier makes radical quality clothing, with obsessively sourced raw materials. Their clothes are designed for performance, durability, and movement. They are, simply, excellent.

As I wrote when they first sponsored DF a few months ago, I have a few of their shirts, pants, shorts, and socks. The first thing I checked out were the pockets on the pants and shorts. The pockets on most shorts I’ve owned are shitty. There’s no other way to say it. The pockets on Outlier shorts are exquisite. They’re the best shorts I’ve ever owned. This is a company that pays attention to the details — all of the details.

What other company sells a bomber jacket with a description that begins “They say ‘don’t fuck with a classic’”? No one. Check them out.

Tina Fey on Donny Johnny and the Chinless Turds in Charlottesville 

Tina Fey’s segment on SNL’s Weekend Update this week was so good I’ve watched it three times already. It’s just amazing.

Yet, remarkably, it has drawn criticism from people on the left. Exhibits A, B, and C. If you’re claiming to be offended by Tina Fey’s segment this week, you’re either utterly humorless or willfully obtuse, and either way, you are part of the problem. The only people to be offended by this week are fucking Nazis, and Tina Fey just skewered them.

I remember being a kid learning that Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal was controversial in its time, because some sanctimonious shitheads thought Swift literally wanted people to eat Irish children. I just couldn’t believe there were people who were incapable of understanding satire. But here we are today, with people thinking Tina Fey literally wants us to stay home and eat cake. If that’s what you think, let me break it to you: your heart might be in the right place, but you’re an idiot.

Cops Can Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Fingerprint, but Not Your Passcode 

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Mashable back in 2014:

Cops can force you to unlock your smartphone with your fingerprint — but they can’t force you to unlock it with your passcode, according to a judge in Virginia.

The decision, one of the first ones to deal with fingerprints and cellphones, confirms the fact that law enforcement agents can get access to a locked phone with legal means if they need to. At the same time a PIN or a password might enjoy more protection than a fingerprint.

This is why it’s so great that iOS 11’s new easily-invoked Emergency SOS mode requires you to enter your passcode after invoking it. When you’re entering customs or in a situation where you’re worried you’re about to be arrested, you can quickly disable Touch ID without even taking your phone out of your pocket.

Until iOS 11 ships, it’s worth remembering that you’ve always been able to require your iPhone’s passcode to unlock it by powering it off. A freshly powered-on iPhone always requires the passcode to unlock.

iOS 11’s SOS Feature Allows You to Temporarily Disable Touch ID and Require Passcode 

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

Emergency SOS is activated by pressing on the sleep/wake button of an iPhone five times in rapid succession. When the requisite number of presses is complete, it brings up a screen that offers buttons to power off the iPhone, bring up your Medical ID (if filled out) and make an emergency 911 call.

Along with these options, there’s also a cancel button. If you hit the sleep/wake button five times and then hit cancel, it disables Touch ID and requires a passcode before Touch ID can be re-enabled. Touch ID is also disabled if you actually make an emergency call.

This is a handy hidden feature because it allows Touch ID to be disabled discretely in situations where someone might be able to force a phone to be unlocked with a fingerprint, such as a robbery or an arrest. With Touch ID disabled in this way, there is no way to physically unlock an iPhone with a finger without the device’s passcode.

It’s also worth noting that there’s no real way to tell that Touch ID has been disabled in this manner.

This is a fantastic feature. In addition to being useful for anyone with Touch ID, it will also assuage concerns over coerced unlocking of your phone with a facial ID scanner (which is widely believed to be coming in the new high-end iPhone).

Once iOS 11 ships, spread the word about this to your friends and family.

Update: Some great details about how Apple has implemented this:

  • If you actually make an SOS phone call, iOS does not lock you out of using Touch ID. That is, if it’s an actual emergency, Apple doesn’t want to make it harder to unlock your phone.

  • There’s a bit of haptic feedback when this feature is invoked, so you can do this discreetly in your pocket and know you hit it.

  • In the current developer beta (beta 6), the display stays on indefinitely while in Emergency SOS mode. You have to tap the on-screen Cancel button to get the screen to turn off. In a future beta, hitting the power button one more time should darken the display again. That way, you can disable Touch ID and turn off the display without ever removing your iPhone from your pocket.

Vice News Tonight: ‘Charlottesville: Race and Terror’ 

Vice News:

Correspondent Elle Reeve goes behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, the Charlottesville Police, and Black Lives Matter during the “Unite the Right” rally.

22 minutes, and worth every second. It really gives a sense of just how tense this weekend-long confrontation was, and how scary (and well-armed) these Nazi motherfuckers are. Reeve does a great job letting them speak for themselves.

Why Cloudflare Terminated Daily Stormer 

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare:

Earlier today, Cloudflare terminated the account of the Daily Stormer. We’ve stopped proxying their traffic and stopped answering DNS requests for their sites. We’ve taken measures to ensure that they cannot sign up for Cloudflare’s services ever again.

Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.

Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare.

Now, having made that decision, let me explain why it’s so dangerous.

I’m a staunch First Amendment supporter. I believe these Nazi motherfuckers have a right to publish their garbage propaganda. But they don’t have a right to Cloudflare services. Prince’s thoughtful explanation makes clear that this was a last resort, and hopefully one-time exception, to their policy of not censoring sites over political content.

The internet really changes the way this works, though. In the print days, there was no equivalent of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. There are only a handful of very large companies that can defend against a DDoS attack, and Cloudflare is one of them. Now that Cloudflare has dropped them, their web site is unreachable.

Dilution of Whisky – The Molecular Perspective 

Interesting new paper published in Scientific Report by Björn C. G. Karlsson and Ran Friedman:

Despite the growing knowledge of the nature of water-alcohol mixtures on a molecular level, much less is known on the interaction of water, alcohol and small solutes. In particular, the nature of the interaction between the solvent and taste-carrying molecules, such as guaiacol, is not known. To address this gap, we used MD simulations to study the distribution of guaiacol in water-alcohol mixtures of different concentrations. Our simulations revealed that guaiacol is present at the air-liquid interface at ethanol concentrations that correspond to the alcohol content of bottled or diluted whiskies. Because the drink is consumed at the interface first, our findings help to understand why adding water to whisky helps to enhance its taste.

I loved this line:

Overall, there is a fine balance between diluting the whisky to taste and diluting the whisky to waste.

I got this via The Verge, who ran it with the headline “Here’s the Scientific Reason It’s Better to Drink Whiskey on the Rocks”. That headline surely turned heads (and generated clicks) because neat versus on-the-rocks is a polarizing debate, but it’s not supported by this paper. Karlsson and Friedman report only on the effects of adding water, not changing the temperature. That said, in yours truly’s humble opinion, almost all whisky tastes better with a large ice cube.

A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. Estimates That Google Is Paying Apple $3 Billion to Remain the Default Safari Search Engine 

Todd Haselton, writing for CNBC:

“Court documents indicate that Google paid Apple $1B in 2014, and we estimate that total Google payments to Apple in FY 17 may approach $3B,” Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said. “Given that Google payments are nearly all profit for Apple, Google alone may account for 5% of Apple’s total operating profits this year, and may account for 25% of total company OP growth over the last two years.”

I would love to be a fly on the wall for those negotiations.

Sacconaghi said that Google might decide to back away from paying Apple any licensing fees if it feels confident enough that its search engine is so popular Apple won’t include any other option by default.

On the other hand, Sacconaghi said that Apple’s iOS devices contribute about 50 percent to Google’s mobile search revenue, which means Google might be too afraid to walk away from its licensing deal with Apple. In this case, it’s a win-win for Apple and Google.

If Apple was willing to dump Google Maps, they’d be willing to dump Google Search too. The differences between results from Google versus Bing or DuckDuckGo are way smaller than the differences between Google Maps and Apple Maps back in 2012. Apple is in a strong position in this relationship.

Tim Cook’s Email to Employees About Charlottesville 

Tim Cook:

We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.

Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point — that we are all equal. As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.

This is where we’ve gotten to: Tim Cook felt the need to denounce Nazism — fucking Nazism — because the president of the United States won’t.

Josh Marshall: ‘The House Is on Fire’ 

Josh Marshall:

I confess I had a small degree of surprise that the events of the weekend — as horrifying and tragic as they are — have had quite the effect on people they seem to have had. This is not to diminish them. It is only to say that I do not think they should be so surprising. I don’t think they should amount to a revelation that shifts our basic understanding of things. We have if not a growing white supremacist movement in the US at least an increasingly vocal and emboldened one. They both made Trump possible and have in turn been energized and emboldened by his success. He reacts this way because he is one of them. He is driven by the same view of the world, the same animus and grievances. What we’ve seen over the last five days is sickening and awful. The house is on fire. But it was on fire a week ago. It’s been on fire since November. The truth is indeed unimaginable and terrifying. But we need to accept the full truth of it if we are going to be able to save our country.

Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost 

Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, reporting for The New York Times (emphasis added):

No word in the Trump lexicon is as tread-worn as “unprecedented.” But members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private. The National Economic Council chairman, Gary D. Cohn, and the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who are Jewish, stood by uncomfortably as the president exacerbated a controversy that has once again engulfed a White House in disarray.

The President of the United States is an angry, resentful white supremacist. That’s been clear to me ever since he started campaigning. If any good comes of this terrible week, it’s that more and more people are now seeing it, and are outraged by it.

The Email Larry Page Should Have Written to James Damore 

The Economist, writing from the point of view of Larry Page:

Your interpretation is wrong. Your memo was a great example of what’s called “motivated reasoning” — seeking out only the information that supports what you already believe. It was derogatory to women in our industry and elsewhere. Despite your stated support for diversity and fairness, it demonstrated profound prejudice. Your chain of reasoning had so many missing links that it hardly mattered what your argument was based on. We try to hire people who are willing to follow where the facts lead, whatever their preconceptions. In your case we clearly made a mistake.

Really strong piece that crystallizes my thoughts on this matter.

WSJ: ‘Apple Readies $1 Billion War Chest for Hollywood Programming’ 

Tripp Mickle, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (alternate link that should route around the Journal’s paywall):

Apple Inc. has set a budget of roughly $1 billion to procure and produce original content over the next year, according to people familiar with the matter, as the iPhone maker shows how serious it is about making a splash in Hollywood.

Combined with the company’s marketing clout and global reach, the step immediately makes Apple a considerable competitor in a crowded market where both new and traditional media players are vying to acquire original shows. Apple’s budget is about half what Time Warner Inc.’s HBO spent on content last year and on par with estimates of what Inc. spent in 2013, the year after it announced its move into original programming.

A friend of mine sent me this link, along with this quip: “Original content Apple is my least favorite Apple, but I can see why they are doing this.” I can’t put it better than that.

So far, Apple’s efforts at original content have been swings and misses. They really need to start making shows that are good. But would Apple ever make a show like Game of Thrones? That show is the current gold standard for original content, but I’m not sure Apple would want to put their brand on a show with so much graphic violence and sex. Disney has a squeaky-clean brand too, so it’s not like “family-friendly” and “high quality” are mutually exclusive.

If you ever watch baseball, sometimes the ceremonial first pitch is thrown by a talented athlete from another sport, but they’ve never played baseball, and the results are comically bad. That’s what it feels like watching Apple try to produce TV shows.

Spitball: I wonder if Apple should have bought Pixar?

Ming-Chi Kuo: ‘Apple Watch 3 to Come in LTE and Non-LTE Models, No Obvious Form Factor Change’ 

Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac:

Reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has released a new forecast on the next generation Apple Watch. According to Kuo, the Apple Watch 3 will ship later this year with both LTE and non-LTE models offered. Kuo also expects the next Apple Watch will retain the same general design and not feature an obvious new form factor.

Kuo specifies that the Apple Watch will continue to ship in two size configurations: 38mm and 42mm cases.

KGI’s latest prediction comes 10 days after Bloomberg’s recent report which first mentioned the new Apple Watch with Intel modems for LTE connectivity. John Gruber at Daring Fireball later hinted that the new model would feature a new form factor, although he later backtracked on the timing of that claim.

I didn’t backtrack on the timing. I backtracked on the veracity of the source I heard this from. I wrote:

No mention in Businessweek’s report, though, of the all-new form factor that I’ve heard is coming for this year’s new watches. That tidbit came from an unconfirmed little birdie, though, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

If Apple Watch 3 doesn’t look obviously new, I would say my source was wrong and probably lied to me. My source was talking about this year’s new watches, not next year’s. But it really was an unconfirmed little birdie.

It could also be that both my birdie and Kuo are correct: the phrase “will not feature an obvious new form factor” leaves a lot of wiggle room with the word “obvious”.

Chris Lattner Joins Google Brain 

Darrell Etherington, reporting for TechCrunch:

Chris Lattner, one of the key creators behind the Apple programming language Swift, is on the move again. After a short six-month stay at Tesla, which he joined last year from Apple to act as VP of Autopilot Software, Lattner announced on Twitter today that his next stop is Google Brain. […]

Google Brain is the search giant’s team focused on deep learning and artificial intelligence. It focused on helping to use AI across a range of products, tackling both research and product integration, working together with teams across Alphabet, including at DeepMind. Its ultimate stated motivation is to advance the field with open source projects, academic collaboration and publication.

A team that emphasizes open source projects sounds like a good fit for Lattner.

Blanche Blackwell, Ian Fleming’s Mistress and the Inspiration for Pussy Galore, Dies at 104 

Matt Schudel, reporting for The Washington Post:

Blanche Blackwell’s romantic life inspired one of Noël Coward’s plays about an upper-crust love triangle, and swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn wanted to marry her. She was a member of one of Jamaica’s richest families but was best known as the mistress and muse of Ian Fleming, the rakish author who was the creator of James Bond.

Mrs. Blackwell died Aug. 8 in London at 104. Her death was confirmed by Andrew Lycett, Fleming’s biographer.

What a life.


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Pinned Tabs Are No Solution to the Lack of Favicons in Regular Safari Tabs 

Re: yesterday’s piece arguing that Safari should display favicons in its browser tabs, I’ve gotten dozens of emails and tweets pointing out that Safari does show favicons, albeit in monochrome, for pinned tabs.

First, so what? That’s great for pinned tabs but it’s not a solution in any way, shape, or form for regular tabs.

Second, they’re not even really favicons. They’re SVG files, not PNGs like real favicons. Even though SVG is an open format and Safari introduced this feature in 2015, no other browser in the world supports these images, so many websites don’t even have these graphics. Almost every website has a real favicon.

Miami Marlins Reportedly Sold to Derek Jeter Group 

Jack Baer, reporting for

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported — as did the Miami Herald earlier — that the Sherman-Jeter group won the bidding, with Sherman holding the controlling interest and plans for Jeter to be the team’s CEO.

Serious question for Yankees fans: does this preclude Jeter from playing on Old Timer’s Day? And can you even imagine what another Yankees-Marlins World Series would be like?

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Canceled an All-Hands Meeting About Gender Controversy Due to Employee Worries of Online Harassment 

Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode:

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has canceled the company’s much-anticipated meeting to talk about gender issues today. The move came after some of its employees expressed concern over online harassment they had begun to receive after their questions and names have been published outside the company on a variety of largely alt-right sites.

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” wrote Pichai to employees. “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”

This controversy strikes me as the biggest challenge Google has faced under Pichai’s leadership. And the fact that the Page/Brin/Schmidt Alphabet triumvirate has remained silent makes me think Pichai truly is the leader of Google, not just in title but in terms of where the buck actually stops.

Medium’s Dickbar Gets the Clap 

Whether you think this feature is a good idea or not, why the fuck would they put this button on top of the text of the article you’re trying to read?

I’m starting to think Medium is just fucking with me at this point.

Original Post From Consumer Reports Revoking Recommendations for Microsoft Surface Laptops and Tablets 

Here’s the actual post from Consumer Reports regarding Surface hardware reliability:

A number of survey respondents said they experienced problems with their devices during startup. A few commented that their machines froze or shut down unexpectedly, and several others told CR that the touch screens weren’t responsive enough.

The new studies of laptop and tablet reliability leverage data on 90,741 tablets and laptops that subscribers bought new between 2014 and the beginning of 2017. Predicted reliability is a projection of how new models from each brand will fare, based on data from models already in users’ hands.

Worth noting that I’m deeply skeptical of anything computer- or tech-related that comes out of Consumer Reports’s lab testing. I think they shamelessly sensationalized the iPhone 4 antennagate story (which they later backtracked from), and I think they embarrassed themselves with last year’s bizarre (and rushed) report claiming wildly erratic battery life on the new TouchBar-equipped MacBook Pros. (See footnote 2 here for my results trying to replicate CR’s test. Quite possibly my favorite footnote in DF history.)

I’m certainly not saying we should take it as gospel, but I don’t see anything fishy about this laptop reliability report. It does not smell like clickbait.

Inside Facebook’s Institutional Policy of Copying Competitors 

Betsy Morris and Deepa Seetharaman, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook uses an internal database to track rivals, including young startups performing unusually well, people familiar with the system say. The database stems from Facebook’s 2013 acquisition of a Tel Aviv-based startup, Onavo, which had built an app that secures users’ privacy by routing their traffic through private servers. The app gives Facebook an unusually detailed look at what users collectively do on their phones, these people say.

The tool shaped Facebook’s decision to buy WhatsApp and informed its live-video strategy, they say. Facebook used Onavo to build its early-bird tool that tips it off to promising services and that helped Facebook home in on Houseparty.

So Facebook is using a VPN app that is supposed to protect users’ privacy to violate their privacy by analyzing which apps they use.

Also worth noting: in the iOS App Store, Onavo’s owner is still listed as “Onavo, Inc.”, not “Facebook”. I suspect a large number of Onavo users have no idea the app is owned by Facebook (I for one had never heard of it before this Journal story), and might think differently about entrusting their privacy to it if they knew.

Ulysses Is Switching to Subscription Pricing 

Max Seelemann, development lead for Ulysses:

Before getting into details, though, you should know that this switch was neither a quick decision, nor did we take it easily. We have been talking about it for over 2 years now. We’ve had uncountable discussions, and the topic came up at least once every month — yet we always postponed a decision. The sheer complexity and far reach of this change were too intimidating. I am not exaggerating in saying that this was the hardest decision in our whole time as professional software developers. After all, we have a system which currently works — after 14 years we are still around, Ulysses is still “a thing”, it’s even going better than ever before, and there are no immediate signs which hint at a change coming soon.

So why bother at all then? Well, we need a good way forward before we run into trouble. We want to make sure the app will be around for years and years to come. We want to heavily invest in its development, and this requires the right setting for our team, our families and our users. Writers want to rely on a professional tool that is constantly evolving, and we want to keep delivering just that.

This is a really thoughtful article, and I fully support their decision. I think subscription pricing is an excellent option for truly professional apps like Ulysses, particularly ones that are cross platform (Mac and iOS).

Consumer Reports: Microsoft Surface Is Dead Last for Reliability in Tablets and Laptops 

Paul Thurrott:

According to a Consumer Reports survey of over 90,000 tablet and laptop owners, an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices will experience “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.” This failure rate is the worst in the industry by far among mainstream PC makers, the publication says, and as a result, it is pulling its “recommended” designation for all Surface products.

Apple led the industry by a long shot. But that’s as it should be. Apple products tend to cost significantly more because they’re made better. Or put another way, Apple benefits greatly in a survey like this because they don’t make any low-end laptops. I’d love to see the results of a similar survey that only looked at laptops that cost $1000 or more. I think Apple would still come out on top, but I would also bet that the reliability of PCs in that price range is way higher than these results that include all machines sold.

But that’s why these results look particularly bad for Microsoft: the Surface lineup is priced and specced more like Apple’s lineup: $800 starting price for the tablet, $999 for Surface Laptop, and $1499 for Surface Book. My first thought when I looked at these reliability numbers is that it didn’t seem fair for Consumer Reports to single out Microsoft when they were just 1 point behind Toshiba and 3 behind Dell, but Toshiba and Dell sell millions of astoundingly low-priced craptops. Dell’s lineup starts at just $179.


Microsoft had benefited from a curiously skewed series of positive editorial stories in mainstream publications because of its perceived innovation with PCs compared to Apple. I dispute that view, actually, and have wondered aloud how any PC maker could be called an innovator when they just released their first laptop in 2017.

The Verge, last week: “The Best Laptop You Can Buy Right Now (2017)”. Bonus points for the sub-head: “Get a laptop that’ll last.”

Unobstruct: The Anti-Dickbar Content Blocker for Safari on iOS 

Troy Gaul:

As had happened in the past, I became annoyed by the bar and floating button at the bottom of the Medium page, which on such a small screen used up a not-insignificant amount of the vertical space. John Gruber had recently written about this in his post Medium and the Scourge of Persistent Sharing Dickbars on Daring Fireball.

However, this time, something occurred to me: this was a Safari view, so what if I had a Safari Content Blocker app that removed these bars the same way ad-blocking apps remove ads from web pages?

I went to my computer, started a new Xcode project, and a little while later, I had a way to remove these from Medium’s pages on my iPhone and iPad for good.

So good, so simple. This is the best dollar you’ll spend this month. Just $1 and poof, dozens and dozens of dickbars will just disappear from your reading experience.

The Yankees Will Have Names on the Back of Their Jerseys for the First Time, as Part of a Dumb-Ass MLB Stunt 

This is a goddamn disgrace.

The Boss would not have stood for this.

‘I’m a Google Manufacturing Robot and I Believe Humans Are Biologically Unfit to Have Jobs in Tech’ 

Ben Kronengold, writing for McSweeney’s:

I, a manufacturing robot at Google Factory C4.7, value diversity and inclusion. I also do not deny that machines are sometimes given preference to humans in the workplace. All I’m suggesting in this document is that humans’ underrepresentation in tech is not due to discrimination. Rather, it is a result of biological differences. Specifically, humans have a biology.

Geraldine DeRuiter Tried Soylent 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Last week, I decided to try Soylent.

For those unfamiliar with this “food” product, Soylent is a high-protein drink designed to appeal to lifehackers, dieters, and doomsday cult members who are maybe a little shy and don’t want to come out of their bunker for communal meals. It has an incredibly long shelf-life, and provides you nutrition without all the pesky side-effects that food usually has, like chewing, tasting like something, and being an excuse for human interaction.

As a bonus, it also apparently gives you raging diarrhea, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Yeah, no thanks.

On the Numero 

Jonathan Hoefler:

Nº was the number sign before # became a number sign, and it refreshingly serves this one and only purpose. Compare the #, which when preceding a number is read as “number” (“#1 in my class”), but when following a number means “pound” or “pounds”. If you’re curious what the # symbol has to do with the abbreviation lbs., here’s one possible missing link. (“70# uncoated paper”), leading to printshop pile-ups like “#10 envelope, 24# bond.” To programmers, a # can mean either “ignore what follows” (as in a Python comment) or “use what follows” (when referencing a page fragment, or a Unicode value in HTML.) To a proofreader, a # means “insert space,” so in the middle of a numbered list, the notation “line #” does not mean “line number,” but rather “add a line space.” Because of #’s resemblance to the musical symbol for “sharp” (♯), it’s a frequent stand-in for the word “sharp,” and often the correct way of rendering a trademarked term such as The C# Programming Language. The # is rapidly assuming musical duties as well, especially in online databases, leading to catalog collisions like “Prelude & Fugue #13 in F#.” How fortunate a designer would be to have a numero symbol, with which to write “Prelude & Fugue Nº 13 in F#,” or “Nº 10 Envelope, 24# bond.”

Jason Snell on Editorial 

Jason Snell:

When I mention that I write a lot on the iPad these days, I’m often asked what iOS apps I’m using to write. The truth is, the story keeps shifting — I’ve never really settled on a single app, because none of them give me everything that I want.

These days I’m using Editorial most of the time. It’s got full Markdown support and syncs with Dropbox, but those features have basically become table stakes for iOS text editors. What has put Editorial over the top for me, at least for the moment, is its powerful set of user-creatable and shareable workflows. These powerful features can be assigned to keyboard shortcuts, which is huge for me since I write articles on my iPad Pro while attached to an external keyboard.

Amazon and Tencent Back Andy Rubin’s Essential 

Rolfe Winkler, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Essential Products Inc., the smartphone maker founded by the creator of Google’s Android mobile software, confirmed it has a new $300 million war chest as it prepares for the seemingly insurmountable task of taking on Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Inc.

The startup on Wednesday unveiled the large roster of investors taking a chance on it, including Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Amazon Inc.’s Alexa Fund. Essential also disclosed that Best Buy Co. stores and Inc. will be its retail launch partners in the U.S.

Curious if this explains the shipping delay on the first phone. Probably not.

I Don’t Think There’s Going to Be an ‘iPhone 7S’ 

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

We’ve received a couple of photos from Apple tipster Sonny Dickson this morning that depict a dummy model for the ‘iPhone 7s Plus’, one of three new phones Apple is said to be launching this year. Although marketing branding is unknown, the ‘7s’ devices are expected to iterate on the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus chassis.

One distinction will be the introduction of glass backs (rather than aluminium), which this dummy model incorporates. It is believed that the phones will support inductive charging.

If these are legit, there’s no way Apple is going to call these devices “7S”. The S models have had minor cosmetic differences from the preceding year’s non-S iPhones, but these phones are sporting entire new designs.

I also think that the “7S” name would contribute to the notion that Apple’s “S” phones are only modest updates, when the truth is that the S phones tend to get the bigger technical improvements. I suspect Apple will use one of these sets of names:

  • iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8 Pro; or
  • iPhone, iPhone Plus, iPhone Pro

Either of these naming schemes would make all three new iPhones sound new.

Daring Fireball Display Ads for August and September 

This summer I started selling my own display ads on Daring Fireball. If you’re reading this on the website, you can see one of them right now over on the left. For now I’m limiting them to five spots per month, and I’ve still got one open for the remainder of August.

September is wide open, and is generally the highest-traffic month of the year on DF, because that’s the month when new iPhones tend to be announced. If you’ve got a product or service you want to promote to DF’s smart and curious audience, get in touch.

Disney Is Pulling Its Movies From Netflix and Starting Its Own Streaming Service 

Michelle Castillo, reporting for CNBC:

CEO Bob Iger told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin Disney had a “good relationship” with Netflix, but decided to exercise an option to move its content off the platform. Movies to be removed include Disney as well as Pixar’s titles, according to Iger. Netflix said Disney movies will be available through the end of 2018 on its platform. Marvel TV shows will remain.

The new platform will be the home for all Disney movies going forward, starting with the 2019 theatrical slate which includes Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, and the upcoming live-action The Lion King. It will also be making a “significant investment” in exclusive movies and television series for the new platform.

Part of me says “I’m surprised it took them this long”, and the other part says “How many different streaming services am I going to wind up paying for every month?”

David Letterman to Host Netflix Interview Series 

Cynthia Littleton, reporting for Variety:

“I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix,” Letterman said. “Here’s what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely.”

This is the best news I’ve seen all year.

The Talk Show: ‘Nancy Reagan Was Right’ 

Special guest Glenn Fleishman returns to the show. Topics include China forcing Apple to remove VPN apps from the Chinese App Store, Wi-Fi vs. LTE networking, the open workspaces in Apple Park, Glenn’s new letterpress project, the HomePod OS leak and iPhone D22, and more.

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Vic Gundotra Is Now an iPhone Proponent 

Vic Gundotra (yes, that Vic Gundotra):

Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don’t mind being a few years behind, buy an Android.

The cognitive dissonance of the Android fans in the comments on this post is something to behold.


My thanks to DuckDuckGo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. DuckDuckGo is the search engine that doesn’t track you. DuckDuckGo and Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention together solve the top three private browsing misconceptions:

  • 41% of users believe private browsing prevents websites tracking them.
  • 39% of users believe private browsing prevents ads from tracking them.
  • 35% of users believe private browsing prevents a search engine from knowing their searches.

None of those things are true. I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as my primary web search engine since 2015, and I haven’t looked back.

Pilots Share Photos Between Planes via AirDrop at 35,000 Feet? 

If this is legit, this is amazing.

Update: Looks like it’s a hoax.

Bloomberg: Apple Plans to Release a Cellular-Capable Watch 

Mark Gurman, Scott Moritz, and Ian King, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is planning to release a version of its smartwatch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device’s reliance on the iPhone, people familiar with the matter said.

Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home.

Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation.

It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal this could be. No mention in Businessweek’s report, though, of the all-new form factor that I’ve heard is coming for this year’s new watches. That tidbit came from an unconfirmed little birdie, though, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch User Interface 

Charlie Deets:

I’ve been using the Switch for a few months and I can’t stop thinking about its user interface. Nintendo’s newest console is in the golden era of its UI. The base features you would expect out of a game system are covered, but cruft has not yet been added to the experience. I’ve heard a lot of people say they long for more from the Switch’s UI, but I love the bare bones simplicity.

Nintendo was dealt a somewhat unique interface problem for a gaming console: design an interface for a single device that can be used mobile or at home with a large variety of input and output.

We got a Switch a few weeks ago, and I agree with just about everything Deets writes. It’s a great interface and experience, both in concept and in execution. And Nintendo solved some very hard problems to make it seem so easy and obvious.

The Nintendo Switch is a triumph.

Obama 3 

Today is Barack Obama’s birthday. Perhaps you’d like to celebrate by buying one of these sweet new t-shirts from my pal Brian Jaramillo. (Brian has handled the printing and shipping of all DF t-shirts for the last 10 years or so — he’s the best screen-printer I know.)

$5 for each T-shirt ordered will go to ProPublica, supporting great journalism in the public interest.

Marques Brownlee Goes Hands-On With Red Hydrogen Prototypes 

Marques Brownlee has a great video showing what Red intends their upcoming Hydrogen phone to look like. Some thoughts:

  • It’s big. That’s a 5.7-inch display, and side-by-side it dwarfs an iPhone 7 Plus.
  • It’s clearly designed not to be used in case. The Kevlar frame, with finger-sized ridges for gripping, looks like it is a protective case. Camera makers know how to make expensive gear that can take a beating in use.
  • Brownlee wasn’t allowed to show the “holographic” display mode, but he seems impressed by it.

Red is taking pre-orders for two models: aluminum for $1195, and titanium for $1595.

Apple Expands TestFlight Tester Limit to 10,000 Users 

Chance Miller, writing for 9to5Mac earlier this week:

Apple today has announced that it is expanding the tester limits in its TestFlight program. Whereas developers were previously limited to inviting 2,000 users to beta test an application, they can now invite up to 10,000 external testers.

This might be purely coincidental timing with regard to the controversy over VPN apps being removed from the App Store in China, but TestFlight is a path around the App Store.

The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe 

Lovely profile of the engineering team still working to control Voyager I and II:

Fortunately, the malfunctioning backup receiver was still drawing current. They guessed that its oscillator, which allows it to accept a wide range of frequencies, had quit, essentially shrinking the target for transmissions from Earth. Assuming a much narrower bandwidth, and manually subtracting the Doppler effect, they recalibrated their signal. It worked — but to this day, the same calculation must precede every command. The original receiver remains useless: one engineer’s simple oversight nearly doomed humankind’s lone visit to Uranus and Neptune. ‘‘You like to think you have checks and balances,’’ Chris Jones, JPL’s chief engineer, who designed Voyager’s fault protection, told me. ‘‘In reality, we all worry about being that person.’’

Today the Voyagers are 10 billion and 13 billion miles away, the farthest man-made objects from Earth. The 40th anniversary of their launch will be celebrated next month.

I wasn’t aware of just how narrow the window of opportunity was that made it possible for these probes to visit all four of the outer planets:

One of the greatest obstacles to planetary science has always been the human life span: Typically, for instance, a direct flight to Neptune would take about 30 years. But in the spring of 1965, Gary Flandro, a doctoral student at Caltech, noticed that all four outer planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — would align on the same side of the sun in the 1980s. If a spacecraft were launched in the mid- to late 1970s, it could use the gravity of the first body to slingshot to the second, and so on. Such a trajectory would add enough speed to shorten the total journey by almost two-thirds. What’s more, this orbital configuration would not appear again for 175 years.

The Right Way to Pop Your AirPods Out of the Case, One More Time 

Back in January I made a YouTube video showing how best to remove AirPods from their case:

As of a few weeks ago that video had over 100,000 views, and while I hadn’t posted any other videos since then, I had a bunch of subscribers to my channel.

Yesterday I spent a few hours tightening the security of my various Google accounts (adding two-step security). As part of this, I deleted an account using an address that (I thought) I only used for viewing shared Google Docs, and added that same address as an alternate sign-in address for an existing Google account. Turns out, that was the account I’d used to create my YouTube account back in January. There doesn’t seem to be any way to restore that deleted account because I had already reassigned the email address it used to another account. Oops.

I just created a new channel and re-uploaded the same video. That’s what you see embedded above. If you subscribed before, please do again — this is the sort of mistake you only make once.

I don’t really care about the lost views or subscribers. I don’t have plans to get deeply into YouTube, and if I do, I ought to reclaim those subscribers quickly. I hate breaking links though — I mean I really hate breaking links — and now I’ve inadvertently broken the link to my video for anyone who embedded it or tweeted it. Sorry about that.

Steven Levy: ‘How Apple Is Putting Voices in Users’ Heads – Literally’ 

Steven Levy:

My conversation with Mathias Bahnmueller started as pretty much all my phone interviews do. “Can you hear me?” he asked, and I replied affirmatively. Then I asked him the same question. His answer was yes — he could hear me very clearly. And this was a tiny miracle.

That’s because Bahnmueller suffers from hearing loss so severe that a year ago he underwent surgery to install a cochlear implant — an electronic device in the inner ear that replaces the usual hearing mechanism. Around a million patients have undergone this increasingly mainstream form of treatment, and that’s just a fraction of those who could benefit from it. (Of the 360 million people worldwide with hearing loss, about 10 percent would qualify for the surgery.) “For those who reach a point where hearing aids no longer help, this is the only solution,” says Allison Biever, an audiologist in Englewood, CO who works with implant patients. “It’s like restoring a signal in a radio station.”

With this new integration, the iPhone transmits directly to the cochlear implant. It’s like a bionic ear:

Merging medical technology like Apple’s is a clear benefit to those needing hearing help. But I’m intrigued by some observations that Dr. Biever, the audiologist who’s worked with hearing loss patients for two decades, shared with me. She says that with this system, patients have the ability to control their sound environment in a way that those with good hearing do not — so much so that she is sometimes envious. How cool would it be to listen to a song without anyone in the room hearing it? “When I’m in the noisiest of rooms and take a call on my iPhone, I can’t hold my phone to ear and do a call,” she says. “But my recipient can do this.”

I’m a sucker for a good accessibility story.

Support Steven Troughton-Smith’s Work 

Steven Troughton-Smith has been at the forefront of iOS spelunking for the last decade. He pokes and prods at iOS and has an uncanny ability to find and identify interesting stuff (including a bunch of things just this week in Apple’s prematurely released image of the HomePod version of iOS). We, outside Apple, know far more about how iOS works thanks to him. He’s both extraordinarily clever and extraordinarily generous about sharing what he learns with the world.

Steven has a Patreon campaign to generate recurring funds to allow him to spend more time on this stuff. And he doesn’t just take things apart — he makes cool things, like this Mac-style tiling window system demo project for iOS, which he provides to anyone who backs his work for just $10/month. I am happy to back his work, and I hope a lot of you are too. Even just $1/month could make a huge difference if enough of you join in.

iPhone D22’s Nickname May Have Been ‘Ferrari’ 

AppleInsider, back in December 2016:

Surfaced by a Sina Weibo user known for leaking information from Apple’s East Asian supply chain, the supposed documentation suggests Apple plans to market three iPhone models designated D20, D21 and D22 in 2017, reports Chinese blog cnBeta. Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were codenamed D10 and — confusingly — D20 during development, the report said.

A three-model lineup jibes with rumors that Apple intends to launch two upgraded iPhone 7 models, likely branded “iPhone 7s” and “iPhone 7s Plus,” alongside a high-end version stuffed with exotic technology. This top-tier model, expected to boast a glass sandwich design, borderless OLED display, “invisible” home button, wireless charging and more, carries the internal codename “Ferrari,” according to today’s leaks.

This is the first reference to D22 that I’ve been able to find, and thanks to Apple’s premature release of an iOS 11.0.2 image, we now know D22 is the code name for the upcoming new high-end iPhone I’ve been referring to as “iPhone Pro”.

I’m nearly certain cnBeta was wrong about D20. Apple would never re-use a code name. It defeats the whole point of a code name. The iPhone 7 was D10 and iPhone 7 Plus was D11. You can find those code names in the shipping versions of iOS 10.

I’m pretty sure D20 is the new 4.7-inch iPhone, and D21 the Plus-sized 5.5-inch model. The obvious product names for these devices would be 7S and 7S Plus, respectively. D10/D11 last year, D20/D21 this year — with D22 as the new cherry on top. That’s how Apple code names products.

More interesting to me is the nickname “Ferrari”. Sounds like a good nickname for a sleek device that costs more, doesn’t it?

Botched Release of Beta HomePod OS Reveals Details of New 2017 iPhones and HomePod 

Jason Snell, collecting a story revealed in a series of tweets over the weekend:

Nobody digs into Apple software releases like Steve Troughton-Smith. And this is a big one. Apparently Apple released a firmware download for the HomePod (not due until the end of the year!) on its servers, and inside that firmware there’s information about future iPhone hardware and support for an infrared face unlock feature code-named Pearl ID.

Among the details revealed:

How in the world does something like this happen? My understanding is that Apple is (or at least was) on the cusp of a widespread deployment of prototype HomePods to employees. Someone prepared an over-the-air software update and because it was intended to be distributed only to Apple employees, the OS was compiled without all the usual flags set to omit code that pertains to unreleased hardware. (Kind of makes sense, insofar as HomePod itself is unreleased hardware.) Building the OS without those flags set may not have been a mistake. But distributing it via a world-readable server was.

Apple’s Third Quarter Results 


Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2017 third quarter ended July 1, 2017. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $45.4 billion and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $1.67. These results compare to revenue of $42.4 billion and earnings per diluted share of $1.42 in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 61 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

When you look at the data, the most striking number is that iPad sales were up 15 percent year-over-year. That’s the first time that’s happened in a few years. But iPad revenue was only up about 2 percent. That suggests to me, strongly, that this sales bump was driven strongly by the new 9.7-inch iPad that starts at $329.

See also: Jason Snell’s cornucopia of graphs visualizing Apple’s results.

Businessweek Profiles Stripe Co-Founders Patrick and John Collison 

Ashlee Vance, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek:

One way to justify the number: Stripe’s new partnership with Inc., the largest and most sought-after customer on the internet. Over the past couple of weeks, Stripe began handling a large, though undisclosed, portion of Amazon’s transactions. Neither company will address the scope of the deal — which was only revealed by Stripe’s addition of Amazon’s logo to its website — but it could help Stripe greatly increase its transaction volume. (Amazon had no comment.)

Seven years in, however, Stripe’s mission is less to send more books, vacuums, and grooming kits into the world than to “increase the GDP of the internet,” Patrick says. To do this, the company is beginning to move beyond payments by writing software that helps companies retool the way they incorporate, pay workers, and detect fraud. It’s part of an ambitious bid to revamp how online business has been conducted for 20 years and to give anyone with a bright idea a chance to compete. “We think giving two people in a garage the same infrastructure as a 100,000-person corporation — the aggregate effects of that will be really good,” Patrick says.

The key to Stripe’s success was their laser-like focus on developers. They made Stripe the easiest way to add payments to any system, and they have a great reputation for security and reliability.

Senator Jeff Flake: ‘My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump’ 

Senator Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona:

Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote, four months into the new presidency, “The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,” and conservative institutions “with the blessings of a president … have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion.”

For a conservative, that’s an awfully bitter pill to swallow. So as I layered in my defense mechanisms, I even found myself saying things like, “If I took the time to respond to every presidential tweet, there would be little time for anything else.” Given the volume and velocity of tweets from both the Trump campaign and then the White House, this was certainly true. But it was also a monumental dodge. It would be like Noah saying, “If I spent all my time obsessing about the coming flood, there would be little time for anything else.” At a certain point, if one is being honest, the flood becomes the thing that is most worthy of attention. At a certain point, it might be time to build an ark.

Under our Constitution, there simply are not that many people who are in a position to do something about an executive branch in chaos. As the first branch of government (Article I), the Congress was designed expressly to assert itself at just such moments.

Flake is a sitting senator in Trump’s own party.

XKCD: Wi-Fi vs. Cellular 

I hadn’t really given this any thought, but now that I’ve seen this comic, I realize this is very much true for me as well. The reliability of Wi-Fi dropped beneath that of cellular a few years ago.