Linked List: December 2017

Aaptiv 

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The Talk Show: ‘Australian Battery Scam’ 

Special guest Jason Snell returns for the penultimate episode of 2017. Topics include the iPhone battery performance-throttling saga, Google Maps vs. Apple Maps, new versions of iOS running slow on older iPhones, the new iMac Pro, iOS file management, and more.

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Apple’s $29 iPhone Battery Replacements Are Available Starting Today 

Brian Heater, writing for TechCrunch:

Those $29 battery out-of-warranty replacements Apple promised are now available for impacted users with an iPhone 6 or later. The company was initially aiming for a late-January timeframe in the States when it first offered up the discount, following blowback against its admission that it had slowed down older model phones to maximize performance.

“We expected to need more time to be ready,” the company said in a statement offered up to TechCrunch this weekend, “but we are happy to offer our customers the lower pricing right away. Initial supplies of some replacement batteries may be limited.”

Merriam-Webster on ‘Padawan’ Entering the Lexicon 

Merriam-Webster:

Just as we see Jedi being used in a generic way today, padawan is beginning to be found in contexts far removed from galaxies far, far away. (Indeed, Padawan is the name of a municipality in Malaysia, though it’s not known how Lucas chose the name.) It usually refers to a younger follower or student of some kind, and usually in fields that require special ability or skill. In sports, for example, we find examples from both professional baseball and football.

WinterFest 2017 

The winter festival of artisanal Mac software:

As is our custom in this season, we’re hosting a gathering of software artisans who are working to transform research and writing for a new era. We’ve all finished our latest updates, we’re working together to save you lots of money.

A slew of great apps for writing, research, and planning — all at a 25 percent discount for a limited time.

Animoji ‘Full Metal Jacket’ 

“You got a war face?!”

Italian Company Calls Itself ‘Steve Jobs’ 

Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge:

After years of legal battles, a pair of brothers — Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato — have successfully managed to win a legal battle against Apple, earning the right to call their company “Steve Jobs,” after Apple’s iconic founder, according to la Repubblica Napoli.

The fight began back in in 2012, when the two brothers noticed that Apple had never trademarked Jobs’ name. The pair were already in the process of starting their own clothing and accessory company, after spending years creating products for other brands, and decided that “Steve Jobs” would be the perfect name for their new brand.

I realize Gartenberg is trying to write from a neutral perspective here, but let’s face it, no one thinks they named the company “Steve Jobs” because they thought it would be a “perfect name for their new brand”. They named it “Steve Jobs” because they’re attention-seeking assholes.

Regardless what Italian trademark law says, who but an asshole would do this?

The Roof of Apple’s New Flagship Store in Chicago Wasn’t Designed to Account for Snow 

Seems like a glaring oversight. I wonder how they can address this?

Apple KnowledgeBase: ‘iPhone Battery and Performance’ 

Alongside their letter to customers on the iPhone battery/performance controversy, Apple has released a detailed KnowledgeBase article with a technical overview of what’s going on and why:

When power is pulled from a battery with a higher level of impedance, the battery’s voltage will drop to a greater degree. Electronic components require a minimum voltage to operate. This includes the device’s internal storage, power circuits, and the battery itself. The power management system determines the capability of the battery to supply this power, and manages the loads in order to maintain operations. When the operations can no longer be supported with the full capabilities of the power management system, the system will perform a shutdown to preserve these electronic components. While this shutdown is intentional from the device perspective, it may be unexpected by the user.

I love that “may be”.

With a low battery state of charge, a higher chemical age, or colder temperatures, users are more likely to experience unexpected shutdowns. In extreme cases, shutdowns can occur more frequently, thereby rendering the device unreliable or unusable. iOS 10.2.1 (Released January 2017) includes updates for previous models of iPhone to prevent them from unexpectedly shutting down. This includes a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE to dynamically manage the instantaneous performance peaks, only when needed, to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down. This capability was also extended to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus with iOS 11.2, and we will continue improving our power management feature in the future. This feature’s only intent is to prevent unexpected shutdowns so that the iPhone can still be used.

If you have an eligible iPhone (iPhone 6 or later), Apple’s upcoming $29 replacement program might be some of the best money you can spend. But again, if you have an iPhone that is really slow all the time, there’s a good chance there’s something wrong with it other than (or in addition to) the battery. A wipe and restore won’t cost you anything but some time, and seems to solve many “slow iPhone” problems.

Crime in New York City Plunges to a Level Not Seen Since the 1950s 

Ashley Southall, reporting for The New York Times:

It would have seemed unbelievable in 1990, when there were 2,245 killings in New York City, but as of Wednesday there have been just 286 in the city this year — the lowest since reliable records have been kept.

In fact, crime has fallen in New York City in each of the major felony categories — murder and manslaughter, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, grand larceny, and car thefts — to a total of 94,806 as of Sunday, well below the previous record low of 101,716 set last year.

If the trend holds just a few more days, this year’s homicide total will be under the city’s previous low of 333 in 2014, and crime will have declined for 27 straight years, to levels that police officials have said are the lowest since the 1950s. The numbers, when taken together, portray a city of 8.5 million people growing safer even as the police, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, use less deadly force, make fewer arrests and scale back controversial practices like stopping and frisking thousands of people on the streets.

Amazing, really. When I was growing up, New York’s image was that of a quasi-post-apocalyptic hellhole. John Carpenter’s Escape From New York didn’t seem like an outlandish vision of where things were heading.

The bottom line: being smart on crime works better than being “tough” on crime.

WebOS’s Innovative Gesture-Based Navigation 

If we’re going to talk about good ideas from Palm devices in the iPhone X, the mute switch is the least of them. The gesture-based navigation on iPhone X is a lot like that of WebOS on the 2008 Palm Pre — swipe left and right at the bottom to quickly switch between recent apps, swipe up from the bottom to access the card-based multitasking UI (replete with roundrect corners), pull down from the top right to access controls like Wi-Fi and airplane mode. Palm’s demise is probably the greatest tragedy in the industry of the iPhone era. The hardware wasn’t great, and the low-level software was too slow, but the design of WebOS was brilliant, and brilliant design is the most precious commodity in this industry.

Dieter Bohn (of course) wrote a longer look at the WebOS gestures in iOS 11 on iPhone X.

Mute Switches 

In my iPhone X review, I wrote:

And for reasons I’ve never been able to understand, Android handset makers seem willing to copy everything and anything from Apple they can get away with (and even things they can’t get away with), but [almost] none have copied the iPhone’s mute switch, despite the fact that it’s a brilliant idea.

I didn’t mean to imply that the iPhone was the first device or first phone to include a mute switch, but I can see how “it’s a brilliant idea” could be taken that way. I’ve changed that to “despite the fact that it’s extremely useful”.

On Twitter, Dieter Bohn pointed out that nearly every phone Palm ever made included a hardware ringer switch. Seth Weintraub pointed back to the 1985 Trimline — a landline phone that included a ringer switch. (When I was a kid, the only way you could keep a telephone from ringing was to take it off the hook, which prevented any incoming calls from getting through.)

What I think Apple deserves credit for is defining which hardware buttons were necessary for the modern smartphone: home, power, volume up/down, and mute. Every other button moved to software, inside apps on the touchscreen. It was considered somewhat radical that the iPhone omitted the Send/End (green/red) hardware buttons that were present on just about every cell phone ever made prior to the iPhone. If Apple, the most hardware-button-averse company in the industry, has always included a mute switch, why don’t Android handset makers?

Holiday Sales for Amazon Devices 

Amazon:

Amazon Devices also had its best holiday yet, with tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices sold worldwide. Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote were not only the top-selling Amazon devices this holiday season, but they were also the best-selling products from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon.

“Tens of millions” is the closest I can remember Amazon ever getting to a real — that is to say, non-Bezos — sales number.

Face ID Can’t Approve Family Purchases 

Samuel Axon, writing for Ars Technica:

iPhone X owners have found that Face ID isn’t available as an authentication method for the “Ask to Buy” feature, which allows parents to approve their kids’ iOS purchases and downloads. Instead, the parent (or any other “family organizer,” as Apple terms it) must enter their entire Apple account password to approve each individual purchase attempt.

Users are frustrated because equivalent functionality was available on Touch ID devices, and that functionality has been lost in the transition to the iPhone X. Face ID can be used as an authentication method for other purchases, just like Touch ID before it — but Touch ID also worked for “Ask to Buy,” and Face ID doesn’t. […]

Parents of large families with several children, each of whom might have an iOS device available to them, will find that the requests mount up quite quickly — especially right after the holidays. Kids cashing in App Store gift cards add to the requests already coming in from normal use and in-app purchases in games.

I only have one kid, but I noticed this too in the post-holiday gift card bonanza. I can’t really think of a good explanation for why Touch ID can authorize these transactions but Face ID can’t.

OnePlus 5 Has a Mute Switch 

In my iPhone X review published yesterday, I wondered aloud why no Android phones included a hardware mute switch. Turns out the OnePlus 5 does. Here’s Matt Swider, writing for TechRadar:

The OnePlus 5 is a great-value big-on-specs phone that rivals the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8, but its smallest hardware feature is my personal highlight. It has a mute switch on the side of the phone, allowing me to instantly silence notifications without ever having to look for an on-screen Do Not Disturb icon.

Yes, a physical mute switch has me excited.

OnePlus calls it the ‘Alert Slider’, and it’s a three-step toggle between ring, do not disturb and completely silent. It’s something that should be on every Android phone, but somehow it’s a rare feature that seems almost exclusive to OnePlus 5 among today’s Androids.

Very Strange WSJ Story on iPhone Sales 

Tripp Mickle, in a story headlined “Apple’s New iPhones Get a Lukewarm Reception From Buyers”:

But estimates from two market-research firms indicate customers are buying the X and a pair of other new offerings at about the same rate as they did with new models in the past two years — which fell short of the iPhone’s 2015 peak.

The iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus combined for 69% of U.S. iPhone sales for the month ended Dec. 3., with the remainder going to older models, according to a survey of 300 iPhone buyers by technology-analysis firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

By comparison, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus accounted for 73% of all iPhones sold in their first month in 2016, and the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus accounted for 71% in their first month in 2015, the firm’s prior surveys show. Sales of those devices proved to be lackluster. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus — which were big hits — accounted for 91% of iPhone sales in their first month in 2014.

They’re not comparing how many of the new iPhones were sold each year, but instead what percentage of all iPhones sold were the new models. I suppose that’s interesting, but it certainly doesn’t justify the headline or basic premise of the article, which implies that iPhone X and 8 sales are weak.

Keep in mind that Apple’s guidance for the current holiday quarter was for $7 billion more in revenue than their previous best quarter ever.

Computer Latency: 1977-2017 

Dan Luu:

I have this nagging feeling that the computers I use today feel slower than the computers I used as a kid. I don’t trust this kind of feeling because human perception has been shown to be unreliable in empirical studies, so I carried around a high-speed camera and measured the response latency of devices I’ve run into in the past few months. Here are the results.

It may not surprise you that it’s an Apple device with the lowest latency of any he tested. It may surprise you that that device is an Apple IIe. Luu’s explanation for why this is so is just fascinating.

Also unsurprising: iOS devices have noticeably lower latency for scrolling than Android ones.

‘Merry’ 

I wrote this six years ago. Feels like yesterday.

Jim Nantz’s Tribute to Dick Enberg 

Oh my, indeed.

Eero 

My thanks to Eero for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Through December 25, save $50 on eero Home Wi-Fi Systems and give the gift of never having to deal with bad Wi-Fi again.

Eero is easy to set up, and blankets your entire home with fast, super-stable Wi-Fi. I replaced my Airport Base Station with Eero over a year ago and couldn’t be happier. Visit eero.com to learn more.

PCalc Turns 25 

James Thomson:

25 years sounds like a really long time. A quarter of a century sounds even longer. Yet, that is how long it has been since PCalc 1.0 was released.

For a limited time, PCalc is available at 90 percent discount. I don’t remember exactly when I first started using it, but it was early. 1-point-something for sure.

Update: Also, what a great domain name.

Trump’s Presidential Coin 

David Nakamura and Lisa Rein, reporting for The Washington Post:

For two decades, the commander in chief has doled out distinguished-looking coins as personal mementos. Now, the presidential “challenge coin” has undergone a Trumpian transformation.

The presidential seal has been replaced by an eagle bearing President Trump’s signature. The eagle’s head faces right, not left, as on the seal. The 13 arrows representing the original states have disappeared. And the national motto, “E pluribus unum” — a Latin phrase that means “Out of many, one” — is gone.

Instead, both sides of the coin feature Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

The changes don’t stop there. In addition to his signature, Trump’s name appears three times on the coin, which is thicker than those made for past presidents. And forget the traditional subdued silver and copper: Trump’s coin, a White House aide marveled, is “very gold.”

After linking to this on Twitter yesterday, someone asked if I actually thought this was important. The coin in and of itself? No, of course not.

Do I think this coin is emblematic of the fact that Trump suffers from narcissistic personality disorder? Yes. And that is a profound problem — and one that our nation, collectively, is in denial about. I mean just look at the fucking thing. Trump’s name is on one side of it three times, using a bigger font than for “President of the United States of America”.

The item I posted earlier about Trump’s reportedly racist remarks about Haitians and Nigerians is outrageous and makes me angry. I’m not outraged or angry about the coin. I actually think it’s an honest and accurate reflection of Trump — but that reflection is of a self-obsessed narcissist. His mental unfitness is a bigger problem than his racism.

Trump, Behind Closed Doors, on Haitians and Nigerians 

Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, reporting for The New York Times:

According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.

More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.

Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

If Your iPhone Is Slow Try a Backup and Restore 

Michael Glenn:

Ever since iOS 11 came out I had experienced a significant performance issue on my iPhone 6S. Animations and transitions were slow, app loading was noticeably and unbearably slower than iOS 10 and my battery was draining faster. Many rumours swirled that others were experiencing this but not all.[…]

Then several weeks ago a Reddit conversation started spreading online that presented possible evidence Apple was reducing the performance of their iOS and possibly laptops when the battery life was sufficiently degraded. That day I decided to test the theory by getting my battery replaced at the Apple Store.

[…] After I confirmed with her that I was not using it that heavily and the battery setting statistics also didn’t show an application using a large percentage of the battery she suggested a rogue system process that somehow persisted through upgrades and restarts.

She also let me know that my battery was at 83% health and that Apple won’t even do a replacement unless it’s below 80%.

So I went home and immediately did a local backup, wipe and restore. And voila! Performance issues were gone.

Again I say, if “everything” is slow on your iPhone, it’s probably not this issue related to older batteries. A full backup and restore is a pain in the ass, but it’s worth trying. There are clearly some bugs in iOS 11 that triggered such problems in far too many devices.

Justin O’Beirne: ‘Google Maps’s Moat’ 

Justin O’Beirne has written a series of extraordinary essays over the past few years on maps, focusing particularly on Google Maps and Apple Maps. His latest is my favorite yet, attempting to answer the question “How far ahead of Apple Maps is Google Maps?”

It’s a fascinating, insightful read, and the work O’Beirne has put into collecting and assembling his comparative illustrations — most of them animated — is simply staggering. As icing on the cake, even the typography is gorgeous.

What Took Him So Long? 

Roger Fingas, AppleInsider:

A day after Apple acknowledged slowing down iPhones with degraded batteries, a Los Angeles man is pursuing a class action lawsuit in the matter.

A Line-by-Line Breakdown of Mike Pence’s Master Class in Toadyism 

Katy Waldman, writing for Slate:

Sacrificing results to values is one thing. The shameful spectacle of Pence, a U.S. elected official, toadying up to his fuming, incompetent boss as his peers nodded along felt like a glimpse from some dark totalitarian timeline. It was unreal: Cabinet members called together to fawn over their leader in the most obsequious possible terms, as he steamed in the center of the camera frame like a bratty starlet caught in a downpour, and the chyrons ran past with their tidings of tax-related disaster.

You really have to watch the video to appreciate just how obsequious the whole thing was. The word that sprang to my mind was lickspittle.

Dave Winer:

The speeches Repubs made today about Trump remind me of the speeches Iraqi members of the Ba’ath Party made about Saddam Hussein in 1979. He was having delegates taken out for execution. They were basically pleading for their own lives, with praise for Saddam.

The men in Iraq in 1979 groveled before Saddam Hussein because they literally feared for their lives. They were watching their peers be escorted to their executions. I don’t get why the men and women in Trump’s cabinet put up with this. Except for Pence — I get why he does it. It’s his nature.

NYT: ‘Trump Administration Considers Separating Families to Combat Illegal Immigration’ 

Caitlin Dickerson and Ron Nixon, reporting for The New York Times:

The Trump administration is considering a plan to separate parents from their children when families are caught entering the country illegally, according to officials who have been briefed on the plans. The forceful move is meant to discourage border crossings, but immigrant groups have denounced it as draconian and inhumane.

Under current policy, families are kept intact while awaiting a decision on whether they will be deported; they are either held in special family detention centers or released with a court date. The policy under discussion would send parents to adult detention facilities, while their children would be placed in shelters designed for juveniles or with a “sponsor,” who could be a relative in the United States, though the administration may also tighten rules on sponsors.

ICE, under Trump, is a terrorist organization.

Q&A With New York Times Tech Columnist Brian X. Chen on the iPhone Battery vs. Performance Issue 

Good piece overall, and a welcome relief from the overwhelmingly sensationalized mainstream news coverage of this story (that largely plays into the “Apple is purposefully making year-old iPhones run slow” narrative), but I thought this answer was a bit off:

I would recommend paying a third-party repair shop to replace the aged battery with a fresh one. This will cost between $20 and $70, depending on where you live and which iPhone you own. Repair shops will probably recommend against installing a battery that has a larger capacity than the original, as there can be risks of damage.

An authorized battery replacement from Apple is $79. I would never recommend a third-party battery replacement.

Update: This answer is a bit clumsy too:

What else could be slowing the older phones down?

Often, a buggy operating system upgrade can cause glitches when running apps. Another common cause is having little available device storage.

Low storage space is a real problem, but “a buggy operating system upgrade” is not really a thing. I think what Chen is trying to say is simply that bugs in iOS can make things so. The throttling feature for declining batteries that has been in the spotlight this week should only kick in when the iPhone is attempting to run at peak performance — that’s why it shows up in benchmarks like Geekbench. If “everything” is slow on your iPhone — like this guy, who claims it took more than 5 seconds just to open the Camera app — something else is wrong with your iPhone.

Vector: iPhone Battery Life vs. Performance Round Table 

New episode of Rene Ritchie’s Vector podcast:

Apple is sacrificing performance on old, cold iPhone batteries to prevent unexpected shutdowns. The company has been doing it for almost a year but this week it’s making headlines. Geekbench’s John Poole, analyst Ben Bajarin, former analyst Carl Howe, and electrical engineer and Android editor Jerry Hildenbrand discuss what’s happening, why, and what it all means.

Eric Schmidt Stepping Down as Executive Chairman of Alphabet 

Alphabet press release:

“Since 2001, Eric has provided us with business and engineering expertise and a clear vision about the future of technology,” said Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet. “Continuing his 17 years of service to the company, he’ll now be helping us as a technical advisor on science and technology issues. I’m incredibly excited about the progress our companies are making, and about the strong leaders who are driving that innovation.”

“Larry, Sergey, Sundar and I all believe that the time is right in Alphabet’s evolution for this transition. The Alphabet structure is working well, and Google and the Other Bets are thriving,” said Eric Schmidt. “In recent years, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on science and technology issues, and philanthropy, and I plan to expand that work.”

Seems like this is only making official what had been unofficial for years.

Microsoft Removes Google’s Chrome ‘Installer’ From the Windows Store 

Tom Warren, reporting for The Verge:

Google published a Chrome app in the Windows Store earlier today, which just directed users to a download link to install the browser. Microsoft isn’t impressed with Google’s obvious snub of the Windows Store, and it’s taking action. “We have removed the Google Chrome Installer App from Microsoft Store, as it violates our Microsoft Store policies,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge.

Citing the need to ensure apps “provide unique and distinct value,” Microsoft says “we welcome Google to build a Microsoft Store browser app compliant with our Microsoft Store policies.” That’s an invitation that Google is unlikely to accept. There are many reasons Google won’t likely bring Chrome to the Windows Store, but the primary reason is probably related to Microsoft’s Windows 10 S restrictions. Windows Store apps that browse the web must use HTML and JavaScript engines provided by Windows 10, and Google’s Chrome browser uses its own Blink rendering engine. Google would have to create a special Chrome app that would adhere to Microsoft’s Store policies.

In other words, the actual app Google submitted to the Windows Store complied with Microsoft’s rules, but all it did was forward users to a download of the regular version of Chrome, which in no way, shape, or form complies with the Windows Store rules. I’m sure people do search the Windows Store for Chrome — people like using app stores to install and manage software, because they’re easy to use and trustworthy. But it’s ridiculous to think that Microsoft was ever going to let this fly. It often feels like Google is run by a bunch of teenagers who think the rules don’t apply to them because they’re in the gifted program at school.

Amazon Prime TV App Breaks Apple TV Download Record 

Brad Gibson (there’s a byline I haven’t linked to in a while), writing for Best Apple TV:

Amazon’s recently released Prime Video app was the most downloaded of any tvOS app ever in its first seven days, Apple confirmed Monday through a statement provided by Amazon.

The confirmation from Apple released by Amazon to BESTAppleTV.com read, “Prime Video has been a hit with Apple TV customers around the world — it had the most first-week downloads of any app in the history of tvOS.”

What is not known is how many times the app has been downloaded from the Apple TV App Store leading it to break the record or the app and its record that was broken. It is also not known if Apple provided record-breaking comparison numbers to Amazon.

Actually, we know exactly how many times it was downloaded: one standard Bezos unit.

For all my gripes about the design and implementation of the Amazon Prime Apple TV app (why in the world do you have to click after changing the selected tab, when every other Apple TV app in the world changes the displayed content live as you change the selection?), I’m not surprised it’s so popular. It’s inarguably the most-awaited Apple TV app ever. Amazon Prime has a great selection of content, and a ton of users.

The best part about the app is that it does support the integration with Apple’s own TV app, so you can largely avoid interacting with the Amazon Prime app itself.

Shame Worked in Alabama 

Tom Nichols, in an op-ed for The Washington Post:

This raises an important question: How should conservative critics of the administration approach those people who, a year in, remain unshakably attached to an administration plumbing such moral depths? Should we engage and try to understand these voters, or should we shame and scold in an effort to reawaken some moral sense in a party that once proclaimed itself the defender of patriotic and family values?

Personally, I am in the “shame and scold” camp. The “engage and understand” approach is based on the deeply flawed assumption that these voters don’t know what they are doing. It is a kind of “root causes” explanation, in which Trump’s supporters are good people who are merely expressing a yawp of anger at a globalized world that has left them behind.

This explanation, ironically, mirrors one that conservatives once rejected when liberals used it to explain crime in some poor minority communities decades ago. Conservatives refused to accept the mechanistic reasoning that human beings are no more than victims, passively responsive to their environment, when it was applied to behavior among African Americans. Yet now they embrace it to explain the astounding collapse of civic virtue among the white working class.

If you’re looking for last-minute holiday gift ideas, Nichols’s The Death of Expertise is one of my favorite books of 2017.

Transferring SD Card Data to iOS, Fast 

Jason Snell:

It’s still a little bit silly that, now that iOS has a file-management app, you still can’t plug in a mass storage device via a USB adapter and copy files off of it directly. But until Apple relents — or if it never does — the MobileLite G3 gives me a fast way to transfer audio files on the road.

This sounds like a cool gadget, and a clever workaround for a tricky iOS limitation. But when I read stories like this, I can’t help but think about how easy this is on a Mac.

Apple even makes an SD card reader for iOS devices. It just seems downright wrong that it only allows you to import photos to your camera roll. Clearly a connected SD card ought to show up as a source in the iOS 11 Files app, right?

French Privacy Regulator Gives WhatsApp One Month to Stop Data Sharing With Facebook 

Stephanie Bodoni, reporting for Bloomberg:

France’s data protection authority CNIL gave a sharp warning to WhatsApp by issuing a formal notice, criticizing it for “insufficiently” cooperating. The decision comes a year after European Union privacy authorities said they had “serious concerns” about the sharing of WhatsApp user data for purposes that weren’t included in the terms of service and privacy policy when people signed up to the service. […]

The merging of WhatsApp’s data with Facebook was a first step by Facebook last year toward monetizing the platform since the social network’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg bought the company for about $22 billion in 2014. The EU’s 28 privacy chiefs were critical from the start and as part of their probes across the bloc, in a letter to WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum in October that stressed their concerns.

The data transfers from WhatsApp to Facebook happen in part without the users’ consent, nor the legitimate interest of WhatsApp, CNIL said.

Remember when WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum adamantly reassured their users that the Facebook acquisition would not change anything? Good times.

The Talk Show: ‘Blaming a Platypus’ 

Matthew Panzarino returns to the show to talk about Apple’s new iMac Pro lineup: gaming, VR, medical use, software development video, and more. Also: a spoiler-free preamble on Star Wars Ep. 8: The Last Jedi.

Brought to you by these fine sponsors:

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Apple.com Is Currently Sold Out of AirPods Until January 

This is a shame, because they really are fantastic products, and they’re such an obvious gift idea.

Update: Some retail Apple Stores still have them in stock — you can order online and pick them up at the store.

Microsoft App Center 

My thanks to Microsoft for sponsoring last week’s DF RSS feed to promote their new App Center — a continuous integration, delivery, and feedback service for iOS and MacOS developers. App Center lets you automate your development release cycle in minutes by connecting to your GitHub or Bitbucket repository. After pushing new code, you can automatically build your app on App Center’s Mac cloud machines, run automated UI tests on thousands of real iOS devices in their hosted device lab, distribute your builds to testers or to the App Store, and monitor your app with advanced crash reporting and analytics.

App Center is the next generation of HockeyApp and Xamarin Test Cloud. The basic HockeyApp and Xamarin Test Cloud features like beta distribution, crash reporting, and UI testing got a revamped user interface, and Microsoft added new features for build, analytics, and push notifications.

You can use these features together, or integrate just the features of App Center you need using open-sourced SDKs and APIs. Spend less time on drudgery, and more time on your app. Sign up now.

Trump Administration Gives CDC a List of Forbidden Words 

Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eilperin, reporting for The Washington Post:

The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or “evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

That evidence and science are dirty words to these shitheads tells you everything you need to know about them. This is pre-Enlightenment bullshit. 300 years later and it’s still a fight to argue that reason, science, and tolerance should guide us. I said it a year ago and it stands today: Trump voters are ignoramuses, bigots, and/or fools.

From the ‘Let’s Figure Out a Way to Make This Ostensibly About Apple’ Department 

Headline for a Bloomberg report by Mark Gurman, Yuan Gao, Scott Moritz, and Selina Wang, “China’s Top Phone Makers Poised to Challenge Apple on Home Turf”:

China’s top smartphone makers are ready to challenge Apple Inc. on its home turf after trouncing the iPhone maker in their own market.

Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. are in talks with U.S. wireless operators about selling flagship smartphones to American consumers as soon as next year, according to people familiar with the matter. The handset makers are negotiating with carriers including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Talks are still fluid and it’s possible no agreements will materialize, they said.

Apple only competes in the high end of the market in the U.S. This entire article compares these companies only by “market share”, which is never a good way to evaluate Apple’s success. The idea that phones sold in the U.S. from Huawei and Xiaomi are going to be targeted at Apple is highly questionable.

It seems more likely that if Huawei and/or Xiaomi were to achieve any sort of success here in the U.S., it would come at the expense of Samsung, which has phones that run the gamut from high-end to low-end. And though Apple’s sales in China have indeed waned in the last few years, the iPhone X seems poised to turn that around — not by market share, of course, but by capturing a larger share of the premium market. The company that is truly getting “trounced” — to use Bloomberg’s terms — in China is Samsung, which is a non-player in China.

Apple has a lot at stake in the U.S., where it is the leading smartphone maker. In years past, it’s been insulated from competition by strong support from carriers, which used to subsidize its expensive iPhones and lowered the upfront price for customers. These subsidies or discounts have gone away, as carriers moved to phone financing that spreads costs over two years.

The idea that Apple was “insulated from competition” in the U.S. has got to be a joke. It’s not like carrier subsidies only applied to iPhones. They applied to all phones, from all handset makers. Verizon and AT&T spent untold millions trying to prop up BlackBerry and Motorola as alternatives to the iPhone.

Yours Truly on Vector With Daniel Jalkut and Rene Ritchie 

Vector episode 37:

Rene speaks with MarsEdit developer, Daniel Jalkut, and John Gruber of Daring Fireball about the history and release of MarsEdit 4, blogging tools, the Mac App Store, and more.

Much fun talking about one of my most-used and most-loved apps.

Last Chance for This Round of DF T-Shirts 

Thumbnail of an Daring Fireball 'helmet' shirt.

Just a few hours left before I shut down the ordering page so we can start printing. We’ll start shipping them out on Monday.

Daring Fireball 24-Hour T-Shirt Spectacular 

Thumbnail of an asphalt gray long sleeve Daring Fireball shirt.

This week only: classic logo DF t-shirts — including, for the first time ever, long sleeve shirts. Get them while the getting is good. Seriously: this week only.

Phil Schiller Interview With Dan Grabham 

Phil Schiller on the development of the iPhone X, in a wide-ranging interview with Dan Grabham for T3:

At the time, at the beginning, it seemed almost impossible. Not just almost. It seemed impossible. And to pull off what feels impossible and make it possible — and not only that, but just something we love using — is just a great achievement.

“Clearly there was a point in the process where we had to commit to the fact that it would be a full top-to-bottom screen on the front with no home button, which means you’re counting on Face ID working as we’d hope, and being as good.

That’s an exciting moment, when you have to sort of… the old saying: ‘Burn the boats. Leave the past behind, and commit.’ Knowing that the team was willing to make that gamble was a key point early enough in the process.

Cabel Sasser’s First Look at the iMac Pro 

Speaking of Twitter threads, here’s a short one from Cabel Sasser, after a few days with the iMac Pro:

Games. Fired up the ol’ Firewatch, to test the iMac Pro (Radeon Pro Vega 64) vs. my current Retina 5K iMac (Radeon R9 M295X). At 2560 × 1440, the iMac topped out at 25 FPS, the iMac Pro at 62 FPS (!).

You have to love the black Lightning cable.

How to Design for iPhone X (Without an iPhone X) 

Sebastiaan de With on how he (and developer partner Ben Sandofsky) designed the iPhone X version of Halide before they had an iPhone X. Halide is truly one of the very nicest apps I’ve ever seen. And I just love de With’s “world map of the iPhone X for your fingers” — and it’s fascinating to see how this “map” affected the layout of controls when Halide is running on the iPhone X.

Twitter Adds Support for Threads 

Sasank Reddy, product manager at Twitter:

Now, hundreds of thousands of threads are Tweeted every day! But this method of Tweeting, while effective and popular, can be tricky for some to create and it’s often tough to read or discover all the Tweets in a thread. That’s why we’re thrilled to share that we’re making it simpler to thread Tweets together, and to find threads, so it’s easier to express yourself on Twitter and stay informed.

We’ve made it easy to create a thread by adding a plus button in the composer, so you can connect your thoughts and publish your threaded Tweets all at the same time. You can continue adding more Tweets to your published thread at any time with the new “Add another Tweet” button. Additionally, it’s now simpler to spot a thread — we’ve added an obvious “Show this thread” label.

This is a good idea. People are creating threads without official support, so true support can only make it better. This sounds like it’ll be easier to create threads, and — importantly — it will be easier to ignore threads you’re not interested in.

I think this is a much better idea than increasing the character limit per tweet to 280, but one month into 280 Twitter, I have to say I don’t mind it much.

Marques Brownlee on the iMac Pro 

Marques Brownlee’s “one week with the iMac Pro” video. Really does seem like everything we were hoping for, including the fact that it runs quietly.

The most interesting thing I learned from this is that the iMac Pro is not upgradeable. There’s no hatch on the back for upgrading the RAM. Whatever you order from the factory is what you get. I’m OK with that — I think that fits with the iMac form factor — but it’s going to rankle those who think “Pro” should be synonymous with “upgradeable”.

Craig Hunter on the iMac Pro 

Craig Hunter:

When you get into an intense development or debug cycle that involves a lot of compiles, saving fractions of seconds here and there adds up and can give you extra hours in a day. This is one area where the 10-core iMac Pro shines when combined with Xcode’s ability to automatically take advantage of multiple cores to compile multiple source files simultaneously.

Most of my apps have around 20,000-30,000 lines of code spread out over 80-120 source files (mostly Obj-C and C with a teeny amount of Swift mixed in). There are so many variables that go into compile performance that it’s hard to come up with a benchmark that is universally relevant, so I’ll simply note that I saw reductions in compile time of between 30-60% while working on apps when I compared the iMac Pro to my 2016 MacBook Pro and 2013 iMac. If you’re developing for iOS you’ll still be subject to the bottleneck of installing and launching an app on the simulator or a device, but when developing for the Mac this makes a pretty noticeable improvement in repetitive code-compile-test cycles.

Hunter also has some impressive benchmarks from his work in aerospace engineering.

Vincent Laforet on the iMac Pro 

Photographer/filmmaker Vincent Laforet, after a week with the upcoming iMac Pro:

Last week I received a pelican case from Apple with a very special Mac inside of it… It was an iMac Pro configured as a 10 Core 3GHZ Intel Xeon W, 2TB SSD, 128 GB RAM, Vega 64 Radeon.

After unpacking the (to be expected) beautiful Space Grey hardware, keyboard, mouse and trackpad, it was time to get down to the brass tacks, I had ONE question that I needed to answer: how fast is this thing, and how much time will it save me in my everyday imaging tasks?

I found a very consistent set of results: a 2X to 3X boost in speed (relative to my current iMac and MacBook Pro 15”) a noticeable leap from most generational jumps that are generally ten times smaller.

Whether you’re editing 8K RED video, H.264 4K Drone footage, 6K 3D VR content or 50 Megapixel RAW stills — you can expect a 200-300% increase in performance in almost every industry leading software with the iMac Pro.

I’ve seldom seen a jump this dramatic before on any new generation of Macs — 20%-30% speed increases are the norm … NOT 200%-300% increases. That’s SIGNIFICANT.

Seems particularly impressive for imaging pros.

Apple Opens App Pre-Orders to All Developers 

John Vorhees, writing for MacStories:

You may recall that when Super Mario Run was announced in 2016, customers could request notification of its release, which was a first at the time on the App Store. Now, all developers can do something similar by offering their apps for pre-order.

Nice touch: it’s available for all platforms, not just iOS.

Former Facebook Executive Says Social Media Is Ripping Apart Society 

James Vincent, writing for The Verge:

Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media. […]

He went on to describe an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” said Palihapitiya. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.” He says he tries to use Facebook as little as possible, and that his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.” He later adds, though, that he believes the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.”

These former Facebook executives coming out against Facebook remind me of former NFL players who won’t allow their own kids to play football.

Google Home Max Smart Speaker Now Shipping 

Chris Chan and James Howarth, product managers for Google Home Max:

Google Home Max sounds pretty amazing right out of the box because it’s our first speaker with Smart Sound. Powered by Google’s artificial intelligence (AI), Smart Sound means Max can automatically adapt itself based on where it’s placed in the room. There’s no extra setup or testing required. Even if you move Max from one spot to another, it’ll continuously tune itself to the room, so your music will sound one step closer to the studio.

$399. Pretty much the same basic idea as Apple’s HomePod, but Google Home Max is shipping.

(Also, check out the domain name Google is using for their company blog now. Apple has a similar top-level domain, but I don’t think they’re using it yet.)

Doxie: Scan Anywhere 

My thanks to Doxie for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Doxie’s mobile scanners produce reliable and high-quality scans of all your paper. Whether you’re trying to go (or stay) paperless, Doxie connects your physical paper to your digital world.

Going paperless is a lot easier than you might think. With Doxie’s included memory and rechargeable battery, Doxie lets you scan anywhere — no computer required — and then save, share, and send your paper to the cloud with Doxie’s intuitive Mac and iOS apps. It’s great hardware and great software, and it doesn’t tie you in to any sort of proprietary platform. You can do whatever you want with your scans.

This week only, Doxie is giving all Daring Fireball readers a super secret 30% discount off any new Doxie on Amazon. Enter promo code “FIREBALL” at checkout.

Jony Ive Returns to Day-to-Day Management of Design Team 

Mark Gurman and Alex Webb, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc.’s Jony Ive, a key executive credited with the look of many of the company’s most popular products, has re-taken direct management of product design teams.

Ive, 50, was named Apple’s chief design officer in 2015 and subsequently handed off some day-to-day management responsibility while the iPhone maker was building its new Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, California. “With the completion of Apple Park, Apple’s design leaders and teams are again reporting directly to Jony Ive, who remains focused purely on design,” Amy Bessette, a company spokeswoman, said Friday in a statement.

I can’t decide if this is actually news. It was public knowledge that Ive was spending a lot (most?) of his time on Apple Park and other architectural projects (retail), but that obviously wasn’t going to last forever. I suppose it’s news, though, insofar as there was some speculation that he had one foot out the door. This should put an end to that.

TechCrunch: Apple Is Acquiring Music Recognition App Shazam 

Ingrid Lunden, reporting for TechCrunch:

As Spotify continues to inch towards a public listing, Apple is making a move of its own to step up its game in music services. Sources tell us that the company is close to acquiring Shazam, the popular app that lets people identify any song, TV show, film or advert in seconds, by listening to an audio clip or (in the case of, say, an ad) a visual fragment, and then takes you to content relevant to that search.

We have heard that the deal is being signed this week, and will be announced on Monday, although that could always change.

One source describes the deal as in the nine figures; another puts it at around £300 million ($401 million). We are still asking around. Notably, though, both of the numbers we’ve heard are lower than the $1.02 billion (according to PitchBook) post-money valuation the company had in its last funding round, in 2015.

I wonder if they’ll keep it as a standalone app (and will they keep the Android version?), or if they’ll just roll it into Siri (which, I know, has had pretty good integration with Shazam since iOS 8).

Trump Administration Scraps Obama-Era Proposal Requiring Airlines to Disclose Bag Fees 

Melanie Zanona, reporting for The Hill:

The Trump administration has scrapped an Obama-era proposal requiring airlines and ticket agencies to disclose baggage fees as soon as passengers start the process of buying a ticket.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) posted a notice on the Federal Register this week that it is withdrawing the proposed rule, along with another plan to force air carriers to disclose how much revenue they make from charging other ancillary fees.

What is wrong with these people? Who, other than airline beancounters, thinks scrapping this regulation is a good idea?

Zero-Day iOS HomeKit Vulnerability Allowed Remote Access to Smart Accessories Including Locks 

Zac Hall, reporting for 9to5Mac:

A HomeKit vulnerability in the current version of iOS 11.2 has been demonstrated to 9to5Mac that allows unauthorized control of accessories including smart locks and garage door openers. Our understanding is Apple has rolled out a server-side fix that now prevent unauthorized access from occurring while limiting some functionality, and an update to iOS 11.2 coming next week will restore that full functionality.

The vulnerability, which we won’t describe in detail and was difficult to reproduce, allowed unauthorized control of HomeKit-connected accessories including smart lights, thermostats, and plugs.

The most serious ramification of this vulnerability prior to the fix is unauthorized remote control of smart locks and connected garage door openers, the former of which was demonstrated to 9to5Mac.

Fast response from Apple, but this kind of story spooks me from installing smart locks. I realize that’s not entirely rational — good old fashioned dumb locks are susceptible to lock-picking — but something about hooking up the locks to my house to the internet just doesn’t feel right.

iPhone Models Dominate Flickr’s List of Most Popular Cameras in 2017 

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:

This year, iPhone has scored the majority (54%) of usage on Flickr’s site, up from 47 percent of the top 100 in 2016, and 42 percent the year prior. The iPhone also passed Nikon to score the spot as the second-most popular camera back in 2014.

Nikon was the third most popular brand with 18 percent in 2017, and Canon was number two, responsible for 23 percent of the top 100 devices.

The iPhone is so popular as a camera that its share on Flickr now exceeds all Canon and Nikon cameras combined.

Amazon Prime Video Arrives on Apple TV 

Apple Newsroom:

Starting today, customers around the world can access the Amazon Prime Video app on Apple TV to stream award-winning and critically acclaimed titles including Prime Original Series and Movies. Also starting this week, the Apple TV app — a unified place for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV users to discover and start watching the best shows and movies — supports live sports, giving fans in the US a simple and seamless way to keep track of their favorite teams and games in real time. Participating sports apps in the Apple TV app include ESPN and the NBA, developed in partnership between the NBA and Turner Sports, with more to be added soon. Starting tomorrow, Prime members in the US can enjoy Thursday Night Football on the Apple TV app for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.

I’ve heard there is indeed a good story behind this delay. I don’t know the story, or even what the story is about (although my guess would be revenue-sharing politics, not software) — I’ve just heard that there’s a good story.

Update: Now that I’ve had a chance to install and try the app on my Apple TV 4K, I’m seriously wondering if the holdup was technical, not political. (Or technical in addition to political.) Justin Williams:

I’m half convinced that Apple granted Amazon an entitlement to access a tvOS web view to get Prime Video on the Apple TV. It looks and behaves nearly identical to the HTML5 / Smart TV app that is deployed everywhere.

I have zero evidence of this. Just my dumb conspiracy theory.

I don’t know if it’s a webview, but if it is, that would have required a special entitlement from Apple because the tvOS SDK does not have a webview. Netflix, HBO, and Hulu all have Apple TV UIs that seem a bit alien, eschewing tvOS standard UI elements for custom branded UI elements. But this Prime Video app takes it to a new level. The UI doesn’t even play sound as you move the selection around — I’ve never seen that in an Apple TV app. The Prime Video app for Apple TV doesn’t just look alien, it feels and sounds alien too. I think it’s a web app. And if it’s not, Amazon’s engineers went to extraordinary lengths to make UIKit on tvOS look and feel like a web app.

Update 2: Steven Troughton-Smith poked around the IPA:

TL;DR it’s no wonder Amazon took so long in porting their app to tvOS; it’s a giant, [presumably] in-house web-based multi-headed hydra designed for a hundred different devices and consoles that probably needed a new UI glue layer for tvOS (but probably doesn’t use webviews).

I find it hard to believe that getting this custom cross-platform monstrosity running atop tvOS was less work (and would be easier to maintain) than just writing a goddamn native tvOS app. I can see why Amazon doesn’t want to create a new app from scratch for every single “smart TV” platform, but Apple TV is a big market.

Prime Video is, without question, the worst Apple TV app I have on my Apple TV (taking the crown from Hulu).

Google’s AlphaZero Destroys Previously Top-Ranked Chess Computer in 100-Game Match 

Mike Klein, reporting for Chess.com:

A little more than a year after AlphaGo sensationally won against the top Go player, the artificial-intelligence program AlphaZero has obliterated the highest-rated chess engine.

Stockfish, which for most top players is their go-to preparation tool, and which won the 2016 TCEC Championship and the 2017 Chess.com Computer Chess Championship, didn’t stand a chance. AlphaZero won the closed-door, 100-game match with 28 wins, 72 draws, and zero losses.

Oh, and it took AlphaZero only four hours to “learn” chess. Sorry humans, you had a good run.

That’s right — the programmers of AlphaZero, housed within the DeepMind division of Google, had it use a type of “machine learning,” specifically reinforcement learning. Put more plainly, AlphaZero was not “taught” the game in the traditional sense. That means no opening book, no endgame tables, and apparently no complicated algorithms dissecting minute differences between center pawns and side pawns.

Forecast: Podcast MP3 Chapter Encoder 

Marco Arment has released a public beta of Forecast, a Mac app for podcast producers. Among a slew of other great features, Forecast is hands-down the best MP3 chapter editor I’ve seen. If you’ve noticed the chapter support in The Talk Show that started earlier this year, that’s thanks to Forecast. Forecast is free of charge, too.

See also: Jason Snell’s review of Forecast at Six Colors:

There’s also a perceptual trick that Forecast uses to make encoding seem quick: When you add a file to be encoded, encoding begins immediately in the background. By the time you edit your file’s metadata, the encode may have already completed in the background. The first time I used Forecast, I thought something had gone wrong — because when I typed Command-S to save the file, it just saved. There was no wait. The file had already encoded — it was waiting for me, the slow human, to finish typing in episode titles and show descriptions.

Jason Snell on iOS Laptops 

Jason Snell, writing for Macworld:

Which is why, when someone tells me that it’s stupid for there to be an iOS laptop because it wouldn’t run Xcode and couldn’t be used by professional developers or pro video editors or power users who have spent a decade building up productivity-boosting workflows based on macOS, I don’t have much of a response for them. The iBook wouldn’t be for those people. It would be for people who don’t need all of the features and flexibility that macOS brings. It would be one in an array of products Apple makes — iPhones, iPads, desktop Macs, laptop Macs — that appeal to different users with different needs.

There are simply some use cases where a laptop is the best form factor. An iPad with a keyboard cover is laptop-ish, but not a laptop. If you prefer to use iOS in a scenario that calls for a laptop, you’re stuck between making a go of it with an iPad with a keyboard, or using a proper laptop and another OS.

You could throw this right back at me — and my firmly held belief that MacOS should not support touchscreens — and point out that there are other scenarios where a tablet is the best form factor, and if you prefer MacOS, there therefore ought to be a Mac tablet. I don’t think that argument holds, though. The difference is that I think iOS could work in a laptop form factor (especially if Apple added support for a trackpad, in ways like Snell suggests, but even if they don’t), whereas the Mac interface as it stands would not work well with touch, and changing the Mac interface to work well with touch would (I say) ruin it for use with a mouse pointer.

HP and Asus Announce First Windows 10 ARM PCs, Due in Spring 2018 

Peter Bright, writing for Ars Technica:

This ability to upgrade is particularly important because the new Always Connected PCs are different from Microsoft’s previous Windows-on-ARM attempt, Windows RT. Windows RT was a version of Windows 8 for ARM processors, and it too could only run applications from what was then called the Windows Store. But Windows RT had two constraints not found on these new systems: there was no facility to unlock it, and run non-Store apps, and there was no facility to run existing x86 programs. On Windows RT, not only did software have to come from the Store, it also had to be compiled specifically for ARM processors.

That’s not so with Always Connected PCs. They contain an x86 emulator that will enable most 32-bit x86 applications to run unmodified. This includes x86 applications in the Store and, when upgraded to the full Windows 10 Pro, arbitrary desktop applications. Full details of the x86 emulator haven’t been disclosed yet, with the performance in particular currently unknown, but we do know some broad elements of its design.

The emulator runs in a just-in-time basis, converting blocks of x86 code to equivalent blocks of ARM code. This conversion is cached both in memory (so each given part of a program only has to be translated once per run) and on disk (so subsequent uses of the program should be faster, as they can skip the translation). Moreover, system libraries — the various DLLs that applications load to make use of operating system features — are all native ARM code, including the libraries loaded by x86 programs. Calling them “Compiled Hybrid Portable Executables” (or “chippie” for short), these libraries are ARM native code, compiled in such a way as to let them respond to x86 function calls.

A few years ago I would have wagered a small sum on Apple shipping ARM-based Macs before ARM-based Windows PCs arrived. (It could still happen, I suppose, given that these PCs aren’t set to arrive until spring.) What’s interesting to me is that these ARM CPUs are fast enough to emulate x86 software. If that’s true for a Snapdragon CPU, then Apple’s even-faster ARM chips are certainly more than capable of doing the same.

Oath and Mozilla Are in a Legal Battle Over a Yahoo Search Deal 

Kara Swisher:

As I reported at the time, under terms of a contract, whoever acquired Yahoo was required to pay Mozilla annual payments of $375 million through 2019, even if it does not think the buyer was one it wanted to work with and walked away. It was Mayer who struck the deal in late 2014 to become the default search engine on the well-known Firefox browser in the U.S.

Mozilla switched to Yahoo from Google after Mayer offered a much more lucrative deal that included an unprecedented term to protect Mozilla in a change-of-control scenario. It was a scenario that Mayer never thought would happen, which is why she apparently pushed through the problematic deal point.

According to the change-of-control term, 9.1 in the agreement, Mozilla had the right to leave the partnership if — under its sole discretion and in a certain time period — it did not deem the new partner acceptable. And if it did that, even if it struck another search deal, Yahoo was still obligated to pay out annual revenue guarantees of $375 million.

That was… not a good deal for Yahoo.

Painting With Microsoft Excel 

Great find from Tina Roth Eisenberg:

For over 15 years, Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi has rendered the subtle details of mountains, cherry blossoms, and dense forests with the most unlikely tool: Microsoft Excel.

Modern-Day Payola 

Jon Christian, reporting for The Outline:

People involved with the payoffs are extremely reluctant to discuss them, but four contributing writers to prominent publications including Mashable, Inc, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur told me they have personally accepted payments in exchange for weaving promotional references to brands into their work on those sites. Two of the writers acknowledged they have taken part in the scheme for years, on behalf of many brands. Mario Ruiz, a spokesperson for Business Insider, said in an email that “Business Insider has a strict policy that prohibits any of our writers, whether full-time staffers or contributors, from accepting payment of any kind in exchange for coverage.”

One of them, a contributor to Fast Company and other outlets who asked not to be identified by name, described how he had inserted references to a well-known startup that offers email marketing software into multiple online articles, in Fast Company and elsewhere, on behalf of a marketing agency he declined to name. To make the references seem natural, he said, he often links to case studies and how-to guides published by the startup on its own site. Other times, he’ll just praise a certain aspect of the company’s business to support a point in an otherwise unrelated story. […]

The Fast Company writer also defended the practice by arguing that it’s enabled by editors who are hungry for cheap or unpaid blog content. Many high-volume sites, including the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes, maintain networks of unpaid contributors who publish large amounts of material.

That’s a pathetic defense. Everyone is guilty in this racket — the “sponsors” who pay for this bullshit, the writers who accept the payola, and publications that blindly run these stories. There’s a complete and shameless lack of integrity from all three sides.

Google to Pull YouTube From Fire TV Over Spat With Amazon 

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety:

In an unusually frank statement, a Google spokesperson squarely blamed Amazon’s unwillingness to strike a business deal with Google for the step:

​“We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services. But Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products. Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

Amazon shot back Tuesday afternoon, sending Variety the following statement:

“Echo Show and Fire TV now display a standard web view of YouTube.com and point customers directly to YouTube’s existing website. Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website. We hope to resolve this with Google as soon as possible.”

So Amazon Prime is (supposedly) coming to Apple TV any day now, just as Amazon’s spat with Google is escalating. Google seems to be in a strong position here — it seems hard to me to sell a TV box that doesn’t support YouTube. Is a web view of youtube.com really a good experience on a TV? But this also goes to show how powerful Amazon’s retail store is — Google obviously cares that Amazon isn’t selling these Google hardware products.

iOS 11 Adoption Now at 59 Percent 

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

iOS 11 is now installed on 59 percent of iOS devices, according to new statistics Apple shared this week on its App Store support page for developers. That’s up from 52 percent on November 6, indicating iOS 11 adoption has grown just 7 percentage points over the course of the last month.

iOS 11 adoption has been slower than iOS 10 adoption. Based on Apple’s official App Store numbers, for example, iOS 10 was installed on 54 percent of devices in October, a month after the operating system had been released. Comparatively, iOS 11 was only at 52 percent in November, a month and a half after launch.

I don’t think a difference between 54 and 52 percent is meaningful, especially this year, when many people were waiting for the iPhone X. The iPhone X alone could account for that 2 percent. I think it’s fair to say iOS 11’s adoption rate is about the same as iOS 10’s last year.

iPhone X Charging Speeds Compared 

Comprehensive testing from Juli Clover for MacRumors. Looks like the 7.5-watt contact charging (enabled by iOS 11.2) using the Belkin and Mophie charging pads is a nice improvement over 5-watt charging.

Gabe Weatherhead, writing at Macdrifter:

Here’s a little Safari trick that is just gold. Hit Shift-⌘-\ to enter the Safari “Show all tabs” mode. From there it’s just a simple ⌘-F to search the open tabs.

Notice that the search also covers tabs open on other devices too?

Whoa, this is cool. Had no idea you could search in this mode.

But there’s a huge shortcoming: it only searches the tabs in the current window. It seems crazy to me that you can use this to find tabs open on other devices, but not tabs open in other windows on the Mac you’re currently using.

Update: Turns out you don’t need to type Command-F. Just type Command-Shift-\ and start typing, and whatever you type will go into the search field.

Russia Banned From Winter Olympics by I.O.C. 

Rebecca R. Ruiz and Tariq Panja, reporting for The New York Times:

Russia’s Olympic team has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The country’s government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound.

Any athletes from Russia who receive special dispensation to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals.

That was the punishment issued Tuesday to the proud sports juggernaut that has long used the Olympics as a show of global force but was exposed for systematic doping in previously unfathomable ways. The International Olympic Committee, after completing its own prolonged investigations that reiterated what had been known for more than a year, handed Russia penalties for doping so severe they were without precedent in Olympics history.

I’m curious if Old Happy Thumbs will fire up his iPhone to comment on this one.

Wes Meltzer’s Review of MarsEdit 1.0 for ATPM 

Wes Meltzer, in his MarsEdit 1.0 review back in January 2005:

A brief historical diversion, if you will: going all the way back to LiveJournal clients, weblog editing clients have tended to be non-document-based, until quite recently. I used the original Windows LiveJournal client, which was modal way back when, and there weren’t a lot of alternatives. Sure, if you had a Radio blog, you had a document-based application — but the huge proliferation of blogs, as Maciej Ceglowski demonstrated in the NITLE Weblog Census, means that most people use Movable Type (about 44,000) or the big hosted services, BlogSpot and LiveJournal (707,690), all of which now support some form of remote posting. Between Ecto and MarsEdit, though, the future is clearly in document-based weblog editing.

Movable Type, Blogspot, and LiveJournal are all still around, but today they’re dwarfed in usage by WordPress and Tumblr. It’s a testimony to the strength of MarsEdit’s engine-neutral design that it remains relevant today, despite a nearly complete change in the publishing systems people use to blog.

MarsEdit 4 and Try-Before-You-Buy on the Mac App Store 

Daniel Jalkut:

MarsEdit 4 also brings a new sales approach that aims to unify the trial, purchase, and upgrade experience between the Mac App Store and direct-licensed versions of the app. The app is free to download and can be used full-featured for a 14 day trial period.

After the trial expires, all features of the app continue to work except for actions that update published content on the web. This ensures that all of MarsEdit’s powerful offline features, including download/archiving of posts, can be used in perpetuity for free.

MarsEdit 4.0 

Major update to one of my very favorite and most-used apps. I’ve been using MarsEdit ever since it was first spun off from the built-in blog editor in NetNewsWire back in 2004. MarsEdit 4 is a terrific update — it both works and looks better than ever. The basic premise — a native Mac blog editor that follows the basic layout and structure of an email client — remains as sound today as it did 13 years ago. MarsEdit is great for both its integration with various blogging platforms and its integration with MacOS as a native app.

I’ve said for years that almost everything I write for Daring Fireball goes through MarsEdit. The only posts that don’t are the ones I write on my iPhone (or, very rarely, iPad). But now that I think about it, it’s not just that almost everything I post now goes through MarsEdit — given that I’ve been using it since mid-2004, almost everything I have ever posted to Daring Fireball has gone through MarsEdit.

Nick Heer on the Deregulation of ISPs 

Nick Heer wrote a terrific response to Ben Thompson on the FCC’s move to overturn Obama era net neutrality regulations:

Even if you believe that the American broadband market is sufficiently competitive — it isn’t — that ISPs can be trusted to not discriminate against some forms of traffic once given the freedom to — doubtful — and that existing regulatory structures will allow any problems to be fixed on a case-by-case basis, it still seems far more efficient to prevent it in the first place. There’s an opportunity to treat internet service as a fundamental utility; let’s keep it that way, whether that’s through Title II classification or an equivalent replacement.

Where Is Amazon’s Prime Video App for Apple TV? 

Chris Welch, writing for The Verge:

“Amazon is coming to the TV app and all Apple TVs later this year with Amazon Prime Video,” Cook said at Apple’s WWDC keynote, before rattling off a string of original Amazon shows including Mozart in the Jungle, Man in the High Castle, and Transparent.

Tomorrow will mark six months since that news.

There has to be a good story here, but no one seems to know it.

Josh Centers checked with Amazon PR, and they told him it’s still coming this year:

But it’s December, and Amazon Prime Video for the Apple TV remains vaporware. Is it still due in 2017? Surprisingly, yes. Amazon public relations told me, “Thanks for checking in. Yes, you can expect the launch this year.”

Text Replacements Now Sync Reliably Between Macs and iOS Devices Via CloudKit 

Remember back in September, when Brian Stucki dove deep into an investigation of why text replacements didn’t sync reliably between iOS devices and Macs? I was told the next day by an Apple spokesperson that an update that moves text replacement syncing to CloudKit should be rolling out to iOS 11 and MacOS 10.13 High Sierra users in the “next month or so”.

In an update to his original report, Stucki reports that as of last week, this is now the case. So far so good for me personally. I think this deserves a non-sarcastic finally.

How the Minnesota Viking Uniforms Came to Be 

Paul Lukas, writing for ESPN:

Here’s the backstory: The Vikings’ first general manager was former Los Angeles Rams public relations director Bert Rose, and their first coach was former Rams quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. When it came time to create the new team’s look in 1961, they turned to a prominent Los Angeles sports cartoonist named Karl Hubenthal, whom they knew from their days in L.A.

It was Hubenthal — not a Vikings employee, not a Minnesota design firm, not the NFL Properties office — who designed the Norseman logo and the team’s original uniform set, including the distinctive horned helmet. Per Rose’s instruction, Hubenthal executed the designs in purple and gold. Why those colors? Because those are the colors of the University of Washington, where Rose had attended college. So with the L.A. and Washington connections, the look of this quintessentially midwestern team had strong West Coast roots.

The Vikings have stayed true to Hubenthal’s original design to this day. Classic.

‘My Butler Has Two Butlers’ 

Bob Vulfov, writing for McSweeney’s: “Hello, I Am the Mythical Middle-Class Person Who Republicans Say Will Benefit From Their New Tax Bill”.

On Apple Embracing YouTube 

Charlotte Henry:

In terms of getting content in front of as many eyeballs as possible, Apple’s decision then makes perfect sense. However, it is significant in terms of Silicon Valley power politics.

Combine this with Apple’s official channel, which is now home to Apple Music Carpool Karaoke content, and you can see a pattern. Apple has accepted that it has, for the moment at least, completely lost the video platform battle. If it wants to get its video message out, it has to play nicely with Alphabet/Google.

I’d argue that it’s not so much that Apple has lost the video platform battle to YouTube, but that the open web has lost the battle. Apple has never attempted to create a rival service to YouTube. Prior to its embrace of YouTube, what Apple used to do was publish video content on its website, using the HTML5 <video> tag.

There are silos for text content — Facebook, Medium, AMP, Apple News, and more. But none dominate the web. Apple’s own relatively new Newsroom section at apple.com is updated frequently and is just a good old-fashioned blog (although its RSS feed is effectively useless). Still images can still go anywhere on the web. Technically that’s true for video as well, but the discoverability and network effects of YouTube are so strong that practically speaking, it’s the only place anyone puts shareable video content.

Facebook ‘Messenger Kids’ 

Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch:

For the first time, Facebook is opening up to children under age 13 with a privacy-focused app designed to neutralize child predator threats that plague youth-focused competitors like Snapchat. Rolling out today on iOS in the US, “Messenger Kids” lets parents download the app on their child’s phone or tablet, create a profile for them, and approve friends and family who they can text and video chat with from the main Messenger app.

Tweens don’t sign up for a Facebook account and don’t need a phone number, but can communicate with other Messenger and Messenger Kids users parents sign-off on, so younger siblings don’t get left out of the family group chat. “We’ve been working closely with the FTC so we’re lockstep with them. ‘This works’, they said” Facebook product management director Loren Cheng tells me. “In other apps, they can contact anyone they want or be contacted by anyone” Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus notes.

This is like Philip Morris introducing officially licensed candy cigarettes. You’re nuts if you sign your kids up for this.

Safari Technology Preview Now Allows Animated-GIF-Like Videos Using ‘img’ Tag 

Colin Bendell on a new feature in Safari Technology Preview:

  • Now you can <img src=".mp4"> in Safari Technology Preview
  • Early results show mp4s in <img> tags display 20x faster and decode 7x faster than the GIF equivalent — in addition to being 1/14th the file size!
  • Background CSS video & Responsive Video can now be a “thing”.
  • Finally cinemagraphs without the downsides of GIFs!
  • Now we wait for the other browsers to catch-up: This post is 46 MB on Chrome but 2 MB in Safari TP

It’ll take a few years for this to catch on web-wide, but the benefits are massive. It’s really rather ridiculous how popular the GIF format is in 2017.

Jamf Now 

My thanks to Jamf for sponsoring last week’s DF RSS feed. Jamf Now is a simple device management solution designed to help anyone set up, manage, and protect Apple devices at work. Easily configure email and Wi-Fi networks, distribute apps to your team, and protect sensitive data without locking down devices.

Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. Forever. Each additional device is just $2 per month. Create your free account today.

iOS 11.2 Is Out, But Apple Pay Cash Doesn’t Roll Out Until Sometime Next Week 

The official Apple Support Twitter account confirms that Apple Pay Cash, a feature of iOS 11.2, won’t roll out in the U.S. until “early next week”. After upgrading this morning and not seeing it, I thought Apple had postponed it again.

Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

Since 2014, engineers have noticed that the thrusters Voyager 1 has been using to orient the spacecraft, called “attitude control thrusters,” have been degrading. Over time, the thrusters require more puffs to give off the same amount of energy. At 13 billion miles from Earth, there’s no mechanic shop nearby to get a tune-up.

The Voyager team assembled a group of propulsion experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, to study the problem. Chris Jones, Robert Shotwell, Carl Guernsey and Todd Barber analyzed options and predicted how the spacecraft would respond in different scenarios. They agreed on an unusual solution: Try giving the job of orientation to a set of thrusters that had been asleep for 37 years. […]

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly — and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

This gives me a lump in my throat.

iOS 11 Bug Makes Some iPhones Crash Repeatedly Starting Today 

iOS 11.2, which was released overnight, apparently fixes this. This has been a banner week for the folks on the “Apple software quality is going to hell in a hand basket” side of the debate. Jiminy.

Phantom App Updates in the iOS App Store 

Jeff Johnson:

Starting on November 17, many iOS and tvOS apps that had not been updated for a year or two years suddenly received phantom updates in the App Store, without any action by the developers of those apps. The version numbers of the apps did not change. For some of the updates, the release notes were the same as the previous update. For others, the release notes said, “This update is signed with Apple’s latest signing certificate. No new features are included.” Some people speculated that Bitcode recompilation was performed on the apps. So far, Apple has not published any press release or documentation explaining why it updated all of these apps.

Vesper is one of the apps affected by this. If you’re seeing a Vesper update, it’s not because it’s actually updated. Sorry for any confusion, but we had nothing to do with this.

The Talk Show: ‘Disgusting Inception’ 

John “With an H” Moltz returns to the show. Topics include the ongoing deluge of sexual harassment scandals, our beloved SodaStreams, the Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra root login fiasco, App: The Human Story, and more.

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