Critiquing a New Typeface ★
My friend Louie Mantia has recently taken to type design. He posted a preview to Twitter, and Jonathan Hoefler provided a detailed critique. (He marked it up using Notability on an iPad Pro.)
Another Tale of Rampant Sexual Harassment at Uber ★
“Amy Vertino”, a former Uber engineer writing under a pen name:
On a bright and windy day last summer, while working on some
updates to Uber’s driver payment system, Mike#2 proposed an idea
which to me seemed as unfair to the drivers. It would block the
payments to the driver if a customer complained about the ride
before a ride ends. Fortunately, this never made it into the app.
When we were brainstorming this idea, I openly spoke up against
it. I told them that it was unethical to block a driver’s payments
without researching the complaint to make sure it was the driver’s
fault. Many of the Uber drivers in some countries do not own the
cars they drive. They are owned by rich people who give the
drivers a fixed monthly salary and take the money Uber pays the
drivers from their bank accounts. So, if a payment is blocked
because of a customer complaint, the drivers may go home without
the pay they need to feed their families. When I voiced my
concern, Mike#2 looked at me and said “There is no place for
ethics in this business sweetheart. We are not a charity.” I was
upset to hear such an insensitive comment. I repeated my point and
this time, I raised my voice to show that I was unhappy with his
attitude. Visibly angry, Mike #2 covered the microphone of the
conference phone, he reached over to hold my hand tightly and told
me to stop being a whiny little bitch. Two of the men in the
room looked at each other and laughed while the rest of the men,
like me, were shocked.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t link to an unverifiable anonymous story. But for me, Uber has lost the benefit of the doubt.
Emails Show Uber Deceived California DMV ★
Andrew J. Hawkins, reporting for The Verge:
According to a lengthy email exchange between Uber and the DMV
obtained by The Verge from a public records request, Uber was
repeatedly urged to sign up for the state’s autonomous testing
permit, with the DMV even offering to expedite the process to make
it as quick and seamless as possible. Had it done so, Uber could
have saved itself a lot of embarrassment and could be offering
trips in self-driving cars in San Francisco right now.
But in multiple emails to the DMV, Anthony Levandowski, vice
president at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group and the company’s
top executive in charge of autonomous technology, argued that what
it was doing did not meet the legal definition of autonomous
vehicle testing, spurring a brain-bending debate over the letter
of the law. The debate ended inconclusively, and Uber ultimately
launched its doomed public pilot without ever notifying state
regulators of its intentions to invite members of the public into
the backseat of its self-driving cars.
“In their minds, they really thought they weren’t autonomous,”
Jessica Gonzalez, assistant deputy director of public affairs at
the DMV, told The Verge. “But we decide what’s autonomous. And
under our regulations, it was.”
Levandowski is the guy accused of stealing intellectual property from Alphabet subsidiary Waymo and taking it with him to Uber.
Recode: ‘Uber’s SVP of Engineering Is Out After He Did Not Disclose He Left Google in a Dispute Over a Sexual Harassment Allegation’ ★
Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode:
Amit Singhal has left his job at Uber as its SVP of engineering
because he did not disclose to the car-hailing company that he
left Google a year earlier after top executives there informed him
of an allegation of sexual harassment from an employee that an
internal investigation had found “credible.”
Singhal was asked to resign by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick this
Uber execs found out about the situation after Recode informed
them of the chain of events between Singhal and the search giant
It’s possible that Uber never would have hired Singhal in the first place if they knew of the allegations against him at Google. It’s also possible that they would have, and Kalanick only asked him to resign today because the company is going through a firestorm of bad publicity regarding their poisonous corporate culture. They have no credibility here.
Internet-Connected Teddy Bear Leaked 2 Million Recordings of Parents and Kids ★
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Motherboard:
A company that sells “smart” teddy bears leaked 800,000 user
account credentials — and then hackers locked it and held it
A company that sells internet-connected teddy bears that allow
kids and their far-away parents to exchange heartfelt messages
left more than 800,000 customer credentials, as well as two
million message recordings, totally exposed online for anyone to
see and listen. […]
As we’ve seen time and time again in the last couple of
years, so-called “smart” devices connected to the internet — what
is popularly known as the Internet of Things or IoT — are often
left insecure or are easily hackable, and often leak sensitive
data. There will be a time when IoT developers and manufacturers
learn the lesson and make secure by default devices, but that time
hasn’t come yet. So if you are a parent who doesn’t want your
loving messages with your kids leaked online, you might want to
buy a good old fashioned teddy bear that doesn’t connect to a
remote, insecure server.
Of course, anyone who isn’t a computer security expert has no hope of being able to determine whether any particular internet-connected device is actually secure. And even security experts can’t be sure. If you’re going to use an internet-connected device, you have to trust the company who made it.
See also: This story from October, about HomeKit’s stringent security requirements.
Warren Buffett Has Doubled Berkshire Hathaway’s Stake in Apple to More Than $18 Billion ★
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. increased its stake in iPhone maker Apple
Inc. to about 133 million shares, Chairman Warren Buffett told
CNBC. That’s more than twice as much as Berkshire held as of Dec.
31, the billionaire told the cable network in an interview Monday.
The stake is valued at more than $18 billion, based on Friday’s
closing price of $136.66. […]
“Apple strikes me as having quite a sticky product and an
enormously useful product to people that use it, not that I do,”
Buffett said, praising Tim Cook, the technology company’s chief
executive officer. “He’s been very intelligent about capital
According to Recode, Berkshire didn’t have a single share in Apple a year ago:
Buffett famously insists that he’s not a technology investor, but
says he bought Apple anyway, “because I liked it.”
“There’s a vast, untapped market up there,” Buffett said on CNBC,
where he disclosed the new purchase and showed off his existing
phone — not an iPhone, but a vintage flip model.
Trump Dines Out ★
The president was heading to his new flagship property in D.C.,
the Trump Hotel, for a private dinner at the BLT Steakhouse
inside. Once the president arrived at the location, the reporter
who was on assignment to cover him, Jordan Fabian of The Hill, was
not let into the building and had to wait in the van outside for
the remainder of the dinner, without a guest list or details of
what was happening inside.
Inside the restaurant, I was seated at a table which I had booked
hours earlier, directly next to where Trump would be dining. I
made the booking based on a tip from a trusted source. I was ready
to tell the story no one else would get to see and was personally
fascinated to observe how a restaurant prepares for a president —
and how Trump interacts when he believes no press are present.
The night was a wild one. Here is what happens when President
Trump goes to dinner.
I enjoy a behind-the-scenes story like this.
It’s fascinating to me that Johnson correctly predicted the exact table at which Trump would sit, and was able to book the nearest table for himself. Update: Ah, apparently not so fascinating at all how he scored the perfect table: Johnson is friends with White House spokesman Sean Spicer. Still, I found it fascinating to read about how a restaurant and the Secret Service prepare for the president to dine out.
Daniel Dourvaris’s 2015 MacBook Pro Retina Exploded ★
One afternoon as I was lying on my bed browsing the internet, my
MacBook Pro suddenly turned off. I turned it back on and within a
few seconds there was weird hissing sound, followed by white smoke
and thin flames coming out of from the back.
I got up and ran with the laptop for the bathroom where I could
put it on the ceramic tiles. Not more than ten seconds had passed
and already the heat from the bottom of the laptop burnt my middle
and ring fingers so badly I had to let it drop.
Just in time.
There was a bang as I backed away causing the back to pop and
smoke kept pouring out. It kept sizzling for a few minutes and
then finally it stopped.
Wow. Scary how fast it went from something is wrong to dangerous.
Apple Says iOS 10.2.1 Has Reduced Unexpected Shutdown Issue on iPhone 6 and 6S ★
Over the past couple of iPhone versions users have complained of
“unexpected” shutdowns of their devices. Some iPhone 6, 6S, 6 Plus
and 6S Plus devices could basically go dark unexpectedly, forcing
a user to have to plug them into an outlet to get them to power
Apple has been working on this very annoying bug and it says it
has come up with a fix of sorts that should mitigate the problem
on a majority of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices. The fix is
actually already on your iPhone if you have installed iOS 10.2.1
— something that around 50 percent of iOS users have already
done. After letting the fix simmer on customer devices, Apple now
has statistics to share on how it has improved the issue, citing
80 percent reduction on iPhone 6s and 70 percent reduction on
iPhone 6 devices.
I used to see this occasionally on my 6S, but as Panzarino notes, it was never a problem with the 7.
Tech Companies Stand Against Trump’s Rollback of Transgender Rights ★
Tony Romm, reporting for Politico:
Apple, Uber and Microsoft led a growing collection of tech
companies taking aim at President Donald Trump after he issued a
directive on Wednesday that rolls back federal protections for
transgender students in public schools.
In a statement, Apple stressed its belief that “everyone deserves
a chance to thrive in an environment free from stigma and
discrimination,” adding: “We support efforts toward greater
acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender
students should be treated as equals. We disagree with any effort
to limit or rescind their rights and protections.”
Uber, meanwhile, said it’s “proud of our longstanding opposition
to harmful initiatives aimed at the LGBT community,” and it
pledged it would “continue to speak out against discriminatory
actions and in favor of good policy that champions equality and
inclusion for all.”
And Microsoft, through a tweet from president and chief legal
officer Brad Smith, swiped at the order in a subtle way. “Since
Jan. 1, 1863, the federal government has played a vital role in
protecting the rights of all Americans. Let’s not stop now,” Smith
wrote, referencing the Emancipation Proclamation.
Trump’s retrograde stance on transgender rights is heartbreaking, but it’s not going to take us back. Trump’s administration can change how the law is enforced, but it can’t change society. Laws can (and sadly, will) be rolled back. Our collective social conscience cannot.
Amazon Says Alexa’s Speech Is Protected by the First Amendment ★
Ashley Carman, reporting for The Verge:
Amazon has filed a motion to dismiss a search warrant for
recordings from an Echo owned by a suspected murderer. Amazon
argues that both its users’ requests to Alexa and the response the
company produces are protected under the First Amendment. The
company says it should only have to turn this data over if law
enforcement meets a high burden of proof.
Good for them.
CNN: ‘FBI Refused White House Request to Knock Down Recent Trump-Russia Stories’ ★
The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock
down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s
associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016
presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter
White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other
agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports
were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials
said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New
York Times and CNN on February 14.
The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were
unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such
a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that
limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.
Something outrageous comes out of the Trump Kakistocracy every single day, but we should never tire of calling it out. This story is outrageous. It’s a baldfaced attempt to subvert the rule of law.
The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff
Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting
the day after the stories were published, according to a U.S. law
The White House initially disputed that account, saying that
McCabe called Priebus early that morning and said The New York
Times story vastly overstates what the FBI knows about the
contacts. But a White House official later corrected their version
of events to confirm what the law enforcement official described.
The same White House official said that Priebus later reached out
again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI
to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the
stories. A law enforcement official says McCabe didn’t discuss
aspects of the case but wouldn’t say exactly what McCabe told
I would love to know who the White House official is who sold Priebus out here. Whoever it is is trying to get Priebus to resign or be fired. (And if the allegations are true, he should be fired, if not prosecuted for obstruction of justice.)
Neil Cybart: ‘Apple Doesn’t Need to Buy Netflix’ ★
Speaking of Neil Cybart, his public column this week is a great read:
Calls for Apple to buy Netflix are getting louder. Instead of
evaluating whether Apple should buy Netflix, a more valuable
question is whether or not Apple actually needs to buy Netflix to
accomplish its goals. Upon closer examination, it becomes clear
that calls to buy Netflix are misplaced as Apple is chasing after
something entirely different in the video streaming space.
I agree with his analysis wholeheartedly.
From the Department of ‘Other Than That, How Did You Enjoy the Play, Mrs. Lincoln?’ ★
Wirecutter headphone editor Laura Dragan, in The New York Times’s “Ask the Wirecutter” column:
Why aren’t the new Apple cordless earbuds on the list?
Ah, the AirPods. The current working term for those kinds of
headphones is “true wireless.” Aside from not having a cord to
tangle and being decent at taking phone calls, the AirPods
didn’t improve much over the corded EarPods. The sound quality
is the same (which is to say, meh, with no bass). Plus the
battery life is less than a full day at work, so you had better
remember to charge them at lunch time. And this for $130 more
than a replacement pair of EarPods? I don’t think they’re fully
“Aside from not having a cord to tangle” is a bizarre thing to say about AirPods. Not having a cord to tangle is the entire reason they exist. The fact that Apple now thinks wireless headphones are ready for mass market use is the primary reason the iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack.
The sound quality is not the same as with Apple’s wired earbuds — almost everyone seems to agree it’s better. And the battery life can easily get you through a full work day with a few trips to the charging case. I totally get why many people — audiophiles in particular — would still prefer wired headphones, but AirPods are fully “cooked”.
Even weirder, in Dragan’s own report on The Wirecutter, she ranked AirPods as the “best for iOS and phone calls”. I don’t see how that previous advice possibly squares with the headline on this column, “How to Decide Which Headphones to Buy (Hint: Not Apple’s AirPods)”.
My best guess here is that the problem isn’t with Dragan, but rather with the Times selectively editing her comments and choosing an explosive but entirely misleading headline for the purpose of clickbait. Shameful.
(Via Neil Cybart on Twitter.)
Alphabet Subsidiary Waymo Files Suit Against Uber, Accuses Former Employee With Theft of Trade Secrets ★
We found that six weeks before his resignation this former
employee, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 highly
confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various
hardware systems, including designs of Waymo’s LiDAR and circuit
board. To gain access to Waymo’s design server, Mr. Levandowski
searched for and installed specialized software onto his
company-issued laptop. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7 GB of
Waymo’s highly confidential files and trade secrets, including
blueprints, design files and testing documentation. Then he
connected an external drive to the laptop. Mr. Levandowski then
wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic
fingerprints. Beyond Mr. Levandowki’s actions, we discovered that
other former Waymo employees, now at Otto and Uber, downloaded
additional highly confidential information pertaining to our
custom-built LiDAR including supplier lists, manufacturing details
and statements of work with highly technical information.
We believe these actions were part of a concerted plan to steal
Waymo’s trade secrets and intellectual property. Months before the
mass download of files, Mr. Levandowski told colleagues that he
had plans to “replicate” Waymo’s technology at a competitor.
A bad week for Uber just got a lot worse.
Netflix Buys Worldwide Rights to Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’, Starring Robert De Niro ★
Dave McNary, reporting for Variety:
Netflix has acquired worldwide rights to Martin Scorsese’s
gangster movie “The Irishman,” starring Robert De Niro. Netflix
would not comment on the deal but sources close to the project
confirmed a report by IndieWire.
“The Irishman” will be the ninth collaboration between Scorsese
and De Niro. Steven Zaillian has written the script, based on the
Charles Brandt’s 2004 book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” which
centered on the life of the mob hitman Frank “The Irishman”
Scorsese and De Niro first partnered on 1973’s “Mean Streets,”
followed by “Taxi Driver,” “New York, New York,” “Raging Bull,”
“The King of Comedy,” “Goodfellas,” “Cape Fear” and 1995’s
The greatest director-actor partnership in the history of film. Coming soon to Netflix.
Maciej Ceglowski: ‘Social Media Needs a Travel Mode’ ★
We need a ‘trip mode’ for social media sites that reduces our
contact list and history to a minimal subset of what the site
normally offers. Not only would such a feature protect people
forced to give their passwords at the border, but it would
mitigate the many additional threats to privacy they face when
they use their social media accounts away from home.
Both Facebook and Google make lofty claims about user safety, but
they’ve done little to show they take the darkening political
climate around the world seriously. A ‘trip mode’ would be a
chance for them to demonstrate their commitment to user safety
beyond press releases and anodyne letters of support.
What’s required is a small amount of engineering, a good
marketing effort, and the conviction that any company that makes
its fortune hoarding user data has a moral responsibility to
protect its users.
To work effectively, a trip mode feature would need to be easy to
turn on, configurable (so you can choose how long you want the
protection turned on for) and irrevocable for an amount of time
chosen by the user once it’s set. There’s no sense in having a
‘trip mode’ if the person demanding your password can simply
switch it off, or coerce you into switching it off.
This is a good idea, but I worry that it won’t be enough. Even if it’s irrevocable for a temporary period, what happens if the rules are changed such that a customs agent inspecting your phone can detain you if any of your social media accounts are in “travel mode”? Is there a way to make such a mode undetectable?
“Travel mode” would be better than nothing, but no technical solution is a substitution for proper civil liberties. Our phones and devices should be protected against unwarranted search and seizure, period.
Video Pros Moving From Mac to Windows for High-End GPUs ★
Marco Solorio, writing for One River Media:
But as good as that juiced up Mac Pro Tower is today, I know at
some point, the time will have to come to an end, simply because
Apple hasn’t built a PCIe-based system in many years now. As my
article described, the alternative Mac Pro trashcan is simply not
a solution for our needs, imposing too many limitations combined
with a very high price tag.
The Nvidia GTX 1080 might be the final nail in the coffin. I can
guarantee at this point, we will have to move to a Windows-based
workstation for our main edit suite and one that supports multiple
PCIe slots specifically for the GTX 1080 (I’ll most likely get two
1080s that that new price-point). I’m no stranger to working on
Windows systems (I’ve built my own Windows boxes since Windows
3/NT) and have Windows systems running now in our facility. But
with that said, I do prefer Apple OS X when possible. But with no
support of a modern PCIe-based workstation from Apple, our hands
are tied to move to Windows. […]
With all that said, I see (and have already seen) a huge migration
of longtime Apple users (such as me) going to Windows systems for
their main workstation needs. The sheer power and lower cost is
just too huge at this point. The Nvidia GTX 1080 just compounded
that point exponentially stronger.
This may be a small market, but it’s a lucrative one. Seems shortsighted for Apple to cede it.
Update: I didn’t notice that this post was from May of last year, but given that there haven’t been any changes at all to the Mac Pro lineup since then, I can only imagine the situation is worse today than then.
Castro 2.3 ★
Nice update to another great indie podcast player. The custom notifications for new episode triage look like a great idea.
Trappist-1: Scientists Find 7 Earth-Like Planets Orbiting Nearby Ultracool Star ★
Nsikan Akpan, writing for PBS News:
Skip 39 light-years across our galaxy, and you’ll arrive at
Trappist-1, an ultracool dwarf star with a band of special
followers. This dim star hosts seven Earth-like planets within its
habitable zone, according to a study published today in the
journal Nature. Exoplanets are a dime a dozen these days, but due
to unique properties in this exosolar system, the new discovery
may usher in a movement in the hunt for habitable worlds — one
where astrophysicists can ascertain the presence of life without
traveling across the cosmos.
“Ultracool” means that it’s a low-radition dwarf star, but the adjective works the other way too. They even registered a clever domain name.
New Episode of Computer Show ★
“Why would you ever need to print anything?”
Apple’s New Campus Has a Name: Apple Park ★
Apple today announced that Apple Park, the company’s new 175-acre
campus, will be ready for employees to begin occupying in April.
The process of moving more than 12,000 people will take over six
months, and construction of the buildings and parklands is
scheduled to continue through the summer. […]
Steve would have turned 62 this Friday, February 24. To honor his
memory and his enduring influence on Apple and the world, the
theater at Apple Park will be named the Steve Jobs Theater.
Opening later this year, the entrance to the 1,000-seat auditorium
is a 20-foot-tall glass cylinder, 165 feet in diameter, supporting
a metallic carbon-fiber roof. The Steve Jobs Theater is situated
atop a hill — one of the highest points within Apple Park —
overlooking meadows and the main building.
“Apple Park” — I like it. Naming the theater after Jobs is a deft touch as well.
How Is the New York Times Really Doing? ★
Wired magazine recently published, Keeping Up with the Times, a
story about the New York Times and its slow & painful transition
to a digital first publication. “It’s to transform the Times’
digital subscriptions into the main engine of a billion-dollar
business, one that could pay to put reporters on the ground in 174
countries even if (OK, when) the printing presses stop forever,”
Gabriel Snyder (one of my favorite writers, by the way) wrote in
his in-depth feature, which is worth reading.
After reading the piece, I thought let’s see how the Times is
really doing — by the numbers. With help of Nima Wedlake, I came
up with data to chart the progress made by the company, to see how
far it really is from its transformation into a
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Says the Company Has Hired Former Attorney General Eric Holder to Probe Allegations of Sexism ★
Travis Kalanick, in a company-wide memo leaked to Kara Swisher:
First, Eric Holder, former US Attorney General under President
Obama, and Tammy Albarran — both partners at the leading law firm
Covington & Burling — will conduct an independent review into the
specific issues relating to the work place environment raised by
Susan Fowler, as well as diversity and inclusion at Uber more
broadly. Joining them will be Arianna Huffington, who sits on
Uber’s board, Liane Hornsey, our recently hired Chief Human
Resources Officer, and Angela Padilla, our Associate General
Counsel. I expect them to conduct this review in short order.
This is about as vigorous a response to Susan Fowler’s allegations as Kalanick could possibly pursue. Eric Holder isn’t going to sweep anything under the rug.
But I suspect it’s too little, too late. I think Uber’s company culture is toxic, and Holder’s report will prove it. What then?
ZTE Is Shutting Down Its Failed Hawkeye Phone Kickstarter Campaign ★
Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:
After a month and a half of letting its Hawkeye phone flounder on
Kickstarter, ZTE is finally ending the campaign. It received
$36,245 out of its $500,000 funding goal. In a post on the
Kickstarter today, ZTE writes that it’s decided to end the
campaign after considering feedback provided on the campaign page
and its user Z-Community forum.
Like I said last month, crowdsourcing is no way to design anything.
ANSI Standard K100.1-1974: Safety Code and Requirements for Dry Martinis (PDF) ★
Most interesting thing I learned over the weekend: there’s a delightful ANSI standard for dry martinis — 16 to 1 ratio of gin to vermouth. (Thanks to Jim Lipsey.)
Susan J. Fowler on Uber’s Institutional Support for Sexual Harassment ★
Susan J. Fowler, now an engineer at Stripe, on her year at Uber:
Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had
pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations
like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would
handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on —
unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. When I
reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management
that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was
propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they
wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning
and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a
high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his
superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for
what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.
Over the next few months, I began to meet more women engineers in
the company. As I got to know them, and heard their stories, I was
surprised that some of them had stories similar to my own. Some of
the women even had stories about reporting the exact same manager
I had reported, and had reported inappropriate interactions with
him long before I had even joined the company. It became obvious
that both HR and management had been lying about this being “his
first offense”, and it certainly wasn’t his last. Within a few
months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and
those who reported him were told it was still his “first offense”.
The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be
escalated, and still nothing was done.
The whole story is compelling, and paints a scathing picture of Uber’s company culture. But the fact that the company’s HR department blatantly lied to a series of women harassed by the same man, telling each of them it was his “first offense”, is not just cruel, but shows just how confident they were that the women in the company would keep quiet about their harassment.
Now that Fowler’s story has broken, expect a flood of additional stories.
Republicans Are Moving to Scrap Rules That Limit Overdraft Fees ★
Matthew Zeitlin, reporting for BuzzFeed:
Last week, Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue introduced a
resolution in Congress, alongside other Republicans including
his fellow Georgian Johnny Isakson, to throw out a new package of
rules for the prepaid debit card industry.
The rules, finalized by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
in October, include limitations on overdraft fees, which have
become a significant source of consumer complaints about the
financial industry — and an important revenue stream for
Georgia-based financial firm Total System Services, whose NetSpend
unit is the country’s largest manager of prepaid cards, according
to a 2015 financial filing.
The vast majority of prepaid debit cards don’t come with overdraft
fees, but NetSpend’s do, and the fees accounted for 10-12% of its
overall revenue in 2016, or $80-85 million, the company told
investors in October. Its parent has spent big on lobbying and
political donations in a bid to kill the rules: in the last three
months of 2016 alone, it spent some $270,000 lobbying
Again, this should be absolutely bipartisan. The people who are hit by these usurious overcharge fees are Republicans and Democrats alike. There’s no liberal/conservative angle to this. It’s just wrong.
And look at the deal Total Shitbag Services gets out of this: they spend $270 thousand lobbying Congress in order to preserve nearly 100 million
It’s Not Foreigners Who Are Plotting Here: What the Data Really Show ★
Nora Ellingsen, who spent five years working as a counter-terrorism analyst for the FBI, looked at the numbers for federal terrorism cases to see if there’s anything to support Trump’s immigration ban for its stated purpose:
For those who don’t want to do this deep dive, here’s a quick
two-sentence summary: Conway’s position is empirically
indefensible. Absolutely nothing in the large body of data we have
about real terrorist plots in the United States remotely supports
either a focus on barring refugees or a focus on these particular
But she did find this (emphasis added):
Since January 2015, the FBI has also arrested more anti-immigrant
American citizens plotting violent attacks on Muslims within the
U.S. than it has refugees, or former refugees, from any banned
country. As we wrote about here, here and here, in
October 2016, three white men from Kansas were charged with
conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. According to the
graphic complaint, the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant men planned
to attack a mosque in the area. The men progressed quickly with
their plot, amassing firearms and explosives. The targets were
people from Somalia, who ironically, would now be covered by
Ajit Pai, Trump’s FCC Pick, Quickly Targets Consumer Protection Rules ★
Cecilia Kang, reporting for The New York Times:
In his first days as President Trump’s pick to lead the Federal
Communications Commission, Ajit Pai has aggressively moved to roll
back consumer protection regulations created during the Obama
Mr. Pai took a first swipe at net neutrality rules designed to
ensure equal access to content on the internet. He stopped nine
companies from providing discounted high-speed internet service
to low-income individuals. He withdrew an effort to keep prison
phone rates down, and he scrapped a proposal to break open the
cable box market. […]
“With these strong-arm tactics, Chairman Pai is showing his true
stripes,” said Matt Wood, the policy director at the consumer
group Free Press.
“The public wants an F.C.C. that helps people,” he added.
“Instead, it got one that does favors for the powerful
corporations that its chairman used to work for.”
High-speed internet for low-income people, lowering usurious phone rates, breaking open the cable box market — who could be against these things? These aren’t liberal/conservative issues. This is just doing the bidding of major corporations.
Remember that word kakistocracy? Yeah, that’s what we have.
Samsung Factory Fire Triggered by Discarded Batteries ★
The rare case when a figurative garbage fire turns into a literal garbage fire.
Oculus VR Best Buy Pop-Ups Are a Bust ★
Alex Heath, writing for Business Insider:
Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus virtual reality
demo stations at Best Buy locations across the US, Business
Insider has learned.
The scaling back of Facebook’s first big retail push for VR comes
after workers from multiple Best Buy pop-ups told BI that it was
common for them to go days without giving a single demonstration.
An internal memo seen by BI and sent to affected employees by a
third-party contractor said the closings were because of “store
Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert confirmed the closings and said
they were due to “seasonal changes.”
Actual headline from Business Insider, one year ago: “Apple Is Completely Missing VR”.
‘A Conservative Climate Solution’: Republican Group Calls for Carbon Tax ★
John Schwartz, reporting for The New York Times:
A group of Republican elder statesmen is calling for a tax on
carbon emissions to fight climate change.
The group, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker
III, with former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Henry
M. Paulson Jr., a former secretary of the Treasury, says that
taxing carbon pollution produced by burning fossil fuels is “a
conservative climate solution” based on free-market
In an interview, Mr. Baker said that the plan followed classic
conservative principles of free-market solutions and small
government. He suggested that even former President Ronald Reagan
would have blessed the plan: “I’m not at all sure the Gipper
wouldn’t have been very happy with this.” He said he had no idea
how the proposal would be received by the current White House or
For those of you who erroneously claim I never link to stories about Republicans with approval, here you go: I love this. I hope they succeed. These are Republicans whose eyes are wide open to reality. (Maybe not the reality of today’s Republican party, but the reality of climate change.)
Apple Poaches Amazon’s Fire TV Head to Run Apple TV Product Marketing ★
Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:
Apple Inc. has hired Timothy D. Twerdahl, the former head of
Amazon.com Inc.’s Fire TV unit, as a vice president in charge of
Apple TV product marketing and shifted the executive who
previously held the job to a spot negotiating media content deals.
The moves suggest a renewed focus on the Apple TV and on providing
more content for the device, an effort that has been stalled in
the past by failed negotiations.
Twerdahl joined Apple this month, a spokesman for the iPhone
maker said. He had been general manager and director of Amazon’s
Fire TV business since 2013, according to his LinkedIn profile.
At Apple, Twerdahl reports to Greg Joswiak, a vice president in
charge of marketing for the iPhone, according to a person
familiar with the matter.
It seems pretty clear that Joz is in charge of more than just the iPhone if the head of Apple TV reports to him. Sometimes Gurman’s stuff makes no sense to me.
Republican Senate Leadership Stops Elizabeth Warren From Reading a Letter From Coretta Scott King ★
Last night, during the Senate confirmation hearing of Senator
Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III for Attorney General,
Senator Elizabeth Warren attempted to read a letter that Coretta
Scott King had written to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986
opposing Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship (which he
did not get).
Watch the video — it’s jarring.
I can’t help but feel this is backfiring on the Republicans. I’m seeing far more coverage of their preventing Warren from reading this letter — a letter from Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow! — than we would have seen if they’d simply allowed her to read it.
Every other Democratic senator should attempt to read King’s letter on Sessions. Make the Republicans own this.
See also: This collection of tweets by James Grimmelmann documenting the pro-slavery origins of Rule 19.
Which Is It? ★
From an October 2016 story for Bloomberg by Mark Gurman:
The new building features open floor plans and few traditional
offices. While some of Apple’s senior vice presidents are expected
to see their offices move over to the new campus — less than a
five minute drive from the current headquarters — management must
be at a vice president level or above to get a formal office, one
of the people said. Previous plans included office space for
senior directors, who report to vice presidents. Another person
said that some employees below vice president will be eligible for
The new campus will include bench seating, long work tables, and
open cubicle spaces, potentially irking employees used to quiet
office environments, two people briefed on the new campus’s plans
said. Apple’s presentations to the city of Cupertino have
indicated that the open floor plan designs are conducive to
collaboration between teams.
From yesterday’s (aforelinked) story for Reuters by Julia Love:
The campus is something of an exception to the trend of radically
open offices aimed at fostering collaboration, said Louise
Mozingo, a professor and chair of the Department of Landscape
Architecture and Environmental Planning at U.C. Berkeley.
So which is it? I can’t believe Apple would attempt to stick their employees at benches and long work tables, but if they did, that would certainly be a “radically open office”. I suspect Gurman blew this one.
Update: Listening to some little birdies chirp, it sounds like there’s some truth to all of the above.
Daniel Steinberg Wishes Apple Loved Books ★
Daniel Steinberg lamenting the lack of recent progress on iBooks Author:
iBooks Author could have been a trojan horse into the personal
publishing business. It would have been classic Apple. Instead of
small authors going to Amazon’s platform, they would have started
with iBooks Author. Apple should have made it easy for them to
push to Amazon as well. Why? Because these people wanted to
publish on Amazon but they weren’t considering publishing with
Apple. Thousands of authors would have come to Apple to create
content and stayed with Apple after publishing content there.
iBooks Author is a perfect example of how the iPad is not self-sufficient. I wrote yesterday about how you can’t develop iPad apps on the iPad itself. But Xcode is very complex, and also has longstanding roots that tie it, as currently imagined, to MacOS. iBooks Author was announced in January 2012, when the iPad was two years old. The iPad itself, seemingly, would be a fine device for creating books with iBooks Author. But iBooks Author remains Mac-only.
New $10 sketchpad iPad app from The Iconfactory. I love this app. Conceptually it’s simple: at the root level you have projects, and each project can contain multiple sketches.
When sketching, colors are on the left; layers, grids, and pens are on the right. That’s it — and the controls stay out of your way. The Iconfactory describes it as aiming for the simplicity of a paper sketchbook, and I think they’ve nailed it.
Reuters: ‘Channeling Steve Jobs, Apple Seeks Design Perfection at New “Spaceship” Campus’ ★
Julia Love, writing for Reuters on Apple’s new campus, now nearing completion:
Signage required a delicate balancing act: Apple wanted all signs
to reflect its sleek, minimalist aesthetic, but the fire
department needed to ensure the building could be swiftly
navigated in an emergency.
Dirk Mattern, a retired deputy fire chief who is representing the
Santa Clara County Fire Department on the project, estimated he
attended 15 meetings that touched on the topic.
“I’ve never spent so much time on signage,” he said.
The stuff about navigation and collaboration, I don’t get:
For all the time and money sunk into the project, some in the
architecture community question whether Apple has focused on the
right ends. The campus is something of an exception to the trend
of radically open offices aimed at fostering collaboration, said
Louise Mozingo, a professor and chair of the Department of
Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at U.C.
I don’t know anyone who works at Apple who’d want to work at a desk in a room with a “radically open” floorplan. And I know several who would likely quit if forced to. People at Apple have work to do, work requires concentration, and concentration is easier to achieve when you have your own office.
Its central office building — a massive ring of glass frequently
likened to a spaceship — could be a challenge just to navigate,
“It’s not about maximizing the productivity of the office space,
it’s about creating a symbolic center for this global company,”
she said. “They are creating an icon.”
Critics from the “architecture community” — starting all the way back in 2011, when the new campus was just a plan — seem to have no understanding of how Apple actually functions. Remember too, that Steve Jobs spearheaded the design of Pixar’s unique headquarters, about which I’ve heard nothing but praise from Pixar employees. (Pixar’s headquarters is different from Apple’s in many ways, but Pixar and Apple are, well, different in many ways.)
I think there’s a good chance that Apple knows what it’s doing here.
Analysts: Apple Took 92 Percent of Smartphone Industry Profits in Q4 ★
Patrick Seitz, Investors Business Daily:
Among six major vendors surveyed, four were profitable in
smartphone sales in Q4, Canaccord analyst Michael Walkley said
in the report. They were Apple, BlackBerry, Samsung and
Samsung accounted for 9 percent of smartphone industry profits in Q4,
while Sony took 1 percent and BlackBerry less than 1 percent.
Interesting that Samsung did as well as they did given the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. And how bad is it for all the other phone makers in the world that they finished in the red, but even BlackBerry eked out a small profit?
(It’s because everyone else lost money that the numbers for profit share add up to more than 100.)
Google Makes It Ever So Slightly Easier to See and Share Publishers’ Real URLs From AMP Pages ★
As promised, Google is making a change to how it displays
Accelerated Mobile Pages, so that users can easily view and share
links that lead directly to publishers’ sites rather than to
Google’s copy of the content.
A little easier, but I would argue that they shouldn’t be doing this in the first place, and the new UI they’ve exposed is deliberately obfuscated.
Now, the URL field of a browser will continue to show a Google
URL. However, the AMP header area will display a link or chain
icon, what it calls the “anchor” button. Clicking on this will
make the publisher’s direct URL appear, so that it can be easily
copied and pasted.
This new “anchor” icon is cryptic, and I think deliberately so. It looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I wouldn’t have guessed that it was a button to show the real URL, and I am a designer who studies iconography and a critic of AMP’s google.com silo. I’ve wanted this feature to exist ever since AMP debuted but I wouldn’t have guessed that this was it. Lord only knows how many regular people will figure it out. (And, bizarrely, the icon isn’t even retina resolution. It looks like a blurry smudge on the screen.)
For those who hold down on the anchor button, Google says it will
trigger the native share feature of the browser being used. With
Safari, that means easy access to things like Twitter or Facebook.
With Chrome, it lacks native share, so nothing should happen.
Better than nothing (which is what we had before), but weak sauce nonetheless.
Apple’s WebKit Team Proposes W3C Community Group: GPU on the Web ★
Dean Jackson, from Apple’s WebKit team:
Instead we need to evaluate and design a new web standard that
provides a core set of required features, an API that can be
implemented on a mix of platforms with different system graphics
technologies, and the security and safety required to be exposed
to the Web.
We also need to consider how GPUs can be used outside of the
context of graphics and how the new standard can work in concert
with other web technologies. The standard should expose the
general-purpose computational functionality of modern GPUs. Its
design should fit with established patterns of the Web, to make it
easy for developers to adopt the technology. It needs to be able
to work well with other critical emerging web standards like
WebAssembly and WebVR. And most importantly, the standard should
be developed in the open, allowing both industry experts and the
broader web community to participate.
Exposing “the general-purpose computational functionality of modern GPUs” would be great for the web, because that’s where the Moore’s Law action is at these days. GPU performance is improving much faster than CPU performance.
Merriam-Webster Adds Over 1,000 New Words ★
Speaking of Merriam-Webster, they’ve announced the addition of over 1,000 new words:
Just as the English language constantly grows, so does the
dictionary. More than one thousand new words have been added,
including terms from recent advances in science, borrowings from
foreign languages, and words from tech, medicine, pop culture,
sports, and everything in between. This is a significant addition
to our online dictionary, reflecting the breadth of English
vocabulary and the speed with which we seek information. These new
entries also highlight the old-fashioned skill of crafting useful
and readable definitions that require the expertise and experience
of our unique staff.
Familiar words combine to give us metaphors or imagery like
train wreck, side-eye, and weak sauce. As for verbs,
we can ride shotgun, walk back an opinion, throw
shade, face-palm, and geek out with new dictionary
Their definition for throwing shade could just point to their aforelinked Twitter account. (Aforelinked, alas, has not yet made it into the dictionary, despite my best efforts.)
Merriam-Webster’s Deft Social Media Strategy in the Age of Trump ★
David Mack, writing for BuzzFeed:
“A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective
reality,” read a tweet from the staff at Merriam-Webster,
linking to a dictionary article showing searches for the word
“fact” had spiked after Conway’s interview. Simple yet full of
shade, neutral yet undeniably pointed, it was the right tweet from
the right account at just the right moment of public chaos.
“@KellyannePolls,” read one person’s reply that tagged Conway’s
account, “when the dictionary is trolling you, you might want to
reconsider everything in your life.”
That the tweet went viral was no coincidence. Its tone and timing
were the product of more than a year of work by the
Merriam-Webster staff in reimagining and overhauling their entire
social media strategy — and, in doing so, their place in this new
world of alternative facts.
Great example tweet from earlier today, replying to a question as to whether they ever take words out of the dictionary:
Yes — like snollygoster, “a shrewd and unprincipled person,
especially an unprincipled politician.” Just added it back.
Worth noting: Merriam-Webster’s website has improved a thousandfold in recent years. It used to be a disaster, the sort of website put up by a dictionary that felt like they had to publish their dictionary on the web but didn’t want to. Now, it looks like a first-class peer to their print edition.
New “superfamily” of typefaces from Hoefler & Co.:
Twenty years ago, our Knockout collection was designed to
celebrate the beauty and diversity of nineteenth century sans
serif wood types, one of America’s great contributions to
type history. Picking up where this project left off is
Ringside, a sans serif shaped by new challenges, new
influences, and new ideas.
Where Knockout was designed for headlines, Ringside is made for
text. Its proportions, fit, and details are designed to thrive at
the smallest sizes, and each of its weights and widths includes
that most essential quality of a dependable text face: a
Feels like a sequel two decades in the making.
A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in the Last Two Months ★
Jugal K. Patel, reporting for The New York Times:
A rapidly advancing crack in Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf
has scientists concerned that it is getting close to a full break.
The rift has accelerated this year in an area already vulnerable
to warming temperatures. Since December, the crack has grown by
the length of about five football fields each day.
“The iceberg is likely to break free within the next few months,”
said Adrian J. Luckman of Swansea University in Wales, who is a
lead researcher for Project Midas. “The rift tip has moved from
one region of likely softer ice to another, which explains its
Terrifically well illustrated.
Vizio Settles FTC Lawsuit Over Tracking TV Viewing ★
The Federal Trade Commission:
Vizio, Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers and sellers
of internet-connected “smart” televisions, has agreed to pay $2.2
million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the
Office of the New Jersey Attorney General that it installed
software on its TVs to collect viewing data on 11 million consumer
TVs without consumers’ knowledge or consent. […]
According to the agencies’ complaint, starting in February 2014,
Vizio, Inc. and an affiliated company have manufactured Vizio
smart TVs that capture second-by-second information about video
displayed on the smart TV, including video from consumer cable,
broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts, and
The lack of respect for consumer privacy in this case is just appalling.
Over 100 Companies File Opposition to Trump’s Immigration Ban ★
Kate Conger, reporting for TechCrunch:
Notably absent from the list of 97 companies are several who met
with Trump prior to his inauguration: Amazon, Oracle, IBM, SpaceX
and Tesla. Oracle CEO Safra Catz is serving as an advisor to the
Trump transition team, while SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has
defended his decision to remain on an advisory council for Trump.
I’m not surprised by Oracle, IBM, or Elon Musk’s companies, but I am surprised by Amazon.
Update: Tesla and SpaceX have joined the brief, along with Adobe. Good for them.
Update: Looks like Amazon is officially opposed, but didn’t join this brief for legal reasons:
Amazon was one major company that didn’t join with the brief,
which supported a case brought by Minnesota and the state of
Washington opposing the ban on refugees and temporary ban on
immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
That’s because Seattle-based Amazon had already filed a
declaration in the same case explaining how the ban negatively
affects the e-commerce giant. Washington’s attorney general
advised Amazon not to join the amicus brief since it’s a
witness in the original lawsuit, according to a source familiar
with the matter.
It turns out that Microsoft, also absent from the amicus brief,
filed a declaration in the original case brought by Washington,
Lina M. Khan in Yale Law Journal: ‘Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox’ ★
An almost book-length (seriously, over 25,000 words) analysis of Amazon’s end-run around antitrust regulation. It’s quite readable though. My summary would be that U.S. antitrust enforcement in recent decades is focused almost exclusively on consumer prices. If a monopoly isn’t price gouging customers, it’s not a problem. Khan makes a strong case that that mindset might make sense in the brick and mortar world, but it doesn’t make sense if the world of competitive online platforms.
And yes, the e-book price-fixing case against Apple is a perfect example. Khan writes:
In 2012, the DOJ sued the publishers and Apple for colluding to
raise e-book prices. In response to claims that the DOJ was going
after the wrong actor — given that it was Amazon’s predatory
tactics that drove the publishers and Apple to join forces — the
DOJ investigated Amazon’s pricing strategies and found “persuasive
evidence lacking” to show that the company had engaged in
predatory practices. According to the government, “from the time
of its launch, Amazon’s e-book distribution business has been
consistently profitable, even when substantially discounting some
newly released and bestselling titles.”
Judge Cote, who presided over the district court trial, refrained
from affirming the government’s conclusion. Still, the
government’s argument illustrates the dominant framework that
courts and enforcers use to analyze predation — and how it falls
short. Specifically, the government erred by analyzing the
profitability of Amazon’s e-book business in the aggregate and by
characterizing the conduct as “loss leading” rather than
potentially predatory pricing. These missteps suggest a failure to
appreciate two critical aspects of Amazon’s practices: (1) how
steep discounting by a firm on a platform-based product creates a
higher risk that the firm will generate monopoly power than
discounting on non-platform goods and (2) the multiple ways Amazon
could recoup losses in ways other than raising the price of the
same e-books that it discounted.
On the first point, the government argued that Amazon was not
engaging in predation because in the aggregate,Amazon’s e-books
business was profitable. This perspective overlooks how heavy
losses on particular lines of e-books (bestsellers, for example,
or new releases) may have thwarted competition, even if the
e-books business as a whole was profitable.
(Via Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who has his own summary of Khan’s thesis.)
The Atlanta Falcons Had a 99.7 Percent Chance to Win Super Bowl 51 at One Point ★
I’ve been watching pro football for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never seen anything like that comeback.
Uber Hires Veteran NASA Engineer to Develop Flying Vehicles ★
Brad Stone, reporting for Bloomberg:
In 2010, an advanced aircraft engineer at NASA’s Langley Research
Center named Mark Moore published a white paper outlining the
feasibility of electric aircrafts that could take off and land
like helicopters but were smaller and quieter. The vehicles would
be capable of providing a speedy alternative to the dreary morning
Moore’s research (PDF) into so-called VTOL — short for vertical
takeoff and landing, or more colloquially, flying cars — inspired
at least one billionaire technologist. After reading the white
paper, Google co-founder Larry Page secretly started and financed
two Silicon Valley startups, Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk, to develop
the technology, Bloomberg Businessweek reported last summer.
Now Moore is leaving the confines of the U.S. National Aeronautics
and Space Administration, where he has spent the last 30 years, to
join one of Google’s rivals: Uber Technologies Inc.
I don’t think it’s right to call these things “flying cars”, but man, whatever we wind up calling them, what an audacious plan.
The Making of Apple’s HAL Commercial for the Super Bowl ★
A long, detailed, fascinating story involving Stanley Kubrick, Steve Jobs, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the Super Bowl? Yeah, pretty good odds I’d link to this.
An Extra Week ★
Interesting post from Jeff Johnson:
Apple stated that Q1 FY2017 was an all-time record for quarterly
revenue. The media dutifully and mostly uncritically spread this
“great” news for Apple. But the headlines were fake news.
Technically the claim is true, the revenue was an all-time record.
True but misleading. Although Apple didn’t lie as such, you might
say there was a sin of omission, and a definite spin of the facts.
Most Apple fiscal quarters are 13 weeks long. Once in a while,
however, they need a 14 week quarter. You might call it a “leap
quarter”. There was a good explanation of this financial practice
a few years ago in Slate. Apple’s Q1 2017 was a 14 week quarter,
for the first time since Q1 2013.
Adjusted for the extra week, Apple actually had another down quarter. I’m surprised I didn’t hear more about this when results came out. I don’t think it’s quite right to ding the quarter by a full 8 percent — the entire last week started with Christmas day — but surely some sort of correction is necessary for year-over-year comparisons.
Update: Jason Snell on the “leap” week:
But, for better or for worse, the window we get into Apple’s
finances is based on its financial statements — and that means
the quarters as Apple defines it. This was a record quarter for
Apple. But it’s also fair to point out that Apple’s definition
gives it a one-time windfall, an extra week of sales that it won’t
get again for another few years. And it’s a windfall that next
year’s year-over-year holiday-quarter comparison will have to
overcome in one fewer week.
Gordon Mah Ung Goes Deep Testing the Battery Life of the New MacBook Pros ★
Simply exceptional deep dive into the battery life of the new MacBook Pros. Must-read piece. Very fair, and very thorough.
Should iOS 10.3’s App Store Rating Prompts Be Notifications Instead of Alerts? ★
Supertop’s Oisin Prendiville has an interesting proposal:
I believe that the notification pattern could improve the
effectiveness of the rating feature.
- An app requests that the user be prompted.
- iOS decides based on policy whether it is appropriate to show a
- If iOS decides to show the request, the interface slides down
from the top of the screen like a notification.
I’m on the fence about his idea. There’s no question that the current design in the 10.3 betas (the modal alert) is more intrusive. But developers get to decide when it appears. That means, if they’re hoping for positive reviews, it’s in their own interest to show it after the user has done something, not while they are doing it. I’d bet that Apple considered something pretty much exactly like what Prendiville is suggesting.
LG Has Redesigned Its 5K Mac Monitor So It Can Handle Being Placed Near a Wi-Fi Router ★
Ina Fried, writing for Recode:
LG has found a fix for a problem that left its high-end Mac
monitor unable to work properly when placed within a few feet of a
router. An LG spokesman told Recode that the company is adding
additional shielding to newly manufactured models. […]
Existing models will be able to be retrofitted with the
enhanced shielding, which will allow the monitor to be placed
near a router.
That’s a lot of fun, packing up a 27-inch display, shipping it to LG, and waiting for it to come back. Not a great start to Apple’s “let’s count on someone else to make the external displays for Macs” plan.
U.S. Government Reveals Over 100,000 Visas Revoked Due to Travel Ban ★
Rachel Weiner, reporting for The Washington Post:
Over 100,000 visas have been revoked as a result of President
Trump’s ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries,
an attorney for the government revealed in Alexandria federal
Don’t let anyone tell you this affects only a small number of people.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to Leave Trump Advisory Council After Criticism ★
Mike Isaac, reporting for the NYT:
The tension over continuing to work with Mr. Trump reached a
breaking point at Uber because Mr. Kalanick was, until Thursday,
one of the most vocal proponents among tech chiefs of engaging
with the president. As recently as Saturday, Mr. Kalanick had
publicly said in a blog post that the best route forward was to
have “a seat at the table.” He had added, “We partner around the
world optimistically in the belief that by speaking up and
engaging we can make a difference.”
Outside of the internal pressure, Uber faced other fallout from
Mr. Kalanick’s stance. More than 200,000 customers had deleted
Protests can work. I’m sure the internal objections from employees helped, but losing 200,000 customers in a week or two is going to get any CEO’s attention.
Elon Musk remains on the board, and issued this tepid statement.
Week-Old Claim Chowder for Bloomberg Regarding iPhone Average Selling Prices ★
Alex Webb, writing for Bloomberg last week, under the headline “Apple iPhone Price Under Pressure as Buyers Seek Cheaper Devices”:
Apple Inc. results next week will likely show iPhone sales growing
again, bucking a year of declines. That’s the good news.
But in a sign that customers are opting for less expensive models,
some analysts predict that the average selling price for the
handsets likely declined over the holidays, a crucial period for
Apple. Some purchasers are settling for older iPhone 6S models,
rather than the iPhone 7, introduced in September, analysts said.
“Recent smartphone customers increasingly are opting for the
iPhone 6S,” Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz wrote in a note to
clients this week as he downgraded his recommendation on Apple
stock to hold. “We detect increasing concern among industry
participants that smartphones in general have evolved
technologically to become more than good enough to serve most
users’ digital needs over multiple years or until the device
The problem here isn’t that a few analysts got it wrong. Analysts get this stuff wrong all the time. The problem is that Bloomberg’s headline took analyst speculation and treated it as fact. Turns out the headline was completely wrong. The iPhone is seemingly not under any price pressure, and the ASP even went up a few bucks. Oh, and in the same quarter two years ago, iPhone ASP was $687, and three years ago (the last year before the higher-priced Plus models were in the mix), iPhone ASP was $637.
Bonus Peter Thiel claim chowder, from the same article:
“We know what a smartphone looks like and does,” billionaire
technology investor Peter Thiel told the New York Times recently.
“It’s not an area where there will be any more innovation.”
You Don’t Hear So Much About the iPhone 7 Headphone Jack Anymore ★
Benedict Evans on Twitter:
Highest-ever iPhone sales. Reminder: technologist complaints
about Apple products are generally a good counter-indicator for
Yep. The uproar over headphone jack was ridiculous. Clearly the
market didn’t care.
It feels like ancient history already, but there were reviews of the iPhone 7 that spent more time on the removal of the headphone jack than anything else.
Also worth pointing out that the severe delay in shipping AirPods didn’t hurt sales of the iPhone 7. (Or if it did, not enough to keep it from breaking the record.)
Update: NPR’s headline on Apple’s earnings: “Even Without A Headphone Jack, iPhone 7 Boosts Apple’s Sales”.
Jackass of the Week: Barron’s ★
This is an actual headline at Barron’s today: “Apple: Investors Are Happy, But What About Consumers?”.
They sell 78 million iPhones in a quarter and Barron’s thinks it’s a legitimate question whether they’re making customers happy?
The real test comes later this year, when Apple releases its next
iPhone, marking the smartphone’s 10th anniversary. As the stock
makes gains, investor expectations for the debut head ever higher.
The “real test” is always the next iPhone with these people. Always.
Innovation, perhaps. But the new Macbooks [sic] have faced more than
their usual share of criticism, including a rather lukewarm review
from Consumer Reports about the battery life of the devices. Apple
has since provided a software update that Consumer Reports says
fixed the issue.
There are many reasonable complaints about the new MacBook Pros. But they’re nuanced. The only reason to dredge up the Consumer Reports saga — which is about a Safari developer debug mode bug that even Consumer Reports admits has been fixed by Apple — is to create the illusion of drama.
Bloomberg: Apple Working on ARM Chip for Macs to Run Power Nap Features ★
Interesting scoop from Mark Gurman and Ian King:
Apple engineers are planning to offload the Mac’s low-power mode,
a feature marketed as “Power Nap,” to the next-generation
ARM-based chip. This function allows Mac laptops to retrieve
e-mails, install software updates, and synchronize calendar
appointments with the display shut and not in use. The feature
currently uses little battery life while run on the Intel chip,
but the move to ARM would conserve even more power, according to
one of the people.
The current ARM-based chip for Macs is independent from the
computer’s other components, focusing on the Touch Bar’s
functionality itself. The new version in development would go
further by connecting to other parts of a Mac’s system, including
storage and wireless components, in order to take on the
additional responsibilities. […]
However, Apple has no near-term plans to completely abandon Intel
chips for use in its laptops and desktops, the people said.
It’s interesting to ponder how this might work from a software perspective. With the current Touch Bar, there’s a conceptual wall between the Intel side and the ARM side. The “Mac” stuff all runs on the Intel side, and there’s an iOS computer on the ARM side that only does Touch Bar-related things.
I don’t think this use-the-ARM-chip-during-Power-Nap idea would involve emulating x86 code on ARM — you’d lose the energy efficiency advantage of ARM, which is the whole point. My guess is that Mac apps (and OS services) that want to take advantage of it would do so via small extensions, compiled both for ARM (for these future MacBooks) and x86 (for all other Macs).
Apple Considers Legal Options Against Trump’s Immigration Order ★
Tripp Mickle, reporting for the WSJ:
Apple Inc. is weighing legal action and continuing to press the
Trump administration to reverse its executive order on
immigration, Chief Executive Tim Cook said in an interview.
Mr. Cook said hundreds of Apple employees have been affected by
the order, which suspended entry to the U.S. for refugees and
travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations. He added that he
continues to contact “very, very senior people in the White House”
and impress on them why repealing the executive order is important
not only for Apple but for the country.
“More than any country in the world, this country is strong
because of our immigrant background and our capacity and ability
as people to welcome people from all kinds of backgrounds. That’s
what makes us special,” said Mr. Cook. “We ought to pause and
really think deeply through that.”
Good for Apple, and good for Tim Cook. I wrote last week that I was mildly disappointed that Cook’s initial response, in the form of a sure-to-be-leaked company-wide memo, wasn’t strong enough. Telling the Wall Street Journal that the company is looking into legal options to oppose it is pretty strong.
(I mentioned my disappointment in Cook’s memo on the just-released new episode of The Talk Show, too — it was recorded before this interview with the Journal was published.)
The Talk Show: ‘Yay or Nay to Their POV’ ★
Matthew Panzarino returns to the show. Topics include Apple’s Q1 2017 financial results (including record iPhone sales and continuing cooling iPad sales), issues with LG’s new 5K UltraFine display (not so fine if you use it near a Wi-Fi router), the tech industry’s response to Trump’s immigration ban, and the highlights at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
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