Linked List: July 2017

Two Sides to Apple’s China Story 

Tim Culpan has a fair take on Apple’s removal of VPN apps from the iOS App Store in China:

By removing the means by which users skirt the Great Firewall, Apple is actually “aiding China’s censorship efforts,” because it is doing some of the hard work for the government.

By removing the means by which users skirt the great firewall, Apple is not really “aiding China’s censorship efforts,” but merely following the law by halting access to unlicensed apps.

Jean-Louis Gassée’s Salute to Walt Mossberg 

Jean-Louis Gassée:

Mossberg rose to the pinnacle of his profession through a deft mix of technical competence and keen understanding of business issues. His unintimidated scrutiny of tech titans and thoughtful analyses of budding entrepreneurs and their toys won him the respect (some say fear) of the technocracy…but the tech ‘players’ were never his audience. Mossberg was driven by his advocacy for the common computer user.

In his very first Personal Technology column Mossberg made his position clear: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn’t your fault.”

Design Executive Leaves Essential for Google to Lead Home, Chromecast Design 

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety (I was not aware Variety had a Silicon Valley beat reporter):

Google has hired a former lead Pebble and webOS designer Liron Damir as the new head of user experience of its Google Home group, which works on products such as Google Home, Chromecast and Google Wifi. Damir announced that he joined Google on Linkedin this week, writing that he was “super excited and proud to be joining Google… to lead the design of Google Home products.”

A Google spokesperson confirmed the hire Thursday, but declined to comment further.

Most recently, Damir worked as head of UX for Essential, the new startup from Android founder Andy Rubin. Before that, he was VP of design at Pebble, the pioneering smart watch maker that got acquired by Fitbit in late 2016.

Seems like a bad sign for Essential that they’ve lost their head UX designer before their (overdue) first phone has even shipped.

Retail’s Most Profitable Square Footage: Apple 

Market News Updates:

According to research provided by CoStar, sales per square foot at all but a few public retailers have declined to an average of around $325 in recent years, down from nearly $375 in the early 2000s. There’s little doubt that the online giant Amazon.com, Inc. has been disrupting traditional retailers, however, several companies have managed to grow sales despite the declining trend in brick-and-mortar.[…]

With sales per square foot viewed as a major component of retail success, according to industry data provided by eMarkter, the #1 retailer in sales per square foot is Apple Inc., which did a staggering $5,546 per square foot. […]

Leading the jewelry retail industry with sales of $2,951 per square foot, Tiffany & Co., through its subsidiaries, designs, manufactures and retails jewelry and other items worldwide.

Again I say: Apple’s retail stores are a vastly underestimated strength of the company. None of Apple’s competitors have anything like it.

Also seems like a good time to re-link to my 2012 piece on Apple stores, “A Big Misunderstanding”:

What Apple understands and its critics did not (and still do not) is that many people, from all walks of life, simply appreciate nice things. They accuse Apple of pretension and elitism, but it’s they, the critics, who hold that the mass market for phones and tablets is overwhelmingly composed of tasteless, fickle shoppers who neither discern nor care about product quality. […]

Apple is not selling caviar against cheese and crackers. They’re selling better-tasting cheese and crackers, and all you have to do is come into their store and taste some to believe for yourself. Anyone who believes Apple is about to have the rug pulled out from under the iPhone and iPad by commoditized Android devices should spend a few minutes inside an Apple retail store this holiday week.

2012 was the peak of Android/Samsung mania. A lot of people really did think Apple was about to have its lunch eaten in the phone and tablet markets.

Group Led by Laurene Powell Jobs Acquires Majority Stake in The Atlantic 

Gillian B. White, reporting for The Atlantic:

David G. Bradley, the chairman and owner of Atlantic Media, is announcing this morning that he is selling a majority stake in The Atlantic to Emerson Collective, an organization led by philanthropist and investor Laurene Powell Jobs. Bradley will retain a minority stake in The Atlantic and will continue as chairman and operating partner for at least three to five years. In a letter to his staff, Bradley wrote that Emerson Collective will most likely assume full ownership of The Atlantic within five years.

Reminds me of Jeff Bezos’s acquisition of The Washington Post — a wealthy steward who can bankroll essential and good journalism.

Apple Kills Off iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle 

Kif Leswing, reporting for Business Insider:

“Today, we are simplifying our iPod lineup with two models of iPod Touch, now with double the capacity, starting at just $199, and we are discontinuing the iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano,” an Apple representative told Business Insider in an email.

The iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano have been removed from Apple’s website and online store.

The end of an era. It took exactly one decade for the iPhone to completely cannibalize Apple’s entire iPod business.

I’m sure there are still tens of millions of these iPods in use, and will be for years to come. They’re great for working out. The hardware form factor isn’t what did these in — it’s the antiquated notion of having to sync audio files to them via a cable connected to a Mac or PC. If the content on your audio player isn’t coming to it over the air, most likely streaming, it isn’t relevant.

It’s interesting to think about a Nano-sized iPod running iOS. In theory that’d be useful. But if it didn’t have cellular networking, it could only stream when you were on Wi-Fi. So people would just keep using what they’re using today for audio — their phones. Even though the phone is a worse form factor purely as an audio player because it’s so big, comparatively, it’s better overall because it has a network connection almost everywhere.

The iPod Touch (which Apple updated yesterday) exists as an alternative to an iPhone. An iPod Nano running iOS would exist as something people would buy, and then carry around, in addition to their iPhone. I don’t think that would sell.

Update: What I’m describing — a tiny device that can stream network audio sources to wireless headphones — would sure make for a great future Apple Watch.

Video Footage From One of the Open Workspaces in Apple Park 

Really does seem like a different vibe from the Infinite Loop campus.

Some engineers are getting their own offices, but they don’t seem so great either.

Michael Sippey Joins Medium as Head of Product 

If anyone can wean Medium away from these dickbars, it’s Sippey.

Nine Minutes of Doubt 

At 8:55am, Donald Trump tweeted the following:

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......

Six trailing periods, sic.

Nine minutes later, he finished the sentence:

....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....

There are all sorts of reasons to be furious about these tweets. But one that’s been largely overlooked is that 9-minute gap.

BuzzFeed reports:

At the Pentagon, the first of the three tweets raised fears that the president was getting ready to announce strikes on North Korea or some other military action. Many said they were left in suspense for nine minutes, the time between the first and second tweet. Only after the second tweet did military officials receive the news the president was announcing a personnel change on Twitter.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is on vacation this week, and defense officials said Mattis knew that Trump was considering the policy change. It is unclear if he approved it.

Suspecting that Trump was using Twitter to announce military action against North Korea was a perfectly reasonable conclusion by the Pentagon. It also would have been a perfectly reasonable conclusion by North Korea. The policy decision is terrible, the lack of any consultation with the Pentagon is terrible, but the way that it was made, starting with a belligerent tweet without follow-up for nearly 10 minutes, is jaw-droppingly dangerous.

ARKit’s A-Ha Moment 

Really impressive stuff.

Makes me think about this passage from today’s WSJ profile of Jony Ive:

In other technologies, from digital assistants to driverless vehicles to augmented and virtual reality, Apple seems to lag other tech giants, including Google, Amazon and Tesla.

Who exactly is Apple lagging in AR?

Jason Snell on Apple Park’s Open Workspaces 

The same passage that caught my eye in the WSJ’s profile on Apple Park — on employees being upset at having to move from private offices to open workspaces — caught Jason Snell’s as well:

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. Some of the initial resistance will be the natural human response to any change, of course. But beyond that, there will almost certainly be real issues with moving productive Apple employees out of their offices and into big white open-plan workspaces. It’s going to be a period of adaptation for everyone who works at Apple.

We moved to an aggressively open plan, with almost no offices, when I was at IDG. I think it worked for some people, but it definitely didn’t work for others. Sometimes I think people who work in fields where an open collaborative environment makes sense don’t understand that people in other fields (writers, editors, programmers) might not share the same priorities when it comes to workspaces.

Batch Processing in Apple Photos 

Kirk McElhearn:

Apple’s Photos app does not allow you to perform batch processing. However, there is a way that you can quickly apply the same changes to multiple photos.

Copy and pasting adjustments is better than nothing, and this is a very good tip. But man, Photos for Mac really needs to up its game when it comes to batch processing and triaging new photos.

WSJ Profile on Jony Ive and Apple Park 

Christina Passariello, in a gorgeously photographed profile for WSJ Magazine:

Ive’s friend Bono, writing in an email, says he’s “restless and relentless in pursuit of perfection,” while Norman Foster, whose architecture firm was hired by Apple to build the headquarters at a reported cost of $5 billion, calls him “a poet.” Other designers are “amazing essayists, but the difference between an essay and a poem is that you really have to work harder at the poem. It’s much more distilled, it’s much more the essence,” Foster says. “He works tirelessly at the detail, evolving, improving, refining. For me, that makes him a poet.”

That rings true to me.

The thousands of employees at Apple Park will need to bend slightly to Ive’s vision of the workplace. Many will be seated in open space, not the small offices they’re used to. Coders and programmers are concerned that their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting. Whiteboards — synonymous with Silicon Valley brainstorming — are built into floor-to-ceiling sliding doors in the central area of each pod, but “some of the engineers are freaking out” that it isn’t enough, says Whisenhunt.

This would drive me nuts, I suspect.

Trump Says Tim Cook Has Promised to Build Three Manufacturing Plants in U.S. 

Tripp Mickle and Peter Nicholas, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Trump, in a 45-minute interview with The Wall Street Journal, said Mr. Cook promised him Apple would build “three big plants, beautiful plants.” Mr. Trump didn’t elaborate on where those plants would be located or when they would be built.

“I spoke to [Mr. Cook], he’s promised me three big plants — big, big, big,” Mr. Trump said as part of a discussion about business-tax reform and business investment. “I said you know, Tim, unless you start building your plants in this country, I won’t consider my administration an economic success. He called me, and he said they are going forward.”

Apple declined to comment.

This is odd in so many ways. If it’s true, this is a massive strategic shift for Apple, and it makes me wonder why Cook would share this news with Trump prior to Apple announcing it on their own terms. And if it’s not true, boy did Trump just send Cook a huge shit sandwich.

Apple’s most recent foray into U.S. assembly is a facility in Texas for the Mac Pro. There was quite a bit of publicity about that, but until now it doesn’t seem to have led to anything else. And Apple doesn’t even own that plant — they partnered with a company named Flex. According to Vindu Goel, Apple only owns one factory in the world — in Ireland.

Adobe Announces End-of-Life for Flash 

Adobe:

Today, most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and deprecating plugins.

Given this progress, and in collaboration with several of our technology partners — including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla — Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.

Apple’s key decision was never supporting Flash on iOS, and sticking with that decision even when they were under significant marketing pressure to do so. Steve Jobs’s famous “Thoughts on Flash” was not the cause of Flash’s demise — it was an explanation for why Flash was doomed.

iOS never supporting Flash, combined with the size and appealing demographics of iOS users, hastened the demise of Flash by several years. Web publishers switched to HTML5 technologies for video and interactive content sooner than they would have otherwise. But I think Flash was doomed regardless. The world was going mobile whether Apple led the way or not, and Flash was never a good fit for mobile computing.

This official “end of life” statement is an important step, but Adobe saw the writing on the wall six years ago when they officially stopped developing Flash Player for Android. Strategically, that was the death of Flash.

David Remnick Interviews Maggie Haberman 

The New Yorker’s David Remnick has a terrific interview with New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman. Much of what we know of the inner workings of the Trump White House, we know from Haberman.

D.R.: What do you make out to be the ideology of Donald Trump? Or is it purely situational? We saw him running as a new kind of populist. At moments, he seems very right-wing; at other times he undermines that kind of conservative ideology.

M.H.: I think he has no clear ideology. I think he has a couple of base impulses he’s held onto since the nineteen-eighties, when he was taking out those newspaper ads about how Japan is “ripping us off.” A lot of the language that he used then is the same as what he uses now, but it’s more of a feeling than an ideology. It’s a sense that the United States is being taken advantage of. Can he name by whom, accurately? Not necessarily. He ran as a Republican, and he really appealed to this hard-right base that believes in less government. But, in reality, this is a man who grew up in Ed Koch’s New York City, and I think he has a very specific view of the role that government is supposed to play in people’s lives.

The Verge: Bragi Dash Pro Wireless Earbuds 

Sean O’Kane, writing for The Verge:

Bragi hasn’t completely solved this problem with the Dash Pro, and I still think its other, cheaper, wireless earbuds are a better buy. But the company’s gotten much closer this time around. You can put your phone in basically any pocket, or in a bag, and the connection only hiccups about 10 percent of the time, maybe even less depending on your height.

I’m not saying my AirPods never suffer Bluetooth hiccups, but it happens very rarely. Apple is so far ahead of its competition on this front.

Neuropathologist Examined the Brains of 111 NFL Players; 110 of Them Showed Signs of C.T.E. 

The New York Times:

Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, has examined the brains of 202 deceased football players. A broad survey of her findings was published on Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 202 players, 111 of them played in the N.F.L. — and 110 of those were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., the degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. […]

The set of players posthumously tested by Dr. McKee is far from a random sample of N.F.L. retirees. “There’s a tremendous selection bias,” she has cautioned, noting that many families have donated brains specifically because the former player showed symptoms of C.T.E.

But 110 positives remain significant scientific evidence of an N.F.L. player’s risk of developing C.T.E., which can be diagnosed only after death. About 1,300 former players have died since the B.U. group began examining brains. So even if every one of the other 1,200 players had tested negative — which even the heartiest skeptics would agree could not possibly be the case — the minimum C.T.E. prevalence would be close to 9 percent, vastly higher than in the general population.

I keep thinking change will come inevitably from the ground up — fewer and fewer parents are allowing their kids to play football each year. But at the high school level, participation only dropped by 2.5 percent from 2008 through 2015.

The Talk Show: ‘Actually, You Can Buy a Better Coke’ 

Rene Ritchie returns to the show to talk about the rumors and speculation regarding this year’s upcoming new iPhones.

Brought to you by these excellent sponsors:

  • Hullo Pillow: Sleep better with a new buckwheat pillow. It’ll be your favorite pillow, guaranteed.
  • Casper: An obsessively engineered mattress at a shockingly fair price. Use code thetalkshow for $50 toward your mattress.
  • Audible.com: With Audible, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Get a free 30-day trial.
In Urban China, Cash Is Rapidly Becoming Obsolete 

Paul Mozur, writing for The New York Times:

Almost everyone in major Chinese cities is using a smartphone to pay for just about everything. At restaurants, a waiter will ask if you want to use WeChat or Alipay — the two smartphone payment options — before bringing up cash as a third, remote possibility.

Just as startling is how quickly the transition has happened. Only three years ago there would be no question at all, because everyone was still using cash.

The iPhone Paradox 

The Macalope:

Maybe it’s just the horny one, but if you have information that shows the iPhone 8 is going to be a logical paradox — like a real life M.C. Escher painting — that is somehow simultaneously too expensive for anyone to want to buy and so wildly popular they can’t make them fast enough, you should probably lead with that. That would be big news, quantum mechanically speaking.

It’s like the Yogi-ism: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

Called It 

Yours truly on Google Glass back in 2013:

And the idea that people will wear things like this everywhere (as opposed to special specific scenarios, such as workers in an environment where their hands are otherwise occupied, like, say, surgeons) strikes me as creepy as hell.

Samsung Describes Its Male and Female Bixby Assistants With Sexist Descriptions 

Alejandro Alba, writing for Gizmodo:

After months of delays, Samsung’s much ballyhooed voice assistant Bixby is here — and users on social media are already noticing the company’s loaded, sexist characterizations of its female and male voices.

Inside Bixby’s “language and speaking style” menu, Samsung describes its female voice as “chipper” and “cheerful,” while the male voice is described as “confident” and “assertive.”

Not a new problem for Samsung.

Apple Machine Learning Journal 

New publication from Apple, where Apple engineers can publish their work and research on machine learning. The writing is more accessible than a peer-reviewed technical journal, but alas (but unsurprisingly for Apple), the articles are un-bylined. The approachability without avoiding nitty-gritty technical details reminds me of Dr. Dobb’s Journal back in the day.

My assumption here is that this doesn’t replace publishing in established peer-reviewed journals, but rather acts as a public-facing, more accessible filter for research that Apple engineers publish in peer-reviewed journals — perhaps along with original content at some point.

(Also: no RSS feed. Update: There is an RSS feedthe URL just isn’t published anywhere in the HTML. Update 2: The site now has a <link> tag with the URL for the feed so you can just point any feed reader at its home page to discover the feed. Nice.)

Acorn 6 

Gus Mueller, Flying Meat Software:

What’s new and awesome?

For a number of years, text on a path has been our number one feature request and we finally got to deliver it with version 6. Acorn has always had great text support; it handles unicode effortlessly, and you can have multiple font faces and weights in a single text block. You can even have emoji as part of your text block. All of these same features work perfectly with text on a path. Inline editing, selection, etc- it just works. And it was a ton of fun to code on as well. Buy me a beer someday and I’ll spill the details on how I coded it.

We also implemented our number two feature request, clone tool improvements. You can now select any layer as a clone source (bitmap layers, a group of layers, even shape layers) and then clone to any other layer, or even another image. We also added stamping to the clone tool, which works by holding down the shift key when you click on your image.

Another excellent update to another one of my favorite and most-depended-upon apps. Compared to the old days of “Photoshop or bust”, we Mac users today have a veritable cornucopia of excellent image editing apps to choose from. Acorn just best fits my needs and my way of thinking about how a Mac image editor should look and work. On sale for just $15 — that’s 50 percent off — for a limited time.

Transmit 5 

Cabel Sasser:

Seven years after the first release of Transmit 4, our well-loved and widely-used macOS file transfer app, we sat down with an incredibly exhaustive list of ideas, and — this’ll sound like I’m exaggerating but I’m mostly sure I’m not — we did it all.

With one massive update we’ve brought everyone’s favorite file-transferring truck into the future with more speed, more servers, more features, more fixes, a better UI, and even Panic Sync. Everything from the core file transfer engine to the “Get Info” experience was rethought, overhauled, and improved.

A tremendous update to one of my very favorite and most-depended-upon apps. Worth checking out just to see the 3D rotating truck icon on their website. On sale for one week only for just $35.

The Return of Google Glass 

Laura Stevens, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Google parent Alphabet Inc. is relaunching Glass, its head-worn computer, targeting corporate customers after its initial version flopped because of privacy concerns.

Dubbed Glass Enterprise Edition, the product has been in testing at about 50 companies, including Boeing Co., General Electric Co. and Volkswagen AG, Alphabet said Tuesday.

The new device, which is designed to snap on eyeglass frames and display information, videos and images in the line of a person’s sight, allow workers to see instructional content. They can also use the device to broadcast what they are viewing back to others for real-time instruction.

Still looks goofy (in fact, it pretty much looks the same), but I can see how it could prove popular in work environments so long as it’s useful. People ranging from mechanics to surgeons have long worn industrial-looking eyewear on the job.

Jonathan Chait: ‘Trumpcare Collapsed Because Republicans Cannot Govern’ 

Jonathan Chait:

In truth, it was never possible to reconcile public standards for a humane health-care system with conservative ideology. In a pure market system, access to medical care will be unaffordable for a huge share of the public. Giving them access to quality care means mobilizing government power to redistribute resources, either through direct tax and transfers or through regulations that raise costs for the healthy and lower them for the sick. Obamacare uses both methods, and both are utterly repugnant and unacceptable to movement conservatives. That commitment to abstract anti-government dogma, without any concern for the practical impact, is the quality that makes the Republican Party unlike right-of-center governing parties in any other democracy. In no other country would a conservative party develop a plan for health care that every major industry stakeholder calls completely unworkable.

The Republicans control the House, Senate, and White House, and cannot pass health insurance legislation. One can argue about why this is so, but I think Chait nails it: they can’t square their anti-government dogma with the need for the government to play a role in any humane health care system.

Garry Kasparov on Trump and Putin 

Garry Kasparov, in a column for The New York Daily News:

For autocrats, angry denial is the first phase of responding to accurate charges against them. “No! Never! A complete fabrication!”

As evidence accumulates, this shifts to feigning ignorance and claiming misunderstanding, along with attempts to distract by slandering the accusers, blaming others for similar sins and discrediting the concept of knowable truth. “I didn’t know it was wrong! The media is out to get me! Others have done worse! Who knows what really happened?”

When even this proves insufficient, it’s time for the final step, confession. Not the kind that is said to be good for the soul, but the aggressive, defiant boasting of someone who is sure that they won’t be punished in this life or the next for the crime they denied for so long. “I did it, but so what? There’s nothing wrong with it! What are you going to do about it?”

After many months of denials, lies and distractions in an effort to dismiss the mounting evidence that the Trump campaign knowingly worked with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election, the Trump train is approaching the final station.

It’s not like Kasparov knows anything about strategic thinking or Vladimir Putin.

Only 45 Percent of Trump Voters Believe Don Jr. Met With the Russians, After Junior Admitted It 

John Aravosis:

Public Policy Polling has a new poll out that’s depressing as hell, and a sign of just how fact-deprived Trump voters truly are.

Among other findings, only 45% of Trump voters think Donald Trump Jr. met with Russians last year to discuss their offer to help his father win the election. And 32% say it didn’t happen at all.

This is after Donald Trump Jr. already admitted publicly that he met with the Russians, and Donald Trump Sr. tweeted the fact that his son met with the Russians. After all that, only 45% believe it.

He not only admitted it, he publicly released the emails documenting it.

Dov Charney’s 2.0: Los Angeles Apparel 

Matthew Townsend, reporting for Bloomberg:

But American Apparel’s 2015 bankruptcy wiped out most of his net worth, so where would he get the money? Didn’t his tawdry past of sexual harassment allegations make him radioactive? And shouldn’t American Apparel’s collapse prove that making clothes in the U.S. is a fool’s errand?

Yet here he is, at 48, overseeing a startup with seamstresses and fabric cutters and boxes of T-shirts waiting to be shipped across the country. He’s on, he’s riffing, he’s explaining the benefits of immigration, he’s envisioning a company that will someday hit $1 billion in revenue. (American Apparel topped out at $634 million in 2013.) “We’re building, grooving, growing,” Charney says.

His new company, Los Angeles Apparel, was launched late last year as a wholesale business — just like American Apparel’s origins in 1989 — selling blank basics such as T-shirts and sweatshirts.

Very similar brand aesthetic to American Apparel, too, but with Microgramma subbed in for Helvetica Neue as the company typeface.

Apple’s Risky Balancing Act With the Next iPhone 

Jason Snell, in a terrific column for Macworld:

This is one of those areas where Apple may be the victim of its own success. The iPhone is so popular a product that Apple can’t include any technology or source any part if it can’t be made more than 200 million times a year. If the supplier of a cutting-edge part Apple wants can only provide the company with 50 million per year, it simply can’t be used in the iPhone. Apple sells too many, too fast.

Contrast that to Apple’s competition. On the smaller end, former Android chief Andy Rubin announced the Essential phone, but even Rubin admitted that he’d only be able to sell in thousands, not millions. Same for the RED Hydrogen One — groundbreaking phone, hardly likely to sell in any volume. The Google Pixel looks like it’s in the one million range. Apple’s biggest competitor, Samsung, has to deal with a scale more similar to Apple’s — but it’s still only expected to sell 50 or 60 million units of the flagship Galaxy S8.

As one DF reader (thanks, SH) put it in an email a few weeks ago:

People commonly think that scale is an unambiguously good thing in production, but the tremendous scale at which Apple operates shows this not to be the case. Annual iPhone production is so large that Apple is likely experiencing diseconomies of scale, a phenomenon one doesn’t often hear about. What significant, break-through technology can a company practically introduce to 300 million new devices in a year? I’m not even sure it would be physically possible to manufacture 300 million OLED screens in a single year, for instance. Much less any more dramatic change, like new materials or manufacturing processes.

It’s not just this year that Apple has to pull off a risky balancing act regarding the features and components of the new flagship iPhone. It’s every year. I don’t think that balance is attainable without a change in strategy to add a new higher-priced lower-volume tier.

Jeet Heer: ‘We Are Living in the Coen Brothers’ Darkest Comedy’ 

Jeet Heer, writing for The New Republic:

Imagine a group of dunderheaded Americans who think they would benefit from a covert alliance with the Russian government. They make overtures to that country’s ambassador, blithely ignorant that they’ll be monitored by U.S. intelligence. A series of cascading mistakes ultimately brings disaster crashing down on their heads.

That might sound like a summary of the latest news about the White House, but it is also the plot of Burn After Reading, the 2008 film that stands as singularly prophetic of the Trump era. The Coen Brothers’ black comedy echoes this unique period in history not only because of the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russian operatives, but the wider culture of deceit that made Donald Trump’s rise possible. More than just a satire on espionage, the movie is a scathing critique of modern America as a superficial, post-political society where cheating of all sorts comes all too easily.

Benedict Evans: ‘Creation and Consumption’ 

Benedict Evans:

It seems to me that when people talk about what you ‘can’t’ do on a device, there are actually two different meanings of ‘can’t’ in computing. There is ‘can’t’ as meaning the feature doesn’t exist, and there is ‘can’t’ as meaning you don’t know how to do it. If you don’t know how to do it, the feature might as well not be there. So, there is what an expert can’t do on a smartphone or tablet that they could do on a PC. But then there are all of the things that a normal person (the other 90% or 95%) can’t do on a PC but can do on a smartphone, because the step change in user interface abstraction and simplicity means that they know how to do it on a phone and didn’t know how to do it on a PC. That is, the step change in user interface models that comes with the shift from Windows and Mac to iOS and Android is really a shift in the accessibility of capability. A small proportion of people might temporarily go from can to can’t, but vastly more go from can’t to can.

Chaim Gartenberg: ‘The Future of the Smartwatch Should Be Smart Watch Bands’ 

Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge:

Despite the best efforts from Apple (with the Apple Watch), Google (with Android Wear), Samsung (with the Galaxy Gear), Pebble (with the, uh, Pebble), and dozens of other companies, the dream of the smartwatch hasn’t really taken off. Turns out that turning a smartphone into a wrist device isn’t really that appealing. Even if you can somehow get the right balance of battery life, device size, and developer support, people just aren’t really interested in getting anything more than notifications and fitness tracking from the devices they wear on their wrists.

I disagree completely. I’m on my way home from a family vacation at Disney World. I saw Apple Watches everywhere. (I would estimate that over 95 percent of them were the aluminum models.) Apple Watch is a hit product.

I think notifications and fitness tracking simply are what people want from their smart watches.

I think smart bands for non-smart watches are a non-starter — and I say that as someone who packed two mechanical watches and no Apple Watch for this trip. The analog nature of mechanical watches is central to their appeal.

Apple Previews New Emoji 

Apple:

In celebration of World Emoji Day, Apple is sharing some of the new emoji coming to iOS, macOS and watchOS later this year.

It’s crazy to me that there hasn’t been a sandwich emoji until now.

Thom Holwerda: ‘Android Is a Dead End’ 

Thom Holwerda, writing for OSNews:

Android in its current form suffers from several key architectural problems - it’s not nearly as resource-efficient as, say, iOS, has consistent update problems, and despite hefty hardware, still suffers from the occasional performance problems, among other things - that Google clearly hasn’t been able to solve. It feels like Android is in limbo, waiting for something, as if Google is working on something else that will eventually succeed Android.

Is that something Fuchsia? Is Project Treble part of the plan, to make it easier for Google to eventually replace Android’s Linux base with something else? If Android as it exists today was salvageable, why are some of the world’s greatest operating systems engineers employed by Google not working on Android, but on Fuchsia? If Fuchsia is just a research operating system, why did its developers recently add actual wallpapers to the repository? Why does every design choice for Fuchsia seem specifically designed for and targeted at solving Android’s core problems?

Android Killed Windows Phone 

Dieter Bohn, The Verge:

So while Microsoft didn’t do itself any favors, I’d argue strongly that all these machinations and flailings weren’t a response (or weren’t only a response) to the iPhone. The real enemy was the company that had set its sights on Microsoft’s phone ambitions since before the iPhone was released.

That company was Google, of course, and it only tangentially wanted to take on the iPhone. Google’s real target was always Microsoft, and it hit the bullseye.

This is so obvious to me I’m surprised Bohn even thought to write it, but judging by the response, it seems a lot of people haven’t really thought about this. Conceptually, the iPhone changed the industry by raising the bar for just how a modern phone should work. Android and Windows Phone were designed in the iPhone’s wake.

But business-wise, the iPhone is exactly like the Mac. It’s not something Apple licenses to other companies. So all other companies that want to make phones but can’t create their own OS need something to license. On the PC, that OS is Windows. For mobile, it’s Android. It’s hard to imagine how different the world would be today if Microsoft had created the Android of mobile.

Squarespace 

My thanks to Squarespace for once again sponsoring the DF RSS feed.

Create a beautiful portfolio website with Squarespace. You can showcase your work to the world with stunning galleries and project pages. Try Squarespace for free. When you’re ready to subscribe, get 10 percent off at squarespace.com with offer code DARING17.

The Mac Mini Turns 1,000 Days Old Today 

The Mac Mini remains a product in our lineup.”

Font Choice Leads to Scandal Threatening the Pakistani PM 

Sune Engel Rasmussen and Pádraig Collins, reporting for The Guardian:

The daughter of Pakistan’s prime minister has become subject of ridicule in her home country after forensic experts cast doubts on documents central to her defence against corruption allegations. […]

Documents claiming that Mariam Nawaz Sharif was only a trustee of the companies that bought the London flats, are dated February 2006, and appear to be typed in Microsoft Calibri.

But the font was only made commercially available in 2007, leading to suspicions that the documents are forged.

The website Dawn reached out to Calibri designer Lucas de Groot for comment:

In a separate email, de Groot, the font designer himself, said that while in theory it would have been possible to create a document using Calibri in 2006, the font would have to be obtained from a beta operating system, “from the hands of computer nerds”.

“Why would anyone use a completely unknown font for an official document in 2006?” he went on to question.

The Internet Is Fucked (Again) 

Nilay Patel, writing for The Verge:

Most of these things are still true, even after the Obama-era FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler reclassified internet access as a Title II telecommunications service and imposed strict net neutrality rules on wired and wireless internet providers. And most of these things will get even worse when Pai pushes through his plan to rescind Title II and those rules, despite widespread public outcry.

The lack of competition in the broadband access market is so acute that it doesn’t matter if Comcast is still the most-hated company in America, or that Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) has the worst customer service: you don’t have a choice, so you just have to pay them anyway. Consumers and tech publications can review and argue and debate the merits of products from Apple, Google, and Microsoft, but you just have to take what you get from your ISP.

Michael Tsai on Fantastical 2.4 for Mac 

Michael Tsai on the latest update to Fantastical for Mac:

It’s like they read my mind and implemented my four most-wanted features. Great update.

It really is a great update. I’m not even sure what to ask for at this point. No app is ever “done”, but at this point Fantastical feels feature complete.

Kottke’s Buyer’s Guide for Next Month’s Solar Eclipse 

Jason Kottke:

On August 21, 2017 across the entire United States, the Moon will move in front of the Sun, partially blocking it from our view. For those on the path of totality, the Moon will entirely block out the Sun for more than 2 minutes. I’ve been looking forward to seeing a total solar eclipse since I was a little kid, so I’ve been doing a lot of research on what to buy to enjoy the eclipse safely. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Google Pays Academics for Publishing Favorable Articles About Google 

Madison Malone Kircher, writing for New York Magazine:

Over the last ten years, Google (er, um, Alphabet) has paid thousands of dollars to people in the academic community working on research that directly involves the company’s business, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Tuesday. Dollar amounts ranged from $5,000 to $400,000, and Google’s financial contributions to the research were often not disclosed in the finished products, the Journal also reported. A former Google employee said the company had assembled a list of research papers, complete with “working titles, abstracts and budgets,” Google wanted to see produced and then used that list to find academics willing to work with them on those projects. Around 100 such papers have been funded by Google since 2009.

I love this bit from the Journal story:

University of Illinois law professor Paul Heald pitched an idea on copyrights he thought would be useful to Google, and he received $18,830 to fund the work. The paper, published in 2012, didn’t mention his sponsor. “Oh, wow. No, I didn’t. That’s really bad,” he said in an interview. “That’s purely oversight.”

“Oh, wow”. He’s shocked — shocked — that he himself didn’t disclose this. The Journal even got him to pose for a photograph — he’s got exactly the deer-in-the-headlights “Why did I agree to this interview?” look on his face that you’d expect.

Don’t be ethical.

Android Police: ‘This Is the 2017 Google Pixel “XL”’ 

Looks great. If this is legit, they’ll sell thousands more of them than last year.

Apple Extends Free Repairs of First-Generation Apple Watches With Detached Back Covers 

It’s good that Apple is doing this, but the fact that these things are just glued together shows how different Apple Watches are from traditional mechanical watches. You can buy a $60 watch from Seiko with better assembly quality than an Apple Watch Edition.

Max Boot: ‘Trump Has Picked America’s Enemies in Russia Over Its Friends in Europe’ 

Max Boot, writing for Foreign Policy:

His nutty behavior is bad enough at home; it’s even worse abroad when he is supposed to be representing not just his rabid base of “deplorables” but, rather, the whole country. That is something Trump simply does not know how to do.

Thus, in the course of this trip, he trashed his predecessor, the U.S. intelligence community, and the “fake news” media. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan in 1981 going abroad and attacking Jimmy Carter for not doing more to stand up to Soviet aggression? Or attacking the press for being hostile to him in the 1980 campaign (as they were) and the intelligence community for not predicting the Iranian revolution (as they did not)? It’s unimaginable, yet Trump somehow thinks that it’s appropriate.

FlightLogger 

My thanks to FlightLogger for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. FlightLogger lets you search for and save flights, get up-to-date notifications on any changes, share your travel coordinates with friends and family, and much more — all from one easy-to-use app.

Get real-time flight tracking for updates on departure and arrival times, delays, cancellations, gate and baggage claim information.

Available on all your devices: Add your flights on your iPhone and your flight information will be automatically synced to your iPad and Apple Watch all with an easy-to-use and clutter-free interface.

Get FlightLogger as a free download on the App Store today.

Justin Williams Got Hacked and All He Got Was This New SIM Card 

Justin Williams:

I like to think I take an above average amount of steps to secure myself online: I use a password manager, unique passwords as complex as the site will allow, and turn on 2-factor authentication when possible. A true security expert will likely find some sort of flaw in my setup, but I’ll argue that I am doing more than 95% of the planet.

So how did I, someone who is reasonably secure, have his cell phone disabled, his PayPal account compromised, and a few hundred dollars withdrawn from his bank account?

Two-factor authentication using your cell number is only as secure as your wireless carrier’s protection against social engineering — which, alas, might be terrible.

Apple’s Bad Beta Decision on Em and En Dashes in iOS 11 

Glenn Fleishman:

Terrible news. Apple is replacing the long-running convention of typing two hyphens to obtain an em dash or “long dash.” That is, if you type “--”, many places in the interface in which autocorrection is enabled or third-party software takes advantage of autocorrection, it’s turned into —. […]

Why is this terrible news? Some have argued with me on Twitter that it’s more logical: “-” for hyphen, “--” for the longer en dash, and “---” for the longest em dash. You type more hyphens to get a longer dash.

My rejoinder is twofold. First, most people rarely use an en dash, although I’d like to increase that number. Second, a billion people have learned that typing “--” leads to a long dash. I may be exaggerating the number, but given that Microsoft Word, Pages, and other desktop software performs this substitution silently, it’s a widespread convention being overturned.

I really hope this gets changed before iOS 11 ships.

Also, I’m not sure why dash conversion is part of “smart punctuation”. Converting simple hyphens to en- and em-dashes could be handled by iOS’s text substitutions. By default, for example, iOS has long had a substitution to change “(c)” to “©”. If en- and em-dashes were handled there, everyone could be happy because they could change it.

The only punctuation marks that needs to be “smart” are quotes. Right now in the iOS 11 betas, “smart” punctuation is all-or-nothing — to get smart quotes you have to accept smart dashes too.

Jon Bois: ‘What Football Will Look Like in the Future’ 

I implore you to drop everything and read this now, regardless if you care about or even understand the rules of the game.

Trust me.

Speaking of $1,200–1,600 Phones 

Red has announced (and is accepting pre-orders for) a 2018 high-end Android phone with a “holographic display”. $1,200 for aluminum, $1,600 for titanium. (Via The Verge.)

AdAge: Apple News Reportedly Open to Letting Publishers Sell Ads 

Garett Sloane, reporting for AdAge:

Apple is working on a money fix for publishers that send their articles and content to its News app but so far have gotten very little in return, according to people familiar with the plans.

Apple News will let top media partners use their own technology to fill the ad space in their content, becoming more of an extension of the publishers’ own websites than the walled-off island it is now, the people said.

M.G. Siegler:

I, for one, can’t wait for an Apple News app with interstitials and quotes of the day. Also articles that take 45 seconds to load.

I get it that publishers need to make money. Trust me, I get that — I am a publisher. But I don’t get why Apple would allow the reading experience in Apple News to be junked up.

Publishers need to find ways to do ads that don’t interrupt or delay the reading experience. I don’t know why this is so hard for them to understand.

Letters and Liquor 

Right up my alley: Matthew Wyne’s delightfully-illustrated history of popular cocktails.

Glenn Fleishman Reviews the New Glif 

Glenn Fleishman, writing for Macworld:

Studio Neat’s latest tripod adapter, Glif, fits all phones (even non-Apple ones) in an attractive and well-made new design that uses a padded locking clamp and three mounting screw holes instead of one.

This compact adapter is the perfect companion for a serious iPhone photographer looking for maximum flexibility, as well as a casual snapshotter who wants a better way to hold their camera, even without a tripod. I’ve used it on tripods and with the optional wooden handle.

I’ve been a fan of the Glif ever since the first model. But these latest ones are truly great — and future-proof.

Ming-Chi Kuo Says No Touch ID on New OLED iPhone 

Ming-Chi Kuo this morning:

We predict the OLED model won’t support fingerprint recognition, reasons being: (1) the full-screen design doesn’t work with existing capacitive fingerprint recognition, and (2) the scan-through ability of the under-display fingerprint solution still has technical challenges, including: (i) requirement for a more complex panel pixel design; (ii) disappointing scan-through of OLED panel despite it being thinner than LCD panel; and (iii) weakened scan-through performance due to overlayered panel module. As the new OLED iPhone won’t support under-display fingerprint recognition, we now do not expect production ramp-up will be delayed again (we previously projected the ramp-up would be postponed to late October or later).

Mark Gurman, hours later:

For its redesigned iPhone, set to go on sale later this year, Apple is testing an improved security system that allows users to log in, authenticate payments, and launch secure apps by scanning their face, according to people familiar with the product. This is powered by a new 3-D sensor, added the people, who asked not to be identified discussing technology that’s still in development. The company is also testing eye scanning to augment the system, one of the people said.

A few thoughts:

  • No Touch ID would be weird. If it’s true, then the 3D facial recognition has to be as good or better than Touch ID in every way, in all lighting conditions, or else it will be a severe regression.

  • Gurman is late again. Everything in his report was first reported by Kuo.

  • I don’t believe anything related to the new iPhones is still “in testing”. I’m sure they’re still finalizing the software, but the ship has sailed on which sensors the devices are going to have.

  • If it’s true that Apple is going to release three new iPhones, my bet is that they’re named the iPhone 7S, iPhone 7S Plus, and iPhone Pro. And I hope the iPhone Pro starts at $1500 or higher. I’d like to see what Apple can do in a phone with a higher price.

Is Amazon Getting Too Big? 

Elizabeth Weise, writing for USA Today:

Of printed books, about 38% of the 800 million sold in 2016 were sold on Amazon. For ebooks it’s about 75% of the 400 million sold. And for audio books it’s close to 95% of the 50 million sold.

Looks like it’s time for the Department of Justice to open another investigation of Apple’s e-book business.

Timing 

This week’s DF RSS feed was sponsored by Timing — an absolutely terrific time-tracking app for the Mac. Anyone with an even casual familiarity with my personal interests knows that I love truly native Mac apps. Timing is a home run — it is both great at time-tracking and great at being a Mac app.

The way it works is sublime. You still install it and let it run in the background. Timing automatically tracks which apps, documents, and websites you use — without start/stop timers. You can then assign things you’ve done to projects or clients after the fact. It’s a beautiful, intuitive interface and experience.

If you’re curious, last week’s DF columns took me a total of 4 hours 42 minutes to write — a little over three hours in MarsEdit and 90 minutes in BBEdit.

If you have any interest in tracking your time — whether for client work or simply to be aware of your productivity — you need to check out Timing. Download a free 14-day trial today and save 10 percent when you purchase Timing through Friday, 7 July.