Linked List: April 2018

AppleInsider on MacBook Keyboard Reliability 

Mike Wuerthele, reporting for AppleInsider:

All data has been collected from assorted Apple Genius Bars in the U.S. that we have been working with for several years, as well as Apple-authorized third-party repair shops.

The 2014 MacBook Pro model year saw 2120 service events in the first year, with 118 related to keyboard issues necessitating an upper case replacement — 5.6 percent of all MacBook Pros serviced in the first year. The 2015 has 1904 service tickets, with 114 relating to the keyboard, making 6.0 percent. […]

Apple released the new keyboard with the MacBook, and moved the design to the 2016 MacBook Pro. In the first year of the 2016 MacBook Pro, our data gathered 1402 warranty events, with 165 related to only the keyboard and not including the Touch Bar — 11.8 percent.

We don’t have a full year of data for the 2017 MacBook Pro yet. But, since release in June 2017, our data set has 1161 captured service events with 94 related to keyboard issues also not including any Touch Bar issues — 8.1 percent.

Kudos to AppleInsider for doing the research for this. But they seem to be drawing the wrong conclusion from their data. They haven’t shown that keyboards are twice as likely to fail, but that when a 2016 MacBook Pro needs warranty service, it’s twice as likely to be for the keyboard as from previous models. And the number for 2017 models is about halfway between. 2016 seemed like a bad year, but the 2017 numbers are only slightly higher.

Update: I thought AppleInsider made this clear, but apparently not. These numbers come from a small number of Apple Stores and authorized repair shops where AppleInsider has sources who leaked these numbers. These are not the numbers for all MacBook Pros in those years. Not even close.

The Washington Post: ‘WhatsApp Founder Jan Koum Plans to Leave After Broad Clashes With Parent Facebook’ 

Elizabeth Dwoskin, writing for The Washington Post:

The billionaire chief executive of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, is planning to leave the company after clashing with its parent, Facebook, over the popular messaging service’s strategy and Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption, according to people familiar with internal discussions.

Koum, who sold WhatsApp to Facebook for more than $19 billion in 2014, also plans to step down from Facebook’s board of directors, according to these people. The date of his departure isn’t known. […]

Another point of disagreement was over WhatsApp’s encryption. In 2016, WhatsApp added end-to-end encryption, a security feature that scrambles people’s messages so that outsiders, including WhatsApp’s owners, can’t read them. Facebook executives wanted to make it easier for businesses to use its tools, and WhatsApp executives believed that doing so would require some weakening of its encryption.

Ultimately, Koum was worn down by the differences in approach, the people said. Other WhatsApp employees are demoralized and plan to to leave in November, four years and a month after the Facebook acquisition, when they are allowed to exercise all their stock options under the terms of the Facebook deal, according to the people.

Not a good sign when the people who care most about privacy are being driven out of the company.

Zac Cichy Hosts Yours Truly on The Menu Bar 

Zac Cichy and Andrew J. Clark’s The Menu Bar is one of my favorite new (or in their case, rebooted) podcasts this year. It was my pleasure to be a guest on last week’s show:

Zac goes one on one with John Gruber to discuss the Apple memo that leaked about Apple leaks, why Beats was a good purchase, why John thinks Netflix might buy Spotify, how Apple might bundle Apple Music and TV shows, iPad productivity low hanging fruit, and more.

Reconsidering the Hardware Kindle Interface 

Craig Mod, on how the iOS Kindle interaction model has leaked out to Amazon’s hardware readers as well:

What is the iOS Kindle interaction model? The iOS Kindle model is the “hidden spaces” model. That is, all active interface elements are invisible. This “hidden spaces” model of interaction is supremely user antagonistic.

There are no affordances to the taps. No edges to the active areas. Nothing to hint at what might happen. This creates what I call a “brittle” interface — where one wrong tap sends you careening in an unknown direction, without knowing why or how you got there.

I’ve had several Kindles over the years, and never liked one enough to really enjoy it. I agree completely with Mod’s suggestion that they add hardware buttons for page turning and the menu.

Michael Hayden: ‘The End of Intelligence’ 

Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA, in an op-ed for The New York Times:

The veneer of civilization, I concluded, was quite thin — a natural thought for an intelligence officer whose profession trends pessimistic and whose work is consumed by threats and dangers. Over the years I had learned that the traditions and institutions that protect us from living Hobbesian “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” lives are inherently fragile and demand careful tending. In America today, they are under serious stress.

It was no accident that the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year in 2016 was “post-truth,” a condition where facts are less influential in shaping opinion than emotion and personal belief. To adopt post-truth thinking is to depart from Enlightenment ideas, dominant in the West since the 17th century, that value experience and expertise, the centrality of fact, humility in the face of complexity, the need for study and a respect for ideas.

Truth versus post-truth is a far more important battle than left versus right.

T-Mobile and Sprint to Merge 

The AP:

T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere will head the merger and the company, which will be named T-Mobile. In a video announcement posted on Twitter, Legere said the new company will “create robust competition and lower prices across wireless, video and broadband” and lead the way to 5G technology.

Consolidation is usually bad for consumers, but in this case I think it should be good. AT&T and Verizon are two giants, and I think the U.S. is better served with three strong carriers than with two giants and two weaker carriers.

The Talk Show: ‘$270 Worth of Unneeded Keyboards’ 

Special guest Jim Dalrymple returns to the show. Topics include the litany of problems with MacBook keyboards, speculation regarding why Apple’s AirPower multi-device charging mat still isn’t shipping, Google’s proposal to replace SMS with a new protocol that isn’t encrypted, and more.

Sponsored by:

Gus Mueller: ‘Apple Should Make an Instagram Clone’ 

Gus Mueller:

Instagram is one of the last social networks I use these days, which I actually enjoy visiting. But I always get a little twitchy using it because it’s owned by Facebook (which I’m really not a fan of). And the ads are getting pretty annoying these days.

So wouldn’t it be awesome if Apple made a privacy focused clone of it? I know Apple doesn’t really do well when it comes to social services, but I’m wondering if a simple photo sharing site might not be impossible for them to do well.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since Mueller posted this a week ago. I think this could be great. At a technical level, iMessage shows that Apple can build a system that scales. The biggest problem I can think of is usernames. Apple IDs don’t have to be icloud.com / me.com / mac.com usernames — you can use any email address. And you wouldn’t want to expose your email and iMessage address publicly. But Game Center uses nicknames to avoid the same problem. Apple could either piggyback on Game Center nicknames, or set up a new namespace of nicknames for this hypothetical Instagram clone.

Katie Notopoulos: ‘I’m Sorry to Report Instagram Is Bad Now’ 

Katie Notopoulos, writing at BuzzFeed:

Look, I don’t want to talk about this any more than you do. I didn’t want this to be true. I wanted this to work out; I thought this was the platform that could be The One to make it with us for the long haul. But it’s time to get real. It’s not working out. Instagram kind of sucks now. And it’s not Instagram, it’s not us, it’s an outside force that is tearing us apart. That homewrecker is Stories.

I found myself nodding my head in agreement throughout — and she doesn’t even mention the non-linear algorithmic timeline.

Samsung Sees Slow Demand for OLEDs Used for Apple’s iPhone X 

Mark Gurman and Sam Kim, reporting for Bloomberg:

Samsung Electronics Co. is the latest Apple Inc. supplier to offer a sign of weaker iPhone X sales, saying that it’s seeing slow demand for the screens used in the flagship product.

The South Korean electronics manufacturer said in an earnings report today that profits for its display business “were affected by slow demand for flexible OLED panels.” The division’s sales rose 3.4 percent in the latest quarter, compared with 20 percent for Samsung as a whole.

Flexible OLED panels are the screens used inside the iPhone X, and those are supplied exclusively by Samsung. Other component makers for Apple, which reports quarterly earnings results next week, have also issued gloomy outlooks pointing to lackluster demand for the top-end phone.

Starting to sound like iPhone X sales really are falling short of expectations. You often can’t judge iPhone sales from the perspective of a component maker, because Apple could have switched to another company for the same component. But these flexible OLED displays only come from Samsung. Apple reports earnings for the first calendar quarter on Tuesday.

My spitball theory: the iPhone X is not “too expensive”, but it is too expensive for mass market casual phone buyers. iPhone sales always peak in the fourth calendar quarter by a large margin, for two reasons: (1) it’s the holiday quarter, so anyone buying an iPhone as a gift is going to buy it in November or December; and (2) that’s the first full quarter when new top-tier iPhones debut, and enthusiasts buy them as soon as they can. iPhone X sales were great in the holiday quarter, but perhaps the enthusiasm of the early adopter crowd isn’t shared by the mass market.

Perhaps I’m just stating the obvious here — the existence of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus indicates that Apple anticipated the need for brand new high-end iPhones in the $700-800 price range. Assuming they keep going with the new $1000-1100 tier, those phones might be even more biased toward the holiday quarter than other iPhones.

Update: M.G. Siegler:

Good points, and the flip side of why the iPhones 8 didn’t sell as well out of the gate: the early-adopters/die-hard were waiting for X. In an ideal world, the releases would have been inverted (X first, 8 a couple months later).

3D Touch Needs to Be Pervasive 

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

Kuo says that the 6.1-inch iPhone will use what he calls “Cover Glass Sensor” (CGS) technology, relocating the iPhone’s touch module from the display panel (in-cell technology) to the surface glass. The CGS method reportedly results in a display that’s lighter and more shock resistant.

With this display technology, Apple will add a thin-film sensor to the touch film sensor included in the CGS, but the purpose of the new layer is unknown. It will, however, result in a 15 percent increase in the cost of the touch panel, resulting in a higher purchase price of $23 to $26.

To offset the cost of the new display it plans to use, Kuo believes Apple will remove the 3D Touch functionality on the 6.1-inch iPhone, which would be a curious move as 3D Touch is well-integrated throughout the operating system that runs on the iPhone at this point.

I don’t generally link to rumors like this, but this one caught my eye because I’ve been thinking a lot about 3D Touch lately. 3D Touch is the sort of feature that either needs to be on all iPhones or else should be dropped. If it’s not pervasive across the entire platform, developers can’t count on it. I think that’s why it’s underutilized today. But it’s one thing to wait for older iPhones from the pre-3D Touch era to drop out of usage. It’s another for Apple to sell a brand new phone in 2018 without it. I’m not going to rant and rave about something that’s only a rumor — but if September rolls around and Apple ships this new phone without 3D Touch to save a few measly dollars, I’m going to rant and rave.

I also think it’s a serious problem that iPhones have 3D Touch and iPads don’t, yet iPads are stuck running an OS where 3D Touch is the way to bring up a contextual shortcut menu, but that’s a different rant.

The Fonts of Google Tasks 

Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy about Google’s new Google Tasks app:

It isn’t just about what these typefaces look like, either, but how they’re used. For example, when entering a new task, the name of the task is set in Product Sans; when it is added to the list, it becomes Roboto. Tapping on the task takes you to a details view where, now, the name of the task is in Product Sans. There are three options to add more information: if you want to add details, you’ll do it in Roboto, but adding a due date will be in Product Sans. The “add subtasks” button — well, text in the same grey as everything else except other buttons that are blue — is set in Product Sans, but the tasks are set in Roboto.

Such an odd inattention to detail.

30 Years of Frontier 

Dave Winer:

Little-known fact: I designed and developed a programming language.

My goal was to create an environment I would work in for the rest of my career. I just realized it’s exactly 30 years later, and I’m still using it.

30 fucking years. I think I earned the right to say it that way.

Now that I also work in JavaScript, it amazes me how easy the simple things are in Frontier, compared to JS, esp when you have to tack on a database. You really have to work at seeing what’s going on. In Frontier, you just click around expanding things. You can even look at the runtime stack that way.

If you never used Frontier, it’s hard to explain what made it so special. My very favorite thing about Frontier is the “object database”. It wasn’t like using a database in the SQL sense. It was just persistent storage. You didn’t have to deal with the file system at all. You just wrote to, say, scratchpad.foo or examples.bar or any other unique identifier and whatever you wrote would be there when you went to read it. And, even better, there was a visual interface for exploring everything in the object database. You could see it and explore it, because in addition to being a language, Frontier was also a real Mac app. You could even customize the app’s menu items just by editing the system.misc.menubar table in the object database. It’s a wonderfully self-contained design. Re-reading the documentation makes me wonder why there’s nothing like Frontier’s object database in other scripting languages.

Tim Cook and Lisa Jackson Attend President Trump’s First State Dinner 

Cook met with Trump in the White House this afternoon, ostensibly to talk about trade policy.

Casey Johnston Gives Up on the Current MacBook Pro Keyboard 

Casey Johnston, writing for The Outline:

A few months ago, I wrote about how my one-year-old MacBook Pro’s keyboard keys stopped working if a single piece of dust slipped under there, and more importantly, that neither Apple nor its Geniuses would acknowledge that this was actually a problem. Today, Best Buy announced it is having a significant sale on these computers, marking them hundreds of dollars off. Interesting. Still, I’d suggest you do not buy them.

Since I wrote about my experience, many have asked me what happened with the new top half of the computer that the Apple Geniuses installed, with its pristine keyboard and maybe-different key switches. The answer is that after a couple of months, I started to get temporarily dead keys for seemingly no reason. Again.

This keyboard has to be one of the biggest design screwups in Apple history. Everyone who buys a MacBook depends upon the keyboard and this keyboard is undependable.

Jason Snell:

I know that we Apple-watchers sit around wondering if Apple will release new laptops with new keyboards that don’t have these issues, but Apple’s relative silence on this issue for existing customers is deafening. If these problems are remotely as common as they seem to be, this is an altogether defective product that should be recalled.

Nvidia Tegra Flaw Allows Nintendo Switch to Be Jailbroken 

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

Nintendo’s Switch was hacked to run Linux in February, and now it’s clear that hackers could go further and run homebrew apps and games on the device. Eurogamer reports that two exploits have been detailed this week that allow hackers to exploit a hardware flaw in Nvidia’s Tegra X1 (that powers the Switch) and gain access to the Switch’s operating system. Nintendo cannot patch the hardware flaw without releasing a new version of the Switch, which means that at least 14 million devices are vulnerable.

It’s a jailbreak that’s similar to a “tethered” iPhone jailbreak, meaning it needs to be performed on every boot via USB. The hack doesn’t require a modchip, although it’s likely that third parties will now create Switch hardware mods to assist with the jailbreak.

It’s not what you want, but I’m going to say this is not a “nightmare scenario” for Nintendo. A nightmare scenario would be something that exposes people to a remote exploit, and this isn’t that. Nintendo must be pissed at Nvidia though.

How Merchants Use Facebook to Flood Amazon With Fake Reviews 

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, reporting for The Washington Post:

On Amazon, customer comments can help a product surge in popularity. The online retail giant says that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate because they are written by real shoppers who aren’t paid for them.

But a Washington Post examination found that for some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews. Such reviews have certain characteristics, such as repetitive wording that people probably cut and paste in.

What a shitshow. I don’t understand why Amazon doesn’t clean this mess up — it does them no good whatsoever to have all these fraudulent reviews. Same thing with counterfeit products, but they’ve let that fester too. (Via Dave Mark.)

The iPad’s Focus Problem 

Luke Kanies:

Unlike touch, keyboards are inherently targeted. While touch is powerful specifically because of your ability to directly manipulate the software you’re using, keyboards must first be pointed at a place that needs text. They need focus. And here’s where the iPad falls down.

It has no concept of focus. Or rather, it obviously does, but its designers are in denial about it. Keyboard focus is littered throughout the platform, from the presence of a cursor when inputting text, to the software keyboard auto-hiding when no text field is in use. When you’re producing text, this generally works pretty well.

But the keyboard is used for far more than typing. Whether it’s command-tabbing between applications or using shortcuts within them, the keyboard is a critical control device. And it just does not work right on the iPad.

I tweeted about this same thing over the weekend, while testing out a new keyboard that Jason Snell convinced me to buy. It seems crazy to me the iPad lets you command-tab between full-screen apps, but when you’re in split screen mode there’s (a) no way to switch between the apps on screen using the keyboard, and (b) no indication of which app has keyboard focus.

Off the top of my head, I think command-tab switching should include the individual apps in split screen mode.

John Paczkowski on Facebook and Google 

John Paczkowski, writing for BuzzFeed:

A few weeks from now, Facebook and Google will hold their yearly developer conferences, massive events meant to celebrate their platforms and visions for the future. They’re typically packed full of grand pronouncements, flashy demos, and Google Glass-wearing skydivers or CEO-impersonating celebrities. Bands play. Drinks flow. They are spectacles, intended to ignite enthusiasm and burnish the Facebook and Google brands. But after a year in which Facebook and Google played pivotal roles in spreading misinformation and were exposed as data-greedy growth goblins, there should be little cause for celebration.

If the platforms are serious about healing themselves, you should be able to see it in a show that’s more about fixing what’s broken rather than building something new. And if they aren’t serious? Expect the same shiny, happy-fun wow-fests.

I would bet big money on “the same shiny, happy-fun wow-fests”.

Turn Touch Wooden Smart Home Remote 

My thanks to Turn Touch for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their beautiful wooden smart home remote. Ever wanted to control Spotify on your phone without looking at your phone? Do you have smart lights like Philips Hue and want a phone-free way to change scenes and colors? Turn Touch is your answer.

Turn Touch is a wooden smart home remote. Forget plastic, this is a remote as stylish as your home. It controls every smart home device that speaks Wi-Fi. You can also use it to control your Mac and iOS devices over Bluetooth. This includes Keynote, iTunes, Quicktime, Spotify, Sonos, and lots more.

Buy a remote for your home or office for only $59 (with free shipping). It’s a great gift for friends or yourself.

iPhone X Customer Satisfaction: Impressively High Across All Features, With One Predictable Exception 

Ben Bajarin, on the result of a survey of iPhone X owners conducted last month:

When it came to overall customer satisfaction, iPhone X owners in our study gave the product an overall 97% customer satisfaction. While that number is impressive, what really stands out when you do customer satisfaction studies is the percentage who say they are very satisfied with the product. Considering you add up the total number of very satisfied, and satisfied, to get your total customer satisfaction number a product can have a high number of satisfied responses and lower number of very satisfied responses and still achieve a high number. The higher the very satisfied responses, the better a product truly is. In our study, 85% of iPhone X owners said they were very satisfied with the product.

That number is amongst the highest I’ve seen in all the customer satisfaction studied we have conducted across a range of technology products. Just to contrast that with the original Apple Watch research with Wristly I was involved in, 66% of Apple Watch owners indicated they were very satisfied with Apple Watch, a product which also ranked a 97% customer satisfaction number in the first Apple Watch study we did.

Wait until you see the feature-by-feature results.

Google Gives Up on Allo, Backs Unencrypted Successor to SMS 

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it’s trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It’s going to be called “Chat,” and it’s based on a standard called the “Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services.” SMS is the default that everybody has to fall back to, and so Google’s goal is to make that default texting experience on an Android phone as good as other modern messaging apps.

As part of that effort, Google says it’s “pausing” work on its most recent entry into the messaging space, Allo. It’s the sort of “pause” that involves transferring almost the entire team off the project and putting all its resources into another app, Android Messages. […]

But remember, Chat is a carrier-based service, not a Google service. It’s just “Chat,” not “Google Chat.” In a sign of its strategic importance to Google, the company has spearheaded development on the new standard, so that every carrier’s Chat services will be interoperable. But, like SMS, Chat won’t be end-to-end encrypted, and it will follow the same legal intercept standards. In other words: it won’t be as secure as iMessage or Signal.

It is unconscionable for Google to back a new protocol that isn’t end-to-end encrypted. End-to-end encryption is table stakes for any new communication platform today. Apple should ignore this — if it’s not secure it should be a non-starter.

Walt Mossberg:

Bottom line: Google builds an insecure messaging system controlled by carriers who are in bed with governments everywhere at exactly the time when world publics are more worried about data collection and theft than ever.

Susan Kare to Be Awarded AIGA Medal 

Alexandra Lange, writing for The New Yorker:

Kare, who is sixty-four, will be honored for her work on April 20th, by her fellow designers, with the prestigious AIGA medal. In 1982, she was a sculptor and sometime curator when her high-school friend Andy Hertzfeld asked her to create graphics for a new computer that he was working on in California. Kare brought a Grid notebook to her job interview at Apple Computer. On its pages, she had sketched, in pink marker, a series of icons to represent the commands that Hertzfeld’s software would execute. Each square represented a pixel. A pointing finger meant “Paste.” A paintbrush symbolized “MacPaint.” Scissors said “Cut.” Kare told me about this origin moment: “As soon as I started work, Andy Hertzfeld wrote an icon editor and font editor so I could design images and letterforms using the Mac, not paper,” she said. “But I loved the puzzle-like nature of working in 16 × 16 and 32 × 32 pixel icon grids, and the marriage of craft and metaphor.”

Susan Kare deserves every award in the world. Her work was central — essential — to what made the Macintosh the Macintosh. The early Macintosh was not just the most endearing computer ever made, I’d argue that it remains the most endearing computer ever made — and in large part that was due to Susan Kare’s icons and fonts.

My interview with Kare at the Layers conference in 2016 is one of the highlights of my career.

SmugMug Acquires Flickr 

Jessica Guynn, reporting for USA Today

Flickr has been snapped up by Silicon Valley photo-sharing and storage company SmugMug, USA Today has learned.

SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill told USA Today he’s committed to breathing new life into the faded social networking pioneer, which hosted photos and lively interactions long before it became trendy.

SmugMug, an independent, family-run company, will maintain Flickr as a standalone community of amateur and professional photographers and give the long neglected service the focus and resources it deserves, MacAskill said in an exclusive interview.

I hope it works. Flickr was so great back in the day. But I fear it’s too late, and the world has moved on.

Regarding Linus Sebastian’s Damaged iMac Pro Saga 

Joe Rossignol has an excellent piece at MacRumors on the saga of Linus Sebastian’s iMac Pro that Apple has declined to repair:

After the repair was declined by Apple, Sebastian and his team contacted an Apple Authorized Service Provider in Canada, where they are located. The repair shop also declined the repair, but their reason was allegedly that Apple has yet to offer the required certification courses to service the iMac Pro.

However, Apple’s internal iMac Pro Service Readiness Guide obtained by MacRumors states that ATLAS online training and learning resources for servicing the iMac Pro have been available in English since December. We also spoke to multiple sources who completed the course and received certification months ago.

The guide adds that iMac Pro service parts availability began in early to mid January, with replacement logic boards, flash storage, and memory available by late February. Multiple sources at Apple Authorized Service Providers also confirmed that iMac Pro displays are available with two-week-or-less delivery estimates.

MacRumors contacted a reliable source who confirmed that Apple Authorized Service Providers are permitted to deny service for any product that has been opened or modified by a customer, regardless of warranty, both for safety reasons and to avoid responsibility if the machine cannot be fixed.

Sebastian’s video about his saga is deeply disingenuous — he makes it sound as though Apple isn’t able to repair any iMac Pro with a damaged display. As Rossignol’s reporting makes clear, that’s not true. On the surface it does sound wrong that Apple refuses to repair Sebastian’s iMac Pro, even though he’s willing to pay for it. But in car terms, Apple is saying his iMac is totaled. Apple — or at least the technicians and Genius Bar staffers who’ve looked at it — want no part of this machine, for legitimate reasons.

See also: Rene Ritchie’s video on the saga.

Daisy, Apple’s iPhone Disassembling Robot Successor to Liam 

Among Apple’s Earth Day-related announcements:

Apple’s newest disassembly robot, Daisy, is the most efficient way to reclaim more of the valuable materials stored in iPhone. Created through years of R&D, Daisy incorporates revolutionary technology based on Apple’s learnings from Liam, its first disassembly robot launched in 2016. Daisy is made from some of Liam’s parts and is capable of disassembling nine versions of iPhone and sorting their high-quality components for recycling. Daisy can take apart up to 200 iPhone devices per hour, removing and sorting components, so that Apple can recover materials that traditional recyclers can’t — and at a higher quality.

Perhaps it’s just my 2001 obsession, but I think it’s a solid bet that Daisy is named after the song HAL sings while Bowman is disconnecting him.

Apple GiveBack 

New recycling program from Apple:

Trade in your eligible device for an Apple Store Gift Card. If it’s not eligible for credit, we’ll recycle it for free. No matter the model or condition, we can turn it into something good for you and good for the planet.

And through April 30, we’ll make a donation to Conservation International for every device we receive — getting us even closer to leaving the world better than we found it.

I tried my space black first-generation Apple Watch — which I paid $1,100 for in 2015 — and Apple is offering me $75. I suspect I could sell it for more than that. It’s fully functional and the display and case are in near-mint condition, thanks to the scratch resistance of sapphire and DLC-coated stainless steel. Perhaps this is obvious, but this GiveBack program seems intended for devices that are no longer useful. I’d find it interesting if Apple had one unified program for trading in old devices, both still useful (which Apple could sell as refurbished) and not (which would be recycled).

Jackass of the Week: Analyst Neil Campling 

Arjun Kharpal, writing for CNBC under the jacktastic headline “Apple’s iPhone X Will Be Killed Off This Year, Analyst Says”:

TSMC’s record inventory levels are due to Apple not buying components for any future iPhone X models, suggesting the device will be killed off this year, Campling said.

“With the declines in iPhone X orders and the inventory issue at TSMC at record highs, which basically reflect a need to burn off inventory. Why? Because the iPhone X is dead,” Campling wrote in his note.

“The simple problem with X is that it is too expensive,” Campling told CNBC by phone on Friday, talking about the device’s $999 price tag. “Consumers are turning their backs on high-priced smartphones.”

It might be true that the iPhone X will be discontinued in September when new iPhones are announced, but I guarantee it will be replaced by a successor. It actually makes sense that Apple wouldn’t keep the iPhone X around for another year at a lower price — that’s the iPhone 8’s role.

I don’t know why CNBC is paying credence to Campling on this, because by all accounts the iPhone X is selling well or very well. Tim Cook told CNBC in February that “iPhone X was our most popular iPhone, despite not beginning to ship until November.” A report this week from Counterpoint claims the iPhone X alone accounted for 35 percent of all profits in the industry in Q4 2017 — even though it only went on sale in November. (The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus combined for 34 percent; all iPhones combined accounted for 86 percent. I don’t know how much credence to give to Counterpoint’s report because I don’t know their methodology, but if their numbers are even vaguely accurate, Apple has almost no competition in the premium handset market. Samsung’s top two phones combined account for less than 5 percent of industry profits, and no other company had a phone that cracked the top 10.)

‘2001: A Space Odyssey’: What It Means, and How It Was Made 

Nice piece by Dan Chiasson for The New Yorker “on the tedium and the triumph of 2001: A Space Odyssey”:

Kubrick brought to his vision of the future the studiousness you would expect from a history film. 2001 is, in part, a fastidious period piece about a period that had yet to happen. Kubrick had seen exhibits at the 1964 World’s Fair, and pored over a magazine article titled “Home of the Future.” The lead production designer on the film, Tony Masters, noticed that the world of 2001 eventually became a distinct time and place, with the kind of coherent aesthetic that would merit a sweeping historical label, like “Georgian” or “Victorian.” “We designed a way to live,” he recalled, “down to the last knife and fork.” (The Arne Jacobsen flatware, designed in 1957, was made famous by its use in the film, and is still in production.) By rendering a not-too-distant future, Kubrick set himself up for a test: thirty-three years later, his audiences would still be around to grade his predictions. Part of his genius was that he understood how to rig the results. Many elements from his set designs were contributions from major brands — Whirlpool, Macy’s, DuPont, Parker Pens, Nikon — which quickly cashed in on their big-screen exposure. If 2001 the year looked like 2001 the movie, it was partly because the film’s imaginary design trends were made real.

CNN: YouTube Ran Ads From Hundreds of Mainstream Brands on Extremist Channels 

Paul P. Murphy, Kaya Yurieff, and Gianluca Mezzofiore, reporting for CNN:

Ads from over 300 companies and organizations — including tech giants, major retailers, newspapers and government agencies — ran on YouTube channels promoting white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda, a CNN investigation has found.

Companies such as Adidas, Amazon, Cisco, Facebook, Hershey, Hilton, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Netflix, Nordstrom and Under Armour may have unknowingly helped finance some of these channels via the advertisements they paid for on Google-owned YouTube.

US tax dollars may have gone to the channels, too. Ads from five US government agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and Centers for Disease Control, appeared on the channels.

Facebook is getting a lot of attention lately, but it’s starting to feel like YouTube is losing its credibility too.

Amazon and Best Buy Team Up to Sell Smart TVs 

David Pierce:

Rivals Amazon.com Inc. and Best Buy Co. are joining forces to sell television sets powered by Amazon’s Fire TV operating system.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly revealed the partnership on Tuesday at a Best Buy store in Bellevue, Wash. The companies will sell 11 models, starting this summer with TVs by Toshiba and Best Buy house brand Insignia. Best Buy will feature the Amazon-powered TVs in its stores and on its website and become the exclusive merchant of these TVs on Amazon.com.

“What we’re doing is so deeply integrated,” Mr. Bezos said, acknowledging the fact that his company and Best Buy are often considered rivals. “It’s only possible because we trust each other.”

I don’t know if Best Buy should trust Amazon or not, but I do know I wish Apple would get it together and make some TVs with Apple TV built-in.

Pew: Majority of U.S. Teens Worry About School Shootings 

Nikki Graf, writing for Pew Research Center:

In the aftermath of the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a majority of American teens say they are very or somewhat worried about the possibility of a shooting happening at their school — and most parents of teens share that concern, according to new Pew Research Center surveys of teens ages 13 to 17 and parents with children in the same age range.

Meanwhile, when it comes to what can be done to prevent this kind of violence, far more teens view proposals focused on mental illness, assault-style weapon bans and the use of metal detectors in schools as potentially effective than say the same about allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns in schools.

It is absolutely shameful that we as a country have let it get to the point where a majority of teenagers are worried about a shooting at their school. When I was in high school 30 years ago, the notion that there even could be a shooting at my school never crossed my mind.

Barack Obama on the Parkland Students 

Barack Obama, writing for Time magazine’s “Most Influential People of 2018” on Parkland, Florida students Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma González, and Alex Wind:

America’s response to mass shootings has long followed a predictable pattern. We mourn. Offer thoughts and prayers. Speculate about the motives. And then — even as no developed country endures a homicide rate like ours, a difference explained largely by pervasive accessibility to guns; even as the majority of gun owners support commonsense reforms — the political debate spirals into acrimony and paralysis.

This time, something different is happening. This time, our children are calling us to account.

The Parkland, Fla., students don’t have the kind of lobbyists or big budgets for attack ads that their opponents do. Most of them can’t even vote yet.

But they have the power so often inherent in youth: to see the world anew; to reject the old constraints, outdated conventions and cowardice too often dressed up as wisdom.

The power to insist that America can be better.

He has such a distinct writing style — I can hear his voice as I read his words.

A Flaw-by-Flaw Guide to Facebook’s New GDPR Privacy Changes 

Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch:

Facebook is about to start pushing European users to speed through giving consent for its new GDPR privacy law compliance changes. It will ask people to review how Facebook applies data from the web to target them with ads, and surface the sensitive profile info they share. Facebook will also allow European and Canadian users to turn on facial recognition after six years of the feature being blocked there. But with a design that encourages rapidly hitting the “Agree” button, a lack of granular controls, a laughably cheatable parental consent request for teens and an aesthetic overhaul of Download Your Information that doesn’t make it any easier to switch social networks, Facebook shows it’s still hungry for your data.

A good example of the dark patterns they’re employing:

But the fact that the button to reject the new Terms of Service isn’t even a button, it’s a tiny “see your options” hyperlink, shows how badly Facebook wants to avoid you closing your account. When Facebook’s product designer for the GDPR flow was asked if she thought this hyperlink was the best way to present the alternative to the big “I Accept” button, she disingenuously said yes, eliciting scoffs from the room of reporters. It seems obvious that Facebook is trying to minimize the visibility of the path to account deletion rather than making it an obvious course of action if you don’t agree to its terms.

Not only is it a tiny hyperlink instead of a button, the link is just a few pixels above the big “I ACCEPT” button.

How Jason Snell Writes on iPad 

I asked, Jason answered:

A reader on Twitter suggested I buy this iPad stand on Amazon, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s surprisingly sturdy. The base that approximates the foot of an iMac is metal, not plastic. A hinge lets me pivot the iPad up and down and likewise doesn’t feel cheap. And the clip mechanism — the stand comes with clips for large and small iPads — is strong enough to hold my iPad without any worry of it sliding out. Best of all, the thing rotates, so I can use my iPad in portrait (for more words on the screen) or landscape (for use with Split View) as I see fit.

The stand is only $40, so I ordered one yesterday. I also ordered a Matias Laptop Pro, a Bluetooth mechanical keyboard that Snell — who’s in even deeper than I am with a mechanical keyboard collection — says feels and sounds quite a bit like an Apple Extended Keyboard II.

Reuters: Facebook to Put 1.5 Billion Users Out of Reach of New EU Privacy Law 

David Ingram, reporting for Reuters:

If a new European law restricting what companies can do with people’s online data went into effect tomorrow, almost 1.9 billion Facebook Inc users around the world would be protected by it. The online social network is making changes that ensure the number will be much smaller.

Facebook members outside the United States and Canada, whether they know it or not, are currently governed by terms of service agreed with the company’s international headquarters in Ireland.

Next month, Facebook is planning to make that the case for only European users, meaning 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America will not fall under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect on May 25.

This sounds like bullshit to me, if they plan to continue funneling the revenue they generate from those users through their Irish subsidiary.

Daring Fireball Sponsorship Openings 

The next few weeks — including this current one — are open on the DF sponsorship calendar. Get in touch if you have a product or service to promote to DF’s savvy audience.

The display ads — where it says “Your Ad Here” over there on the left — have openings too. If you jump on this week’s opening or next week’s, I’ll throw in the display ad for the remainder of April as a bonus.

Jeff Bezos Releases Non-Bezos Number: 100 Million Prime Subscribers 

Jeff Bezos, in his annual Amazon shareholder letter:

13 years post-launch, we have exceeded 100 million paid Prime members globally. In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year — both worldwide and in the U.S. Members in the U.S. now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items.

The Menu Bar 

Jack Wellborn:

The menu bar has been, and in my opinion remains, the best mechanism for providing familiarity, discoverability, and progressive disclosure in user interfaces on any platform. Even beyond the Mac, anyone who has clicked on a File menu in one platform has a pretty good shot at guessing where a Save command might be when provided a File menu somewhere else. Likewise and also regardless of operating system, someone presented with an entirely new application can safely open and explore menus to try and locate features they might need. Never pivoted data before, but need to for the first time? Hey look, there’s a menu in the bar called Data! Finally, let’s say that same seemingly one-time operation becomes a regular course of action that is needed multiple times a day. The best menu bars provide an equivalent keyboard shortcut right next to the command so, for example, anyone can discover how to save using command — s without having to be told.

So then why are menu bars fading out of more modern UX conventions?

Such a great piece. The menu bar, in my opinion, is the single biggest reason why Mac apps can grow to a greater manageable complexity than iOS apps. I’m not saying iOS should get a menu bar — I’m saying this is why it makes sense for Apple to maintain its dual platform strategy. The Mac’s menu bar — and the many dozens of commands it allows an app to offer in an organized, out-of-your-way-until-you-want-to-see-it system-wide standard interface — epitomizes my argument from when the iPad first shipped: It’s the heaviness of the Mac that allows iOS to remain light.

A Tale of Two QuickTimes 

Dan Moren, writing for Six Colors:

Among the casualties of the impending transition to 64-bit apps is one long-lasting oddity: QuickTime 7 Pro.

What makes this app so unusual are a few factors. For one thing, it’s one of Apple’s own apps. For another, it was first released in 2005, making it almost 13 years old, though it hasn’t seen an update in about 8 years.

But despite its age and the fact that the writing was on the wall for QuickTime 7, news that it wouldn’t see an update when macOS makes the jump to all-64-bit-all-the-time sparked some cries of frustration from users, including both myself and Jason, who have carved out a place in their workflows — and their hearts — for this little anachronism.

The biggest reason that people are up in arms about the death of QuickTime 7 Pro is that its successor, QuickTime Player X, never quite filled its shoes when it came to features.

I still use QuickTime 7 Pro, too — I have it set as my default app to open any video file. When I checked my list of installed apps looking for any remaining 32-bit hold-outs, none of the apps I use regularly are 32-bit. But I spotted several irregularly used apps that are.

This was not the case with iOS’s deprecation of 32-bit apps. With iOS, the only apps I lost use of were a few old games (including Apple’s own Texas Hold ’Em game, which was really rather fun). With the Mac, I’ll be losing a few useful apps. But that was true of the PowerPC to Intel transition, and the Motorola 68K to PowerPC transition. I vaguely recall some software that ran under System 6 but broke under System 7 in 1991. This is the price we pay for a platform that remains both relevant and (at least compared to Windows) low-cruft.

What makes QuickTime 7 Pro particularly irksome, as Moren points out, is that it’s Apple’s own software and Apple has resolutely refused to address QuickTime X’s deficiencies for over a decade, so nobody expects to ever see a full replacement for QuickTime Pro. Maybe there’s an opportunity here for a third-party app to take up the mantle — but if that hasn’t happened in the last decade, I’m not too hopeful about it happening now.

Elon Musk Memo on the State of Tesla 

Skip the Electrek summary and scroll down to the memo itself. It’s a cogent and fascinating read:

Most of the design tolerances of the Model 3 are already better than any other car in the world. Soon, they will all be better. This is not enough. We will keep going until the Model 3 build precision is a factor of ten better than any other car in the world. I am not kidding.

Our car needs to be designed and built with such accuracy and precision that, if an owner measures dimensions, panel gaps and flushness, and their measurements don’t match the Model 3 specs, it just means that their measuring tape is wrong.

Some parts suppliers will be unwilling or unable to achieve this level of precision. I understand that this will be considered an unreasonable request by some. That’s ok, there are lots of other car companies with much lower standards. They just can’t work with Tesla.

The Guardian: ‘Far More Than 87 Million Facebook Users Had Data Compromised by Cambridge Analytica’ 

Alex Hern, reporting for The Guardian:

Far more than 87 million people may have had their Facebook data harvested by Cambridge Analytica, according to evidence from former employee Brittany Kaiser.

Speaking to the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, Kaiser said Cambridge Analytica had a suite of personality quizzes designed to extract personal data from the social network, of which Aleksandr Kogan’s This Is Your Digital Life app was just one example.

In evidence to the committee, Kaiser wrote: “The Kogan/GSR datasets and questionnaires were not the only Facebook-connected questionnaires and datasets which Cambridge Analytica used. I am aware in a general sense of a wide range of surveys which were done by CA or its partners, usually with a Facebook login — for example, the ‘sex compass’ quiz.”

Called it.

50 Shades of Space Gray 

Michael Steeber, writing for 9to5Mac:

Yet, ubiquity has not brought consistency. Each new generation of a product seems to bring with it a slightly different take on space gray. Those with large device collections have noted the discrepancies between shades, and discussions brew online over the term’s exact definition.

While subtle variations in material, texture, lighting, and even the shape of a product can play tricks on the eyes, every device Apple currently offers or has produced in space gray can be grouped into one of several loosely defined categories. Below, we’ve cataloged and categorized the vast universe of Apple’s recent dark material finishes in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of space gray.

Unsurprisingly, I found this article a lot of fun. Certainly seems comprehensive.

Spotify and Hulu Team Up for $13 Subscription Bundle 

Jackie Wattles, writing for CNN Tech:

The companies said Wednesday that a $12.99 per-month plan will get you access to Spotify’s ad-free music streaming service and Hulu’s basic package that allows you to stream TV shows and movies with some ad breaks.

Paying for both services separately would set you back about $18 — $9.99 for Spotify Premium and $7.99 for Hulu.

Seems like a good deal and a smart partnership.

This is why I think Apple will roll its upcoming exclusive TV shows into Apple Music — people are naturally reluctant to sign up for yet another subscription. Spitball: $10 a month for Apple Music only (same as now); $15 for Apple Music and TV. Or maybe just give the shows to everyone at the current $10 — focus more on getting as many people signed up as possible, not extracting additional revenue from those who are signed up.

GrayKey iPhone Unlocker Poses Serious Security Concerns 

Thomas Reed, writing for the Malwarebytes Labs blog:

Thanks to an anonymous source, we now know what this mysterious device looks like, and how it works. And while the technology is a good thing for law enforcement, it presents some significant security risks.

GrayKey is a gray box, four inches wide by four inches deep by two inches tall, with two lightning cables sticking out of the front.

Two iPhones can be connected at one time, and are connected for about two minutes. After that, they are disconnected from the device, but are not yet cracked. Some time later, the phones will display a black screen with the passcode, among other information. The exact length of time varies, taking about two hours in the observations of our source. It can take up to three days or longer for six-digit passcodes, according to Grayshift documents, and the time needed for longer passphrases is not mentioned. Even disabled phones can be unlocked, according to Grayshift.

After the device is unlocked, the full contents of the filesystem are downloaded to the GrayKey device. From there, they can be accessed through a web-based interface on a connected computer, and downloaded for analysis. The full, unencrypted contents of the keychain are also available for download.

So the phone is only connected to the box for two minutes, and then the phone itself displays the passcode after it’s cracked? If I’m reading this right, the box must jailbreak the iPhone and install the cracking software on the iPhone itself. I guess that would explain how they get around iOS’s (optional) wipe-after-10-wrong-guesses feature, as well as the escalating delays after a few wrong guesses.

Hopefully Apple can figure out how to fix this jailbreak. If you’re concerned about this, you ought to switch to a stronger alphanumeric passphrase.

Nikola Tesla Predicted the Smartphone in 1926 

Remarkably prescient predictions from Tesla, in a 1926 interview with Collier’s:

When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.

We shall be able to witness and hear events — the inauguration of a President, the playing of a world series game, the havoc of an earthquake or the terror of a battle — just as though we were present.

Streaming video is getting to be old hat. It’s human nature that we take every breakthrough for granted after just a few years. But sometimes when I’m watching a live baseball game on my phone while I’m walking around, it strikes me just how futuristic it would seem to my younger self.

Jamf Now 

My thanks to Jamf for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. It is essential that you secure the Apple devices in your organization. With Jamf Now you can get inventory, configure Wi-Fi and email settings, deploy applications, protect company data, and even lock or wipe a device from anywhere.

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Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. Forever. After that, each additional device is just $2 per month.

Serenity Caldwell’s 9.7 iPad (2018) Review: Drawn, Written, Edited, and Produced With an iPad 

Serenity Caldwell:

More than anything else, the Apple Pencil is the game changer for the 2018 iPad. So I used it to draw, write, and create a review done entirely on the 9.7-inch tablet.

Very impressive video. She even composed her own score in GarageBand.

Alan Kay on Steve Jobs and the Original iPhone 

Alan Kay, on Quora:

I think he invited me to the 2007 iPhone unveiling partly because it was kind of a tiny “Dynabook” — and he had always wanted to do one — and partly because he was going to use a quote of mine that he had always taken to heart “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware”.

The photo of us chatting was taken right after the event. He brought the iPhone to me, put it in my hands, and asked: “Alan, is this good enough to be criticized?”. My reply was to make a shape with my hands the size of an iPad: “Steve, make it this size and you’ll rule the world”.

The iPad is a huge hit, of course, but it turns out it’s the iPhone that rules the world. (Via Dave Mark.)

MacOS High Sierra 10.13.4 Now Shows an Alert the First Time You Launch a 32-Bit App 

Apple:

Starting with macOS High Sierra 10.13.4, apps that have not been updated to use 64-bit processes produce a one-time alert when opened. This gives users advance notice that they are running 32-bit software, which will not be compatible with macOS in the future.

It’s almost certain we’ll hear more about this at WWDC when MacOS 10.14 is announced. I think 32-bit apps might still work in 10.14, though.

Here’s how to check for 32-bit apps on your Mac:

From the Apple menu, choose About This Mac, then click the System Report button. From the system report, scroll down to Software, then select Applications. When you select an individual application, you will see a field titled ”64-bit (Intel)”. “Yes” indicates 64-bit; “No” indicates 32-bit.

Final Cut Pro X Adds Support for Closed Captions 

Kevin Hamm:

You might have read my complaint that Apple, the tech leader in all things accessibility, somehow had managed for nearly two decades to not bother with Closed Captions in their media software for professionals. While adding in tools for effects, for color grading, key, multi-cam, and so many other useful tools, we all were stuck waiting for good captioning tools.

With the release of Final Cut Pro 10.4.1 we have closed captions for everyone!

A rare beast: a genuine finally.

FCC Appears to Leak Photos of Gold iPhone X 

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

Supply chain reports at the time strongly indicated that Apple had been planning to launch the iPhone X with a gold option, but the company could not reach the necessary yields.

I don’t care for gold personally, but this would have been popular I think. And will be popular, if Apple can pull off a similar look with a future iPhone. Ever since Apple started shipping gold-toned iPhones, I’ve thought they should try one with a black front face.

Selling Secrets From Cupertino 

Here’s an old piece by Matt Drance on a case from 2010 where an Apple leaker was indicted (and eventually pleaded guilty) for crimes:

The indictment claims Devine received approximately $2.5 million in kickbacks from these dealings, which he split with a co-conspirator. That was merely his share of the pot, though: the effect of his alleged actions on supplier contracts presumably cost Apple much more — perhaps tens of millions of dollars. A pending civil suit filed by Apple against Devine may or may not detail Apple’s estimated financial exposure.

Devine wasn’t a mere “leaker”. Presumably, most Apple employees who leak upcoming product information aren’t doing so for money. Devine was. He was sentenced to a year in prison and a $4.5 million fine.

The Canadian Cheese Cartel 

Allen Pike on Canada’s protectionist trade policies on cheese:

How expensive is cheese in Canada, you ask? Well let’s consider pizza, everybody’s favourite cheese delivery mechanism. There’s a big nationwide chain here called Boston Pizza that sells, among other things, pizza. A large pepperoni pizza at Boston Pizza is $30.28.

At Pizza Hut in the US, they currently have a deal on where you get a large pepperoni pizza for $7.99. That is less than $30.28 — even after health insurance premiums.

Now, would I recommend paying $8 for a Pizza Hut pizza? No. Would I recommend paying $30 for a Boston Pizza Pizza? Also no. Should we be eating pizza in the first place? Well, yes, pizza is delicious. As is cheese — but it’s slightly less delicious in Canada, because it’s god damned expensive.

I had no idea cheese was so expensive in Canada. It tells you how popular pizza is that it still sells at prices like that.

Gurman: HomePod Sales Lower Than Apple Expected 

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg:

During the HomePod’s first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon’s Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day.

I don’t put much value in comments from Slice Intelligence or anonymous suppliers, but if Apple Store employees are saying they’re only selling single digits per day, that sounds bad. (Would love to hear from any readers out there who work in Apple retail.) But I’d love some context on this. How many iPhones does a typical Apple Store sell per day? MacBooks? Apple TVs?

Teachers Get Miniature Baseball Bats to Confront Shooters in Pennsylvania District 

Christina Caron, reporting for The New York Times:

A school district in Erie, Pa., has supplied teachers and other school employees with miniature baseball bats to use as a last resort if confronted with an active shooter.

“We don’t want to be sitting ducks,” William Hall, superintendent of the Millcreek Township School District, said on Wednesday. “We’re not just going to go hide.” […]

The 600 bats each cost $3, Mr. Hall said, and are akin to a ballpark souvenir.

They are no match, of course, for a gunman toting a semiautomatic weapon. Even so, Mr. Hall said, “I think a bat could disarm a pistol with a nice swing.”

Are these people out of their fucking minds?

The Talk Show: Top Men 

Matthew Panzarino returns to the show to talk about his exclusive behind-the-scenes profile with Apple’s Pro Workflow Team and state of Apple’s professional Mac hardware and software.

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Rick Wilson on Paul Ryan: ‘He Behaved as if He Was Some Deferential Junior VP at a Trump Resort’ 

Longtime Republican political strategist Rick Wilson, hitting the nail on the head in his column at The Daily Beast on the sudden retirement of Paul Ryan:

Ryan and his caucus hoped to run on the tax cut, the economy, and infrastructure. All of these messages now will be swept aside. Ryan owns his share of the blame; too often, he behaved as if he was some deferential junior VP at a Trump resort and not the leader of the House of Representatives in a co-equal branch of government. The idea, popular among the House leadership, that a diet of ass-kissing and deference would make Trump into a normal President who didn’t need the political equivalent of Depends was always a strategic mistake.

Ryan is now paying the price. The rest of his caucus will pay in the fall.

Fast Company: ‘Apple Now Runs on 100 Percent Green Energy, and Here’s How It Got There’ 

Speaking of Lisa Jackson, Mark Sullivan has a detailed feature for Fast Company on Apple’s announcement that the company now runs on 100 percent green energy, and its push to get its suppliers there, too:

I asked Jackson to describe how Apple goes about persuading a supplier to switch to renewable energy, and she was blunt. The conversation, she says, might go something like “Hey this is something that’s becoming increasingly important to us, so get a leg up on the person that’s going to try to get this business away from you. Clean up your power act now.”

At the moment, this conversation involves a healthy dose of education. “What we say is that we’ll be there with you,” Jackson recounts. “We’ll help you scout deals, we’ll help you evaluate whether they’re real, we’ll help you know what to negotiate for, because most of these folks, they’re trying to make a part, and so what we can do for them is be sort of their in-house consulting firm.” But she adds that there will likely come a time where Apple will require suppliers to run their businesses on clean energy as a condition of a business relationship.

Even now, a Greenpeace report from last year noted, Apple is unique among big tech companies for tracking information about its suppliers’ green-energy progress. “Apple has thus far been fairly aggressive in pursuing its 2020 goal to deploy 4GW of renewable energy in its supply chain,” Greenpeace says in the report, “and has made significant progress with its suppliers as well.”

Scott Pruitt’s Idea to Update an E.P.A. Keepsake: Less E.P.A., More Pruitt 

Lisa Friedman and Kenneth P. Vogel, reporting for The New York Times on the latest from the egomaniacal self-aggrandizing branch of the Trump kakistocracy:

When Scott Pruitt wanted to refashion the Environmental Protection Agency’s “challenge coin” — a type of souvenir medallion with military origins that has become a status symbol among civilians — he proposed an unusual design: Make it bigger, and delete the E.P.A. logo.

Mr. Pruitt instead wanted the coin to feature some combination of symbols more reflective of himself and the Trump administration. Among the possibilities: a buffalo, to evoke Mr. Pruitt’s native Oklahoma, and a Bible verse to reflect his faith.

Other ideas included using the Great Seal of the United States — a design similar to the presidential seal — and putting Mr. Pruitt’s name around the rim in large letters, according to Ronald Slotkin, a career E.P.A. employee who retired this year, and two people familiar with the proposals who asked to remain anonymous because they said they feared retribution.

Wanting his own name in large letters around a bigger coin — sounds like something I’ve heard before.

Another person who was involved in the debate said that Mr. Pruitt had expressed disapproval of the agency’s seal, a round flower with four leaves. He felt it looked like a marijuana leaf.

Hard to believe this clown now holds the job formerly held by Lisa Jackson.

Vin Scully Announces That the 2020 All-Star Game Will Be Played at Dodger Stadium 

This is how you make an announcement. Wow.

Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes’s Desperate Letter to Shareholders 

Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes, accused of outright fraud by the SEC, in a letter to shareholders regarding the company’s impending default on a $100 million loan:

The most viable option that we have identified to forestall a near-term sale or a potential default under our credit agreement is further investment by one or more of you. In light of where we are, this is no easy ask. However, given your support of the company over the years, we wanted to provide this opportunity before we proceed too far down the current path.

Good luck with that. (And I thought Mark Zuckerberg was having a rough week.)

‘Why Mark Zuckerberg’s 14-Year Apology Tour Hasn’t Fixed Facebook’ 

Zeynep Tufekci, writing for Wired:

In 2003, one year before Facebook was founded, a website called Facemash began nonconsensually scraping pictures of students at Harvard from the school’s intranet and asking users to rate their hotness. Obviously, it caused an outcry. The website’s developer quickly proffered an apology. “I hope you understand, this is not how I meant for things to go, and I apologize for any harm done as a result of my neglect to consider how quickly the site would spread and its consequences thereafter,” wrote a young Mark Zuckerberg. “I definitely see how my intentions could be seen in the wrong light.”

‘Google and Facebook Can’t Help Publishers Because They’re Built to Defeat Publishers’ 

Peter Kafka, writing for Recode a few weeks ago:

For argument’s sake, let’s believe that Google believes its newest efforts to boost publishers — by promoting subscriptions, news literacy and other things publishers like — will help publishers.

Let’s also believe that Facebook believed it was helping publishers when it announced its own effort to boost publishers a year ago, and multiple times since then.

Here’s the problem: No matter how hard Google and Facebook try to help publishers, they will do more to hurt them, because that’s the way they’re supposed to work. They’re built to eviscerate publishers.

(I meant to post this in March, but somehow forgot. I was reminded of it today, as the news is filled with coverage of Mark Zuckerberg testifying to Congress.)

Ben Kuchera: ‘Why Are Fortnite Players So Frickin’ Nice?’ 

Ben Kuchera, writing for Polygon:

Before I continue, I know that there are shitty players out there, and I’ve stumbled across more than a few. But the tone of Fortnite has, in my experience, been much more positive than negative. It’s an issue I’ve discussed with my colleagues at length, but that niceness is something I’ve been hesitant to write about because it’s so squishy and strange. It feels almost unbelievable.

The average player I hear from in Fortnite is younger than I am — by decades in many cases — and they’re incredibly well-behaved online. If someone says they’re unfamiliar with the game, a dedicated player will explain the rules. People cheer each other’s victories and offer pep talks when someone gets angry. Players will jump into group chat to apologize for not having microphones, and everyone seems to be playing to have a good time.

I’m not a gamer, but my son is, and he and his friends love Fortnite, and I enjoy watching him play. It is a shooter, yes, but there’s something about the tone of it — the characters, the physics, the architecture — that just feels playful. Just look at the characters in the image accompanying Kuchera’s piece — they look like action figure toys.

It’s the most interesting game I’ve watched my son play in a long while. Even the business model is interesting: it’s a AAA game with high production values but is free-to-play. They make money only through in-game purchases.

Apple Lands Isaac Asimov ‘Foundation’ Series 

Mike Fleming Jr. and Nellie Andreeva, writing for Deadline:

In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. […]

Even the Game of Thrones’ creative team would marvel at the number of empires that rise and fall in Foundation. Asimov’s trilogy has been tried numerous times as a feature film at Fox, Warner Bros (with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who greenlit The Lord of the Rings), and then at Sony with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. Many top sci-fi writers have done scripts and found it daunting to constrict the sprawling saga to a feature film format. Most recently, HBO tried developing a series with Interstellar co-writer and Westworld exec producer Jonathan Nolan, but a script was never ordered.

I haven’t read the Foundation series since I was a teenager, but I remember being absolutely enthralled. A TV series is definitely the way to go with material like this. I don’t even think a trilogy of feature films could do justice to a story this sprawling — Foundation calls for the megamovie treatment.

‘Calvin County’ 

Perhaps due to my general aversion to April Fool’s Day jokes, I missed this last week: a wonderful collaboration between Bill Watterson and Berkeley Breathed.

Apple Introduces Product Red iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus 

I’m fully on board with the iPhone X, but these look amazing. The black face looks so much better than the white face on last year’s Product Red iPhone 7 models.

Magic Leap’s Fallback Plan: Patent Licensing 

Rachel Metz, writing for MIT Technology Review:

Few people outside the company have seen the device, let alone tried it. In March, Magic Leap released software tools for developers to start making apps for the device; those without access to the device have to use a software-based simulator to get a sense for what their creations will actually look like through the lenses of the headset.

The company has built up a trove of dozens of patents over the past several years that could be licensed to other companies as a sort of fallback plan if the headset fails.

There’s no “sort of” about it — becoming a patent troll would definitely be a fallback plan.

HP Goes Up Against the iPad Pro With Its $599 Chromebook X2 

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:

The Chromebook x2 seems to have a lot of potential, but there are some big questions — and not just about whether the hardware is as good as it looks. The real open question is whether Chrome OS is cut out to work on a tablet. Google has been overhauling the operating system to work better with touchscreens for a couple years now, but it’s still very much a desktop system. (It’s based on the Chrome desktop browser and its display of desktop websites, after all.) That’s likely to limit how useful it is, especially in comparison to an iPad, which was designed for touch from the ground up.

How good is Chrome on a tablet is my question exactly. And whatever happened to Google’s project to merge Android and Chrome OS into one operating system? Is that still a thing?

Maelstrom Still Runs 

Speaking of video games, Brent Simmons reminded me that Maelstrom — the excellent Asteroids clone originally created for the classic Mac OS by Ambrosia Software — still runs natively on Mac OS X. I just played for the first time in probably at least 10 years and scored over 47,000. Not bad. Can’t say much for the graphics when running full-screen on a 27-inch display, but it’s still damn fun.

Brian Krebs on ‘Security Questions’ and Facebook Surveys 

Brian Krebs:

Social media sites are littered with seemingly innocuous little quizzes, games and surveys urging people to reminisce about specific topics, such as “What was your first job,” or “What was your first car?” The problem with participating in these informal surveys is that in doing so you may be inadvertently giving away the answers to “secret questions” that can be used to unlock access to a host of your online identities and accounts.

I’m willing to bet that a good percentage of regular readers here would never respond — honestly or otherwise — to such questionnaires (except perhaps to chide others for responding). But I thought it was worth mentioning because certain social networks — particularly Facebook — seem positively overrun with these data-harvesting schemes. What’s more, I’m constantly asking friends and family members to stop participating in these quizzes and to stop urging their contacts to do the same.

Krebs is right (as usual), but at the end of his post he points to the real problem — the fact that so many websites, particularly banks, still rely on questions like these for verifying your identity. It’s not secure at all.

Firewatch Is Coming to the Nintendo Switch 

Campo Santo:

When will it be out? All we can say is “soon!” Reengineering the sprawling meadows and towering trees of Firewatch’s wilderness to play perfectly on new hardware is no small engineering task. We’ve been hard at work stripping much of Firewatch’s tech down to the studs and rebuilding it to render the world more quickly, to stream and load faster, and to generally be more responsive. Nearly everyone in the Campo Santo office has a Nintendo Switch (and the rest want one). We know what a good Switch game feels like, and want to make sure Firewatch feels like one too.

Plus, we’re hoping to throw in a couple surprises just for the Switch release.

I don’t spend a lot of time playing video games, but I absolutely loved Firewatch. It’s great to see so many games coming to the Switch.

The Looptail Lowercase G 

Lauren Sigfusson, writing for Discover:

Most of us learn the ABCs in our youth. We see and say the letters so many times they eventually become etched in our minds.

But researchers from Johns Hopkins University discovered that many people don’t know what the most common lowercase print version of the seventh letter of the alphabet really is. Heck, some didn’t even know there were two types.

There are two ways people write the lowercase letter G. The looptail, which we tend to read because it’s used in easy-to-read fonts like Times New Roman, Cambria and Calibri, and in most printed and typed material. The second is the opentail, which is the one we tend to write.

Go back to the top photo: Can you determine the correct looptail?

I got this correct, but if I had been asked to draw a looptail ‘G’ from memory I’d have failed. It is a really weird letter shape when you stare at it. Anyway, be sure to read through to the very end, for a fun editor’s note. (Via Paul Kafasis.)

JetPens 

My thanks to JetPens for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Longtime readers are probably aware that one of my obsessions is stationery — particularly pens and notebooks. JetPens is one of my very favorite companies in the world — they offer an incredible selection of the best pens, pencils, notepads, and office toys from around the world. A few of their latest items:

Place an order through this link and JetPens will include a free gel pen with every $35.00 spent. One of your options is my very favorite pen in the world: the 0.4mm Zebra Sarasa push clip gel pen.

Matthew Panzarino Goes Behind-the-Scenes With Apple’s Pro Workflow Team 

Matthew Panzarino got exclusive access to Apple’s pro hardware and tools group:

Now, it’s a year later and Apple has created a team inside the building that houses its pro products group. It’s called the Pro Workflow Team, and they haven’t talked about it publicly before today. The group is under John Ternus and works closely with the engineering organization. The bays that I’m taken to later to chat about Final Cut Pro, for instance, are a few doors away from the engineers tasked with making it run great on Apple hardware. […]

To do that, Ternus says, they want their architects sitting with real customers to understand their actual flow and to see what they’re doing in real time. The challenge with that, unfortunately, is that though customers are typically very responsive when Apple comes calling, it’s not always easy to get what they want because they may be using proprietary content. John Powell, for instance, is a long-time Logic user and he’s doing the new Star Wars Han Solo standalone flick. As you can imagine, taking those unreleased and highly secret compositions to Apple to play with on their machines can be a sticking point.

So Apple decided to go a step further and just begin hiring these creatives directly into Apple. Some of them on a contract basis but many full-time, as well. These are award-winning artists and technicians that are brought in to shoot real projects (I saw a bunch of them walking by in Apple Park toting kit for an on-premise outdoor shoot). They then put the hardware and software through their paces and point out sticking points that could cause frustration and friction among pro users.

The big news of the day is that Apple told Panzarino the new Mac Pro will not appear until 2019 — disappointing to many, but not surprising to me. I know that many pros want Apple to simply put Intel’s most powerful Xeon processors in a tower enclosure and call it a day. Apple clearly has something more than that in mind, and they’re not going to tell us what that is until it’s ready.

But this Pro Workflows Group idea is fascinating — and I’m surprised its existence never leaked. They’ve got real film editors, visual effects artists, and music producers working in house, right across the hall from the engineers working on their tools. And these groups are informing the design of the new Mac Pro (and other future pro hardware).

Sure, I wish the new Mac Pro were coming sooner. But overall this story is fantastic news for pro users — it shows Apple not only cares about the pro market, but that they’ve changed course and decided that the best way to serve pros is to work with them hand in hand.

Facebook Sharply Increases Estimate of How Many Users’ Information Was Harvested By Cambridge Analytica 

Cecilia King, reporting for The New York Times:

Facebook on Wednesday said the personal information of up to 87 million people, most of them Americans, may have been improperly shared during the 2016 election with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm connected to President Trump.

The new figure sharply increased the company’s previous estimate of how many users’ information was harvested by Cambridge Analytica. For weeks, Facebook had said that the data of about 50 million users was at issue.

Do you want to bet it’s actually a lot more than 87 million, and they’ll announce that bigger number in a few weeks? The drip-drip-drip PR strategy is an old trick, and Facebook utilizes it every time they have bad news involving a number of users. First they announce a low number, then a higher number, and then an even higher number. Notice that their mistakes always — always — start low and then go high. They never once announce that their original number was too high.

Update: The Washington Post:

Facebook said Wednesday that most of its 2 billion users likely have had their public profiles scraped by outsiders without the users’ explicit permission, dramatically raising the stakes in a privacy controversy that has dogged the company for weeks, spurred investigations in the United States and Europe, and sent the company’s stock price tumbling.

OK, that 2 billion number probably isn’t a lowball, because that’s everyone.

AirPods and the Three Stages of Apple Criticism 

I found myself nodding my head in agreement reading this piece by Jonathan Kim:

I really wish I was exaggerating, but these seven reasons are the main ways Apple critics attempt to explain why someone would choose to buy products critics believe are both overpriced and inferior to their competition. Because if you’ve already come to the conclusion that Apple products are overpriced and inferior, but hundreds of millions of people still buy them, the only conclusion must be that there is something seriously wrong with the people who buy them.

Four Snappy New iPhone X Apple Pay Ads 

It’s funny that these debuted the day after I called for Apple to release new Apple Pay commercials, and all four of these are very clever — they each tell a complete story in about 10 seconds. But I don’t think they solve the problem of educating about just what Apple Pay is, and especially why it’s more secure than using a credit or debit card.

What I’m thinking Apple ought to do to get Apple Pay skeptics on board is create a series of explain-it-to-me-like-I-have-no-idea-what-it-is spots like the original iPhone ads.

Update: This video on Apple’s YouTube channel is more along the lines of what I think they need to put on TV, at least content-wise.

Bradley Chambers on Apple’s Education Strategy 

Bradley Chambers, in his summary of last week’s Apple education event:

Apple’s next book for education needs to be about reinventing everything. Part of the Tim Cook doctrine is this:

“We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”

This doctrine should apply to education as well. If Apple believes they can make a significant contribution to schools, then they should go all in to change everything about school technology. They should buy major a textbook publisher and change the purchasing model for books when you deploy iPads. They should buy (or buy back) a student information system platform and integrate it with all of their new apps.

They should build a viable alternative to G-Suite that makes it easy for schools to manage communications. They should do all of this at a price where the least affluent districts can deploy it as easily as the most affluent ones.

‘On Apple, Love Letters, and Educators’ 

Scott Yoshinaga:

Want to manage all that hardware you just bought? Get JAMF Casper to do your Mobile Device Management. Want a place to store all that content you’re creating on your Mac or iPad? Buy some Dropbox storage or use Google Drive because Managed Apple ID has no way to purchase more iCloud storage from Apple. Looking for a Learning Management System? Subscribe to an app like Showbie or SeeSaw. Do you see a pattern? This isn’t to disparage any of the third-parties mentioned as my school currently depends on each of them to fill in the gaps that Apple won’t. However, all of those services cost money and can quickly add up to a significant amount spent year-over-year. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to have choices in this space, but it’s hard to take Apple seriously when they don’t have any first-party solutions in these areas for the education market.

By comparison, Google with Chromebooks combined with GSuite for Education gives you an email account, unlimited file and media storage in Google Drive, a place for hosting student created web content in Google Sites, ability to use Google Accounts as a single sign-on for various services, constantly upgraded collaboration in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides and so much more for free. It’s a shame that schools that use Apple’s hardware need to depend on Google’s GSuite for many of the services Apple doesn’t provide. There are administrators that would love to go all in on Apple, especially because of their focus on privacy, but without integrated services, they need to lean on third parties which can render Apple’s strength in privacy moot.

My point is that even if my school wanted to go all-in with Apple, we simply can’t. It feels as if Apple has no desire to take care of the entire eco-system when it comes to education technology.

This is a long excerpt, but Yoshinga has many other interesting observations about the state of Apple and education. But this bit above gets to the heart of it. Back in 2012 (when Apple last held an education-focused event), Apple announced new hardware and software. That’s what Apple had always done to thrive in the education market. But what Apple clearly missed then was that what educators needed were thorough device and student account management systems. Apple didn’t and still doesn’t have that. Google does.

Agenda: New Mac Notes App That Lets You Attach Notes to Calendar Events 

Khoi Vinh, on a killer feature in the new Mac notes app Agenda:

Unlike those competing apps, though, Agenda also gives me the option of associating any given note to a specific event on my calendar. The screenshot below shows how clicking on the calendar icon lets me find a date, view the events on that date, and then link that event with the current note. Even more powerfully, I can also view my calendar in a right-hand pane, click on an event there and initiate a new, linked note that automatically copies over the event’s title, attendees and description. Brilliant.

I just tried this and it’s really simple, obvious, and clever. When you attach an Agenda note to an event, it simply puts an agenda://note/<unique-identifier> URL in the event’s note field. Simple.

Scott Galloway on Trump Targeting Jeff Bezos: ‘He Comes Across as Uninformed’ 

“One of them is acting presidential, the other is president.”

Trump on Jeff Bezos: ‘How Can I Fuck With Him?’ 

Gabriel Sherman, writing for Vanity Fair:

Now, according to four sources close to the White House, Trump is discussing ways to escalate his Twitter attacks on Amazon to further damage the company. “He’s off the hook on this. It’s war,” one source told me. “He gets obsessed with something, and now he’s obsessed with Bezos,” said another source. “Trump is like, how can I fuck with him?” […]

Even Trump’s allies acknowledge that much of what’s fueling Trump’s rage toward Amazon is that Amazon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, sources said. “Trump doesn’t like The New York Times, but he reveres it because it’s his hometown paper. The Washington Post, he has zero respect for,” the Republican close to the White House said. While the Post says that Bezos has no involvement in newsroom decisions, Trump has told advisers he believes Bezos uses the paper as a political weapon. One former White House official said Trump looks at the Post the same way he looks at the National Enquirer. “When Bezos says he has no involvement, Trump doesn’t believe him. His experience is with the David Peckers of the world. Whether it’s right or wrong, he knows it can be done.”

Josh Marshall, earlier this week, in an excellent column at Talking Points Memo:

Having a sitting President launching scathing personal attacks on a federal law enforcement officer and demanding his firing or imprisonment for personal and political motives is wildly outside the norms that govern the American system. Similarly, a President who routinely threatens prosecutorial or regulatory vengeance against private companies because they are not sufficiently politically subservient to him personally is entirely outside of our system of governance. At present, Donald Trump is an autocrat without an autocracy.

Can you even imagine the reaction from Republicans if Barack Obama had gone after, say, Rupert Murdoch in this way? And of course, Trump’s main beef with Amazon, that the U.S. Post Office is losing $1.47 on every package they deliver for Amazon, is complete bullshit. How anyone supports this president at this point is beyond my comprehension.

Amazon’s stock is taking a hit as a result of Trump’s rhetoric, but if I were an Amazon investor, I wouldn’t worry. Jeff Bezos is very, very smart. Donald Trump is not.

‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Immersive Art Exhibit at The Smithsonian 

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum:

Did you know that 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered 50 years ago at Washington, DC’s Uptown Theater, just a few miles from the National Air and Space Museum? To celebrate the film’s impact on culture and technology, we’re opening a special temporary exhibition of the immersive art installation The Barmecide Feast. In this exhibit, walk into a fully realized, full-scale reflection of the iconic, neo-classical hotel room from the penultimate scene of the film.

The installation will be open to the public from April 8 to May 28, 2018.

Groups of six will be allowed in the room for two minutes.

First thought: This is amazing, can’t wait to see it. Second thought: Two minutes?

HAL’s Early-Draft Sibling 

Lucy Orr, writing for The Register:

Tucked in a downstairs corner of the maze that is the London College of Communication is the Stanley Kubrick Archives. It’s open to the public for pre-booked visits and on a recent nose-around, though initially distracted by the first-edition Robert Crumb comics, I managed to get to grips (touch gently with gloved fingers) with one of the first draft scripts of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Bound in black and looking very much like the monolith from the film, I was surprised by the extent to which this script differs from what we see and hear in the finished film. One of the most striking divergences is the presence of a benevolent second HAL, determined to thwart his evil twin.

Apple Hires Google’s A.I. Chief, John Giannandrea 

Jack Nicas and Cade Metz, reporting for The New York Times:

Apple has hired Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, John Giannandrea, a major coup in its bid to catch up to the artificial intelligence technology of its rivals.

Apple said on Tuesday that Mr. Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and A.I. strategy,” and become one of 16 executives who report directly to Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.

Now this is some news that clearly shows Apple is getting more serious about Siri. “Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence” sounds like the single best possible person in the world Apple could hire to make Siri what it needs to be. I think it’s important too that Giannandrea reports directly to Cook. If it works out, we’ll probably look back at this as one of the most significant Apple executive hires ever.

The 50th Anniversary of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ 

Warner Brothers:

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Warner Bros. Pictures will debut an ‘unrestored’ 70mm print of the director’s groundbreaking science fiction epic at the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival. Widely considered among the greatest films of the 20th century, 2001: A Space Odyssey will return to select U.S. theatres in 70mm beginning May 18, 2018.

Set for Saturday, May 12, the world premiere will be held during the Cannes Classics section of the Festival, featuring an introduction by award-winning filmmaker Christopher Nolan. The screening will also be attended by members of Stanley Kubrick’s family, including his daughter, Katharina Kubrick, and longstanding producing partner and brother-in-law, Jan Harlan.

For the first time since the original release, this 70mm print was struck from new printing elements made from the original camera negative. This is a true photochemical film recreation. There are no digital tricks, remastered effects, or revisionist edits.

This is the unrestored film that recreates the cinematic event audiences experienced 50 years ago.

A longtime admirer of the late American auteur, Nolan worked closely with the team at Warner Bros. Pictures throughout the mastering process.

I am so insanely excited about this, I can barely contain myself. I’ve seen 70mm prints of 2001 on big screens twice. Once was a so-so older print. The other time was a cherry print. But this print sounds like something else altogether, and I can think of no one better than Christopher Nolan to have overseen it.

Apple Now Selling the iMac Pro’s Space Gray Keyboard, Mouse, and Trackpad at $20 Premiums 

Raymond Wong, writing for Mashable last week:

Following Apple’s education-focused event, the tech giant has quietly added the coveted Space Gray Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Mouse 2 to its online store. In other words, you no longer need to buy a iMac Pro just to get them, or fork over your life savings to scalpers on eBay.

Apple’s selling the Space Gray Magic Keyboard for $149 — a $20 premium over the regular silver model which costs $129. The Space Gray Magic Trackpad is also $149 and also costs $20 more than the $129 silver version. As for the Space Gray Magic Mouse 2, it $99 compared to the $79 silver version.

Speaking of “working hard to charge you more”.

Apple Increases Number of Job Openings With ‘Siri’ in the Title 

Joshua Fruhlinger, writing for Thinknum:

Apple hiring trend data suggests that the company is finally taking its Siri intelligent assistant seriously. According to hiring data that we track at Thinknum, the number of open positions that contain the term “Siri” has accelerated in recent weeks, with a current all-time high of 161 job listings posted today alone. This marks a jump in hiring for the keyword of 24% in just over a month.

I would caution against drawing any conclusions from this other than that Apple has increased the number of job openings which include “Siri” in the title. Does this mean they’re taking Siri “more seriously”? Maybe. But I don’t think they ever didn’t take it seriously. A lot of people seem to take it for granted that because Siri has stalled compared to Google Assistant and Alexa, it means Apple doesn’t care about Siri. I don’t think that conclusion follows at all — you can care passionately about something and fail.

This increase in “Siri” job openings could mean Apple has concluded they need to increase the headcount on the Siri team. Or it could mean there’s been a lot of turnover. And keep in mind Fred Brooks’s axiom from The Mythical Man-Month, which is almost universally regarded as true: “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” (I hesitated to include the Brooks’s law reference here, because Siri is not a single monolithic project. It’s more like a system of smaller sub-projects. But still, throwing engineers at a poorly organized software project can have the effect of throwing water on a grease fire.)

I think the true answer to the question “What’s gone wrong with Siri at Apple?” is almost certainly complex and multivariate. It’s naive to think it’s simply been understaffed.

Siri’s Problems With Women’s Sports 

Paul Kafasis, writing at One Foot Tsunami:

Look, men’s sports are undeniably more popular than women’s sports. Given that, if both the men’s and women’s teams were playing at the same time, it might be reasonable to default to the men’s game. This, however, is simply ridiculous. Rather than showing what is likely the single most popular women’s college event (the championship game of the women’s basketball tournament), Siri is instead showing a fifteen day old men’s game from the second-rate NIT.

In a footnote, Kafasis notes that rather than defaulting to men’s sports if both teams are playing on the same day, it would be better for Siri to ask. I will add that after asking, Siri should remember. And, on shared devices like HomePod, these voice assistants need to recognize our voices. I want Siri to recognize my voice and remember which sports (and which teams) I’m generally interested in. But if there’s another sports fan in my house, they shouldn’t be presumed to be fans of the same sports and teams.

The Talk Show: ‘Spending Tim Cook’s Money’ 

Serenity Caldwell returns to the show to talk about Apple’s education-focused event last week in Chicago.

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Bloomberg: ‘Apple Plans to Use Its Own Chips in Macs From 2020, Replacing Intel’ 

Bloomberg:

Apple is planning to use its own chips in Mac computers beginning as early as 2020, replacing processors from Intel, according to people familiar with the plans, Bloomberg News’ Ian King and Mark Gurman report.

The initiative, code named Kalamata, is still in the early developmental stages, but comes as part of a larger strategy to make all of Apple’s devices — including Macs, iPhones, and iPads — work more similarly and seamlessly together, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

Hell of a scoop if it pans out. We’ve all been speculating about ARM-based Macs for years. In broad strokes it seems like a rather obvious idea:

  • Apple seeks to control its own future. With Intel, Apple has often been stuck waiting for new Intel chips. The update schedule for new Mac hardware is often in Intel’s hands, not Apple’s.
  • Apple’s internal chip team has been killing it. They’ve never had a bad year. I think you can argue that they’ve never had anything but a great year. iPhones and iPad Pros have been faster than most MacBooks for years now, and that just seems wrong.

But when you start thinking about the details, this transition would (will?) be very difficult. First, while Apple’s existing A-series chips are better for energy-efficient mobile device use (iPhone, iPad, just-plain MacBook), Apple’s internal team has never made anything to compete with Intel at the high-performance end (MacBook Pros, and especially iMacs and Mac Pros). I’m not saying they can’t. I’m just saying they haven’t shown us anything yet.

And then there’s all sorts of questions about the transition period. Will there be something like Rosetta — an emulator or translator that allows existing x86 Mac software to run on the new ARM-based Macs? How far in advance will Apple announce this, so that developers can adapt their apps? (Apple announced the switch from PowerPC to Intel at WWDC 2005, and started shipping Intel-based MacBook Pros in early 2006.)

Diamond Assets 

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