Linked List: August 2018

NetNewsWire Comes Home to Brent Simmons 

Brent Simmons:

After some years spent traveling the world, NetNewsWire is now back where it started! It’s my app again. […]

You probably know that I’ve been working on a free and open source reader named Evergreen. Evergreen 1.0 will be renamed NetNewsWire 5.0 — in other words, I’ve been working on NetNewsWire 5.0 all this time without knowing it!

It will remain free and open source, and it will remain my side project. (By day I’m a Marketing Human at The Omni Group, and I love my job.)

Don’t miss George Dick’s gracious announcement on the Black Pixel blog. I’ve been privy to a bit of this news for a few weeks, and all I can say is that this seems like a great outcome for all involved. Black Pixel did a great job taking over NetNewsWire, but times change, and companies change. Handing the NetNewsWire name back to Brent was a classy move, but completely unsurprising to me, knowing George and the other folks at Black Pixel.

Evergreen also looked and felt like what NetNewsWire always was: a fast, graceful, modern Mac feed reader. Now it gets to call itself that.

9to5Mac Obtained Product Marketing Photos of ‘iPhone XS’ and Series 4 Apple Watch 

Guilherme Rambo, reporting for 9to5Mac:

We believe that the new 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch iPhones will both be called iPhone XS. We also believe iPhone XS will come in a new gold color option not previously offered on the new design. Apple leaked its own gold version of the iPhone X through the FCC, but it has not been available to purchase.

Other details are still to be determined, but we can report with certainty that iPhone XS will be the name, the OLED model will come in two sizes including a larger version, and each will be offered in gold for the first time.

Wow.

They also have a photo of a Series 4 Apple Watch, showing off an altogether new watch face that takes advantage of the bigger display and shows at least 8 complications in addition to the time of day. I particularly dig the weather complication in the corner that shows the daily high and low in addition to the current temperature. It also looks like the red dot on the digital crown that signifies a cellular model is now a much more subtle red ring — nice.

I’d love to hear the backstory on how 9to5Mac got these images. 9to5Mac offers no explanation for how they obtained them. Product marketing images and the names of new iPhones almost never leak from Apple. iPhone names sometimes get leaked in iOS builds, but not photos like these. These photos were almost certainly intended for the keynote. To my memory, this is unprecedented. My guess is that no one at Apple gave these images to 9to5Mac. I suspect Rambo, who is extraordinarily clever at finding things, somehow discovered them through a URL that was exposed publicly but should not have been.

Update: I missed this tweet from Rambo earlier today, in which he suggests that he found these images from a streaming video test.

Update 2: It doesn’t really make any sense that a streaming video test would contain stuff like this. And in fact, I’ve confirmed that Rambo’s tweet about poking around streaming URLs was unrelated to the iPhone and Apple Watch images. I’m back on my first theory, that he uncovered these images from a URL that shouldn’t have been publicly available.

Update 3: Looks like my theory was correct. Rambo:

So, about those marketing images: they came from the recap section of the special event website. I used the URL pattern from the last event and guessed the device’s names. Apple took them down immediately after we published.

Apple Event: Wednesday 12 September 

This one was pretty easy to guess.

Brilliant 

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The Talk Show: ‘Smallen Up the Bezels’ 

Special guest Jason Snell returns to the show. Topics do include mechanical keyboards, but do not — I swear — include baseball. Also: speculation on what Apple might do with the non-Pro MacBook lineup.

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Apollo 

Apollo is “a beautiful Reddit app built for power and speed” and it is indeed just that. Designed and developed by former Apple engineer Christian Selig, it’s simply remarkable. Two recurring themes at Daring Fireball are that native apps tend to be better than web apps, and that if you’re going to make a native app, it should be a good native app, that embraces the user interface idioms of the platform.

You know how Apple’s own apps for iOS are very iOS-y (they more or less define what it means to be iOS-y) but Google’s iOS apps feel foreign and weird because they’re designed around Google’s own Material Design idioms, and an app like Slack, though technically native, just seems weird? Apollo feels like what we’d get if Apple itself made a Reddit app for iOS: fonts, layout, colors, scrolling performance, works exactly how you want it to on both iPhone and iPad.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a heavy Reddit user, but Apollo is so nice it tempts me to use it more. If you do use Reddit and care about using good native apps, you’re nuts if you don’t try Apollo.

Allen Weisselberg, Longtime Trump Organization CFO, Is Granted Immunity in Cohen Probe 

Rebecca Ballhaus and Nicole Hong, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Allen Weisselberg, President Trump’s longtime financial gatekeeper, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Michael Cohen in the criminal investigation into hush-money payments for two women during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Weisselberg, who is chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, was called to testify before a federal grand jury in the investigation earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal previously reported, citing people familiar with the investigation. He then spoke to investigators, though it isn’t clear whether he appeared before the grand jury.

The decision by prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office to grant immunity to Mr. Weisselberg escalates the pressure on Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Weisselberg has served for decades as executive vice president as well as CFO for the Trump Organization. After Mr. Trump was elected, he handed control of his financial assets and business interests to his two adult sons and Mr. Weisselberg.

Mr. Weisselberg didn’t respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for Mr. Trump, who on Thursday said so-called flipping “almost ought to be illegal,” declined to comment.

The only reason prosecutors typically grant immunity is if someone is able to testify about crimes committed by someone higher up the ladder. And there’s only one person higher up the ladder from Weisselberg. But I’m sure Trump and his family have nothing to worry about, because surely there is nothing illegal in the Trump Organization’s books.

See also: TPM’s backgrounder on Weisselberg and his decades-long role at the center of its finances.

Color Footage of Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight Show’ Monologue From 24 August 1964 

Great find from Mark Evanier — almost all the footage from that era has been lost. The monologue even has some great jokes about the Yankees.

Update: Holy crap, there’s more where this came from on DC Video’s YouTube channel.

New Logo and Identity for Library of Congress by Pentagram 

This new identity is a horrendous mistake. The old identity was perfect.

The new identity doesn’t look bad in and of itself, per se, but it doesn’t fit the Library of Congress in any way. The Library of Congress is majestic, historic, dignified, authoritative. A new or tweaked identity for the Library of Congress should be for the ages, something designed to last for a century or longer. This feels like an identity that will last 10 years. I love orange and black as a color scheme, but why in the world would you choose those colors for the United States Library of Congress? Why is the word “Library” used twice? Why do some of these marks break up the word “Library” at utterly random points making it unreadable? The ones that break it up as “LIBR-Library of Congress-ARY” look like a logo for the Long Island Railroad.

This is all so wrong it breaks my heart.

Apple Removes Facebook’s Onavo VPN App From App Store 

Deepa Seetharaman, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Onavo allows users to create a virtual private network that redirects internet traffic to a private server managed by Facebook. The app, which bills itself as a way to “keep you and your data safe,” also alerts users when they visit potentially malicious sites. Facebook is able to collect and analyze Onavo users’ activity to get a picture of how people use their phones beyond Facebook’s apps.

Earlier this month, Apple officials informed Facebook that the app violated new rules outlined in June designed to limit data collection by app developers, the person familiar with the situation said. Apple informed Facebook that Onavo also violated a part of its developer agreement that prevents apps from using data in ways that go beyond what is directly relevant to the app or to provide advertising, the person added.

Here is the money line from Onavo’s terms of service:

To provide this layer of protection, Onavo uses a VPN to establish a secure connection to direct all of your network communications through Onavo’s servers. As part of this process, Onavo collects your mobile data traffic. This helps us improve and operate the Onavo service by analyzing your use of websites, apps and data. Because we’re part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences.

In other words, while you’re using Onavo, Facebook collects everything you do on the Internet — not just on the web but within apps too. As I wrote back in February, it’s spyware, pure and simple. I’m glad Apple cracked down on this, but it shouldn’t have taken until August.

Redesigned New York Times Homepage Removes Reporters’ Bylines 

This is a terrible mistake. Bylines add credibility. I know they haven’t removed bylines from the actual stories, but they belong on the homepage too.

Edovia’s Screens as a Replacement for Back to My Mac 

Edovia:

Apple just announced that it will be sunsetting the Back to My Mac service when macOS 10.14 Mojave launches this fall. The company recommends to start using iCloud Drive, use screen sharing or to buy Apple Remote Desktop at $80.

Screens (iOS and Mac) and Screens Connect are a great alternative to Back to My Mac. In fact, Screens Connect essentially behaves like the soon to be defunct service; it manages to open a port on your router and sends that information to our server. Then, Screens retrieves that information in order to connect to your Mac remotely.

Their sibling Screens Express app is a great solution to the problem of remote troubleshooting for family members. They’re running a discount offer on the heels of Apple’s announcement.

Stephen Hackett’s Aqua Screenshot Library 

Stephen Hackett, writing at 512 Pixels:

I’m really glad to be announcing a project that started at the end of last year. I have worked my way through every major release of macOS since the Mac OS X Public Beta and catalogued them in an extensive collection of screenshots.

Currently, the library includes 1,502 images. That’s 1.6 GB worth of screenshots.

Just a staggering amount of work went into assembling this collection. What a great resource. I love the little things, like looking at how the Finder’s “Go to Folder” sheet has subtly changed over the years.

Question, though: Is the MacOS user interface appearance still called “Aqua”? I tend to think of “Aqua” as the “lickable” buttons, pinstripes and brushed metal look of the early Mac OS X years. Those aspects became more subtle with each passing year, but I can’t really put my finger on a new version that I feel is decidedly not “Aqua” until 10.10’s iOS 7-style flattening. But maybe even the current look and feel is still properly called Aqua? Update: As evidenced by the latest appearance APIs for MacOS 10.14 Mojave, the interface is indeed still named “Aqua”. The dark mode appearance is “Dark Aqua”.

The other odd thing about writing about the MacOS from a historical perspective is that Apple changed its name twice: “Mac OS X” from public beta through 10.7, “OS X” from 10.8 through 10.11, and now just “MacOS” since 10.12. (Don’t get me started on Apple’s marketing preference to capitalize it “macOS”.) If Hackett didn’t call it the “Aqua Screenshot Gallery”, what could he have called it? “Mac OS X Screenshot Gallery” would be my suggestion, but admittedly that feels wrong in a certain sense. “Mac Screenshot Gallery” would be inclusive of all versions of the OS since the Mac OS X public beta, but feels like it should also include the classic Mac OS era. Maybe that’s why Hackett went with “Aqua”.

Also, maybe I overthink things.

Aston Martin Reproducing Goldfinger DB5s With Gadgets 

Speaking of James Bond, Joel Stocksdale, reporting for Autoblog

It won’t simply be a DB5 in the correct color, either. The company is teaming up with the special effects supervisor from the most recent James Bond films, a man who, according to IMDb, has been working on Bond movies at some level since The Spy Who Loved Me and was the special-effects supervisor on the the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy and the two latest numbered installments of the Star Wars series, to build the cars with “functioning gadgets such as revolving number plates and more.” The “and more” part has us particularly intrigued. We imagine the tracking computer and bulletproof shield are simple enough. But the hideaway machine guns and ejector seat might be tricky. Regardless, you won’t be able to deploy any of the gadgets on public roads, as Aston Martin explicitly states the cars won’t be street legal.

We’re sure that won’t keep Aston from finding buyers for these dream DB5s. The price tag probably won’t deter serious buyers, either. The company says each car will sell for 2,750,000 pounds, which comes to $3,510,000 at current exchange rates. Of the 28 cars, 25 will be sold directly to customers. The remaining three will include one for Aston Martin, one for EON Productions, the company that produces Bond movies, and one that will auctioned for charity. Aston estimates the first cars will be delivered in 2020.

Pretty cool, but that’s a lot of money for a car that isn’t even street legal.

Google Data Collection Research 

Digital Content Next:

In “Google Data Collection,” Professor Douglas C. Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University, catalogs how much data Google is collecting about consumers and their most personal habits across all of its products and how that data is being tied together.

The key findings include:

  • A dormant, stationary Android phone (with the Chrome browser active in the background) communicated location information to Google 340 times during a 24-hour period, or at an average of 14 data communications per hour. In fact, location information constituted 35 percent of all the data samples sent to Google.

  • For comparison’s sake, a similar experiment found that on an iOS device with Safari but not Chrome, Google could not collect any appreciable data unless a user was interacting with the device. Moreover, an idle Android phone running the Chrome browser sends back to Google nearly fifty times as many data requests per hour as an idle iOS phone running Safari.

That’s quite a difference.

Harper’s Weekly Review 

A lot of weird news this week, even by today’s standards:

US secretary of the interior Ryan Zinke, who has been investigated for violating the Hatch Act after tweeting a photo of himself wearing “Make America Great Again” socks, wore Ronald Reagan socks while touring the Carr fire sites in Northern California, and said that the wildfires were started by “environmental terrorist groups.”

Research Suggests Facebook Fueled Anti-Refugee Attacks in Germany 

Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, reporting for The New York Times:

Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz, researchers at the University of Warwick, scrutinized every anti-refugee attack in Germany, 3,335 in all, over a two-year span. In each, they analyzed the local community by any variable that seemed relevant. Wealth. Demographics. Support for far-right politics. Newspaper sales. Number of refugees. History of hate crime. Number of protests.

One thing stuck out. Towns where Facebook use was higher than average, like Altena, reliably experienced more attacks on refugees. That held true in virtually any sort of community — big city or small town; affluent or struggling; liberal haven or far-right stronghold — suggesting that the link applies universally.

Their reams of data converged on a breathtaking statistic: Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above the national average, attacks on refugees increased by about 50 percent.

And the effect apparently works the other way, too:

Could Facebook really distort social relations to the point of violence? The University of Warwick researchers tested their findings by examining every sustained internet outage in their study window. German internet infrastructure tends to be localized, making outages isolated but common. Sure enough, whenever internet access went down in an area with high Facebook use, attacks on refugees dropped significantly.

Huawei Caught Passing Off DSLR Pictures as Phone Camera Samples 

Rachel England, writing for Engadget:

Now, Huawei never explicitly said that the advert was shot on the Nova 3, and of course it’s well-accepted that advertising is a land of smoke and mirrors and probably not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things — companies tweak the truth all the time in order to peddle their wares. But this is just deliberately misleading. And pretty embarrassing for the company, too.

This is more than just “tweaking the truth”. It’s downright dishonest. Compare and contrast with Apple’s years-long “Shot on iPhone” campaign — all of them actual photos shot using actual iPhones.

Back to My Mac Is Going Away in Mojave 

Apple support document:

Back to My Mac will not be available on macOS Mojave. You can get ready now by learning about alternatives for file access, screen sharing, and remote desktop access.

I never really used Back to My Mac, but I hadn’t realized it was removed in Mojave. I’m not sure screen sharing and remote desktop access are adequate replacements.

Danny Boyle Out as Director of ‘Bond 25’ 

From the official James Bond Twitter account:

Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25.

Seems like that November 2019 release date might be in jeopardy, unless they find someone to direct who’s willing to shoot the script as-is (which is what Ron Howard did when he took over Solo).

My vote would be to bring back Martin Campbell and give him time to get the script right. Campbell’s Casino Royale is the best modern Bond film, by far, and Goldeneye was at least the best of the Brosnan films.

Gurman: ‘Apple Is Planning a New Low-Cost MacBook, Pro-Focused Mac Mini’ 

Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, writing for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. will release a new low-cost laptop and a professional-focused upgrade to the Mac mini desktop later this year, ending a drought of Mac computers that has limited sales of the company’s longest-running line of devices, according to people familiar with the plans.

The new laptop will look similar to the current MacBook Air, but will include thinner bezels around the screen. The display, which will remain about 13-inches, will be a higher-resolution “Retina” version that Apple uses on other products, the people said.

I don’t understand this. How can it look similar to the current MacBook Air if the display “will remain about 13 inches” and the bezels are smaller? If the bezels are smaller and the display is “about 13 inches” then the machine will be significantly smaller. If the machine is about the same size and the bezels are smaller, then the display will be larger.

The fundamental question is whether the no-adjective one-port MacBook is going to be the base model, or is Apple coming out with a new product to replace the MacBook Air. This report doesn’t answer that question.

Apple is also planning the first upgrade to the Mac mini in about four years. It’s a Mac desktop that doesn’t include a screen, keyboard, or mouse in the box and costs $500. The computer has been favored because of its lower price, and it’s popular with app developers, those running home media centers, and server farm managers. For this year’s model, Apple is focusing primarily on these pro users, and new storage and processor options are likely to make it more expensive than previous versions, the people said.

It’s good to hear that a new Mac Mini is imminent, but again, what are the details? What makes it geared toward “pro users”? What does it look like? The current MacBook Air and Mac Mini are ridiculously old and obviously need to be updated, but this report has no actual information on what these updates will entail.

Update: I’m not trying to be hard on Gurman. Assuming everything in this report is true — and I’d bet that it is — these are both legitimate scoops. A new MacBook at the $999 price point and a new Mac Mini are both genuine news. But there’s no way around the fact that this report raises more questions about both products than it supplies answers. Is the new MacBook an updated MacBook Air with a retina display and smaller bezels, or the existing 12-inch MacBook with a lower price? Or is it the no-touch-bar MacBook Pro with a lower price? Or something else entirely? We don’t know, and this report doesn’t say. How can Gurman know these things are imminent but not know the details about them? Or maybe he does know the details but can’t say? At a meta level I find this fascinating.

PepsiCo to Buy SodaStream for $3.2 Billion 

CNBC:

Beverage and snack giant PepsiCo announced plans Monday to acquire at-home carbonated drink maker SodaStream for $3.2 billion.

Purchase, New York-based PepsiCo agreed to pay $144 per share in cash for SodaStream’s outstanding stock, a 32 percent premium to its 30-day volume weighted average price.

I really hope Pepsi doesn’t screw SodaStream up.

Update: This take from Daniel Sandler is just perfect.

UpHabit 

My thanks to UpHabit for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. UpHabit is about relationship management made simple. They’re a mobile-only personal CRM made just for you. You can set regular reminders, remember the little things and keep in touch with the people you care about most. They’d love you to sign up for their iOS beta starting August 21 (with the App Store release planned for October 2018).

When out of beta, UpHabit will be a subscription app with a free tier, and the beta is completely free. Your data is private. They care deeply about that.

UpHabit would love you to join them in their journey to help you develop deeper and more authentic high-quality relationships. Sign up for the beta this Tuesday.

Predicting the Date of Apple’s September Event 

Rene Ritchie, writing at iMore:

This is basically the best worst kept secret in technology. Best, because Apple never tells anyone. Worst, because, since iPhone 5, Apple has announced every new iPhone during a special event held the first or second Tuesday or Wednesday of September. […]

Now, past isn’t always predicate, but past events are the best indicator for future events. Apple can and will throw curveballs whenever the company’s logistics or strategy demands.

Still, based on the above pattern, it’s likely we’ll see this year’s event on or around Wednesday, September 12.

Why? The first Tuesday of September is the 4th, and that’s far earlier than Apple has held the event before. The second Tuesday is the 11th, and September 11 is akin to a memorial day. That leaves Wednesday the 12th or Thursday the 13th as the dates that best fit the current pattern.

I have no inside information on this, but September 12 is definitely my guess, for all the same reasons Ritchie mentions. Since moving iPhone intro events to September in 2012 with the iPhone 5, they’ve had three events on Tuesdays and three on Wednesdays. For whatever reason, I don’t think they like Thursdays.

Google Employees Are Organizing to Protest ‘Dragonfly’ 

One last piece in today’s Dragonfly trifecta, this one from Carolin O’Donovan for BuzzFeed:

Google employees are demanding greater transparency from their employer and confronting management with their ethical concerns about a project named Dragonfly, a controversial censored search app for the Chinese market.

Employees are circulating a list of demands for the company in a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News (posted in full, below), calling for an ethics review structure with rank-and-file employee representatives, the appointment of ombudspeople, and an ethical assessment of Google projects including Dragonfly and Maven, Google’s contract with the Pentagon to build AI-assisted drone technology.

“Many of us believe that Dragonfly poses a threat to freedom of expression and political dissent globally, and violates our AI principles,” two employees wrote in an email distributing the demand list.

I do see their point: Google’s current stance on China does give the company a certain moral high ground which they would cede if they go forward with Dragonfly. But as with Apple and the App Store in China, I ask this: if you lived in China, would you rather have access to a censored Google web search, or no access to Google search at all? I would prefer to have the censored Google search.

‘Dragonfly’ 

Ryan Gallagher, writing this week:

Google co-founder Sergey Brin is the owner of what is reportedly one of the world’s fastest motor yachts. The luxurious 240-foot boat (pictured below) is worth $80 million and has nine cabins and space for 18 guests and 16 crew. It has an open-air cinema, a bar, and a jacuzzi on the sundeck, which can be converted into a dance floor.

But that is all less interesting to me than the boat’s name: Dragonfly. As I reported for The Intercept earlier this month, Google has since spring 2017 been working on a secretive project to launch a censored search engine in China. And the internal code-name for the China project is… Dragonfly.

I’ll explain why this small detail is very curious.

Back in 2006, Google launched a censored search engine in China. But four years later, in March 2010, it pulled the service out of the country, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack Google’s computer systems.

At that time, Sergey Brin was one of the main forces inside Google arguing that the company should not be complicit in Chinese government censorship. As a child, he had spent six years with his family in the Soviet Union, and he was all too familiar with state repression.

Even stranger: Gallagher reports that at an employee all-hands meeting to address this controversial project, Brin said he wasn’t aware of the project until The Intercept broke the story. So it’s either an amazing coincidence, or whoever named the project was trolling Brin. Google seems like a weird place.

Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China 

Ryan Gallagher, reporting earlier this month for The Intercept:

Documents seen by The Intercept, marked “Google confidential,” say that Google’s Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Great Firewall. When a person carries out a search, banned websites will be removed from the first page of results, and a disclaimer will be displayed stating that “some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements.” Examples cited in the documents of websites that will be subject to the censorship include those of British news broadcaster BBC and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

The search app will also “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, the documents state. The censorship will apply across the platform: Google’s image search, automatic spell check and suggested search features will incorporate the blacklists, meaning that they will not recommend people information or photographs the government has banned.

I’m going to take a contrarian view here — I’m not sure this is a bad or objectionable idea. How is a search engine that complies with China’s censorship laws any different than an app store that does? My only quibble is that the search results should state plainly whether the results have been censored — none of this “may have been removed” stuff.

Jonathan Mann’s Song of the Day: ‘Jack Says Fuck You to Tweetbot’ 

I don’t expect to see this one played at Twitter’s next press event.

‘The Oldest Trick in the Book’ 

Speaking of Penn and Teller, there’s a fantastic episode of This American Life on which Teller — the half of the duo who usually doesn’t speak — explains how he created one of his signature routines. Well worth listening to.

S.E.C. Is Said to Subpoena Tesla After Elon Musk’s Take-Private Tweet 

The New York Times:

Federal securities regulators have served Tesla with a subpoena, according to a person familiar with the investigation, increasing pressure on the electric car company as it deals with the fallout from several recent actions by its chief executive, Elon Musk.

The subpoena, from the Securities and Exchange Commission, comes days after regulators began inquiring about an Aug. 7 Twitter post by Mr. Musk, in which he said he was considering converting Tesla to a private company. In the post, he said that the financing for such a transaction, which would probably run into the tens of billions of dollars, had been “secured.” […]

It has become clear since then that neither Mr. Musk nor Tesla had actually lined up the necessary financing aside from having preliminary conversations with some investors.

Maybe nothing will ultimately come of this, I don’t know. But Musk has gotten himself in serious trouble with his impulsive tweet.

When I linked to a Business Insider story about this a few days ago, a bunch of readers emailed to complain that the reporter behind that piece, Linette Lopez, is biased against Tesla and on the side of Tesla short-sellers. Others emailed to ask why I’m “against” Tesla.

I’m not against Tesla. I think they’re an amazing and fascinating company and their cars are outstanding and quite possibly without peer. Even if we concede for the sake of argument that Lopez is biased on the side of Tesla short-sellers, that doesn’t mean her report on this story was wrong. All of this can be true: Tesla has great technology and makes great cars, the company may have a bright future, and Elon Musk is a visionary. But all of that can be true and Musk may have committed securities fraud by tweeting that he’d secured funding to take the company private when he had done no such thing.

DF Weekly Sponsorship Changes 

Let’s try something new with the DF weekly sponsorship. Instead of just the RSS feed, I’m going to include the display ad on the DF website with the sponsorship. Still just one sponsor for the week, but now it includes the RSS feed, the weekly thank-you post from yours truly, and the exclusive display ad in the left column of every page on the site.

This current week remains open (let’s make a deal), next week is open, and most of September is open. If you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to Daring Fireball’s excellent readership, get in touch.

Motorola P30 Is a Pure iPhone X Rip-Off 

They even ripped off the default wallpaper. Do “designers” at Motorola even list the job on their resumes or do they work in anonymous shame?

Apple Is Privately Encouraging Paid App Developers to Move to Subscriptions 

Interesting story by Kif Leswing for Business Insider, regarding a private meeting Apple held with indie developers in New York last year:

The new way Apple wanted to promote: Instead of users paying for apps once, they’d pay on a regular basis, putting money into developer coffers on a regular schedule. Apple would still get a 30% cut of the subscription’s cost, but if a customer continued to subscribe after a year, Apple’s cut would go down to 15%.

At the meeting, Apple underscored that the app model was changing. The meeting touched on topics including launching, customer acquisition, testing and marketing, engagement, retention, monetization, and paid search ads.

An Apple representative said at the meeting that paid apps represent 15% of total app sales and is on the decline, according to a person who was there who did not want to be identified to maintain their relationship with Apple.

Up front paid apps are going the way of the dodo. Whether you think that’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter. That’s where things are going.

Penn Jillette, in Conversation 

Penn Jillette, in a terrific interview with David Marchese for Vulture:

Q: But why is the audience willing to get emotionally engaged even after you’ve explicitly said the trick is done with thread?

A: It’s because there’s a secret that I would like to take credit for uncovering: The audience is smart. That’s all. Our goal when we started was “Let’s do a magic show for people smarter than us.” No other magicians have ever said that sentence. I hated the whole idea that some smarmy motherfucker who couldn’t get laid was out there saying, “I can do this; you can’t.” So when Teller and I first got together I said, “I want to do a magic show that’s honest and has complete respect for the audience.” And when you start being honest with the audience, they start to play a game within themselves. Here’s an example that kills me: People who have just talked to Teller will come over to me after the show and say, “I think it’s great that Teller never says anything.” Internalizing a counterfactual is just something people can do.

I absolutely love Penn and Teller. I’ve seen their show in Vegas at least four times, maybe five, and I never tire of it because it’s exactly what he says it is. Honest and respectful of the audience’s intelligence. And damn entertaining.

(A few years ago, I was chosen from the audience by Teller to go on stage for a trick in which they made my iPhone disappear. It wound up inside a plastic bag inside a dead fish inside an ice box under an audience member’s seat.)

‘Bribes, Backdoor Deals, and Pay to Play: How Bad Rosé Took Over’ 

Victoria James, writing for Bon Appétit:

My introduction to pay to play occurred after I’d just published a book on rosé. I was approached by one of the top three rosé brands. They were looking to partner with me and Piora, the since-closed Michelin-starred restaurant where I was the wine director. A few emails were sent before the in-person shakedown. At the tiny restaurant, I was bombarded with drop-ins from these reps trying to strong-arm me into representing their brand. The deal was that they would give me a couple thousand in cash to be an ambassador, and I would have to buy their rosé to pour by the glass for the summer. If I needed to make better margins, like making $10 off a glass of rosé versus making $5 off a glass of rosé, they also offered to drive by and drop off a couple of cases of free product. Horrified, I turned down the deal.

Sommeliers around New York have told me they’ve been offered incentives from big brands too. Wineries will come into the restaurant and swipe their credit cards, theoretically expensing a meal. In reality, the swipe is a bonus, with no meal actually taking place. Other sommeliers mentioned that brands will drop off a free case of wine or offer to supplement the somm’s income with funds from their bosses. Someone even called it “mafia-style shit”.

I had no idea until a few weeks ago just how popular rosé has become. What a racket — and unsurprising that the stuff the big brands are pushing is mediocre at best.

New Samsung Galaxy Watches Are Still Much Larger Than Apple Watches 

Samsung is sticking with round faces — you certainly can’t call these ripoffs of Apple Watch. But I think that’s a mistake for a digital watch. At 42 and 46mm, both sizes are much larger (and heavier) than Apple Watches. Because Apple measures its watches vertically, they sound closer in size than they actually are. A 42mm Apple Watch is 36mm wide, and a 38mm Apple Watch is just 33mm wide. Apple remains the only company making smartwatches for women and men with small wrists.

Funding Not Secured: Musk’s Explanations About Taking Tesla Private Do Not Work 

Linette Lopez, writing for Business Insider:

Elon Musk has written a blog post explaining why he said last week on Twitter that he might take Tesla private at $420 a share. “Funding secured,” he declared in the tweet.

But after reading Musk’s new post, the only conclusion to be drawn is that funding was, in fact, not secured. And that could spell serious trouble for Musk.

Isn’t it abundantly clear that Musk’s tweet was reckless, and the last week has been Musk and Tesla’s board of directors desperately trying to do damage control?

Apple Removes Group FaceTime From iOS 12 and MacOS 10.14 Mojave Betas, Says It’ll Launch Later This Year 

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:

In release notes for both macOS Mojave and iOS 12, Apple says the feature has been removed from the initial releases of macOS Mojave and iOS 12 and “will ship in a future software update later this fall.”

With the release of iOS 11, Apple also ended up delaying several features that were initially announced as part of the update until later in the year, including Apple Pay Cash, AirPlay 2, and Messages in iCloud, three significant iOS 11 features that did not come out until months after iOS 11 launched.

Right about now is the time when Apple needs to cut any features that won’t be ready in time for the iPhone launch next month. These delays are disappointing, yes, but I actually prefer this policy of holding off on new features until they’re ready rather than shipping them in a buggy state just because it’s September and time for new iPhones to be released.

‘But the Plans Were on Display…’ 

From Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

“But the plans were on display…”

“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

“That’s the display department.”

“With a flashlight.”

“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”

“So had the stairs.”

“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

“Ever thought of going into advertising?”

DF reader Brian Ashe sent this, correctly pointing out that it pretty much nails Google’s approach to turning off location tracking.

‘Vomit Fraud’ 

Interesting story from Fargo, North Dakota:

“Vomit fraud” is a growing problem in many parts of the country. The Miami Herald reported this summer that multiple Uber passengers are filing lawsuits after drivers falsely charged passengers, claiming they had to clean up vomit, urine, blood and other bodily fluids.

The Marquarts also discovered the police treat the fraud as a civil matter instead of a criminal one because of the way the ride services write user agreements, so they don’t investigate. The Marquarts learned Lyft doesn’t appear overly concerned its drivers are committing fraud. They also don’t believe drivers who get caught face any repercussions.

Great detective work in this story, proving the Lyft driver had faked the “vomit”.

AP: Google Tracks Your Location Even When You Disable ‘Location History’ 

Ryan Nakashima, reporting for the Associated Press:

Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects — such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company will let you “pause” a setting called Location History.

Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.

The saga of Apple Maps’s launch is long and complicated, but Google’s desire to track our location was at the heart of it. Apple wanted new features like turn-by-turn directions and vector graphic map tiles; in exchange, Google wanted iOS to allow Google to track user location more pervasively.

“If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” Mayer said. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”

Google says it is being perfectly clear. […]

To stop Google from saving these location markers, the company says, users can turn off another setting, one that does not specifically reference location information. Called “Web and App Activity” and enabled by default, that setting stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.

Google is saying, with a straight face, that it’s perfectly clear that disabling the feature named “Location History” does not prevent Google from tracking your location history. There’s nothing surprising about this, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t shameful.

Honeybadger 

My thanks to Honeybadger for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Honeybadger is a web app health monitoring tool that can let you know when something is wrong with your web app before your users do.

Honeybadger monitors when front-end or back-end systems are raising errors, whether the site is slow or unreachable, whether scheduled tasks are completing as expected, which users have been affected by errors today, and more.

You’ll always be the first to know about other application issues — from widespread outages to missing cron jobs — via email, Slack, or on your phone. It only takes a few minutes to set up Honeybadger’s total monitoring suite. Try Honeybadger today and use it for free for 15 days.

Joanna Stern Test Drives Magic Leap 

Joanna Stern, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

The Lightwear glasses make digital objects sometimes look so real that they play tricks on your mind. I certainly didn’t think the flying robot I placed in the corner was genuine, yet the steam coming out of his jets looked like it was from a tea kettle. During one demo, I picked up an actual chess piece just to confirm it wasn’t another illusion.

What makes Magic Leap’s objects so believable is how they fit into our world. Cameras and other sensors in the headset scan surrounding objects and surfaces — from your arms to the chair’s armrest. When I placed a virtual orange fish between two actual couch pillows, it swam back and forth between them.

Fun video, too (as usual).

Apple Defends Its Decision to Allow Infowars in the App Store 

John Paczkowski, writing for BuzzFeed:

On Apple’s podcast platform, Infowars was presented with an easily reviewed episode list — a concrete thing that could be used to support a determination that its content was/wasn’t in violation of the company’s policies. The Infowars app is different. It streams video broadcasts, which means they are ephemeral in the app and on Apple’s platform. That the same episodes are readily available on the Infowars site doesn’t matter. In order for Apple to act on a violation, there needs to be evidence that one occurred on its platform. Simply put: If Jones has violated the company’s rules, it has yet to catch him in the act.

This distinction could explain why Apple was so quick to remove almost all of Infowars’ podcasts in the first place. Given that the company didn’t host the podcasts to begin with, the removal was technically not a content purge and something more akin to removing a link. In other words, Apple’s enforcement, which caused tech’s biggest platforms to follow suit, was something of a content moderation sleight of hand — a cosmetic change rather than an actual deletion.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this the last few days. I suspect that Paczkowski has it right, that Apple is more willing to remove a podcast because iTunes doesn’t host podcasts — it’s just a directory. Whereas if they remove the app there’s no way around it. I think this distinction is weak sauce though — iTunes isn’t technically a gatekeeper to podcasts, but the truth is that the iTunes podcast directory is the de facto standard index of podcasts. Getting de-listed from iTunes is a huge deal.

The web is the world’s open platform. The fact that the App Store is a closed platform that Apple controls is a feature, not a bug. If Apple removed the app, Infowars’s website would still work in Safari. It really doesn’t make sense to me that Apple would de-list the podcasts but not remove the app that contains the exact same content. And as Paczkowski reports, in the aftermath of this highly-publicized kerfuffle, Infowars’s iOS app has risen from 47th to 3rd in the “News” category. To me it would make more sense to have kept both the podcast and the app than to remove one but not the other.

Update: I wonder if this is less about Infowars specifically and more about Apple being reluctant to draw attention to their total control of the App Store. Google’s recent lashing from EU regulators hinged largely on the Play Store. I know Apple loves having control over the App Store, but in today’s climate — polarized politics combined with increasing regulatory scrutiny of tech giants — I suspect they don’t want to draw attention to that control.

Kara Swisher: ‘Rules Won’t Save Twitter. Values Will.’ 

Kara Swisher, in her new column at The New York Times:

I am down with Mr. Dorsey on the part about different viewpoints being expressed in a civil and even moderately testy way. There’s some value, after all, in force-reading all those opinions on whether a Colorado baker should make gay people cake or not. But the loosey-goosey way that he and Twitter’s rolling series of leaders have run the platform over the years (you can read all about that in Nick Bilton’s telenovela of a book, Hatching Twitter) has turned it from what could have been an unprecedented discussion and news platform into the last big refuge of the repugnant.

So it’s somewhat odd for Mr. Dorsey to be lecturing the rest of us about principles at this moment of high agitation, brought on in no small part by the twitchy, meaner-than-ever screamfest of Twitter itself.

While principles and rules will help in an open platform, it is values that Mr. Dorsey should really be talking about. By values, I mean a code that requires making hard choices — curating your offerings, which was something Apple got made fun of for doing, back when it launched the App Store, by the open-is-best crowd.

I agree with every word of this, and it’s exactly why I think Apple’s decision to remove Infowars’s podcasts from the iTunes directory but allow their app to remain in the App Store doesn’t hold water.

Apple Orders New Comedy Series From Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney 

Joe Otterson, reporting for Variety:

Apple has given a straight-to-series order to a half-hour scripted comedy from Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day, Variety has learned.

The series is set in a video game development studio, with McElhenney also attached to star in addition to writing and executive producing alongside Day. The series marks the duo’s first collaboration as writers since “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” McElhenney co-created “It’s Always Sunny” with both he and Day starring and serving as executive producers on that show.

It’s Always Sunny is one of my favorite shows. What I find particularly interesting about this deal is that if this new show is anything like It’s Always Sunny, Apple is not shying away from R-rated original content.

Dylan Byers Reports Tim Cook and Eddy Cue Decided to Remove Alex Jones’s Infowars Podcasts From iTunes, Facebook and YouTube Followed Apple’s Lead 

Dylan Byers, in his Pacific newsletter:

• Amid mounting public pressure to address Jones’ hate speech, Apple’s Tim Cook and Eddy Cue met over the weekend and decided to pull five of Jones’ podcasts from their platform, sources familiar with the matter told me.

• Cook and Cue decided to let Jones’ InfoWars app remain available in the app store because they felt it did not run afoul of their policy. […]

• Zuckerberg only moved to remove these pages after learning about Apple’s decision, Facebook sources said. That is why the pages were removed at 3 a.m. Pacific Time.

• YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki and Spotify’s Daniel Ek similarly moved to ban some of Jones’ content only after learning about Apple’s decision.

• There was no coordination between Apple, Facebook and any of the other tech firms, sources familiar with the matter said. The decisions were made independently.

Assuming Byers’s reporting is solid, there we have it: Apple led the way.

Logitech Introduces $70 ‘Powered’ Charging Stand for iPhones 

Logitech:

Logitech is changing the way you charge your iPhone with today’s introduction of the Logitech Powered Wireless Charging Stand. Designed in collaboration with Apple, Powered is a wireless charging stand for iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X that makes it easy to charge and use your iPhone at the same time. […]

Powered delivers up to 7.5W charging for iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X only and up to 5W charging for all other Qi-enabled devices.

“Designed in collaboration with Apple” is interesting, especially since Apple’s own AirPower charging mat still isn’t shipping. This is the second recent Logitech product co-designed by Apple, after this year’s Crayon stylus.

Wired Gets Hands-On With Magic Leap 

Jessi Hempel, writing for Wired:

In retrospect, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz realizes that all the hype was a big mistake. “I think we were arrogant,” he says.

You don’t fucking say.

The problem, we figured out, was the fit. Each set of goggles comes with five nose pieces and the ability to add prescription lenses. Magic Leap’s experience is so closely linked to a person’s physiology, these goggles will need to fit perfectly to work. This is a challenge for a company trying to introduce a new type of tech. So, Magic Leap has contracted with former Apple executive Ron Johnson’s startup, Enjoy, which sends customer service people to deliver new tech gadgets and help users set them up. Enjoy representatives will deliver every Magic Leap headset, fit it, and provide a tutorial on how it works.

Yeah, that sounds like something that will scale well.

Apple Removed Infowars From iTunes Podcast Directory, Then YouTube and Facebook Followed Suit 

John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed:

Apple moved first, striking the entire library for five of Infowars’ six podcasts from its iTunes and Podcasts apps. Among the podcasts, which were removed from Apple’s iTunes directory, are the show War Room and the popular Alex Jones Show podcast, which is hosted daily by the prominent conspiracy theorist.

After that, platforms that have come under far more scrutiny for hosting Jones and his content — Facebook and YouTube — quickly followed suit after long and tortured deliberations. Spotify also did the same.

In all, the actions will currently seriously limit Jones’s ability to reach his massive audience. Twitter and Periscope remain one of the sole major platforms to still host Jones.

YouTube’s enforcement action will have the greatest impact on Jones. His channel had nearly 2.5 million subscribers and more than 1 billion views over its lifetime. It killed most if not all of the videos hosted on Jones’s website.

I’m curious if these companies did this in cooperation, or if Apple acted alone and Facebook and YouTube followed in their wake. It sounds like this was Apple acting on its own and YouTube and Facebook followed their lead.

Update: Also curious: Apple only removed Infowars from their podcast directory — the Infowars app remains in the App Store. Different standards? Seems hard to justify de-listing the podcasts for “hate speech” but leaving the app in place when it contains the same content.

Jamf Now 

My thanks to Jamf for once again sponsoring the DF RSS feed. Jamf Now is an easy-to-use software solution to help organizations set up, manage, and protect their Apple devices.

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Adam Engst: ‘Apple’s Termination of App Store Affiliate Payments Is Unnecessary, Mean-Spirited, and Harmful’ 

Adam Engst, writing at TidBITS:

In the end, I’m disappointed in Apple. Not surprised, since Apple has never acknowledged that the media plays a vital role in the broader Apple ecosystem, but disappointed that a company that puts so much effort into bringing joy to users can simultaneously behave so callously to some of its greatest supporters.

Newsrooms Must Stand Up to Targeted Campaigns of Harassment 

The Verge editorial team, on the bullshit alt-right campaign against newly-hired NYT editorial board member Sarah Jeong:

Online trolls and harassers want us, The Times, and other newsrooms to waste our time by debating their malicious agenda. They take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.

So we’re not going to fall for these disingenuous tactics. And it’s time other newsrooms learn to spot these hateful campaigns for what they are: attempts to discredit and undo the vital work of journalists who report on the most toxic communities on the internet. We are encouraged that our colleagues at The New York Times are standing by Sarah in the face of feigned outrage.

Good thread on Twitter by John Scalzi:

It’s really frustrating to me that more people don’t understand that racist/alt-right people have gamified their rhetoric; they’re not interested in discussion, they’re slapping down cards from a “Debate: The Gathering” stack, and the only goal is taking heads.

Apple Closes With Market Cap Over $1 Trillion 

Jack Nicas has a good piece in The Times looking back at the last 20 years of Apple history, in light of today’s news. A few landmarks:

  • 1996: Apple’s market cap sunk as low as $3 billion before the NeXT reunification.
  • 2007: Apple was worth $73 billion when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone.
  • 2011: Apple was worth $346 billion when Tim Cook took the helm as CEO.

Apple closed today with a market cap of $1.002 trillion. That “.002” looks insignificant but represents $2 billion — about what the entire company was worth in 1996.

Everything Bad About Facebook Is Bad for the Same Reason 

Nikhil Sonnad, writing for Quartz:

Facebook didn’t intend for any of this to happen. It just wanted to connect people. But there is a thread running from Perkins’ death to religious violence in Myanmar and the company’s half-assed attempts at combating fake news. Facebook really is evil. Not on purpose. In the banal kind of way.

Underlying all of Facebook’s screw-ups is a bumbling obliviousness to real humans. The company’s singular focus on “connecting people” has allowed it to conquer the world, making possible the creation of a vast network of human relationships, a source of insights and eyeballs that makes advertisers and investors drool.

But the imperative to “connect people” lacks the one ingredient essential for being a good citizen: Treating individual human beings as sacrosanct. To Facebook, the world is not made up of individuals, but of connections between them.

Terrific essay.

Apple Will Soon Remove iOS and Mac Apps From Affiliate Program 

Stephen Hackett on Apple’s decision to remove apps from their affiliate program:

Another angle here to consider is money. Payments made to people linking to apps with affiliate links comes out of Apple’s share of revenue generated by app sales and in-app purchases. How much money it costs them is unknown, but the idea that the reasons behind this move could be financial in nature feels pretty gross. Apple is a for-profit company, and it may have a real bottom-line reason to close this program, but sometimes doing the right thing comes with a cost.

I don’t know what the explanation is, but sites like TouchArcade that are currently dependent on App Store affiliate program revenue are now in a tough place. I’d love to know why Apple made this decision. I don’t get the argument that it’s about Apple pinching pennies and not wanting to pay the affiliate fees. The whole point of affiliate programs is that they drive enough additional sales to increase revenue. That’s why Amazon has an affiliate program and heavily promotes it.

The Talk Show: ‘Little Q&A’ 

Answering actual questions from actual listeners.

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Mac Rumors: ‘Apple Sold Fewest Macs in Any Quarter Since 2010 as Nearly Entire Lineup Was Outdated’ 

I love it when an entire story fits in the headline.

The Bullshit Web 

This piece by Nick Heer is magnificent, every word of it.

iPhone X Remains a Hit 

Jason Snell:

Now, iPhone unit sales are still down from the days of the iPhone 6. What’s changed is that the average selling price of an iPhone is up — way up. That’s mostly thanks to the iPhone X, which has a record-breaking price tag that hasn’t seemed to matter one whit in terms of consumer acceptance. (And for those who don’t want to spend $1000 on an iPhone X, apparently the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus hits the spot.)

Here’s some claim chowder for the books — Dave Gershgorn writing for Quartz in April: “Almost Nobody Wants the iPhone X”. Put it on your calendar — next year starting in January, the same dipshits will be telling us this year’s new iPhones are a flop, too.

Snell, on Apple’s ever-increasing “Services” revenue:

As someone who’s interested in products, I find the focus on Services revenue to be a bit dispiriting. I get excited at the prospect of new products and seeing how consumers are accepting or rejecting products in the market. But the discussion of Services, especially in a financial context, is essentially a conversation about how Apple can grind more money out of every single person who uses an iPhone, iPad, and Mac. (At least the Other Products line, which is also growing rapidly, contains real products like AirPods and the HomePod and the Apple Watch.)

It’s not even that the individual products aren’t good — in point of fact, I’m a happy Apple Music user, I sync my photos with iCloud, and I’ll get in line to give Apple my money for the new video service when it arrives. But to me, in its soul Apple is a company that makes products — the amalgamation of hardware and software — and it will rise or fall based on its competency in those areas.

I think it’s even worse than that. I think Apple’s (Cook’s?) interest in increasing revenue from Services is keeping them from doing what’s right — increasing the base iCloud storage from 5 GB to something more reasonable.