Linked List: November 2018

‘‎I’m Ping Pong King’ 

I don’t recommend games often because I don’t often find games I enjoy, but here’s one I like a lot. Super minimalistic both in gameplay and visual style, but that’s what I tend to like on iOS. What graphics there are are animated joyfully. It works really well on iPad too. Free to play, a mere $2 to remove ads.

One gripe: there’s no syncing between devices. Seems to me the level you’re on ought to sync through iCloud. Another gripe: if you lose by a single point, the game gives you an option to replay the final point if you watch an ad for another game. This feels cheap, both commercially and sportsmanship-wise. When you lose you lose, I say.

One tip: keep your eyes on the table, not your avatar, because sometimes you need to hit Left when the ball is coming to your avatar’s right, or vice versa, and I find it easier to avoid getting mixed up by concentrating only on the table.

(Via this feature story in the App Store, which, I shit you not, you can only read from iOS device because there’s no fallback to a web page.)

Apple Releases New iPhone XS Case and Apple Watch Band Color Options 

Still no first-party cases for the iPhone XR though. That’s just baffling to me. I know most iPhone owners buy third-party cases, but it seems like Apple is leaving money on the table by not offering their own.

Also, this new “Pacific Green” is more blue than green, right? That’s what my eyes and my MacBook’s color picker say.

Marriott Hacking Exposes Data of Up to 500 Million Guests 

Amie Tsang and Adam Satariano, reporting for The New York Times:

The Marriott International hotel chain said on Friday that the database of its Starwood reservation system had been hacked and that the personal details of up to 500 million guests going as far back as 2014 had been compromised.

The hotel group, which runs more than 6,700 properties around the world, was informed in September about an attempt to access the database, and an investigation this month revealed that unauthorized access had been made on or before Sept. 10, Marriott said in a statement.

The hotel chain said that personal details including names, addresses, dates of birth, passport numbers, email addresses and phone numbers for hundreds of millions of guests may have been compromised. […]

Hackers also obtained encrypted credit-card information for some customers, but it was unclear if the hackers would be able to use those payment details.

Just awful, particularly the part about passport numbers, dates of birth, and the possibility of credit card numbers being exposed. I’m almost certainly included in this breach — I’m a longtime SPG rewards member, and definitely stayed at a few Starwoods hotels since 2014.

Mashable on Pixel Slate: ‘An Average and Very Buggy 2-in-1 Tablet’ 

Raymond Wong, writing at Mashable:

Where the Pixel Slate stumbles the most is software polish. It doesn’t seem finished and I experienced quite a few bugs and crashes that brought Chrome OS and Android apps to their knees.

My review unit’s kitted out with a very capable Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. But even so, little things like seeing jitters when scrolling on some of Mashable’s media-heavy reviews (like the iPhone XS and Pixel 3), or the slight lag when opening the recent apps window, or the inconsistencies of the colors of videos displayed in the Netflix Android app versus the Netflix website (colors looked way more faded in the app) were frustrating.

Getting colors right is just table stakes.

Google, Microsoft, and Apple are all trying to crack the same nut: to make a device that can work well both as a handheld tablet and as a notebook docked to a keyboard. It really comes down to the operating systems. iPad is a tablet first, and trying to evolve into an ever-better notebook. Chrome and Windows are designed for traditional notebooks, and are trying to evolve into ever-better systems for tablet. Where you start matters.

Apple Music Coming to Amazon Echo Devices December 17 

Amazon’s Day One blog:

Apple Music subscribers will be able to enjoy Apple Music’s 50 million songs on Echo devices. Customers will be able to ask Alexa to play their favorite songs, artists, and albums — or any of the playlists made by Apple Music’s editors from around the world, covering many activities and moods. Customers will also be able to ask Alexa to stream expert-made radio stations centered on popular genres like Hip-Hop, decades like the 80s, and even music from around the world, like K-Pop. Just ask Alexa to play Beats 1 to hear Apple Music’s global livestream including in-depth artist interviews — all completely ad-free. Simply enable the Apple Music skill in the Alexa app and link your account to start listening.

Fascinating. It’s still an open question whether Apple sees subscription content (mostly music now, with more original shows and movies coming soon) as something for its own devices, or cross-platform. Making Apple Music available to Echo devices sure sounds more like the latter.

I wonder how well Apple Music is doing on Android?

Gizmodo: ‘The Google Pixel Slate Is a Brilliant Chrome OS Response to the iPad’ 

Alex Cranz, writing for Gizmodo:

So would I recommend it over the iPad Pro? To a lot of people yes! Especially if you’re considering buying the iPad Pro, which starts at $800 for an 11-inch model and $1,000 for a 12.9-inch device. The Pixel Slate starts at $600 and moves between laptop and tablet mode much more smoothly. It’s an inexpensive tablet that doubles pretty neatly as a solid work device — though I’d suggest spending at least $100 more to go from 4GB of RAM to 8GB. The Pixel Slate does the jobs of a tablet so well that Apple should take note. And if you’re a Surface Pro acolyte who isn’t beholden to Windows, then the Slate is worth a look too.

A fascinating yin to Dieter Bohn’s yang. Really seems like they’re reviewing two different devices. As to who is right, Cranz uses at least 12 exclamation marks in this review, which I’d wager speaks to her taste.

Dieter Bohn on Google Pixel Slate: ‘Slapdash Software Ruins Good Hardware’ 

Dieter Bohn, writing at The Verge:

Other bugs are just sort of infuriating. When the keyboard is attached, moving windows around feels relatively fast and smooth, even with a few Android apps and well over 20 tabs or web apps open. But switch the Pixel Slate into tablet mode and start using the swipe gestures, and it turns into a stuttery, laggy mess. Input with the Pixelbook Pen is similarly unpredictable: sometimes it’s fine; other times, it lags so badly in Google Keep that I have to quit the app and try again.

Chrome OS is an operating system designed for laptops that has enrolled in an adult education class for tablets and hasn’t even understood its assignments, much less done the homework.

Pretty scathing review. I had the same impression after just a few minutes playing with a Pixel Slate: decent enough hardware but very unpolished software, especially the Android apps thing.

Also, the thing I wrote the other week about looking forward to a future where you don’t have to worry about CPU options for MacBooks applies in triplicate to the Pixel Slate — there are way too many CPU options. It’s ridiculous.

‘I Don’t Know Why People Put It In.’ 

From the New York Times’s obituary for famed New York City bartender Tommy Rowles:

Toward the end of his career, having made thousands of martinis, Mr. Rowles said there was a right way to make one.

“My secret is to forget about the vermouth,” he told FT Magazine, a weekly supplement of the British newspaper Financial Times. “I don’t know why people put it in. A bottle of vermouth, you should just open it and look at it.”

The only thing more fun than arguing about how to make a martini is arguing about how to make a martini while enjoying a few.

YouTube to Make Originals Available for Ad-Supported Free Viewing 

Todd Spangler, reporting for Variety:

In a shift in strategy, the Google-owned video platform said that starting next year it will move to make all of its new original programming available for free for anyone to watch. With the change, YouTube is moving toward more mainstream celebrity-driven and creator-based reality fare, while it will continue to greenlight scripted productions.

Until now, YouTube Originals have mainly been available on its YouTube Premium subscription service, although YouTube also has expanded the shows and movies it makes available on an ad-supported basis.

Back to Google’s wheelhouse: free stuff with ads. I don’t mean that disdainfully, either — it’s simply what has made Google so successful. But it’s interesting given that the rest of the industry — CBS, Disney, maybe Apple — is moving toward putting shows and movies behind new subscription services.

Apple Says the iPhone XR Has Been Its Top-Selling iPhone Since Launch 

Shara Tibken, writing for CNet:

Greg Joswiak, Apple vice president of product marketing, told CNET in an interview Wednesday that the device has “been our most popular iPhone each and every day since the day it became available.”

I’m sure this will immediately quell all the rumor-mongering and speculation that XR sales are in the tank.

LG Replaces the Head of Its Struggling Mobile Business After Just One Year 

Jon Russell, reporting for TechCrunch:

Hwang Jeong-hwan took the job as president of LG Mobile Communications last October, and this week LG announced that he will be replaced by Brian Kwon, who is head of LG’s hugely profitable home entertainment business, from December 1.

“Mr. Kwon played a critical role in transforming LG’s TV, audio and PC business into category leaders and his knowledge and experience in the global marketplace will be instrumental in continuing LG’s mobile operations turnaround,” LG wrote in an announcement.

Can’t remember the last time I saw a phone from LG worth noticing. Tough gig.

‘Rams’ Philadelphia Premiere Tomorrow Night 

Local note: the Philly premiere of Rams, hosted by director Gary Hustwit (of Helvetica/Objectified/Urbanized design trilogy fame) is tomorrow night. I wouldn’t miss it.

Rams is a documentary portrait of Dieter Rams, one of the most influential designers alive, and a rumination on consumerism, sustainability, and the future of design.

Other upcoming screenings around the world are listed here.

Amazon Web Services Introduces Its Own Custom-Designed ARM Server Processor, Promises 45 Percent Lower Costs for Some Workloads 

Tom Krazit, reporting for GeekWire from Amazon’s AWS Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas:

After years of waiting for someone to design an ARM server processor that could work at scale on the cloud, Amazon Web Services just went ahead and designed its own.

Vice president of infrastructure Peter DeSantis introduced the AWS Graviton Processor Monday night, adding a third chip option for cloud customers alongside instances that use processors from Intel and AMD. The company did not provide a lot of details about the processor itself, but DeSantis said that it was designed for scale-out workloads that benefit from a lot of servers chipping away at a problem.

Makes you wonder what the hell is going on at Intel and AMD — first they missed out on mobile, now they’re missing out on the cloud’s move to power-efficient ARM chips.

Tangentially related: Microsoft Windows now supports 64-bit ARM.

‘Hustlers, Hoaxsters, Pranksters, Jokesters, and Ricky Jay’ 

90s-era documentary about the life and work of Ricky Jay, with appearances by Ricky Jay, David Mamet, and Steve Martin. Don’t let the VHS quality turn you off — I watched this last night and it’s so good.

Vulture has collected a bunch of other great Jay videos available online, and Deceptive Practice is on iTunes and Amazon Prime.

What’s the Deal With the Dearth of Third-Party iPad Pro Smart Connector Peripherals? 

Andrew O’Hara, in a piece at AppleInsider under the rather scathing headline “Apple Has Destroyed the Potential of the Smart Connector on the New iPad Pro”:

Second is the poor adoption we’ve seen from outside companies, which the shift will not help. Apple touted at launch that third-parties could make use of the port, and they even reiterated strong support with products in the pipeline just last year. Now that the port has completely moved, anything in the works based on the previous port location is dead-on-arrival.

Since the original incarnation, only Logitech has put accessories on the market. They’ve launched multiple versions of their popular Slim Combo Keyboard (review) as well as a simple charging dock, the Base, which we also examined.

The new Smart Connector placement does seem more limiting, but I think the Smart Connector was a disappointment on the previous iPad Pros in terms of third-party peripherals. Two products from Logitech — a keyboard and a dock — and that’s it. And of course with the new placement, neither will work with the new iPad Pros.

It seems a bit weird for Apple to add a port that is primarily used only for one product — Apple’s own Smart Keyboard Folio — but that’s the way the previous Smart Connector turned out. I’d like to see more third-party keyboard options that use the Smart Connector, but that didn’t pan out last time.

SQLPro — Database Management Apps for Mac and iOS 

My thanks to Hankinsoft Development for sponsoring last week at DF to promote SQLPro Studio. SQLPro Studio is the premiere database client for MacOS, and is now available for iOS. SQLPro supports MySQL, Postgres, and Microsoft SQL Server, and allows you to quickly and easily access tables, views, and other database necessities from the palm of your hand, with an intuitive interface. With must-have features such as full syntax highlighting, autocomplete, support for the iPad’s Smart Keyboard, and more, SQLPro is a must-have app for developers. These are great truly native Mac and iOS apps, which have been in development with terrific customer support for years.

Download SQLPro for iOS devices today for a free trial.

You can also save 20 percent on any SQLPro app for the Mac using the promo code “gruber”.

Open Daring Fireball Sponsorships for Remainder of 2018 

Open weeks on the DF sponsorship schedule:

  • Nov 26 (this week)
  • Dec 10
  • Dec 17
  • Dec 24

If you’ve got a product or service you want to promote to DF’s audience, get in touch. Great opportunities in the coming weeks for holiday gift items.

Android Apps With More Than 2 Billion Total Downloads Are Committing Ad Fraud 

Craig Silverman, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Along with raising serious questions about the business practices of two prominent Chinese app developers, this highlights the security, privacy, and ad fraud issues in the Android app ecosystem and Google Play store. BuzzFeed News provided Google with videos of the Cheetah and Kika apps captured by Kochava, as well as with screenshots of relevant app code identified by Method Media Intelligence. Google initially said it had not confirmed the presence of fraudulent tactics in the apps, and that it has asked for additional information from Kika and Cheetah. It told BuzzFeed News it continues to investigate.

“Google is the curated owner of the Google Play store and the owner of one of the largest monetization mechanisms for apps. If there is confusion on where ad fraud and attribution fraud is taking place in this ecosystem, we’d be happy to help Google in their efforts,” Simmons said.

Richard Kramer, a senior analyst with Arete, an independent research firm that covers mobile and technology companies, said Google needs to remove the affected apps from its Play store.

“Why isn’t Google immediately dropping such apps from the Play store and advising users to uninstall them?” he told BuzzFeed News. “It may reduce [ad] inventory in their Network, but I would expect [Google] to be more sensitive to quality of impressions.”

You would expect that.

(Ticky-tacky art direction complaint: why does the hero shot animation atop this story show an iPhone X, when the story is entirely about Android?)

Amy Howe: ‘Justices Poised to Allow Antitrust Dispute Against Apple Over Apps to Go Forward’ 

Amy L. Howe:

The Supreme Court heard oral argument this morning in a dispute between technology giant Apple and a group of iPhone users over the sale of apps from Apple’s App Store. The iPhone users are seeking massive damages from Apple, complaining that the company is violating federal antitrust laws by requiring the users to buy apps exclusively from the App Store. But as it comes to the justices, the case is about whether the iPhone users can bring their lawsuit at all: Apple contends that they cannot, because it is only selling the apps at the prices set by app developers. After 60 minutes of debate, there seemed to be at least five votes to allow the case to move forward, with only Chief Justice John Roberts appearing to be a clear vote for Apple.

Good analysis of today’s argument.

Ricky Jay’s Magical Secrets 

Mark Singer, writing for The New Yorker in 1993:

Ricky Jay, who is perhaps the most gifted sleight-of-hand artist alive, was performing magic with a deck of cards. Also present was a friend of Mamet and Mosher’s named Christ Nogulich, the director of food and beverage at the hotel. After twenty minutes of disbelief-suspending manipulations, Jay spread the deck face up on the bar counter and asked Nogulich to concentrate on a specific card but not to reveal it. Jay then assembled the deck face down, shuffled, cut it into two piles, and asked Nogulich to point to one of the piles and name his card.

“Three of clubs,” Nogulich said, and he was then instructed to turn over the top card.

He turned over the three of clubs.

Mosher, in what could be interpreted as a passive-aggressive act, quietly announced, “Ricky, you know, I also concentrated on a card.”

After an interval of silence, Jay said, “That’s interesting, Gregory, but I only do this for one person at a time.”

Mosher persisted: “Well, Ricky, I really was thinking of a card.”

Jay paused, frowned, stared at Mosher, and said, “This is a distinct change of procedure.” A longer pause. “All right — what was the card?”

“Two of spades.”

Jay nodded, and gestured toward the other pile, and Mosher turned over its top card.

The deuce of spades.

A small riot ensued.

What a loss. Great magician, great actor, great author.

Mezzanine Lost Its Lease, Will Close in October 2019 

Peter Lawrence Kane, reporting for SF Weekly:

First it was the Elbo Room, then the Hemlock Lounge. Storied SoMa venue Mezzanine announced this morning that the landlords have declined to renew the lease, and the club will have to close its doors in October 2019. At least 35 employees are expected to lose their jobs when San Francisco’s largest female-owned, independent space shutters for good. […]

In a statement, Mezzanine owner Deborah Jackman said, “I was disappointed that the owners of the building didn’t give me an opportunity to renegotiate a new lease. I was further disappointed that my request for a three-month extension, so that we could close out 2019 was rejected. What I find most disturbing is that Mezzanine, like so many other cultural institutions, has fallen victim to corporate greed and commercial development.”

What a shame. Mezzanine is the venue where we held The Talk Show Live From WWDC from 2013-2016, and it was a fantastic venue with a wonderful staff. Maybe we’ll fit one more live episode from Mezzanine in before they close doors.

The Talk Show: ‘Jony White’s Universe of Objective Purity’ 

For your holiday weekend listening enjoyment, Rene Ritchie returns to the show to talk about iPad Pro — the new Pencil, the new amazing new hardware, keyboard options, and the OS that in many ways still feels meant for a phone. Also: the state of Apple’s MacBook lineup, and a plea to Apple to please — please — make the small Magic Keyboard in space gray.

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California’s 2018 Wildfires Should Be a Turning Point on Climate Change 

Mat Honan, writing at BuzzFeed:

2018 is the year when everyone, everyone, in the state ran from the fires or choked on the fumes. It is a before-and-after moment. In California, in mid-November of 2018, it became as clear as it did in New York in mid-September of 2001 that what was a once-distant threat has now arrived.

Climate change denialists — and thus the entire Republican party — have blood on their hands.

Trump’s Statement on Saudi Arabia, Explained! 

What a disgrace this guy is. He has effectively given Mohammed bin Salman a license to kill Americans and western critics of the Saudi regime. And the disrespect Trump shows to our own intelligence agencies is embarrassing.

(I know Khashoggi wasn’t a U.S. citizen. He was a legal resident, though, and his children are U.S. citizens. Even if he had been a citizen, nothing would change in Trump’s calculus of this scandal.)

Yours Truly on The Incomparable to Talk About ‘2001’ 

Speaking of Jason Snell, he was kind enough to invite me on The Incomparable — along with John Siracusa, Philip Michaels, Moisés Chiullan, and Dr. Drang — to talk about 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My fondness and appreciation for 2001 is hard to convey. Most of it holds up remarkably well 50 years later. There are parts that still seem impossible, 50 years later. But what ultimately strikes me about 2001 is that it was an attempt by arguably the greatest filmmaker who ever lived to make the greatest movie ever made. Ultimately the work itself is what matters in judging any artistic achievement, but the sheer ambition behind 2001 staggers me whenever I contemplate it. From the scientific rigor to the stunning advances in special effects to the gorgeous 70mm cinematography to the mesmerizing editing and soundtrack, 2001 simply swells my heart.

Apple’s Holiday Short: ‘Share Your Gifts’ 

I’ll bet this feeling resonates with a lot of DF readers.

Marco Arment on the 2018 Mac Mini 

Marco Arment:

The 2018 Mac Mini is real, and it’s spectacular. It makes almost nothing worse and almost everything better, finally bringing the Mac Mini into the modern age.

Jason Snell on the New iPad Pros: ‘A Computer, Not a PC’ 

Jason Snell, writing last week at Six Colors:

With the iPad Pro and improvements to iOS and various iOS apps, I reached a point where I could do most or all of my required work on the road without bringing a Mac along. (I’ll get into some of the limitations below, because they still remain — and are frustrating reminders of how young this product still is.) I wasn’t going to leave the iPad behind, but I no longer needed to bring the Mac. My bag got lighter.

So when I review the new iPad Pro, it’s as someone who has chosen this platform as a tool to get work done around the house and on the road, in addition to all the other things the iPad excels at, like letting me read the news in the morning in bed while sipping my tea.

I simply love this review, and Snell’s perspective on the iPad in general, because Snell and I share a similar history, affinity, and expertise with the Mac. But he’s leaving me behind. I do travel with both an iPad and MacBook — but if I had to take only one it would be the MacBook, zero hesitation. I’m open to the notion that this is less about the iPad and more about me, personally.

But, I will object to one thing: the iPad feels like a young platform, yes, but it’s not young. It’s over 8 years old. Steve Jobs was still around to introduce it. When the Mac was 8 years old in 1992, System 7 had been launched and it was a very advanced platform, suitable for work of any kind. The new iPad Pro hardware might be the best consumer computer hardware ever made — the only rivals are the iPhone XS and XR. But software-wise, the iPad platform is nowhere near as far along after 8 years as the Mac was a generation ago. The iPhone is. But the iPad is not, and I don’t see how anyone can deny that.

CPU Options in Future Macs 

Jason Snell, writing at Macworld:

The new $1,199 base-model MacBook Air comes with a 1.6GHz dual-core Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz. If you max out all of its specs, on the other hand, you’ll walk away with a $2,600 computer… with the very same 1.6GHz processor. Apple will let you expand storage (to 1.5TB) and memory (to 16GB), but the processor you get is the processor you get. […]

And it got me thinking: This feels like the future of the Mac, certainly on the consumer end of the product line. With the new MacBook Air, Apple has picked a processor and stuck with it. Would any of us be surprised if it did the same with a future update to the MacBook? Or low-end iMacs?

I am convinced this is the future of the Mac. The thing to keep in mind is that Apple’s A-series chips — like the A12 and A12X — aren’t just CPUs. They each put an entire system on a chip. They are integrated wholes that include not just CPUs, but also GPUs and now machine learning neural engines, and all the IO communication lines between these components. It just doesn’t make sense to offer configurable CPU and GPU upgrades in an SoC context. Instead, you make a great SoC and offer configurable storage and RAM.

One reason the new MacBook Airs all share the same CPU is that it’s the only CPU from Intel right now that meets the MacBook Air’s power requirements. But count me in with Snell — I think configurable CPU options are going the way of removable batteries and optical drives. And I welcome it. I hate CPU options. I never know what to buy; how best to balance performance and power consumption. I want Apple’s system architects to do all the work to make the decision for me — to find the perfect balance.

Apple’s Newest Macs Include Better Built-in Audio Devices 

Paul Kafasis, writing at the Rogue Amoeba blog:

On older Macs, the headphone jack and the internal speakers are essentially separate ports on a single output device, and only one of these ports is allowed to be active at a time. Because of this, audio can be sent to either the built-in speakers, or the headphone jack, but not to both. As well, if anything is connected to the headphone jack, the OS shuts off the built-in speaker completely.

With these new Macs, there are actually two distinct output devices. The headphone jack and the internal speakers are separate devices, completely independent from one another.


Are Pop Lyrics Getting More Repetitive? 

Colin Morris, writing for The Pudding:

In 1977, the great computer scientist Donald Knuth published a paper called The Complexity of Songs, which is basically one long joke about the repetitive lyrics of newfangled music (example quote: “the advent of modern drugs has led to demands for still less memory, and the ultimate improvement of Theorem 1 has consequently just been announced”).

I’m going to try to test this hypothesis with data. I’ll be analyzing the repetitiveness of a dataset of 15,000 songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1958 and 2017.

Clever technique.

Square Reader SDK 

My thanks to Square for sponsoring this week at DF. You might know Square from their little white card readers, but for developers they have a suite of APIs and SDKs to help you take payments — both in-person and online. Square Reader SDK allows you to use Square hardware to take payments directly in your app. Check out their website to see their cookie-selling demo app, with complete source code to simulate everything a Girl Scout would need to sell cookies.

Rumors Float Claiming AirPods 2 Are Still Coming This Year 

Chris Smith, BGR:

A few weeks ago, Apple insider Ming-Chi Kuo said that the AirPods 2 would launch either in late 2018 or early next year. Now we have a Samsung insider making a similar claim. “Ice Universe”, who’s a constant source of rumors, mostly related to Samsung mobile devices, said on Twitter that “Apple will definitely launch AirPods 2 this year”.

Anything is possible, but I’d find it a bit strange if Apple released new AirPods this year. If they were going to be ready for the holidays, why wouldn’t they have announced them at the event in Brooklyn two weeks ago? Why would they release a holiday gift guide listing the current AirPods as the second item on the list?

People are already buying holiday gifts, and gift-buying reaches its manic peak next week with Black Friday. People who are buying $160 AirPods now — on Apple’s own recommendation — would be justifiably angry if AirPods 2 come out before the holidays.

And what about inductive charging? Last year Apple promised a new charging case for AirPods that would work with the still-missing-don’t-talk-about-it AirPower charging mat. I don’t think they were going to use the Qi standard for that, but instead something proprietary like Apple Watch uses. If they still plan on supporting this, would they launch new AirPods now even while AirPower is totally missing? How do you launch AirPods with inductive charging without a way to inductively charge them? And if they still plan on shipping AirPower in the even vaguely near future, would they ship new AirPods without support for it?

Idea: Deleting Apps From the App Store Updates Tab 

600+ likes and counting on this tweet that popped into my head this morning:

I wish you could delete apps right from the App Store Updates tab. When I see an update is pending for an app I never use, I just want to delete it right there.

Also, it would be great to be able to delete apps from Spotlight search results (or even just reveal them).

How to See the Magnets in the New iPad Pro 

It’s one thing to hear that there are a lot of magnets in the new iPad Pros. It’s another to see them.

Trump Warns That Florida Recount Could Set Dangerous Precedent of Person With Most Votes Winning 

Satirist Andy Borowitz:

Calling for an “immediate end” to the recount in Florida, Donald J. Trump warned on Monday that it could set a dangerous precedent of the person with the most votes winning.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said that those in favor of the recount had a “sick obsession with finding out which candidate got the most votes.”

“Democrats are going on and on about counting every last vote until they find out who got the most,” Trump said. “Since when does getting the most votes mean you win?”

Under Trump, the line between satire and news is ever more blurred. The above is a more fair, more accurate description of Trump’s reaction to these close elections than anything in the supposedly straight news.

Why Aren’t There Third-Party USB-C to Lightning Cables? 

Here’s a thread on Reddit asking why there aren’t any USB-C to Lightning cables from reliable, certified companies like Anker, Monoprice, and Amazon. It’s a year-old thread and the situation is unchanged. This stinks now that all MacBooks and the new iPad Pros have gone to USB-C, along with chargers that output by USB-C.

I have this Anker 30-watt charger, for example. It’s a terrific product — nice size, great build quality, and just $26. (Apple’s 30-watt charger is $50.) Another great charger is Apple’s new 18-watt charger that’s included with the new iPad Pros (but which, oddly, is not yet available for purchase separately). These chargers all use USB-C for output. So if you want to use them to charge a Lightning device — like, say, your iPhone — you need a USB-C to Lightning cable, and your only certified options are Apple’s 1-meter and 2-meter cables. Apple’s cables aren’t bad, but (a) they cost $19 and $35, respectively; and (b) the 1-meter cable is awfully long to be the shortest cable for this. I like having 6-inch cables for traveling, for plugging my phone into my MacBook to charge overnight.

Here’s a 9to5Mac story from 2015 where Anker was already showing off USB-C to Lightning cables for use with the then-new 12-inch MacBook. They still haven’t shipped.

What’s the deal here? Is there a technical issue? Or is Apple just spitefully keeping this market to itself? It really seems like a raw deal when you consider that Apple still doesn’t include a USB-C to Lightning cable with new iPhones.

Stan Lee: ‘America Is a Dream’ 

Great little graphic essay Stan Lee wrote for The Atlantic in 2007.

‘An Unshakable Humanism’ – Michael Chabon on Stan Lee 

Michael Chabon, on Instagram:

Some people are influences. Others — a rare few — rearrange the very structure of your neurons. Stan Lee’s creative and artistic contribution to the Marvel pantheon has been debated endlessly, but one has only to look at Jack Kirby’s solo work to see what Stan brought to the partnership: an unshakable humanism, a faith in our human capacity for altruism and self-sacrifice and in the eventual triumph of the rational over the irrational, of love over hate, that was a perfect counterbalance to Kirby’s dark, hard-earned quasi-nihilism. In the heyday of their partnership, it was Stan’s vision that predominated and that continues to shape my way of seeing the world, and of telling stories about that world, to this day.

There’s something apt about Chabon using a primarily visual medium like Instagram as an outlet for the perfect words to remember a man whose life’s work was writing for comic books.

Stan Lee Dies at 95 

Alexander F. Remington and Michael Cavna, writing for The Washington Post:

Traditionally, comics were drawn from a screenplay-like script provided by the writer. Instead, Mr. Lee said, he would offer his artists plot ideas and brainstorm with them. The artists would then draw the story, and he would later fill in dialogue and text.

Artists in his “bullpen,” where the artists worked in proximity to each other and to him, were much more involved in the creative process. This became known as the Marvel Method.

What remarkable staying power his universe has had. And the man was a master of the cameo.

Jack Dorsey Says Twitter Is ‘Considering’ an Edit Button to Fix Typos in Tweets 

It’s perfectly reasonable for something as advanced as an “Edit” button to take a multi-billion dollar company years to consider.


My thanks to Universe for sponsoring Daring Fireball this week. Universe is the first website builder designed from the ground up for iOS. Building a website should be fun and creative, so Universe doesn’t have templates. Themes, yes. Templates, no. Instead, Universe uses an open-ended grid and a constantly expanding array of “blocks” for content types, which makes building a site as fun as playing with Legos. Design a store (they’ve partnered with Shopify), create a portfolio, or start a magazine right from your iPhone.

Just this week, they released a major 2.0 update, including full support for iPads — just in time for the new iPad Pros. (Universe already supports the new iPad Pro screen sizes and round corners perfectly.)

I really just love the idea of owning and creating your own website. Universe offers a really original take on how to actually do this, and the fact that it started as an iPhone app means the iPhone is a first-class device for using it. I really think it’s one of the most interesting creative apps for iPhone and iPad that I’ve seen. Trust me, download Universe and just poke around for a while — it’s deeper than you think. Try it out free of charge on the App Store.

The Talk Show: ‘Welcome to Dongletropolis’ 

Special guest Merlin Mann returns to the show. Topics include the new iPad Pro and the state of iOS as a work platform, the mid-term election results, and holiday parties of yore.

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The Baseball Ponzi Scheme 

Month-old news at this point, but I only just now got around to reading Grant Brisbee’s spot-on summary of game 4 of the ALDS, the best single game, by far, of the entire postseason:

But this is it. This is the baseball experience. You build up the energy over 162 games, and you store it and hope for the best, and the radiation becomes too much, and now the parakeet is dead. Great. Except that’s exactly what you want. You want the release after 162 games, the progressive jackpot paying off.

Baseball is a ponzi scheme, except it really does pay off occasionally, and when it does, you get everything that you promised.

Steve Jobs Announcing the Switch from PowerPC to Intel Chips at WWDC 2005 

The bit about performance-per-watt (around the 2:50 mark) seems like an argument Apple will be making again, this year or next, when they announce Macs running with Apple’s in-house ARM chips. Really, the argument is going to be exactly the same: Apple has ideas for future Macs that they can’t build using Intel chips. (Via Peter Zopf.)

What We Can All Do at This Moment Is Vote 

Inspiring piece by 98-year-old Roger Angell in The New Yorker:

What we can all do at this moment is vote — get up, brush our teeth, go to the polling place, and get in line. I was never in combat as a soldier, but now I am. Those of you who haven’t quite been getting to your polling place lately, who want better candidates or a clearer system of making yourself heard, or who just aren’t in the habit, need to get it done this time around. If you stay home, count yourself among the hundreds of thousands now being disenfranchised by the relentless parade of restrictions that Republicans everywhere are imposing and enforcing. If you don’t vote, they have won, and you are a captive, one of their prizes.

Via Kottke, who aptly describes Angell as a national treasure.


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Run your devices; don’t let them run you. Sign up for Fleetsmith today.

Tens of Thousands of Google Employees and Contractors Participate in ‘Global Walkout for Real Change’ 

Google Walkout:

More than 20,000 Google employees and contractors in Google offices located in 50 cities worldwide walked out for real change at 11:10am local time protesting sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace culture that doesn’t work for everyone. Nine offices have yet to report numbers, and additional offices in Europe have planned walkouts in the coming days. […]

Protest organizers say they were disgusted by the details of the recent article from The New York Times which provided the latest example of a culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators in the face of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse of power. They framed the problem as part of a longstanding pattern in a toxic work culture further amplified by systemic racism.

Awful lot of “Don’t Be Evil” signs in the crowd shots.

Apple’s Welcoming, Inclusive Brand of Luxury 

Zachary Karabell, in an article for Wired under the headline “Apple Abandons the Mass Market, as the iPhone Turns Luxury”:

As its market cap hovers near $1 trillion, Apple has gradually been shifting its strategy away from grabbing ever-more market share and focusing instead on dominating the higher end of its markets. If there were even a small doubt about that, the recent results made it screamingly clear.

When has Apple ever had a different strategy than focusing on dominating the higher end of its markets and ignoring sheer market share? The iPod — maybe — was a market share leader, depending on how you defined its category. But even with iPods Apple clearly was determined to dominate the higher end of the market.

It’s also worth noting that Apple stores are chock full of people from all walks of life. As I noted 7 years ago, Apple’s brand of luxury is mass-market luxury:

I think it’s impossible to overstate the importance of Apple’s retail business. The growth in stores — both in the number of outlets and the size and architectural prominence of the flagship locations — is a physical manifestation of Apple’s market share growth in device sales. Luxury retailers have long done this. Think about brands like Tiffany, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton. Their retail stores are physical manifestations of the brands. But Apple’s brand of luxury is mass market luxury. Apple’s stores are crowded. They’re bustling. They’re loud. And they’re inclusive, not exclusive.

It’s been a long 7 years since I wrote that, but every word remains just as true today.

Apple’s New Map 

Justin O’Beirne has a detailed look at what’s new in Apple’s limited rollout (big parts of California, a few counties in western Nevada) of all-new maps in iOS 12:

Unless they’re already listed on Yelp, none of the shapes Apple has added appear in its search results or are labeled on its map. And this is a problem for Apple because AR is all about labels — but Apple’s new map is all about shapes.

So is Apple making the right map?

O’Beirne’s keen observation is this: even in the areas where Apple’s new maps have rolled out, Google is still far ahead in correctly identifying places and specific destinations. And that might be the most important thing for maps to get right going forward. As usual, his piece is exquisitely well-written, designed, and illustrated.

Dan Frakes Goes to Apple as Mac App Store Editor 

Dan Frakes:

Some job news (thread): After 4(!) amazing years at @wirecutter, I’m leaving for a new editorial position at Apple (Mac App Store Editor!) focused on helping Mac users discover and get more out of great Mac apps. (It’s like Mac Gems redux :) )

Apple is a great place to work, and the App Store teams are producing (and commissioning) excellent work. This is good for Apple, good for App Store users, good for developers whose quality apps are getting editorial attention, and good for these talented writers and editors, job-wise.


A ton of the top talent in the Apple media world now works at Apple, un-bylined and without credit. Many of them came from Macworld. In addition to the folks who’ve gone to work at Apple full-time, there are others who are writing as freelancers for App Store features. I don’t blame Apple for hiring great talent and I don’t blame anyone for taking a well-paying, secure job at Apple (or accepting well-paying freelance work).

But I don’t think this is a good thing for the Apple media world. The talent pool writing about Apple products and platforms from outside the company’s walls is getting noticeably shallower. And on a personal level, this trend is not good for me, because I can’t link to App Store articles, because they’re not on the web. They only exist within the App Store apps. I can’t link to some of the best pieces being written these days about indie iOS and Macs apps — and that’s a little weird. And none of these pieces are archived publicly.

Tom Boger on Rene Ritchie’s Vector Podcast 

Boger is senior director of Mac product marketing at Apple, and was on stage this week to introduce the new Mac Mini. Terrific interview.

Recode Folded Into Vox, Sort Of 

Kara Swisher:

Let me be clear, for those who enjoy heedless media speculation: The Recode brand remains the same; the Code conferences remain the same; the podcasts remain the same; the television specials we do with MSNBC remain the same. And I am not going anywhere either, because Recode has allowed me — whatever the medium — the great gift of being able to do what journalists are supposed to do. Which is to say, to use an old journalism bromide: Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

More here from The Wall Street Journal. In staffing news, my friend Dan Frommer is leaving after three years as Recode’s editor-in-chief.

Bonus: A get-the-popcorn back-and-forth between Swisher and The Information founder Jessica Lessin on Twitter.

The Talk Show: ‘North Korean USB Fan’ 

You wanted more Moltz, you get more Moltz. Our thoughts and observations on Apple’s “There’s More in the Making” event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the products they announced: new MacBook Airs, Mac Minis, iPad Pros, and Apple Pencil.

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