Linked List: September 2019

Om Malik: ‘An Exclusive Look Inside Apple’s A13 Bionic Chip’ 

Om Malik, writing for Wired:

The answer to that question clearly illustrates the inherent advantage of Apple owning the whole stack. To learn about how that vertical integration manifests itself in a chip like the A13 Bionic, I sat down with Schiller and Anand Shimpi, who in a past life was an influential semiconductor- and systems-focused journalist who founded the website AnandTech. Shimpi is now part of Apple’s Platform Architecture team.

The new A13 outpaces last year’s A12 handsomely, with a 20 percent performance gain across all of its main components: the six CPU cores, its graphics processor, and the neural engine. For an already high-performing chip to see such a significant boost is sort of like watching Usain Bolt beat himself in a sprint.

Power efficiency and CPU / GPU performance are important, no question. But they’re not everything. I would never argue that Apple’s A-series chips are the main reason to use iPhones and iPads. If the tables were turned and it were Apple’s chips that were significantly slower and consumed more power, I’d still use and recommend iOS because of its user interface, apps, and overall experience. It’s the same reason I never considered switching away from the Mac during the latter years of the PowerPC era, when Intel-based PCs clearly had performance and performance-per-watt advantages.

But the tables aren’t turned. Apple’s A-series chips are faster and more power efficient than anything available for Android. Can you imagine what Android enthusiasts would say if it were the other way around? They’d have a field day. Instead, they just pretend it isn’t an issue.

How fast is the A13 CPU? So fast that it beats every Mac available in Geekbench 5’s single-core benchmark. Now think about how fast the A13X will be in the next iPad Pros.

Joanna Stern’s Review of the iPhones 11 

Joanna Stern, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

In the scheme of iPhone upgrade history, the new iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max sure seem boring. Same designs…but new colors! Cameras…but three of them! Glass…but stronger?! After a week of testing, I can tell you that’s mostly just smoke-and-mirrors marketing, except for one thing many of us have wanted all along: phones that are a bit heavier and thicker — but work when we damn well need them to. Yes, longer battery life.

I love that her take is sort of the inverse of mine. She sees the much-longer battery life as the primary appeal, with the improved camera as a bonus. I see the camera as the primary appeal, with the longer battery life as a bonus.

She also wrote a second review — “An iPhone 11 Review for Owners of Aging iPhones” — which is basically the same starting premise as Brian Chen’s bizarre review for The Times, except done right. Stern’s advice for owners of aging iPhones is accurate and useful.

Inside Apple’s Redesigned Fifth Avenue Flagship Store 

Lance Ulanoff, writing for Lifewire:

Apple’s business may be transforming from one driven almost entirely by a passionate devotion to beautiful hardware to one idolizing code and, especially, services, but the reimagined Apple Fifth Ave. flagship Store in Manhattan is a reminder that the physical still matters very much to the California-based company.

The 13-year-old store, which sits at the base of Central Park and is instantly recognizable thanks to its iconic 32-foot glass cube with a suspended Apple logo inside of it, has undergone a massive, 2-year-long reinvention project that somehow maintains the core essence of what drew hundreds of people to the store to line up for their first iPhones more than a decade ago.

Looks pretty cool — the skylights that double as benches on the plaza are clever.

(As an aside, I think it’s wrong to frame Apple’s push into services as a transition. Apple has sort of sold that line to Wall Street, and I’ve seen several analysts buy it, but it’s just not true. Apple is as devoted to its hardware business as ever — the push into services is an expansion, not a transition.)

iOS 13.0 Is Buggy; Wait for 13.1 

Lauren Goode, writing for Wired:

iOS 13 holds a lot of promise. It introduces a Dark Mode, drastically overhauls the Photos app, includes a Street-View-like feature in Apple Maps, and officially introduces Apple Arcade, the new $5-per-month gaming portal.

Something atypical for Apple is iOS 13’s notably buggy rollout.

13.0 is really buggy — I’ve been using it on my iPhone 11 review units. I’d say don’t upgrade your iPhone to 13.0 — wait for 13.1. Which, according to Goode, may not be a long wait:

But if you can stand to wait five days, it might be worth it to wait for iOS 13.1, the next update to the iPhone’s OS that’s expected to drop on September 24, and should be more reliable. That’s when iPadOS, the retooled operating system for iPads, is coming out as well.

This is news to me — Apple has previously said 13.1 would ship on September 30. I don’t know why they moved this up, but if they’re really shipping it on Tuesday, just five days from now, I don’t understand why they’re releasing 13.0 at all. The iPhones 11 already have it installed, of course. But for upgrades I don’t see why Apple is releasing it.

Update: The second footnote on Apple’s iOS 13 features page confirms that 13.1 is coming September 24.

Update 2: Best theory I’ve seen so far as to why Apple is going ahead with a wide 13.0 release instead of just waiting until next week for 13.1 — Apple Watch Series 5 requires iOS 13 on the iPhone it’s paired with. So people getting new watches tomorrow need to update their iPhone to iOS 13 tomorrow. This raises the question of why Apple didn’t delay the release of the Series 5 watches until iOS 13.1 was out.

PR Honcho Steve Dowling Is Leaving Apple 

Steve Dowling, in a memo to staff (”leaked” to Recode):

After 16 years at Apple, countless keynotes, product launches and the occasional PR crisis, I’ve decided that the time is right for me to step away from our remarkable company. This is something that has been on my mind for a while, and it came into sharp focus during the latest — and for me, last — launch cycle. Your plans are set and the team is executing brilliantly as ever. So, it’s time.

Phil will be managing the team on an interim basis starting today, and I’ll be available through the end of October to help with the transition. After that, I plan to take a good, long stretch of time off before trying something new. At home I have a supportive, patient spouse in Petra and two beautiful children blossoming into their teen years. I‘m looking forward to creating more memories with the three of them while I have the chance.

My loyalty to Apple and its people knows no bounds. Working with Tim and this team, accomplishing all we have done together, has been the highlight of my career. I want to thank you for your hard work, your patience and your friendship. And I wish you every success.

I will always bleed six colors.

Dowling

He’s going out on top. Dowling replaced the inimitable Katie Cotton five years ago, and it’s been a busy five years to say the least. I’ll just say it: I like Dowling. He’s been tremendously helpful to me — always available, always honest.

When Cotton left, there were two clear possible successors, Dowling and Natalie Kerris. Cotton was very much Steve Jobs’s PR chief. She fit Jobs’s style like a glove. I think Dowling was a similar fit for Tim Cook. But there’s no clear successor to Dowling this time. Kara Swisher reports that Apple will be considering both internal and external candidates, and while it makes sense to look at everyone, Apple has such a unique culture, and is on such a good roll, that I’d be a little surprised if they go with an external candidate.

Facebook Launches Portal TV, a $149 Video Chat Set-Top Box 

Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch:

Facebook wants to take over your television with a clip-on camera for video calling, AR gaming and content co-watching. If you can get past the creepiness, the new Portal TV lets you hang out with friends on your home’s biggest screen.

Imagine hearing “clip-on Facebook camera” and not running in the opposite direction.

Also, their example footage is bullshit. There’s tiny small print stating that the footage is simulated, but they’re trying to pass off professional video camera footage as the work of this camera.

Panzarino: ‘The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Do Disneyland After Dark’ 

Matthew Panzarino:

As you’re probably now gathering, yes, I took the new iPhones to Disneyland again. If you’ve read my other reviews from the parks, you’ll know that I do this because they’re the ideal real-world test bed for a variety of capabilities. Lots of people vacation with iPhones.

The parks are hot and the network is crushed. Your phone has to act as your ticket, your food ordering tool, your camera and your map. Not to mention your communication device with friends and family. It’s a demanding environment, plain and simple. And, I feel, a better organic test of how these devices fare than sitting them on a desk in an office and running benchmark tools until they go dead.

A Disney park really is a great stress test for a phone — hard on the battery and so many photo and video opportunities.

Oh, about that improved Face ID angle — I saw, maybe, a sliiiiiiight improvement, if any. But not that much. A few degrees? Sometimes? Hard to say. I will be interested to see what other reviewers found. Maybe my face sucks.

I tried testing this too, and couldn’t see how the Face ID angle or distance is any more generous on the iPhones 11. It might be faster, but in terms of angles I could see no difference.

Matthew Panzarino Hopes Apple Arcade Makes Room for Weird, Cool Shit 

Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch:

Apple Arcade seems purpose-built to make room in the market for beautiful, sad, weird, moving, slow, clever and heartfelt. All things that the action, shooter and MOBA-driven major market of games has done nothing to foster over the last decade.

I had a chance to play a bunch of the titles coming to Apple Arcade, which launched today in a surprise move for some early testers of iOS 13. Nearly every game I played was fun, all were gorgeous and some were really, really great.

Kolide 

My thanks to Kolide for again sponsoring Daring Fireball. Kolide is a new Slack app that messages employees when their Mac, Windows, or Linux device is not compliant with security best-practices or policy.

With this app, Kolide will notify users or groups when a device is out of compliance along with clear instructions about what is wrong, and step by step instructions to remediate the issue themselves. They can even confirm in real-time that they resolved the problem with an interactive button inside the Slack message!

Unlike most endpoint security solutions, Kolide was designed with user privacy in mind. Your users will know what data is collected about their device, who can see that data, and can even view the full source code of the agent that is run on the device.

Kolide is already used by hundreds of fast growing companies who want to level-up their device security without locking down their devices. Try Kolide’s new product for free for 30 days for your entire fleet.

Jason Snell: ‘The U1 Chip in the iPhone 11 Is the Beginning of an Ultra Wideband Revolution’ 

Great piece from Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

From raw data alone, UWB devices can detect locations within 10 centimeters (4 inches), but depending on implementation that accuracy can be lowered to as much as 5 millimeters, according to Mickael Viot, VP of marketing at UWB chipmaker Decawave. […]

Of course, that’s only if most smartphones are UWB enabled. As of today, the total number of smartphones shipping with UWB onboard is zero. In fact the iPhone 11 family, when it arrives next week, will be the first consumer smartphones to support UWB. A glance at the various trade groups coalescing around this technology suggests that Google, Samsung, HTC, and other major players plan to get in the game.

“It’s huge,” Viot says, that Apple has taken this step. He likens the move to Apple adopting Wi-Fi in the first iBook, which was the push the technology needed to start rolling out everywhere.

It’s interesting to think about Ultra Wideband in comparison to 5G. Critics are blasting Apple for not including 5G in any of this year’s iPhones, claiming that everyone buying an iPhone this year will be missing out for years to come. If UWB is the next big thing, everyone buying a 2019 iPhone will still get to play for years to come.

Apple’s usually not first to new technology (again: see 5G), but when they are, it is often a big new thing.

University of Tennessee Offers Scholarship to Young Kid Bullied Over Homemade T-Shirt 

Adam Rittenberg, writing for ESPN:

Tennessee announced Thursday that it has extended an offer of admission and a four-year scholarship — for the Class of 2032 — to the elementary school student in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

The university will cover the cost of the boy’s scholarship if he chooses to attend the school and meets all admission requirements.

The boy’s story drew national attention earlier this week when Laura Snyder, his teacher, detailed on Facebook how the boy had been bullied after clipping a piece of paper with a “UT” design to an orange T-shirt for “college colors day” at the school.

There’s a lot of crummy news these days. Here’s a story that will make you feel good about humanity — and the power of social networks to do good. 15 years ago the upside of this story never would’ve happened.

Disney CEO Bob Iger Resigns From Apple Board 

CNBC:

Disney is launching streaming video service Disney+ on Nov. 12, which will compete with Apple’s Apple TV+ service, scheduled to become available on Nov. 1.

Iger resigned on Sept. 10, the day Apple announced the price and release date for its streaming service. The two streaming services will increasingly come into conflict in the future as both compete for original content.

This seems to be just for propriety’s sake — Apple TV+ and Disney+ do compete directly, so it just wouldn’t be appropriate for Iger to remain on Apple’s board. His statement and Apple’s both make the departure seem very amicable. Apple’s statement is downright effusive:

Bob has been an exemplary board member for nearly eight years, and for as long as he has led Disney he has been one of Apple’s most trusted business partners. He is a dedicated, visionary CEO and a role model for an entire generation of business leaders. More than anything, Bob is our friend. He leads with his heart and he has always been generous with his time and advice. While we will greatly miss his contributions as a board member, we respect his decision and we have every expectation that our relationship with both Bob and Disney will continue far into the future.

Might the iPhones 11 Contain Hardware for Two-Way Inductive Charging? 

Sonny Dickson, on Twitter:

Reliable sources are saying iPhone 11 and 11 Pro do include the hardware for bilateral charging, but that it is software disabled. Uncertain whether this was removed prior to final production run.

This is the feature that was much-rumored in lead-up to this week, where you could set your AirPods charging case on the back of your iPhone and charge the AirPods case inductively (a.k.a. “wirelessly” but don’t get me started on that).

I wondered in response whether Apple had ever shipped hardware features without mentioning them, only to enable them in a software update later. They have:

And I’ve been told by a reliable little birdie that in years past Apple has shipped hardware that wound up never enabled in software.

House Judiciary Committee Investigating Apple Regarding ‘Competition in Digital Markets’ (PDF) 

(Note that the link is a scanned PDF.)

My reading is that this is a really broad request. They want Apple to break down revenue by specific products in a far more granular way than they provide in quarterly statements — e.g. revenue for Apple Watch specifically. And they’re asking for “all communication” from executives regarding a slew of topics.

The letter says “we write to request that Apple Inc. (the “Company”) provide the documents and executive communications set forth in the Schedule in accordance with the attached Definitions and Instructions no later than October 14, 2019.” Unclear to me as a non-lawyer is whether this really is a “request” — and even if it is, it feels like an offer Apple can’t refuse.

I enjoy that on page 4, they use “sherlock” as a verb, albeit in quotes, with no explanation other than a footnote pointing to this Washington Post story from last week.

What It’s Like to Demo a Game Live on Stage at an Apple Event 

“Steve would really like you to get 5 stars…”

Apple Arcade: 100 Games in 100 Seconds 

Apple should have played this video in Tuesday’s event instead of wasting so much time on a handful of live game demos. This video conveys excitement, and makes it feel like there are going to be a lot of games with a lot of variety.

Ring Fit Adventure for Nintendo Switch 

Neat idea — brings back a lot of the feel of the Wii. The Wii was great in a few ways, but it was unique in the way it made casual gaming physical. You really could work up a sweat playing a game.

(There’s something weird about the two spokespeople in the video, though. They’re impossibly cheerful. They have the feel of hostages extolling the virtues of Kim Jong-un’s hotel in Pyongyang.)

MG Siegler: ‘But Will They Go to 12?’ 

Another solid piece on Apple’s event Tuesday, from MG Siegler:

The iPhone is now officially a camera. I mean, it has been a camera for a long time. The most popular camera in the world, as Apple is quick to point out each and every year, a decade on. But now it’s really a camera, as today’s keynote made clear. The key parts of the presentations for both the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro were all about the camera. As Phil Schiller said in his portion: “I know what you’re waiting for, and I am too. Let’s talk about the cameras. Without question, my favorite part about iPhone.”

It feels like if Apple wasn’t so wedded to their own legacy branding — more on that in a bit — they would rename this thing the iCamera.

Just look at the back of these phones to see how central the camera systems are.

That was my main takeaway from today’s event, with a side of one more thing: Apple is so far ahead when it comes to their chips in these devices that they invited out their VP of Silicon to do a verbal victory lap. Was this aimed at Samsung? Google? Xiaomi? Qualcomm? Intel? Probably all of the above.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: imagine what the Android commentariat would be saying if the tables were turned, and it was Snapdragon chips that were years ahead of Apple’s A-series chips in every single regard: CPU, GPU, and power efficiency. The first question for anyone who wants to argue that Apple showed no innovation Tuesday is how to explain the A13’s astonishing dominance over every other competing chipset.

Ben Thompson: ‘The iPhone and Apple’s Services Strategy’ 

Ben Thompson, writing at Stratechery, on Tuesday’s event:

That means that this year actually saw three price cuts:

  • First, the iPhone 11 — this year’s mid-tier model — costs $50 less than the iPhone XR it is replacing.

  • Second, the iPhone XR’s price is being cut by $150 a year after launch, not $100 as Apple has previously done.

  • Third, the iPhone 8’s price is also being cut by $150 two years after launch, not $100 as Apple has previously done.

I completely missed this.

Also a great observation about why Apple brought out Deirdre O’Brien at the very end of the event:

So, in the case of this slide, you can get an iPhone 11 and Apple TV+ for $17/month. […]

To that end, how long until there is a variant of the iPhone Upgrade Program that is simply an all-up Apple subscription? Pay one monthly fee, and get everything Apple has to offer. Indeed, nothing would show that Apple is a Services company more than making the iPhone itself a service, at least as far as the customer relationship goes. You might even say it is innovative.

Google-Owned Crashlytics Is Using Custom Fonts to Track Users 

One of the things iOS has been sorely lacking for a decade is the ability for users to install custom fonts. Apple has put it off on the grounds that custom fonts open security and privacy holes. Proving Apple’s point, Google-owned Crashlytics is already abusing the feature to track users by installing a font with a custom identifier embedded. iOS 13 isn’t even out yet and they’re abusing this for tracking. Because these fonts are installed system-wide — which is the whole point of the feature, so users can use their custom fonts in any app that supports choosing a font — I believe any app can use Crashlytics’s font to uniquely identify users.

I haven’t tried this feature yet, but Apple’s developer documentation indicates that users are prompted to allow an app to install a font, so it can’t be done silently in the background. Most users, I suspect, would just allow this, thinking fonts are harmless — but at least those of you reading this are forewarned.

Update: Apparently this isn’t something based on iOS 13’s custom fonts feature, but instead based on an older iOS feature that allows custom fonts to be installed with a configuration profile. The basic fact remains: custom fonts, however they’re installed, are not meant to be used for tracking users.

Uber Says It Is Not Subject to California Gig-Worker Law 

Kate Conger, reporting for The New York Times:

Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, said in a news conference that the ride-hailing company would not treat its drivers, who are independent contractors, as employees under the California bill. He said that drivers were not a core part of Uber’s business and could maintain their independent status when the measure goes into effect as state law on Jan. 1.

Drivers are not a core part of Uber’s business. OK, sure.

Uber Lays Off 435 People Across Engineering and Product Teams 

Typically bad news gets announced on a Friday afternoon. In the tech industry, there’s an even better way to bury bad news: announcing it on the day of an iPhone event.

New Apple Developer Tech Talk: ‘Metal Enhancements for A13 Bionic’ 

If you want nitty-gritty details on what’s new with the GPU in the A13 Bionic chip, Apple already has a 35-minute developer tech talk. For an overview, graphics driver team manager Gokhan Avkarogullari posted a short thread on Twitter.

Release Dates for OS Updates, New iPhones, and Apple Watch 

So glad John Voorhees put this list together — there are a lot of dates to keep track of here. Some oddities: iOS 13.0 is coming September 19, and 13.1 is scheduled to drop just 11 days later. iPadOS 13 isn’t shipping until September 30, which presumably means it’s going straight to 13.1. Unusual schedule for WatchOS 6, too: “September 19, 2019 for Series 3 and later Apple Watches and later this fall for Series 1 and 2.”

Federico Viticci has a list of iOS/iPadOS features that are slated for “later this fall”, presumably in iOS 13.2.

The Talk Show: ‘The Dumbest Thing Possible’ 

Special guest Dan Frommer returns to the show for a preview of this week’s Apple event.

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Kolide 

My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring last week at DF. Kolide is a new Slack app that messages employees when their Mac, Windows, or Linux device is not compliant with security best-practices or policy.

With this app, Kolide will notify users or groups when a device is out of compliance along with clear instructions about what is wrong, and step by step instructions to remediate the issue themselves. They can even confirm in real-time that they resolved the problem with an interactive button inside the Slack message!

Unlike most endpoint security solutions, Kolide was designed with user privacy in mind. Your users will know what data is collected about their device, who can see that data, and can even view the full source code of the agent that is run on the device.

Kolide is already used by hundreds of fast growing companies who want to level-up their device security without locking down their devices. Try Kolide’s new product for free for 30 days for your entire fleet.

NOAA Staff Warned Against Contradicting Trump 

The Washington Post:

“This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast,” the meteorologist said. “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. One of the things we train on is to dispel inaccurate rumors and ultimately that is what was occurring — ultimately what the Alabama office did is provide a forecast with their tweet, that is what they get paid to do.”

Even if you’re an outright bigot (and if you voted for him, you are) you ought to be outraged by Trump at this point. He’s politicized the goddamn weather.

Apple Pushes Back on iOS Security in Wake of Google’s Report 

Apple Newsroom:

First, the sophisticated attack was narrowly focused, not a broad-based exploit of iPhones “en masse” as described. The attack affected fewer than a dozen websites that focus on content related to the Uighur community. Regardless of the scale of the attack, we take the safety and security of all users extremely seriously.

Google’s post, issued six months after iOS patches were released, creates the false impression of “mass exploitation” to “monitor the private activities of entire populations in real time,” stoking fear among all iPhone users that their devices had been compromised. This was never the case.

Second, all evidence indicates that these website attacks were only operational for a brief period, roughly two months, not “two years” as Google implies.

Reading between the lines here, what Apple is pushing back on is the fact that Google’s report on this attack against the Uyghur community only mentioned iOS. Coverage of Google’s report created the impression that only iOS users were hacked, when in fact, the Chinese government also exploited Windows and Android users, and that these exploits may have been targeting people everywhere.

Conspicuously unmentioned in Apple’s response: “China”.

Interesting Report From Barclays Analyst Blayne Curtis Back in May 

This report from Barclays analyst Blayne Curtis back in May is interesting. He predicted both of the things Mark Gurman reported today: the return of Touch ID via an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and a new iPhone SE based on the iPhone 8.

Gurman Claims Touch ID Coming Back to iPhone With In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor 

Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, reporting for Bloomberg*:

Apple Inc. is developing in-screen fingerprint technology for as early as its 2020 iPhones, according to people familiar with the plans. The technology is in testing both inside Apple and among the company’s overseas suppliers, though the timeline for its release may slip to the 2021 iPhone refresh, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private work. […]

The upcoming fingerprint reader would be embedded in the screen, letting a user scan their fingerprint on a large portion of the display, and it would work in tandem with the existing Face ID system, the people familiar with Apple’s plans said.

If true, I would guess this would be an optional way to increase security by requiring both Face ID and Touch ID authentication.

Apple is also working on its first low-cost iPhone since the iPhone SE. That could come out as early as the first half of 2020, the people said. The device would look similar to the iPhone 8 and include a 4.7-inch screen. The iPhone 8 currently sells for $599, while Apple sold the iPhone SE for $399 when that device launched in 2016. The new low-cost phone is expected to have Touch ID built into the home button, not the screen.

The SE debuted about 6 months after the iPhone 6S, with the same A9 chipset. If Apple follows the same playbook, this new iPhone would have the A13 chip we expect to see in next week’s new iPhones — the iPhone 8 has an A11 that will soon be two years old. Makes a lot of sense — none of the X-class phones are going to drop to $400 in 2020, but it would be good for Apple and for users if there were a $400 iPhone with A13 specs. The only downside of this report is for people holding onto hope that Apple will make a new SE-sized phone with a 4-inch display. I would expect this rumored phone to look as much like an iPhone 8 as the SE looks like an iPhone 5S.

* Bloomberg, of course, is the publication that published “The Big Hack” last October — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all, was vehemently denied by all companies involved, has not been confirmed by a single other publication (despite much effort to do so), and has been largely discredited by one of Bloomberg’s own sources. By all appearances “The Big Hack” was complete bullshit. Yet Bloomberg has issued no correction or retraction, and seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Bloomberg’s institutional credibility is severely damaged, and everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract the story or provide evidence that it was true.

Camera Sales Are Falling Sharply 

Om Malik:

Camera sales are continuing to falling off a cliff. The latest data from the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) shows them in a swoon befitting a Bollywood roadside Romeo. All four big camera brands — Sony, Fuji, Canon, and Nikon — are reposting rapid declines. And it is not just the point and shoot cameras whose sales are collapsing. We also see sales of higher-end DSLR cameras stall. And — wait for it — even mirrorless cameras, which were supposed to be a panacea for all that ails the camera business, are heading south.

Hard to overstate just how good camera phones are getting, and just how convenient it is for sharing to have them right there on your phone, immediately.

Jon Fingas, reporting for Engadget:

Twitter isn’t just launching a deluge of tests — it just announced that a few sought-after features in the pipeline. Most notably, it’s developing a long-overdue search for direct messages. Although there aren’t many specifics at this point, it’s reasonable to say this will spare you from digging through a conversation to find a crucial message from days ago. The social network added that it’s “re-energizing” its work on DMs, so this is really just the highlight of a larger strategy.

Weeks-old news but I didn’t see it until just now. The lack of any search at all for Twitter DMs makes iMessage search seem useful.

My experiment with leaving my DMs open to everyone on Twitter has been successful, by the way — very little spam, very high signal-to-noise from folks whom I don’t follow (who, if my DMs were not open, wouldn’t be able to DM me).

Using the Command Key to Reveal Items in the Finder From Spotlight and the Dock 

Glenn Fleishman, writing at Macworld, “How to Open Items in the Enclosing Folder Directly From a Spotlight Search in macOS”:

One might think after many years of Spotlight search being in macOS that there would be no new tricks. But a colleague on Twitter asked a reasonable question and many people chimed in with the same query: When viewing a list of results in a Spotlight search in the Finder, how do you jump to see the item in the context of its enclosing folder rather than just opening the file?

The answer is simple: hold down Command and press the Return key or press Command-R. You can also hold down Command and double-click the item in the results list.

Using the Command key as a modifier to reveal items in the Finder while clicking has a long and consistent history on the Mac. You can also Command-click items in the Dock to reveal them rather than open them. (If you Command-Option-click a folder in the Dock it will open that folder, rather than reveal that folder in its parent folder.) Also useful: you can click on a folder in the Dock (Downloads is one I use this with frequently) and then Command-click on one of the items in the menu listing the folder’s contents. And in document-based apps, you can Command-click on the document’s proxy icon in the window’s title bar and you’ll get a pop-up menu showing the folder hierarchy of the document’s location in the file system. Select any of those folders and you’ll go to that folder in the Finder.

Sidenote: From System 7 in 1991 through MacOS 10.13 High Sierra, ⌘R was also the shortcut for “Show Original” in the Finder. Select an alias (or symlink), hit ⌘R, and you’d see what the alias/symlink was pointing to. In MacOS 10.14 Mojave last year, some idiot at Apple changed the shortcut for “Make Alias” from ⌘L to ⌤⌘A and the shortcut for “Show Original” to ⌤⌥⌘A. Someone told me why this idiot made this change, but damned if I can remember or figure it out, because it doesn’t seem like the Finder in Mojave or Catalina uses ⌘R or ⌘L for anything else. Someone just decided to change 30-year-old shortcuts with no regard for muscle memory or consistency with other places where ⌘R reveals something in the Finder. (Apple still has support documents with the old shortcuts.)

Update to Sidenote: Thanks to a few readers for reminding me — starting with 10.14 Mojave, ⌘R and ⌘L are now used for rotating images right and left. I couldn’t find the shortcuts because (a) they only work when an image file is selected, and (b) they don’t have commands in the Finder’s menu bar, another bit of UI lunacy.

And to top this all off — truly, this is genuinely hard to believe — these ⌘R and ⌘L shortcuts not only break 27-year-old Finder shortcuts, but they aren’t even consistent with Photos, which uses ⌘R for “Rotate Counterclockwise” and ⌥⌘R for “Rotate Clockwise”. So in Photos the R maps to Rotate not Right, and the direction for an image rotated using ⌘R is left/counterclockwise. I don’t use the word lightly, but whoever pushed this change through for the Finder is an idiot.

One More Update: There is some consistency to using ⌘L and ⌘R as shortcuts for “Rotate Left” and “Rotate Right” — those are the same command names and shortcuts that Preview uses. But there’s no reason Preview doesn’t use the same command names and shortcuts as Photos, and Photos’s use of “Clockwise” and “Counterclockwise” is, in my opinion, more clear than “Right” and “Left”. And, lastly, if you miss the longstanding use of ⌘L and ⌘R in the Finder for “Make Alias” and “Show Original”, you can easily restore them manually in the Keyboards pane in System Preferences — one of the great features of MacOS. You can also make custom shortcuts for the Finder’s “Rotate Left” and “Rotate Right” commands, even though they’re both hidden menu items.

OK, OK, I Swear This One Really Is the Last Update: Another good Command-click trick — which dates back at least to System 7 in 1991, and possibly earlier — is that you can Command-click on any window in the background and drag it around without bringing the window forward. Update to the Last Update but I’m Not Breaking My Promise That There Would Be No More Updates Because I’m Not Putting This One in a New Paragraph: My old friend Andrew Ross tweets that Command-clicking to move and interact with background windows goes back at least to System 4 and perhaps to System 1.

How a Haverford Student Came Close to Getting Trump’s Tax Returns 

Sam Wood, reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer:

In the days before the November 2016 election, two Haverford College students came within a hair’s breadth of prising Donald Trump’s tax returns from a government database.

Nearly three years later, the man who federal investigators believe masterminded the plan is pleading guilty. Andrew Harris, 24, is scheduled to admit on Thursday that he used a student financial aid site in a failed attempt to access Trump’s most-guarded financial documents.

There are a couple of gems in this story, including Harris’s own attorney expressing regret for comparing his client and friend to Beavis and Butt-Head.

Basecamp Didn’t Want to Run This Ad 

Jason Fried:

When Google puts 4 paid ads ahead of the first organic result for your own brand name, you’re forced to pay up if you want to be found. It’s a shakedown. It’s ransom. But at least we can have fun with it. Search for Basecamp and you may see this attached ad.

And of course, Google doesn’t let you target any of their own trademarks this way, and won’t even let you mention “Google” in your ad text. And Google no longer visually styles paid results distinctively from actual search results — just the little “Ad” icon before the result URL.

Daring Fireball Weekly Sponsorship Openings 

The whole month of September is usually the busiest of the year, for the obvious reason that it’s when Apple holds its biggest product announcements of the year. I’ve still got a few openings for weekly sponsors this month, including this current week and next week.

Get in touch if you have a product or service to promote to DF’s audience. And remember that weekly sponsorships now include the graphic ad in the sidebar of every page of the site.

Thirty Years of Fetch 

Jim Matthews:

Fetch’s longevity has been a continual surprise to me. Most application software has the life expectancy of a field mouse. Of the thousands of other Mac apps on the market on September 1, 1989 I can only think of four (Panorama, Word, Excel, and Photoshop) that are still sold today. Fetch 1.0 was released into a world with leaded gasoline and a Berlin Wall; DVD players and Windows 95 were still in the future. The Fetch icon is a dog with a floppy disc in its mouth; at this point it might as well be a stone tablet.

I can think of at least one other Mac app from 1989 still around today: Illustrator (remember Illustrator 88?). But it is without question a very short list.

Update: A few more:

And if we count apps from Apple included with the system, there’s the Finder and Calculator. If anyone thinks of any more, I’ll update this list.

This Macworld article by Glenn Fleishman pegs the debuts of BBEdit, PCalc, and Graphic Converter in 1992 — all in active development today, but none quite old enough for this list. And speaking of Macworld, the December 1988 edition cited in several instances above was so chockablock with ads that it ran 324 pages.

Regex Crossword 

If you ever needed proof that I have unusual taste in games and a preternatural knack for regular expressions, look no further than the fact that I love this site.

Sources Tell TechCrunch China Used iPhone Hacks to Target Uyghur Muslims 

Zack Whittaker, reporting for TechCrunch:

A number of malicious websites used to hack into iPhones over a two-year period were targeting Uyghur Muslims, TechCrunch has learned.

Sources familiar with the matter said the websites were part of a state-backed attack — likely China — designed to target the Uyghur community in the country’s Xinjiang state.

It’s part of the latest effort by the Chinese government to crack down on the minority Muslim community in recent history. In the past year, Beijing has detained more than a million Uyghurs in internment camps, according to a United Nations human rights committee.

Google’s Project Zero team discovered these exploits early this year, and Apple closed them shortly thereafter. This week, the Project Zero team published their findings, and it’s really extraordinary work. What makes this case so unusual is that these sort of exploits are worth millions of dollars, and they are typically used very selectively to target individuals. What the Project Zero team discovered was different:

Earlier this year Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) discovered a small collection of hacked websites. The hacked sites were being used in indiscriminate watering hole attacks against their visitors, using iPhone 0-day.

There was no target discrimination; simply visiting the hacked site was enough for the exploit server to attack your device, and if it was successful, install a monitoring implant. We estimate that these sites receive thousands of visitors per week.

TAG was able to collect five separate, complete and unique iPhone exploit chains, covering almost every version from iOS 10 through to the latest version of iOS 12. This indicated a group making a sustained effort to hack the users of iPhones in certain communities over a period of at least two years.

What Project Zero did not reveal is where these infected websites were located, or what group(s) they were targeting. Now, we apparently know: it was the Chinese government targeting Uyghur Muslims.

Apple’s Inconsistent Ellipsis Icons 

Detailed analysis by Josh Centers at TidBITS on Apple’s increasing use of “•••” ellipsis buttons to show “more” in iOS:

The broader issue here in terms of usability isn’t the philosophical issue of “what is more,” but the practical issue of what “More” means to the user. As you saw in the above examples, tapping an ellipsis button can activate a varying degree of user interface elements. Unlike, say, the Share icon, which consistently presents an activity view that contains sharing-related options, the behavior of ellipsis buttons isn’t predictable or consistent, which leads to user confusion. It confuses me, and I’ve spent years documenting iOS!

Atoms 

My thanks to Atoms for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. Atoms are ideal everyday shoes — and the first to come in quarter sizes.

That sounds like a pain in the ass. How can you choose the right quarter-size increment ordering over the internet? Easy: Atoms sends you three pairs of shoes in quarter-size increments based on your normal shoe size. You pick the left and right shoe that feels best — a size 9 for your left foot and a 9.25 for your right, for example — and return the rest for free.

I’m wearing a pair of Atoms as I type this — size 12 on my right foot, 12.5 on the left. I got the black and white, but they also have all-black and all-white. They’re very comfortable and still look near-new after months of wear. They’re simply very nice shoes.

The Talk Show: ‘Freakishly Snappy’ 

Special guest Brent Simmons returns to the show to talk about NetNewsWire 5.0, the state of the Mac, and more.

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