Linked List: September 2019

Apple’s New Map, Expansion #5: Northeast U.S. 

Apple Maps today rolled out its new maps for the northeastern U.S. Justin O’Beirne has a terrific post (as usual) illustrating the differences between the old and new maps. Here in Philly, one big improvement is significantly more prominent indicators of one-way streets — and almost all streets in Philly are one way.

Unmentioned in O’Beirne’s report is that Look Around debuted today in Manhattan. From what I’ve seen in a few minutes of exploration, it’s impressive — detailed, intuitive, and fun. Update: Looks like Look Around is now available for all five boroughs of New York City, including the magnificent Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

‘Eat Less Red Meat, Scientists Said. Now Some Believe That Was Bad Advice.’ 

Gina Kolata, reporting for The New York Times:

Public health officials for years have urged Americans to limit consumption of red meat and processed meats because of concerns that these foods are linked to heart disease, cancer and other ills.

But on Monday, in a remarkable turnabout, an international collaboration of researchers produced a series of analyses concluding that the advice, a bedrock of almost all dietary guidelines, is not backed by good scientific evidence.

If there are health benefits from eating less beef and pork, they are small, the researchers concluded. Indeed, the advantages are so faint that they can be discerned only when looking at large populations, the scientists said, and are not sufficient to tell individuals to change their meat-eating habits.

From my favorite scene in the deeply flawed but underrated Never Say Never Again:

M: Too many free radicals, that’s your problem.

Bond: Free radicals, sir?

M: Yes. They’re toxins that destroy the body and the brain. Caused by eating too much red meat and white bread, and too many dry martinis!

Bond: Then I shall cut out the white bread, sir.

Apple Support: ‘Capture Content Outside the Camera Frame on iPhone’ 

Apple Support:

When Capture Outside the Frame is turned on in Settings , content captured outside the frame appears when you use the crop, straighten, and perspective tools to make edits in the Photos app.

  • To capture content outside the frame when you take photos, go to Settings → Camera, then turn on Photos Capture Outside the Frame.
  • When you record QuickTake videos, Camera automatically captures content outside the frame. To turn off, go to Settings → Camera, then turn off Videos Capture Outside the Frame.

Note: If you don’t use the content captured outside the frame to make edits, it will be deleted after 30 days.

One of my first suggestions to any of you with an iPhone 11 or 11 Pro is to turn on “Photos Capture Outside the Frame”. It’s on by default for video, but off by default for photos, for reasons I still do not understand. Update: See this post for two reasons why this is off by default.

When the Camera app does decide to capture outside the frame, the image will be flagged by the Auto Adjust indicator icon: a small square with a star in the upper right corner. It seems to me that the Camera app will often capture a little bit outside the frame for small amounts of straightening, but when you see that Auto Adjust indicator icon, it means it has captured a lot outside the frame, like this.

Apple Releases iOS 13.1.2 Three Days After 13.1.1 

Not to worry if you don’t install it right now — I’m sure 13.1.3 will be out tomorrow.

‘Stanley Kubrick, “Full Metal Jacket”, and an Actor’s Heartbreak’ 

Aaron Couch, writing for The Hollywood Reporter:

Tim Colceri had just been given a beeper, an envelope full of cash and a driver to take him wherever he wanted. He wanted to go to a pub, so that’s where he went. Before he could settle in amid the cigarette smoke and dark beer of the establishment, his beeper went off. It was a message from the man who’d summoned him to London.

“Tim, learn pages 1-28. Driver will pick you up tomorrow at 7. Stanley.”

Colceri rushed to his hotel and began cramming. A Vietnam veteran, he was used to hopping to attention when a superior barked an order. But those 28 pages were full of dialogue for Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, the character he had been hired to play based on a self-taped audition for Full Metal Jacket. Colceri gritted his teeth and went to work, shouting lines all evening in his hotel room.

Hard, if not impossible, to imagine Full Metal Jacket without R. Lee Ermey in that role.

The HAL 9000 Prop 

Kosmo Photo (via Jim Coudal, of course):

HAL 9000 needed to be all-seeing — the film’s plot hinges on his ability to detect a conversation between two of the crew. So he decided to use a camera lens.

The on-screen HAL 9000 — the single “eye” in blazing red — was played by one of Nikon’s most extreme lenses, its 8mm f/8 fisheye. But how did they add the glow? Simple — they used the camera’s very own red filter (R60) which screws on to the back of the lens. Then they simply shone a light through it.

Peter Jackson owns one of the original props now, and showed it to Adam Savage. So simple, so iconic.

There are so many aspects of 2001 that were remarkably prescient. One that’s gotten a lot of attention over the last decade is that astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole use remarkably iPad-like tablets and watch video in portrait mode.

But this story on the HAL 9000 props reminds me of another one — the fact that HAL is a ship-wide presence, with no single instantiation. HAL doesn’t move from room to room on the Discovery — there are simply HAL consoles in every room of the ship. This seems obvious today with our various Alexa / Siri / Google devices strewn about our homes (and pockets), but this wasn’t obvious at all in the 1960s. The obvious way to do HAL back then would have been to make him a robot of sort.

Our AI assistants today are all incredibly crude and primitive compared to HAL, but the way we interact with them is exactly what was predicted in 2001.


My thanks to Procreate for sponsoring this last week at DF. Procreate is loved by professionals and newcomers alike, because of its creative power and beautiful design. Made exclusively for iPad, Procreate is committed to delivering a premium experience for artists that’s accessible to everyone. It’s an absolute bargain at a one-time payment of just $10. Just $10 and you get a professional-grade drawing app.

Drawing tools are an extension of the artist and the people at Procreate believe that artists shouldn’t have to rent their tools. They believe the process of creating art should be effortless and delightful. In my opinion it’s not just a great iPad drawing app, it’s a great iPad app, period. The overall UI aesthetic of Procreate sets the bar for what an iPad app should be.

And with the big Procreate 5 release coming soon, they’re continuing that mission. Procreate is already great and about to get better. Get a preview of version 5 by following this link.

‘They Are Not-Very-Bright Guys Who Also Happen to Be Genuinely Nuts’ 

Jonathan Chait, writing for New York Magazine:

Representative Mark Meadows, one of Trump’s more slavish followers, observed in the president’s defense, “He didn’t see anything wrong with the conversation he had with a foreign leader.” That is probably accurate. Trump has a finely honed antenna for assessing winner versus loser, or loyal versus disloyal. But the formulation of moral concepts is not a function he can perform. His brain is no more capable of distinguishing right from wrong than your microwave oven can tell you what’s on Netflix. No American president has more richly deserved impeachment.

Robin Houston on Self-Referential Sentences and Pangrams 

Robin Houston:

I think it’s time for a thread on the cultural history of this tweet:

This tweet contains exactly four As, one B, three Cs, two Ds, thirty-two Es, six Fs, one G, five Hs, twelve Is, one J, one K, three Ls, one M, twenty-one Ns, sixteen Os, one P, one Q, five Rs, twenty-five Ss, twenty-one Ts, two Us, seven Vs, nine Ws, five Xs, six Ys, and one Z.

Very fun thread, if you enjoy such puzzles.

iPadOS 13 Makes Spotlight Search Responsive Immediately 

Back in May, I griped:

When I have a hardware keyboard paired with iPad and do Cmd-Space and type an app to open, it misses the first character I type every time. How can this be so slow?

I’ve been typing Cmd-Space and immediately beginning to type for like 17, 18 years with LaunchBar on the Mac. It never ever misses what I type. That the iPad requires you to pause before typing is insane and makes me think the engineers who wrote the feature don’t even use it.

A week or two later, a little birdie told me this would be fixed in iOS/iPadOS 13. And I’m happy to confirm that — so far at least — Spotlight search with an external keyboard hasn’t missed a keystroke for me yet. There actually are bug fixes in iOS 13, too.

The Whistle-Blower Knows How to Write 

Jane Rosenzweig, writing for The New York Times:

I can’t tell you what’s going to happen to his blockbuster complaint about the president’s behavior, but I can tell you that the whistle-blower’s college writing instructor would be very proud of him.

As a writing instructor myself for 20 years, I look at the complaint and see a model of clear writing that offers important lessons for aspiring writers. Here are a few.

I thought the same thing reading the letter and its appendix — it’s a model of clarity and concision.

Amazon’s New Hardware Products 

Echo Loop and Echo Frame: Almost nobody wants either of these products as they exist today, and Amazon knows it — both products are “limited quantity” and invitation-only. Neither product does anything you can’t just do with your phone. Their only reason for existence — in their current forms — is to make Alexa an always-available voice assistant. Siri and Google Assistant are always available on their respective companies’ phones; Amazon’s attempt to make a phone didn’t turn out so good.

Rings and glasses are good ideas for smart wearables. My pal Craig Hockenberry speculated on the potential of a smart ring back in 2014, even, before Apple Watch was announced. But to get people to actually buy and wear things like this, the devices have to do more. Apple Watch gives you glanceable notifications and complications, and is an excellent fitness and health tracker. The Echo Frames aren’t as ugly as Google Glass was, but wake me up when someone makes smart glasses that people would actually want to wear and which actually display useful heads-up information.

Celebrity Voices Coming to Alexa: Replacing Alexa’s voice with Samuel L. Jackson’s? With an explicit option? Hell yes, sign me up.

WeWork and Counterfeit Capitalism 

Matt Stoller, in his Big newsletter:

Endless money-losing is a variant of counterfeiting, and counterfeiting has dangerous economic consequences. The subprime fiasco was one example. Another example was the Worldcom fraud in the late 1990s, which forced the rest of the U.S. telecom sector to over-invest into broadband. Competitors have to copy their fraudulent competitors. It’s a variant of Gresham’s Law, which says that “bad money drives out good.” If you can counterfeit something for cheap, the counterfeit will eventually take over the entire market and drive out the real commodity. That is what is happening in our economy writ large, a kind of counterfeit capitalism as ‘leaders’ like Neumann are celebrated and actual leaders who can make things and manage are treated like dogshit.

This kind of counterfeit capitalism is terrible for society as a whole. At first, with companies like Walmart and Amazon, predatory pricing can seem smart. The entire retail sector might be decimated and communities across America might be harmed, but two day shipping is convenient and Walmart and Amazon do have positive cash flow. But increasingly with cheap capital and a narrow slice of financiers who want to copy the winners, there is a second or third generation of companies asking Wall Street to just ‘trust me.’

Compelling argument. I have always been deeply suspicious of any company whose business model is “lose a ton of money for the foreseeable future and eventually we’ll make a fortune”. It’s the South Park “Collect Underpants / … / Profit” business model, but real investors pump billions into it.

As a kid, when I heard the fable of the emperor with no clothes, I never bought the lesson, because I just couldn’t believe adults would go along with a sham that their own eyes told them wasn’t true. Turns out it happens all the time, over and over.

Relay FM for St. Jude 

For a few years now, Stephen Hackett has held an annual fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude is dedicated to curing, treating, and helping in any way possible children suffering from catastrophic diseases. It’s a cause near and dear to Hackett’s family. St. Jude has a policy of turning no child away, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. They do not charge families for anything — treatment, travel, housing, or food.

They can do this thanks to donations from people like me and you.

In years past, Hackett has raised tens of thousands of dollars, which is great. This year, though, with the help of the whole lineup of podcasts at Relay FM, the fundraiser has already raised over $260,000. Unbelievable.

If you haven’t contributed already, please consider it. Let’s give this fundraiser a nice DF bump in its final week. (Remember too that your employer might offer matching funds.)

Yours Truly on The Vergecast With Nilay Patel: ‘The Strange State of iPhone Reviews’ 

If you’d like another 2+ hour dose of yours truly conversing with one of my fellow hacks in the tech sphere, I sat down with Nilay Patel for an episode of The Vergecast. I really enjoyed it. It’s just a fantastic time to be a photo enthusiast reviewing new phones.

The Talk Show: ‘Apple Is Not a 4-Star Company’ 

Very special guest Joanna Stern returns to the show. Topics include Apple’s event earlier this month, the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, iOS 13, and how we go about writing (and shooting) our product reviews.

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Google Chrome Update Rendered Macs Without System Integrity Protection Unbootable 

Mr. Macintosh:

Sometimes Avid Media Creators use 3rd Party Graphics cards connected to their Mac Pro. When the issue hit yesterday, it was thought that Avid was the main cause of the problems since all the users experiencing the issue had Avid software.

Only later after a MacAdmins deep dive investigation was it found that AVID was NOT the cause of the problem but the Google Chrome was!

Nice detective work here to figure out that Chrome was to blame. The Chrome updater was deleting the /var symlink at the root of the startup volume.


We recently discovered that a Chrome update may have shipped with a bug that damages the file system on macOS machines with System Integrity Protection (SIP) disabled, including machines that do not support SIP. We’ve paused the release while we finalize a new update that addresses the problem.

Why in the world would a web browser’s software updater be doing anything at all at the root level of the boot volume? The arrogance and presumptuousness here boggles the mind. This is like hiring someone to wash your windows and finding out they damaged the foundation of your house. And people wonder why Apple requires Chrome to be a sandboxed app that uses WebKit on iOS.

Trump Is a Threat to Journalism Around the World 

New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger:

To give you a sense of what this retreat looks like on the ground, let me tell you a story I’ve never shared publicly before. Two years ago, we got a call from a United States government official warning us of the imminent arrest of a New York Times reporter based in Egypt named Declan Walsh. Though the news was alarming, the call was actually fairly standard. Over the years, we’ve received countless such warnings from American diplomats, military leaders and national security officials.

But this particular call took a surprising and distressing turn. We learned the official was passing along this warning without the knowledge or permission of the Trump administration. Rather than trying to stop the Egyptian government or assist the reporter, the official believed, the Trump administration intended to sit on the information and let the arrest be carried out. The official feared being punished for even alerting us to the danger.

Unable to count on our own government to prevent the arrest or help free Declan if he were imprisoned, we turned to his native country, Ireland, for help. Within an hour, Irish diplomats traveled to his house and safely escorted him to the airport before Egyptian forces could detain him.

We hate to imagine what would have happened had that brave official not risked their career to alert us to the threat.

Here’s the Trump administration position toward the press, spelled out:

Eighteen months later, another of our reporters, David Kirkpatrick, arrived in Egypt and was detained and deported in apparent retaliation for exposing information that was embarrassing to the Egyptian government. When we protested the move, a senior official at the United States Embassy in Cairo openly voiced the cynical worldview behind the Trump administration’s tolerance for such crackdowns. “What did you expect would happen to him?” he said. “His reporting made the government look bad.”

Bigotry, bad economic policy, antipathy to science, sheer incompetence — I’ve railed against all of these aspects of the Trump administration, but all of these can be remedied at the ballot box. What’s most dangerous is Trump’s flagrant disregard for a free press and for free and fair elections, which go hand-in-hand.

Lyft App to Include Public Transit, Scooters, and More 


Starting today, when you open your Lyft app, you’ll see all your ride options front and center on your home screen: scooters, bikes, public transit, car rentals, Shared rides, regular rides, big rides, and even more. It’s the first in a series of changes that make it easier for you to choose the right ride for every occasion (and every mood).

Over the past year, we’ve added shared bikes and scooters to the Lyft app in cities across the country. Early user testing shows that the new design has more people scooting, biking, and taking public transit — our greenest ride options, and the ones most likely to help alleviate traffic. This summer, one in eight Lyft rides was a bike or scooter ride in the cities where they’re available.

Including public transit and other options exudes confidence on Lyft’s part. Recommending transportation options that don’t make Lyft a dime also builds trust with users. Smart move.

Nancy Pelosi Announces Formal Impeachment Inquiry of Trump 

Nicholas Fandos, reporting for The New York Times:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the House would begin a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump, opening a fresh chapter of confrontation in response to startling allegations that the president sought to enlist a foreign power for his own political gain.

“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the Constitution,” she said after emerging from a meeting of House Democrats in the basement of the Capitol. Mr. Trump, she said, “must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”

The announcement was a stunning development that unfolded after months of caution by House Democrats, who have been divided over using the ultimate remedy to address what they have called flagrant misconduct by the president.

Called it.

Samsung Galaxy Fold, Take Two 

Geoffrey Fowler, writing for The Washington Post:

Creating an OLED screen that can fold and refold hundreds of thousands of times involved technical challenges that boggle the mind. But the question remains: Why is Samsung selling a device that it knows is still so delicate, instead of waiting until it’s worked out how to make it strong? (This isn’t just a Samsung problem; Apple recently introduced a white titanium credit card you can’t keep near leather or denim.)

File this under “False Equivalence”, but Apple brought it upon themselves with that support page for Apple Card care. To be clear, though, Apple never said you “can’t” or even “shouldn’t” keep Apple Card in a leather wallet or denim pockets. All they said is that if you do, the card might pick up stains. As I wrote, Apple’s Apple Card care instructions are for people who obsessively want to keep their card in mint condition — which is not most people. (I’ve had mine in the outside sleeve of a leather wallet for a month now, and it looks like new, and I honestly don’t care if it picks up scratches or stains.)

But Apple’s support document, as written, is easily misinterpreted as suggesting Apple Card is delicate and fragile. And so here we are with The Washington Post’s tech columnist putting it in the same boat as a $2,000 phone from Samsung that you’re warned not to put in the same pocket with loose change or touch the screen with using your fingernails.

Can’t wait for Galaxy Fold drop tests.

Update: Another reason it’s disingenuous to compare the durability of the Galaxy Fold with Apple Card — if your Apple Card does get scratched or stained or otherwise mangled, you can request a replacement (via iMessage — no phone call required) and have a new one shipped overnight, free of charge. Good luck trying that with a scratched or mangled Galaxy Fold.

Yet Another ‘Far Larger Than It Had Previously Acknowledged’ Facebook Fiasco 

Kate Conger, Gabriel J.X. Dance, and Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:

Facebook said on Friday that it had suspended tens of thousands of apps for improperly sucking up users’ personal information and other transgressions, a tacit admission that the scale of its data privacy issues was far larger than it had previously acknowledged.

The social network said in a blog post that an investigation it began in March 2018 — following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy, had retrieved and used people’s Facebook information without their permission — had resulted in the suspension of “tens of thousands” of apps that were associated with about 400 developers. That was far bigger than the last number that Facebook had disclosed of 400 app suspensions in August 2018.

400 apps, 10,000 apps, what’s the difference?

If these privacy violations weren’t so serious, and if Facebook weren’t so powerful and influential to the daily lives of billions, it would be comical the way they vastly underestimate any and all privacy or security problems, only to come back months later with a more accurate number. They do it every time, and the errors are always in the direction of underreporting severity.

Brooklyn Nets Going Gray for Fresh New Look 

Zach Lowe, writing for ESPN:

But Marks wanted change, to put his artistic imprint on the franchise he has helped reinvent, and he had a radical idea: a gray floor meant to evoke blacktop courts, the streets of Brooklyn, and the borough’s “industrial vibe,” he says. Gray has been on the fringes of the team’s Brooklyn-era palette, including on the alternate Brooklyn Dodgers-themed uniforms they wore in past seasons. […]

The only trick was getting the shade right — dark enough to come across as gray on television, but not so dark as to muck up the visual experience.

The first stain proved too light during a test broadcast on Aug. 13, team officials say. Both the league and the team agreed that the manufacturer (Connor Sports) and painters (Ohio Flooring Company) should darken the stain. Time was getting tight. The final version arrived Wednesday.

This is magnificent design work. I love everything about it — the colors, the typography, the subway-tile motif. It is very distinctive and original without being radical or distracting in the least. Except for one thing: why in the world did they put the “Barclays Center” logotype in blue in the final version, when in all the mockups it was black and looked way better?

We can easily guess one answer: some idiot at Barclays insisted upon it. Not only does the blue ruin the monochromatic scheme, it’s harder to read.

A ‘Grass Roots’ Campaign to Take Down Amazon Is Funded by Amazon’s Biggest Rivals 

James V. Grimaldi, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Free and Fair Markets accused Amazon of stifling competition and innovation, inhibiting consumer choice, gorging on government subsidies, endangering its warehouse workers and exposing consumer data to privacy breaches. It claimed to have grass-roots support from average citizens across the U.S, citing a labor union, a Boston management professor and a California businessman.

What the group did not say is that it received backing from some of Amazon’s chief corporate rivals. They include shopping mall owner Simon Property Group Inc., retailer Walmart Inc. and software giant Oracle Corp., according to people involved with and briefed on the project. Simon Property is fighting to keep shoppers who now prefer to buy what they need on Amazon; Walmart is competing with Amazon over retail sales; and Oracle is battling Amazon over a $10 billion Pentagon cloud-computing contract.

Walmart is the most dominant retailer of my lifetime — and still 50% bigger than Amazon by revenue. Embarrassing to see them resort to disingenuous efforts like this. It’s an indication of just how scared of Amazon they are.

Oracle? I expect such nonsense from them.

Dog Bites Man, Retail Edition 

I was too busy last week to link to this story by Dana Mattioli in The Wall Street Journal: Inc. has adjusted its product-search system to more prominently feature listings that are more profitable for the company, said people who worked on the project — a move, contested internally, that could favor Amazon’s own brands.

Late last year, these people said, Amazon optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search — as it had for more than a decade — the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company.

I’m all for scrutinizing big tech companies, and there’s a lot to scrutinize about Amazon. But “retailer promotes profitable store brand products” is not a story. A good story would be if you could find a retailer who didn’t do this. Calling a proprietary algorithm a “secret algorithm” is a not-so-subtle way of implying there’s something nefarious going on here, when there isn’t. Amazon is not an ostensibly neutral search engine — they’re a retailer.

A Week on the Wrist: The Apple Watch Series 5 Edition in Titanium 

Stephen Pulvirent, writing for Hodinkee:

I also really like the finish on the titanium. Apple describes it simply as “natural,” but there’s a bit of brushing to it so that the light bounces off of it in a cohesive way. I especially like the way that this brushing accents the curves around the corners and lug area of the case. It has a slightly powdery feel to the touch, which is likely due to a combination of the finishing of the metal itself and a nano-coating that Apple applies to prevent patina from developing. Would I personally prefer a case that takes on some character over time? Sure. But I think I’m probably in the minority there and I appreciate Apples’s attention to detail there.

‘Meet Joshua Cohen, Apple University’s Resident Philosopher’ 

Philip Elmer‑DeWitt has a brief interview with Apple University faculty member Joshua Cohen on his Apple 3.0 podcast:

What is Apple University? And how did it persuade a distinguished intellectual like Professor Cohen (Yale, Harvard, MIT, Stanford) to join its full-time faculty and deliver lectures to Apple executives on such esoterica as the discovery of the Higgs boson and Glenn Gould’s recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations?

I caught up with Prof. Cohen as he was packing for Toronto where the Glenn Gould Foundation has invited him to share with the public two of his “extraordinary” Apple talks.

Well worth a listen.

‘Donald Trump vs. the United States of America’ 

Speaking of Dear Leader Trump, David Leonhardt’s latest column for The New York Times is a nice rundown of where we stand: “Just the facts, in 40 sentences.”

Apple’s New Mac Pro to Be Assembled in Texas 

Apple Newsroom, emphasis added:

The new Mac Pro will include components designed, developed and manufactured by more than a dozen American companies for distribution to US customers. Manufacturers and suppliers across Arizona, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont, including Intersil and ON Semiconductor, are providing advanced technology. The US manufacturing of Mac Pro is made possible following a federal product exclusion Apple is receiving for certain necessary components. The value of American-made components in the new Mac Pro is 2.5 times greater than in Apple’s previous generation Mac Pro.

Tim Cook, quoted in the post: “We thank the administration for their support enabling this opportunity.”

I suppose “the administration” is better than “Dear Leader”.


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Nilay Patel’s Review of the iPhones 11 Pro 

Nilay Patel, writing at The Verge:

But after using an iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max for the past week, I think they’re more than the sum of several lightly updated parts. These are some of the most well-balanced, most capable phones Apple — or anyone — has ever made. They have excellent battery life, processors that should keep them relevant for years to come, absolutely beautiful displays, and a new camera system that generally outperforms every other phone, which should get even better with a promised software update later this fall.

Yes, they’re expensive. And yes, I think most people should probably buy an iPhone 11, which has most of the same features, including the same basic camera system, for $300 less. But if you want to pay more to have the best display and the best camera, the iPhone 11 Pro is worth the premium over the iPhone 11.

Glowing review overall, and some really interesting side-by-side photography tests pitting the 11 Pro against the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and last year’s iPhone XS and Google Pixel 3.

It’s a matter of taste — and the Pixel 4 is coming next month — but I find the iPhone 11 series Night Mode to be consistently more appealing, especially in color temperature, than the Pixel’s Night Sight.

‘The Fizz Was Gone’ 

The Economist, last week:

Apple’s product launches are not what they used to be. A decade ago the unveiling of a new iPhone would inspire quasi-religious ecstasy; devotees would camp on pavements outside shops as the release date drew near. At the firm’s latest event, on September 10th, the format was the same: Apple’s boss stood on stage, clad in a regulation black jumper, and spoke of the world-changing power of the company’s latest wares. But the fizz was gone. The iPhone 11 looks like a merely incremental improvement on the models that have gone before it.

One reason folks would camp out in the early years of iPhone is that you couldn’t pre-order them — if you wanted to buy one on day one your only choice was to wait in line at a retailer. But even now, years into the pre-order era when you can get a new iPhone delivered to your home on day one, thousands of people around the country line up for hours at Apple retail stores. And, yes, even camp out the night before. I stopped by the Philadelphia Apple Store last night around 7:30p and there were still around 50 people queued up outside the store waiting to buy a new iPhone.

Fizz gone, indeed.

Drop-testing iPhone 11 and 11 Pro 

Lexy Savvides, CNet:

We decided to change things up with this year’s drop test. Our test zone was a concrete floor and to make the drops as consistent as possible, CNET Managing Producer Chris Parker built a system that helped each phone fall directly on the screen or on the back. While the drop machine didn’t guarantee the phones would land in the desired position every time, it did help us test in a controlled way.

Impressive results. Similar impressive results in this test from EverythingApplePro.

How to Use the New Text Tools in iOS and iPadOS 13 

Charlie Sorrel, writing for Cult of Mac:

For the last ten years, selecting and manipulating text has been a frustrating nightmare on the iPad. Try to select a couple of words in Safari, for instance — a package delivery tracking number, for instance — and the selection would bounce back and forth between a few characters, and the entire page.

It was enough to drive you back to the comfort of the Mac’s mouse pointer.

In iOS 13, though, this has all changed. Text selection is accurate and predictable. And the new copy/paste gesture shortcuts become second nature almost immediately.

One more tip: With 3D Touch on pre-11 iPhones, you could not just move the insertion point by doing a hard-press-and-hold on the keyboard to turn it into a virtual trackpad, you could also select a range of text in this mode by hard pressing again while dragging. On iPhones 11 (and iPads), you can still get into text selection mode by tapping the keyboard area with another finger while in trackpad mode. This is nowhere near as elegant as 3D Touch, but it’s still a good trick to know. (This isn’t really new to iOS 13 — iPads have been doing this for years — but it’s new on iPhone for anyone accustomed to 3D Touch.)

Kotaku: ‘Apple Arcade Is Mobile Gaming Without All the Bullshit’ 

Michael Fahey and Stephen Totilo, writing for Kotaku:

Entering into the busiest video game season of the year, we didn’t exactly need Apple Arcade, nor did we really want it, given Apple’s mediocre stewardship of video games for the past decade. What a shock, then, that Apple Arcade is one of the best gaming launches we can remember, and that we can recommend it without making any apologies or exceptions for the stuff no one likes about mobile games. This thing is great. […]

There are, simply, none of the manipulative systems that have contaminated nearly all of mobile gaming. Just imagine playing a puzzle game and not having to wait an hour for a timer to tick down before you can play the next level. Imagine playing a strategy game where you aren’t offered the chance to pay more to speed up the suspiciously slow building times. Imagine not being screwed with while you play mobile games. What a concept!

Sometimes a headline says it all.

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.


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.


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 


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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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!


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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