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Panos Panay Demoing Split Screen Features on Microsoft’s Surface Duo ★
Here’s a link to Microsoft’s Surface Duo press event from two weeks ago. I’m linking to just past 8 minutes in, when Panos Panay begins a hands-on demonstration of the split screen features Microsoft has created for Android to embrace this device’s unique form factor.
I think Surface Duo is one of the most interesting devices from a company other than Apple since the iPhone. Is it one of the best devices, or is it even a good device? I don’t know — reviews are still embargoed. But it’s certainly interesting. I find this split-screen design far more compelling and honest than any of the folding screen devices we’ve seen. The side-by-side experience seems far more intuitive than the split-screen stuff on iPadOS that I, among many others, find so frustrating. That’s not entirely fair — the iPad is a single-screen device where split screen is a secondary mode, and Surface Duo is a two-screen device where “full-screen” single-app use spanning both displays is secondary. I’m just saying that doing two things side-by-side is a common use case and Microsoft seems to have come up with a very thoughtful design here, especially when you consider that they’re working within the confines of Google’s OS.
Marques Brownlee has a great first-look video review of the hardware — early-access reviewers apparently have two embargoes, one for the hardware alone and one that hasn’t dropped yet for the actual experience. I can’t recall there ever being a review embargo just for the hardware alone for any device, but this hardware, in and of itself, is really interesting. Brownlee calls the hinge maybe the best he’s ever seen on any device, and the Surface Duo really is remarkably thin — 4.8 mm open, 9.9 mm closed. It weighs 250 grams — by comparison, an iPad Mini weighs 300 grams, and an iPhone 11 Pro Max weighs 226.
The Guardian: ‘Facebook Algorithm Found to “Actively Promote” Holocaust Denial’ ★
Mark Townsend, reporting for The Guardian earlier this month:
An investigation by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a
UK-based counter-extremist organisation, found that typing
“holocaust” in the Facebook search function brought up
suggestions for denial pages, which in turn recommended links to
publishers which sell revisionist and denial literature, as well
as pages dedicated to the notorious British Holocaust denier
David Irving. [...]
Last Wednesday Facebook announced it was banning conspiracy
theories about Jewish people “controlling the world”. However,
it has been unwilling to categorise Holocaust denial as a form
of hate speech, a stance that ISD describe as a “conceptual
This is a strong report that doesn’t mince words, except for a big euphemism right in the headline. It’s not Facebook’s algorithm that is “actively promoting” Holocaust denial, QAnon, and other dangerous rightwing rallying cries, but Facebook itself. The “algorithm” is Facebook; Facebook is what it promotes and recommends.
Facebook’s Kenosha Guard Militia Event Was Reported 455 Times But Moderators Deemed It Fine ★
Ryan Mac, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
In a companywide meeting on Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
said that a militia page advocating for followers to bring weapons
to an upcoming protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, remained on the
platform because of “an operational mistake.” The page and an
associated event inspired widespread criticism of the company
after a 17-year-old suspect allegedly shot and killed two
protesters Tuesday night.
The event associated with the Kenosha Guard page, however, was
flagged to Facebook at least 455 times after its creation,
according to an internal report viewed by BuzzFeed News, and had
been cleared by four moderators, all of whom deemed it
“non-violating.” The page and event were eventually removed from
the platform on Wednesday — several hours after the shooting.
“To put that number into perspective, it made up 66% of all event
reports that day,” one Facebook worker wrote in the internal
“Violence and Incitement Working Group” to illustrate the number
of complaints the company had received about the event.
So it’s not like this event got lost in the firehose of Facebook’s massive scale. It actually dominated Facebook’s reporting mechanism.
As Mac reported separately, employees are protesting and asking Zuckerberg tough but obvious questions:
“At what point do we take responsibility for enabling hate filled
bile to spread across our services?” wrote one employee. “[A]nti
semitism, conspiracy, and white supremacy reeks across our
The answer, apparently, is at no point. Mac’s piece concludes:
One employee who spoke with BuzzFeed News after the event was not
comforted by their CEO’s words. “He seems truly incapable of
taking personal responsibility for decisions and actions at
Facebook,” they said.
I’m past the point where I could look past a stint at Facebook on a job applicant’s resume. Trying to get a job at a legitimate tech company after staying at Facebook through 2020 will be like trying to get a job at a legitimate news publication after a stint at Fox News.
‘Black Panther’ Star Chadwick Boseman Dies of Cancer at 43 ★
Reggie Ugwu and Michael Levenson, writing for The New York Times:
A statement posted on Mr. Boseman’s Instagram account said the
actor had learned in 2016 that he had Stage 3 colon cancer, and
that it had progressed to Stage 4. His publicist confirmed that he
died in his home in Los Angeles, with his wife, Taylor Simone
Ledward, and family by his side.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought
you many of the films you have come to love so much,” the
statement said. “From ‘Marshall’ to ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ August Wilson’s
‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ and several more, all were filmed
during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”
Mr. Boseman was a private figure by Hollywood standards and rarely
publicized details about his personal life. He found fame
relatively late as an actor — he was 35 when he appeared in his
first prominent role, as Jackie Robinson in “42” — but made up
for lost time with a string of star-making performances in major
What a shock. What an amazing talent.
Yesterday was, coincidentally, Jackie Robinson Day across MLB — every player on every team wore Robinson’s 42.
Apple Terminates Epic Games’ Developer Account ★
The last approved version of Fortnite still runs, but along with other games from Epic, it’s no longer available from the App Store, even if you previously downloaded it. This means you won’t be able to restore Fortnite on a new or factory-reset iPhone.
Statement from Apple:
We are disappointed that we have had to terminate the Epic Games
account on the App Store. We have worked with the team at Epic
Games for many years on their launches and releases. The court
recommended that Epic comply with the App Store guidelines while
their case moves forward, guidelines they’ve followed for the past
decade until they created this situation. Epic has refused.
Instead they repeatedly submit Fortnite updates designed to
violate the guidelines of the App Store. This is not fair to all
other developers on the App Store and is putting customers in the
middle of their fight. We hope that we can work together again in
the future, but unfortunately that is not possible today.
Apple’s statement isn’t forthright. They chose to terminate Epic’s
account; they didn’t *have* to.
Apple suggests we spammed the App Store review process. That’s not
so. Epic submitted three Fortnite builds: two bug-fix updates, and
the Season 4 update with this note.
Neither company “had to” do any of this, so that’s a futile line of argument. Epic didn’t have to sneak their rule-breaking payment processing in via a trojan horse in the last-approved Fortnite version, and didn’t have to refuse to take their rule-breaking payment processing out in the subsequent builds they submitted. Apple didn’t have to respond, but it would have been pretty weird — to say the least — if they just let Epic get away with this. One can certainly argue that Apple’s rules are wrong, but it’s not wrong for Apple to enforce its own rules. Nothing Apple has done in this saga has been surprising, with the possible exception of attempting to revoke the developer license for Epic’s subsidiary that makes Unreal Engine.
The “instead they repeatedly submit Fortnite updates designed to violate the guidelines” line in Apple’s statement is interesting, though. I don’t read it as an accusation of “spamming”, as Sweeney claims. Epic submitted three builds, none of which removed their in-app purchase circumvention, so they knew Apple was never going to approve them. They were just wasting Apple’s time. But I find it interesting that Apple even mentioned it, or phrased it that way. It indicates that Epic has gotten under their skin to some degree. Of course Apple is annoyed by Epic’s antics; but you’d think Apple wouldn’t let that show. Apple shouldn’t think about Epic at all.
CNBC: Trump Admin Put Kibosh on Walmart Taking Majority Stake in TikTok ★
Alex Sherman, reporting for CNBC:
Walmart wanted to be the exclusive e-commerce and payments
provider for TikTok and have access to user data to enhance those
capabilities, one of the people said. But the people said the U.S.
government wanted the lead buyer of TikTok to be a technology
company because that would better fit with its national-security
rationale for forcing Chinese owner ByteDance to divest TikTok’s
Walmart confirmed its partnership with Microsoft Thursday,
releasing a statement stating its interest in TikTok’s e-commerce
and advertising capabilities.
Even if we put aside the issue of whether the U.S. government should be dictating that a foreign company must be sold to an American company — a big issue to put aside that ultimately shouldn’t be put aside, but hear me out here — why do they also get to choose which industry the American company is in? I don’t personally think of Walmart as a tech company but who the hell is Jared Kushner or Larry Kudlow or Steve Mnuchin — or whichever Trump numbnuts it is making these calls — to make that decision?
This is just bizarre banana republic stuff. This is why Wall Street is putting money behind Biden, too — the stock market is riding high, yes, but investors want stability and predictability. The Trump administration’s role in this TikTok sale — not the ban of the service, which is a legitimate national security concern, but this role as broker of the deal — is crazy.
Susan Glasser: ‘The Malign Fantasy of Donald Trump’s Convention’ ★
Susan Glasser, writing for The New Yorker:
Trump attacked Biden by name forty-one times in his prepared
remarks, some kind of record in a Convention speech. Biden is a
“destroyer of American greatness” itself, Trump said, and he
supports “the most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a
major-party nominee.” He is a pawn of China and the radical left,
“a Trojan horse for socialism,” a representative of a “failed
political class,” and a loser on the wrong side of history. He and
his party will “demolish the suburbs.” They will “confiscate your
guns.” Biden, in short, will end America as you know it.
The problem, of course, is that America as we know it is currently
in the midst of a mess not of Biden’s making but of Trump’s.
Suffice it to say that, by the time Trump’s speech was over and
the red, white, and blue fireworks spelling out “2020” had been
set off over the National Mall, late Thursday night, more than
three thousand seven hundred Americans had died of the coronavirus
since the start of the Convention — more than perished on 9/11 — and a hundred and eighty thousand Americans total had succumbed to
the disease, a disease that Trump repeatedly denied was even a
threat. His botched handling of the pandemic was the very reason
that his Convention was taking place on the White House lawn in
the first place.
This photo captures the national moment.
Biden Should Go to Kenosha ★
George Packer, writing for The Atlantic:
Nothing will harm a campaign like the wishful thinking, fearful
hesitation, or sheer complacency that fails to address what
voters can plainly see. Kenosha gives Biden a chance to help
himself and the country. Ordinarily it’s the incumbent
president’s job to show up at the scene of a national tragedy and
give a unifying speech. But Trump is temperamentally incapable of
doing so and, in fact, has a political interest in America’s open
wounds and burning cities.
Biden, then, should go immediately to Wisconsin, the crucial state
that Hillary Clinton infamously ignored. He should meet the Blake
family and give them his support and comfort. He should also meet
Kenoshans like the small-business owners quoted in the Times
piece, who doubt that Democrats care about the wreckage of their
dreams. Then, on the burned-out streets, without a script, from
the heart, Biden should speak to the city and the country. He
should speak for justice and for safety, for reform and against
riots, for the crying need to bring the country together. If he
says these things half as well as Julia Jackson did, we might not
have to live with four more years of Trump.
Packer’s column is good, but his headline — “This Is How Biden Loses” — is fatalistic. Biden should go to Kenosha, and further escalate his shadow pre-presidency. Fill the moral and emotional void left by Trump’s failures. The political jujitsu is obvious: hammer home the point that we are in Trump’s America now. He’s been president four years. Stand before the burned buildings and say this isn’t what it will be like under a Biden presidency, this is what it is like, right here in front of us today, under Trump’s. “This violence is tearing our businesses, our homes, and our hearts apart, and it must stop. Trump is the president, and he obviously can’t stop it. I will. We didn’t have violence in our streets under President Obama and we won’t under President Biden.” The speech writes itself.
The Talk Show: ‘I’m More of a Porkins Guy’ ★
Special guest Anil Dash joins the show. Topics include the 25th anniversary of Windows 95, and the parallels between the cyber era of computing and today’s App Store controversies.
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Jason Snell on Windows 95 ★
Jason Snell, representing the Mac users’ side:
The magazine I worked at back then, MacUser, decided to offer up as a rejoinder a cover that said “Windows 95: So What?” It was originally intended to feature the Windows logo instead of “Windows 95” in type inside a big yellow circle, but the corporate lawyers intervened and said we couldn’t use the logo on our cover. (I always figured that the lawyers were just an excuse, and that our owner didn’t want to overly antagonize Microsoft, since Ziff-Davis also published both PC Magazine and PC/Computing magazine.)
I haven’t thought about it in a long time but I remember that issue, and that cover, and always thought it was a cover that looked like it was designed using Windows. Not the Mac’s nor MacUser’s best moment.
Here’s the truth about Windows 95, though: it was devastating to
the Mac. Before Windows 95, PCs were spectacularly bad. (Sorry,
fans of Windows 3.1, but it was garbage.) Windows 95, on the other
hand, lifted an enormous amount of features from the Mac and
drastically improved usability. Long filenames, trash can,
aliases, a desktop, easy app switching, the promise of
plug-and-play peripherals — these are all things the Mac had and
that PCs didn’t, and with the release of Windows 95, the gap
between the operating systems closed substantially.
It wasn’t so much that Windows 95 got good enough, but that the Mac circa 1995 had been so technically stagnant. To make a very long story very short, John Sculley’s Apple had devoted itself to coming up with something new to replace the Mac, rather than devoting itself to the sort of incremental improvement to the Mac that has defined the platform (and defined Apple itself) post-reunification with Steve Jobs and NeXT.
None of Apple’s “next big thing to replace the Mac” projects ever came close to fruition. So it’s not just that they let Microsoft catch up with Windows 95, but that by the time Windows 95 shipped, Microsoft had momentum and Apple had none. There really were a lot of things about a state of the art Mac in August 1995 that were better than a state of the art PC running Windows 95, but it was inarguable, to anyone who took an honest look at where both platforms were heading, that the Mac was on course to fall hopelessly behind.
Windows 95 even looked better, and inarguably looked more modern (the Mac system UI was still largely black and white and flat — what comes around goes around, huh?) because Microsoft ripped off the look not of the Mac but of NeXTStep.
Anil Dash on Windows 95 ★
Anil Dash, representing the PC users’ side:
Twenty five years ago today, Microsoft released Windows 95. It was
undoubtedly a technical leap forward, but its biggest, most
lasting impacts are about how it changed popular culture’s
relationship to technology.
For context, when Windows 95 was released in August of 1995, only
about 30% of American homes had any computer at all. Less than 10%
had any form of internet access — and virtually none had
broadband. There were no smartphones, of course.
But more broadly, computers and software were basically not yet
something one talked about in polite company. You might have had a
friend who “worked in computers” (we didn’t say “work in tech”
yet) or call IT for support for your printer at work. But software
was not part of culture, and the term “apps” wouldn’t come into
wide usage for more than another decade.
Facebook Chose Not to Act on Militia Complaints Before Kenosha Shooting ★
Russell Brandom, reporting for The Verge:
One user, who asked not to be identified by name, said she had
reported the Kenosha Guards event in advance of the protest.
Facebook moderators responded that the event itself was not in
violation of platform policy, but specific comments could be
reported for inciting violence. She reported a specific comment
threatening to put nails in the tires of protestors’ cars, but it
too was found to be within the bounds of Facebook policy.
“There were lots of comments like that in the event,” she says.
“People talking about being ‘locked and loaded.’ People asking
what types of weapons and people responding to ‘bring
Ben Smith: ‘How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Big Things Right’ ★
Speaking of Zeynep Tufekci, New York Times media columnist Ben Smith has a great profile on her this week:
In recent years, many public voices have gotten the big things
wrong — election forecasts, the effects of digital media on
American politics, the risk of a pandemic. Dr. Tufekci, a
40-something who speaks a mile a minute with a light Turkish
accent, has none of the trappings of the celebrity academic or the
professional pundit. But long before she became perhaps the only
good amateur epidemiologist, she had quietly made a habit of being
right on the big things. [...]
While many American thinkers were wide-eyed about the
revolutionary potential of social media, she developed a more
complex view, one she expressed when she found herself sitting to
the left of Teddy Goff, the digital director for President
Obama’s re-election campaign, at a South by Southwest panel in
Austin in 2012.
Mr. Goff was enthusing about the campaign’s ability to send
different messages to individual voters based on the digital data
it had gathered about them. Dr. Tufekci quickly objected to the
practice, saying that microtargeting would more likely be used to
More than four years later, after Donald J. Trump won the
2016 election, Mr. Goff sent Dr. Tufekci a note saying she
had been right.
Zeynep Tufekci: ‘Why Aren’t We Talking More About Ventilation?’ ★
Zeynep Tufekci, writing a few weeks ago for The Atlantic:
There are also different kinds of “airborne” transmission — the
term can sound scarier than reality and can become the basis for
unnecessary scaremongering. For example, some airborne diseases,
such as measles, will definitely spread to almost every corner
of a house and can be expected to infect about 90 percent of
susceptible people in the household. In the virus-panic movie
Outbreak, when Dustin Hoffman’s character exclaims, “It’s
airborne!” about Motaba, the film’s fictional virus, he means that
it will spread to every corner of the hospital through the vents.
But not all airborne diseases are super-contagious (more on that
in a bit), and, for the most part, the coronavirus does not behave
like a super-infectious pathogen.
In multiple studies, researchers have found that COVID-19’s
secondary attack rate, the proportion of susceptible people
that one sick person will infect in a circumscribed setting, such
as a household or dormitory, can be as low as 10 to 20
percent. In fact, many experts I spoke with remarked that
COVID-19 was less contagious than many other pathogens, except
when it seemed to occasionally go wild in super-spreader
events, infecting large numbers of people at once, across
distances much greater than the droplet range of three to six
feet. Those who argue that COVID-19 can spread through aerosol
routes point to the prevalence and conditions of these
super-spreader events as one of the most important pieces of
evidence for airborne transmission.
Tufekci, you will recall, spearheaded efforts to get public health officials and agencies in the U.S. to recommend face masks back in March.
Also at The Atlantic, and also outstanding:
Epic Will Not Update Fortnite for iOS ★
Apple is blocking Fortnite updates and new installs on the App
Store, and has said they will terminate our ability to develop
Fortnite for Apple devices. As a result, Fortnite’s newly released
Chapter 2 - Season 4 update (v14.00), will not release on iOS and
macOS on August 27.
Presumably because of Apple’s threat to revoke Epic’s Apple developer program membership, they’re not even updating the Mac version of Fortnite, which is a direct download from Epic’s website, and thus has always used Epic’s own payment system.
Apple is asking that Epic revert Fortnite to exclusively use Apple
payments. Their proposal is an invitation for Epic to collude with
Apple to maintain their monopoly over in-app payments on iOS,
suppressing free market competition and inflating prices. As a
matter of principle, we won’t participate in this scheme.
Epic is putting the ball in Apple’s court. iOS users definitely aren’t getting the new season of Fortnite unless Epic pulls their custom payments, which they’re saying they won’t do on principle. So what happens to the current version of Fortnite that’s already installed on iOS devices and is about to be out-of-date? Does it keep working, despite being out of date (and despite containing Epic’s rule-violating custom payment processing)? Or does Apple revoking Epic’s developer license invoke the kill switch that disables installed copies of Fortnite? What about the ability to re-download the current version if you (or a family-sharing member) previously downloaded it?
Update: A bunch of folks more familiar than me with how multiplayer matchmaking games work suggest that once the new Fortnite season starts (and players on non-Apple platforms have an update to install), clients on the previous season (including all iOS and Mac clients) will stop being able to play. That makes sense when you think about it technically. The apps will launch, but they’ll just tell players they need to update. And presumably, Epic will serve iOS and Mac clients a custom message explaining their “#FreeFortnite” campaign against Apple.
Jose-Luis Jimenez: ‘COVID-19 Is Transmitted Through Aerosols. We Need to Adapt.’ ★
Jose-Luis Jimenez, writing in Time:
When it comes to COVID-19, the evidence overwhelmingly supports
aerosol transmission, and there are no strong arguments
against it. For example, contact tracing has found that much
COVID-19 transmission occurs in close proximity, but that many
people who share the same home with an infected person do not get
the disease. To understand why, it is useful to use cigarette or
vaping smoke (which is also an aerosol) as an analog. Imagine
sharing a home with a smoker: if you stood close to the smoker
while talking, you would inhale a great deal of smoke. Replace the
smoke with virus-containing aerosols, which behave very similarly,
and the impact is similar: the closer you are to someone releasing
virus-carrying aerosols, the more likely you are to breathe in
larger amounts of virus. We know from detailed, rigorous studies
that when individuals talk in close proximity, aerosols dominate
transmission and droplets are nearly negligible.
If you are standing on the other side of the room, you would
inhale significantly less smoke. But in a poorly ventilated room,
the smoke will accumulate, and people in the room may end up
inhaling a lot of smoke over time. Talking, and especially
singing and shouting increase aerosol exhalation by factors
of 10 and 50, respectively. Indeed, we are finding that outbreaks
often occur when people gather in crowded, insufficiently
ventilated indoor spaces, such as singing at karaoke parties,
cheering at clubs, having conversations in bars, and exercising in
gyms. Superspreading events, where one person infects many,
occur almost exclusively in indoor locations and are driving the
pandemic. These observations are easily explained by aerosols, and
are very difficult or impossible to explain by droplets or
I find this argument incredibly compelling, and the WHO and CDC’s reluctance to embrace it incredibly frustrating. The theory that COVID-19 spreads primarily through aerosols matches everything we know about it.
The upside is that the smoking comparison helps model risk avoidance. Pretend everyone you see is smoking, and try to avoid breathing their exhaled “smoke”. It also goes to show how indoor restaurants and especially bars are just a no-go until COVID-19 is under control. Spacing tables six feet apart wouldn’t keep you from smelling cigarette smoke from fellow patrons at a restaurant, and it won’t keep you from breathing their aerosols.
Xbox Executive Kevin Gammill’s ‘Declaration of Support’ for Epic Is Specifically About Unreal Engine, not Fortnite ★
Regarding the Unreal Engine part of the Epic v. Apple legal battle, Microsoft Xbox executive Kevin Gammill filed a declaration for Epic over the weekend. I’m a little surprised Microsoft waded into this at all, but read Gammill’s declaration — it’s only three pages and very cogent. All his declaration states is that Apple revoking Epic’s license to develop Unreal Engine for Apple platforms would be bad for Epic and bad for all games that use Unreal Engine to target iOS or MacOS. Basically: duh. It doesn’t even contain the terms “Fortnite” or “App Store”.
This doesn’t contradict my prediction that you won’t see Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo file amicus briefs on Epic’s behalf about the App Store’s control over software and mandatory use of Apple’s payment system. If Apple hadn’t threatened to revoke the developer program license for Unreal Engine, Microsoft wouldn’t have piped in here.
Apple and Epic Square Off in Preliminary Hearing on Zoom ★
Russell Brandom, reporting for The Verge:
On Monday, Epic Games and Apple faced off in the first hearing of
their ongoing legal fight, held in a public Zoom call because of
the ongoing quarantine restrictions. The hearing sought to
determine whether Epic’s developer privileges should be legally
protected — initially by a temporary restraining order, setting
the stage for a more powerful preliminary injunction that would
remain in force for the duration of the trial.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers did not issue an immediate ruling on
the issue, but said she would be issuing a written order after the
fact “and I will issue it quickly.”
However, Judge Gonzalez Rogers opened the hearing by indicating
she was likely to take action to protect the Unreal Engine, but
let the Fortnite ban stand. “I am not inclined to grant relief
with respect to the games,” the judge said, “but I am inclined to
grant relief with respect to the Unreal Engine.”
Effectively, Apple’s threat to revoke all of Epic’s Apple Developer Program memberships — not just the account for the subsidiary behind Fortnite but also that of the subsidiary behind Unreal Engine — has made this into two cases: the main part regarding Fortnite and the iOS App Store, and a second part regarding Unreal Engine and all Apple platforms.
Judge Gonzalez Rogers’s take sounds right for now: in Apple’s favor regarding Fortnite, and in Epic’s favor regarding Unreal Engine.
For good play-by-play livestream coverage of the hearing, I suggest reading Sarah Jeong’s thread on Twitter.
Update: Judge Gonzalez Rogers ruled exactly as she was inclined. Seems fair, and the ruling’s “background” section is an excellent, accurate, and fair assessment of the saga to date.
Can Thieves Crack 6-Digit iPhone Passcodes? ★
Henrique Prange, on Twitter:
Stop using 6-digit iPhone passcodes! Do you think I am overly
paranoid? Keep reading.
Last week, a friend of mine had his iPhone stolen. What follows
is the sequence of events that started as an unfortunate event
and ended up with $30,000 in unauthorized wire transfers, $2,500
spent on the AppStore, and accounts of multiple services
So, how could the wrongdoers do all of that in less than 5 hours?
After considering many options, the only reasonable explanation is
they cracked the 6-digit passcode on the stolen iPhone using some
kind of device like the GrayKey.
The passcode gave them access to the keychain. They searched for
the iCloud credentials, disabled the Lost Mode, and turned off the
This is an interesting but alarming story. Did the thieves crack his 6-digit passcode with a GrayKey or GrayKey-like device? Impossible to say. But it’s worth thinking about it. We know GrayKey exists, and if it exists, thieves could have it. It’s also easier for a would-be thief to snoop a target entering a 6-digit passcode than an alphanumeric passphrase.
I mention this in the wake of the aforelinked piece on Face ID vs. face masks because months ago, when I first started grocery shopping while wearing a mask, I switched my iPhone from an alphanumeric passphrase back to a 6-digit passcode for convenience. I did so thinking, basically, that even though a 6-digit passcode is less secure, anything truly dangerous like disabling Find My iPhone requires my iCloud password as well.
It simply never occurred to me that if a thief (or law enforcement, or any adversary) has the device passcode, and your iCloud password is in your keychain, they can get your iCloud password from your keychain. All you need is the device passcode to access all of the passwords in iCloud keychain. Try it — you can.
So I’m back on an alphanumeric passphrase, inconvenience while wearing a mask be damned. Remember too: you don’t need to make an alphanumeric device passphrase long or complicated to make it very secure — a 6-character alphanumeric passphrase would take on average 72 years to crack by brute force because it takes 80-milliseconds for the secure enclave to process each guess.
Face ID vs. Face Masks ★
David Porter, reporting for the AP two weeks ago (again, yesterday in coronatime):
In a letter to CEO Tim Cook obtained by The Associated Press,
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Patrick Foye said
riders have been seen removing their masks to unlock their phones
using face-recognition technology, despite a recent update by
Apple that simplifies the unlock process for people wearing masks.
Previously, an iPhone user wearing a mask would have to wait a few
seconds as face recognition software tried to identify them before
they eventually could enter a passcode. In response to the
pandemic, Apple’s iOS 13.5, released in May, automatically
presents the passcode field after a user swipes up from the bottom
of the lock screen. Also, Apple Pay Express Transit, introduced
last year, allows riders on some bus and subway lines to pay with
their iPhone or Apple Watch without having to wake the device.
I’m not sure what such a letter accomplishes other than giving Foye the ability to say he did what he could. Face ID isn’t just software, it’s hardware, and I don’t think any of the existing Face ID iPhones can be updated, via software, to somehow work to authenticate faces while wearing a mask.
It’s interesting to ponder what a disaster, publicity wise, the iPhone X would have been if COVID-19 had hit in 2017. It’s one thing for hundreds of millions of Face ID devices to be made inconvenient by face masks, years after introduction. It would have been another thing altogether for Apple to introduce Face ID amidst a worldwide face mask mandate.
It’s certainly possible that future Face ID systems will be able to securely authenticate you while wearing a face mask. If we can recognize people we know while they’re wearing a mask, a computer system can too — but anything that makes it harder for us to recognize a face is going to make it harder for Face ID too, and face masks are obviously disguising. Will this year’s new iPhones be able to do it? I doubt it. All of the hardware for this year’s iPhones was set in stone long before COVID hit.
Microsoft’s Surface Duo, A Split-Screen Folding Android Tablet, Arrives on September 10 for $1,400 ★
Tom Warren, writing for The Verge two weeks ago (or yesterday, in coronatime):
While Microsoft had revealed the design of the Surface Duo back in
October, the company has kept the specs relatively secret. The
device includes two separate 5.6-inch OLED displays (1800 x 1350)
with a 4:3 aspect ratio that connect together to form a 8.1-inch
overall workspace (2700 x 1800) with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Unlike
foldables like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, the Surface Duo is using
real Gorilla Glass, and the displays are designed to work in a
similar way to multiple monitors on a Windows PC.
One big question over the Surface Duo has been the camera.
Microsoft is using an 11-megapixel f/2.0 camera, which will
include auto modes for low light, HDR multi-frame captures, and a
“super zoom” up to 7×. Both 4K and 1080p video recording will be
supported at 30fps and 60fps, with electronic image stabilization.
There’s only a single camera on the Surface Duo, which can be used
both for video calls and as a main camera.
So I’m deeply intrigued by the Surface Duo but at the same time incredibly dubious that anyone wants this. I don’t get the confusion over whether it’s a phone or not. It can make phone calls and act as a phone, but Microsoft never calls it one. My take is it’s a folding tablet that might as well act like a phone if you have a cellular plan, in case that’s what you really want. But I’d guess most people who do get one of these will still carry a dedicated phone — I’ve been skeptical about giant ass phones for a decade now and I’ve been proven largely wrong (no pun intended) about the size of phones many people want to carry, but this is preposterous as something you might want to pocket.
People are dinging it for the broad bezels at the top and bottom but that’s just superficial. My fundamental skepticism is whether Android is actually a good OS for this, and whether there are actual use cases for this form factor regardless of OS and application support for the split screen. At $1,400 it’s clearly a premium product — is there a premium use case?
Wifi Dabba ★
My thanks to Wifi Dabba for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. I’ve never had a sponsor quite like Wifi Dabba — they’re looking for investors in the DF audience, not customers.
India is a huge battleground — maybe the battleground — for the soul of the open internet. Remember Facebook Basics from a few years ago, where Facebook tried to effectively own “the internet” in India with an offering that pretty much just offered Facebook’s own services? It didn’t work, but they’re back, having recently purchased a nearly $6 billion stake in India’s largest telco. The root problem is the extreme expense required to deploy broadband. High costs naturally favor nation-states and existing telecom monopolies.
Wifi Dabba is attempting to solve India’s broadband problem from the bottom up. They’ve spent the last three years reinventing the network stack to lower the cost of broadband internet access. They use lasers instead of expensive underground fiber, and commodity components across the stack. This results in a network that is 100 times cheaper to deploy and 10 times cheaper for customers.
Right now they primarily serve their hometown of Bangalore, but are looking to expand nationwide. Their investors include YCombinator, VY Capital, and others — and they are looking for additional investors.
Buy a piece of their network and own the future of internet access in India.
57 Percent of Republicans Think Number of U.S. Deaths From Coronavirus Has Been ‘Acceptable’ ★
From a CBS News survey of over 2,000 registered voters:
Number of U.S. deaths from coronavirus has been been acceptable /
Republicans: 57% / 43%
Democrats: 10% / 90%
Independents: 33% / 67%
The U.S. has over 176,000 deaths, and that number is growing by around 1,000 per day. According to the same poll, 73 percent of Republicans think the U.S. response to coronavirus is “going well”. This isn’t cultish — it’s a cult. Either a majority of Republicans are sociopaths or they’re so ignorant they have no idea how much worse the U.S. has handled COVID-19 than other industrialized nations. Washington Post columnist Brian Klaas, on COVID-19 deaths reported yesterday:
United States: 974
Population of countries above: 439 million
Population of United States: 328 million
It’s almost over for other nations. Here in the U.S. COVID-19 is rampaging.
The Case of the Top Secret iPod ★
David Shayer, in a rather incredible story for TidBITS:
It was a gray day in late 2005. I was sitting at my desk, writing
code for the next year’s iPod. Without knocking, the director of
iPod Software — my boss’s boss — abruptly entered and closed the
door behind him. He cut to the chase. “I have a special assignment
for you. Your boss doesn’t know about it. You’ll help two
engineers from the US Department of Energy build a special iPod.
Report only to me.”
The next day, the receptionist called to tell me that two men were
waiting in the lobby. I went downstairs to meet Paul and Matthew,
the engineers who would actually build this custom iPod. I’d love
to say they wore dark glasses and trench coats and were glancing
in window reflections to make sure they hadn’t been tailed, but
they were perfectly normal thirty-something engineers. I signed
them in, and we went to a conference room to talk.
They didn’t actually work for the Department of Energy; they
worked for a division of Bechtel, a large US defense contractor to
the Department of Energy. They wanted to add some custom hardware
to an iPod and record data from this custom hardware to the iPod’s
disk in a way that couldn’t be easily detected. But it still had
to look and work like a normal iPod.
They’d do all the work. My job was to provide any help they needed
What a wild story. Tony Fadell, on Twitter:
This project was real w/o a doubt.
There was whole surreal drama and interesting story about how this
project was kicked off and then kept secret.
Nicole Nguyen on Reels, Instagram’s Shameless But Perhaps Misbegotten Copy of TikTok ★
Nicole Nguyen, in her new column at The Wall Street Journal (where she moved from BuzzFeed News) (News+ link):
Once a simple photo-sharing app, Instagram now offers ephemeral
social media, short-form video, long-form video, video chat,
private messaging, inspiration bookmarking and shopping. I started
spending most of my time on Instagram instead of Facebook because
Facebook was too bloated. Now it feels like Instagram is
Still, it will likely take more than a library of hit songs and
video-editing tools for Instagram to re-create TikTok’s success.
On TikTok, you don’t need an account to become addicted. It’s pure
entertainment, like TV, without the terrible fear-of-missing-out
feeling you get by looking at posts from friends and family.
But unlike TV, a finely tuned algorithm figures out what you see
next. And that algorithm is freakishly good. You scroll and scroll
until you’re physically exhausted and can’t scroll any longer.
Instagram’s recommendations aren’t quite there yet. I watched a
haphazard mix of imported TikToks, manic 15-second cooking videos
and clips of celebrities ... being celebrities. There’s little of
the eclectic weird magic found on TikTok’s main feed, its
personalized “For You” page.
It feels odd talking about “the good old days” of Instagram, but well, I enjoyed Instagram a lot more when it was focused simply and exquisitely on photo sharing. Obviously I don’t speak for the greater world — Instagram got a lot more popular as I deemed it to be getting worse.
But there has to be a limit to how much Facebook can cram into Instagram before it bursts at the seams, and Reels feels like too much. TikTok just doesn’t feel Instagrammy at all, so I don’t think the problem with Reels is execution, I think it’s just the basic idea of using Instagram to host Facebook’s TikTok clone. It’s a bad fit, and Facebook doesn’t have the taste to know it. Facebook is like a society in a sci-fi novel that polluted and ruined its home world (Facebook), colonized a beautiful new world (Instagram), and just went ahead and immediately polluted and ruined the new world in the exact same way.
(Call it a hunch, or maybe just wishful thinking, but I think someone could have a nice hit with a great clone of the old original photo-sharing Instagram. Not a goliath-titan-of-the-tech-industry hit, just a nice profitable hit. Like making a nice successful restaurant, never intended to be a nationwide chain with 1,000 locations.)
Tim Wu: ‘A TikTok Ban Is Overdue’ ★
Tim Wu, writing at The New York Times:
In China, the foreign equivalents of TikTok and WeChat — video
and messaging apps such as YouTube and WhatsApp — have been
banned for years. The country’s extensive blocking,
censorship and surveillance violate just about every
principle of internet openness and decency. China keeps a
closed and censorial internet economy at home while its products
enjoy full access to open markets abroad.
The asymmetry is unfair and ought no longer be tolerated. The
privilege of full internet access — the open internet — should
be extended only to companies from countries that respect that
Agreed. Wu addresses the fact that Trump is almost certainly wrong in his reasons for opposing TikTok, but even then he’s ultimately right in the “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” sense. We — not just the United States but the entire free world — are being played as suckers by China. You’re either part of the open internet or you’re not — and China wants no part of the open internet.
The idea that being exposed to the internet would inevitably help open China was a reasonable and well-intentioned theory, but it was obviously wrong. Allowing China to export its own internet services while it blocks all of the services from the rest of the world is both dangerous and dumb. They’re using the internet to export authoritarianism, not to import democracy and liberalism.
Apple Statement: ‘We Very Much Want to Keep the Company as Part of the Apple Developer Program and Their Apps on the Store’ ★
Statement from Apple:
The App Store is designed to be a safe and trusted place for users
and a great business opportunity for all developers. Epic has been
one of the most successful developers on the App Store, growing
into a multibillion dollar business that reaches millions of iOS
customers around the world. We very much want to keep the company
as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the
Store. The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can
easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that
reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which
apply to all developers. We won’t make an exception for Epic
because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests
ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers.
It’s a good statement. Epic has been clear that they aren’t seeking a permanent exception to the App Store Guidelines, or a special deal like Amazon’s for Prime Video (which Apple wasn’t going to offer them anyway — games are different). They want to see Apple (and Google) change their platforms. So the “exception” Apple speaks of, I think, would be allowing Fortnite to remain in the App Store with its own payment processing while the lawsuit is litigated — and perhaps allowing Epic to keep its developer program membership?
So who blinks first? I think Epic will blink, submit a Fortnite update that reverts to compliance with the App Store guidelines, and try to save face by saying, “Look at what Apple forced us to do — we had to raise V-Bucks prices”. But they’ll keep their lawsuit going. The lawsuit, I think they’re serious about. The Fortnite update with their own payment processing was a publicity stunt.
The thing is, Epic isn’t just a game publisher. They’re a platform vendor too. One of the core things developers want from a platform vendor is stability, in every sense of the word. If I were a game developer who depends on Unreal Engine, I’d be irate at Epic. They’re creating drama and eroding trust over a fight that Unreal Engine licensees aren’t a part of and didn’t sign up for. Fortnite users — especially kids — might blame Apple for Fortnite disappearing from iOS. But professional game developers will blame Epic if Unreal Engine updates are hindered by this.
Epic and the Terms of Apple’s Developer Program License Agreement ★
Epic’s announcement that Apple is threatening to terminate their membership in the Apple Developer Program prompted me to look at the current terms of the developer program license agreement. The terms are pretty clear that Apple can do this:
This Agreement and all rights and licenses granted by Apple
hereunder and any services provided hereunder will terminate,
effective immediately upon notice from Apple: [...]
(f) if You engage, or encourage others to engage, in any
misleading, fraudulent, improper, unlawful or dishonest act
relating to this Agreement, including, but not limited to,
misrepresenting the nature of Your submitted Application
(e.g., hiding or trying to hide functionality from Apple’s
review, falsifying consumer reviews for Your Application,
engaging in payment fraud, etc.).
In a court of law, Apple seems well within its rights to terminate Epic’s membership. In the court of public opinion, Apple comes off looking heavy-handed here, especially as it pertains to Unreal Engine. To be clear, Apple is not banning or even mentioning games that use Unreal Engine; what Epic is saying is that all games that use Unreal Engine will be affected as a byproduct of Epic no longer being able to work on Unreal Engine for Apple’s platforms. It’s further escalation on both sides:
- Epic: Surprise! We snuck our own payment processing into a Fortnite update.
- Apple: Fortnite is no longer listed in the App Store and we’re not going to approve updates until Fortnite complies with our rules.
- Epic: We’re suing and releasing a video to all our users that paints Apple as an oppressive monopolist bully.
- Apple: We’re revoking Epic’s developer program membership. (Would Apple have done this even without Epic having filed a lawsuit? Not clear.)
- Epic: Without a membership we’ll be forced to cease development of Unreal Engine for iOS and MacOS.
(Honestly, the most shocking thing about the Apple Developer Program License Agreement is that the PDF is entirely typeset in Arial. Clearly it should be San Francisco, but Helvetica would be acceptable. Arial should be a firing offense.)
Apple Warns Epic It Will Terminate Epic’s Developer Account in Two Weeks; Epic Asks Court to Intervene ★
Epic Games Newsroom:
Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store and has informed Epic
that on Friday, August 28 Apple will terminate all our developer
accounts and cut Epic off from iOS and Mac development tools. We
are asking the court to stop this retaliation. Details here:
From Epic’s motion:
First, Apple’s actions harm millions of innocent consumers
worldwide — the players who enjoy Fortnite and other Epic games — which will sever their trust with Epic, a loss that is
impossible to quantify. Because Apple has now removed Fortnite
from the App Store, iOS users cannot receive updates and will soon
be stranded in an outdated version of the game, unable to connect
with family and friends who will play future versions on other
platforms. iOS users will also lose access to new content that
Epic regularly releases, such as the eagerly anticipated new
season of the game scheduled to launch at the end of this month.
Epic’s motion suggests the only solution here is for Apple to be forced, by the court, to re-list Fortnite in the App Store while allowing Epic to continue using their own in-app purchasing system. The alternative, of course, would be for Epic to submit a Fortnite update that removes their rule-breaking in-app purchasing system. Until this is resolved, there are three possible states:
- Apple is forced to restore Fortnite in the store and allow Epic to flagrantly disregard the App Store guidelines on in-app purchasing until the legal case is settled.
- Epic can remove its own payment system and Fortnite goes back in the App Store in compliance with the existing rules.
- Epic refuses to submit an update in compliance with the current rules, the court refuses to force Apple to restore Fortnite in the interim, and iOS Fortnite users miss out on the new season, and new users can’t get Fortnite for iOS.
(It’s worth noting that anyone who previously downloaded Fortnite for iOS can still get it. Like if you previously downloaded it and subsequently deleted it, or if you get a new iPhone or iPad and need to reinstall all your apps, or even if someone other than you in your family account previously installed it. I don’t know if that will change on August 28, if Apple goes through with revoking Epic’s developer account.)
Left unchecked, Apple’s actions will irreparably damage Epic’s
reputation among Fortnite users and be catastrophic for the future
of the separate Unreal Engine business. If the Unreal Engine can
no longer support Apple platforms, the software developers that
use it will be forced to use alternatives. The damage to Epic’s
ongoing business and to its reputation and trust with its
customers will be unquantifiable and irreparable. Preliminary
injunctive relief is necessary to prevent Apple from crushing Epic
before this case could ever get to judgment.
I’ll just go out on a limb here and guess that no matter how this gets resolved, we won’t be seeing any more Unreal Engine demos on stage at Apple keynotes.
The morning Epic made these options available, Apple removed
Fortnite from the App Store, ensuring that millions of players
would imminently lose the ability to use Fortnite to connect with
their family and friends. Soon after, Epic filed its suit against
Apple challenging its monopoly on app stores and in-app purchases.
Less than twelve hours later, Apple notified Epic it was
terminating Epic from the Apple Developer Program, blocking all
Epic products from distribution through Apple’s App Store. Apple
specifically stated it would terminate Epic’s access to
development tools, including those necessary for Epic to keep
offering the world’s most popular graphics engine, the Unreal
Engine. The Unreal Engine is used to develop a wide array of
products including games, films, biomedical research and virtual
reality. Millions of developers rely on the Unreal Engine to
develop software, and hundreds of millions of consumers use that
It’s a fascinating armchair quarterback game to speculate on what Epic anticipated from Apple as a reaction and what they didn’t. Pulling Fortnite from the App Store they obviously anticipated — Epic had both the lawsuit and 1984 ad parody ready to go. Revoking Epic’s developer account, I’m not so sure.
‘Screw Apple, Screw Google, and Screw Epic Games’ ★
Acerbic YouTube take from Jim Sterling:
Screw the lot of them. Yes, Apple and Google need taking down from
their high towers. Yes, Epic Games has a point as it sues to keep
Fortnite on mobile devices. But absolutely all of them are as bad
as each other.
This isn’t my take, per se, but it’s a fair take.
NBC News: ‘QAnon Groups Have Millions of Members on Facebook’ ★
Ari Sen and Brandy Zadrozny, reporting for NBC News:
An internal investigation by Facebook has uncovered thousands of
groups and pages, with millions of members and followers, that
support the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to internal company
documents reviewed by NBC News. [...]
Facebook and other platforms face a unique challenge in moderating
QAnon communities, said Joan Donovan, director of the Kennedy
School’s Shorenstein Center on Media Politics and Public Policy at
Harvard. The platforms act both as the “base infrastructure” for
networking and spreading content and a target of the conspiracy
theory itself, which frames Facebook and other platforms as
“oppressive regimes that seek to destroy truth,” Donovan said.
There were rightwing kook conspiracy cults before Facebook, but Facebook uniquely enables them to grow. QAnon’s existence isn’t Facebook’s fault; QAnon’s prominence is entirely Facebook’s fault.
And they know it. From the same story, italic emphasis added:
“Enforcing against QAnon on Facebook is not new: we consistently
take action against accounts, Groups, and Pages tied to QAnon that
break our rules. Just last week, we removed a large Group with
QAnon affiliations for violating our content policies, and removed
a network of accounts for violating our policies against
coordinated inauthentic behavior,” the spokesperson, who asked
not to be named for fear of harassment from the QAnon community,
wrote in an emailed statement. “We have teams assessing our
policies against QAnon and are currently exploring additional
actions we can take.”
How fucked up is it that Facebook has any tolerance at all for a large subculture on their platform that their own spokespeople fear?
Just kick them all off, close every one of the groups and close the Facebook accounts of everyone prominent in the community.
‘Trump’s Attacks on the Postal Service Deserve Sustained, Red-Alert Coverage From the Media’ ★
Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for The Washington Post:
But what about next week and next month?
Can something as dull-sounding as the workings of the Post Office
compete with former Trump attorney’s new tell-all book, whose
foreword includes lines like: “From golden showers in a sex club
in Vegas, to tax fraud, to deals with corrupt officials from the
former Soviet Union, to catch and kill conspiracies to silence
Trump’s clandestine lovers, I wasn’t just a witness to the
president’s rise — I was an active and eager participant.”
Can it break into the endless political takes on Kamala D. Harris
as Joe Biden’s running mate, or the next political horse-race
story that’s around the corner?
But if journalists don’t keep the pressure on Postal Service
problems, they will be abdicating their duty. There’s very little
that matters more than the Nov. 3 vote. Anything that threatens
the integrity of the vote needs to be treated as one of the
biggest stories out there — even if it’s not the sexiest.
Just anecdotally, our mail situation here in Philadelphia has been just jaw-droppingly atrocious the last 6 weeks or so. Important bills that just never show up, deliveries showing up weeks late. Never seen anything like it, and I’ve lived here for 30 years now.
Epic’s Campaign for ‘Open Platforms’ Ignores Game Consoles’ Massive Closed Market ★
Kyle Orland, writing at Ars Technica:
Most if not all of the complaints Epic makes against Apple and
Google seem to apply to Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo in the
console space as well. All three console makers also take a
30-percent cut of all microtransaction sales on their platforms,
for example. [...]
On mobile platforms, Epic is calling the same kind of 30-percent
fee “exorbitant” and says it wants to offer a more direct payment
solution so it can “pass along the savings to players.” On
consoles, though, Epic happily introduced a permanent 20-percent
discount on all microtransaction purchases, despite there
being no sign that the console makers have changed their fee
Bingo. This is exactly the point I’ve been trying to make since the Xbox Game Pass controversy last week. Microsoft wants Apple to allow on iOS something they themselves will not allow on Xbox.
If you think Epic is right in principle about iOS and Android, then they ought to be making the same argument about Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch. A computer is a computer. “Consoles” are a business model and user experience design choice, and the iPhone and iPad are effectively app consoles, where games are just one type of app. It’s a shame (in more ways than this) that Apple TV isn’t a bigger player, because it’s just another variant of iOS.
But instead of fighting the game consoles, Epic is taking more of a hit: Fortnite players on Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch get the 20 percent reduction in price while Epic still pays the 30 percent cut of each transaction to the platform vendor. It’s a stunt, pure and simple.
Or maybe Epic just has a better relationship with console makers
than mobile phone makers. [...] Sony recently invested $250
million in Epic and prominently featured Epic’s Unreal Engine
5 in a recent major PlayStation 5 promotional demo, too. Even
Nintendo, which traditionally uses its own technology for game
development, has begun using Unreal Engine for its own titles in
recent years. In a way, Epic can’t attack these platform
holders without also attacking itself.
I’m sure that has nothing to do with it.
FactCheck: ‘Trump Proves Biden Right on USPS Funding, Mail-in Ballots’ ★
Eugene Kiely, writing for FactCheck:
In late June, Joe Biden claimed President Donald Trump “wants to
cut off money for the post office so they cannot deliver mail-in
ballots.” At the time, we wrote that the presumptive Democratic
presidential nominee had no evidence of Trump’s ulterior motive — but now he does.
In an Aug. 13 interview, Trump admitted that he opposes a
coronavirus pandemic relief bill crafted by the House Democrats
because it includes funding the U.S. Postal Service and state
election officials — funding that Trump said is needed to allow
the Postal Service to handle an expected surge in mail-in voting.
Noah Rothman: “You can always count on Trump to pull the rug out from under you.”
On Trump’s Admitted Surprise at Biden’s Selection of Harris for VP ★
Gabriel Sherman, reporting for Vanity Fair:
Donald Trump didn’t expect Joe Biden to pick Kamala Harris as his
running mate. “He thought Biden would choose Karen Bass,” a
Republican briefed on Trump’s thinking said. Trump’s view,
according to sources close to the White House, was that Biden
would prefer a candidate with Bass’s low national profile and one
who wouldn’t outshine him.
Trump himself publicly admitted to being surprised Biden chose Harris, on the grounds that she challenged Biden vigorously when she was competing against him for the nomination. Some leaders surround themselves with yes-men who will only tell them what they want to hear. Others surround themselves with independent thinkers who will offer their unvarnished opinion and advice. Trump should be pictured in the dictionary next to the entry for projection, so of course he expected Biden to choose how he himself chose.
Rightfully so, many are pointing to Biden’s choice, and Trump’s professed surprise at that choice, as clear indications of the profound temperamental differences between them.
I would just like to point out what this must be like to observe if you’re Mike Pence, knowing that Trump chose you because he thinks you’re a low-watt bulb with as much flavor as a chewed up piece of gum.
Designing a Logo Without Knowing What It Will Say ★
Jonathan Hoefler, on designing the new Biden-Harris logo without knowing that Kamala Harris would be Joe Biden’s pick for running mate:
I can’t remember an election in which so much attention (and
speculation) has surrounded the choice of a running mate, nor
having such a large field of eminently qualified candidates to
choose from. A consequential decision at an unpredictable time,
conducted under absolute secrecy, poses an interesting dilemma to
the typographer: how do you create a logo without knowing for
certain what the words will say? Logos, after all, are
meaningfully informed by the shapes of their letters, and a logo
designed for an EISENHOWER will hardly
work for a TAFT. The solution,
naturally, involves the absurd application of brute force: you
just design all the logos you can think of, based on whatever
public information you can gather. Every credible suggestion
spotted in an op-ed was added to the list that we designers
maintained, and not once did the campaign even hint at a
preference for one name over another.
Epic Files Lawsuit Against Google, Too ★
Similar opening statement to their suit against Apple, substituting “Don’t be evil” for “1984”:
In 1998, Google was founded as an exciting young company with a
unique motto: “Don’t Be Evil”. Google’s Code of Conduct explained
that this admonishment was about “how we serve our users” and
“much more than that ... it’s also about doing the right thing
more generally”. Twenty-two years later, Google has relegated
its motto to nearly an afterthought, and is using its size to do
evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew
of markets it has grown to monopolize. This case is about doing
the right thing in one important area, the Android mobile
ecosystem, where Google unlawfully maintains monopolies in
multiple related markets, denying consumers the freedom to enjoy
their mobile devices — freedom that Google always promised
Android users would have.
Google Boots Fortnite From Play Store ★
The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through
multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the
Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to
developers and keep the store safe for users. While Fortnite
remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available
on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the
opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring
Fortnite back to Google Play.
You can still sideload Fortnite via direct download from Epic, or install it from Samsung’s Galaxy Store (which only works with Samsung devices).
Given Epic’s outsized response to Apple’s ban — the lawsuit and
the 1984 ad — it’s a sure bet that the company will have a
response to Google as well. We’ll obviously let you know what that
is when it happens.
Yeah, can’t wait for the slick Google ad parody that I’m sure Epic has already made and has been waiting all day to fire off. Holding my breath here.
Periodic Reminder That the Dow Jones Industrial Average Is Moronic ★
Lu Wang and Vildana Hajric, reporting for Bloomberg:
Apple Inc.’s planned stock split will diminish its influence on
the Dow Jones Industrial Average after the iPhone maker’s 100%
surge since March lows nearly dragged the price-weighted measure
back to an all-time high.
At its current price of $452 a share, Apple has the biggest
weighting in the index at 11%. A 4-to-1 split now would drop its
price tag to about $113 and send its ranking in the Dow Average
down to 16th. Apple has rallied almost 55% in 2020, adding more
than 1,100 points to a stock measure that’s fallen about 2% during
that time. The split is scheduled to take effect Aug. 31. [...]
The split, however, won’t affect Apple’s No. 1 position in the S&P
500, an index that’s weighted by market capitalization, rather
than stock prices.
Bloomberg reports this as though the difference in how the DJIA and S&P 500 are weighted is equivalent. The S&P 500 makes sense: it values companies by what the companies are worth. The Dow makes no goddamn sense at all: it values companies by their share price.
A high-profile stock split like Apple’s should make the entire finance world snap out of its delusion and just abolish the Dow. A 4-for-1 stock split is exactly the same in principle as exchanging a dollar bill for 4 quarters. You still have one dollar. But according to the Dow, you go from 100 (the dollar bill) to 25 (the value of a single one of the post-split quarters).
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is that stupid.
Update: See this classic 2013 episode of NPR’s Planet Money for more:
It’s no secret that we here at Planet Money think the Dow is a
terrible economic indicator. We don’t like that it only looks at
thirty companies. We don’t like the way it does its math. We think
it does a bad job reflecting the overall economy. Honestly, we’re
not sure why everyone is still talking about it.
CNBC: ‘Uber CEO Says Its Service Will Probably Shut Down Temporarily in California if It’s Forced to Classify Drivers as Employees’ ★
Lauren Feiner, reporting for CNBC:
Uber would likely shut down temporarily for several months if a
court does not overturn a recent ruling requiring it to classify
its drivers as full-time employees, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in
an interview with Stephanie Ruhle Wednesday on MSNBC.
“If the court doesn’t reconsider, then in California, it’s hard to
believe we’ll be able to switch our model to full-time employment
quickly,” Khosrowshahi said.
Basically, an admission that Uber’s key innovation was to skirt
Whatever you think of the employee/contractor issue, it seems
clear that if Uber can’t survive except by classifying drivers as
contractors, it was never as valuable of a business as people
These two things can both be true:
Uber saw how terrible traditional U.S. taxi services were, and created a much better alternative that people love to use, entirely based on the key insight that ubiquitous smartphones could and should change the game. Hailing, mapping, location tracking, payment, driver/passenger rating — all of it enabled via phones.
The idea that this business model was worth tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars was based almost entirely on exploiting a gray area in labor law, and thus the company’s workers.
The founder was an enormous jackass.
OK, that’s three, but they’re still all true.
Tripp Mickle Profiles Tim Cook, Without Any Access, for the WSJ ★
Tripp Mickle wrote a long feature for The Wall Street Journal, “How Tim Cook Made Apple His Own” (News+ link):
After Steve Jobs’s death, Silicon Valley anticipated Apple Inc.’s
business would falter. Wall Street fretted about the road ahead.
And loyal customers agonized about the future of a beloved product
Today, Apple shares are at record highs. The company’s market
valuation is $1.9 trillion — bigger than the GDP of Canada,
Russia or Spain. And Apple, now the world’s largest company,
continues to dominate the smartphone market.
That’s a good and mostly fair lede. But I don’t think it’s fair at all to say that “loyal customers agonized about the future”. Where’s the evidence of that? I’d say the group that’s missing after Silicon Valley (which believes strongly, justifiably in most cases, in the importance of founders) and Wall Street is business reporters. It wasn’t so much investors as the business media who predicted “can’t innovate without Steve Jobs” doom for Apple.
The feature is largely fair though, and it does read like Mickle tried very hard to get people who know Cook to talk about him. But, well, very few of them did, and those who did don’t seem to know him all that well:
Mr. Cook is described by colleagues and acquaintances as a humble
workaholic with a singular commitment to Apple. Longtime
colleagues seldom socialized with him, and assistants said he kept
his calendar clear of personal events.
Around Thanksgiving two years ago, guests saw him dining by
himself at the secluded Amangiri Hotel near Zion National Park.
When a guest later bumped into him, he said he came to the hotel
to recharge after a hectic fall punctuated by the rollout of
Apple’s latest iPhone. “They have the best masseuses in the world
here,” he said, the guest recalls.
Here Mickle’s source is a random guest who recognized Cook at a hotel.
It’s sort of inside baseball, but this paragraph is my favorite from the whole piece:
Apple declined to make Mr. Cook or any of its executives
available. Instead, the company helped arrange calls with four
people it said could speak to areas of importance to Mr. Cook such
as environmentalism, education and health. None of the four said
they knew him well. One had never met him, another met him only in
passing, a third spent half an hour with him and a fourth spent a
few hours with him.
I mean just savor the passive-aggressive fuck you/fuck you too back-and-forth of Apple making available four useless sources to Mickle, and Mickle pointing out in the article just how useless the four sources Apple made available were.
But this one weird paragraph actually says a lot about the difference between Steve Jobs’s Apple and Cook’s. Jobs wouldn’t have participated in a profile like this, either, but I think Apple’s response would have been nothing more than the two-letter word “no”. With Cook, Apple still didn’t make him available, still didn’t make anyone who works at Apple available, and still didn’t make anyone who actually knows Cook available. But they offered Mickle and the Journal something rather than just telling him to go pound sand.
Though current and former employees say Mr. Cook has created a
more relaxed workplace than Mr. Jobs, he has been similarly
demanding and detail oriented. He once got irritated that the
company mistakenly shipped 25 computers to South Korea instead of
Japan, said a former colleague, adding that it seemed like a minor
misstep for a company shipping nearly 200 million iPhones
annually. “We’re losing our commitment to excellence,” Mr. Cook
said, this person recalls.
25 computers mistakenly shipped to Korea would not make my list of signs that Apple is losing its commitment to excellence, but this anecdote actually buoys me.
Apple Signs Martin Scorsese to First-Look Film and TV Deal ★
Justin Kroll and Mike Fleming Jr., reporting for Deadline:
Two and one-half months after it stepped up to become the
producers of Killers of the Flower Moon, Apple has inked a
first-look deal with its director, Martin Scorsese. The master
filmmaker will base his Sikelia Productions banner at Apple in a
multi-year deal for film and television projects Scorsese will
produce and direct for Apple TV +.
The relationship kicks off with Killers of the Flower Moon, the
Eric Roth-scripted adaptation of the David Grann non-fiction book
which will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro will star in.
Apple won an auction with the $180 million+ film originally
optioned by Paramount came back on the market. Deadline revealed
on May 27 that Apple won a deal that has Paramount releasing the
The way to apply Apple’s “the best, not the most” mantra to Hollywood would be signing more deals like this. Apple TV+ will never have the most exclusive movies and TV shows, but it can have a large share of the best ones.
Mozilla Lays Off 250 Employees, About One-Third of Its Workforce ★
Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for ZDNet Zero Day:
Furthermore, Mozilla’s contract with Google to include Google as
the default search provider inside Firefox is set to expire later
this year, and the contract has not been renewed. The Google deal
has historically accounted for around 90% of all of Mozilla’s
revenue, and without it experts see a dim future for Mozilla past
I think that’s basically the whole story right there. Firefox was very popular, and Google paid Mozilla a small fortune to make Google search the default in Firefox because it was so popular. But then came Chrome. Why should Google fund Mozilla when Chrome is about 10 times more popular than Firefox, other than out of the goodness of its corporate heart?
It is a very good thing for the world and the web that a truly independent browser exists from a privacy-minded company, but there’s not much of a business model for it unless it’s popular enough to get the dominant search engine to pay for placement.
“We must learn and expand different ways to support ourselves and
build a business that isn’t what we see today.”
This most likely includes a bigger focus on Mozilla’s VPN
offering, which Mozilla formally launched last month.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps are one of today’s biggest
money-makers in tech, and Mozilla, despite arriving late to the
party, is set to become one of the biggest players on the market,
primarily due to its reputation as a privacy-first organization
and civil and privacy rights advocate.
I have no idea if a VPN offering can even come close to making up for the money Mozilla was earning from Google for default search placement, but it’s a great idea. If you’re going to use a VPN, you want to use one from a company you can trust, and Mozilla has a fortune of well-earned trust in the bank.
SoundSource 5 ★
So let’s just get this out of the way: Rogue Amoeba was last week’s sponsor here at DF but the sponsorship was for Loopback, for which I just posted my end-of-the-week thank-you. But this week they also released a major update to another of their excellent Mac audio utilities, SoundSource, and it’s well worth your attention.
SoundSource is on my short list of Mac utilities that I don’t know what I’d do without. It’s the system-wide audio menu item that ought to be built into MacOS. It gives you instant volume control to every output and input device connected to your Mac, and per-application controls for controlling audio input and output. When I wrote about SoundSource 4 last year, I noted the interface:
SoundSource is also a great example of a distinctive, branded UI
that still looks and feels in every way like a standard Mac app.
SoundSource 5 is a solid upgrade on functional grounds alone — just the audio features that are its reason for being. But the UI changes and tweaks in version 5 are delightful, and too long to list here. (E.g. the pin icon animation, and the gear menu animation.) The UI is so good that I encourage anyone who appreciates great UI design to download the demo and explore, examine, and think about the interface details of this app even if you have no interest in its features.
It’s both great UI design in the abstract, and a hall-of-fame caliber example of a Mac-assed Mac app in particular.
My thanks to Rogue Amoeba for sponsoring DF last week to promote Loopback, their amazing Mac audio utility that makes it easy to move audio between applications. Stuck on Zoom calls? Pipe in music and sound effects, or enhance your microphone. Podcasters, merge your mic with other audio sources, then pass it all on to remote guests. Loopback makes seemingly impossible audio routing a breeze.
With virtual audio devices that are usable anywhere on MacOS, Loopback can route audio between software applications and hardware devices alike. The intuitive wire-based interface gives you the power of a high-end studio mixing board, all with no cables required. For studio techs, live streamers, and so many others, Loopback is essential.
Download the free trial, then use coupon code LOOPFIRE to save $20 when you purchase by August 15. $20 discount, just for DF readers.
Gurman Story on Apple’s App Store Ban on Game Streaming Services From Back in March ★
Mark Gurman tweeted a reminder of this story he reported back in March:
Cloud gaming services, where users stream games live over the
internet, are growing in popularity, especially as faster
fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless networks proliferate. The new
offerings from Microsoft, Nvidia and Google are cloud
streaming-based, while Apple Arcade is not. Those other services
are found on the Android operating system, which powers 2.5
billion devices worldwide. Among the popular games found there,
and missing from iOS, are Red Dead Redemption 2, Gears of War 5
and Destiny 2.
Asked about the challenge of reaching iPhone and iPad users with
the chipmaker’s GeForce Now service, an Nvidia spokesperson said:
Bloomberg got the same boilerplate statement from Apple then that Business Insider got last week about Xbox Game Pass.
Apple Is Fighting Trademark for Prepear’s Pear-Shaped Logo ★
Apple, in its legal filing:
Consumers encountering Applicant’s Mark are likely to associate
the mark with Apple. Applicant’s Mark consists of a minimalistic
fruit design with a right-angled leaf, which readily calls to mind
Apple’s famous Apple Logo and creates a similar commercial
impression, as shown in the following side-by-side comparison.
Here’s the comparison. I could actually see this being a reasonable objection if Prepear were selling computers or phones or watches. But they’re a recipe app. Their logo clearly looks like a pear, not an apple, and their pear does not even look like an Apple-logo-like pear.
Back in the old days Apple didn’t even pursue legal action against the Banana Junior series of personal computers, and their logo was a six-color banana.
Predictably, the Zoom hearing for the 17-year-old alleged Twitter
hacker in Fla. was bombed multiple times, with the final bombing
of a pornhub clip ending the zoom portion of the proceedings.
Your honor, I’d like to submit a Motion to Deez.
The Etymology of ‘Cherry-Pick’ ★
I wound up looking into the etymology of “cherry-pick” while writing this post earlier today, and I’m simply astounded by this note from Merriam-Webster:
The first known use of cherry-pick was in 1965.
I’m shocked that cherry-pick is so recent. I figured it was not just old but maybe really old, centuries old. Is this right?
Update 1: The Online Etymology Dictionary pegs cherry-pick’s origin as 1959 — a little earlier, but not much.
Update 2: Anu Garg, founder and writer of the excellent Wordsmith and its A.Word.A.Day newsletter, pegged cherry-pick’s earliest documented use as 1966.
Update 3: The other OED has an instance of “cherry-picker” as a railroad industry term for a switchman from 1940, which usage explains why the idiom is about cherries — the switch lights were red.
Pour One Out for Toshiba ★
Simon Sharwood, writing for The Register:
Toshiba has finally and formally exited the laptop business.
Toshiba has made laptops since 1985 and claims to have been the
first to make a mass-market computer in the now-familiar clamshell
form factor. By the 1990s the company was producing solid
workhorses in the Satellite range and started to make meaningful
stretches of mobile work possible with the small, thin and light
Those products saw Toshiba lead the world for laptop market share
through the late 1990s and retain that position for much of the
2000s. Even as the PC market consolidated in that decade, Toshiba
was often ranked among the top five of all PC vendors despite only
ever dabbling in desktops.
If you go back far enough, Toshiba’s early-era laptops were truly groundbreaking.
Facebook Fired an Employee Who Collected Evidence of Right-Wing Pages Getting Preferential Treatment ★
Craig Silverman and Ryan Mac, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
Individuals that spoke out about the apparent special treatment of
right-wing pages have also faced consequences. In one case, a
senior Facebook engineer collected multiple instances of
conservative figures receiving unique help from Facebook
employees, including those on the policy team, to remove
fact-checks on their content. His July post was removed because it
violated the company’s “respectful communication policy.” After
the engineer’s post was removed, the related internal “tasks” he’d
cited as examples of the alleged special treatment were made
private and inaccessible to employees, according to a Workplace
post from another employee. [...]
The engineer joined the company in 2016 and most recently worked
on Instagram. He left the company on Wednesday. One employee on an
internal thread seen by BuzzFeed News said that they received
permission from the engineer to say that the dismissal “was not
News of his firing caused some Facebook employees to say that they
now fear speaking critically about the company in internal
discussions. One person said they were deleting old posts and
comments, while another said this was “hardly the first time the
respectful workplace guidelines have been used to snipe a
prominent critic of company policies/ethics.”
“[He] was a conscience of this company, and a tireless voice for
us doing the right thing,” said another employee.
Having a conscience does seem like a mismatch for working at Facebook.
This is really an astonishing story, and it’s effectively buried a few hundred words into what’s really a separate but also alarming story about Facebook employees asking Zuckerberg what Facebook is going to do if Trump uses the platform to dispute the election results.
Purported Bug in Instagram’s Hashtags Has Been Favoring Donald Trump ★
Ryan Mac, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
Earlier this week, a search on Instagram for #JoeBiden would have
surfaced nearly 390,000 posts tagged with the former vice
president’s name along with related hashtags selected by the
platform’s algorithm. Users searching Instagram for #JoeBiden
might also see results for #joebiden2020, as well as pro-Trump
hashtags like #trump2020landslide and #democratsdestroyamerica.
A similar search for #DonaldTrump on the platform, however,
provided a totally different experience. Besides showing 7 million
posts tagged with the president’s name, Instagram did not present
any related hashtags that would have pushed users toward different
content or promoted alternative viewpoints.
Maybe it was an honest bug, maybe not. But Facebook’s institutional credibility is so low it’s hard to take them at their word. And then there’s this response from Instagram’s official comms team, on Twitter:
This isn’t about politics. Tens of thousands of hashtags were
affected, and your story cherry-picked a handful of those
thousands to fit a sensational narrative. The bug was also not
partisan, as you note #democrats was impacted.
Via Parker Molloy, who notes that this combative tone — expressly impugning Mac’s integrity — is not how Facebook/Instagram has ever responded to accusations of bias against Republicans.
Whatever you think about the purported bug — and as skeptical as I am about Facebook, I actually think there’s a good chance it really was just a bug — this response from their comms teams is the real eye-opener.
Update: Also note that Instagram accuses Mac of “cherry-picking” for singling out the Biden/Trump differences. They know those are the only two candidates. How can it be “cherry picking” to compare how Instagram is treating the only two major presidential candidates? What the hell kind of bushel only has two cherries to choose from? And you can’t argue that it was about cherry-picking hashtags, not candidates, when the core hashtags in question were “#JoeBiden” and “#DonaldTrump”.
BuzzFeed News Talks to Students and Staff at a Georgia High School Reopening Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak ★
Molly Hensley-Clancy and Caroline O’Donovan, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
Behind a viral photo of a crowded hallway at a high school in
Georgia, a potentially dire situation is brewing. Students,
teachers, and parents fear the Paulding County school’s rushed
reopening plans may be spiraling out of control just two days
after students — who said they were told they could face
expulsion for remaining home — returned to class despite reports
of positive coronavirus cases among students and staff. [...]
Despite recommendations from CDC health officials, the
district has called mask-wearing a “personal choice” and said
that social distancing “will not be possible to enforce” in “most
cases.” While the school provided teachers with face shields and
masks and encouraged staff and students to wear them, they are
not required and not all teachers have chosen to use them. One
North Paulding teacher resigned last month over concerns about
School or death cult, you make the call.
On Wednesday, the school addressed the controversy that had
swirled around the viral photograph via an intercom announcement
from North Paulding High School principal Gabe Carmona. In it,
according to two people familiar with the situation, he stated
that any student found criticizing the school on social media
could face disciplinary consequences.
Well, that will certainly keep everyone healthy, and will teach the kids an important lesson on their First Amendment rights at the same time.
Heather Kelly, reporting for The Washington Post:
Team Trump’s tweet of a video clip from a Fox News interview — in
which President Trump said that children are “almost immune” from
COVID-19 — violates the site’s rules against misinformation, the
company said. Twitter hid the post and said the account will not
be able to tweet again until he deletes it, although it can appeal
Twitter spokeswoman Liz Kelley said the tweet “is in violation of
the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation. The account owner
will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.”
Facebook on Wednesday said it removed President Trump’s post of a
video clip from a Fox News interview in which he said that
children are “almost immune” from COVID-19, marking the company’s
increasingly tough stance on political speech amid heightened
Worth emphasizing that this was the “Team Trump” campaign account, not Trump’s personal account, but still. It is bad enough that we’re caught in a nationwide quagmire over whether Facebook and Twitter should allow the president of the United States to shitpost lies, period. But lies that are resulting in schools opening to comply with Trump’s fantasy that schools should open in areas where COVID-19 transmission is out of control are so far over the line, you can’t even see the line from there.
Does Google Remember Wear OS? ★
Jules Wang, writing for Android Police, “Wear OS Will Lose Google Play Music Months Before a YouTube Music App Exists”:
Google Play Music is being phased out in favor of YouTube
Music starting next month. That change already exacerbates the
need for the latter to achieve a desirable feature parity with its
predecessor, but it also now presents a challenging chasm for Wear
OS users who will lose access to Play Music without a robust
YouTube Music experience.
A new Wear OS help page tells users that they won’t be able to
download or even use Google Play Music “in the next couple of
weeks.” And until a proper YouTube Music experience appears “in
the coming months,” that means they’ll have to resort to other
apps in order to download and play local files.
Remember my theory that Google has grown bored with Android and doesn’t really care about it? That’s me talking about phones, which, in general, Google does care about insofar as they know that billions of people spend hours per day every day using them. With wearables Google never even cared in the first place, except for making goofy demo concepts like Google Glass. The customers who bought Wear OS devices care about them; the company that designed them clearly does not. If they cared, how could it be that you can’t listen to Google’s music platform on Google’s wearable platform?
Is Apple Watch a new and exciting product in 2020? No. It’s now mature and established. But Apple is as invested in it as ever, working as hard as ever on the software and — I’ll bet we’ll see in a month or two — the hardware.
I thought things were bad in the PC era when the choice was between just two major platforms, only one of which (the Mac) was designed with any taste. But at least Windows was (and remains) made by a company that, however lacking in taste, cares deeply about the platform and is invested in its success. Android is like Windows except Google isn’t even all that invested in it, and when it comes to Android running on anything other than a phone, they clearly don’t even care.
This sucks as someone who cares about the Apple ecosystem, because there’s no competitive pressure on Apple at all for anything other than phones. When is the last time anyone credibly pointed to a Wear OS watch and said “Boy, there’s a product that actually gives Apple Watch a run for its money”?
Beirut Explosion: ‘I Was Bloodied and Dazed. Beirut Strangers Treated Me Like a Friend.’ ★
New York Times correspondent Vivian Yee, from Beirut:
I was just about to look at a video a friend had sent me on
Tuesday afternoon — “the port seems to be burning,” she said — when my whole building shook. Uneasily, naïvely, I ran to the
window, then back to my desk to check for news.
Then came a much bigger boom, and the sound itself seemed to
splinter. There was shattered glass flying everywhere. Not
thinking but moving, I ducked under my desk.
When the world stopped cracking open, I couldn’t see at first
because of the blood running down my face.
A remarkable tale of kindness and humanity amidst chaos, confusion, and suffering — all the more incredible that Yee wrote it within hours.
More photos from the Times here, and Apple News has a good roundup of reports, photos, and firsthand videos from the explosion.
August is sold out on the DF weekly sponsorship schedule, but September is mostly open. (October too, if you’re planning ahead.)
One sponsor per week, with a sponsor-written entry in the RSS feed to start the week, a thank-you post right on the homepage from me at the end, and the one and only graphic ad on every page of the site all week long. No tracking or other privacy-invasive bullshit. Just plain honest ads. My best argument that they work: the number of repeat companies in the sponsor archive list.
So if you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s discerning audience, I’d love to have you as a sponsor.
OWC Memory Upgrades for 27-Inch iMacs ★
I noted this morning regarding the updated 27-inch iMac that the high end RAM configurations are pricey — $1,000 for 64 GB and $2,600 for 128 GB. You can get the same DDR4 memory upgrades from OWC for $300 and $600, respectively, and the new 27-inch iMac still has user-accessible RAM, so it doesn’t take particularly expert skill to install.
Craig Mod’s ‘Kissa by Kissa’ ★
Kissa by Kissa: How to Walk Japan (Book One) is a book about
walking 1,000+km of the countryside of Japan along the ancient
Nakasendō highway, the culture of toast (toast!), and
mid-twentieth century Japanese cafés called kissaten.
Looks gorgeous — wonderful typography and photography, expertly printed and bound. A genuine artifact.
Also, that bastard Mod went so far as to build and release as open source what he’s calling Craigstarter, a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding tool for Shopify. Just bought my copy and the whole process was smooth.
The Demo to End All Demos ★
“One small step for a man, and one giant leap for wireless networking.”
Fantastic backstory on this stunt on ATP last March (28:00).
Phil Schiller Takes Title of ‘Apple Fellow’ ★
Apple today announced that Phil Schiller will become an Apple
Fellow, continuing a storied career that began at Apple in 1987.
In this role, which reports to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Schiller will
continue to lead the App Store and Apple Events. Greg (Joz)
Joswiak, a longtime leader within the Product Marketing
organization, will join the executive team as senior vice
president of Worldwide Marketing. [...]
“It has been a dream come true for me to work at Apple, on so many
products I love, with all of these great friends — Steve, Tim,
and so many more,” said Schiller. “I first started at Apple when I
was 27, this year I turned 60 and it is time for some planned
changes in my life. I’ll keep working here as long as they will
have me, I bleed six colors, but I also want to make some time in
the years ahead for my family, friends, and a few personal
projects I care deeply about.”
Schiller hasn’t just been at Apple a long time — he’s held the position atop product marketing for, well, as long as I can remember. Product development, advertising, packaging, messaging, comms, keynotes — you name it, if it was public-facing, Schiller has been in the middle of it.
Best way I can put it is that Schiller is the most Apple-y of all Apple executives.
Jason Snell’s ‘20 Macs for 2020’ Project ★
Speaking of Jason Snell:
With this year marking the turn of decades (in some particularly
disastrous ways, as it turns out), I decided to construct a list
of the 20 most notable Macs in history. Over the next 20 weeks,
I’ll post essays, podcasts, and videos about each of them,
counting down to number one.
Now, note my choice of words there: notable. I’m not saying these
are my favorite Macs — a bunch of them I only knew in passing and
never used myself. I’m not saying these are the best Macs ever — a difficult thing to measure, since (with a few obvious
exceptions) the best Macs made are the most recent ones, otherwise
we’d all still be using G3 iMacs.
My ranking system is, to be blunt, arbitrary. I tried to make a
list of notable Macs that I felt reflected Mac history over the
last 36 years. I wanted to choose Macs that were popular,
revolutionary, weird, or had an interesting story to tell. If I
have learned anything from Joe Posnanski’s brilliant Baseball 100
project, one of the most popular things about this series
will be arguments about my terrible rankings and my unforgivable
I was not just happy but downright delighted to speak with Jason about a few of these Macs. And, yes, I’m outraged over at least one omission.
Is Today the Last Hurrah for Intel-Based iMacs? ★
Jason Snell on today’s 27-inch iMac update:
As for the future, is this the last Intel Mac we’ll see? There’s
no way to tell, though reading between the lines, it wouldn’t be
surprising if there were some more Intel-based Mac releases as
Apple progresses through its two-year-long processor transition.
But I’d wager good money that the next time we see an iMac update,
there won’t be an Intel processor at its heart. And perhaps it
will look appreciably different, too.
Seems like a good bet to me that today’s update is the last round of Intel-based iMacs. What else might get an Intel speed bump before Apple Silicon-based Macs start debuting at the end of the year? Maybe the Mac Mini? Speed bumps for the Mac Pro and iMac Pro?
NYT: ‘When COVID Subsided, Israel Reopened Its Schools. It Didn’t Go Well.’ ★
Isabel Kershner and Pam Belluck, reporting for The New York Times:
Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a
devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire
student body back in late May.
Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school,
which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single
school in Israel, possibly the world. The virus rippled out to the
students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods,
ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.
Other outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close. Across the
country, tens of thousands of students and teachers were
Israel’s advice for other countries?
“They definitely should not do what we have done,” said Eli
Waxman, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and
chairman of the team advising Israel’s National Security Council
on the pandemic. “It was a major failure.”
That’s Israel’s experience reopening schools after getting infections under control. Here in the U.S. COVID new infections remain out of control already, with nearly all schools closed for summer.
Apple Updates 27-Inch iMac ★
Apple today announced a major update to its 27-inch iMac. By far
the most powerful and capable iMac ever, it features faster Intel
processors up to 10 cores, double the memory capacity,
next-generation AMD graphics, superfast SSDs across the line with
four times the storage capacity, a new nano-texture glass option
for an even more stunning Retina 5K display, a 1080p FaceTime HD
camera, higher fidelity speakers, and studio-quality mics.
A summary of what’s new:
- New Intel CPUs and AMD graphic cards
- SSDs across the line, including options for 4 TB and 8 TB
- Nano-texture display finish, like the Pro Display XDR ($500)
- RAM options up to 128 GB (base configuration is still 8 GB; the high-end 64 and 128 GB options cost $1,000 and $2,600 more, respectively)
- 1080p FaceTime camera with better low-light performance, and a “studio quality” microphone array like the current MacBook Pros
The 21-inch iMac has not been updated, although the base model configurations now have SSDs instead of Fusion Drives. There remains a 1 TB Fusion Drive build-to-order configuration for the 21-inch iMac, which I believe is now the last spinning hard disk Apple sells.
The iMac Pro has not been updated either, although the $5,000 base model is now the 10-core Xeon W configuration, and the old 8-core base model is gone.
I Call Bullshit on Apple Being Interested in Acquiring TikTok ★
Dan Primack, on Twitter:
As we report in Axios Pro Rata today, Apple has expressed serious
interest in buying TikTok.
That’s not what Primack reported! Primack reported that sources outside Apple claim Apple expressed interest in TikTok, not that Apple actually has expressed interest. The claim that Apple actually has expressed interest exists only in this tweet. The difference is significant if the sources in question were full of shit, which I think they were.
From Axios’s Pro Rata newsletter, which has already been walked back with a pretty clear statement from Apple:
That’s because Microsoft isn’t the only party kicking TikTok’s
tires, as Trump also said yesterday.
Multiple sources tell me that Apple has expressed interest, albeit
no sources inside of Apple, and that at least one other strategic
has expressed interest. Yes, it would be an unusual deal for
Apple, given that TikTok is a cross-platform app, and a bigger
political headache than Tim Cook may want (both here and in
China). But if anyone has the cash on hand...
[Update: An Apple spokesperson tells Axios that there are no
discussions about buying TikTok and the company isn’t
Here’s an Axios article published an hour ago with the same content as the newsletter, but with Apple’s blanket denial simply standing next to Primack’s unnamed sources (multiple!) claiming that they are. Either Primack’s sources lied to him and he ran it, or Apple is lying. There’s no middle ground.
“Albeit” is doing a lot of work in the phrase “albeit no sources inside of Apple”. Who would know outside of Apple? TikTok, presumably, and ... the Trump administration? Primack couldn’t possibly have taken the word of anyone in the Trump administration at face value, right? So my best guess is that TikTok sources are making this up to drive the asking price higher.
It is extremely conspicuous that Apple flatly denied any interest. They will no-comment almost anything.
Nathan J. Robinson: ‘The Truth Is Paywalled but the Lies Are Free’ ★
Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson:
Paywalls are justified, even though they are annoying. It costs
money to produce good writing, to run a website, to license
photographs. A lot of money, if you want quality. Asking people
for a fee to access content is therefore very reasonable. You
don’t expect to get a print subscription to the newspaper
gratis, why would a website be different? I try not to grumble
about having to pay for online content, because I run a magazine
and I know how difficult it is to pay writers what they deserve.
But let us also notice something: the New York Times, the New
Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s,
the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London
Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the
Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free! You want
“Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The
Streets,” “The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other
COVID Restrictions,” or an article suggesting the National
Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus — they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on
neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons
contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump
administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness — well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run
straight into the paywall. This doesn’t mean the paywall shouldn’t
be there. But it does mean that it costs time and money to access
a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit
is completely free.
Major American Companies With a Consumer Internet Presence in China ★
Liza Lin, Jing Yang, and Eva Xiao, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:
President Trump’s remark over the weekend that he was weighing an
outright ban of TikTok in the U.S. sparked nationalist sentiments
in China, where the Global Times, a Communist Party tabloid,
derided the situation as “the hunting and looting of TikTok by the
U.S. government in conjunction with U.S. high-tech companies.”
On Chinese social media, users likewise expressed outrage. Many on
the Twitter -like Weibo platform accused the Trump administration
of pandering to voters by stemming the rise of TikTok — and by
On Douyin, Bytedance’s domestic analogue to TikTok, where videos
commenting on a possible U.S. ban circulated widely, one popular
comment suggested Huawei be allowed to buy Apple Inc.’s China
“Be allowed to buy” is some euphemism for a forced sale. But if China decides to retaliate — and why wouldn’t they? — what company might they target other than Apple? Facebook and Google are already banned in China. Amazon has AWS, which has a fair-sized presence there, but AWS is sort of the anti-TikTok in terms of being consumer-facing. Microsoft would be the obvious tit-for-tat target. But does Microsoft have a neatly bundled consumer presence in China?
If I were the dictator of China, and I was angry about the Trump administration forcing a proud Chinese company like ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok, and I was looking for a way to show that China cannot be pushed around by the U.S., I’d look at iCloud and the App Store, and humiliating the biggest company in the world.
But AAPL shares are trading at an all-time high so I’m sure all is good and Apple has nothing to worry about with a rapidly escalating trade war with China and a cornered-rat deranged narcissist steering the U.S.
‘Why Microsoft?’ ★
Why not someone like Disney which has dreams of being part of the
digital revolution? Disney has the audience. It has sprawling
global operations. It has the ability to walk the middle of the
road where it can appease the autocratic governments and make the
democratic countries satisfied. It also has a brand that has many
sub-brands that cross many demographic categories. Disney wanted
to buy Twitter. TikTok makes more of a strategic fit.
Why not Comcast?
Why not Apple? It has money. It has the desire to blunt Facebook
and Google, even if it hasn’t said or done so explicitly! Or is it
because they are a bunch of hard asses when it comes to privacy
and may not play ball with the US government when it needs to
access data of some TikTok-er?
Hence my question, why Microsoft?
I’d be shocked if Apple got involved. Just isn’t their bag. But why is there no bidding war for TikTok? In addition to the baldfaced crookedness of Trump demanding and Microsoft offering a “key money” kickback to the U.S. Treasury, the other crooked angle in this claptrap saga is the fact that an acquisition of TikTok, partial or otherwise, is presented as an offer to Microsoft, not a company up for bid.
I ask these questions but can’t help myself and not think about
the event of last week?
Why was Microsoft not part of the showdown between BigTech and
Washington DC? What makes them better than the other four? Why do
they get to be excused from on-air humiliation while others get
spanked for their monopolies?
Microsoft’s absence from last week’s hearing was conspicuously odd then; now it’s glaring. Especially when “buying upstart competitors” was one of the main thrusts of the whole thing.
TikTok and Microsoft’s Shameless Ass-Kissing ★
MG Siegler, on Microsoft’s — strange, to say the least — blog post announcing its interest in TikTok:
Just read the thing. It’s almost like a letter of fealty. It
reads like something a Chinese company might write under the
Chinese government. To that end, it reads as if it was written at
the behest of the government. Maybe that’s too strong. Maybe?
How about: “Hey Satya, great conversation today. It sure would be
nice if you could outline what we discussed publicly.” That kind
Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the
President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject
to a complete security review and providing proper economic
benefits to the United States, including the United States
This is an actual paragraph in the post. The second paragraph, no
less. What on Earth?! Is Treasury getting a finder’s fee here?
I thought Tim Cook’s participation in Ivanka Trump’s “just find something new” Zoom panel was a bad look. This is something else.
Trump: Microsoft Should Pay ‘Key Money’ to Treasury for TikTok Deal ★
A transaction of the type the president envisions could also prove
more expensive than the one Microsoft described on Sunday. Trump
said Monday that part of the amount paid to buy TikTok would have
to come to the U.S. Treasury Department because it would be making
the deal possible.
“It’s a little bit like the landlord/tenant; without a lease the
tenant has nothing, so they pay what’s called ‘key money,’ or they
pay something,” Trump said. “But the United States should be
reimbursed or should be paid a substantial amount of money,
because without the United States they don’t have anything, at
least having to do with the 30%.”
You’ve never heard of “key money”? Me neither, before today. But Trump would know it because it’s a term from crooked New York real estate deals. Here’s a 2015 story on “key money” by Virginia K. Smith for the New York real estate site Brick Underground:
“Key money is when you pay a landlord money (usually under the
table) to secure an apartment,” says renters rights attorney Sam
Himmelstein, who notes that sometimes, it was supers, building
managers, or even the tenants themselves who demanded the cash.
The practice, unsurprisingly, is illegal — only licensed real
estate brokers are allowed to collect commission for an apartment — and has largely fallen by the wayside in recent years. “I
haven’t seen it in years,” says Himmelstein, “and most people
don’t report it unless they get into a scrape with their
But why even agree to this kind of bribe in the first place?
Essentially, key money served as a payoff for a lease that held
particular value, like that of a rent-stabilized apartment.
That’s how crooked this piece of shit Trump is — he just uses lingo that’s synonymous with illegal kickbacks with no shame.
Apple Surpasses Saudi Aramco to Become World’s Most Valuable Company ★
Apple rode the company’s strong earnings report to become the
world’s most valuable publicly traded company, surpassing the
state oil giant Saudi Aramco at Friday’s market close.
Apple shares closed up 10.47% Friday, giving it a market valuation
of $1.84 trillion. Saudi Aramco, which had been the most valuable
publicly listed company since its market debut last year, now
trails at $1.76 trillion as of its last close.
If you’re a newish user — say from the last decade — this surely feels different than if you’re a long-time Mac user. Bill Gates “rescuing” Apple with a $150 million investment from Microsoft (the symbolism of which, along with the commitment to continue developing Office for Mac, was far more important than the money itself), Wired magazine (when Wired magazine was truly great) running the “Pray” cover (when Apple was truly at risk), Sun Microsystems negotiating to acquire Apple for just under $4 billion in early 1996 (truly the nearest Apple ever came to death).
If you’re a fan of Apple’s stock, this is welcome news. If you’re a fan of Apple’s products, this is profoundly worrisome. How does a company this large, this successful, not succumb to hubris? How does Apple keep the edge of an upstart? I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m just pointing out the obvious: the difficult part of Tim Cook’s era as CEO is really only beginning.
NYT: ‘Trump Says Microsoft Can Bid for TikTok’ ★
Ana Swanson and Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:
Speaking at the White House on Monday, Mr. Trump said that TikTok
would shut down on Sept. 15 unless Microsoft or another company
purchased it. He added that the U.S. Treasury Department would
need to receive a lot of money in return for the deal, without
explaining how that would work.
How about explaining what it even means?
Dieter Bohn Reviews the Pixel 4A ★
Seems like solid value for the price — $350 — but who’s going to buy it? I’m not saying people shouldn’t buy it, I’m saying they won’t because the people who should consider it are unlikely to know it exists. At this price, with this quality, the Pixel 4A seemingly deserves a major marketing campaign that I don’t think it’s going to get.
Morning Brew ★
My thanks to Morning Brew for sponsoring last week at DF. There’s a reason over 1 million people start their day with Morning Brew — the daily email that delivers the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Business news doesn’t have to be dry and dense... make your mornings more enjoyable, for free.
I’ve been a subscriber for over a year and truly enjoy it. It’s good — well-written summaries of well-chosen stories, presented with good design. Check it out.