The zen of craftsmanship, captured in this soothing short film by Nick Bennett. (Via Jason Fried.)
Shot on iPhone: ‘Fire & Ice’ ★
These “experiments” from Apple are just short art films, and the only real promotional tie-in is they’re shot with iPhones. Sign of the times: this one is presented in 16:9 vertical format, optimized for viewing on an iPhone too. Don’t miss the 3-minute “behind the scenes” video either.
‘When a Pandemic Meets a Personality Cult’ ★
Paul Krugman, writing for The New York Times:
From the day Donald Trump was elected, some of us worried how his
administration would deal with a crisis not of its own making.
Remarkably, we’ve gone three years without finding out: Until now,
every serious problem facing the Trump administration, from trade
wars to confrontation with Iran, has been self-created. But the
coronavirus is looking as if it might be the test we’ve been
And the results aren’t looking good.
The story of the Trump pandemic response actually began several
years ago. Almost as soon as he took office, Trump began cutting
funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
leading in turn to an 80 percent cut in the resources the
agency devotes to global disease outbreaks. Trump also shut down
the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security
Look at this gibberish Trump spouted at his press conference yesterday, when asked about the severe budget cuts to the Center for Disease Control under his administration:
We can get money. And we can increase staff. We know all the good
people. There’s a question I asked the doctors before. Some of the
people we cut, they haven’t been used for many, many years. If we
ever need them we can get them very quickly. And rather than
spending the money — and I’m a business person — I don’t like
having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When
we need them, we can get them back very quickly. For instance,
we’re bringing some people in tomorrow that are already in this
great government that we have, and very specifically for this. We
can build up very, very quickly, and we’ve already done that.
So Trump is arguing in favor of a policy where we only fully staff the CDC after a pandemic breaks out.
GDC 2020 Canceled Due to Coronavirus ★
This follows on the heels of MWC being canceled last month — a huge conference with 100,000 attendees — and Facebook announcing a few days ago that its F8 developer conference, scheduled for May, has been canceled.
So: What does this mean for WWDC? I’d put the odds at 50-50 at this point. Apple’s recent announcement dates for WWDC range from mid-February (2017) to mid-April (2016), with the last two years coming in mid-March. So they still have time to decide. If they don’t hold WWDC this year, my guess is they’ll still prepare all the sessions and simply deliver them via the web and the Developer (née WWDC) app, perhaps with a media-only keynote at Steve Jobs Theater.
The Washington Post: ‘Fact-Checking President Trump’s Coronavirus News Conference’ ★
Speaking of countries that are in trouble because their government is treating the coronavirus outbreak as a PR problem. The Trump administration is simply not equipped to deal with a true crisis. This is not something that can be spun. It’s a genuine crisis but the loons in positions of power are treating it as a partisan hoax. Schools are closed in Shanghai — a city of 20 million. The Shanghai and Hong Kong Disneyland theme parks have been closed for over a month, and now they’re closing the parks in Tokyo. Disney doesn’t close parks for hoaxes — they don’t even close the parks in Orlando for hurricanes unless they expect to be hit directly.
There’s simply no way to square the circle of a president who demands not to hear anything bad with a virus outbreak that is inherently bad. Denial is quite literally the worst response possible.
‘Plague Inc.’ Removed From Chinese App Stores Amid Outbreak ★
Eliza Gkritsi, writing for TechNode:
Popular infection simulation game Plague Inc. has been removed
from Chinese app stores, Apple and Xiaomi users noticed today,
after enjoying renewed popularity during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Why it matters: The removal shows just how serious the country’s
authorities are in managing the public perception of the virus.
The game remains in Apple’s U.S. App Store, and, I presume, everywhere else outside mainland China. It’s even an Editor’s Choice winner.
Real shocker that a country without a free press is having trouble containing the outbreak. Coronavirus is not a PR problem, it’s a medical problem, and accurate up-to-date information reported to the public is essential in containing it. Any country that treats it as a PR problem is in trouble.
The Man Behind the ‘2020 Astros Shame Tour’ Twitter Account ★
Chuck Schilken, writing for the LA Times:
“I’m barely sleeping and eating because I’m trying to monitor everything, come up with content,” Donley said in a phone interview Friday morning.
Donley is the mastermind behind the “2020 Astros Shame Tour” Twitter account, which goes by the handle @AsteriskTour. The concept is simple — “One year to shame them all, one year to jeer them, one year to boo them all and from your seat deride them,” according to the account’s bio.
Already a must-follow Twitter account, and we’re only in the early days of spring training. It’s going to be a long year for these cheaters.
Apple Disables Clearview AI’s iOS Developer Certificate for Abusing Enterprise App Distribution for Its Creepy Facial Recognition App ★
Apple has disabled the iOS developer account of Clearview AI —
the facial recognition company that claims to have amassed a
database of billions of photos and has worked with thousands of
organizations around the world — after BuzzFeed News determined
that the New York-based startup had been violating the iPhone
maker’s rules around app distribution.
In distributing its app for Apple devices, Clearview, which
BuzzFeed News reported earlier this week has been used by more
than 2,200 public and private entities including Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, Macy’s, Walmart, and the NBA,
has been sidestepping the Apple App Store, encouraging those who
want to use the software to download the program through a program
reserved for developers. After being asked by BuzzFeed News, Apple
disabled the developer account associated with Clearview and
provided them with notification to respond within 14 days.
This is the same scheme Facebook was using to distribute spyware masquerading as a VPN, and that various porno and gambling services were using to avoid App Store review.
Keep in mind too, that App Store policies aside, Clearview AI had been publicly claiming that their facial recognition software was “strictly for law enforcement”. BuzzFeed News investigated and found they were full of shit.
Disney Blocks John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ Episode Critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ★
Manish Singh, reporting for TechCrunch:
Disney-owned Hotstar, India’s largest on-demand video streaming service with more than 300 million users, has blocked the newest episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” that was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The move has angered many of its customers ahead of Disney+’s launch in one of the world’s largest entertainment markets next month.
In the episode, aired hours before U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to India, Oliver talked about some of the questionable policies enforced by the ruling government in India and recent protests against “controversial figure” Modi’s citizenship measures. The 19-minute news recap and commentary sourced its information from credible news outlets.
The episode is available to stream in India through HBO’s official channel on YouTube, where it has garnered more than 4 million views. Hotstar is the exclusive syndicating partner of HBO, Showtime and ABC in India.
Curse that notion of a free press and freedom of speech.
MI5 Chief Asks Tech Firms for ‘Exceptional Access’ to Encrypted Messages ★
Dan Sabbagh, reporting for The Guardian:
MI5’s director general has called on technology companies to find a way to allow spy agencies “exceptional access” to encrypted messages, amid fears they cannot otherwise access such communications.
Sir Andrew Parker is understood to be particularly concerned about Facebook, which announced plans to introduce powerful end-to-end encryption last March across all the social media firm’s services.
In an ITV interview to be broadcast on Thursday, Sir Andrew Parker says he has found it “increasingly mystifying” that intelligence agencies like his are not able to easily read secret messages of terror suspects they are monitoring.
There is no such thing as “exceptional access” for good guys. That he claims to be “mystified” means he either doesn’t understand how end-to-end encryption works and why it’s essential to privacy, or he’s playing dumb for politics to drum up public sentiment against strong encryption. My bet’s on the latter.
More on App Defaults in Files on iPadOS ★
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
I know it’s been open season on the deficiencies of the iPad’s
interface lately, but it does feel like portions of the iPad have
progressed enough to have reached a sort of uncanny valley. It’s
so advanced now that we have to start judging it the same way we
judge other advanced interfaces. The Files app is finally worthy
of criticism — and it deserves a lot of it.
This whole thing about being able to map a default handler for file types — but not PDFs or audio or video — is bananas. Bananas that even Jason Snell didn’t know about it, bananas that PDFs and AV files are special-case locked to Quick View, bananas all around.
Instagram CEO’s Bullshit Excuse for Not Having an iPad App ★
Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors last week:
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri took to the platform over the weekend
to answer a few user questions on his story, shared by The
Verge’s Chris Welch. Among the many things asked, the topic
of an official iPad app for Instagram was brought up, and Mosseri
explained why we haven’t seen one yet.
According to Mosseri, the company “would like to build an iPad
app” for Instagram, “But we only have so many people, and lots to
do, and it hasn’t bubbled up as the next best thing to do yet.”
I don’t buy this for a second. Instagram isn’t some scrappy little startup — they’re a hugely popular, hugely profitable division of Facebook. If they wanted an iPad version of their app, they’d have one. They obviously don’t want one, and don’t want to explain why.
My best guess is they think engagement on the phone is worth more, so they do everything they can to drive you to the phone app. But that’s just a guess.
From the Department of ‘I Did Not Know That’: iOS Files App Has View Options for List and Column View ★
Until this afternoon, I had been working under the assumption that the iOS/iPadOS Files app only had one view: icon/grid view. Turns out there’s also a list view, and on iPadOS in landscape, column view. The trick is that you need to pull down on the view to expose these controls. There are also controls to change the sort criterion (name, date, size, kind, tags) and direction.
I had no idea these controls were there. Yes, this was demoed on stage at WWDC last year — I forgot. I do not understand why these controls are hide-able at all, let alone hidden by default. And the way these controls are hidden behind a downward swipe, with no visual hint whatsoever that there’s something there to be exposed, is another sign of how iOS’s design has more antipathy toward visual affordances than MacOS.
How to Enable the Mac Startup Chime on New Macs ★
sudo nvram StartupMute=%00
I have literally rebooted 5 MacBook Pros multiple times just to
hear that classic sound. I could not be more happy!
Hell yeah I enabled this. No idea why Apple did away with this chime.
(Use “01” in place of “00” to turn the chime off.)
A Deceptively Simple iPad Multitasking Concept ★
This design concept by Tommy Walton is interesting. What I like about it:
- It’s direct manipulation.
- It’s consistent. The way you launch an app for the second spot on the screen is the same as the way you launch an app for the entire screen — you tap it. The way you close an app in split-screen is the same as way you close it in single-screen — you swipe up from the bottom.
- Everything is a one-finger tap or swipe — no complex multi-finger gestures.
I do see a few problems. Today, iPadOS uses a swipe from the left side of the screen as a shortcut for “go back”. In Walton’s concept, this would be a way to resize a full-screen app to take up the right side of the display. And how would this work with multitasking with other apps — i.e. how do you get a split-screen “space” into the multi spaces view, and how do you get the Dock to appear? There’s a lot more to think through here, but as a starting point this is a good concept — and so much better than what we actually have.
About Those Ugly Prefixes in Folder Names in ‘Group Containers’ ★
At the end of my piece last night about the location of the Apple Podcast app’s cache folder on MacOS 10.15, I griped about how ugly the folder’s name is: “243LU875E5.groups.com.apple.podcasts”. Most of the folders in Group Containers have similar ugly prefixes.
I figured there was a logical explanation, and there is: those prefixes are Apple Developer Account Team IDs, and according to Apple’s documentation, they’re mandatory:
The value for this key must be of type
array, and must contain
one or more
string values, each of which must consist of your
development team ID, followed by a period, followed by an
arbitrary name chosen by your development team. For example:
Just because there’s a reason for this doesn’t make it a good reason. There are logical reasons why the Windows Registry is the way it is, but that doesn’t make an elegant, graceful design. Mac OS X inherited an elegant, graceful design for the layout and naming conventions of the entire Library hierarchy (not to mention the elegance of the separate System, Local, Network, and User domains for the Library). There’s no reason the naming and structure for everything in Library not to be friendly both to developers and users looking there to troubleshoot or simply to figure out how things work.
Like I wrote last night, arguing that it doesn’t matter if these identifiers are ugly and inscrutable (and break alphabetical sorting) because most users will never see them is exactly like arguing that it doesn’t matter what the back of the cabinet looks like.
You know how some apps and system services have system-wide keyboard shortcuts? Usually, that’s handy. But sometimes it means that a shortcut in the app you’re using doesn’t work because some system-wide utility is eating the keystroke. When that happens it can be hard to track down what app or service is taking that shortcut.
ShortcutDetective, a free utility from Irradiated Software, is designed specifically to track down which app is receiving a shortcut. Just run the app (after granting it Accessibility permissions), type the shortcut, and in most cases ShortcutDetective will tell you which app is receiving it. Saved me a lot of troubleshooting effort today.
(Thanks to Matt Cassinelli for the tip.)
The Talk Show: ‘Polish Stink Eye’ ★
Special guest John Moltz returns to the show. Topics include Larry Tesler and his “no modes” mantra for UI design, the state of malware on the Mac, third-party default apps on iOS, Apple and the coronavirus outbreak, and a record number of tips and tricks.
Brought to you by these fine sponsors:
- Kolide: User-focused security for teams that Slack.
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- Away: Because this season, everyone wants to get Away.
Craig Hunter’s Review of the 28-Core 2019 Mac Pro ★
Speaking of technical details of the new Mac Pro, aerospace engineer Craig Hunter reviewed a $32,000 28-core configuration:
Now, ordinarily these computations are run on a supercomputer and
cost thousands of dollars per solution, or you’d need to build a
cluster for $15-20K or more. But with 28 cores and the ability to
handle up to 1.5TB of memory, the Mac Pro is a competitive
alternative. To test that, I ran a wind simulation case on the Mac
Pro and was able to obtain a converged solution in just 42
minutes, which puts the Mac Pro in a very productive club and
justifies the high cost of the machine. A $20-30K Mac Pro doesn’t
make sense for very many computer users, but an engineering firm
would get their money’s worth out of the machine in short order.
While running this test, all 28 cores were pegged at 100% for the
full 42 minutes, but the Mac Pro’s fans never got loud, airflow
never got excessive, and temperature stayed comfortable. The Mac
Pro operated with a very quiet low frequency whoosh that is
leagues ahead of similar workstations I have used, and would be
well suited to an office environment. I can remember running
similar cases many years ago on a quartet of 2012 Mac Pro machines
that were insanely loud and required a window air conditioner to
keep my office temperature below 85°F, in winter no less!
Mac Pro Technology Overview (PDF) ★
Detailed technical paper from Apple. There’s a separate one for the Pro Display XDR, too.
The Triumph of Wikipedia ★
Richard Cooke, writing for Wired:
Yet in an era when Silicon Valley’s promises look less gilded than
before, Wikipedia shines by comparison. It is the only
not-for-profit site in the top 10, and one of only a handful in
the top 100. It does not plaster itself with advertising, intrude
on privacy, or provide a breeding ground for neo-Nazi trolling.
Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, it broadcasts
user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product
de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good. More than
an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has become a community, a library, a
constitution, an experiment, a political manifesto — the closest
thing there is to an online public square. It is one of the few
remaining places that retains the faintly utopian glow of the
early World Wide Web. A free encyclopedia encompassing the whole
of human knowledge, written almost entirely by unpaid volunteers:
Can you believe that was the one that worked?
Wikipedia is not perfect, but what is? The knock against Wikipedia when it started is that it wouldn’t work at all, that it was doomed to failure. Turns out, it not only works, it works very well. It’s an essential, irreplaceable resource today.
Ming-Chi Kuo Says ARM-Based Macs Are Coming in the First Half of 2021 ★
Ming-Chi Kuo, in a note to investors obtained by MacRumors:
We expect that Apple’s new products in 12-18 months will adopt
processors made by 5nm process, including the new 2H20 5G iPhone,
new 2H20 iPad equipped with mini LED, and new 1H21 Mac equipped
with the own-design processor. We think that iPhone 5G support,
iPad’s adoption of innovative mid-size panel technology, and Mac’s
first adoption of the own-design processor are all Apple’s
critical product and technology strategies. Given that the
processor is the core component of new products, we believe that
Apple had increased 5nm-related investments after the epidemic
outbreak. Further, Apple occupying more resources of related
suppliers will hinder competitors’ developments.
Juli Clover at MacRumors says “Apple is said to be moving to ARM-based chips in an effort to make Macs, iPhones, and iPads work together and run the same apps.” There’s obviously an aspect to that with Catalyst, but the existence of Catalyst now shows that it’s not necessary for the platforms to be on the same CPU architecture to run the same apps.
The reason for Apple to move Macs to its own in-house ARM chips is much simpler than that. (1) Apple’s laptop chips are better than Intel’s — they’re faster and more power efficient. (2) Using their own chips puts Apple in control of its own timeline for product updates. Why did it take so long for Apple to get the retina MacBook Air out the door? The one-word answer I was told by a high-perched little birdie: Intel.
I know others disagree, and expect Apple to just drop the mic and unveil ARM-based Macs as a surprise at some upcoming event. I still expect them to announce the transition at WWDC, ahead of actual hardware, because you really do want software to be ready on day one. With the PowerPC-to-Intel transition, Apple made the announcement at WWDC in June 2005, offered developer kit hardware to developers, and announced the first Intel-based Macs — MacBook Pros, replacing the PowerBook brand — in January 2006.
I could see Apple having a more accelerated timeline between announcement and hardware starting to ship with this transition, but I still think they’ll announce it at WWDC to give developers time to recompile Mac software to run natively before any hardware actually ships to consumers. I do not think x86 apps running in emulation on ARM Macs are going to perform well. I wonder, really, if Apple will even offer x86 emulation at all.
The other big question: does Apple intend to transition the entire Mac lineup to its own ARM-based chips, or just the portables? Apple has proven that they have chips that best Intel’s offerings for portables. If they’re working on chips that can best or at least equal Intel’s offerings for the iMac Pro and Mac Pro, it’s a complete secret at this point.
Also worth noting: Ming-Chi Kuo is often wrong, especially about products other than iPhones and iPads. We could be writing this same stuff a year from now and Macs could remain on Intel until the end of the platform. But I do think they’re moving to ARM, sooner rather than later.
Gurman: Apple Is Considering Allowing Third-Party Default Apps and, Seemingly, an SDK for HomePod ★
Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:*
The technology giant is discussing whether to let users choose
third-party web browser and mail applications as their default
options on Apple’s mobile devices, replacing the company’s Safari
browser and Mail app, according to people familiar with the
matter. Since launching the App Store in 2008, Apple hasn’t
allowed users to replace pre-installed apps such as these with
third-party services. That has made it difficult for some
developers to compete, and has raised concerns from lawmakers
probing potential antitrust violations in the technology industry.
Users have been clamoring for this ever since the App Store opened. I get why Apple has been cautious about allowing this, but at this point it’s overdue. There are third-party email clients and web browsers that are really good — Apple should celebrate that fact. And browsers will almost certainly still be required to use the system WebKit for rendering, alleviating system resource and security concerns. Chrome on iOS can’t burn through your battery like Chrome on MacOS does, because on iOS Chrome uses WebKit, not Blink.
I could also see Apple doing this for email (and maybe calendars and contacts too) but not for the web browser, simply as defense against Chrome’s growing hegemony over the web. But I think the fact that Chrome on iOS must use WebKit is defense enough against that. It’s WebKit that’s worth requiring, not Safari.
Now, Apple is working to allow third-party music services to
run directly on the HomePod, said the people. Spotify and
other third-party music apps can stream from an iPhone or iPad
to the HomePod via Apple’s AirPlay technology. That’s a much
more cumbersome experience than streaming directly from the
This is interesting news, because at a technical level it would seemingly require an SDK for HomePod. HomePod isn’t like Apple Watch where it’s tethered to an iOS device — it runs independently. It’s possible that Apple could just work privately with a handful of big names like Spotify and Pandora and bake support for those specific services into the HomePod OS, but I hope it’s something Apple announces at WWDC as an API for any audio app. (I’m thinking about podcast clients in particular.)
Also under discussion at Apple is whether to let users set
competing music services as the default with Siri on iPhones and
iPads, the people said. Currently, Apple Music is the default
Siri does support third-party apps — you just have to specify them by name: “Hey Siri, play some Pearl Jam from Spotify”. It makes sense that this should be a setting too — if you’re a Spotify user it’s a bit ridiculous that you’re currently required to tack on “from Spotify” with every single request.
* Bloomberg, of course, is the publication that published “The Big Hack” in October 2018 — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all, was vehemently denied by all companies involved, has not been confirmed by a single other publication (despite much effort to do so), and has been largely discredited by one of Bloomberg’s own sources. By all appearances “The Big Hack” was complete bullshit. Yet Bloomberg has issued no correction or retraction, and seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Bloomberg’s institutional credibility is severely damaged, and everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract the story or provide evidence that it was true.
The State of Scamware on the Mac ★
Last week there was a hubbub regarding a report from antivirus software vendor Malwarebytes that claimed “Mac threats increased exponentially in comparison to those against Windows PCs” in 2020. That line got a lot of headlines.
This sounds really bad at first, like the number of Mac threats is
growing in proportion to the (larger) number of Windows threats.
But I guess they are just using the non-technical meaning of
“exponential,” so the whole thing boils down to “more than.” […]
This sounds unnecessarily alarmist compared with the contents of
the report, and I remain convinced that for most users Apple’s
built-in security measures are sufficient. I’ve seen far more Mac
problems caused by anti-virus software than actual viruses.
Computer viruses are called viruses because like biological viruses, they spread by themselves. What Malwarebytes is talking about are scam apps — things that trick or otherwise convince the user to install voluntarily. Dan Goodin had a piece at Ars Technica last month about the scourge of fake Adobe Flash installers — which work because unsophisticated Mac users had been truthfully told they needed to upgrade their version of Flash for a decade. It’s a real problem — but third-party antivirus software is not the answer. As usual, Tsai has a wonderful compilation of links to commentary on the matter.
Be sure to read Jason Snell’s excellent take, which convincingly makes the point that Apple has been working to protect Mac users from these sort of apps for years, exemplified by this technical note Apple published back in November, expanding their definition of “suspicious software” that MacOS defends against.
Ryan Christoffel’s Proposed Fix for iPad Multitasking ★
Ryan Christoffel, writing for MacStories:
I love the functionality enabled by iPad multitasking, but the
current system is unnecessarily complex. I don’t believe the iPad
should revert to its origins as a one-app-at-a-time device, but I
know there’s a better way forward for multitasking.
My proposal for a new multitasking system employs a UI mechanic
that already exists across both iPhone and iPad. Without losing
any of iPadOS 13’s current functionality, it brings the iPad
closer to its iPhone roots again and makes multitasking accessible
for the masses.
Context menus are the key to a better multitasking system.
Christoffel published this two weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since — hence the delay in my linking to it. I’m working on a longer piece about this, but in short, I think two things about this idea:
- It’s very thoughtful and considered, and obviously comes from someone who gets the iPad Way, insofar as there is an iPad Way. And the design he proposes is better in every way — or at least almost every way — than what we have with iPadOS 13 today.
- It’s not good enough. Hiding everything behind contextual menus is a crutch.
If you haven’t read Christoffel’s proposal, do so. Consider it a reading assignment.
Google Has Banned Almost 600 Android Apps for Pushing ‘Disruptive’ Ads ★
Craig Silverman, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
One of the biggest developers banned from the Play Store and
Google’s ad networks was Cheetah Mobile, a publicly traded Chinese
company that BuzzFeed News revealed in November 2018 had been
engaging in ad fraud. The following December, Google removed
one of the offending apps but allowed Cheetah to continue
offering other apps in the Play Store. As of this morning,
Cheetah’s entire suite of roughly 45 apps in the Play Store was
removed, and the apps no longer offer advertising inventory for
sale in Google’s ad networks.
Per Bjorke, Google’s senior product manager for ad traffic
quality, told BuzzFeed News the removed apps, which had been
installed more than 4.5 billion times, primarily targeted
English-speaking users and were mainly from developers based in
China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India. He declined to name
specific apps or developers but said many of the banned apps were
utilities or games. Google published a blog post today with
details about the removals.
I don’t understand why Google was so lenient with Cheetah Mobile until now. BuzzFeed News’s investigation clearly showed they were fraudsters. They hadn’t made a mistake, it wasn’t a bug or misunderstanding — they were ripping off users. Just ban them, and keep an eye out for any attempts to return under a new name. Like I’ve been advocating for Apple’s App Store, there ought to be a bunco squad that hunts down scams and rackets of all sorts and gets them out of the store.
Google has even more leeway to be aggressive on this front, because Android allows sideloading apps. The Play Store is not the only supported way to install apps on Android devices.
Sony, Facebook Pull Out of GDC 2020 Due to Coronavirus Concerns ★
This follows Mobile World Congress — a 100,000-attendee conference/expo in Barcelona that should be going on right now — being completely canceled.
Chris Espinosa on Larry Tesler ★
Larry taught me the value of taking the user’s point of view;
using heuristics to work magic; to look at all the cases. Much
more than inventing copy and paste, he invented it as a writing
tool, not a code-editing tool, for people who didn’t understand
‘Pay Up, or We’ll Make Google Ban Your Ads’ ★
A new email-based extortion scheme apparently is making the
rounds, targeting Web site owners serving banner ads through
Google’s AdSense program. In this scam, the fraudsters demand
bitcoin in exchange for a promise not to flood the publisher’s ads
with so much bot and junk traffic that Google’s automated
anti-fraud systems suspend the user’s AdSense account for
It’s almost like it’s a bad idea to rely on automated advertising from an ad platform that doesn’t care about you.
You have to admit, this is a clever attack. Companies need a Chief Asshole — someone whose job it is to lead a team that does nothing but think of ways to fuck with everything. That’s only tangential to what we think of as “security” — these crooks are using a system created by Google to defeat fraud to commit an entirely different type of crime.
‘Was It Good? I Don’t Know.’ ★
Stephanie K. Baer, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
President Donald Trump criticized the Academy Awards during a
rally Thursday for awarding this year’s top prize to Parasite, a
South Korean movie. […]
“By the way, how bad were the Academy Awards this year — did you
see? ‘And the winner is a movie from South Korea’ — what the hell
was that all about?” Trump said to a crowd in Colorado Springs,
Colorado. “We got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On
top of it, they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good?
I don’t know.”
“Let’s get Gone With the Wind — can we get, like, Gone With the
Wind back, please?” Trump continued, referring to the 1940 Best
Picture winner, which is set on a slave plantation during the
Where to start with this? First, BuzzFeed’s headline is euphemistic: “Trump Criticized the Oscars For Awarding Best Picture To ‘Parasite’, a South Korean Movie”. That obfuscates the blatant truth: he criticized the Academy for awarding Best Picture to Parasite because it’s a South Korean film. His own remarks make that crystal clear — he expressly states that he doesn’t even know if it’s a good movie, but he knows it shouldn’t have been awarded Best Picture because it’s from South Korea.
That is outright bigotry. How can it even be denied?
And honestly, Gone With the Wind? That movie won best picture 80 years ago. The only relevance of Gone With the Wind is that it’s a movie about slave-owning plantation owners in the Civil War South. Out of all the Best Picture winners, Trump cited the one with a favorable perspective on slavery. Birth of a Nation would have been more subtle.
John Markoff on Larry Tesler ★
John Markoff, writing for The New York Times:
It was Mr. Tesler who gave Mr. Jobs the celebrated demonstration
of the Xerox Alto computer and the Smalltalk software system that
would come to influence the design of Apple’s Lisa personal
computer and then its Macintosh.
Mr. Tesler left Xerox to work for Mr. Jobs at Apple in 1980.
“The questions the Apple people were asking totally blew me away,”
Mr. Tesler was quoted as saying in a profile that appeared in IEEE
Spectrum, the magazine of the Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers, in 2005. “They were the kind of questions
Xerox executives should have been asking but didn’t.”
It’s simply impossible to even guess where we’d be today if not for Larry Tesler and his team’s work at PARC.
In addition to helping develop the Lisa and Macintosh, Mr. Tesler
founded and ran Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, after which he
led the design of the Newton hand-held computer, although that
Unsuccessful in the marketplace, no doubt, but the Newton was in many ways a triumph in human-computer interaction that in at least a few ways, remains unmatched. I’m thinking of the concept of the “soup” for data, in particular.
The group also created much of the technology that would become
the Wi-Fi wireless standard, and Mr. Tesler led an Apple joint
venture with two other companies that created Acorn RISC Machine,
a partnership intended to provide a microprocessor for the Newton.
Helped invent Wi-Fi and ARM, no big deal.
In 1960, while attending the Bronx High School of Science, Mr.
Tesler developed a new method of generating prime numbers. He
showed it to one of his teachers, who was impressed. As Mr. Tesler
later recalled, he told the teacher that the method was a formula;
the teacher responded, “No, it’s not really a formula, it’s an
algorithm, and it can be implemented on a computer.”
“Where do you find a computer?” Mr. Tesler asked.
What a life. Just read the whole thing — too many accomplishments to quote them all here.
California Supreme Court Rules Against Apple Regarding Off-the-Clock Employee Bag Searches ★
Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors last week:
Apple broke California law when it failed to pay employees for
time spent waiting for mandatory bag searches at the end of their
shifts, the California Supreme Court ruled today. […]
Apple requires all personal packages, bags, and Apple devices that
belong to retail employees to be checked by a manager or security
before an employee is allowed to leave the store for any reason,
including breaks, lunch, and the end of shifts.
Employees are also required to clock out before submitting to an
exit search, and have estimated that the time spent waiting and
undergoing searches ranges from five to 20 minutes. On busy
days, some employees have waited for up to 45 minutes waiting
for a bag check.
Apple has argued that allowing employees to bring bags and devices
to work is a convenience and has positioned the searches as a
“benefit” because employees could prevent searches by not bringing
personal items or could be banned from bringing personal items all
together. The California Supreme Court says that such a ban would
be “draconian” and that Apple’s arguments that employee iPhones
are a convenience are “at odds” with how the iPhone is described
in marketing materials.
This whole thing is an embarrassment for the richest company in the world. I can see how it happened in the first place, but once it got to court, Apple should have recognized that the policy was flatly wrong and settled it by fully paying wages for time spent in these checks to retail employees worldwide. No matter the employer, if part of your job requires time spent in a security check, you deserve to be compensated for that time.
But for Apple in particular, this is absurd. First, Apple Retail stores are, square foot for square foot, the most profitable stores in the world. That would still be true if they paid employees for the time spent in these security checks. Second, taking this lawsuit to the state supreme court left Apple’s lawyers arguing that employees don’t need to take their Apple devices to work. Who doesn’t take their phone to work? I literally don’t know anyone who leaves the house for anything without their phone.
New Kansas – Miles Newlyn’s Revival of Cooper Black ★
Why did you decide to revive Cooper Back in particular? In ’93 I
released an elliptical seriffed blackletter font called Ferox and
Cooper Black was the inspiration. Since then I’ve spent a fair bit
of my career designing type with rounded or soft terminals. The
Tate font family is probably my best known of these. I’m motivated
by typeforms that have powerful foundations in pop culture, and
Cooper Black is the most loved of all.
Why do you think it’s remained so popular over the years? It
never looks bad. For that reason it’s available in signage and
custom print shops EVERYWHERE. It’s thoroughly embedded in the
collective psyche, and so its happy, fun and comforting spirit
“Happy, fun, and comforting” is a perfect description of Cooper Black. New Kansas looks to me like an excellent modern digital revival.
Input’s Week-Old Motorola Razr’s Display Already Broke at the Fold ★
Raymond Wong, writing for Input:
The Motorola Razr nightmare continues. A week after we
purchased and reviewed the foldable phone, the plastic OLED
display on our $1,500 device is now peeling apart… at the fold.
We always try our best to not be alarmist, but when a giant
horizontal air bubble appears literally out of nowhere and starts
separating the top lamination and the display panel, we have to
wonder why anyone would be optimistic about foldable phones.
And then here’s a guy whose brand-new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip cracked at the fold the first time he opened it, perhaps, he thinks, because of cold weather.
Lastly, from one year ago: “Apple ‘Faces Pressure’ to Deliver Foldable iPhone Fast”.
[Update: This post originally contained the quip “You’re folding it Wong”, a play on the infamous (but inaccurate) “You’re holding it wrong” Steve Jobs response to the iPhone 4 antennagate problem. When I wrote it, I thought it oh-so-clever to work in a second pun, in addition to holding/folding. But I should know better than to ever make a play on someone’s name, which is always out of line, and can easily veer into the outright offensive. I feel that’s true about my mistake here — it was offensive. I am truly sorry, and hereby apologize to Raymond Wong and to everyone who read the post as originally written. I should have known better, and will do better. I also want to thank Raymond for his gracious response.]
Apple Warns That Coronavirus Outbreak in China Will Affect Revenue This Quarter ★
Apple press release:
Our quarterly guidance issued on January 28, 2020 reflected the
best information available at the time as well as our best
estimates about the pace of return to work following the end of
the extended Chinese New Year holiday on February 10. Work is
starting to resume around the country, but we are experiencing a
slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated. As a
result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided
for the March quarter due to two main factors.
The first is that worldwide iPhone supply will be temporarily
constrained. While our iPhone manufacturing partner sites are
located outside the Hubei province — and while all of these
facilities have reopened — they are ramping up more slowly than
we had anticipated. The health and well-being of every person who
helps make these products possible is our paramount priority, and
we are working in close consultation with our suppliers and public
health experts as this ramp continues. These iPhone supply
shortages will temporarily affect revenues worldwide.
The second is that demand for our products within China has been
affected. All of our stores in China and many of our partner
stores have been closed. Additionally, stores that are open have
been operating at reduced hours and with very low customer
Neither of these things should be a surprise. Surely all consumer electronics companies with a manufacturing dependency upon China are affected similarly. For a U.S. company, though, Apple is unique in terms of its retail presence in China. Update: The issue with iPhone suppliers, I know nothing about. But I think Apple itself should have foreseen the decrease in Chinese consumer demand from this outbreak back on January 28. It seems like Apple’s executives actually believed what the Chinese government was saying about this outbreak and based their sales guidance on it.
The other factor I’ve been thinking about is how this outbreak might be affecting the development of future Apple products. Apple’s guidance here is solely about quarterly revenue for this January-March quarter. But Apple employees need to travel to China every day. Remember a year ago, when United Airlines accidentally leaked that Apple was their biggest client, spending $150M a year, including 50 business-class seats to China every day. What I wrote then:
50 seats a day between SFO and Shanghai is just a jaw-dropping
number. That’s 25 Apple employees flying home and another 25
heading over every single day.
It’s possible that Apple just has a standing order for those
seats, and some days they go unused by Apple employees. But I’ve
heard from a few birdies who frequent the SFO-PVG route that “50
seats a day” undercounts the number of Apple employees making
this trip, because it’s only counting United. They fly other
airlines when those 50 seats are already full, and that’s not
uncommon. They also apparently fly a ton on Cathay Pacific because
it’s a nicer experience than United.
Those Apple employees who travel to China aren’t doing so for kicks. They have work to do there. Suppliers to meet, parts and prototypes and assembly lines to inspect. The final products are all stamped “Designed by Apple in California / Assembled in China”, but the connection between those two statements is not conducted remotely. It involves a lot of Apple’s own employees traveling to China. If that travel has been curtailed by this outbreak, it’s a problem — but a problem that has nothing to do with the next few weeks.
Let’s Get Real About How Important Our Phones Are ★
Geoffrey Fowler, writing for The Washington Post:
At its “Unpacked” event here on Tuesday, the world’s largest smartphone maker unveiled a new model called the Galaxy S20 that touts ultrafast 5G and a camera with enough zoom for a spy. A second new smartphone, called the Galaxy Z Flip, opens and closes like a flip phone from 2003, using a cutting-edge folding-screen technology.
And with prices ranging from $1,000 to $1,400, either one is hard to justify as much more than a luxury.
This is the same nonsense we hear about Apple’s phones, post-iPhone X. Yes, phones that cost $1,000 or more are expensive. Yes, that’s outside the budget for most people. But why in the world would anyone argue this is ”hard to justify”? Phones are, for most people, the most-used computing device in their lives. They are also their primary — usually only — camera. A good camera alone used to cost $500-600.
There are way more people on the planet who’d rather have a $1,400 phone and a $400 laptop than the other way around. But you’ll never see a tech reviewer claim that $1,000-1,400 is “hard to justify” for a laptop. It’s ridiculously out of touch to argue otherwise. And, the fact that top-of-the-line phones have reached these price points does not negate the fact that truly excellent phones are available at much lower prices.
21st Century Autocracy ★
David Frum, writing back in 2017:
What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example — and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country.
The transition has been nonviolent, often not even very dramatic. Opponents of the regime are not murdered or imprisoned, although many are harassed with building inspections and tax audits. If they work for the government, or for a company susceptible to government pressure, they risk their jobs by speaking out. Nonetheless, they are free to emigrate anytime they like. Those with money can even take it with them. Day in and day out, the regime works more through inducements than through intimidation. The courts are packed, and forgiving of the regime’s allies. Friends of the government win state contracts at high prices and borrow on easy terms from the central bank. Those on the inside grow rich by favoritism; those on the outside suffer from the general deterioration of the economy. As one shrewd observer told me on a recent visit, “The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”
21st century autocracy does not resemble 20th century autocracy. It’s a different ballgame. And we’re facing it right here in America, right now. I’m not going to say that the president of the United States brazenly pushing for a lighter criminal sentence for his long-time friend and co-conspirator is the worst that it can get. It’s not, and I think it’s going to get worse. But let’s stop pretending that Trump and his enablers haven’t already crossed the autocrat line. This is where we are; let’s deal with it with our eyes wide open.
Samsung’s Galaxy Book S Is Thinner, Lighter, Faster Than MacBook Air ★
Sanjiv Sathiah, writing for NotebookCheck:
The Intel Core i5-8210Y delivers a multi-core score of 1544 which
compares poorly with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx multi-core score
of 2745. Yet, despite fitting the MacBook Air with a 49.9 Wh
battery, Apple claims it will deliver just 13 hours of continuous
video playback. However, because of the superior
performance-per-watt of the Snapdragon 8cx when paired with the
smaller 42 Wh battery in the Galaxy Book S, it delivers up to 25
hours (claimed) of continuous video playback. […]
The MacBook Air weighs 1.25 kg (2.75 pounds) and is 15.6 mm
(0.61-inches) at its thickest point. This compares with the Galaxy
Book S which weighs 0.96 kg (2.11 pounds) and measures 11.8 mm
(0.46-inches). Given that buyers of the slightly more expensive
MacBook Air (US$1,099) are also only going to be doing relatively
light-weight tasks on it like internet browsing and running
Microsoft’s Office suite on it, why would anyone choose the
MacBook Air over the Galaxy Book S (US$999)?
Well, there’s the small notion of, you know, the operating system. And let’s see if it really does get 25 hours of video playback. But the point stands. A lot of people using MacBooks today aren’t devoted to the MacOS experience, and might switch, based on hardware alone. The ARM revolution for notebook PCs is coming, whether Apple is ready or not.
(I think they’re ready.)
What Jonathan Chait Does Like About Bernie Sanders ★
In broad strokes, you can probably file me as a Jonathan Chait Democrat. I agree with Chait far more often than not, and when I disagree with him, I almost always think, “Well, he does make some good points.”
Long story short, we’re not Bernie Sanders fans.
But! As Chait points out in his column today, there’s a lot to like about Bernie Sanders even if you’re not a Bernie Sanders Democrat. (I will not bring up the fact that Bernie Sanders himself is not a Democrat.) Among the candidates who seem to have a legitimate chance to win the Democratic nomination this year — Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren, in alphabetical order — Sanders is far from my first choice. But if he’s the nominee — and he may well be — I will support him wholeheartedly and with no reservations. There is a lot to like about all of these candidates, and those of us in opposition to Trump have got to stick together.
Elections are fundamentally about winning. Trump is already trying to distract and divide us.
Today, in Our Headlong Roll Into Banana Republicdom ★
Senior Justice Department officials intervened to overrule front-line prosecutors and will recommend a more lenient sentencing for Roger J. Stone Jr., convicted last year of impeding investigators in a bid to protect his longtime friend President Trump, a senior department official said Tuesday.
The move is highly unusual and is certain to generate allegations of political interference. It came after federal prosecutors in Washington asked a judge late Monday evening to sentence Mr. Stone to seven to nine years in prison on seven felony convictions for trying to sabotage a congressional investigation that threatened Mr. Trump.
Early on Tuesday, Mr. Trump declared the sentencing recommendation “horrible and very unfair.”
“The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
Trump is not just intervening on behalf of a friend, it’s a case where Trump himself (and his son) were up to their necks in it.
“Highly unusual” is an absurd euphemism.
Fox’s Redesigned NFL Graphics ★
John Teti, writing for The AV Club:
Everyone has their own focal point on Super Bowl Sunday. Some
viewers are there for the halftime show. Others watch for the
commercials. And let’s not forget those of us who tune in to see
the main event: three hours of men in brightly colored garments,
pummeling each other, for America.
Those are all marvelous reasons to watch, but in my living room,
there was yet another, admittedly obscure facet of the game that
filled me with anticipation right up until kickoff, as I wondered,
“Will Fox premiere a new suite of onscreen graphics for the Super
Bowl?” The answer, to my delight, was yes.
It really is a good graphics system — replacing an older design that was also very good. It works well for everyone — those who are playing close attention to the game and those who are not, but just want to see what’s going on at a glance.
(Via Todd Vaziri.)
MLB’s 2020 Batting Practice Caps Are Mostly Terrible ★
I know it goes against all logic and reason, but it really seems
like shoving one logo inside of another logo is not a great way to
design a third logo.
Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Taika Waititi, Asked What Writers Should Be Asking for in the Next Round of Talks With Producers: ‘Apple Needs to Fix Those Keyboards. They Are Impossible to Write on. They’ve Gotten Worse. It Makes Me Want to Go Back to PCs.’ ★
This clip is making the rounds this morning, with good reason. It hits home. Watch the whole video — Waititi is obviously being a bit glib with the entire premise of his answer, but he’s not joking. He’s a writer and writers really care about keyboards.
I’ve been saying for years now that Apple has done severe reputational harm to the MacBook brand, which effectively is the Mac brand for most people, especially writers. Yes, there’s a new keyboard with scissor-switch mechanisms in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It’s a pleasure to type on. But we’re still months away from the rest of the MacBook lineup being updated to use that new keyboard. And that’s a presumption on my part, that all MacBooks will get the new keyboard sooner rather than later. It certainly wouldn’t make any sense if they didn’t — but the whole butterfly-switch saga has never made any sense.
Apple could switch every single Mac in the lineup to the new keyboards tomorrow, and people would still be joking about MacBook keyboards for years to come.
Morning Brew ★
My thanks to Morning Brew for sponsoring DF last week. 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 subscribed for over six months. It’s a great daily read — concise, fun, and a clean crisp design. You get one email each morning and that’s it. I recommend it.
From the DF Archive, Heretofore the Longest Headline in DF History: ‘Yet Another in the Ongoing Series Wherein I Examine a Piece of Supposedly Serious Apple Analysis From a Major Media Outlet and Dissect Its Inaccuracies, Fabrications, and Exaggerations Point-by-Point, Despite the Fact That No Matter How Egregious the Inaccuracies / Fabrications / Exaggerations, Such Pieces Inevitably Lead to Accusations That I’m Some Sort of Knee-Jerk Shill Who Rails Against Anything “Anti-Apple” Simply for the Sake of Defending Apple, and if I Love Apple So Much Why Don’t I Just Marry Them?’ ★
I’ll explain why I’m re-linking this now in a bit, but it’s also a fun bit of claim chowder from a staunch iPhone doubter who somehow finagled a Fast Company cover story.
Our Long National Nightmare Is Over: Netflix Makes Preview Autoplay Optional ★
They’ve offered a setting for “Autoplay next episode in a series” for years, but the new setting released today for “Autoplay previews while browsing” is the thing that has driven me nuts.
‘Apple, Just Bundle News+ Already’ ★
This isn’t rocket science. It’s not any kind of science. It’s
common sense. News+ was never going to work as a stand-alone
subscription offering from Apple. With the news today of a
key departure from the group, perhaps the company now sees that.
But the writing has been on the wall from day one. […]
So, what to do?
It’s so obvious that it’s already rumored. Make News+ a part of an
Apple bundle. Yes, yes, “Apple Prime” as it were. Flip the script
so that News+ isn’t yet another cognitive load on us. Something
that may be a good deal but will I really have time for that? To:
oh wow, this is included in what I already pay for? Awesome.
I don’t know if there’s a strategy behind waiting to unveil such a bundle, or if they’re still working on the technical and possible licensing details behind it, or if internally Apple is actually still debating the merits of a bundle. But I’m with Siegler: it seems obvious.
At the very least such a bundle should include Music, TV+, News+, and Arcade, but I’d like to see it include increased iCloud storage too. One single family subscription to get the best Apple “Services” have to offer. And the name is obvious at this point: Apple+.
New Features in iOS / iPadOS 13.4 Beta 1 ★
Lots of new stuff for a .4 update, including several new features when hardware keyboards are used with an iPad. Key remapping, for example, which allows you to, say, map the Caps Lock key to Escape.
Who Buys Big SUVs? ★
Aaron Gordon, writing for Vice on the return of the Hummer:
And that portrait is largely the result of one consultant who
worked for Chrysler, Ford, and GM during the SUV boom: Clotaire
Rapaille. Rapaille, a French emigree, believed the SUV appealed —
at the time to mostly upper-middle class suburbanites — to a
fundamental subconscious animalistic state, our “reptilian desire
for survival,” as relayed by Bradsher. (“We don’t believe what
people say,” the website for Rapaille’s consulting firm
declares. Instead, they use “a unique blend of biology,
cultural anthropology and psychology to discover the hidden
cultural forces that pre-organize the way people behave towards a
product, service or concept”). Americans were afraid, Rapaille
found through his exhaustive market research, and they were mostly
afraid of crime even though crime was actually falling and at
near-record lows. As Bradsher wrote, “People buy SUVs, he tells
auto executives, because they are trying to look as menacing as
possible to allay their fears of crime and other violence.” They,
quite literally, bought SUVs to run over “gang members” with,
Perhaps this sounds farfetched, but the auto industry’s own
studies agreed with this general portrait of SUV buyers. Bradsher
described that portrait, comprised of marketing reports from the
major automakers, as follows:
Who has been buying SUVs since automakers turned them into
family vehicles? They tend to be people who are insecure and
vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and
uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in
their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be
self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their
neighbors or communities.
I recently rented a Chevy Tahoe because we needed the storage capacity for a day trip. I can’t believe anyone chooses to drive these things daily. It’s like driving a car inside a car, no feel for the road at all.
Looks Like Eddy Cue Was Right ★
Stuart McGurk, interviewing Eddy Cue for GQ last summer:
And yet the rumours that have so far come out regarding Apple’s TV
shows are that they’re purposefully taking streaming back to the
network TV age: fun for all the family. The New York Post reported
that Cook and Cue were visiting sets in order to rein in shows
that weren’t toeing the line. […]
Cook’s most common note on scripts, according to the report, was
“Don’t be so mean.”
“I saw the comments that myself and Tim were writing notes on the
scripts and whatever,” says Cue. “There’s never been one note
passed from us on scripts, that I can assure you. We leave the
folks [alone] who know they’re doing.”
So Cook didn’t give that particular note?
“I can assure you that was 100 percent false. He didn’t say,
‘Don’t be so mean.’ He didn’t say anything about a script.”
The NY Post report in question has never been walked back either. Say what you want about Apple’s original content thus far, but it does not lack for meanness.
Claim Chowder on the WSJ’s ‘No Sex Please, We’re Apple’ Story ★
Tripp Mickle and Joe Flint, writing back in September 2018 for The Wall Street Journal, “No Sex Please, We’re Apple: iPhone Giant Seeks TV Success on Its Own Terms”:
Apple’s entertainment team must walk a line few in Hollywood would
consider. Since Mr. Cook spiked “Vital Signs,” Apple has made
clear, say producers and agents, that it wants high-quality shows
with stars and broad appeal, but it doesn’t want gratuitous sex,
profanity or violence.
The result is an approach out of step with the triumphs of the
video-streaming era. Other platforms, such as HBO and Amazon.com
Inc., have made their mark in original content with edgier
programming that often wins critical acclaim. Netflix Inc., which
helped birth the streaming revolution, built its original-content
business on “House of Cards,” a drama about an ethically bankrupt
politician, and “Orange Is the New Black,” a comedic drama about a
women’s prison. Both feature rough language and plenty of sex.
I suppose you can argue about the word “gratuitous”, but the TV+ shows I’ve watched — The Morning Show, For All Mankind, and Servant — don’t seem to hold back on sex or strong language. The Morning Show and Servant in particular are clearly adult shows. I haven’t watched See, but from what I’ve heard, it too is for adults. As far as I’m aware, The Wall Street Journal never walked this back.
Remembering Pantscast ★
The story behind the very best high-fidelity podcast audio processing engine ever made.
Overcast Adds Voice Boost 2 ★
The story behind the second-best high-fidelity podcast audio processing engine ever made.
Purported Video of Samsung Galaxy Z Flip in Action ★
What problems does this solve? Who has a pocket that isn’t deep enough for an unfolded phone but is thick enough for this thing folded up? This is pure gimmickry.
New Promotion From Apple Offers Up to $100 for Series 2 and Series 3 Watch Models ★
Juli Clover, MacRumors:
Apple is currently running a new Apple Watch promotion that’s
ideal for anyone who is considering trading in an older Apple
Watch model to purchase a new model. Apple is offering up to $100
on the Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Series 3 models, which
is a higher trade-in amount than Apple normally offers for those
No word on what you can get for a Series 0 in 18-karat solid gold.
Federico Viticci’s Review of the New Fantastical ★
Federico Viticci, writing for MacStories:
I’ll cut right to the chase: I’ve been using the new Fantastical
for the past few months (hence the inclusion in my Must-Have Apps
story), and it’s become the only calendar app I need, offering
more power and flexibility than any alternative from Apple or the
App Store. The free version of the new Fantastical — effectively,
Fantastical 2 with a fresh coat of paint and some smaller bonuses
— is a capable alternative to Apple’s Calendar app, but the
Premium version is where Flexibits’ latest creation truly shines.
At $40/year, Fantastical Premium may be a big ask for some users,
but as a busy individual who deals with teammates all over the
globe and likes Fantastical’s new features, I plan to subscribe.
Among my favorite new features: complete feature-parity between platforms (previously, the Mac could do more than the iOS versions); integrated weather from a great source, AccuWeather (which is, needless to say, not a free service for Flexibits to offer); calendar sets with iCloud syncing; “interesting calendars” from SchedJoules like team schedules for your favorite sports (also not a free service for Flexibits); and full task support integrating with Apple Reminders, Todoist, and Google Tasks.
The interface of the apps, as usual from Flexibits, is exquisite. Take note, in particular, of the top-left-corner menu button in the iPhone app. It animates joyfully when opening, has subtle haptic feedback, and you can just tap-and-drag to select an item from it.
Fantastical 3’s Move to Subscription Pricing ★
Speaking of the App Store and the market for pro utility software, here, once again, is Dieter Bohn:
It’s not every day we get to talk about a good old-fashioned
utility app update. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re a dying
breed, but the Apple App Store platform dynamics of recent years
have made their row much harder to hoe.
Which is one reason I’m happy to say that if you’re a Mac or
iPhone user (or, ideally, both), you should absolutely go check
out the newly updated Fantastical apps. There are a few new
features and parity across platforms — I personally am excited
for a calendar app that integrates with several to-do apps.
The thing about this update that may grab some attention is that
it is moving to a subscription model. Historically, this kind of
move has sparked consternation, but I’m not feeling any of that.
It’s $4.99 a month or — in my preferred way to talk about
subscription pricing — $40 per year (a $20 discount). That
subscription gets you access to the iPhone, Mac, iPad, and Apple
Watch apps. Non-Apple users should look elsewhere.
I think the subscription model is totally fair, especially given
Flexibits’ history of updates and quality. That’s partially
because, as I alluded to up top, there really aren’t better
options for this category of apps given the rules laid down by
Apple in the App Store.
Consternation indeed. Lots of complaining on Twitter, and Fantastical 3’s App Store reviews have been dragged down by angry users complaining about the pricing change. For users who only used Fantastical on iPhone, I can see the complaint about pricing — it went from a one-time purchase of $4-5 to a $40 annual subscription. That’s a big jump. But — and this is a huge “but” — Flexibits (Fantastical’s developer) went out of its way to let anyone who owned Fantastical 2 keep the features they already had access to when upgrading to Fantastical 3. If you owned Fantastical 2 you can use Fantastical 3 free of charge and keep the features you already had.
And if, like me, you used Fantastical across iPhone, iPad, and Mac (they previously sold the iPad app as a separate version from iPhone), $40 a year is quite reasonable. Fantastical is a professional calendaring (and now task management) app, and as Bohn points out, subscriptions are the best way for a developer like Flexibits to succeed in the App Store.
Google Has Paid Android Developers About $80 Billion to Date ★
Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:
We’ll have analysis of YouTube’s numbers up on the site today, so
instead I’ll just pay a little more attention to the Android bit:
a total of $80 billion paid out to Android developers, which is
significantly less than the $155 billion Apple has paid out via
the iOS App Store.
Even if you account for Google allowing developers to use their
own payment methods and made a bunch of other caveats, I suspect
you can’t avoid the truth. The vast majority of phones on Earth
run Android, and yet it is almost surely the case that there’s
more money for developers in iPhone apps. That’s always been the
conventional wisdom, but Google’s own numbers all but confirm it.
I’d say $80 billion compared to Apple’s $155 billion is a very respectable number, all things considered. In the early days of the mobile revolution, the big debate was whether the Android-iOS competition would play out like Windows-Mac did in the ’90s. I, for one, was correct that it would not.
But I think we were all wrong — myself included — about the biggest trend of all. The question wasn’t about whether there was more money to be made developing for iOS than Android — it was about whether there was money to be made developing for mobile, period. Obviously, $235 billion in combined payments from Apple and Google is a lot of money. But how much of that is for games? Productivity and utility software has turned out to be a hard sell to mobile users. The default is “free”.
Toni Sacconaghi Estimates Fewer Than 10 Percent of Eligible Customers May Have Used Apple TV+ Free Trial ★
Stephen Warwick, writing for iMore:
According to Investor’s Business Daily:
Less than 10% of Apple customers eligible for 12-month free trials
of the company’s Apple TV+ streaming video service have taken the
offer, a Wall Street analyst said Monday. Bernstein analyst Toni
Sacconaghi estimates that under 10 million Apple customers have
accepted the free trial offer. He calls that a “surprisingly low
The report is in stark contrast to a recent WSJ report,
which included estimates that Apple TV+ may have north of 30
million subscribers. As is per usual with these sorts of
estimates, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
Either that, or everyone is wrong.
It is a great deal — why not watch the shows you’re interested in free-of-charge? And Apple does make it easy to unsubscribe — it’s the opposite of, say, trying to cancel your cable subscription. And Apple has done an excellent job of making it really easy for eligible customers — those who’ve recently bought a qualifying device — to get their year-long free subscription started with a big button in the TV app on every device they make. If you buy a new Mac you can start your subscription from iPhone or Apple TV or iPad.
But I wonder how many people who qualify know all of this. How many people don’t know because they never even open the TV app? How many people who see the offer in the TV app don’t try it because they don’t trust that it’s really free for an entire year, and is very easy to cancel before getting charged in 12 months? How many people know that it works perfectly with family sharing — so even if they’re not personally interested in any of TV+’s shows, if any of their family members are, it’s worth signing up?
YouTube Is a $15 Billion-a-Year Business, Google Reveals for the First Time ★
Nick Statt, reporting for The Verge:
YouTube generated nearly $5 billion in ad revenue in the last
three months, Google revealed today as part of parent company
Alphabet’s fourth quarter earnings report. This is the first
report under newly instated Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, who took
over as the chief executive of the entire company late last year
after co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped back from
The announcement marks the first time in YouTube’s nearly 15 years
as a Google-owned platform, since Google bought the website in
2006 for $1.65 billion, that the company has revealed how much
money YouTube-hosted ads contribute to the search giant’s bottom
line. On an annual basis, that makes YouTube a $15 billion-a-year
business that contributes roughly 10 percent to all Google
revenue. It also makes YouTube’s annual earnings nearly one fifth
the size of all of Facebook’s.
Why release this now? Speculation centers around the fact that Alphabet’s revenue was $800M less than expected, even though profits beat expectations. Perhaps Alphabet is now breaking out revenue by product to emphasize that they’re not solely dependent on search.
Update: Jeremy Owens, writing for MarketWatch:
Revenue-recognition rules that were approved in 2014 and
went into effect at the end of 2017 call on companies to report
financial results to their investors in the same manner that they
are reported to the main decision-maker at the company, typically
the chief executive. Basically, if a CEO sees numbers for a large
segment of the company, the company should be reporting that
segment’s results to investors.
As the revenue-recognition rules were being put in place by
companies in 2017 ahead of the deadline, the Securities and
Exchange Commission entered into communication with Alphabet
specifically to discern why it was not providing revenue numbers
for its segments, mentioning YouTube, Google Cloud and
some other businesses, such as hardware. Google responded by
saying that its chief decision-maker, Alphabet CEO Larry Page,
did not see results parsed to that level, though Google CEO
Sundar Pichai did.
Louie Mantia on the State of iOS UI Design ★
Deeply insightful thread from Louie Mantia:
People think iOS 7 killed superfluous things like wood textures,
but more seriously it downplayed visual design. We lost things
like shadows and lighting. This stuff isn’t just a veneer. They
are tools. They were used to indicate so many things like
inactivity or focus.
In 2020, iPadOS doesn’t convey app focus in split-screen mode. But
window focus was apparent over 35 years ago on the original
Macintosh. It was only black and white! But today when we have
millions of colors, we don’t indicate focus well.
So perfectly said. Post-iOS 7, Apple has been obsessed with not indicating focus. A clear indication of input focus is so helpful to everyone from novices to experts.
The lack of focus indication is much more of a problem on iOS (iPhone and iPad, but especially iPad simply because the displays are so much bigger) than MacOS. But even Apple’s Mac apps often hide focus — I wish the text input field in Messages had a focus ring (like Safari’s location field does — or Message’s own search field), for example.
Faking a Traffic Jam on Google Maps With 99 Spare Phones ★
Interesting prank / proof of concept by Simon Weckert — he toted 99 second-hand phones around in a wagon, and thereby tricked Google Maps into thinking it was a severe traffic jam. Pretty sure the same thing would fool Apple Maps.
Google, in a statement to 9to5Google, responded with good humor:
Traffic data in Google Maps is refreshed continuously thanks to
information from a variety of sources, including aggregated
anonymized data from people who have location services turned on
and contributions from the Google Maps community. We’ve launched
the ability to distinguish between cars and motorcycles in several
countries including India, Indonesia and Egypt, though we haven’t
quite cracked traveling by wagon. We appreciate seeing creative
uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better
Daring Fireball Weekly Sponsorships for February and March ★
DF sponsorships for February and March are mostly open, including this current week. 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.
Apple in 2019: The Six Colors Report Card ★
It’s time for our annual look back on Apple’s performance during
the past year, as seen through the eyes of writers, editors,
developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of
time thinking about Apple.
This is the fifth year that I’ve presented this survey to a
hand-selected group. They were prompted with 12 different
Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1
to 5 and optionally provide text commentary per category. I
received 65 replies, with the average results as shown below.
Compiling these report cards is a mountain of work, and I am deeply thankful to Snell for doing it each year. The cumulative grades feel just about spot-on to me. As I did last year, I’ll publish my own full report card later today.
‘Getting the iPad to Pro’ ★
Speaking of Craig Mod, I somehow never linked to his November 2018 essay on the iPad as a pro computing device. There are a few aspects that were addressed in iPadOS 13, but most of it could just as easily have been published today:
I have a near endless bag of these nits to share. For the last
year I’ve kept a text file of all the walls I’ve run into using an
iPad Pro as a pro machine. Is this all too pedantic? Maybe. But
it’s also kind of fun. When’s the last time we’ve been able to
watch a company really figure out a new OS in public?
When I run into the above usability issues, it makes me wonder
Why am I trying to do something this way? (What strange habit
or unnecessary expectation am I bringing to the table?)
How would the simplicity of iOS be subverted by allowing this
new thing to happen?
Computers are nothing if not a constellation of design and
engineering details that either work for or against you. They
either push you forward, smoothly, an encouraging tailwind
allowing you to get done the work you want to get done, or they
push back, become abrasive, breaking you from flow states, causing
you to have to Google even the simplest task. I lost an hour the
other day trying to open an Open Office Document. This is
bananas. iPads should be better. They’re so close. And they’re
certainly powerful enough.
Craig Mod on Running a Paid Membership Program ★
In the end, launching a paid membership program is maybe the
smartest thing I’ve done: 2019 was the most productive and
creatively engaged year of my life. And I owe the brunt of
that to the Explorers Club. A rapturous THANK YOU to everyone who
joined. It has not been “easy,” or effortless. […]
Everyone’s needs are different. I can’t explicitly recommend every
writer or photographer or YouTuber to start their own membership
program. What I can do is tell you about my experience, and hope
that it’s instructive to those readers out there who might, too,
Memberships — often driven by members-only email newsletters — have been the lifeboat for indie publishing and creative arts in a market where ad spending has largely been guzzled up by Facebook, Google, and Amazon. The term “win-win” applies: income for creators; great writing/photography/videos/music for consumers, from their favorite creators.
I am tremendously grateful to everyone who has joined. I realize
not everyone can afford to join, and I realize we’re all a bit
bombarded by “memberships” and “subscriptions” these days. But
ultimately — this is a good thing! A scant ten years ago this
ecosystem barely existed. Now it’s ever-more normalized. This
feels healthy. Directly supporting writers, artists, musicians,
software developers, et cetera, feels like the final remaining
puzzle piece of the last 30 years of independent creation.
Computers democratized design in the ’80s/’90s, the web
democratized publishing in the ’00s, and now proper payments
infrastructure is democratizing creative sustainability.
Bingo. Mod’s Explorer’s Club is just sublime, by the way. Highly recommended.
Russia’s ‘Law Against Apple’ ★
Josh Nadeau, writing for Fast Company:
In November 2019, Russian parliament passed what’s become known as
the “law against Apple.” The legislation will require all
smartphone devices to preload a host of applications that may
provide the Russian government with a glut of information about
its citizens, including their location, finances, and private
Apple typically forbids the preloading of third-party apps onto
its system’s hardware. But come July 2020, when the law goes into
effect, Apple will be forced to quit the country and a market
estimated at $3 billion unless it complies. […]
“Typically” is a vast understatement. To my knowledge, Apple has never included third-party apps on iOS devices anywhere in the world. In the early years of iPhone, that would have been apps from phone carriers and their “partners”. It’s still typical today for an Android phone purchased from, say, Verizon, to include Verizon apps pre-installed.
Having such apps mandated by the government is new, but the principle remains the same: I expect Apple to resist this, and if necessary, pull the iPhone from the Russian market. (I would expect a very healthy gray market to develop in Russia if that happens.) If Apple concedes to such demands in one country, where does it stop?
Now that I think about it, I’m kind of surprised China hasn’t passed a law like this. That would put enormous financial pressure on Apple — the Russian iPhone market is $3 billion, yes, but that’s small potatoes for Apple. “Greater China” accounted for $13.5 billion in revenue for Apple last quarter alone.
When the “law against Apple” was passed in Russia back in
November, experts expressed concern that the preloaded apps
would pose just as real a threat as an official backdoor. Last
week, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service published a
list of which applications will be required: Among the
programs are government-produced apps for paying taxes and fines,
as well as banking, navigation, and social media platforms with
links to official bodies. These would have the potential to
collect and send data related to finances, location,
communications, and more, all without direct user permission.
I think Apple ought to refuse to comply with such a law from any country, but holy hell Russia in particular would be a privacy and security nightmare. (Again, though, China would be worse.)