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Linked List: November 2020

Facebook Still Ruled by Sociopaths, News at 11 

Kevin Roose, Mike Isaac, and Sheera Frenkel, reporting for The New York Times:

Typically, N.E.Q. scores play a minor role in determining what appears on users’ feeds. But several days after the election, Mr. Zuckerberg agreed to increase the weight that Facebook’s algorithm gave to N.E.Q. scores to make sure authoritative news appeared more prominently, said three people with knowledge of the decision, who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

The change was part of the “break glass” plans Facebook had spent months developing for the aftermath of a contested election. It resulted in a spike in visibility for big, mainstream publishers like CNN, The New York Times and NPR, while posts from highly engaged hyperpartisan pages, such as Breitbart and Occupy Democrats, became less visible, the employees said.

It was a vision of what a calmer, less divisive Facebook might look like. Some employees argued the change should become permanent, even if it was unclear how that might affect the amount of time people spent on Facebook.

Facebook shouldn’t need to inject emergency doses of truth and reality into their newsfeed. It should be the norm, full stop.

In the past several months, as Facebook has come under more scrutiny for its role in amplifying false and divisive information, its employees have clashed over the company’s future. On one side are idealists, including many rank-and-file workers and some executives, who want to do more to limit misinformation and polarizing content. On the other side are pragmatists who fear those measures could hurt Facebook’s growth, or provoke a political backlash that leads to painful regulation.

This is a good report from the Times, but calling the one side “idealists” and the other “pragmatists” is a disservice to both sides. Those who want to limit misinformation and polarizing content are good, honest people. There’s nothing “idealistic” about that. And the other side, who are on the side of pushing misinformation and polarizing content, despite knowing how harmful it is, are sociopaths, not “pragmatists”.

Sociopath is the word. The definition fits to a T: a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience. There’s no better word to describe Facebook’s leadership:

The company had surveyed users about whether certain posts they had seen were “good for the world” or “bad for the world.” They found that high-reach posts — posts seen by many users — were more likely to be considered “bad for the world,” a finding that some employees said alarmed them.

So the team trained a machine-learning algorithm to predict posts that users would consider “bad for the world” and demote them in news feeds. In early tests, the new algorithm successfully reduced the visibility of objectionable content. But it also lowered the number of times users opened Facebook, an internal metric known as “sessions” that executives monitor closely.

Facebook knowingly pushes polarizing misinformation, particularly to conservatives, because it’s addictive and despite knowing exactly what they’re doing and why it’s wrong and that it’s making the world worse.

Mark Zuckerberg is a sociopath. A real-life Bond villain.

The Vintage Beauty of Soviet Control Rooms 

Some of these would make for some sweet video conference backgrounds.

The Talk Show: ‘A Craptastic Craptacular’ 

Joanna Stern returns to the show to talk about the new M1 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

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The News Site of Record 

Ben Thompson has a good column at Stratechery on Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein departing Vox in very different, but very on-personal-brand ways.

Thompson ties in the Vox talent exodus with BuzzFeed’s acquisition last week of HuffPost, which leads him to the following comment regarding BuzzFeed chief Jonah Peretti’s curious claim, in an interview with Peter Kafka at Recode (a Vox sub-site!), that the Times’s paid-subscriber-focused strategy somehow puts them at odds with their longstanding mission to serve as the paper of record:

At the same time, it is worth noting that the New York Times has, contrary to Peretti’s implication, never been a newspaper for the masses. Sure, its subscription model is by default exclusionary, but only being available in printed form, mostly in New York, was far more exclusionary. The point about subscriptions driving a particular point of view is a valid one, but then again, it is not as if BuzzFeed has been shy about its political preferences either. The reality is that the implication of the Internet is that ideas are in abundance, and people will seek out what they already agree with, as opposed to accepting what is delivered to them.

Paid-subscriber focus or no, the New York Times today is far more accessible to far more people, free of charge, than it ever could have been in the pre-web era. The quality of the work the Times publishes will continue, more than ever, to be the foundation upon which its reputation stands. There was a time not so long ago when upstarts, like Peretti, saw the Times as old and slow. Not any more. Well, old, yes, but not slow. Joining forces with HuffPost feels like the stodgy media move of the month.

Ezra Klein Follows Matt Yglesias Out the Door at Vox 

Edmund Lee, writing for The New York Times:

Ezra Klein, a founder of the popular website Vox.com, is leaving the publication to become a columnist and podcast host at The New York Times, the latest high-profile departure from Vox Media during a wave of change in the digital media business.

This follows fellow Vox founder Matt Yglesias, who left to start his own subscriber-based weblog, Slow Boring, on Substack 10 days ago.

Jim Bankoff, the Vox Media chief executive, said the company was now in a position to withstand the loss of key employees. “All the Vox Media brands are well past the point where they are about individuals,” he said in an interview. “By themselves, each site is a massive, mainstream, modern media brand that touches tens if not hundreds of millions of people across every conceivable platform.”

Yeah that’s just great for Vox that their best-known and most-talented writers have flown the coop.

Not So Fast on That Washington Post Report That Apple Is Lobbying Against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act 

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who reports on China for Axios, on Twitter:

According to sources I have spoken to with knowledge of the matter, this Washington Post story does not accurately characterize Apple’s position on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

It is not accurate to say that Apple’s aim is to water down key provisions of the bill, and it is not accurate to characterize Apple as lobbying against the bill.

(And no, the sources I am citing are not a strident email from Apple’s PR department).

Reed Albergotti, the Washington Post reporter for the story claiming Apple is lobbying to “water down” the bill, has long seemed to have an axe to grind against “big tech” companies, and Apple in particular, so I’d take his report with an extra grain of salt now that Allen-Ebrahimian has thrown cold water on it.

Apple Is Not Backing Down on Postponed App Tracking Transparency Feature in iOS 14 

Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director of global privacy, responding to an open letter from privacy advocates disappointed that Apple delayed iOS 14’s App Tracking Transparency feature:

Advertising that respects privacy is not only possible, it was the standard until the growth of the Internet. Some companies that would prefer ATT is never implemented have said that this policy uniquely burdens small businesses by restricting advertising options, but in fact, the current data arms race primarily benefits big businesses with big data sets. Privacy-focused ad networks were the universal standard in advertising before the practice of unfettered data collection began over the last decade or so. Our hope is that increasing user demands for privacy and security, as well as changes like ATT, will make these privacy-forward advertising standards robust once more. […]

By contrast, Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting. Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads. Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products.

Go SMS Pro, a Popular Android Messaging App, Exposed Millions of Users’ Private Photos and Files 

Zack Whittaker, reporting for TechCrunch:

When a Go SMS Pro user sends a photo, video or other file to someone who doesn’t have the app installed, the app uploads the file to its servers, and lets the user share a web address by text message so the recipient can see the file without installing the app. But the researchers found that these web addresses were sequential. In fact, any time a file was shared — even between app users — a web address would be generated regardless. That meant anyone who knew about the predictable web address could have cycled through millions of different web addresses to users’ files.

Go SMS Pro has more than 100 million installs, according to its listing in Google Play.

TechCrunch verified the researcher’s findings. In viewing just a few dozen links, we found a person’s phone number, a screenshot of a bank transfer, an order confirmation including someone’s home address, an arrest record, and far more explicit photos than we were expecting, to be quite honest.

Not what you want from an SMS app.

Apple’s Chief Security Officer Indicted for Bribing Palo Alto Sheriff in Gun Permit Scandal 

Sue Dremann, reporting for Palo Alto Weekly:

A grand jury issued two indictments ​on Thursday, Nov. 19, against Undersheriff Rick Sung, 48, and Capt. James Jensen, 43, who are accused of requesting bribes for concealed firearms licenses, also known as CCW licenses. Insurance broker Harpreet Chadha, 49, and Apple’s Chief Security Officer Thomas Moyer, 50, are accused of offering bribes to receive the permits, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said during a press conference on Monday morning.

The two-year investigation by the district attorney’s office found that Sung, who was allegedly aided by Jensen in one instance, held up the distribution of CCW licenses and refused to release them until the applicants gave something of value. […]

Sung and Jensen allegedly held up four gun licenses from Apple employees and extracted from Moyer a promise that Apple would donate iPads to the sheriff’s office. A donation of 200 iPads worth nearly $70,000 was ended at the last minute after Aug. 2, 2019, when Sung and Moyer learned that the district attorney’s office had issued a search warrant seizing all of the sheriff’s office’s CCW license records.

Not a good look.

Washington Post: Apple’s Lobbying Group Seeks to ‘Water Down’ Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act 

Reed Albergotti, reporting for The Washington Post:

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would require U.S. companies to guarantee they do not use imprisoned or coerced workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, where academic researchers estimate the Chinese government has placed more than 1 million people into internment camps. […]

The staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks with the company took place in private meetings, said Apple was one of many U.S. companies that oppose the bill as it’s written. They declined to disclose details on the specific provisions Apple was trying to knock down or change because they feared providing that knowledge would identify them to Apple. But they both characterized Apple’s effort as an attempt to water down the bill.

“What Apple would like is we all just sit and talk and not have any real consequences,” said Cathy Feingold, director of the international department for the AFL-CIO, which has supported the bill. “They’re shocked because it’s the first time where there could be some actual effective enforceability.”

Not a good look.

Update: Axios reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian says Albergotti is wrong on Apple’s lobbying efforts here.

Secret Amazon Reports Expose Company Spying on Labor, Environmental Groups in Europe 

Lauren Kaori Gurley, reporting for Motherboard:

A trove of more than two dozen internal Amazon reports reveal in stark detail the company’s obsessive monitoring of organized labor and social and environmental movements in Europe, particularly during Amazon’s “peak season” between Black Friday and Christmas. […] The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. They also reveal, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton operatives — from the notorious spy agency known for its union-busting activities — to gather intelligence on warehouse workers.

Not a good look.

John Siracusa, Adam Engst, and Yours Truly on the Best Mac Ever 

So many reviews of breakthrough Mac hardware in the past week, but the best one is this episode of Jason Snell’s “20 Macs for 2020” podcast, wherein Siracusa, Engst, and I explain why the SE/30 was the best ever.

Tara AI 

My thanks to Tara AI for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. They first sponsored DF a few weeks ago to promote their 1.0 release; they’re back this week to unveil Tara AI for teams.

Tara AI is a simple yet powerful Jira alternative, designed for developers and teams who are moving rapidly. Tara AI is fast, with minimal setup. This means built-in views once your Git repository is synced, and one-click sprints. They make running agile easy, and it is designed for development teams — the focus of the platform is to help teams ship early and often, with documentation, tasks, and sprints synced to pull requests and commits.

Tara AI’s Github sync and Gitlab integration are now live. DF readers can sign up and use Tara AI for free, with no user limits.

Samuel Axon Interviews Federighi, Joz, and Srouji on the M1 Macs for Ars Technica 

Just a splendid, insightful interview. Here’s Federighi, on the big picture:

“The Mac is the soul of Apple. I mean, the Mac is what brought many of us into computing. And the Mac is what brought many of us to Apple. And the Mac remains the tool that we all use to do our jobs, to do everything we do here at Apple. And so to have the opportunity… to apply everything we’ve learned to the systems that are at the core of how we live our lives is obviously a long-term ambition and a kind of dream come true.”

This from Joz:

“This is about what we could do, right? Not about what anybody else could or couldn’t do. Every company has an agenda. The software company wishes the hardware companies would do this. The hardware companies wish the OS company would do this, but they have competing agendas. And that’s not the case here. We had one agenda.”

And Srouji:

“We want to create the best products we can. We really needed our own custom silicon to deliver truly the best Macs we can deliver.”

How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data From Ordinary Apps 

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard:

The U.S. military is buying the granular movement data of people around the world, harvested from innocuous-seeming apps, Motherboard has learned. The most popular app among a group Motherboard analyzed connected to this sort of data sale is a Muslim prayer and Quran app that has more than 98 million downloads worldwide. Others include a Muslim dating app, a popular Craigslist app, an app for following storms, and a “level” app that can be used to help, for example, install shelves in a bedroom.

Through public records, interviews with developers, and technical analysis, Motherboard uncovered two separate, parallel data streams that the U.S. military uses, or has used, to obtain location data. One relies on a company called Babel Street, which creates a product called Locate X. U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a branch of the military tasked with counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and special reconnaissance, bought access to Locate X to assist on overseas special forces operations. The other stream is through a company called X-Mode, which obtains location data directly from apps, then sells that data to contractors, and by extension, the military.

Matt Drance:

Developers: Read this thread and please, please push back on growth hackers telling you to put random ass libraries in your apps.

There’s a whole seedy industry of location/data harvesting companies who pay the developers of popular (or even just semi-popular — anything with users) apps to include their frameworks in their applications. This is especially true for apps that ask for location permissions for legitimate purposes — things like weather or dating apps. If you, the user, grant the app location access, you’re granting it to all the frameworks embedded in the app too. That’s how this company X-Mode collects, packages, and sells the location data for untold millions of users who’ve never heard of X-Mode. They’re like privacy permission parasites.

X-Mode, specifically, isn’t the scandal — the scandal is the whole industry, and the widespread practice of apps just embedding them for the money without looking at what they do, or disclosing these “partnerships” to users.

BBEdit 13.5 Has Been Updated for Apple Silicon for Over a Month 

Bare Bones Software, back on October 15:

BBEdit 13.5 now runs natively on Apple Silicon, and introduces a Markdown Cheat Sheet, internal performance improvements, support for “rescuing” untitled documents, and numerous additions and refinements designed to improve efficiency. In all, version 13.5 includes more than a hundred new features, refinements to existing features, and fixes to reported issues. At present, only the BBEdit 13.5 application available directly from Bare Bones Software is Universal, while all applications in the Mac App Store currently remain Intel-only.

“Over the last 30 years, millions of people have turned to BBEdit to get the job done when the going gets tough,” said Rich Siegel, founder and CEO of Bare Bones Software, Inc. “That’s why we make sure BBEdit is first in place on day one: first on PowerPC, first on Mac OS X, first on Intel, first on the Mac App Store, and now first on Apple silicon. You can use BBEdit to make quick notes, write code, and do all the basics, but you can also use BBEdit to sift, process, and transform multi-gigabyte files, crunch through hundreds of thousands of files, and transform text in a truly dizzying variety of ways.”

If I recall correctly, BBEdit’s initial PowerPC update was a plug-in that ran inside the 68K app, just to speed up text transformations. It would have been surprising if BBEdit had not been first out of the gate to support Apple Silicon.

Here’s a BBEdit story. I was several hundred words into my iPhone 12 review last month, went to get another cup of coffee, came back, and boom, the MacBook Pro I was using had kernel panicked. This machine hadn’t kernel panicked in years. It hasn’t kernel panicked again since. Murphy’s Law was trying to screw me.

I hadn’t saved what I’d written yet. Now, it was only a few hundred words, but they were an important few hundred words, the ones that got me started. The words that got the wheels turning, that got momentum going.

Rebooted. Took a sip of coffee. Logged in.

Looked at BBEdit. There it was. Right where I left off.

That’s BBEdit.

Google Chrome Updated for Apple Silicon, in the Most Confusing Way 

Jim Salter, writing for Ars Technica:

Google presents Chrome for download as either an x86_64 package or an M1 native option — which comes across as a little odd, since the M1 native version is actually a universal binary, which works on either M1 or traditional Intel Macs. Presumably, Google is pushing separate downloads due to the much smaller file size necessary for the x86_64-only package — the universal binary contains both x86_64 and ARM applications, and weighs in at 165MiB to the Intel-only package’s 96MiB.

The Intel binary of Chrome running through Rosetta on M1 Macs wasn’t slow, but the native version is, unsurprisingly, a lot faster. Salter ran a bunch of benchmarks, though, and Safari is still faster than native Chrome on MacOS 11 Big Sur on M1 Macs.

Google is definitely doing this wrong, asking users to navigate this before downloading. Chrome is supposedly for everyone, not just nerds. Plus, if you already have the Intel-only build installed on an M1 Mac, Chrome’s weird auto-update feature isn’t updating to a native Apple Silicon build. Google has trained Chrome users for years not to do anything, to just trust that Chrome will automatically keep itself up to date, but typical users with the Intel build installed are going to be running at half speed through Rosetta.

Here’s a detailed discussion on the Chromium developer forum discussing the pros and cons of simply shipping a universal binary. The basic gist is that Chrome is so large, doubling the compiled binary footprint for a universal build was deemed problematic for all users. Why make the majority of Mac users still on Intel-based Macs download a version twice as large? I’d say the problem is that Chrome is too bloated. They should ship a universal binary to everyone and get to work slimming Chrome’s footprint. Maybe some work on that would help Chrome catch up to Safari performance-wise.

Pixelmator Pro 2.0 Updated for Big Sur and Apple Silicon 

Pixelmator:

The Pixelmator Pro editing engine is powered by high-performance Metal code, so we can take advantage of the unified memory architecture of the M1 chip to bring you much speedier and much more responsive image editing. Machine learning tasks like ML Super Resolution are now up to a staggering 15 times faster on the new Macs. And, as a Universal app, Pixelmator Pro 2.0 runs natively on both M1 and Intel-based devices, so we’re completely ready for the new era of Mac.

I can vouch for that — I was using Pixelmator Pro 1.8 through Rosetta when I initially started testing the M1 MacBook Pro last week. It worked fine, and felt comparable to running it on an Intel Mac. But ML Super Resolution — a truly mindbendingly cool feature — went from a “worth the wait” type of feature running the old version via Rosetta, to a “wait, is it really that fast now?” feature running version 2.0 natively on the M1 MacBook Pro.

Most of the M1 Mac benchmarks we’ve been seeing are testing the CPU and GPU, because that’s something we can compare head-to-head with Intel Macs and Windows PCs. But ML features that run through the Neural Engine are new territory. 15 times faster sounds too good to be true, but it’s true. And Pixelmator Pro’s ML Super Resolution feature isn’t some weird esoteric thing — it’s the sort of feature anyone who ever upscales photos might want to use.

Joanna Stern and Yours Truly on CNBC’s Squawk Alley, Talking M1 MacBooks 

The webcam discussion is a side point, to be sure, but my footage here on CNBC from this morning is a good example of what you can get from the new MacBooks’ camera.

NYT Report on Apple’s New 15 Percent App Store Commission for Smaller Developers 

Jack Nicas, reporting for The New York Times:

The move, which will have little impact on Apple’s bottom line, is an abrupt change from the company’s public intransigence over its fees. For 12 years, the App Store has helped fuel Apple’s remarkable growth, and the company has appeared reluctant to do anything to tamper with it.

What would make this change not “abrupt”? And I don’t think it’s fair at all to say Apple hasn’t changed its policies surrounding commissions in 12 years. The 85/15 split, for all developers, for subscriptions after the first year was a huge change.

The change will affect roughly 98 percent of the companies that pay Apple a commission, according to estimates from Sensor Tower, an app analytics firm. But those developers accounted for less than 5 percent of App Store revenues last year, Sensor Tower said. Apple said the new rate would affect the “vast majority” of its developers, but declined to offer specific numbers.

I don’t know how much we can trust Sensor Tower’s figures, but that sounds about right.

Apple said in a statement that it had made the change because 2020 was a difficult year for many small companies.

The publicity and regulatory scrutiny surrounding the App Store had nothing to do with it, I’m sure.

App Store Small Business Program Will Reduce Commission to 15 Percent for Developers Earning up to $1 Million Per Year 

Apple, announcing the new App Store Small Business Program:

While the comprehensive details will be released in early December, the essentials of the program’s participation criteria are easy and streamlined:

  • Existing developers who made up to $1 million in 2020 for all of their apps, as well as developers new to the App Store, can qualify for the program and the reduced commission.

  • If a participating developer surpasses the $1 million threshold, the standard commission rate will apply for the remainder of the year.

  • If a developer’s business falls below the $1 million threshold in a future calendar year, they can requalify for the 15 percent commission the year after.

The App Store’s standard commission rate of 30 percent remains in place for apps selling digital goods and services and making more than $1 million in proceeds, defined as a developer’s post-commission earnings.

This isn’t going to make everyone happy, but it’s a good change for everyone involved. But with the structure Apple has announced, there are some counterintuitive incentives for developers whose earnings would fall right around the $1M threshold.

Let’s say a new developer enters the program (and thus qualifies for the 15 percent commission) and their apps are on pace to generate $1.2M in sales. At 15 percent, $1.2M in revenue would generate $1.02M in earnings — putting them over the threshold, so their entire earnings the next year would face a 30 percent commission. If their sales remain flat the next year, the same $1.2M in revenue would earn them only $840K at 30 percent. They’d have to generate $1.5M in revenue to earn the same profit that $1.2M in sales brought them the year before. Basically, if the end of the year draws near and a developer in the Small Business Program has revenue approaching $1.2M, they’re incentivized to pull their apps or reduce their prices to keep from going over the threshold.

These odd incentives could be eliminated if Apple applied the commission more like marginal tax rates, where you never lose money by earning more income. I would suggest tweaking these rules so that each year, developers who qualify for the program would get the 15 percent commission until they reach $1M in revenue, then get charged 30 percent for sales over that threshold. Let developers stay in the Small Business Program even as their sales grow.

We won’t know the details until December, but I think this system where developers need to apply and get approved to enter the program is just about a vetting process to prevent fraud (e.g. a developer with 10 apps setting up 10 different shell companies to try to get them all commissioned at the 85/15 split).

Instant Claim Chowder: Gordon Mah Ung on Apple’s M1 Performance Claims 

Gordon Mah Ung, executive editor of PCWorld:

Let me just say it out loud, OK? Apple is full of it. I’m referring to Apple’s claim that its fanless, Arm-based MacBook Air is “faster than 98 percent of PC laptops.” Yes, you read that correctly: Apple officials literally claimed that the new MacBook Air using Apple’s custom M1 chip is faster than 98 percent of all PC laptops sold this year. […]

Does that mean the new fanless MacBook Air is faster than, say, Asus’ stupidly fast Ryzen 4000 based, GeForce RTX 2060-based Zephyrus G14? Does it mean the MacBook Air is faster than Alienware’s updated Area 51M? The answer, I’m going to guess is “no.” Not at all. Is it faster than the miniLED-based MSI Creator 17? Probably not, either.

This is one of the dumbest hot takes I’ve ever read. First, the PC laptops Ung cites are almost certainly squarely in the top percent or two by unit sales. So they’d seemingly fit exactly in the difference between 98 percent and 100 percent.

Second, I wouldn’t bet against these M1 Macs.

Ung’s “Apple is full of it” take reminds me of the BlackBerry executives who thought Apple’s 2007 iPhone announcement was a fraud, that it couldn’t do what Apple said it could do.

Google Photos Is Ending ‘Free Unlimited Storage’ in June 

Dieter Bohn, writing last week for The Verge:

After five years of offering unlimited free photo backups at “high quality,” Google Photos will start charging for storage once more than 15 gigs on the account have been used. The change will happen on June 1st, 2021, and it comes with other Google Drive policy changes like counting Google Workspace documents and spreadsheets against the same cap. Google is also introducing a new policy of deleting data from inactive accounts that haven’t been logged in to for at least two years.

That “five years” link makes clear that “free and unlimited” was a big part of the appeal of Google Photos all along. And it’s not really a 5-year-old product — Google bought Picasa back in 2004, 16 years ago, and they’ve been giving away some version of free hosted photo storage ever since. And they’ve surely lost billions of dollars doing so. Even if their “free” storage costs, say, $1/user/year (which I think even at Google’s scale is way low), with one billion users, that’s $1 billion per year. It’s easy to see how this could be costing them many billions per year.

Casey Newton:

Google earned $11.2 billion in profits last quarter and uses all your uploaded photos to train its ML algorithms, which offers it other enormous competitive benefits.

Also seems notable that free Google photo storage helped to drive tons of startups out of this market — Everpix, Loom, Ever, Picturelife. Now that they’re gone, and Google is tired of losing money on Photos, the revenue switch flips.

It really is that simple.

(Everpix was a favorite of mine — so damn good.)

Apple Addresses Last Week’s OCSP Server Failure and Related Privacy Concerns 

Apple updated its “Safely Open Apps on Your Mac” support document, in response to last week’s server failure and the ensuing privacy concerns:

We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices. These security checks have never included the user’s Apple ID or the identity of their device. To further protect privacy, we have stopped logging IP addresses associated with Developer ID certificate checks, and we will ensure that any collected IP addresses are removed from logs.

In addition, over the the next year we will introduce several changes to our security checks:

  • A new encrypted protocol for Developer ID certificate revocation checks

  • Strong protections against server failure

  • A new preference for users to opt out of these security protections

They posted this update over the weekend.

Apple TV App Is on PlayStation 5, Too 

I mentioned two weeks ago that Apple TV was available on the new Xbox consoles — should have mentioned too that it was launching on PS5 (and going on PS4) as well. Trying to think of boxes where Apple TV could be but isn’t. Nintendo Switch?

Update: We own (and love) a Switch — so I know that Nintendo doesn’t have streaming apps from anyone, not even Netflix. Switch just doesn’t do video — Nintendo keeps it focused on games. But I’m just saying what’s out there that could have the Apple TV app that’s hooked up to TVs in households where folks might want to watch Apple TV?

Update 2: Wait, there is a streaming service available on Switch: Hulu. I did not know this! Why in the world is Hulu there and none of the others? This makes me think Apple TV and Disney+ and Netflix really could be there.

ViDL: Free Mac Utility Based on ‘youtube-dl’ 

Speaking of youtube-dl, ViDL is a proper Mac app based on it:

ViDL is a free Mac app that allows you to easily download videos from YouTube and hundreds of other websites for offline viewing.

It is based on the popular youtube-dl command line tool, but much easier to use, especially with videos/playlists that require a login (like your personal “Watch Later” list).

GitHub Reinstates ‘youtube-dl’ Project After Concluding DMCA Takedown Request From RIAA Was Bullshit 

Abby Vollmer, writing for The GitHub Blog:

Today we reinstated youtube-dl, a popular project on GitHub, after we received additional information about the project that enabled us to reverse a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown.

The “additional information” link is a response to the RIAA’s takedown request by the EFF, acting on behalf of the youtube-dl project. It’d be a shame if there was a Streisand Effect to this abusive attempt by the RIAA to hurt a great project like youtube-dl, which is a terrific utility that lets you download offline copies of videos from YouTube (of course) and a slew of other services.

There are, of course, a bunch of options (youtube-dl is a nerdy command-line tool), but basically you can just type youtube-dl 'URL-TO-VIDEO-HERE' and it just works. You pass youtube-dl a URL to a web page with an embedded video, and it downloads a copy of the video. And you can install youtube-dl on your Mac easily using Homebrew.

Really would be a shame if this just raises awareness of youtube-dl.

Moderna’s Vaccine Efficacy Readout 

Good overview of Moderna’s vaccine news, from Derek Lowe at Science Magazine’s In the Pipeline blog:

The second press release from the company today is also significant: Moderna says that new stability testing shows that their vaccine remains stable for up to six months under standard freezer conditions, up to 30 days under standard refrigeration conditions, and up to 12 hours at room temperature. There’s no dilution or further handling at the point of administration. This is much more like what you want to see, as compared to the more demanding storage conditions that seem to be needed for the Pfizer candidate. This is how a lot of medicine (and food, for that matter) is already distributed and stored — our infrastructure is a lot more prepared for this.

High effectiveness and it’s easier to distribute. Nothing but good news here.

Parler’s Lead Investor Is Rebekah Mercer 

Jeff Horwitz and Keach Hagey, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

After The Wall Street Journal reported on the Mercers’ ties with Parler, Chief Executive John Matze confirmed that Ms. Mercer was the lead investor in the company at its outset and said that her backing was dependent on the platform allowing users to control what they see.

Some of the people familiar with the matter said Parler was a Mercer family investment. Ms. Mercer, in a post on Parler after a version of this article was published, said that her father had no involvement or ownership of the company. Mr. Mercer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Ms. Mercer said in a separate post that she and Mr. Matze “started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended.” She said the effort is an answer to what she called the “ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.”

The Journal doesn’t link to Mercer’s posts (perhaps because Parler makes them very hard to find permalinks to if you’re not signed in), but they are here and here. The Mercers, if you’re not familiar with them, are the money behind Breitbart and other wingnut propaganda efforts.

The whole thing boils down to a “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality. You’re either on board with spreading any and every bit of wingnut propaganda (pre-election: Hunter Biden’s laptop was a major scandal being overlooked by legit new media who were in the bag for Biden; post-election: the election was rigged against Trump, but, somehow, not rigged against House, Senate, and state legislature Republicans) or you’re the enemy. Thus Twitter and Facebook are the enemy. This, despite the fact that Facebook is such a conservative echo chamber that its list of top-performing link posts, day in and day out, is dominated by pro-Trump voices.

It’s not enough. Fox News isn’t enough for these lunatics, because however conservative Fox News’s opinion slant is, their news is still actual news, like, for example, that Biden soundly beat Trump in the election. So, now they have Parler — a Twitter-like social network funded by the family that funded Cambridge Analytica. To say these people operate in bad faith is to give “bad faith” a bad name.

Do be sure to read Parler’s privacy policy (PDF), which makes Facebook look like it’s fully committed to protecting privacy.

Moderna’s Coronavirus Vaccine Appears to Be 95 Percent Effective 

Elizabeth Cohen, reporting for CNN:

“These are obviously very exciting results,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor. “It’s just as good as it gets — 94.5% is truly outstanding.”

Moderna heard its results on a call Sunday afternoon with members of the Data Safety and Monitoring Board, an independent panel analyzing Moderna’s clinical trial data. Vaccinations could begin in the second half of December, Fauci said. Vaccinations are expected to begin with high-risk groups and to be available for the rest of the population next spring.

In Moderna’s trial, 15,000 study participants were given a placebo, which is a shot of saline that has no effect. Over several months, 90 of them developed Covid-19, with 11 developing severe forms of the disease. Another 15,000 participants were given the vaccine, and only five of them developed Covid-19. None of the five became severely ill. The company says its vaccine did not have any serious side effects. A small percentage of those who received it experienced symptoms such as body aches and headaches.

I can get used to hearing good news continue rolling in.

Atoms 

My thanks to Atoms for sponsoring DF last week. Atoms’s excellent Model 000 is a sneaker-style everyday shoe, available not just in half sizes but quarter sizes for a perfect fit.

Atoms is launching three new colors next week — Navy Blue, Forest Green, and Classic Yellow — that you can also customize to have matching or contrasting outsoles and signature elastic laces. (Here’s the trick with Atoms’s laces: if you tie them just slightly loose, you can keep them tied and wear the shoes as slip-ons. If you prefer a tighter feel, you can just tie/untie them like a regular sneaker.) All the new colors look great, but Navy Blue, with white outsoles and laces, seems the most up my alley, personally. The customization tool is very fun.

These colors launch Monday, but Daring Fireball readers can use this secret link to jump the line, and you’ll get a free Atoms mask — which was rated “best material” by The Wall Street Journal — with each order using the coupon code “DF” while checking out. I wear my Atoms shoes a lot, and I wear an Atoms mask every time I leave the house.

A Technical Look at the Privacy Implications of MacOS’s OCSP 

Jacopo Jannone:

No, macOS does not send Apple a hash of your apps each time you run them.

You should be aware that macOS might transmit some opaque information about the developer certificate of the apps you run. This information is sent out in clear text on your network.

You shouldn’t probably block ocsp.apple.com with Little Snitch or in your hosts file.

Apple should publish information about this system in the excellent — but alas, not comprehensive — Apple Platform Security report, including a clear statement regarding whether they keep logs of these checks. I’m guessing they do not — why would they? — but it would be good to be able to point to a clear statement.

Intel’s Disruption 

James Allworth:

He might not have realized it at the time, but when Grove was reading Christensen’s work, he wasn’t just reading about how Intel would go on to conquer the personal computer market. He was also reading about what would eventually befall the company he co-founded, 25 years before it happened.

I’m not sure if Intel’s disruption is complete, as Allworth suggests. It remains to be seen if other ARM chip vendors will surpass the x86 platform in performance and efficiency. But it’s starting to look like that’s inevitable — Apple is just far ahead of the pack.

MacOS Big Sur Launch Overwhelmed Apple’s CDN, Which in Turn Triggered a Bug in ‘trustd’ That Ground App Launching to a Halt 

Samuel Axon and Lee Hutchinson, writing for Ars Technica Thursday:

Mac users today began experiencing unexpected issues that included apps taking minutes to launch, stuttering and non-responsiveness throughout macOS, and other problems. The issues seemed to begin close to the time when Apple began rolling out the new version of macOS, Big Sur — but it affected users of other versions of macOS, like Catalina and Mojave. […]

It didn’t take long for some Mac users to note that trustd — a macOS process responsible for checking with Apple’s servers to confirm that an app is notarized — was attempting to contact a host named ocsp.apple.com but failing repeatedly. This resulted in systemwide slowdowns as apps attempted to launch, among other things.

As a pedantic note (and once again thanks to Jeff Johnson), trustd checks the status of Developer ID certificates, not notarization. But that’s beside the point — the point is that when Apple’s CDN fell down, Apple’s OCSP servers stopped responding, and when that happened many users’ Macs stopped working if they were on the internet.

This lookup is designed to fail gracefully if there’s no network connection at all (otherwise you couldn’t launch apps without an internet connection), but apparently isn’t designed to handle the case where trustd can reach Apple’s OCSP servers but those servers do not respond. Just an embarrassing bug for Apple on a high-profile launch day.

The Mac App Store Promo Animation That Showed Touch and Then Didn’t 

A Mac App Store animation for a feature promoting Big Sur’s new Notification Center widgets set touchscreen Mac proponents’ hearts aflutter because it clearly showed a hand touching on-screen elements. Apple updated it to remove the hand (and, thus, the entire animated aspect of it). I would read nothing into the original other than that some poor artist working for the App Store had no idea people would read so much into an abstract idea.

Update: Via Jeff Johnson, here’s an older example where the same style was used to show a hand “touching” Mac Safari extensions. This has nothing to do with touchscreens; it’s just artistic license to humanize these interactions.

Joz, Federighi, and Ternus on the M1 Macs – and Cold Water on Big Sur Being Designed for Touch 

Andrew Griffin scored an interview with Apple’s Mac leadership for The Independent. It’s a good read. This bit on whether Mac OS 11 Big Sur is somehow designed for touchscreen use reiterates my feelings:

This has led to ideas including the theory that Apple had redesigned its new macOS to make way for touch screen Macs. The Big Sur aesthetic borrows from the iPhone and iPad – buttons are bigger, with more space, which numerous commentators pointed out would make them perfect for manipulating with your fingers – but not because of some secret plan to change the way the Mac works, Federighi says.

“I gotta tell you when we released Big Sur, and these articles started coming out saying, ‘Oh my God, look, Apple is preparing for touch’. I was thinking like, ‘Whoa, why?’

“We had designed and evolved the look for macOS in a way that felt most comfortable and natural to us, not remotely considering something about touch.”

Touchscreen Mac advocates can pooh-pooh this on the grounds that Apple executives — having learned from the master — routinely say X is a bad idea, not forthcoming, not something they’re thinking about, etc., right up until the point when they release X and claim it’s a new Apple innovation. But I’ll just point out that Federighi’s remarks here aren’t about whether there should or ever will be touchscreen Macs. He’s just saying what to me is rather obvious when you look at Big Sur — it looks different, yes, but it wasn’t designed for touch.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Still Pretending Trump Won 

Ten days after Trump was defeated in a historic landslide — by his own oft-repeated standard — his whole crew of idiot lickspittles are still talking nonsense. They’re just making fools of themselves at this point. It’s not a coup. It’s just really, really weird.

I mean, I dare you to make sense of this tweet, in which the president himself simultaneously agrees that this election was the most secure the country has ever held and that it was “rigged”.

Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Accused in U.S. Embassy Attacks, Is Secretly Killed in Iran 

Adam Goldman, Eric Schmitt, Farnaz Fassihi, and Ronen Bergman, reporting for The New York Times:

American intelligence officials say that Mr. al-Masri had been in Iran’s “custody” since 2003, but that he had been living freely in the Pasdaran district of Tehran, an upscale suburb, since at least 2015. Around 9:00 on a warm summer night, he was driving his white Renault L90 sedan with his daughter near his home when two gunmen on a motorcycle drew up beside him. Five shots were fired from a pistol fitted with a silencer. Four bullets entered the car through the driver’s side and a fifth hit a nearby car.

As news of the shooting broke, Iran’s official news media identified the victims as Habib Daoud, a Lebanese history professor, and his 27-year-old daughter Maryam. The Lebanese news channel MTV and social media accounts affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps reported that Mr. Daoud was a member of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militant organization in Lebanon.

It seemed plausible. […]

In fact, there was no Habib Daoud.

Wild story, like something right out of a movie.

Petulant Wingnuts Push Parler 

Mike Isaac and Kellen Browning, reporting for The New York Times:

But Mr. Levin, Ms. Bartiromo and others did not stop there. They directed their followers to other social media apps and news sites that have positioned themselves as alternatives to Facebook and Twitter. The beneficiaries are Parler, a Twitter-like app that describes itself as the world’s “premier free speech social network,” the right-wing media app Newsmax, and other social sites like MeWe and Rumble, which have purposely welcomed conservatives.

Over the weekend, Parler shot to the top of Apple’s App Store in downloads. As of Monday, it had eight million members, nearly double the 4.5 million it had last week. Rumble said it projected 75 million to 90 million people will watch a video on its site this month, up from 60.5 million last month. And Newsmax said more than 3 million people watched its election night coverage and that its app has recently been in the top-10 daily apps downloaded from Apple’s App Store.

This is what puts the lie to claims that Twitter and Facebook moderating and labeling content is an infringement on free speech. Don’t like Twitter or Facebook’s rules? Use something else.

That said, I have my doubts that Parler, in particular, is going to work very well. I signed up and poked around a few weeks ago, and while it looks and works much like Twitter, conceptually, the content felt like something out of a wingnut-flavored Idiocracy. It wasn’t about the content having a wingnut Trumpian slant, it was that the content all seemed to be generated by crude content managment systems, not by people. It wasn’t people writing tweet-like posts. It was all just auto-posted stuff pushing me to read articles on rightwing sites. I don’t see it taking off.

Then there’s the issue of namespace. Facebook is undeniably dominant, but one aspect of social networking it missed out on is user names. Instagram has user names, too, but when I just see “@username”, I, along with most people, presume it’s a Twitter account. Parler has Twitter-style user names, but there’s no way anyone is going to assume “@username” is a Parler account without explicitly saying it’s a Parler account every single time you mention it.

Here’s Fox News host Maria Bartiromo screwing this up in a tweet as she’s trying to promote her own move to Parler:

This is the same group who abused power in 2016. I will be leaving soon and going to Parler. Please open an account on @parler right away.

@parler, on Twitter, is just some rando who only ever tweeted once, eight years ago. He does have 5,400+ followers now, though.

Super-Spreader Wedding Party Shows COVID Holiday Dangers 

Karen Kaplan, science and medicine editor for The L.A. Times:

If you want to know why public health officials are so nervous about how much worse the COVID-19 pandemic will get as the holiday season unfolds, consider what happened after a single, smallish wedding reception that took place this summer in rural Maine.

Only 55 people attended the Aug. 7 reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. But one of those guests arrived with a coronavirus infection. Over the next 38 days, the virus spread to 176 other people. Seven of them died.

None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party.

It sounds cold, but the attendees of that wedding killed those people. If you’re planning a “small” family get-together for Thanksgiving, it’s every bit as irresponsible as planning a “short” drunk drive.

Apple’s M1 Compared to 1985’s ARM1 

Ken Shirriff, on Twitter:

With Apple’s recent announcement of the ARM-based M1 processor, I figured it would be interesting to compare it to the first ARM processor, created by Acorn Computers in 1985 for the BBC Micro computer. Designers were Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber.

Here are the two dies at the same scale. The M1 is over twice as large physically as the ARM1. It has 16 billion transistors vs 25,000 for the ARM1. If you built the ARM1 using the same technology, it would be a pixel-sized speck.

Lots of fun details in the thread.

Axios: ‘Trump Eyes Starting His Own Digital Media Empire to Take on Fox News’ 

Mike Allen, writing for Axios:

President Trump has told friends he wants to start a digital media company to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network, sources tell Axios. […] “He plans to wreck Fox. No doubt about it,” said a source with detailed knowledge of Trump’s intentions.

There is not enough popcorn in the world if Trump goes to war against Fox News. Fox News’s undeniable success is built on a coalition of sane conservatives and wingnut kooks. Guess which half Trump might peel off.

The Omni Group’s Apps Are All Now Available for M1 and MacOS Big Sur 

Ken Case, writing on The Omni Group blog:

The Omni Group creates productivity tools that are as powerful as you — designed for Mac, iPhone, and iPad — and we love the Mac! We’ve been developing for the Mac since 1989 (via its NeXT lineage), and over the years we’ve gone through many CPU transitions — from the Motorola 68030 to the PowerPC to 64-bit to Intel. […]

We’re very pleased to share that our app transition has been smooth and seamless. All our apps — including our free apps OmniDiskSweeper, OmniPresence, and OmniWeb — are now available as native Universal apps on M1-powered Macs, and can be either downloaded from our website or found on the Mac App Store.

It was fun seeing Case in Apple’s keynote yesterday (along with Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser, and the other Mac developers Apple highlighted). Back at WWDC, Apple mentioned Microsoft as an early adopter of this Apple Silicon transition. It seems like The Omni Group has taken that spot at launch as Apple’s promoted provider of general productivity apps available as universal binaries on day one. Not sure if Microsoft has just fallen behind schedule or if the pissing match over Xbox Game Pass and the iOS App Store has spilled over to the Mac. Update: Seems like they’re just not ready yet — heading into beta now. To the shipper go the spoils.

Guido van Rossum Un-Retires to Join Microsoft 

Python creator Guido van Rossum, who had been at Google for a number of years:

I decided that retirement was boring and have joined the Developer Division at Microsoft. To do what? Too many options to say! But it’ll make using Python better for sure (and not just on Windows :-). There’s lots of open source here. Watch this space.

I’ve always admired Python as an outside observer, but this year my son is taking a computer science class using it, so I’m getting first-hand experience with writing it as I help him with assignments, and my suspicions have been confirmed. Python is a fun language. It doesn’t help you be a show off, it just helps you express your ideas in code. Looking forward to what Van Rossum does next at Microsoft.

How crazy, too, is it that Microsoft, of all companies, is now a welcome home for a cross-platform open-source icon like Van Rossum? Based on recent history, Van Rossum landing there isn’t surprising at all. Historically speaking, though, it’s unimaginable. If you took a time machine back to 2000 and told a crowd of Python enthusiasts that in 2020 Guido van Rossum would be working at Microsoft, half of them wouldn’t believe you and the other half would pass out.

AnandTech’s Deep Dive on the A14 and What It Means for the M1 

Andrei Frumusanu, writing for AnandTech:

We currently do not have Apple Silicon devices and likely won’t get our hands on them for another few weeks, but we do have the A14, and expect the new Mac chips to be strongly based on the microarchitecture we’re seeing employed in the iPhone designs. Of course, we’re still comparing a phone chip versus a high-end laptop and even a high-end desktop chip, but given the performance numbers, that’s also exactly the point we’re trying to make here, setting the stage as the bare minimum of what Apple could achieve with their new Apple Silicon Mac chips.

The A14 is both a power-efficient smartphone chip and one of the fastest CPUs ever made, period. And the M1 is faster. Someone with access to an M1 MacBook Air submitted Geekbench 5 benchmarks today, and it outperforms every Mac ever made in single-core performance.

FTC Claims Zoom Lied to Users About End-to-End Encryption for Years, Yet Lets Company Off the Hook for Compensation 

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica:

Zoom has agreed to upgrade its security practices in a tentative settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which alleges that Zoom lied to users for years by claiming it offered end-to-end encryption.

“[S]ince at least 2016, Zoom misled users by touting that it offered ‘end-to-end, 256-bit encryption’ to secure users’ communications, when in fact it provided a lower level of security,” the FTC said today in the announcement of its complaint against Zoom and the tentative settlement. Despite promising end-to-end encryption, the FTC said that “Zoom maintained the cryptographic keys that could allow Zoom to access the content of its customers’ meetings, and secured its Zoom Meetings, in part, with a lower level of encryption than promised.”

The FTC complaint says that Zoom claimed it offers end-to-end encryption in its June 2016 and July 2017 HIPAA compliance guides, which were intended for health-care industry users of the video conferencing service. Zoom also claimed it offered end-to-end encryption in a January 2019 white paper, in an April 2017 blog post, and in direct responses to inquiries from customers and potential customers, the complaint said.

No honest mistake here, no hair-splitting. Just flat out lies. Zoom is a garbage company with a good service.

MacOS 11 Big Sur Is Officially Licensed for Colocation Leasing 

Brian Stucki, writing at the MacStadium blog:

All of this is big news, but for me personally, there was some even more massive news. Apple has updated the macOS software license agreement for Big Sur. This doesn’t happen very often. It went from 15 sections to 16 sections. The last significant change I can remember was in 2012 when they confirmed that you could buy a Mac OS X upgrade and install it on all the Macs you own. (Yes, we used to pay for OS updates.)

More significant than a simple agreement change is that the whole section is so directly pointed at what I care deeply about with my work.

I have been working with Macs in data centers for sixteen years now. I’ve pushed through many of the “Mac mini/Xserve/Mac Pro is dead” comments and “why would you want macOS in a data center” insults. I’ve had Apple account reps very eager to introduce me to their large clients only to have Apple system engineers shoot down the whole idea as a “gray area.” Well, this new section of “Leasing for Permitted Developer Services” feels like a massive pat on the back and I’m so happy for all my friends at Apple who saw the need and have been pushing for this update.

Not coincidentally, MacStadium has already ordered over 600 M1 Mac Minis.

Actual, Completely Fair and Accurate Headline From The Verge: ‘TikTok Says the Trump Administration Has Forgotten About Trying to Ban It, Would Like to Know What’s Up’ 

All eyes are on their election-loss pants-wetting tantrum, but the Trump administration continues to embarrass itself, and alas, the nation, in other ways. Remember too that they claimed this TikTok controversy was a national security issue. Now it’s just forgotten.

Sketch 

My thanks to Sketch for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. Sketch is celebrating its 10th anniversary, during which time they’ve grown to become the go-to design platform and toolkit for over one million people — from individual freelancers and indie app developers, to the biggest companies in the world.

Today, alongside their Apple Design Award-winning Mac app, Sketch includes powerful, cloud-based collaboration tools to take your work further. They’re soon launching a fresh UI for MacOS 11 Big Sur, and real-time collaboration in the Mac app. With a 30-day free trial for new users — use that link so they know you came from Daring Fireball — there’s never been a better time to check out Sketch.

From the Annals of Perfect Symbolism: An Architecture Critic Looks at Four Seasons Total Landscaping 

Justin Davidson, writing for Curbed:

Four Seasons Total Landscaping joins the slabs of forlorn border wall and the graffiti-encrusted bathroom in Lafayette Square as the real monuments of an administration intent on ugliness and pathetic façades. Maybe the choice of venue was a not-at-all understandable mix-up. Perhaps it was sabotage on the part of a minion who had had enough. There’s speculation on Twitter that Trump announced an event at the Four Seasons (hotel) before it had been booked, and aides had to scramble to find any venue that made his words true. None of these explanations makes sense, because the site was simultaneously too perfect to be accidental and too elaborate to be intentional. An administration marked by episodes of sordid sex, wishful thinking, and mass death took place next door to a dildo-and-porn store named Fantasy Island and across the street from a crematorium. If you were hunting for such a symbolically rich stage, how would you even Google it?

Here’s a timeline of the tweets that seemingly led to this. Truly beyond parody that this obscure, junky-looking parking lot in northeast Philly was the last gasp of the Trump reelection campaign. You couldn’t make up something more fitting if you tried, and I can’t get enough of this story.

The Talk Show: Holiday Party 2020 

Another election. A different result. Let’s talk around it.

Sponsored by:

  • Mack Weldon: Reinventing men’s basics with smart design, premium fabrics, and simple shopping. Get 20% off your first order with code talkshow.
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Twitter and Facebook Assert Biden’s Victory 

Mike Isaac, in the NYT’s live coverage:

Facebook put a notification atop its apps that said that Joe Biden was projected as the winner. It will appear for hundreds of millions of Americans on Facebook and Instagram.

Twitter has added an announcement in its “Explore” tab that Biden has been projected as the winner of the election, pointing to news outlets.

Twitter and Facebook are learning their role in how media both shapes and articulates reality, in an era when one side of our nation’s political divide has a real problem accepting what is real vs. what they want to be real. You can tweet and post what you want, but the reality is Biden beat Trump.

Biden Beats Trump 

Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, The New York Times:

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was elected the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, promising to restore political normalcy and a spirit of national unity to confront raging health and economic crises, and making Donald J. Trump a one-term president after four years of tumult in the White House. […]

The result also provided a history-making moment for Mr. Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, who will become the first woman to serve as vice president.

What a day.

‘Rupert Murdoch-Owned US Outlets Turn on Trump, Urging Him to Act With “Grace”’ 

Tom McCarthy, writing for The Guardian:

Multiple Rupert Murdoch-owned conservative media outlets in the United States have shifted their messaging in a seeming effort to warn readers and viewers that Donald Trump may well have lost the presidential election.

The new messaging appears to be closely coordinated, and it includes an appeal to Trump to preserve his “legacy” by showing grace in defeat. The message is being carried on Fox News and in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post – all outlets avidly consumed by Trump himself, especially Fox.

George Washington, father of the nation. Abraham Lincoln, freed the slaves. Donald Trump, grace in defeat. Sure, sounds right.

‘A Large Portion of the Electorate Chose the Sociopath’ 

Tom Nichols, writing for The Atlantic:

Sadly, the voters who said in 2016 that they chose Trump because they thought he was “just like them” turned out to be right. Now, by picking him again, those voters are showing that they are just like him: angry, spoiled, racially resentful, aggrieved, and willing to die rather than ever admit that they were wrong.

Also: willfully stupid.

Biden Takes Lead in Pennsylvania, Wins Election 

Feels right that Pennsylvania is the state that puts Biden over the top, but I still expect him to win Nevada and Arizona, and probably Georgia too. Pop your champagne, it’s time to celebrate.

Nintendo Reports a Strong Quarter 

Really good quarter for Nintendo — converting yen to USD, about $4 billion in revenue, $1.4 billion in profit. That’s great for them, but peanuts by U.S. tech giant standards. Fascinating how outsized Nintendo’s influence is on both the gaming industry and pop culture at large compared to their financial size.

Warms the heart to see them doing well.

David Letterman on Trump and 2020 Election 

David Letterman, in an interview with Josef Adalian for Vulture:

I believe he will lose it big, and it will be a relief to every living being in this country, whether they realize it now or not. It certainly will be a relief to me and my family, and I think generally the population. I’m more confident now than I was then, and I was pretty confident then. I was wrong. I don’t think I’ll be wrong this time.

That “whether they realize it now or not” bit — I could not agree more. From Letterman’s lips to the election gods’ ears.

The Economist’s Final Election Forecast 

They’ve got Biden at 97 percent to win, and the Democrats at 80 percent to take the Senate. I believe these numbers, but I’m anxious as hell. One tends to believe what one wants to believe, of course. But the polling looks strong. Keep the faith.

Nice story by Jon Fasman on the mood here in Philadelphia, too.

Trump, on the Eve of Election Day 

Maggie Haberman, Alexander Burns, and Jonathan Martin, reporting for The New York Times:

The president, his associates say, has drawn encouragement from his larger audiences and from a stream of relatively upbeat polling information that advisers have curated for him, typically filtering out the bleakest numbers.

On a trip to Florida last week, several aides told the president that winning the Electoral College was a certainty, a prognosis not supported by Republican or Democratic polling, according to people familiar with the conversation. And Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, has responded with chipper enthusiasm when Mr. Trump has raised the idea of making a late bid for solidly Democratic states like New Mexico, an option other aides have told the president is flatly unrealistic.

Remember being a kid and learning about historical monarchs who’d execute messengers bearing bad news? Or hearing similar stories about authoritarian crackpots ruling third-world countries today? Must be so exhausting, so endlessly nerve-racking, I would think, to live in such a country, governed by a madman.

The president himself has done little to strengthen his chances in the final days of the race. On Friday, Mr. Trump used a rally in Michigan to float a baseless theory that doctors are classifying patients’ deaths as related to the coronavirus in order to make more money, drawing fierce condemnation from medical groups, as well as Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama.

And on Saturday, in Pennsylvania at the site where George Washington mapped out his Delaware crossing during the Revolution, aides wrote out a sober speech for the president to deliver. Midway through, he seemed to get bored and began to riff about the size of Mr. Biden’s sunglasses.

Eyes ever on the prize with this president. Eyes on the prize.

‘Why Joe Biden Is Going to Win’ 

Kendall Kaut:

We’re three days from the election, and Joe Biden is going to win. I can hedge and say “Well, we could have a catastrophic polling error,” or “Trump is going to steal the election.” I don’t see either happening. Biden has led since March, and before most of you wake up on November 4th, Biden will be president-elect.

Trump faces too devastating a situation to win. If he wins, the entire polling industry, and quite possibly empiricism itself, would be in a nearly unfathomable crisis.

The easiest explanation is that Trump barely beat a terrible candidate in 2016. Trump is less popular than he was in 2016, Biden is more popular than Clinton, and the electorate is less hospitable to Trump than it was in 2016.

Kaut isn’t being glib or naive or hopeful. The above is just the start of a 5,000+ word piece backing it up. No election is ever in the bag. But the 2020 polls don’t look anything at all like the 2016 polls. I’m anxious, of course, because I care deeply, but I’m more excited than I am fearful.

If, like me, you find that cold hard facts calm your nerves, sit back with a nighttime beverage and dive into Kaut’s analysis.

‘Let’s Have a Shit, Shave, and Shower and Back at It.’ 

Screenwriter Brian Koppelman, on working with Sean Connery:

We do what we can and then get the call. He’s coming at 9AM the next morning. So we do what you’d have done — we get a sliced fruit platter and put it out with some paper plates.

9AM on the damn button, a knock at the door. And there he is, wearing a hat similar to the one from The Untouchables. “I’m Sean. Throw a Sir on that and watch me walk out the door.”

“Yes, sir, I mean Mr. Connery, I mean … would you like some fruit? A slice of pineapple maybe?”

A smile comes to his face. He sees what this means to us. “I’d love some fruit. That’s kind of you.” He sits down and we go to work. He has incredibly smart notes on every page. These are not notes from our draft. They are from the prior draft. He’s telling us the movie he wants.

Should we get the studio or director on the speaker phone? “No. Youse’ll tell em what we’re gonna do.”

We spend the day working. He then says one of our favorite lines ever. “That’s about half the thing. Let’s have a shit, shave and shower and back at it.”

Be on time, be gracious, be prepared, do the work. That’s a recipe for success. And Koppelman’s story only gets better from there.

Here’s a another great Connery story, for good measure.

iOS 14.2 Includes New AR-Enhanced ‘People Detection’ Accessibility Feature 

Steven Aquino, writing at Forbes:

The purpose of People Detection is to aid blind and low vision users in navigation; this type of application is particularly well-suited for the LiDAR sensor in iPhone 12 Pro. The goal is to help the visually impaired understand their surroundings — examples include knowing how many people there are in the checkout line at the grocery store, how close one is standing to the end of the platform at the subway station, and finding an empty seat at a table. Another use case is in this era of social distancing; the software can tell you if you’re within six feet of another person in order to maintain courtesy and safety.

Users can set a minimum distance for alerts — say, six feet for the aforementioned social distancing — as well as having an option to use haptic feedback to deliver those notifications. There also is audible feedback; if a person is wearing one AirPod, they will be notified when they’re in close proximity of a person or whatnot. People Detection is fully compatible with VoiceOver, Apple’s screen-reader technology.

What a magnificent feature this is. Aquino has some interesting thoughts on what would take it to the next level, too.

Raspberry Pi 400: $70 Desktop PC Built Into a Keyboard 

This is brilliant:

Raspberry Pi has always been a PC company. Inspired by the home computers of the 1980s, our mission is to put affordable, high-performance, programmable computers into the hands of people all over the world. And inspired by these classic PCs, here is Raspberry Pi 400: a complete personal computer, built into a compact keyboard.

Apple TV Will Be on Xbox Starting November 10 

Will Tuttle, Xbox Wire:

Just as we’re bringing forward all the games that play on Xbox One today, we’re excited to announce that your favorite entertainment apps you enjoy today on Xbox One will be available on Xbox Series X and Series S. That means your favorite streaming apps like Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Spotify, YouTube, YouTube TV, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, NBC Peacock, Vudu, FandangoNow, Twitch, Sky Go, NOW TV, Sky Ticket and more, will be waiting for you when you boot your new Xbox console on November 10.

Some of those are just made-up names, right?

When our all-new Xbox family of consoles launch worldwide on November 10, you’ll have more than just the entertainment apps you enjoy today on Xbox One. We’re excited to share that the Apple TV app is coming to Xbox One and Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S on November 10.

The Apple TV app gives you access to thousands of shows and movies from one convenient location, allowing you to enjoy Apple TV+, Apple TV channels, brand-new and popular movies, and personalized entertainment recommendations.

Xbox users who aren’t already subscribed to Apple TV+ will be able to do so right on their Xbox. I’m curious if that’s a thing where Microsoft gets a cut of the subscription — I’m guessing no, because I can’t see why Netflix would go for that. If anyone knows, let me know.

AirPods Pro Service Program for Sound Issues 

New from Apple:

Apple has determined that a small percentage of AirPods Pro may experience sound issues. Affected units were manufactured before October 2020. An affected AirPods Pro may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

  • Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will service the affected AirPods Pro (left, right or both), free of charge.

I have a bunch of friends who’ve had these issues with their AirPods Pro, and I don’t have that many friends. It’s pretty common. (Also, a slew of reader emails about this.) The “before October 2020” makes it sound like Apple thinks it has the problem licked, though.

One More AR Easter Egg 

Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac:

Just after officially announcing the November special event, the new Easter egg started showing up from iPhone and iPad when visiting the special events page here and tapping on the Apple logo of the event artwork at the top.

This time around Apple is including a much more subtle AR Easter egg that shows the Apple logo lying flat, starts glowing with a variety of colors, then rises up like it’s on the lid of a MacBook. Spotted by 9to5Mac reader Barja, if you rotate the AR Apple logo, or walk around to the back, you can see the event date 11.10.

That is a bit suggestive of a laptop opening.

One More Apple Event: Next Tuesday, 10 November 

About as unsuggestive an invitation design as you could imagine. “One More Thing” could be anything, but of course, everyone assumes the highlight will be the first Macs with Apple Silicon chips — a fair assumption, given that Apple said at WWDC that they’d be launching by the end of the year, and there aren’t any other flagship products left to announce. This will likely also mark the launch of MacOS 11 Big Sur.

I say Apple Silicon Macs could be the “highlight” only because we could see something else, an opening act like what HomePod Mini was to the iPhones 12 last month. The way to think about these 2020 (and 2021?) streaming Apple Events is that they’re like episodes of a TV show, and the episodes consist of segments that can effectively be mixed and matched. Something like AirTags would make for a nice opener, even if AirTags aren’t really related to the Mac any more than HomePod Mini was related to iPhones.

Kandji 

My thanks to Kandji for sponsoring last week at DF. Kandji is an Apple device management (MDM) solution built exclusively for IT teams at businesses running on Apple platforms, and last week secured a $21 million Series A from Greycroft, Okta Ventures, and B Capital Group.

With total funding near $30 million, Kandji will use these funds to expand its enterprise features and grow its team to support even more customers. There are some exciting product releases on its near-term roadmap, such as enterprise single sign-on (SSO), Self Service functionality, and Kandji’s public API. They already offer more than 150 pre-built automations and workflows, and streamline the most common and complex tasks for Apple IT administrators.

Read their funding announcement to learn more, or request access to Kandji to see a demo and start a free trial.