Tim Cook on Apple’s – and Our – 2020 ★
Tim Cook, in his prepared opening remarks for today’s results call:
Work can’t solve for all the things we’re missing right now, but
a shared sense of purpose goes a long way. A belief that we can
do more together than we can alone, that people of good will,
driven by creativity and passion and that certain itch of a big
idea, can still do things that help other people in our own small
way to teach, to learn, to create, or just to relax at a time
like this. Even as the things we make require us to operate at
the very cutting edge of technology, in materials, products, and
ideas that didn’t exist just a few years ago, this year has
forced us to face plainly the things that make us human — disease, resilience, and hope.
Apple Q4 2020 Results: Record Mac Revenue, iPhone Down ★
Despite the tough iPhone quarter, revenue was a record for the
company’s fourth fiscal quarter, at $64.7B. iPhone revenue was
$26.8B, down 20% year over year. Mac revenue was $9B, up 29%. iPad
revenue was $6.8B, up 46%. Services revenue was $14.5B, up 16%.
And Wearables revenue was $7.9B, up 20.8%.
As usual, Snell has excellent charts to visualize Apple’s quarter.
iPhone being down might largely be explained by the fact that none of this year’s new phones shipped in the quarter. Last year, the iPhones 11 and 11 Pro started shipping September 20. Tim Cook says demand for iPhone 12 — with the Mini and Pro Max not even being on sale yet — looks good. So I wouldn’t worry about iPhone.
Mac being up 29 percent is just fascinating. I think it’s largely about the whole work-from-home drive? People buying new Macs and replacement Macs to accommodate new ways of working? But what’s really obvious is how much Mac sales being up from July through September show that the Mac is a mainstream product. Nerds — folks like you, dear reader of this website — know that the Mac is on the cusp of a major transition from Intel’s architecture to Apple’s own, and that right now is probably not the time to buy a new one. But normal people just buy Macs when they need new ones and they need them now.
Lastly, it shows how diversified Apple’s financials are getting that iPhone revenue could be down 20 percent year-over-year but the company had record revenue for the quarter overall. A few years ago that was unimaginable.
Aerosol Transmission of COVID-19: A Room, a Bar and a Classroom: How the Coronavirus Is Spread Through the Air ★
This illustrated guide to how COVID-19 spreads through the air, by Mariano Zafra and Javier Salas for El País, is outstanding. It doesn’t just tell you how it spreads, it shows you.
Apple One Bundle Is Set to Launch Tomorrow; Fitness+ Coming Later This Year; iCloud Storage Limits Are Still Stingy ★
Seems like only a few months ago that I spitballed the right price for such as bundle as $15/month for an individual and $20/month for a family. Wait, that was just two months ago. Somehow these months feel both incredibly long and yet fly by.
My only beef with the Apple One bundles is that the included iCloud storage levels are too small. Either I’m vastly overestimating the size of a typical user’s iCloud Photos library, or Apple is doing wrong by paying users with these storage levels.
Non-paying users, too — the free tier of iCloud remains stuck at 5 GB, which is ridiculous. That’s the same amount of storage as when iCloud debuted back in 2011. How is it defensible that the default storage tier hasn’t changed in the last 9 years?
Gallium Nitride (GaN) – the Technology Behind Smaller, Better Chargers ★
So there seems to be a clear, simple answer to my question regarding why Anker and Aukey’s sub-$20 20W power USB-C power adapters are so much smaller than Apple’s — they use gallium nitride (GaN), and Apple’s apparently does not. Tim Brookes, writing at How-To Geek back in January:
GaN chargers are physically smaller than current chargers. This is
because gallium nitride chargers don’t require as many components
as silicon chargers. The material is able to conduct far higher
voltages over time than silicon.
GaN chargers are not only more efficient at transferring current,
but this also means less energy is lost to heat. So, more energy
goes to whatever you’re trying to charge. When components are more
efficient at passing energy to your devices, you generally require
less of them.
So these GaN chargers are much smaller, the same price as Apple’s or cheaper, and more energy efficient. There seemingly is no downside or catch. Until I hear otherwise I’d say there’s no reason anyone should buy Apple’s 20W adapter instead of Anker’s or Aukey’s. (Those are Amazon affiliate links to make me some money.) I’ve ordered both, and will report which I prefer. Aukey’s even comes in black, which gives them the early edge.
The next question, obviously, is why isn’t Apple using GaN for its 20W charger? Perhaps it’s an issue of scale — maybe because GaN is a relatively new technology, Apple can’t make enough of them?
Update: Turns out Anker’s Nano seemingly is not using GaN. When they revised it to go from 18W to 20W, MacRumors ran a story with this note appended:
This article originally stated that the new Anker Nano was a
gallium nitride (GaN) adapter, but Anker has since clarified that
this is not the case.
And while Anker does call out GaN on the product pages for some of its chargers, it does not for the 20W Nano. In their FAQ, regarding how the Nano can be both faster and smaller, Anker more or less just attributes it to secret sauce:
Anker’s exclusive highly-integrated technology uses a stacked
design with custom magnetic components to reduce size, boost
efficiency, and improve heat dissipation. This allows Anker Nano
to support an 20W max output, while being just as small as a 5W
And when you search for “Gan” on Aukey’s site, a bunch of their chargers are listed, but not the Omnia 20W Mini. So I don’t think Aukey’s 20W charger is using GaN either. That just makes me all the more curious what their secret sauce is, and why they’re so much smaller than Apple’s.
Joanna Stern on the Best 20W USB-C Charging Adapters ★
Joanna Stern, writing two weeks ago for The Wall Street Journal (News+):
If you loved Apple’s 5-watt charger for its cute design that
didn’t block multiple power outlets, get ready to be happy: You
can now get four times the power in the same size brick.
The Apple 5-watt took nearly two hours to charge my iPhone 11’s
battery to 50%. The 20-watt $20 Aukey Omnia Mini and Anker
Nano took just 30 minutes. (Apple’s just released $19 20-watt
charger should be just as fast, but I haven’t tested it yet.)
I bought an Anker Nano back in April, and at the time, it was only 18W. Anker recently updated it to support 20W, which, I think, means the updated ones will support Apple’s MagSafe inductive charger at the maximum 15W capacity.
What I don’t understand is why Aukey and Anker’s 20W chargers are so much smaller than Apple’s. They’re not just a little smaller, they’re a lot smaller — and about half the weight of Apple’s. They really are just a wee smidge bigger than Apple’s classic dice-sized 5W charger.
So what’s the deal? Are Anker and Aukey just better at making chargers than Apple? Is Apple’s so much bigger because it’s cheaper to produce that way? Or is Apple’s better in some way that necessitates it being bigger that I don’t understand? Because unless I’m missing something there’s no reason not to buy the 20W chargers from Aukey and Anker instead of Apple’s. Update: The apparent answer is GaN.
Major League Baseball’s Bad Example ★
Paul Kafasis on Dodgers star Justin Turner returning to the field to celebrate after having been pulled from game 6 of the World Series after testing positive for COVID-19:
I can certainly understand Turner not wanting to miss a moment
he’d worked his entire life for. The desire to celebrate with the
rest of his team was a natural one. I hope there are no further
cases among the Dodger organization, and that no other players,
coaches, or family members get sick. Perhaps this incident can
quietly die down to a mere footnote.
But even if that happens, it will be by sheer luck. There is a
deadly virus going around and around the globe, and we can’t
simply ignore it. We can’t pretend our way out of this thing. The
picture above is emblematic of the fact that collectively, we
Americans still haven’t learned that sacrificing for others is
essential in getting past this pandemic. That’s not something to
What an inexplicable embarrassment for the team and the sport — and a missed opportunity to set a very public good example.
Jared Kushner Bragged in April That Trump Was Taking the Country ’Back From the Doctors’ ★
CNN with the shot:
In a taped interview on April 18, Kushner told legendary
journalist Bob Woodward that Trump was “getting the country back
from the doctors” in what he called a “negotiated settlement.”
Kushner also proclaimed that the US was moving swiftly through the
“panic phase” and “pain phase” of the pandemic and that the
country was at the “beginning of the comeback phase.”
“That doesn’t mean there’s not still a lot of pain and there won’t
be pain for a while, but that basically was, we’ve now put out
rules to get back to work,” Kushner said. “Trump’s now back in
charge. It’s not the doctors.”
Daily reports of coronavirus cases in the United States have
surged to previously unseen heights, averaging more than 75,000 a
day over the last week, and the country is rapidly closing in on
nine million known infections over the course of the pandemic — a
threshold it will probably cross on Thursday.
That’s today, October 29, six months into Kushner’s “comeback phase”.
The Verge: ‘Inside Foxconn’s Empty Buildings, Empty Factories, and Empty Promises in Wisconsin’ ★
Josh Dzieza, in a devastating investigative report for The Verge:
In 2017, President Donald Trump and the Wisconsin GOP struck a
deal with Foxconn that promised to turn Southeastern Wisconsin
into a tech manufacturing powerhouse.
In exchange for billions in tax subsidies, Foxconn was supposed to
build an enormous LCD factory in the tiny village of Mount
Pleasant, creating 13,000 jobs.
Three years later, the factory — and the jobs — don’t exist, and
they probably never will. Inside the empty promises and empty
buildings of Wisconn Valley.
The hallmarks of the Republican Party, exemplified by the Trump administration, are incompetence, corruption, and lies. All three are at play in this story, but it’s hard to say in what order. The promises were all false — some combination of outright lies and utter failures — but the results are very real to the people of Wisconsin:
That illusion has had real costs. State and local governments
spent at least $400 million, largely on land and infrastructure
Foxconn will likely never need. Residents were pushed from their
homes under threat of eminent domain and dozens of houses
bulldozed to clear property Foxconn doesn’t know what to do
with. And a recurring cycle of new recruits joined the project,
eager to help it succeed, only to become trapped in a mirage.
“All people see is the eighth wonder of the world,” said an
employee. “I was there and it’s not real. I mean, it’s not. This
is something I can’t talk about ever again, because people think
you’re crazy, like none of this could ever happen. How could this
happen in the US?”
We all know how it happened. We made a terrible mistake in 2016 that we’re set to fix next week.
I can’t say enough good things about Josh Dzieza’s reporting and writing for this story.
Reuters: ‘Apple Supplier Luxshare Unnerves Foxconn as U.S.-China Feud Speeds Supply Chain Shift’ ★
Yimou Lee and Josh Horwitz, reporting for Reuters, two days before The Information’s aforelinked report alleging the souring of Apple’s relationship with Foxconn:
Apple’s top iPhone assembler, Taiwan-based Foxconn, has set up a
task force to fend off the growing clout of Chinese electronics
manufacturer Luxshare, which it believes poses a serious threat to
its dominance, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.
The project was initiated by Foxconn’s founder Terry Gou,
according to one of the sources, to target Dongguan-based
Luxshare, which is little-known internationally but is poised to
become the first mainland China-headquartered firm to assemble
iPhones — a turf until now dominated by Taiwanese manufacturers.
The task force, which the sources say was created last year,
has been looking into Luxshare’s technology, expansion plan,
hiring strategy and whether the company — which currently makes
only 5% of Foxconn’s revenue — is supported by any Chinese
I would think Apple would want to detangle its manufacturing from China, not entangle it further, but this might show how large China’s advantages are in this world.
The Information: ‘Inside Apple’s Eroding Partnership With Foxconn’ ★
Truly remarkable report by Wayne Ma for The Information:
In 2013, demand for the iPhone 5C, a budget model with a colorful
plastic shell, was so weak that hundreds of thousands of the
devices piled up in Foxconn warehouses, according to two former
Foxconn employees in its iPhone unit. Foxconn executives
complained to Apple that they couldn’t keep storing the phones for
free, but Apple had no incentive to take them because it doesn’t
have to pay for its products until they leave the warehouse, they
said. Apple cut short the iPhone 5C production schedule, while
Foxconn began giving out the phones as gifts to employees, one of
the people said. Apple eventually drew down the remaining
inventory, the person said.
This is the best confirmation I’ve ever seen that the iPhone 5C was a dud sales-wise. I mentioned this a few weeks ago (on a podcast?) and a few people disputed it, but only with anecdata. I liked the 5C, and I know it was popular with Apple’s own employees, but I never saw many in the real world and, most tellingly, Apple never again made another iPhone anything like it.
In another incident, according to an internal Apple presentation
reviewed by The Information, Apple accused Foxconn of giving
employees of rival Google a tour of a factory in China that made
the metal frame of the 12-inch MacBook, which was released in
2015. When Apple security managers learned of the Google visit,
they asked Foxconn for security footage and visitation logs, but
Foxconn refused to cooperate, according to the presentation.
Foxconn has taken other liberties with its Apple relationship,
former employees said. In 2015, Foxconn used idle factory
equipment that Apple owned to work with other clients, according
to two former employees. These people said they shipped dozens of
Apple-purchased machines for radio-frequency compliance testing to
another Foxconn site, where they were used to test smartphones
made for Huawei, an Apple rival based in China.
The Apple-owned equipment was shipped back to its original
location before Apple audited the production lines, these people
said. The practice became harder to get away with after Apple
started attaching RFID tags to some of its equipment to keep track
of where it was going, according to four former Apple and Foxconn
All sorts of other allegations in Ma’s reporting, including Foxconn billing Apple for employees it never actually hired. One can only imagine how much Foxconn has tried to get away with this year, with coronavirus travel restrictions keeping many Apple employees out of China.
Tim Culpan, longtime Bloomberg columnist who has covered Foxconn extensively, finds the allegations credible and explosive.
Philadelphia District Attorney Krasner to Donald Trump: ‘Leave Philly Alone’ ★
Statement from Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:
The Trump Administration’s efforts to suppress votes amid a
global pandemic fueled by their disregard for human life will not
be tolerated in the birthplace of American democracy.
Philadelphians from a diversity of political opinions believe
strongly in the rule of law, in fair and free elections, and in a
democratic system of government. We will not be cowed or ruled by
a lawless, power-hungry despot. Some folks learned that the hard
way in the 1700s.
Hell of a statement from America’s best DA.
MacOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Beta 1 Is Out, Despite Big Sur 11.0 Not Being Out ★
MacOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Beta 1 was released on October 28th, 2020.
The release comes about 2 weeks after Beta 10. We were expecting
Beta 11 or a GM seed, so it’s strange that we are getting 11.0.1
Beta. It’s possible that Apple Silicon Macs (currently in active
production) will have 11.0 installed on them. When they arrive
they will see 11.0.1 as an available update.
The only explanation that makes any sense is that 11.0 was “shipped” as the factory OS for some new hardware, which may well be the first Apple Silicon Mac(s), queuing up for a pre-Thanksgiving announcement. There could be new Intel Macs in the pipeline too — there almost certainly are — but you would think those might not require Big Sur.
Apple’s secrecy around hardware announcements makes their OS releases seem nutty. (Last month we had betas of iOS 14.2 without ever seeing betas of 14.1 because 14.1 was the build that shipped as the GM for iPhones 12.)
Jon Stewart Returns With a ‘Current Events’ Series for Apple TV+ ★
John Koblin, reporting for The New York Times:
Mr. Stewart, the former anchor of “The Daily Show,” has reached a
deal to host a current-affairs series for Apple TV+, the company
announced on Tuesday. Apple TV+ said it had ordered the series for
multiple seasons. It will feature one-hour episodes, each
dedicated to a single topic. Apple did not describe the format — whether it would be an interview series or something closer to
John Oliver’s weekly HBO series — or specify how many episodes it
would have per season. Apple did not set a premiere date, either.
When one company dominates an industry, and whose meteoric rise to the top remains fresh in everyone’s minds, it’s human nature to measure all competitors through a filter skewed by that leader. In streaming premium video content, that leader whose meteoric rise remains fresh-in-mind is Netflix. “How does Apple TV+ make sense for $5 a month when Netflix is like $13?” That’s a question a lot of people asked. Me too! There are competitors who, whether they admit it or not, are trying to out-Netflix Netflix, and are probably (and in most cases, definitely) going to fail. Netflix is popular and successful because they’re really good at being Netflix.
Apple TV+ isn’t trying to out-Netflix Netflix. They’re out-HBO-ing HBO — while HBO, newly-owned by AT&T, the Pepsi of phone companies, is hamfistedly pissing away what made HBO HBO by trying to out-Netflix Netflix. I swear that’s probably half the reason they went with the name “HBO Max” — Netflix has an X at the end of their name, so should we.
M.G. Siegler suggested this “Apple TV+ is the new HBO” notion on my podcast last month and I’m convinced he’s right. Apple has even recruited ex-HBO leadership. From Koblin’s report for The Times:
The Apple TV+ show will be produced by Mr. Stewart’s Busboy
Productions and Richard Plepler’s Eden Productions. Mr. Plepler,
who was chief executive of HBO when the network made Mr.
Stewart’s deal, has had a production deal with Apple TV+ since
late last year.
“What business does Apple have making original content?” is another reasonable question raised by their foray into TV and movies. If you buy into the theory that the model for TV+ is what HBO used to be, Tim Cook offered a justification in July, in his prepared statement testifying before the House Judiciary Committee:
Motivated by the mission to put things into the world that enrich
people’s lives, and believing deeply that the way we do that is by
making the best not the most, Apple has produced many
revolutionary products, not least of which is the iPhone.
The best not the most. That was HBO, and that seems to be the model for Apple TV+.
Study Shows Republicans Closely Resemble Autocratic Parties in Hungary and Turkey ★
Julian Borger, reporting for The Guardian:
The Republican party has become dramatically more illiberal in the
past two decades and now more closely resembles ruling parties in
autocratic societies than its former centre-right equivalents in
Europe, according to a new international study.
In a significant shift since 2000, the GOP has taken to demonising
and encouraging violence against its opponents, adopting attitudes
and tactics comparable to ruling nationalist parties in Hungary,
India, Poland and Turkey.
The shift has both led to and been driven by the rise of
By contrast the Democratic party has changed little in its
attachment to democratic norms, and in that regard has remained
similar to centre-right and centre-left parties in western Europe.
This is rather obvious and rather terrifying. But it’s the sort of thing that can make those who sense it doubt themselves. Sometimes things that sound like hyperbole are the plain truth. You’re not crazy if you see this and it scares the hell out of you.
This Is the Coronavirus Election ★
Ed Yong, writing for The Atlantic:
And yet, the pandemic is not impossible to control, contrary
to what White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows recently
suggested. Many other nations have successfully controlled it,
some more than once. Masks can stop people from transmitting
the virus. Shutting down nonessential indoor venues and improving
ventilation can limit the number of super-spreading
events. Rapid tests and contact tracing can identify
clusters of infection, which can be contained if people have the
space and financial security to isolate themselves. Social
interventions such as paid sick leave can give vulnerable people
the option of protecting their lives without risking their
The playbook is clear, but it demands something that has thus far
been missing — federal coordination. Only the federal government
can fund and orchestrate public-health measures at a scale
necessary to corral the coronavirus. But Trump has abdicated
responsibility, leaving states to fend for themselves. In
May, I asked several health experts whether governors and
mayors could hold the line on their own. Most were doubtful, and
the ensuing months have substantiated their fears.
I’d never hold myself up as anything even vaguely resembling a parenting expert, but I do have one piece of advice I’ve shared with friends who’ve had kids after I did. It’s about the word discipline. I grew up and spent the first decades of my life thinking discipline was a near-synonym for punishment. It’s very commonly used that way. You act up in class and you get sent to the principal for “discipline”. But that’s a euphemism, for situations where we don’t want to but should just say punishment.
The discipline that kids need from their parents is self discipline. They don’t have enough control over their emotions, their bodies, or just general common sense. Parents need to instill discipline in their kids because they lack their own. Sometimes punishment for misbehavior is part of instilling discipline — but only when it’s too late. Kids need small doses of discipline that have nothing whatsoever to do with punishment all day every day. That’s the exhausting part of parenting. Just teaching kids how to sit still and be quiet. What they’re allowed to do and touch and not do and not touch. That sort of thing.
Political leadership is like that. Citizens aren’t children and political leaders aren’t parents. But true leaders instill virtues. We, collectively, are clearly low on patience with this fucking coronavirus and all the behavioral and social restrictions surrounding it. We all miss so many people, and so many places. Real leadership can and will instill collective patience that many lack or are simply running short of individually. A sense that we’re in this together, and that the quickest (if not only) way out is via short-term collective sacrifice. Wear masks, stay apart, don’t gather. Find more patience.
We got through 4 years of World War II. We got through decades of a Cold War where nuclear annihilation was a constant threat. We did that through leadership. It matters.
White House Science Office Lists ‘Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic’ as Trump’s Top Accomplishment ★
Nathaniel Weixel, reporting for The Hill:
The White House science office listed “ending the COVID-19
pandemic” as the top accomplishment of President Trump’s first
term, even as the U.S. has set records for new daily infections
and numerous hospitals across the country are stretched to their
According to a press release intending to highlight the
administration’s science accomplishments, the Trump administration
said it “has taken decisive actions to engage scientists and
health professionals in academia, industry, and government to
understand, treat, and defeat the disease.”
They actually claimed this. Meanwhile, in reality, hospitals around the country are straining under a growing surge of infections. We’re in for a dark stretch with this gang of delusional wingnuts in charge through January 20. Vote.
Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Shamelessly Copies Not Just the iPhone 11’s Colors, But Even Its Ads ★
To say that Samsung has no shame just isn’t enough. It’s embarrassing to watch.
You know their phones next year will all have flat sides. You know their colors will all follow Apple’s lead. And the worst part is the iPhone 12’s flat-side design had leaked a year ago. All you had to do was look at the iPad Pro models that have been shipping since 2018 to see where Apple was going (back to) with the iPhone 12. You just know Samsung’s copycat team of designers wanted to go ahead and ship flat-sided iPad Pro-esque phones this year, ahead of Apple. And Samsung’s leadership was like, “No, let’s wait and follow.”
It’s not just that Samsung doesn’t deserve respect, but that they deserve outright scorn. They’re design parasites — always have been, always will be.
Samsung Rumored to Ditch Charger Starting With Galaxy S21 ★
Of course Samsung will follow Apple’s lead in this regard. It really is the right thing to do, but of course they wouldn’t go first. And of course, in the meantime, Samsung social media accounts are cracking wise about Apple not including power adapters with the iPhones 12.
‘A Guy Walks Into an Apple Store’ ★
Matt Birchler captures the incongruity of Apple’s pitch that they don’t need to include chargers in the iPhone box anymore because everyone has so many chargers already, but their new MagSafe charging only works at full capability with the new 20W adapter that no one already has.
MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple’s 20W Power Adapter ★
Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:
YouTuber Aaron Zollo of Zollotech tested several first and
third-party power adapter options with the iPhone 12 Pro and a
MagSafe charger using a meter to measure actual power output.
Paired with the 20W power adapter that Apple offers, the MagSafe
Charger successfully hit 15W, but no other chargers that he tested
provided the same speeds.
The older 18W power adapter from Apple that was replaced by the
20W version was able to charge the iPhone 12 Pro using the MagSafe
Charger at up to 13W, but the 96W Power Adapter and third-party
power adapters that provide more than 20W were not able to exceed
10W when used with the MagSafe Charger.
So the good news is that if you use Apple’s 18W adapter (which Apple provided with iPhones 11 Pro and iPads Pro, including the iPad Pro updates from March of this year) instead of their new 20W adapter (which Apple includes with the new iPad Air and sells for $19), MagSafe will still draw 13W, which is close to the maximum draw of 15W. But it’s kind of nutty that the MagSafe charger will seemingly draw 15W from one and only one adapter, Apple’s own 20W one.
Apple’s new 20W adapter is labeled “20W” at least — their 18W adapter is the exact same size and shape but the only way to see that it’s the 18W adapter is to read the tiny incredibly low-contrast small print to see that its max draw is 9V × 2A, and even then you have to know enough about electricity to multiply voltage by amps to get 18 watts. It does not say “18W” anywhere on the adapter.
Not confusing at all.
McConnell Played Trump ★
My thoughts on the electoral implications of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court last night.
‘Biden Will Make America Lead Again’ ★
William McRaven, in an op-ed for that left-wing rag The Wall Street Journal:
This week I went to the polls in Texas. Truth be told, I am a
pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, small-government, strong-defense
and a national-anthem-standing conservative. But, I also believe
that black lives matter, that the Dreamers deserve a path to
citizenship, that diversity and inclusion are essential to our
national success, that education is the great equalizer, that
climate change is real and that the First Amendment is the
cornerstone of our democracy. Most important, I believe that
America must lead in the world with courage, conviction and a
sense of honor and humility.
If we remain indifferent to our role in the world, if we retreat
from our obligation to our citizens and our allies and if we fail
to choose the right leader, then we will pay the highest price for
our neglect and shortsightedness.
I voted for Joe Biden.
McRaven was a Navy admiral and commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011-14. This is a good op-ed to pass to fence-sitting friends and family.
Trump’s Closing Pitch: Biden Will ‘Listen to the Scientists’ if Elected ★
Aris Folley, reporting for The Hill:
Trump told attendees in Carson City that supporters of his
opponent would surrender their “future to the virus,” saying:
“He’s gonna want to lockdown.”
“He’ll listen to the scientists,” Trump added in a mocking tone
before saying, “If I listened totally to the scientists, we would
right now have a country that would be in a massive depression
instead — we’re like a rocket ship. Take a look at the numbers.”
One of the things about Trump is that the outrageous stuff he says is a mix of mostly outright nonsense and bullshit but then also a wee bit of straight truth. “Biden will listen to the scientists” is one of the latter.
Take it from Donald Trump: Joe Biden will listen to scientists and experts.
Quibi Was Scabi ★
There’s a lot that was obviously wrong and dumb about Quibi. One thing I didn’t know until today is that a lot of its dumb-seeming gimmicks were just attempts to circumvent Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild rules so they could cheat writers and actors out of money. Outright shitbaggery from a company that raised $1.8 billion.
Quibi Goes Under ★
This is easily the most-predictable yet still newsworthy entertainment industry news in recent memory.
Kevin Clark has the best take:
I’m not gonna tell the Quibi people how to do their jobs but if
you wanted to raise $1.8 billion to invest in something destined
to fail you should’ve just bought the Jets.
Airbnb Hires Jony Ive for Design Consulting ★
Zoë Bernard and Cory Weinberg, reporting for The Information:
Airbnb has hired famed former Apple designer Jony Ive as a
creative consultant ahead of its initial public offering, CEO
Brian Chesky said Wednesday. The hire is the most significant in a
series of moves that has shaken up Airbnb’s creative team, a key
department in a company known for its emphasis on branding.
The company told employees Wednesday that longtime chief design
officer Alex Schleifer would leave his executive position, moving
to a part-time role. Chesky described Ive’s appointment as “a
multi-year relationship to design the next generation of Airbnb
products and services.” The company will still seek a permanent
replacement for Schleifer.
I just wondered yesterday what Ive was up to. Airbnb (of all places!) has a really strong contingent of talented ex-Apple folks. There’s a sort of “putting the band back together” thing going on there.
Online Sportsbooks FanDuel’s Stats Are Down Too ★
Stephanie Dube Dwilson, writing for Heavy:
FanDuel scores are still down as of early afternoon, and some fans
are wondering just how long it’s going to take to get the service
up and running again. Live scoring from FanDuel’s stats provider
was down this weekend and scores still haven’t been updated in the
service itself by early Monday afternoon. RealitySportsOnline was
also experiencing issues and has been working with a different
provider to update their stats. Here’s a look at what’s happening
and what we know so far.
Seems likely this same data provider is also the cause of Siri’s four-days-and-counting live sports outage — apparently a company called Stats Perform, who has been very quiet on Twitter. I just asked Siri for the score of the currently in-progress game 3 of the ALCS and I got the score of last night’s game 2.
Google Assistant, of course, got it right. You want it done right, you might need to do it yourself.
HomePod, HomePod Mini Pairing, New Home Theater Support Coming ★
Jim Dalrymple, writing for The Loop:
The short answer is no. You can’t make a stereo pair of a HomePod
and a HomePod mini. You can make a stereo pair of two HomePods or
two HomePod minis, but you can’t mix and match the two products.
Now, if you have a HomePod and a HomePod mini in your house, they
will work together so you can play music throughout the house or
use the intercom feature. So, they do work together.
This makes sense — to create a stereo pair, you need to pair two of the same HomePods. But for just playing the same audio in multiple rooms, all HomePods work together.
There is an update coming for HomePod that will add features
announced today as part of the HomePod mini launch. Those new
features include Intercom from one HomePod to another, personal
update, Maps continuity, multiuser support for Podcasts, support
for third-party music services as they become available.
No word from Apple on when we might expect these features, other than in the future. That might sound snarky but I don’t mean it to be. I think there’s a lot of coordination required for these features — updates to iOS, tvOS, and the HomePod’s OS — and “coming soon” is just an honest answer.
Siri’s Sports Integration Has Been Down for Three Days ★
I cracked wise on Twitter Sunday afternoon after I asked Siri for the score of a football game that had already ended and Siri replied with the starting time for the game, four hours in the past. (Which led to this amusing reply.)
Turns out this wasn’t a brief hiccup. Siri’s ability to report sports scores was down all weekend. No scores for the Lakers-Heat NBA Finals clincher Sunday night, no football scores, and here we are on Tuesday morning and Siri still can’t tell me, say, when the Dodgers and Braves next play.
The timing could be entirely coincidental and this is just an unplanned outage, but I can’t help but wonder if this is related to some sort of Siri upgrade debuting at today’s Apple event.
From the DF Archive: ‘Flowers Are for Chumps’ ★
The item earlier today on Tim Sneath opening up a new-in-box G4 iMac brought to mind this piece I wrote on Valentine’s Day 2003. This was a good one.
DuckDuckGo Now Has Driving and Walking Directions Via Partnership With Apple Maps ★
Now we’re excited to announce a big step forward with the
introduction of directions — private, as always, and like our
embedded maps, powered by Apple’s MapKit JS framework and
already familiar to millions of users.
You’ll now see a new addition to location and map search results
that will help you plan trips by showing you a route overview,
distance and travel time. Look out for it both at the top of
search results that display a map, as well as within our expanded
Example: walking directions from Big Ben to the Tower of London.
A lot of people have been wondering for a long time why Apple doesn’t launch its own search engine. Some think they actually are building toward that. Others wonder why Apple doesn’t just buy DuckDuckGo.
Those are good questions. But in the meantime, Apple and DuckDuckGo continue a fruitful but quiet partnership.
Spotify, Ever the Fans of Openness ★
SongShift is a nifty utility that lets you move playlists from one streaming music service to another. They support a bunch of services, including Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Music, and more. But one of these services is being a dick:
Unfortunately, as of SongShift v5.1.2, you will no longer be able
to create transfers from Spotify to another music service. We
understand this will be a disappointment for a lot of you. We wish
we didn’t have to.
The Spotify Developer Platform Team reached out and let us know
we’d need to remove transferring from their service to a competing
music service or have our API access revoked due to TOS violation.
While this is not the news we wanted to hear, we respect their
As we advance
To continue to provide some level of support for Spotify, we’ll
still be supporting transferring from other services to Spotify.
Spotify: happy to let you move playlists to their service, unwilling to let you move them from their service.
Tim Sneath Unboxes a 2004 iMac G4 ★
Fun thread, both in the beginning, when he’s tweeting under the conceit that it’s a genuinely new machine, and at the end, when he breaks character. (The iMac actually is new-in-box, which is cool, but you know what I mean by “genuinely new” here.)
There’s no question that the rate of progress for PCs has slowed tremendously. This 2004 Mac is radically better, more capable, and less expensive than one from 1989, in a way that’s not true comparing a 2004 iMac to one from today. That’s the nature of progress. The industry made just as much amazing progress in the last 15 years, but the vertigo-inducing radical progress happened in phones, not PCs.
Now, I think, phones are today where PCs were around 2004. (I count iPads as big phones in the context of this argument.)
How Excel’s Row Limit Caused Loss of 16,000 COVID Test Results in England ★
Alex Hern, writing for The Guardian:
A million-row limit on Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software may
have led to Public Health England misplacing nearly 16,000 Covid
test results, it is understood. The data error, which led to
15,841 positive tests being left off the official daily figures,
means than 50,000 potentially infectious people may have been
missed by contact tracers and not told to self-isolate. […]
In this case, the Guardian understands, one lab had sent its daily
test report to PHE in the form of a CSV file — the simplest
possible database format, just a list of values separated by
commas. That report was then loaded into Microsoft Excel, and the
new tests at the bottom were added to the main database.
But while CSV files can be any size, Microsoft Excel files can
only be 1,048,576 rows long — or, in older versions which PHE may
have still been using, a mere 65,536. When a CSV file longer than
that is opened, the bottom rows get cut off and are no longer
displayed. That means that, once the lab had performed more than a
million tests, it was only a matter of time before its reports
failed to be read by PHE.
The primary problem here isn’t Excel’s million-row limit; it’s the fact that if you import a CSV file that exceeds that limit, Excel doesn’t report an error. It just silently cuts them off, which is inexcusable. [Update: This tweet from Leon Zandman indicates that Excel does present an error message when it attempted to import a CSV file with too many rows or columns. Update 2: BBC News, without citing an explicit source, fingers the use of the old XLS Excel file format, which has a limit of just 65,000 rows of data.]
Everyone knows error messages are bad, but the reason they’re bad is the error part, not the message part. Not reporting errors just makes everything worse, by pretending that the errors aren’t even happening. (Apple, I’m looking in your direction.)
Also reminiscent of our cuckoo-in-chief’s unshakable belief that the solution to America’s COVID pandemic is to reduce testing, not reduce the number of infections.
Golf on Mars ★
Speaking of iPhone games I love, one of my all-time favorites is Justin Smith/Captain Games’s 2014 classic Desert Golfing (yours truly: 5,001 strokes through 1,925 holes — really let myself slide after hovering closer to 2 strokes per hole).
Finally, a sequel: Golf on Mars. It’s exquisite. $3 (cheap!) in the App Store.
Up Spell ★
Clever, deceptively simple new iPhone word game from Ken Kocienda (author of the excellent book Creative Selection and lead developer of the original iPhone keyboard, among numerous other accomplishments in his 15-year stint at Apple). Up Spell is like a fast-paced solo version of Scrabble. I enjoy so few games, I wind up linking to just about every one I do like — and I’m digging Up Spell. (I think I kind of stink at it, though, because while I’m decent at word games like Scrabble and Letterpress, I’m a slow thinker.)
$2 (cheap!) with no in-app purchase horseplay.
Netflix 4K Streaming on Mac Requires Safari on Big Sur and a Mac With a T2 Chip ★
Netflix Help Center:
Mac computers support streaming in the following browser
- Google Chrome up to 720p
- Mozilla Firefox up to 720p
- Opera up to 720p
- Safari up to 1080p on macOS 10.10 to 10.15
- Safari up to 4K on macOS 11.0 or later
Netflix is available in Ultra HD on Mac computers. To stream in
Ultra HD, you will need:
- A Mac computer with macOS 11.0 Big Sur installed.
- The latest version of Safari browser
- Select 2018 or later Mac computer with an Apple T2 Security chip
- A 60Hz 4K capable display (with HDCP 2.2 connection if external
(Erratic use of bullet-point terminating periods, sic.)
I almost never watch Netflix on my Macs, personally, but I didn’t realize that non-Safari browsers are stuck with 720p. Not sure what the deal is with that. But the fact that 4K support is going to require MacOS 11 Big Sur and a T2-equipped Mac (or, surely, all future Apple Silicon-based Macs) is an anti-piracy measure. I think the T2 has an HEVC decoder built in, so all the video decoding happens at that level, making it harder for anyone to pirate. It basically makes the video decoding chain on Mac very much like the video decoding chain on iOS devices, where we’ve had 4K streaming from Netflix for years.
As a “march of progress” indicator, I find this fascinating. Until recently, efficiently decoding 4K video in real-time was computationally impossible. Now, Macs are doing it not with their CPUs or GPUs, but with this extra T2 subsystem that’s primarily there for security.
White House Refuses to Say When POTUS Last Tested Negative ★
White House officials believe POTUS was infected at the event for Judge Barrett on Saturday Sept 26.
They will not say when POTUS last tested negative, raising questions as to whether he was tested at all between infection and the debate Tuesday Sept 29.
My theory ever since this White House outbreak erupted is that Trump had not been getting tested regularly, at all. The accurate tests aren’t painful but they are momentarily unpleasant (I got tested back in June), so I think Trump had been telling his doctors to just test everyone else around him, not him. I don’t think he was tested before the now-infamous super-spreader ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, I don’t think he was tested before the debate last Tuesday (which now seems forever ago, no?), and even after top advisor Hope Hicks got sick with coronavirus, I don’t think he got tested before heading out to campaign events in Minnesota and New Jersey last week.
They won’t say when last he tested negative because the answer is scandalous.
Instagram Brings Back Classic Icons With 10th Anniversary Easter Egg ★
Sam Byford, writing for The Verge:
Instagram launched ten years ago today: the photo-sharing app first hit the App Store on October 6th, 2010, a few months after the release of the iPhone 4. To celebrate, Instagram has added an easter egg to the app that lets you change its home screen icon.
The icons available include the classic Polaroid-style camera designs that were used for more than five years. There are themed variations on the current logo, too, including Pride rainbow colors and monochrome options. The app update also includes another feature: a private map and archive of your stories from the past three years.
In addition to depth and texture in UI design and iconography, I also miss Easter eggs.
Facebook Bans QAnon Across Its Platforms ★
Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, reporting for NBC News:
Facebook said Tuesday that it is banning all QAnon accounts from its platforms, a significant escalation over its previous actions and one of the broadest rules the social media giant has put in place in its history. […]
A company spokesperson said the enforcement, which started Tuesday, will “bring to parity what we’ve been doing on other pieces of policy with regard to militarized social movements,” such as militia and terror groups that repeatedly call for violence.
The best time to do this was long ago. The next best time is now. Good for Facebook for doing the right thing here.
Trump Says He Will Not Negotiate on COVID Relief Until After Election ★
President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he has instructed his representatives to stop negotiating with House Democrats on coronavirus relief until after the election, accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “not negotiating in good faith.” […]
Behind the scenes: Several Trump advisers told Axios’ Jonathan Swan they are utterly perplexed by the decision. They need this like a punch in the face.
A Trump campaign adviser said of the president’s decision to own pulling out of the talks: “You have to try to be this politically inept. What is going on in the White House? Where is Mark Meadows?” One GOP lawmaker told Axios that this is “a gift” for Pelosi.
This would actually make a certain sense, in his usual vindictive, divisive way, if Trump promised that he will only agree to post-election COVID relief for states that vote for him. But here in the real world, it makes no sense at all.
Eddie Van Halen Dies at 65 ★
Andy Greene, writing for Rolling Stone:
Were it not for his titanic influence, hard rock after the late
1970s would have evolved in unimaginably different ways. He may
not have invented two-handed tapping, but he perfected the
practice and introduced it to a mass audience. Yet despite his
complete mastery of the electric guitar, he never learned to
“I don’t know shit about scales or music theory,” he told Rolling
Stone in 1980. “I don’t want to be seen as the fastest guitar in
town, ready and willing to gun down the competition. All I know is
that rock & roll guitar, like blues guitar, should be melody,
speed, and taste, but more important, it should have emotion. I
just want my guitar playing to make people feel something: happy,
sad, even horny.”
That it did.
House Judiciary Committee Report: ‘Investigation of Competition in Digital Markets’ (PDF) ★
The House Judiciary subcommittee that held a hearing with the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google back in July has issued a 449-page report on its findings and recommendations. It just dropped, so I’m not sure what’s in it, other than brief quotes from yours truly and Brent Simmons on pp. 341-342.
All Consuming ★
New podcast from Noah Kalina and Adam Lisagor wherein they buy and try a new direct-to-consumer product (think: stuff advertised on podcasts and Instagram) and talk about it. I swore up and down I wasn’t going to buy anything they talk about but I’m already signed up for a breakfast cereal subscription.
Apple Event Next Tuesday: ‘Hi, Speed’ ★
Not much to read into on the event name or invitation design, other than some speculation that the concentric rings are a hint about new HomePods. But I really can’t see making HomePods the central design aspect of an invitation. Sometimes nice looking rings are just nice looking rings.
John McAfee Arrested in Spain on Tax Evasion Charges, Now Awaiting Extradition to U.S. ★
I’ll go out on a limb and say this tweet isn’t aging well.