Linked List: October 2020

The Talk Show: ‘Sounds Like a Good Red Sauce Place’ 

Jason Snell returns to the show to talk about the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, the new iPad-Pro-style iPad Air, the remarkable state of the Mac, and David Letterman’s battery-shopping trip to CVS.

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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 

Jason Snell:

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 iPhone charger.

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 theirs are 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 celebrate.

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 government entity.

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 employees.

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 

Mr. Macintosh:

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, especially one 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 Donald Trump.

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 livelihoods.

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 breaking points.

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.

The Font of Misinformation and Lies at Trump Campaign Rallies 

Interesting (and repulsive) visualization from The New York Times of Trump’s lies and misinformation in a recent stump speech. Black and white and red all over.

Om Malik: ‘Why Great Design Is Timeless’ 

Om Malik:

A lot of commentary has followed the launch of the iPhone 12, some of it praising Apple for going back to the old design and some complaining about Apple’s inability to do something different from a design perspective. Both sides miss the point: Enduring design doesn’t need constant reinterpretation. It needs tweaking, polishing, and subtle improvement. I think of the iPhone and its design language very similar to Porsche’s design language. Or, for that matter of a classic Leica camera.

I love the basic idea that the iPhone 4 is Apple’s equivalent of the Porsche 911.

‘50 Shades of Blue’ 

Basic Apple Guy:

Whether it’s Alaskan, Cape Cod, Cornflower, Cosmos, Delft, Denim, Linen, Midnight, Mist, Ocean, Royal, or Surf Blue, I’ve always fawned over the shades of Blue Apple has used across their accessory lineup. Apple has released dozens of blue accessories over the years, regularly refreshing colours in the fall, spring, and summer months, and will likely continue to release dozens more as the years roll on. But in this entry, I wanted to record a quick snapshot of the 10 (yes, TEN!) different blues Apple has currently listed across its product line.

This doesn’t include the no-adjective (but quite striking) blue of the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini and pacific blue of the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, as Basic Apple Guy is counting only accessories here. But that brings to mind something I thought about over the weekend, after seeing this new spot for the new iPad Airs several times while watching baseball, and, alas, football. The spot emphasizes the new color options for the iPad Air, but also emphasizes the Magic Keyboard, which has no color options at all.

I get it that the Magic Keyboard is a serious accessory, seriously priced at $300. But isn’t it likely that some people would like to buy one in fun colors to match their iPads? Me, I’d still buy it in black/space gray, but it sure looks drab in this iPad Air commercial.

WSJ: ‘Health Agency Halts Coronavirus Ad Campaign, Leaving Santa Claus in the Cold’ 

Julie Wernau, James V. Grimaldi, and Stephanie Armour, reporting not for The Onion, I swear, but for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

A federal health agency halted a public-service coronavirus advertising campaign funded by $250 million in taxpayer money after it offered a special vaccine deal to an unusual set of essential workers: Santa Claus performers.

As part of the plan, a top Trump administration official wanted the Santa performers to promote the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccination and, in exchange, offered them early vaccine access ahead of the general public, according to audio recordings. Those who perform as Mrs. Claus and elves also would have been included.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Friday the Santa plan would be scrapped. The deal was the brainchild of the official, Michael Caputo, an HHS assistant secretary, who took a 60-day medical leave last month. [...]

Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, called the news “extremely disappointing,” adding: “This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen.”

“I can handle things. I’m smart. Not like everybody says, like dumb. We’re not going to use just any Santas. Fuck those guys with the fake beards! No one’s gonna take a vaccine from them! We’re going straight to the Santas with real beards. Santas people can trust. I’m smart and I want respect!” —“Fredo” Caputo

Wild Finish to Last Night’s Game 4 of the World Series 

An outfielder boots an easy ball, a baserunner heading home trips and falls and starts crawling back to third until he realizes his coach is frantically telling him to turn around and go the other way again, a catcher who doesn’t even know where the ball he misplayed is, and a pitcher whose idea of backing up the play is to just ... wander around — some strong Little League vibes on this, the most exciting sports play I’ve seen all year. Baseball.


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Amazon Inexplicably Removes Apple Card From Payment Options 

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:

Apple Card owners who had their Apple Cards stored in Amazon as a saved payment option this morning started noticing that the Apple Card has disappeared from the payment list.

Multiple MacRumors readers have notified us about the problem, and we’ve also been able to replicate it. Apple Cards are missing from the Amazon website and app and attempting to re-add one pops out an error message that credit card information is unable to be saved.

A few friends confirmed this happened to them. I have an Apple Card but never saved it to my Amazon account, but indeed, I can’t add it right now. Amazon support is telling people this is related to Apple Pay, because Amazon doesn’t accept Apple Pay, but that can’t be right because Apple Card works as a regular Mastercard. Must be a glitch, but what a pain in the ass, especially for anyone who relies on their Apple Card as their sole or primary credit card.


In a statement to MacRumors, an Amazon spokesperson said the following: “We are aware of this technical issue and are actively working to resolve it as soon as possible.”

‘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.

Apple Launches ‘Apple Music TV’ – Free Streaming Music Videos 

I think Sting said it (well, sang it) best.

The Verge: Beats Flex Review 

Chris Welch, The Verge:

But the other reason why the Flex buds are an important product is, well, Android. Instead of using Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector for charging, as many Beats headphones have since the acquisition, the Flex have a USB-C port. Beats’ Android app has already been updated to support them. These moves show that as Apple continues putting a greater emphasis on audio products — with the new HomePod mini and long-rumored premium headphones expected to launch soon — Beats is realizing it needs to stand independently from Apple’s ecosystem if the brand wants to continue its enormous success.

$50 for decent-sounding wireless earbuds with W1 chips for Apple device integration, and USB-C charging and a nice-looking Android app for better outside-the-Apple-universe appeal. A product like this is exactly why Apple is keeping the Beats brand around.

I Will Vote 

The “I Will Vote” website is a great resource (along with, which I’ve had linked in my election countdown up in the corner). Today is the voter registration deadline in a bunch of states, including my home state of Pennsylvania. It’s a good reminder to register now if you haven’t already, and to check your registration if you’re already in.

If you’ve never voted, this is the year to start. If you know friends and family who’ve never voted, let them know how easy it is to start.


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 that run on Apple platforms.

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Joe Biden: ‘Vote for America’ 

One of the best commercials I’ve ever seen.

‘Corruption, Anger, Chaos, Incompetence, Lies, Decay’ – The Trump Kakistocracy In Review 

The New York Times Editorial Board:

Mr. Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history. In 2016, his bitter account of the nation’s ailments struck a chord with many voters. But the lesson of the last four years is that he cannot solve the nation’s pressing problems because he is the nation’s most pressing problem.

He is a racist demagogue presiding over an increasingly diverse country; an isolationist in an interconnected world; a showman forever boasting about things he has never done, and promising to do things he never will.


That Unremarked-Upon Thing on the Side of iPhone 12’s Is a 5G mmWave Antenna Window, But It’s Only There on U.S. Models 

Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge:

There’s a simple explanation behind the missing window, though: the iPhone 12 doesn’t support mmWave 5G outside of the United States. If you peruse Apple’s frequency bands page, you’ll see that compatibility with bands n260 and n261 are simply missing everywhere else in the world.

Honestly, I’m not sure it’s a huge loss. mmWave 5G does offer far higher speeds than the “nationwide” flavor of low-band 5G that you’ll also find rolling out today, but the only other consistent thing about mmWave is its inconsistency, since even outdoors, you might not find a signal from one street corner to the next.

People got excited when they saw this because it looks like the magnetic window for pairing an Apple Pencil to an iPad Pro.

Jose Altuve Has the Yips 

Tyler Kepner, writing for The New York Times:

Altuve, a second baseman, made two throwing errors in Game 2 on Monday, the first with two outs in the first inning. Manuel Margot followed with a three-run homer, and the Rays won by one run.

In Game 3 on Tuesday, with the Astros leading by 1-0 in the sixth inning, Altuve tried to start a double play but bounced his throw to second, well in front of shortstop Carlos Correa. Instead of having two outs and the bases empty, the Rays had no outs and two runners on. They went on to score five runs in the inning.

You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out what’s wrong with Altuve. His guilty conscience is consuming him because he’s been exposed as a cheater, and he’s now the most despised player — deservedly so — in the game. The Astros would already be heading to the World Series if not for his yips. Instead, they’re on the cusp of losing to the Rays, a solid team of fine players — bitter but worthy division rivals of the Yankees. All because of Altuve. You hate to see it.

NYT: ‘As Virus Spread Early On, Reports of Trump Administration Briefings Fueled Sell-Off’ 

Kate Kelly and Mark Mazzetti, reporting for The New York Times:

On the afternoon of Feb. 24, President Trump declared on Twitter that the coronavirus was “very much under control” in the United States, one of numerous rosy statements that he and his advisers made at the time about the worsening epidemic. He even added an observation for investors: “Stock market starting to look very good to me!” But hours earlier, senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the conservative Hoover Institution, were less confident. [...]

The next day, board members — many of them Republican donors — got another taste of government uncertainty from Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council. Hours after he had boasted on CNBC that the virus was contained in the United States and “it’s pretty close to airtight,” Mr. Kudlow delivered a more ambiguous private message. He asserted that the virus was “contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don’t know,” according to a document describing the sessions obtained by The New York Times.

The document, written by a hedge fund consultant who attended the three-day gathering of Hoover’s board, was stark. “What struck me,” the consultant wrote, was that nearly every official he heard from raised the virus “as a point of concern, totally unprovoked.”

Incompetent and corrupt.

Medium Solves All Its Problems With Yet Another Altogether New Brand Identity 

Hats off to you if you figure out what their new logo represents. My wrong guess was that it was a weird “M”. I am, for some reason, reminded of Pepsi’s ill-fated tilt-to-the-future logo redesign from a decade ago.

The multi-talented Jane Manchun Wong — before temporarily (I hope!) deactivating her Twitter account — made a nice tutorial recreating Medium’s new mark using state-of-the-art illustration software.

The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini Cost $30 More Than Apple Suggests 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

At the event, Apple referred to these products as starting at $699 (iPhone 12 mini) and $799 (iPhone 12), but those prices are not actually accurate unless you slap a big asterisk on there. (As Apple does on its marketing pages, because it must.)

Here’s what’s actually happening, at least in the U.S.: Apple has cut deals with AT&T and Verizon that give existing customers of those carriers $30 off their purchases. The actual prices of the two models are $729 and $829, and that’s what you’ll pay if you’re a U.S. subscriber to Sprint, T-Mobile, any smaller pay-as-you-go carriers, or if you want to buy a SIM-free model with no carrier connection at all. (The 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are the same price on all carriers.)

Outrageous? No. Unseemly? Yes.

Yours Truly on CNBC Yesterday, Before Apple’s Event 

Look at me, on the TV. (My comments hold up pretty well post-event, I think.)

The Difference a Year Makes 

Mark Gurman, tonight:

Testing 5G on an Android flagship in Los Angeles (a major city obviously) on T-Mobile — consistently seeing worse to equivalent on 5G versus 4G. Where’s the improvement? [...]

I was sort of surprised how much time Apple spent marketing 5G today. When 3G got improvements in 2011 with the iPhone 4s, Apple basically shrugged it off. When they added 4G, it was very much positioned as a checking a box. This year, it’s almost the whole story.

Mark Gurman, 13 months ago:

I’ve seen a short-sighted meme from the usual suspects that the iPhone 11 is fine without 5G support because the U.S. doesn’t have much 5G coverage. Remember: People now keep phones for 3 years, and 5G will be strong in key markets within 12 months, including China and the U.S.

Revolutionary, Indeed 

This is the Revolution R180 — a $270 toaster “controlled by a touchscreen with 63 precise settings for everything from bread and bagels to English Muffins and waffles”.

This is a 25-year-old internet joke that the people who made this toaster should have read before creating it.

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 map module.

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.

Why then?

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 decision.

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.)

Instabug: Application Performance Monitoring Built for Mobile Apps 

My thanks to Instabug for sponsoring last week at DF. Investigate, diagnose, and resolve issues up to 4× faster with Instabug’s latest Application Performance Monitoring.

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Apple Is Extending Some Apple TV+ Subscriptions Through February 2021 for Free 

Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch:

Apple told me today that it will be extending Apple TV+ subscriptions that are set to end November 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 through their billing date in February of 2021.

The basic situation is that Apple gave away a free year of Apple TV+ to new device purchasers last year and those are all set to end in November. Apple knows everyone is still looking at a tough winter ahead filled with COVID-related restrictions so it’s bumping those subs out to February.

With Apple putting this out the week before new iPhones are announced, I take it to mean that new iPhones purchased this year will not come with a free year of TV+. That was a last year thing. Perhaps, though, new iPhones purchased this year will come with some sort of sweetener for Apple One subscriptions? That’s what I would do if I were Apple.

‘Did You Write Mine?’ 

Marty Noble, himself now dead, writing about an encounter in Cooperstown with Whitey Ford back in 2010:

Because I no longer covered the Mets, as I had done for decades, he lost track of me. So when our paths crossed at the Otesaga, the hotel headquarters for Hall of Fame weekend, he asked what had become of me.

“I can’t find you on the box [the computer] anymore,” he said.

“Well, I have different assignments now,” I said. “Columns and features and I do a lot of obituaries of baseball people.”

“Jeez, how many guys die?” he said.

I explained that parts of obituaries are written well before deaths occur so that stories can be posted quickly when needed. “Newspapers have many obits done for famous people,” I said. “The [New York] Times updates the president’s almost every day.”

After a moment’s thought, Whitey looked at me quizzically and asked, “So, did you write mine?”

I said, “Yeah, as a matter of fact, I did.”

“How’d it turn out?” he asked.

Hodinkee Radio: All About the Apple Watch Series 6 and WatchOS 7 

The new episode of the Hodinkee Radio podcast is all about Apple Watch. First up, Hodinkee’s Stephen Pulvirent has a really good interview with Apple VP of human interface design Alan Dye. Next, a roundtable discussion between Pulvirent, Om Malik, and yours truly.

The Talk Show: ‘I’m Expecting Led Zeppelin IV’ 

MG Siegler returns to the show to talk about Apple Watch, the future of premium TV and movies, and a preview of next week’s “Hi, Speed” Apple event.

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Yankees Great Whitey Ford, ‘Chairman of the Board’, Dies at 91 

Mark Feinsand, writing for

The left-hander — nicknamed “The Chairman of the Board” by batterymate Elston Howard — went 236-106 with a 2.75 ERA during his 16 years with New York, winning his only Cy Young Award in 1961. Ford, whose .690 winning percentage is the highest of any pitcher with at least 150 victories in the modern era, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

“I grew up on Long Island, not too far from Yankee Stadium,” Ford said during his Hall of Fame induction. “I was a Yankee fan since I was five or six years old. To think when I was 21 years old I’d be playing with [Joe] DiMaggio and [Yogi] Berra against guys like Stan Musial and Roy Campanella, it’s just something I can’t fathom. It’s just been great.” [...]

Ford pitched in 11 World Series during his 16 seasons, winning six rings. His 10 World Series victories remain the most of any pitcher in history.

Richard Goldstein, for The New York Times:

Methodical on the mound, Ford was irrepressible off it. He joined with Mantle and Billy Martin for late nights on the town, inspiring Stengel to call them the Three Musketeers. Mantle, too, entered the Hall of Fame in 1974, and at the induction ceremony he was asked about the chemistry behind the friendship between him, the country boy from Oklahoma, and Ford, who grew up on the streets of Queens. “We both liked Scotch,” he said.

Business Insider: Microsoft Plans to Bring Xbox Game Pass to iOS as a Web App 

Ashley Stewart, reporting for Business Insider:

Microsoft’s gaming boss Phil Spencer told employees at an all-hands meeting on Wednesday the company is planning to bring Game Pass to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, targeting 2021 for the potential release of a “direct browser-based solution,” Business Insider has learned.

“We absolutely will end up on iOS,” Spencer told employees, according to two people with direct knowledge of his comments. Microsoft did not comment at the time of publication.

I wondered if the web app route might be what Microsoft would try after Amazon announced that’s what it’s doing for its game streaming service. Really curious to see how well this will work.

‘We Hacked Apple for 3 Months: Here’s What We Found’ 

Sam Curry:

Between the period of July 6th to October 6th myself, Brett Buerhaus, Ben Sadeghipour, Samuel Erb, and Tanner Barnes worked together and hacked on the Apple bug bounty program. [...] During our engagement, we found a variety of vulnerabilities in core portions of their infrastructure that would’ve allowed an attacker to fully compromise both customer and employee applications, launch a worm capable of automatically taking over a victim’s iCloud account, retrieve source code for internal Apple projects, fully compromise an industrial control warehouse software used by Apple, and take over the sessions of Apple employees with the capability of accessing management tools and sensitive resources.

There were a total of 55 vulnerabilities discovered with 11 critical severity, 29 high severity, 13 medium severity, and 2 low severity reports. [...] As of October 6th, 2020, the vast majority of these findings have been fixed and credited. They were typically remediated within 1-2 business days (with some being fixed in as little as 4-6 hours).

This is some truly eye-popping stuff. Read-only access to the source code to iOS and MacOS? That’s a far cry from read-write access, but still well into “wow” territory. Hacker News has good commentary, including this sub-thread with perspective from Thomas Ptacek on the economics of bug bounty hunting.

Denoting Texting Corrections 

Ever since this XKCD comic appeared back in July, I’ve taken note of how people in my circle make texting corrections. Most just type the corrected spelling (often a de-autocorrection) without punctuation, but I’ve noticed a few who use asterisks. I use a carrot, which I’ve always thought was a natural mark for corrections.


Ars Technica: ‘Google’s Supreme Court Faceoff With Oracle Was a Disaster for Google’ 

Timothy B. Lee, writing for Ars Technica:

The Supreme Court’s eight justices on Wednesday seemed skeptical of Google’s argument that application programming interfaces (APIs) are not protected by copyright law. The high court was hearing oral arguments in Google’s decade-long legal battle with Oracle. Oracle argues that Google infringed its copyright in the Java programming language when it re-implemented Java APIs for use by Android app developers. [...]

Arguably Goldstein’s most important task here — and throughout Wednesday’s argument — was to convince justices that there was an important difference between APIs and other code and that this difference had legal implications.

“He did an abysmal job,” Cornell University legal scholar James Grimmelmann told Ars in a Wednesday phone interview. “At the level of nuance he was willing to get into, his case was a loser. The only way to make it stick is to be nuanced about what it means to declare code.”

My gut feeling is that Google is in the right here — APIs should not be copyrightable — but that they utterly failed to make the argument in a clear way.

The Verge’s Sarah Jeong live-tweeted the arguments, and as usual, her notes are a wonderful way to get the condensed gist.

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 resolutions:

  • 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 display).

(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 

Jake Tapper:

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 read music.

“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.

Most of Scottish Wikipedia Was Written by an American in Mangled ‘Groundskeeper Willie’-Style English 

Edward Ongweso Jr., writing for Vice back in August:

For over six years, one Wikipedia user — AmaryllisGardener — has written well over 23,000 articles on the Scots Wikipedia and done well over 200,000 edits. The only problem is that AmaryllisGardener isn’t Scottish, they don’t speak Scots, and none of their articles are written in Scots.

Since 2013, this user — a self-professed Christian INTP furry living somewhere in North Carolina — has simply written articles that are written in English, riddled with misspellings that mimic a spoken Scottish accent. Many of the articles were written while they were a teenager. AmaryllisGardener is an admin of the Scots Wikipedia, and Wikipedians now have no idea what to do, because AmaryllisGardener’s influence over the country’s pages has been so vast that their only options seem to be to delete the Scots language version entirely or revert the entire thing back to 2012. [...]

On a page about the movie Million Dollar Baby, AmaryllisGardener wrote “This film is aboot an unnerappreciatit boxin trainer.” This sort of language is repeated across all 23,000 articles they wrote, as well as in the articles they edited; because they are an admin of the site, they have the ability to control much of what ultimately stays on it.

Says AmaryllisGardener on their talk page: “If I had to do over I would’ve kept to more cleanup and just keeping the wiki up and running instead of writing articles, but I meant the best.”

Jake Tapper: ‘Get Well and Get It Together’ 

Jake Tapper, on CNN’s State of the Union:

I wish you all health and recovery and a long life. But we have to note the tragedy here. It is horrible, and awful, and profound. Sick and in isolation, Mr. President, you have become a symbol of your own failures — failures of recklessness, ignorance, arrogance — the same failures you have been inflicting on the rest of us. Get well and please — for the rest of us who don’t get to go to Walter Reed — get well and get it together.

Four minutes of pure truth.

Roger Angell at a Hundred 

Speaking of Roger Angell, he recently celebrated his 100th birthday, and the occasion was nicely captured by this short piece by Mark Singer in (of course) The New Yorker.

K: The Overlooked Variable That’s Driving the Pandemic 

Zeynep Tufekci, writing for The Atlantic:

Unfortunately, averages aren’t always useful for understanding the distribution of a phenomenon, especially if it has widely varying behavior. If Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, walks into a bar with 100 regular people in it, the average wealth in that bar suddenly exceeds $1 billion. If I also walk into that bar, not much will change. Clearly, the average is not that useful a number to understand the distribution of wealth in that bar, or how to change it. Sometimes, the mean is not the message. Meanwhile, if the bar has a person infected with COVID-19, and if it is also poorly ventilated and loud, causing people to speak loudly at close range, almost everyone in the room could potentially be infected — a pattern that’s been observed many times since the pandemic begin, and that is similarly not captured by R. That’s where the dispersion comes in.

Another must-read piece from Tufekci. The CDC and WHO have both been way too slow to acknowledge the ways that this virus actually spreads and adapt their mitigation advice accordingly. It doesn’t spread like influenza at all. Super-spreading events are the key.

‘Bob Gibson Keeps His Distance’ 

Roger Angell’s 1980 profile of Bob Gibson for The New Yorker is as great a piece of writing about a great athlete as you’ll ever read. Like all truly great writing about sports, it’s not about the game at all.

Mega-Chain Cineworld Closing Regal Movie Theaters Following ‘No Time to Die’ Delay 

The Hollywood Reporter:

Following the delay of more Hollywood tentpoles — including James Bond film No Time to Die — mega-movie theater chain Cineworld, the second largest exhibitor globally after AMC, is planning to temporarily close or keep shut all of its locations in the U.K. and the U.S., The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. [...]

Disney and Pixar’s Soul is likewise expected to scrub its Thanksgiving 2020 release, leaving exhibitors without major fall tentpoles following the delay of No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 1984 and Black Widow. Without fresh titles on the marquee, it will be tough to win over already-wary consumers.

This framing is backwards and broken. The cause of movie theaters’ problems isn’t the lack of tentpole movies in the cinema. The cause is the goddamn pandemic that remains out of control. Almost no one would go to a movie theater amidst this, and no one should. You can’t successfully release a blockbuster theatrically in a pandemic, and you can’t have movie theaters without blockbusters. Ergo theaters need to remain closed. Jiminy.

Simris Algae Omega-3 

My thanks to Simris for sponsoring DF this week to promote their algae-based omega-3 supplements. One third of the matter in your brain is literally made of omega-3, and many people eat fish and take fish oil as an omega-3 supplement. But the source of omega-3 is algae — not fish. Fish get their omegas from eating algae. Simris Algae Omega-3 is a completely plant-based and superior alternative to fish oil and krill, without the mercury, PCB, and dioxins, and without harming our oceans.

Simris is a Swedish pioneer company growing microalgae. They save and protect endangered marine habitats by replacing unsustainable marine ingredients, and proudly combine Scandinavian innovation and design at its finest.

Everything about Simris’s products is just really nice: from their website to their packaging to the actual capsules. Just great design through and through.

Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson Dies at 84 

Rick Hummel, writing for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The Cardinals have a goodly number of pitchers enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, including Dizzy Dean and Jesse “Pop” Haines. But by any account, the greatest Cardinals pitcher of them all was Bob Gibson, who died at age 84 Friday night in Omaha, Nebraska, under hospice care after fighting pancreatic cancer for more than a year.

Gibson was the Cardinals’ second National Baseball Hall of Famer to die in the past month. His longtime teammate, Lou Brock, died at age 81 on Sept. 6. Gibson’s death came on the 52nd anniversary of perhaps his greatest game, a record 17-strikeout performance in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series.

The two pitchers I most wish I could have seen play of my dad’s generation are Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. So many great stories about Gibson, and such astounding accomplishments.

‘No Time to Die’ Delayed Until April 2021 

I’m starting to think this coronavirus thing might not be over soon:

MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, today announced the release of NO TIME TO DIE, the 25th film in the James Bond series, will be delayed until 2 April 2021 in order to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience.

How to Protect Yourself From the Aerosol Spread of COVID-19 

Jason Kottke:

A group of scientists who believe that WHO and the CDC are being too slow in acknowledging the role of aerosol transmission in spreading Covid-19 have written up a Google Doc of advice for the public: FAQs on Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 Aerosol Transmission. [...]

Right now, in my opinion as someone who has done a ton of reading about Covid-19, the most best accessible information on how individuals and societies can protect themselves and others during the pandemic (and why) is available in Jimenez’s Time article, Aaron Carroll’s NY Times piece about how to think about risk management, Zeynep Tufekci’s piece in the Atlantic about dispersion and superspreading, and now this Google Doc by Jimenez et al.



Schadenfreude was our top lookup on October 2nd, by a very considerable margin, following President Trump’s announcement that he and the First Lady had tested positive for COVID-19.

When the Client Specs Arial 

From Shane Goldmacher and Katie Glueck’s report for The New York Times on Joe Biden’s preparation for this week’s debate:

Given Mr. Biden’s current polling edge, his advisers have been downplaying the debate’s significance even as the former vice president has plunged himself into days of intense preparations. He is rehearsing and studying his briefing books — Mr. Biden has long preferred the Arial typeface, 14 point — in a process overseen by his longtime adviser and former chief of staff, Ron Klain, who similarly ran Hillary Clinton’s debate camp.

This too came up on my podcast this week, and my take is simple. When someone says they like Arial, what they mean is that they like Helvetica and they don’t know the difference. Any designer worth their salt, when asked for Arial, uses Helvetica instead.

Dithering October 2020 

Speaking of podcasts, new cover art for Dithering, the new-ish thrice weekly podcast from yours truly and Ben Thompson:

October 2020 cover art for Dithering, depicting a man tabulating votes on election night 1948, for the Dewey-Truman election.

$5/month or $50/year, three episodes per week, 15 minutes per episode. Not a minute less, not a minute more. And, for the curious: a free monthly compilation preview show, available in your favorite podcast player.

Email Addresses It Would Be Really Annoying to Give Out Over the Phone 

This 2004 classic by Michael Ward for McSweeney’s came up at the tail end of my podcast this week with Underscore David Smith, and is well worth a re-link.