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Linked List: September 2020


My thanks to Hey for sponsoring last week at DF. You’ve probably heard about Hey, but here’s how they describe it (and capitalize it):

Email. It feels like a chore. It’s overwhelming, it’s messy, it’s relentless. It’s necessary, but hopelessly broken.

That’s why we fixed it.

Introducing HEY. HEY’s fresh approach transforms email into something you want to use, not something you’re forced to deal with.

HEY puts you back in control. You decide who can — and can’t — email you. HEY is packed with workflows, not workarounds, that help you cut back on the emails you get, and focus on the ones you want.

There’s nothing else out there like it. Give it a shot — it’ll change your relationship with email for the better.

I have a lot to say about Hey, and I plan to write a lot more about it soon. Briefly though, I’ll just say this: when I hear that someone “reinvented” something like email, I roll my eyes and take it with a very large grain of salt. But Hey truly is like nothing else I’ve ever seen for email. It feels a lot more like email was back in the ’90s, when it felt fun. I switched my public address for DF reader email to Hey when it debuted back in June, and I haven’t looked back. It makes me want to check for new mail rather than dread it — a feeling I haven’t had about my public email since the very early days of DF. Hey is that transformative.

‘Dissents Speak to a Future Age’ 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view.

Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County v. Holder, a 5-4 decision in 2012 in which the Court’s conservative majority invalidated key portions of the Voting Rights Act, is one for the ages. This line is perfect:

Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.

‘While You’re at It, Make It Sing’ 

David Post, who twice served as a law clerk for Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Most of what I know about writing I learned from her. The rules are actually pretty simple: Every word matters. Don’t make the simple complicated, make the complicated as simple as it can be (but not simpler!). You’re not finished when you can’t think of anything more to add to your document; you’re finished when you can’t think of anything more that you can remove from it. She enforced these principles with a combination of a ferocious — almost a terrifying — editorial pen, and enough judicious praise sprinkled about to let you know that she was appreciating your efforts, if not always your end-product. And one more rule: While you’re at it, make it sing. At least a little; legal prose is not epic poetry or the stuff of operatic librettos, but a well-crafted paragraph can help carry the reader along, and is always a thing of real beauty.

She had the kind of fierce integrity that I think we all would want to see in a judge; she was always determined to get it right, to do right by the litigants and to do right by the law. She had her biases and her blind spots; we all do. But I have often said that if my life were on the line, I’d be happy if she were on the bench, because she would be as fair-minded when weighing the evidence as one could ever ask for.

‘Rejected as a Clerk, Chosen as a Justice’ 

From Neil A. Lewis’s front-page story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nomination to the Supreme Court:

In 1960, a dean at the Harvard Law School, Albert Sachs, proposed one of his star students to Justice Felix Frankfurter of the Supreme Court as a law clerk. Justice Frankfurter told Professor Sachs that while the candidate was impressive, he just wasn’t ready to hire a woman and so couldn’t offer a job to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Judge Ginsburg, who now sits on the Federal appeals court and was chosen today by President Clinton for the Supreme Court, recently told that story to her own law clerks to explain how she became interested in the role of women in the eyes of the law.

From 1973 to 1976 she argued six women’s rights cases before the Court and won five of them, profoundly changing the law as it affects women.

“She is the Thurgood Marshall of gender equality law,” said Janet Benshoof, the president of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, an abortion-rights advocacy group, repeating a common description of Judge Ginsburg. Like Justice Marshall, who shaped the legal strategy of the civil rights movement for the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund before he joined the Court, Ruth Ginsburg organized the cases, found the plaintiffs and delivered the oral arguments.

Think about that. When Ginsburg was in law school, gender inequality was so profoundly unjust in the United States that she wasn’t even considered for a clerkship on the Supreme Court, simply because she was a woman. By the time she died, she was not merely a justice on the Court, but one of the most iconic, essential, and influential ones in history. That wasn’t because she was born at the right time and surfed an inevitable wave — she helped create the wave. By force of her intellect, will, and keen sense of justice, she helped bend the arc of the moral universe.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies at 87 

Nina Totenberg, for NPR:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died Friday. The Supreme Court announced her death, saying the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas.

The court, in a statement, said Ginsburg died at her home in Washington surrounded by family.

So it goes.

‘The Reluctant Debut of the A14 Processor’ 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

But all of those figures compare the A14 in the iPad Air to the A12 processor in the previous model, not the A13 processor found in the iPhone 11 series. Now, Apple would likely claim that it’s only fair to make a comparison across devices with similar screen sizes and thermal characteristics. But in scrupulously adhering to the comparisons to the A12, Apple is not telling us how much faster the base A14 processor — likely the foundation of the next generation of iPad Pro models and possibly even the first round of Macs running Apple Silicon — is compared to its immediate predecessor.

I don’t think Apple’s doing this because it’s not proud of the A14. (On the contrary, Apple seems very aware of how important this chip is, including the fact that it’s Apple’s first to be manufactured using Taiwan Semiconductor’s new 5-nanometer process.) No, this is about leaving some space for Apple’s forthcoming iPhone launch event to boast a bit more about the A14. Which makes sense. The iPhone is Apple’s most important product. It deserves to be boasted about a bit.

It was really conspicuous that Apple would only offer performance comparisons to the A12, ostensibly because that’s the SoC in the previous generation iPad Air, and so they felt it fair to compare iPad to iPad. But we know, from 10 years of experience, that the performance characteristics of an A-whatever in an iPad are very similar to the performance characteristics of the same A-whatever in iPhones. The X and Z suffix chips — like the A13X and A13Z — are different, and to date, have only appeared in iPad Pros in recent years, and prior to that, only in high-end iPads before there were “iPad Pros”. But the no-suffix A14 in the new iPad Air is almost certainly effectively identical to the A14 we’ll see next month in this year’s new iPhones. I truly wonder if that’s the only reason Apple isn’t shipping new iPad Airs yet — to keep A14 performance under wraps for the iPhone event.

Apple Is Already Seeding Developer Betas of iOS 14.2 

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Apple today seeded the first betas of upcoming iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 updates to developers, just one day after releasing the iOS 14 update and a few hours after hinting at the iOS 14.2 beta in an Xcode beta update.

So where’s 14.1? I think Michael Simmons has the simple explanation:

My guess is that iOS 14.1 was skipped for iPhone 12 next month, and they’re already in production with 14.1 preinstalled. We’ll find out soon enough…

They may not be in production yet (or at least not at the stage where they install the OS), but yes, I think iOS 14.1 is the version for the new iPhones coming next month, and it’s effectively frozen at this point, so all ongoing development at Apple has already moved to 14.2.

Trump Administration to Ban Downloads of TikTok and Block Access to WeChat on Sunday 

Steve Kovach, reporting for CNBC:

The Commerce Department announced it will ban U.S. business transactions with China-owned social apps WeChat and TikTok on Sunday.

The announcement sets up two different time frames for WeChat and TikTok, with a full ban on WeChat going into effect Sunday along with a ban on updates and maintenance to the TikTok app. TikTok has a Nov. 12 deadline before companies are banned from providing cloud and internet services for the app, which could give Oracle more time to hammer out its offer for TikTok to satisfy President Trump.

Be careful of headlines along the lines of “U.S. bans TikTok” — right now it’s just new downloads that will be banned, not use of the app if already downloaded. Predictably, TikTok has shot to the top of the download charts.

WeChat is in a different boat — it’s set to be fully banned. The politics of this distinction couldn’t be more clear. Peter Kafka:

WeChat: Enormously popular with Chinese-Americans. Owned by Chinese company. Will be crippled in US Sunday night.

TikTok: Enormously popular with Americans including some Trump voters. Owned by Chinese company, trying to do deal w/ Trump supporters. Will be OK through election.

Larry Ellison is a big Trump supporter, just in case you weren’t aware of how flamboyantly transparent the cronyism is with the Oracle-TikTok deal.

Tencent’s Ownership of Gaming Companies Draws U.S. National Security Scrutiny 

Owen S. Good, reporting for Polygon:

The Trump administration wants to know more about U.S. video game companies’ involvement with China’s Tencent Holdings, whose relationships with American firms includes full ownership of Riot Games, a significant minority stake in Epic Games, and publishing deals with Activision Blizzard.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) sent letters to Epic, Riot, and others to ask about their protocols for securely handling Americans’ personal information.

Tencent is the world’s largest video game vendor, but its U.S. holdings are not limited to just that marketplace. It also has stakes in Reddit, Discord, and Snapchat maker Snap Inc.

Epic Games, Activision, Reddit, Discord, Snap — that’s quite a portfolio of companies that, collectively, consume a lot of attention of younger Americans.

The TikTok ‘Acquisition’ Soap Opera Continues 

The New York Times:

The exact ownership structure of TikTok under the proposed deal is unclear.

That simple sentence really says it all when it comes to how bananas this whole saga is. This is supposedly a deal that just needs to be signed, not a preliminary discussion, but the “exact ownership structure” remains unclear?

While rushing to secure a deal, TikTok is also hunting for a permanent chief executive to replace Kevin Mayer, who resigned in late August, citing the changing political pressures of the role. Vanessa Pappas, the general manager of TikTok in North America, took over in the interim.

Among those whom TikTok has talked to about the job is Kevin Systrom, a founder and former chief executive of Instagram, people briefed on the matter said. Talks are preliminary, and no final decisions have been made, they said.

Systrom didn’t like working for Mark Zuckerberg, but might agree to work for Larry Ellison. Sure. That doesn’t sound completely made up just to float a plausible name.

Ex-Pence Aide Olivia Troye Says She Will Vote for Biden After Trump’s Handling of Coronavirus 

Josh Dawsey, reporting for The Washington Post:

Olivia Troye, who worked as homeland security, counterterrorism and coronavirus adviser to Vice President Pence for two years, said that the administration’s response cost lives and that she will vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden this fall because of her experience in the Trump White House.

“The president’s rhetoric and his own attacks against people in his administration trying to do the work, as well as the promulgation of false narratives and incorrect information of the virus have made this ongoing response a failure,” she said in an interview.

Trump just can’t catch a break from the zealots in the reality-based community. (It’s worth watching — and sharing — the video, to hear Troye make her case in her own words. Far more damning than reading a summary.)

Yours Truly Talking iOS 14 With Rene Ritchie 

Rene Ritchie:

I wanted to do something different with this iOS 14 review. I’ve already posted in-depth explainers and a technical preview. So, this time, I wanted to focus on opinion. Mine, and my special guest’s — John Gruber of Daring Fireball and The Talk Show fame.

We covered a lot of ground here, but somehow we neglected to talk about the new Back Tap feature in Accessibility — perhaps my favorite new little feature in iOS. (I have it set to simulate “Shake”, which means I can use a double-tap on the back of the iPhone to trigger Undo.)

The Talk Show: ‘Signing Up to Take Some Vitamins’ 

Peter Kafka returns to the show to discuss the news from Apple’s “Time Flies” event  —  new Apple Watches, new non-Pro iPads, and particularly the Apple One services bundle.

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PlayStation 5: $400, Preorders Start This Week, Disc Drive Version Costs $100 Extra 

Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge:

Sony has announced that the PlayStation 5 will cost $499.99 when it launches on November 12th, alongside the $399.99 Digital Edition. Preorders will begin on September 17th at “select retailers.”

The pricing puts Sony squarely up against Microsoft’s next-gen consoles, with the company set to release its entry-level Xbox Series S at $299 and its flagship Xbox Series X for $499 on November 10th.

I got an earful from readers last week when I wrote, regarding the new Xboxes, “it seems crazy to me that folks still want to buy and manage spinning discs”. I know all the reasons why some people prefer discs to downloads. With spinning discs you can sell games you no longer play, buy used discs for less than the price of new, trade discs with friends, etc. Trust me, I get it. When I was in college I had my entire liquid net worth tied up in an extensive CD collection. Also, some people don’t have great bandwidth for today’s massive console games.

So, I apologize, it’s not crazy. But it does seem antiquated. Spinning discs for media is like one step removed from “be kind, rewind” stickers on VHS rental boxes.

Anyway, as for PS5 vs. Xbox Series Whatever, I like Sony’s model where the two versions are separated only by the spinning disc drive. The Xbox Series S gets to come in $100 cheaper than the no-disc PS5, but it feels weird and anti-game-console-ish to me that it’s got a notably weaker GPU than than the Series X. I think I see what Microsoft is going for — they’re trying to make Xbox more of a continuation of PC gaming, where developers target a range of GPUs rather than one very specific performance profile, but I prefer the clarity of the PS5 lineup. You want spinning discs? You pay a $100 penalty (and get a clunkier console to boot). That’s it.

Sony Calls Bullshit on Bloomberg Report That They Cut Production of PS5 

James Batchelor, reporting for GamesIndustry:

Sony has reached out to GamesIndustry.biz with the following statement denying the Bloomberg report:

“While we do not release details related to manufacturing, the information provided by Bloomberg is false,” the statement reads. “We have not changed the production number for PlayStation 5 since the start of mass production.”

This, in response to a report by Takashi Mochizuki and Debby Wu at Bloomberg, claiming:

Sony Corp. has cut its estimated PlayStation 5 production for this fiscal year by 4 million units, down to around 11 million, following production issues with its custom-designed system-on-chip for the new console, according to people familiar with the matter.

Here’s a case where Bloomberg’s status as a known publisher of fabricated bullshit that they refuse to retract hurts them. It’s like when the National Enquirer would run a story every few months, for years, saying Liz Taylor was on her deathbed. Nobody should believe Bloomberg on this — they have zero credibility. Retract “The Big Hack” and we can start having some faith that what they report is true even when disputed by the companies involved in a story. Until then: nope.

I have no idea why Bloomberg reporters haven’t revolted on this issue. Takashi Mochizuki and Debby Wu had nothing to do with “The Big Hack” but now their own work gets treated as fish wrap by dint of institutional association.

Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden 

Scientific American:

Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly.

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment.

Joanna Stern’s Microsoft Surface Duo Review 

Joanna Stern, writing for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

It isn’t always clear when something is ready.

Take my grilling. Sometimes I remove steak well before or after I should’ve. You might say it’s a “tough” call. But there’s nothing tough about stating this: The new two-screen Surface Duo is undercooked.

Microsoft’s new $1,400 book-like phone-tablet thingy is not ready for me and not ready for you.

Unless, of course, you want an Android device that repeatedly ignores your taps on its screens, randomly slows down, struggles to figure out its own up, down and sideways positioning, and abruptly rearranges parts of its own interface. If that is your dream, well, then it is ready.

This is exactly what I thought when they let the first round of YouTuber reviews come out under the condition that they not turn the devices on. The hardware really is well-designed and the concept is both fascinating and original. But if the experience were actually good, you wouldn’t do a round of reviews that forbade talking about the actual experience.

Stern’s video, as usual, is extremely good, too — and she gives a very fair shake to the Duo for what is good and clever about it. But the bugginess of the software really makes clear why it’s better (necessary?) to control the OS when you want to invent a new form factor.

The fact that the camera is subpar is to me a dealbreaker for a $1,400 phone. I can’t shake the feeling that despite the fact that the Surface Duo is itself a phone — not just a folding tablet that can use a SIM card for cellular data — that Microsoft sees this as something one might carry in addition to a dedicated phone (with a better camera).

Also, I saw a couple of TV ads for the Surface Duo yesterday while watching football — Microsoft is marketing this.

‘A Screaming, Spreading Wake-Up Call’ 

Jim VandeHei, writing for Axios:

Every year, China grows bigger and more powerful, most recently seizing control of Hong Kong and trying to buy allies at U.S. expense.

Xi Jinping said this week that China’s progress in fighting the virus, including reopening schools, has “fully demonstrated the clear superiority of Communist Party leadership and our socialist system.” (N.Y. Times)

This is the message Beijing is spreading to other world leaders and their own people, as China seeks to displace America as the great global power.

Vote. Make sure everyone you know is registered and ready to vote.

Trump Administration Official Michael Caputo Has Lost His Mind, Is Spouting Unhinged, Dangerous, Crazy Nonsense, and Yet Remains in Charge of C.D.C. Public Health Updates Amidst an Ongoing Pandemic 

Sharon LaFraniere, reporting for The New York Times:

“You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo, a Trump loyalist installed by the White House in April, told followers in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page. […]

Mr. Caputo on Sunday complained on Facebook that he was under siege by the media and said that his physical health was in question and his “mental health has definitely failed.”

“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” he said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He then ran through a series of conspiracy theories, culminating in a prediction that Mr. Trump will win re-election but his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., will refuse to concede. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.” He added: “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”

It’s plainly clear, not just to us, but to himself, that his mind has snapped. He sounds about half a click short of locking himself into his bedroom with a plan to subsist by drinking his own urine. And yet at this moment he remains a key official in our government response to the pandemic.

ODA — Modular Everyday Bags 

My thanks to ODA for sponsor DF last week to promote their lineup of slim, modular, and long-lasting bags that adapt to your needs, wherever you go — from weekday to weekend, from work to play, from daily essentials to carrying tech gear. ODA bags are constructed from durable, technical waterproof fabrics and zippers. The design is very clean, very modern. They even have a patent-pending magnetic system that lets you customize your setup.

I bought their backpack (black, of course, but the olive one looks good too). I love it. For years I used a backpack with a one-shoulder sling design, which is great — except when you really want a two-shoulder backpack design. The ODA straps let you easily choose which way to wear it, and when you have it set up as a one-strap sling, the other strap tucks away neatly. Clever and elegant. The internal compartments are very thoughtfully arranged too, and the zippers are all perfect. The laptop compartment fits a 16-inch MacBook Pro, but if you put a smaller MacBook in there, it doesn’t feel lost in a too-big pouch. It’s just a great backpack.

ODA has a special deal just for DF readers: save 15 percent off any order with the code “df15”.

Microsoft’s Statement on the TikTok Acquisition Fiasco 

Microsoft’s entire statement:

ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft. We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests. To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas.

Translation: “We’re embarrassed that we had anything to do with this circus.

Microsoft should’ve known better as soon as Trump started talking about “key money” payola to the U.S. Treasury, but they went into this acquisition bid treating it like serious business. But it’s not serious business — the whole thing has been banana republic nonsense from the beginning and the banana-y-ness has escalated each step of the way.

Now you’ve got China saying that a U.S. company can buy “TikTok” but can’t buy their suggestion algorithm. That algorithm is TikTok — and it seems clear that’s why Microsoft is washing its hands of the whole thing.

From the South China Morning Post:

ByteDance, the Beijing-based parent company of TikTok, will not sell or transfer the algorithm behind the popular video-sharing app in any sale or divestment deal, according to a source briefed on the Chinese company’s boardroom discussions.

With a looming US deadline for ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US operations, the source said: “The car can be sold, but not the engine.”

It’s not merely buying a car without its engine — it’s buying an engine-less car whose most interesting attribute was the engine. Who the hell would buy that car? Larry Ellison, I guess.

WSJ: SoftBank Nears $40 Billion Deal to Sell Arm Holdings to Nvidia 

Cara Lombardo and Maureen Farrell, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

SoftBank Group Corp. is nearing a deal to sell British chip designer Arm Holdings to Nvidia Corp. for more than $40 billion, according to people familiar with the matter, the latest in a series of big asset sales by the Japanese technology conglomerate. […]

A sale to Nvidia could prompt scrutiny from antitrust regulators and potentially pushback from Arm’s customers, which include major chip makers and electronics manufacturers such as Intel Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc.

I’m not saying Apple wouldn’t object — I don’t know — but Apple isn’t a customer of Arm in the way this suggests. Apple’s chips do use the ARM64 instruction set, but I believe Apple already has a perpetual license for that. Apple does not license chips or chip designs from Arm — Apple’s chips are its own designs, which is why they offer performance unlike those of any other Arm licensee. This too is why Apple wasn’t interested in itself acquiring Arm Holdings: Arm’s business is about licensing technology to other companies; Apple’s business is about keeping its technology for itself.

Never Forget 

Then-future president of the United States, Donald Trump, commemorating 9/11 back in 2013:

I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th.

That’s really one for the books.

Diana Rigg Dies at 82 

Anita Gates, writing for The New York Times:

But again it was for something of an action role that she received the greatest attention, when she played a crime boss’s daughter in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), the only James Bond film to star George Lazenby. Her character had the distinction among Agent 007’s movie love interests of actually marrying Bond, but she was killed off in the final scene, for the sake of future plot lines.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is, I think almost inarguably, the most polarizing of Bond films. Personally, I despise it — I think it’s poorly written, terribly directed, and that Lazenby was wrong for the role — the only actor ever truly miscast as Bond. But: some Bond fans love it. I know several who consider it their favorite, or, at least, their favorite of that era.

One reason for that — perhaps the reason — was Rigg. Her presence in the film is simply electric.

Dickhead of the Week: Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri 

Megan Graham, writing for CNBC:

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said the company will make a case against the planned change to Apple’s iPhone operating system that would impact how it and other mobile advertisers track users. But, he said, “I don’t think we have much influence over Apple,” and pointed to the power Apple has as the sole gatekeeper for apps across about 1 billion of its devices in use today.

This is true — Apple is the sole gatekeeper for apps on iOS, and Apple does claim there are a billion iOS devices in use. But Facebook has 2.5 billion users and Instagram 1 billion — and they’re the sole gatekeepers of their own massive platforms. They’re not getting bullied by a larger company.

On CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday morning, Mosseri said Instagram’s advertising business requires certain data to show users relevant ads and to provide value for its advertisers, the majority of which are small and medium-sized businesses.

“If the ecosystem changes in a way that advertisers can’t really measure their return on investment, that’s really going to be, yes, somewhat problematic for our business, but it’s going to be problematic for all the big ad platforms roughly equally, so I’m not that worried about it over the long run,” he said. “It’s going to be much much more problematic for all the small businesses. There are millions of them out there that rely on us to target customers and to reach those customers. Particularly during a pandemic when they’re hurting.”

This is Facebook’s political/PR strategy on this issue: (1) to ask everyone to ignore the plain truth that Apple’s changes to IDFA tracking are for exactly the reason Apple states: to give users control over their own privacy; and (2) to claim that Apple’s actions aren’t hurting Facebook but instead are hurting “small businesses”. Small businesses are taking advantage of privacy invasive user-tracking ad placement, but if their ads are less effective without privacy invasive user-tracking, then so be it, they’re less effective. The idea that we don’t dare do anything good for privacy that might reduce the efficacy of user-tracking ads because “pity the poor small businesses” is sophistry.

And give me a fucking break with bringing the pandemic into this. It’s especially infuriating coming from Facebook, of all companies. Maybe if they weren’t the main vector for the disinformation and anti-science nonsense that has prolonged the pandemic by turning it into a needless culture war, their “concern” would ring more true.

He argued that Instagram wants its users to have control over their data and understand what data it has.

“We believe that there’s a way to be really responsible and give people control over their data and transparency into their data but without cutting off our understanding and therefore operating blind,” he said.

That’s exactly what Apple is doing — giving users awareness over what is going on, and control over it. What Mosseri is really asking for here is the opposite — for Apple to allow the user-tracking ad industry to continue operating in the dark. Like I wrote last week, the entitlement of every single bastard in this industry is just off the charts. They really believe they have a right to track everything we do, and that Apple is taking something that belongs to them away.

Auto White Balance vs. Fiery Skies 

Ian Bogost, writing for The Atlantic:

But as people tried to capture the scene, and the confusion and horror that accompanied it, many noticed a strange phenomenon: Certain photographs and videos of the surreal, orange sky seemed to wash it out, as if to erase the danger. “I didn’t filter these,” tweeted the journalist Sarah Frier, posting photos she took of San Francisco’s haunting morning sky. “In fact the iPhone color corrected the sky to make it look less scary. Imagine more orange.” The photos looked vaguely marigold in hue, but not too different from a misty sunrise in a city prone to fog. In some cases, the scene seemed to revert to a neutral gray, as if the smartphones that captured the pictures were engaged in a conspiracy to silence this latest cataclysm.

The reality is both less and more unnerving. The un-oranged images were caused by one of the most basic features of digital cameras, their ability to infer what color is in an image based on the lighting conditions in which it is taken. Like the people looking up at it, the software never expected the sky to be bathed in orange. It’s a reminder that even as cameras have become a way to document every aspect of our lives, they aren’t windows on the world, but simply machines that turn views of that world into images.

This is not a bug, but a side effect of the built-in Camera app on iOS (and likewise on most Android phones) being decidedly consumer-focused. Setting a manual white balance point is a feature in any “pro” camera app worth its salt. My favorite for iPhone is Halide — a recommendation shared by many others. From Halide’s Twitter:

We saw a lot of attention yesterday as people used Halide to take photos of the eerie orange skies in places hit by wildfires.

We got significantly higher downloads.

It feels wrong to benefit from this, so we are donating yesterday’s sales to our local Wildfire Relief Fund.

What a move.

Poolside FM for Cellular 

Easter eggs. Remember Easter eggs? These guys sure do.

‘The Repeated and Prolonged Failure of Mainstream News Outlets to Include Basic Climate Science Facts in Extreme Weather Coverage Is an Abdication of Their Core Responsibility’ 

Emily Atkin, writing for Heated:

This long weekend was literal hell for millions in the American West. California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington are suffering from dangerous heat, wildfire and smoke unlike anything they’ve ever seen. […]

Every American should be aware of these basic scientific facts when reading about the devastation of this weekend’s record-breaking extreme weather. But most of the major newspaper stories about the Labor Day Weekend from Hell don’t contain any climate-related information. Why? […]

The repeated and prolonged failure of mainstream news outlets to include basic climate science facts in extreme weather coverage is an abdication of their core responsibility: to give citizens the information they need to make informed decisions about how to solve society’s biggest problems.

The U.S. response to COVID-19 has been a year-long microcosm of the decades-long U.S. response to climate change: our political system is crippled by a faction that refuses to acknowledge scientific evidence or respect expertise. They don’t believe inconvenient truths they can’t see with their own eyes. (Many of them refuse to believe inconvenient truths, no matter what.)

With these red-skied hellscapes across the West, it’s here for everyone to see, making it more important than ever to hammer home the point that this is climate change and it’s devastating.

The Apocalyptic Red Western Skies Caused by Climate Change-Fueled Wildfires 

Jason Kottke:

All day yesterday, my social media feeds were full of photos taken of the skies on the west coast, bloodied red and orange from the wildfires raging in California, Oregon, and other western states. Each fresh photo I saw shocked me anew. Friends told me: as weird as the photos look, they don’t do justice to what this actually looks like and feels like in real life. Automatic cameras (as on smartphones) had a tough time capturing the skies because the onboard software kept correcting the red and orange colors out — the phones know, even if climate change denying politicians and voters don’t, that our skies aren’t supposed to be that color.

So many startling photos, but man, the one Kottke leads with, the one with the UPS truck — that looks like the poster for a terrifying movie.

From the Department of Just Send Pictures Next Time 

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge (emphasis mine):

The new Xbox Series S is surprisingly small, both in terms of its $299 price and its dimensions. I’ve been playing around with a nonfunctional Xbox Series S this week, and I’m genuinely surprised Microsoft has managed to fit the same Xbox Series X CPU and lots of other next-gen technology into something that uses space and wealth so economically.

First the Surface Duo “don’t turn it on” reviews, now this. What a weird trend.

‘Why Are Conservatives Obsessed With Pedophilia Right Now?’ 

David M. Schell:

But a lot of the stories I’ve seen about child sex trafficking haven’t included any kind of call to action. No “share this number,” no “put a sign in your yard” or “don’t be a pedophile,” “seven steps to protect your kids from getting trafficked,” or even “donate to this fund to fight pedophilia.” It’s just “here’s another story about pedophiles engaging in sex trafficking. Isn’t it awful?!”

So when I saw the 30,000-pedophiles article, which to my memory came without any call to action, just a “can you believe this!” kind of comment (I don’t remember the actual comment), I just thought … what’s up with this? […]

To understand it, you have to first understand the difference between conservatives and progressives.

This piece is so keenly observed, so thoughtful, and so obviously true. And Schell’s insight was sparked by a line of dialogue from Footloose.

Update: Fireballed! This hasn’t happened in a while, but Google has it cached.

New Version of Apple Music for Android Reveals ‘Apple One’ Bundle Name 

It surprises me how often Apple own-goals itself with metadata like this. Remember when all the new iPhone names were revealed in the XML of apple.com’s sitemap file two years ago?

The Apple Watch Sport Band Design Is Now Commonly Copied 

I got a press release about this Safe Spacer product today. It’s a wrist device meant to help keep employees at a business from getting too close to each other under coronavirus safety measures. What caught my eye is the design of the band — it’s exactly like an Apple Watch sport band. Just look at it.

Here’s what I wrote about this design two years ago, in my review of the Series 4 watches:

Every other aspect of Apple Watch other than the case is, in fact, world-class nice. The default watch strap, the Sport Band, is absolutely wonderful. Jony Ive’s close friend Marc Newson is renowned in the watch world. Ive brought Newson to Apple to make an even better version of his 1996 Ikepod strap. You know what’s not nice about most watch straps? The extra bit of strap that sticks out after you buckle it. Newson’s insight, that it could be neatly tucked under the other side of the strap, is simply genius. Tens of millions of Apple Watch owners now enjoy this design. And that’s just the default strap — Apple Watch’s well-liquor straps are far better-designed than the top-shelf-liquor straps from many luxury watchmakers.

This design is so clever and, once seen and experienced, so seemingly obvious. And yet it wasn’t obvious, until Marc Newson designed it and Apple popularized it. Makes me wonder how many other obvious good designs remain undiscovered.

‘Blade Runner: San Francisco’ 

Terry Tsai:

SF drone footage during the #BayAreaFires on 9/9/20, set to Blade Runner 2049 music.

Not to mix up my classic sci-fi franchises, but if you can’t believe this, that is why we’ve failed.

That Didn’t Take Long 

Todd Spangler, reporting for Variety:

Tim Connolly, formerly a senior executive at Quibi and Hulu in charge of partnerships at each of those companies, has joined Apple’s video group.

Connolly’s hire by the tech giant was first reported by the Telegraph, which cited an update to his LinkedIn profile that says he recently joined the Apple “video business” based in L.A.

“Formerly a senior executive at Quibi”? Quibi only launched on April 6. That could be a good sign — perhaps Connolly saw the shitshow coming and got out as soon as he could.

In Excerpts From Bob Woodward’s New Book ‘Rage’, Trump Admits to Concealing True Threat of Coronavirus 

The basic story behind this book is so beautiful, so perfectly Trumpian:

Woodward writes his first Trump book and never gets to speak to Trump. Book comes out and makes Trump look bad. Trump is furious that his staff didn’t hook him up with Woodward because he thinks if Woodward had interviewed him, he’d have charmed Woodward and looked better in the book. So, next book, Trump’s staff listens to the boss and Woodward gets 18 interviews with Trump. 18! Woodward, famously, records all of his interviews for all of his books. Trump, of course, said all sorts of damning stuff to Woodward because he’s an idiot.

PCMag’s 2020 Speed Test of U.S. Mobile Networks 

Sascha Segan, writing for PCMag:

We admit it, we bought into the 5G hype. Carriers, phone makers, and chip makers alike have all been selling 5G as faster and more powerful than 4G, with lower latency. So I was shocked to see that our AT&T 5G results, especially, were slower than 4G results on the same network.

This is a crisis for marketing, not for performance. All three US carriers showed significantly higher download speeds and better broadband reliability than they did in our 2019 tests. It’s just that these gains, particularly on AT&T, are largely because of improvements in 4G, not 5G networks.

The “funny” thing about this for AT&T is that their bullshit “5G-E” network, which isn’t actually 5G, is faster than their actual 5G network.

I have no idea why anyone is excited about 5G. None of my complaints about cellular networking in recent years have been about how fast it is when I have a strong signal.

David Frum: ‘I Crossed Back Into a State of Denial’ 

Also from David Frum — what it’s like crossing back into the U.S. after spending July and August in Canada:

It was an apt introduction to the transition between the United States and Canada. On one side of the border, almost everybody took the virus seriously — and few people had it. On the other, the reverse.

‘Everyone Knows It’s True’ 

David Frum, writing for The Atlantic:

One of the most striking things about Trump is how seldom, if ever, anybody tells a story of kindness and compassion about him. Not even his own children have much to say. […] Few former employees of the Trump administration praise him as a boss. Few business partners speak of his honesty. Few tenants of Trump buildings have anything good to say about the homes he supposedly built. Few officials of any city have been willing to celebrate any contribution to urban life. Few beneficiaries of any Trump philanthropy.

Imagine a man who has lived in the public eye for half a century, supposedly one of the country’s leading business figures, and when in trouble he struggles to summon credible or trustworthy witnesses from outside the Fox Cinematic Universe. There’s just a gaping zero where goodness should be.

One of the bottom lines about Trump is that he’s not a good person. He’s not trustworthy, he’s not honest, he’s not compassionate. 40 percent of the electorate still look at him and say “He’s my guy”, but to do so, they have to grapple with the fact that he’s a turd of a human being.

Local Note: The King of Prussia Mall Now Has a COVID-19 Store 

They should use the slogan “Come on in and get it.”

Xbox Series X and Smaller, Cheaper Sibling Xbox Series S 

Jez Corden and Zac Bowden, reporting for Windows Central:

We can confirm via our sources that the entry-level Xbox Series S will cost $299 at retail, with a $25 per month Xbox All Access financing option, which Microsoft is planning to push hard via various retailers and a large global rollout. The more powerful Xbox Series X will cost $499, with a $35 per month Xbox All Access financing option.

Both consoles will launch on November 10, 2020.

The Series S looks cool, and offers an “all-digital gaming experience”, which is their way of pitching “no spinning disc drive” as a feature. (As it should be — it seems crazy to me that folks still want to buy and manage spinning discs.) I think the Series X looks good too — both of them look very true to the Xbox brand — but the Series S looks downright Dieter Rams-ian.

For comparison, Apple TV 4K currently sells for $179/$199 for 32/64 GB configurations. Apple ought to have something up their sleeve here — either major new Apple TV hardware or a price cut for existing models (or both) — or they’re about to get pantsed in the market for high-end home entertainment boxes.

Update: A friend kindly suggests that Apple TV 4K already has been pantsed by Microsoft, with the $249 Xbox One S that was discontinued last month — it offered 4K streaming video and HD Xbox games.

Android 11 Arrives to the Sound of Crickets Chirping 

Seems like a nice update that almost no one is talking about because almost no phones are getting it.

Update: Here’s Google’s own official announcement and rundown of feature highlights. Just me or is their UI for smart home stuff a shameless ripoff of Apple’s Home app? What’s crazy to me about that is that Apple’s Home app isn’t even a great UI to steal.

Bryan Irace on Instagram’s Continuing Descent Into a Facebook-Like Algorithm-Driven Garbage Experience 

Bryan Irace, on Twitter:

This recent @instagram change — replacing photos that you’ve already seen from those that you follow with misc. algorithmic trash — is so user-hostile that numerous family members who never think twice about software UX have independently asked me what happened to their apps.

One didn’t even notice the “View Older Posts” button, despite it being front and center. Just that photos of e.g. his grandkids were overnight replaced with nonsense.

There’s an apt slogan for the service Instagram has devolved into under Facebook’s steady hand: “Photos of your friends and loved ones, replaced with nonsense. Welcome to Instagram.”

‘Trump Emerges as Inspiration for Germany’s Far Right’ 

Not the sort of headline you want to see.


‘Gross Domestic Misery Is Rising’ 

Paul Krugman:

But the stock market isn’t the economy: more than half of all stocks are owned by only 1 percent of Americans, while the bottom half of the population owns only 0.7 percent of the market.

Jobs and G.D.P., by contrast, sort of are the economy. But they aren’t the economy’s point. What some economists and many politicians often forget is that economics isn’t fundamentally about data, it’s about people. I like data as much as, or probably more than, the next guy. But an economy’s success should be judged not by impersonal statistics, but by whether people’s lives are getting better.

And the simple fact is that over the past few weeks the lives of many Americans have gotten much worse.


‘A Tough Way to Make a Living’ 

Two weeks ago, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released Volume 5 of its report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Page 274 describes a night on the town in Las Vegas in 2013:

The dinner that night ultimately included members of the Agalarov family, Trump Organization, Miss Universe Organization, and a number of Emin Agalarov’s friends. Michael Cohen attended with Trump and [Keith] Schiller. During the meal, Goldstone recalled being approached by Schiller, who asked Goldstone if the Agalarov group had plans after the meal. Goldstone recalled telling Schiller that one of Emin Agalarov’s associates, Murtaza Akbar, was an investor in a club called The Act and that the group planned to go. According to Goldstone, Schiller responded by telling Goldstone that “Mr. Trump wants to come.”

Following dinner, the group, which included the Agalarovs, their associates, and the Trump Organization group, went to The Act. Goldstone described The Act as, “a bit Cirque du Soleil and a bit burlesquey thrown into one.” Cohen recalled that the club was “more than a burlesque club” and was a “wild place.”1823

Footnote 1823 contains this testimony from Cohen to the committee, further describing the club:

“It’s a club that puts on shows, and you never really know what the show is going to be. In this specific case they brought out a young man who was in a leotard body suit, who, to me, I would diagnose him as a thalidomide baby. And he was blind as well, but he sang like Pavarotti. And while he was singing — I forget the song, it was like a ‘God Bless America’-type song — there was a woman who was in a thong bikini, who was large, performing sex acts on him while he was singing. Interesting, because I was with Mr. Trump at the time. It was not really a place I expected to be with him at. He looked over to me when he was finished, and I’ll never forget this, he looked me right in the face. He goes, ‘That’s a tough way to make a living.’”

Twitter Stopped Letting New Users Pick Their Usernames During Sign-Up Years Ago 

Darius Kazemi:

There’s a common belief that Twitter accounts with usernames like @jsmith12345678 must be bots, or trolls, or otherwise nefarious actors.

The thing is, since at least as far back as December 2017, the Twitter signup process has not allowed you to choose your own username! It instead gives you a name based on your first and last name, plus eight numbers on the end. You aren’t prompted to pick a more distinctive username after that, and you can change it but you need to figure out how to do it yourself. (The December 2017 date was confirmed to me privately by someone who works at Twitter Design.)

This means that when you see a reply from someone with a username with a bunch of numbers in it, it’s actually pretty likely that the user is simply someone who joined Twitter after December 2017 and either doesn’t care to change their username, or doesn’t know that they can change it, or doesn’t know how to change it. In other words, it’s probably a user who isn’t very technically savvy.

I learned this a few months ago when I created the @ditheringfm Twitter account. You can still pick your own (available) username on Twitter, but you have to change it in your account settings after starting with a dumb-looking handle you never chose.

BuzzFeed News: QAnon Is a ‘Collective Delusion’, Not a ‘Conspiracy Theory’ 

Drusilla Moorhouse and Emerson Malone, writing for BuzzFeed News:

The editors at BuzzFeed News have become uneasy about using conspiracy theory to describe QAnon, which has grown to encompass a whole alternative world of beliefs and signals. The copydesk has to stay on top of language and note when terms become stale and reductive; QAnon has shifted, and so should how we write about it.

QAnon is a collective delusion, and that’s what BuzzFeed News will be calling it from now on.

I’m not sure how much traction this term will get, but I like it. “Conspiracy theory” gets an unfair rap in that most people use it to describe wacko beliefs that are not true. But there are actual conspiracies, and there are possible conspiracies which could be true. QAnon is up there with believing the Earth is flat or the moon landings were faked — batshit crazy nonsense.

What Happens as Country-by-Country App Store Legislation Increases? 

Nadezhda Tsydenova, reporting for Reuters from Moscow:

The bill, submitted to Russia’s lower house of parliament by lawmaker Fedot Tumusov, stipulates that commissions on the sale of applications be capped at 20%. Apple currently collects a 30% commission on sales in its App Store.

The bill, if adopted, would also oblige app sellers to pay a third of their commissions to a special training fund for IT specialists on a quarterly basis.

There’s no sign that this proposal will become law, but what if it did? What happens if — or more likely, when — countries start passing laws that mandate third-party app stores? For a small country, Apple might just walk away — like Facebook and Google are with news in Australia. But what does Apple do if China mandates third-party app stores?

One of the big downsides of Apple’s complete control over the iOS platform is that it creates an obvious target for legislation.

Japanese FTC to Increase Scrutiny of App Store Regarding Complaints From Game Developers 

Takashi Mochizuki, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Japan’s antitrust regulator said it will step up attention to the iPhone maker’s practices in the wake of the high-stakes legal clash. And in rare cases, prominent executives are beginning to speak out after staying silent out of fear of reprisal.

“I want from the bottom of my heart Epic to win,” Hironao Kunimitsu, founder and chairman of Tokyo-based mobile game maker Gumi Inc., wrote on his Facebook page. […]

Epic, though, is in it for the money. These Japanese developers aren’t upset about the 70/30 split — they just want good developer relations support from Apple, and for the App Store rules to be predictable and consistent:

The Japanese games industry is familiar with the 30% revenue share, since it originated with Nintendo Co. console cartridges back in the 1980s. Most developers don’t mind it, but they want to see better service, especially from Apple.

Developers complain that titles waiting for App Store review sometimes take weeks to be cleared. One local games studio said it gave up hosting seasonal in-game events, which can be a big revenue accelerator, because Apple didn’t respond to their update review request for more than a month.

“While Apple will never admit it, I think there are times when they simply forget an item’s in the review queue or they intentionally keep it untouched as a sanction to a developer giving them the wrong attitude,” said Shoji. […]

Japanese firms also say the company flip flops at times on its interpretation of appropriate content and changes policies without advanced notice. Several game studios reported having characters that were approved on the interpretation they were dressed in swimsuits, then later rejected on the judgment that they were in underwear and thus sexualized. One developer who had implemented an in-game system that Apple approved, later saw the same code rejected by the App Store operator in a subsequent game.

It’s not even about putting the 70/30 split aside — the issues are related. For a 30 percent cut of all revenue passing through the App Store, and mandatory use of Apple’s payment processing, none of these complaints should exist. It’s perfectly reasonable to demand better service from a platform that charges high fees.

What I read here is that these Japanese developers expect to feel respected by Apple, and they don’t.

* Bloomberg, of course, is the publication that published “The Big Hack” in October 2018 — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all, was vehemently denied by all companies involved, has not been confirmed by a single other publication (despite much effort to do so), and has been largely discredited by one of Bloomberg’s own sources. By all appearances “The Big Hack” was complete bullshit. Yet Bloomberg has issued no correction or retraction, and seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Bloomberg’s institutional credibility is severely damaged, and everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract the story or provide evidence that it was true.

PUBG Removed From App Store and Google Play Store in India Following Ban 

Stephen Warwick, writing for iMore:

PUBG Mobile is the biggest mobile game in India with more than 50 million monthly active players, but has fallen foul of government bans on primarily Chinese apps, PUBG Mobile is made by Tencent Games.

A new report from 91mobiles says that following the ban on Wednesday, Apple and Google have both removed both PUBG Mobile and PUBG Mobile Lite from their respective app stores in the country.

PUBG remains available in the rest of the world, of course, but there’s some irony here in that Apple spent last week heavily promoting PUBG as an alternative to Fortnite, which, of course, is now available nowhere in the world on the App Store.

MacStadium’s Half Off Forever (HOF) Promotion 

My thanks to MacStadium for sponsoring DF this week to promote their Half Off Forever promotion. Are you ready to try a Mac server? Choose a Mac Mini hosted in Atlanta, Las Vegas, or Dublin and pay half price forever. There is no catch — just a great deal.

Why now? Change is in the air for all of Apple’s platform, both hardware and software. A reliable Mac Mini hosted in a world class data center gives you a familiar, steady path heading into the future for all of your Mac infrastructure needs. Folks who are going iPad-first for their personal computing — but still need a Mac for some things — can easily jump between the two. With this year’s addition of first-class mouse pointer support in iPadOS, it’s like having all of MacOS available as an app on your iPad.

Half Off Forever is a great deal for the best Mac-centric server hosting in the industry.

Poolside FM 

What kind of sick twisted people, who obviously know and love the classic Mac look-and-feel, would mix it with parts of the old Windows look-and-feel? And somehow make it work? I’ve consulted with experts and we’ve determined that the Poolside vibe is 3 measures classic Mac OS, 1 measure Windows, 1 measure original, and the resulting cocktail is just what the good doctor ordered.

Put it in full screen and click around. They’ve even got an Instagram “app”. The UI aesthetic here has more heart than just about anything I’ve seen in a decade. This is our reminder that UI design is supposed to be fun. How cool, too, that they made a nice Mac app — before doing iPhone?

To team Poolside: 🍸

Facebook Didn’t Remove Kenosha Guard Gang Event Page 

Ryan Mac and Craig Silverman, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s previous statements that the company had removed a militia event where people discussed gathering in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to shoot and kill protesters, the company never took any such action, BuzzFeed News has learned. The event was taken down by the militia group itself after two people were killed. […]

“I fully plan to kill looters and rioters tonight,” one person wrote on the event page, according to screenshots seen by BuzzFeed News. “I have my suppressor on my AR [rifle], these fools won’t even know what hit them.” “When the shooting starts, make sure that somebody is sending a live feed of the mother fuckers going down,” said another. […]

After the shootings, chatter on the Kenosha Guard event page took on a celebratory tone. “Tried to attack business owners, got their azzes shot off. MORE please… this needs to happen a LOT MORE,” wrote one man. “1 protester dead got shot in the head… then they tried to attack the guy and a couple more got shot. Gotta love it,” wrote a man who was labeled by Facebook’s automated system as a “Top Fan” in the group due to his frequent posting.

Top fan indeed.

Anyone who insists on describing these groups as militia instead of gangs needs to explain what the difference is between a militia and a gang. Pretty sure no news organization can do so, because it’s obvious that the difference is simply whether the members are “conservative” white men.

Ellen Pao on Facebook’s Election Policy Changes: ‘Superficial’ 

Ellen Pao, on Twitter:

Facebook is making superficial changes instead of addressing the core problem: an engagement engine that amplifies misinformation and hate for profit.

They should remove all political ads. Why just in late October? They should add a way to report misinformation about candidates and Black Lives Matter protests, not just Covid. And they should ban everyone who violates their rules instead of granting exceptions.

See also: Zeynep Tufekci:

There are the details. And there is this: Mark Zuckerberg, alone, gets to set key rules — with significant consequences — for one of the most important elections in recent history. That should not be lost in the dust of who these changes will hurt or benefit.

Mark Zuckerberg Tweaks Facebook Policies Regarding Election 

Mark Zuckerberg, on Facebook:

• We’re going to block new political and issue ads during the final week of the campaign. It’s important that campaigns can run get out the vote campaigns, and I generally believe the best antidote to bad speech is more speech, but in the final days of an election there may not be enough time to contest new claims. So in the week before the election, we won’t accept new political or issue ads. Advertisers will be able to continue running ads they started running before the final week and adjust the targeting for those ads, but those ads will already be published transparently in our Ads Library so anyone, including fact-checkers and journalists, can scrutinize them.

This is a good change. But why does Facebook even accept political ads in the first place? Just get rid of them.

This could be a very heated period, so we’re preparing the following policies to help in the days and weeks after voting ends:

• We’ll use the Voting Information Center to prepare people for the possibility that it may take a while to get official results. This information will help people understand that there is nothing illegitimate about not having a result on election night.

• We’re partnering with Reuters and the National Election Pool to provide authoritative information about election results. We’ll show this in the Voting Information Center so it’s easily accessible, and we’ll notify people proactively as results become available. Importantly, if any candidate or campaign tries to declare victory before the results are in, we’ll add a label to their post educating that official results are not yet in and directing people to the official results.

“Any candidate or campaign” — there’s only one candidate, one campaign, who this is about. And we all know it’s Donald Trump.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit 

What a fantastic idea. Reminds me a little of those Anki race cars except this looks like it’s actually fun to play with. (Says me, a guy who wasted money on those Anki things.)

Mets Legend Tom Seaver Dies at 75 

Bruce Weber, writing for The New York Times:

Tom Seaver, one of baseball’s greatest right-handed power pitchers, a Hall of Famer who won 311 games for four major league teams, most notably the Mets, whom he led from last place to a surprise world championship in his first three seasons, died on Monday. He was 75.

The cause was complications of Lewy body dementia and Covid-19, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The greatest Met who ever played. You read what teammates and opponents say about him, and they don’t know what to emphasize more: how great a pitcher he was, or how good a person. That’s a life.

Trump Encourages North Carolina Residents to Vote Twice to ‘Test’ Mail-in System 

Lauren Egan and Pete Williams, reporting for NBC News:

President Donald Trump suggested that people in North Carolina should vote twice in the November election, once by mail and once in person, escalating his attempts to cast confusion and doubt on the validity of the results.

“So let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote,” Trump said when asked whether he has confidence in the mail-in system in North Carolina, a battleground state.

“If it’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote. So that’s the way it is. And that’s what they should do,” he said.

It is illegal to vote more than once in an election.

Of course it’s illegal. It’s also illegal to tell people to do it. But what’s disgraceful about it isn’t what the letter of the law says, but the utter contempt Trump and the entire Republican party have for the basic concept of democracy. It doesn’t matter if he’s “serious” or “joking” — either way it’s a goddamn disgrace.

A Lesson for UI Designers: Think Like a User 

Cabel Sasser:

So, @JuliaMinamata is making an amazing EGA graphic adventure, drawing each pixel by hand.

But, one Photoshop setting — understandably! — eluded her for a lifetime.

I’ve been here! I feel this so much! This video should be required viewing for every UI designer on the planet!

I know that feeling. Also, the game Minamata is making, The Crimson Diamond, looks amazing.

You Should Follow Daring Fireball on Twitter 

Longtime readers are probably aware that there’s an @daringfireball Twitter account, which auto-posts links to articles shortly after they’re published. You should consider following if you’re not already. It’s also a good place to publicly comment on posts — I generally read all the mentions there (and for my personal account), and am always more up to date reading Twitter mentions than I am email. Twitter beats email for reading comments from readers because of its enforced brevity and the fact that I don’t have to open them, I can just scroll and read. (I really do try to keep up with reader email too, and switching to Hey for my public address has truly helped in that regard.) With Twitter’s app, you can even get notifications of new posts — go to the @daringfireball account profile and tap the little bell icon.

What prompted this periodic reminder about the DF Twitter account was a strange bug in my auto-poster. I don’t use a third-party service for posting these tweets; I wrote my own script to do it, so that auto-posted tweets would be formatted just right, like, say, in the rare case when a headline is too long to fit in a tweet. I wrote about the Tootbot back in February, when I (finally) updated it after moving Daring Fireball to a new server in November.

Anyway, last night, something went wrong, and the @daringfireball account tweeted out a handful of weeks-old posts. Turns out they were tweets from my old instance of the Tootbot, running on another server. It had stopped working last year when Twitter tightened the SSL encryption requirements for its API, and I never turned the thing off. So the poor little guy had been running for the last year, trying to post tweets every minute, nonstop, and failing. And for some reason, last night, Twitter started accepting those requests and posting them — but only occasionally — which is why only four duplicate tweets were posted, and they were posted hours apart. What a weird bug.

The old Tootbot is now resting in retirement.

Ridley Scott on Epic’s ‘1984’ Spoof 

Ridley Scott:

“I think the animation was terrific, the idea was terrific, the message was ‘ehh’.”

(Via Dave Mark.)