Linked List: January 2022

The New York Times Buys Wordle 

These big video game acquisition just keep coming. Marc Tracy, reporting for The New York Times:

The purchase, announced by The Times on Monday, reflects the growing importance of games, like crosswords and Spelling Bee, in the company’s quest to increase digital subscriptions to 10 million by 2025. Wordle was acquired from its creator, Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, for a price “in the low seven figures,” The Times said. The company said the game would initially remain free to new and existing players.

I’ll bet Google will remove those rip-offs from the Play Store now.

Update: Nice note from Josh Wardle.

New York Times Feature on N.S.O. Group’s Pegasus, and Israel’s Use of It for Diplomatic Gains 

Ronen Bergman and Mark Mazzetti, in a deeply researched report for The New York Times Magazine:

Israel, wary of angering Americans by abetting the efforts of other countries to spy on the United States, had required NSO to program Pegasus so it was incapable of targeting U.S. numbers. This prevented its foreign clients from spying on Americans. But it also prevented Americans from spying on Americans.

NSO had recently offered the F.B.I. a workaround. During a presentation to officials in Washington, the company demonstrated a new system, called Phantom, that could hack any number in the United States that the F.B.I. decided to target. Israel had granted a special license to NSO, one that permitted its Phantom system to attack U.S. numbers. The license allowed for only one type of client: U.S. government agencies. A slick brochure put together for potential customers by NSO’s U.S. subsidiary, first published by Vice, says that Phantom allows American law enforcement and spy agencies to get intelligence “by extracting and monitoring crucial data from mobile devices.” It is an “independent solution” that requires no cooperation from AT&T, Verizon, Apple or Google. The system, it says, will “turn your target’s smartphone into an intelligence gold mine.”

So much original reporting in this piece, it’s hard to pick an item to quote.

Eric Meyer: ‘No, Apple Did Not Crowdfund “:focus-visible” in Safari’ 

Eric Meyer:

Nobody at Apple asked the crowd to fund anything. Nobody at Apple asked Igalia to crowdfund anything. They didn’t even ask Igalia to implement :focus-visible, and then Igalia decided to crowdfund the work. In fact, all of those assumptions get things almost exactly backwards  —  which is understandable! It’s what we expect from our experience of how the web has developed since at least the late 1990s. But here, something new happened. […]

In other words: the community (more precisely, a portion of it) voted on which feature was most needed, Igalia implemented it, and Apple accepted it. Apple’s role in this process came at the end, not the beginning.

In other words, a major open source project working the way open source projects are supposed to work — but seldom do. Yet somehow it was controversial. Jason Snell:

So let me decode this: Some people in the web development community have different priorities than Apple does. And it makes them grumpy. Because they think that there’s only one correct priority list—theirs. And when one of their priorities is crowdfunded into existence, because Apple had a different priority list, their reaction is not delight at finally getting a much-desired feature, but outrage. The issue isn’t the thing getting done, not really. It’s Apple choosing to not put its vast corporate resources behind their personal priority list.

Apple, Volkswagen, and VAG Rounded 

I (of course) knew that from 1998 through 2015, Apple’s used the typeface VAG Rounded for all of its keyboard key caps. I was not aware, though, that VAG Rounded originated as a branding typeface for Volkswagen. (I was never a fan of Apple’s use of VAG Rounded; not the worst typeface they could have chosen, but it always felt a bit too casual to my eyes. Apple’s post-2015 keyboards use regular SF Compact for the key caps, not SF Compact Rounded.)

Sony Acquires Bungie for $3.6 Billion 

Michael McWhertor, reporting for Polygon:

Sony Interactive Entertainment is buying Bungie, the developer of Destiny 2 and the studio that originally created Halo, in a $3.6 billion deal, according to a report from GamesIndustry.

I’d have linked to GamesIndustry’s report, but their website is currently offline, which speaks to the magnitude of this news.

Bungie will reportedly remain a multiplatform studio — Destiny 2 is available on PlayStation, PC, and Xbox platforms — with the option to self-publish its games.

“We will continue to independently publish and creatively develop our games,” Pete Parsons, CEO and chairman of Bungie, said in a statement. “We will continue to drive one, unified Bungie community. Our games will continue to be where our community is, wherever they choose to play.​”

Bungie has posted a FAQ on the acquisition and how it will affect Destiny 2 and their imminent Destiny expansion The Witch Queen.

Bungie was owned by Microsoft from 2000 to 2007, and their platform-exclusive Halo franchise helped establish the Xbox platform. (No word from Bungie on a reboot of their best franchise, Marathon.) 

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Google’s Play Store Is Chock Full of Wordle Rip-Offs 

Three weeks ago when I wrote about shameless Wordle rip-offs in Apple’s App Store, I was a bit surprised that the same wasn’t true for Google’s Play Store. I checked again yesterday, though, and the Play Store is now riddled with shameless Wordle rip-offs: apps that take the name, the icon, the colors and design, everything.


‘The Banality of Genius’ 

Peter Jackson’s Get Back has, rightfully, been much-discussed. This essay by Ian Leslie, for his site The Ruffian, is one of my favorite takes. Chock full of keen observations. Perfect Sunday morning read.

The Atlantic: ‘The Case Against Masks at School’ 

Margery Smelkinson, Leslie Bienen, and Jeanne Noble, in a copiously-researched piece for The Atlantic:

The CDC guidance on school masking is far-reaching, recommending “universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K–12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” In contrast, many countries — the U.K., Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and others — have not taken the U.S.’s approach, and instead follow World Health Organization guidelines, which recommend against masking children ages 5 and younger, because this age group is at low risk of illness, because masks are not “in the overall interest of the child,” and because many children are unable to wear masks properly. Even for children ages 6 to 11, the WHO does not routinely recommend masks, because of the “potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development.” The WHO also explicitly counsels against masking children during physical activities, including running and jumping at the playground, so as not to compromise breathing. [...]

Many public-health experts maintain that masks worn correctly are essential to reducing the spread of COVID-19. However, there’s reason to doubt that kids can pull off mask-wearing “correctly.” We reviewed a variety of studies — some conducted by the CDC itself, some cited by the CDC as evidence of masking effectiveness in a school setting, and others touted by media to the same end — to try to find evidence that would justify the CDC’s no-end-in-sight mask guidance for the very-low-risk pediatric population, particularly post-vaccination. We came up empty-handed.

Very compelling piece, if you think policies such as mandatory masking in schools should be based on evidence from well-conducted scientific studies.

Samsung Factory in Austin Polluted Waterways With Acid Waste for Months 

The South China Morning Post, republishing a report from Bloomberg:

Samsung Electronics Co’s semiconductor factory in Austin, Texas, spilled acidic waste for months, killing aquatic life in a tributary nearby, a probe showed.

The amount of acidic waste that entered the tributary is unknown, and there is “no measurable impact” to water chemistry and aquatic life further downstream in the Harris Branch Creek, according to a January 27 memorandum by the city’s Watershed Protection Department sent to Austin’s mayor and city council.

The company discovered a release of “industrial waste water” that entered its stormwater collection pond on January 14, it said in a statement. It immediately stopped the release and took action to minimise the impact to the environment, Samsung said.


New Emojis Coming in iOS 15.4 and MacOS 12.3 

Keith Broni, Emojipedia:

New emojis have arrived on iOS as part of the first iOS 15.4 beta. These include a melting face, pregnant man, mirror disco ball, and multi-racial handshake emojis.

Apple Reports Q1 2022 Results 


Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2022 first quarter ended C 25, 2021. The Company posted an all-time revenue record of $123.9 billion, up 11 percent year over year, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.10.

If record-breaking quarters can be boring, Apple’s recent results qualify. From Apple’s statements of operations for the quarter (PDF), the most interesting year-over-year change I noticed was the divergence between Mac and iPad net sales:

Q1 2022 Q1 2021
iPhone $71.63 $65.60
Mac $10.85 $8.68
iPad $7.25 $8.44
Wearables, Home, Accessories $14.70 $12.97
Services $19.52 $15.76
Total net sales $123.95 $111.44

Last year Mac and iPad were very close to even. This year, Mac sales were up 25%, and iPad down 14%. That’s not surprising given the hardware releases last year: a good but uneventful year for iPads vs. the single most transformative year for Mac hardware ever.

iOS 15.4, Now in Developer Beta, Has an Option to Use Face ID With a Mask 

Nick Heer, Pixel Envy:

First spotted by Brandon Butch, iOS 15.4 will offer support for Face ID while wearing a mask. The text on the setup screen implies that it focuses more on the area around a user’s eyes to make a match. As Federico Viticci documented, it allows you to add pairs of glasses too, which makes sense for greater sensitivity around that specific area.

Today’s OS updates — MacOS 12.2 and iOS 15.3 (in all its device-specific variants) — are seemingly mostly bug fixes. But MacOS 12.3 and iOS 15.4 are feature upgrades. In addition to this welcome new support for using Face ID while wearing a mask, the MacOS 12.3/iPadOS 15.4 betas introduce the much-awaited Universal Control.

New ‘Unity Lights’ Face for Apple Watch 

Apple Newsroom:

The band is complemented by the Unity Lights watch face, which is designed using 2D ray tracing, a technology never before implemented for a watch face. Each pixel on the screen simulates the light and shadow falling across it and the movement of the clock hands simultaneously reveal and hide the light, changing dynamically throughout the day. The Unity Lights watch face can be customized to be a full screen or circular dial, and includes a black and white option, tick marks, and up to four complications. iPhone, iPad, and Mac users can also show their support for Black History Month by downloading Afrofuturism-inspired wallpapers available at

Very cool watch face.

The wallpapers seem a little hidden to me: go to Apple’s main Watch page, and click the “Find out more” button. That reveals a popover with links to download the wallpaper images.

Apple Releases iOS 15.3, iPadOS 15.3, MacOS Monterey 12.2, WatchOS 8.4, tvOS 15.3, and HomePod 15.3 

Josh Centers, TidBITS:

It’s time once again to fire up Software Update. Apple has released updates for all of its shipping operating systems with bug fixes and security updates but no new features, apart from Siri on the HomePod learning to recognize two new languages. Apple says that one of the security vulnerabilities addressed may have been actively exploited in the wild, so we recommend updating soon.

One More Dunk on Spotify: Their Apps Still Don’t Support AirPlay 

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Spotify has still not enabled AirPlay 2 in its iPhone and iPad app, nearly six months after last promising to support the feature.

“Spotify will support AirPlay 2 and we’re working to make that a reality,” a Spotify spokesperson informed MacRumors in early August, in response to a Spotify Community forum post that said the company had paused plans to support the feature.

Big-Name Podcasts Spotify Has Announced Yet Have Never or Seldom Published 

Speaking of Spotify’s exclusive podcasts, here’s James Cridland writing for Podnews:

Over the last two years, Spotify have been busy announcing deals for podcasts. But when it comes to the shows themselves, where are they? [...]

With this level of PR activity, it’s no surprise that these deals are normally heavily covered by the press, and each of them has a positive effect on Spotify’s stock market value. Meghan and Harry’s announcement alone contributed to a 1.9% rise in value, worth $836 million.

However, if there is a track record of these announcements never coming to fruition or delivering any value for the company, when do these announcements become a little misleading? Is this a strategy?

Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:

Still, the takeaway from the skirmish is clear: Spotify can’t afford to ostracize Rogan or his audience. The company specifically licensed his show with the goal of both converting listeners to the platform and making money through ad sales. [The Joe Rogan Experience] has become the lynchpin to its entire podcasting apparatus.

A source previously told me that if marketers buy ads on Rogan, they have to buy ads on the rest of Spotify’s catalog, too, meaning Rogan’s success brings more advertisers to the rest of Spotify’s investments. Without him, Spotify has Call Her Daddy and Armchair Expert, but neither reaches Rogan’s scale. It’s easy to see why Spotify didn’t cave so easily.

See also: Carman, back in August: “Joe Rogan, Confined to Spotify, Is Losing Influence”. Rogan may well be laughing all the way to the bank, but there’s no question that going Spotify-exclusive has reduced his audience size. People who like podcasts already have a favorite podcast player.

Spotify, Unsurprisingly, Will Remove Neil Young’s Music Instead of Dropping Joe Rogan 

Jon Brodkin, writing for Ars Technica:

With Neil Young having told Spotify that it can keep him or podcaster Joe Rogan but not both, the streaming company today said it will remove Young’s catalog of music.

“We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users,” Spotify said in a statement to Deadline and other media organizations. “With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place, and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify but hope to welcome him back soon.”

Neil Young:

Spotify represents 60% of the streaming of my music to listeners around the world, almost every record I have ever released is available — my life’s music — a huge loss for my record company to absorb. Yet my friends at Warner Brothers Reprise stood with me, recognizing the threat the COVID misinformation on Spotify posed to the world — particularly for our young people who think everything they hear on Spotify is true. Unfortunately it is not.

Thank you Warner Brothers for standing with me and taking the hit — losing 60% of my world wide streaming income in the name of Truth. [...]

I sincerely hope that other artists and record companies will move off the Spotify platform and stop supporting Spotify’s deadly misinformation about COVID.

This is all good. Of course Spotify chose Joe Rogan over Neil Young. Everyone knew they would, including Young. Young didn’t do this to try to get Spotify to drop Joe Rogan; he did this to raise awareness that Spotify supports Rogan and Rogan pushes a lot of nonsense about COVID. Young put his money where his mouth was and was rewarded with publicity for a message he clearly feels strongly about.

The Talk Show: “Blofeld-69-420” 

Guy English returns to the show to talk about video games, the cold, the Heat, and the state of streaming video services.

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Letterman Will Return to Late Night for 40th Anniversary 

This time I really did plotz.

Google Kills FLoC, Unveils ‘Topics’, a New Plan to Replace Tracking Cookies 

Paul Wagenseil, writing for Tom’s Guide:

Google has ditched its planned user-profiling system, FLoC, and is instead developing a new system called Topics, the company announced today.

Topics, described by Google Senior Director of Product Ben Galbraith as “one of the most ambitious efforts we’ve ever undertaken” during a conference call with reporters, is meant to replace third-party advertising cookies in Chrome by the end of next year. [...]

Topics seems pretty different from FLoC, which stood for Federated Learning of Cohorts. FLoC was intended to analyze your browsing data and place you in one of several thousand “cohorts” made up of Chrome users with similar interests. By comparison, Topics seems more general and should give websites and advertisers much fuzzier data about individual users.

Here’s the thing I don’t understand about this new Topics proposal: Is it baked into the browser? That’s how I’m reading it, and I suspect that means it will wind up being Chrome-only. Why would any other browser support an ad tech proposal that was designed by Google to primarily benefit Google’s own advertising needs.

What happens if a website is dependent on Topics for advertising revenue and you’re using any browser other than Chrome? Will the site try to block you and tell you to switch to Chrome, the way so many sites today try to block you and tell you to disable your privacy blocker?

(If someone out there understands this proposal and it doesn’t require browsers to support it, let me know.)

German Publishers Run Crying to E.U. Regulators Over Google’s Plan to Remove Third-Party Cookies From Chrome 

Javier Espinoza, reporting for The Financial Times:

Google is facing a fresh complaint from Germany’s largest publishers and advertisers, which are demanding that the EU intervene over the search giant’s plan to stop the use of third-party cookies. Axel Springer, the publisher of titles such as Bild and Politico, is among the hundreds of publishers, advertisers and media groups that have argued to the bloc’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, that Google is breaking EU law with its move to phase out third-party cookies from its Chrome browser by next year.

What a pile of horseshit. Third-party cookies have proven to be a privacy disaster and other major browsers have already removed support for them — including Safari, Firefox, and Brave. Chrome is the most popular web browser in the world and thus the biggest holdout, and these clowns want the EU’s regulators — a group that would have us believe it is concerned foremost with consumers — to force Google to keep third-party cookie support enabled in Chrome. If the EU doesn’t toss this case out, it’s a joke.

The decision blocks advertisers, publishers and intermediaries from analysing users’ preferences while they browse online content — a critical blow to how the industry generates revenues.

This editorializing from the FT is simply wrong. Publishers aren’t third parties, so they’re free to analyze users’ preferences while those users are on the publishers’ own sites. But what they’re asking for here is for the EU to force Google to allow them to keep “analyzing users’ preferences” while users are anywhere and everywhere else on the web. Just because publishers have been able to profit from surveillance advertising doesn’t mean they have any entitlement whatsoever to keep profiting from it. As I quipped last year, it’s like pawn shops suing to keep the police from cracking down on a wave of burglaries.

“Publishers must remain in a position where they are allowed to ask their users for consent to process data, without Google capturing this decision. Google must respect the relationship between publishers and users without interfering,” said the document, which was also sent to the EU’s powerful competition unit.

Publishers aren’t third parties, so publishers are free to use their own cookies.

Google said: “Many other platforms and browsers have already stopped supporting third-party cookies but Google is the only one to do this openly and in consultation with technical standards bodies, regulators, and the industry, while also proposing new, alternative technologies.”


Google Drops Support for the Pixel 3 

Aaron Gordon, writing for Vice:

Not quite three years ago, I bought a Pixel 3, Google’s flagship phone at the time. It has been a good phone. I like that it’s not too big. I dropped it a bunch, but it didn’t break. And the battery life has not noticeably changed since the day I got it. [...] But I have to get rid of it because Google has stopped supporting all Pixel 3s. Despite being just three years old, no Pixel 3 will ever receive another official security update. [...]

But for the past six years, Google has made the Pixel line of phones. They are Google-made phones, meaning Google can’t blame discontinuing security updates on other manufacturers, and yet, it announced that’s exactly what it would do.

As Gordon points out, iOS 15 supports iPhones back to the 6S, which debuted in September 2015, and the original SE, which shipped six months later. (Both the 6S and original SE are based on the A9 chip.)

Update: My theory for this disparity is simple. A lot of people obsess over “planned obsolescence” — the idea that device makers purposefully make several-years-old devices slower or stop issuing software updates for them to drive users to purchase new devices to replace the existing one. I don’t think that’s what’s going on, at least with Google’s Pixel phones. If it were easy to support older Pixels with the latest version of Android, I firmly believe Google would do it. The problem is it’s not easy. In fact it’s very difficult, on both the hardware and software sides. On the hardware side, the device maker needs to be looking more than half a decade ahead. On the software side, engineers need to be looking more than half a decade behind. It’s not spite that leads to Google (and Samsung, and everyone else) supporting their own phones for only two major OS releases after launch, it’s laziness and indifference. Apple is the only phone maker in the world willing to do the hard work to support their devices for five or more years. That’s a fact.

The New York Times Is Just Fucking With Us Now 

Julie Creswell, reporting (supposedly) for The New York Times Friday in a story about inflation hitting fast food:

On a chilly Tuesday afternoon this month, James Marsh stopped by a Chipotle near his suburban Chicago home to grab something to eat.

It had been a while since Mr. Marsh had been to Chipotle — he estimated he goes five times a year — and he stopped cold when he saw the prices.

“I had been getting my usual, a steak burrito, which had been maybe in the mid-$8 range,” said Mr. Marsh, who trades stock options at his home in Hinsdale, Ill. “Now it was more than $9.”

He walked out.

“I figured I’d find something at home,” he said.

Everything about this is just pure bullshit, right down to the dramatic one-sentence-per-paragraph pacing.

NBC Will Not Broadcast This Year’s Super Bowl in 4K 

Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge:

The 2022 Super Bowl won’t be broadcast or streamed in 4K again this year when the game takes place on February 13th, NBC Sports has confirmed to The Verge. The lack of a 4K stream marks the second year in a row that the big game won’t be available with the higher level of picture quality. “The game will not be in 4K,” Dan Masonson, a spokesperson for NBC Sports, told The Verge.

NBC, which is hosting the big game this year, has never actually aired an NFL game in 4K or HDR before, despite hosting the nationally televised Sunday Night Football game every week during the regular NFL season. NBC, for what it’s worth, isn’t the only network: CBS doesn’t produce any of its games in 4K (the network cited COVID-19 issues for the lack of a 4K Super Bowl in 2021), nor does ESPN with Monday Night Football.

Bonus points to any electronics retailer that runs a promotion encouraging people to buy an 8K TV in time for “The Big Game”.

Update: Samsung scores the bonus points.

Bloomberg: ‘Nvidia Quietly Prepares to Abandon $40 Billion Arm Bid’ 

Ian King, Giles Turner, and Peter Elstrom, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Nvidia Corp. is quietly preparing to abandon its purchase of Arm Ltd. from SoftBank Group Corp. after making little to no progress in winning approval for the $40 billion chip deal, according to people familiar with the matter.

Nvidia has told partners that it doesn’t expect the transaction to close, according to one person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. SoftBank, meanwhile, is stepping up preparations for an Arm initial public offering as an alternative to the Nvidia takeover, another person said.

Good news for Intel, if true.

* 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 their only ostensibly substantial follow-up contained not one shred of evidence to back up their allegations. Bloomberg seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract “The Big Hack” or provide evidence that any of it was true.

NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton Has Lost His Mind 

Theo Lawson, writing for the Spokane Spokesman-Review, after Gonzaga revoked Stockton’s season tickets for refusing to wear a mask:

During the interview, Stockton asserted that more than 100 professional athletes have died of vaccination. He also said tens of thousands of people – perhaps millions – have died from vaccines.

“I think it’s highly recorded now, there’s 150 I believe now, it’s over 100 professional athletes dead — professional athletes — the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court,” Stockton said in the interview.

There’s unhinged from reality, and then there’s just floating into the void like Frank Poole in 2001.

Netherlands Authority for Consumer Markets Begins Fining Apple for Non-Compliance With Dating App Rules for Third-Party Payments 

The Netherlands Authority for Consumer Markets:

Apple has failed to satisfy the requirements on several points. The most important one is that Apple has failed to adjust its conditions, as a result of which dating-app providers are still unable to use other payment systems. At the moment, dating-app providers can merely express their ‘interest’. In addition, Apple has raised several barriers for dating-app providers to the use of third-party payment systems. That, too, is at odds with ACM’s requirements. For example, Apple seemingly forces app providers to make a choice: either refer to payment systems outside of the app or to an alternative payment system. That is not allowed. Providers must be able to choose both options.

What are the next steps?

ACM has informed Apple that its statements do not satisfy the requirements laid down in the order subject to periodic penalty payments. Apple is still obligated to act in accordance with said order. If it fails to do so, Apple will have to pay each week a penalty payment of 5 million euros up to a maximum of 50 million euros.

Apple could just write them a check for €50 million now, from the company’s spare-change-under-the-sofa account. Or they could just pull dating apps from the App Store in the Netherlands. Otherwise, put their napkins on their laps and eat a Dutch shit sandwich.

Update: Francisco Tolmasky:

It must be really frustrating to roll out an entire plan only to be completely at the whim of a reviewer — err, regulator — to find out whether it sufficiently meets a set of vague criteria.

Listen Notes 

My thanks to Listen Notes for once again sponsoring Daring Fireball. As of January 2022, there are over 2,750,000 RSS-based podcasts and 123,000,000 episodes on the internet — way more podcasts than the ones you already know.

Basically, there’s a podcast for that. You can learn any topic by listening to podcasts. And it seems like every domain expert has already done some podcast interviews. Listen Notes is a search engine dedicated to podcasts. Search any topic or person at

‘Seriously, I Could Have Done Lasso’ 

Very funny new commercial for Apple TV+: “Everyone but Jon Hamm”. But it’s funny because it’s true: there’s now quite a bit of original content on TV+, and Apple’s library continues to grow.

The knock against TV+ from the get-go is that its library was so small compared to rival services like Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, etc. “Who’s going to pay $5 a month for just a handful of shows and movies?” But Apple’s TV+ strategy is following the company’s traditional pattern of steady incremental improvement.

The Swiss site MacPrime has been counting TV+’s original content, and with the release of Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth last week, TV+ is up to 100 original movies and series, totaling over 500 hours. And they’re tracking at least 65 upcoming projects. (Safari does a remarkable job translating MacPrime’s site to English.)

Apple excels at these long run games. (See: Apple Pay.) The news media, as a general rule, has no attention span whatsoever.

‘The Sound of 007’ 

Justin Kroll, reporting last month for Deadline:

Following the success of a number of documentaries set in the music industry, Apple is now planning a doc that takes a deep dive into the music of one of the great movie franchises. Apple has announced The Sound of 007, a feature documentary about the remarkable history of six decades of James Bond music.

Brought to audiences by MGM, Eon Productions and Ventureland, the documentary will make its global debut on Apple TV+ in October to mark the 60th anniversary of the James Bond film series.

In case you missed it, back in November I linked to a delightful episode of the podcast Switched on Pop: “James Bond’s Spycraft Sound”. A documentary about the Bond franchise’s music is just what Dr. No ordered.

Twitter Announces NFT Profile Pictures 

Twitter Blue:

You asked (a lot), so we made it. Now rolling out in Labs: NFT Profile Pictures on iOS.

Such profile pictures will be identifiable by being hexagonal. (Android and web users are still locked out of Twitter Blue.)

Sam Biddle:

I predict a browser extension that auto-blocks people with hexagonal avatars would become very popular very fast.


This is a browser plugin that blocks people who use Twitter’s NFT integration.

See also: This.

Speculating on the Prospects of the ‘Open App Markets Act’ Becoming Law 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, quoting from a note from analyst Amit Daryanani:

Relay from Tobin Marcus, EVRISI Senior US Policy and Politics Strategist, on the bill: “I think this’ll be a big topic of discussion through Q1 and has a chance of getting done, but it still looks fairly unlikely. The 16-6 committee vote overstates the level of support for the bill. Some Democrats, including the 2 Senators from California, voted the bill out of committee in part as a courtesy to Klobuchar despite expressing significant reservations, and several other Democrats have concerns and changes they want to make. Some of the Republican support looks soft as well, and getting Senate floor time for this bill before Congress largely shuts down for the midterms will be harder than some commentators appreciate.”

In the “all politics is local” front, it strikes me as highly unlikely that either senator from California (Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla) are going to vote for a bill that specifically targets Apple and Google. But in a larger sense, the United States Senate has more important matters to address than trying to force Apple to allow sideloading on iPhones.

Netflix Is Why I’d Never Want to Run a Publicly Held Company 

Frank Pallotta, in a piece for CNN Business headlines “The Sky Is Falling for Netflix”:

It wasn’t that long ago that Netflix was a stock darling, but those days now feel like eons ago. The company’s stock peaked just south of $700 in November, but has since dropped to around $400 on Friday.

Netflix ended 2021 with 221.8 million subscribers. That’s significantly more than others in the streaming marketplace, including Disney, one of its closest competitors. Disney had 118.1 million subscribers as of October, and it grew subscriptions 60% between October 2020 and October 2021. During that same period, Netflix grew just 9%. [...]

Netflix is struggling to find more people to sign up in the markets it has been playing in the longest — particularly the United States — noted Nathanson. The company is going to have to “start aggressively going after growth in developing markets,” such as India and other Asian Pacific countries, to keep moving forward, he added.

220 million subscribers and growing (even if slowly) at $10–20 per subscriber per month is a nice business! That’s about $30 billion in revenue per year. It’s a good company with good content, good software, an iconic brand, and a loyal base of now several hundred million users (way more people use Netflix than there are paid subscribers, with shared account credentials).

I know, I know, investors don’t trade stocks based on what a company is today, they trade on what they expect it to do in the future. Was Netflix overpriced back in November? I don’t know. But is the sky fucking falling? No.

The Case for ‘Mark as Unread’ in Messages 

Matthew Bischoff:

“Mark as Unread” has been so successful and well-loved in email that it’s been copied by many messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. And its utility in a casual messaging context is much the same in the slightly more formal email context.

As Tine Welanly put it on Quora:

Let’s say you’re riding the bus and you open a message from a friend, maybe asking you about your plans for the weekend. You have to respond to that but maybe it’s your stop already or you don’t know yet. But if you don’t say anything now, you might forget to respond and then you’ll look like a bad friend. Not to mention you might miss out on some weekend fun.

But the most popular messaging app on iOS, Messages, has never implemented “Mark as Unread” even though users have been clamoring for it for years and it’s been rumored that they tested it. What’s even wilder is that iMessage doesn’t have any other in-app way for the user to signal that they need to return to a message in order to respond to it.

A big +1 from me for this request. I love Messages. I know there are a bunch of ways Apple could and should improve it, but I can’t think any single feature that I want more than “Mark as Unread”.

A situation I run into, somewhat frequently: I get a notification from Messages and tap it. Turns out it’s a message that will require a longer reply, or some sort of action on my part that I can’t or don’t want to do right now — like something I need to do on a Mac, but I’m using my iPhone. But the message has already been marked as read.

The Verge: Google Is Building an AR Headset, Codenamed ‘Iris’ 

Alex Heath, with a scoop for The Verge:

The search giant has recently begun ramping up work on an AR headset, internally codenamed Project Iris, that it hopes to ship in 2024, according to two people familiar with the project who requested anonymity to speak without the company’s permission. Like forthcoming headsets from Meta and Apple, Google’s device uses outward-facing cameras to blend computer graphics with a video feed of the real world, creating a more immersive, mixed reality experience than existing AR glasses from the likes of Snap and Magic Leap. Early prototypes being developed at a facility in the San Francisco Bay Area resemble a pair of ski goggles and don’t require a tethered connection to an external power source.

I enjoy how the way Apple’s AR headset works is just stated as fact.

Stephen Hackett: ‘Apple Should Bring Back Dashboard’ 

Stephen Hackett, writing at 512 Pixels:

Apple killed off Dashboard at exactly the wrong time. Just one year after Catalina killed Dashboard, Apple started allowing developers to bring their iOS widgets over to the Mac in macOS Big Sur. Sadly, they all got stuffed into the slide-out Notification Center user interface.

Notification Center is a real mess. Even on a Pro Display XDR, you get three visible notifications. That’s it. Anything older is hidden behind a button, regardless of how many widgets you may have in the lower section of the Notification Center column.

Apple needs to rethink this and let this new class of widgets breathe, being able to use the entire screen like the widgets of yore could. Bringing back Dashboard is an obvious solution here, and I’d love to see it make a return.

It’s really interesting that the modern SwiftUI widgets are compatible across MacOS and both flavors of iOS (iPhone and iPad). But forcing them into Notification Center on MacOS is poorly considered. The Mac has bigger displays than any iPad, yet has less screen real estate for visible widgets than an iPhone. I also think today’s widgets are going to get more useful with each successive year (interactive elements, etc.).

Bringing back Dashboard would be one solution. Hackett links to an interesting thread on Twitter where other ideas are being tossed out, like putting them on the desktop or inside Launchpad. Apple really needs to do something on this front. Widgets are good and useful.

Apple Names Kristin Huguet Head of PR 

John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Apple has tapped a new head of PR: longtime company spokesperson Kristin Huguet. She’ll replace Stella Low, former communications chief at networking giant Cisco, who joined Apple in May 2021.

An Apple veteran, Huguet has been with the company since 2005, working under former SVPs Katie Cotton and Steve Dowling. She’s worked under CEOs Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, and her tenure has included some of the company’s most high-profile public relations challenges — a pitched battle with the FBI over iPhone encryption and, more recently, a widely publicized spat with Fortnite maker Epic Games over its App Store practices.

Huguet will report directly to Cook. Her new gig starts immediately.

I was slightly surprised they named an outsider last year. And I’m not surprised now that Low didn’t last. May to January is just 1⅓ Browetts.

‘Heat 2’ – Upcoming Novel by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner 

I nearly plotzed yesterday when I saw Michael Mann tweet a trailer for Heat 2, but it’s a novel, not a movie. Still, an insta-buy for me.

Mike Fleming Jr., writing for Deadline:

Michael Mann is ready to rip on Heat 2, a novel he has written with Edgar-winner Meg Gardiner that expands the tapestry of his 1995 crime classic film. The surprise here: the novel coming August 9 from William Morrow through the HarperCollins-based Michael Mann Books imprint will tell an original story about the lives of the characters in that movie both before and after the events depicted in the movie.

Modular AI – New Startup Co-Founded by Chris Lattner 

I saw that Lattner left SiFive this month — was wondering what was next. (Lattner created the LLVM compiler project before joining Apple and the Swift programming language while at Apple.) From Modular AI’s home page:

The next generation of product breakthroughs will be powered by production quality infrastructure that brings together the best of compilers and runtimes, is designed for heterogeneous compute, edge to datacenter distribution, and is focused on usability. Unifying software and hardware with a “just works” approach that will save developers enormous time and increase their velocity.

We believe the fundamental research is done — but we just need a first-principles re-architecture of our systems. We need a team that is motivated to solve the “big problem” in a disciplined way and an architecture that deploys to both large and small systems alike.

Modular AI is that team - solving that problem.

Lattner, on Twitter:

After spending years working on AI/ML infrastructure, Modular AI is finally going to build it right. It is time for the best SW architects, engineers and product leaders to come together to lift the world’s ML compute.

1Password Raises $620 Million in Another Funding Round, Valuing Company at Over $6 Billion 

I know many people who are longtime 1Password users, if not evangelists. I don’t know any of them who are happy about the direction in which 1Password has gone. Going big for the enterprise might be good for the company but it sure doesn’t seem good for the consumer market that formed 1Password’s original base.

(Doesn’t seem like a good investment to me, either. Better password management is getting built into operating systems and web browsers. They’re trying to go enterprise mass market with a niche product that was beloved by nerds who really care about their passwords. As a friend just quipped to me, “Unless they’re factoring in the value of the individual passwords, $6B makes no fucking sense.”)

Eddy Cue Wanted to Bring iMessage to Android in 2013 

With all the recent hubbub about iMessage’s exclusivity, it’s worth revisiting what we know about Apple’s internal debate over whether to make iMessage cross-platform back when they might have had a chance to make it relevant on Android. Emails from April 2013, when rumors were circulating that Google might buy WhatsApp (they probably should have) came out during discovery last year in the Epic v. Apple lawsuit:

Eddy Cue:

We really need to bring iMessage to Android. I have had a couple of people investigating this but we should go full speed and make this an official project.... Do we want to lose one of the most important apps in a mobile environment to Google? They have search, mail, free video, and growing quickly in browsers. We have the best messaging app and we should make it the industry standard. I don’t know what ways we can monetize it but it doesn’t cost us a lot to run.

Craig Federighi:

Do you have any thoughts on how we would make switching to iMessage (from WhatsApp) compelling to masses of Android users who don’t have a bunch of iOS friends? iMessage is a nice app/service, but to get users to switch social networks we’d need more than a marginally better app. (This is why Google is willing to pay $1 billion — for the network, not for the app.)... In the absence of a strategy to become the primary messaging service for [the] bulk of cell phone users, I am concerned [that] iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.

I think Federighi is right that it might have been a hard sell to Android users in 2013, but I wish Cue had gotten his way and Apple had at least tried.

Jason Snell: ‘Google Has It All Wrong. Apple’s iMessage Is Actually a Failure.’ 

Jason Snell, guns-a-blazing at Macworld:

The reason that I consider iMessage more of a failure than success is all about its slow pace of development and poor choices, especially compared with the WhatsApps and WeChats of the world.

The truth is, at some point Apple realized it was competing with those apps. The result was its introduction of the iMessage App Store, which it clearly thought would take the world by storm. It was a flop. Which, fair enough–Apple took its shot and it missed.

The old adage about Microsoft, which has a lot of truth to it, is that they’d come out with a rushed stinker of a 1.0, but doggedly stick with it and by 3.0 have something successful. (That’s 100 percent what happened with Windows, a product that has been somewhat successful for them.) Apple has a tendency to either hit home runs out of the box (iPod, iPhone, AirPods) or come out with a dud and just sweep it under the rug, like iMessage apps and stickers. They even unified Messages on a single code base last year (bringing the iOS app to MacOS 11 via Catalyst — quite successfully) but somehow still haven’t bothered to add iMessage stickers on Mac?


But even when Apple gets a clear iMessage win, it ends up muddy. Tapbacks are a user-experience problem for people who aren’t on iMessage, one so bad that Google added Tapback translation to Android. And after introducing the feature with six possible emoji-style reactions, Apple has… never touched that feature again. Why not add more reactions? Why not let users tap back with any emoji? Or pick favorites? There’s no answer. Nobody’s home.

I’d pay an extra $5/month to Apple for iCloud if it included a middle-finger Tapback. Just that one.

WSJ Reports Activision Considered Buying Video Game News Sites 

Kirsten Grind, Cara Lombardo, and Ben Fritz, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

Mr. Kotick has been eager to change the public narrative about the company, and in recent weeks has suggested Activision Blizzard make some kind of acquisition, including of gaming-trade publications like Kotaku and PC Gamer, according to people familiar with him. The Activision spokeswoman, Ms. Klasky, disputed that Mr. Kotick wanted to make the acquisitions. A spokesman for G/O Media, the parent company of Kotaku, declined to comment. PC Gamer didn’t respond to a request for comment.

How desperate was Bobby Kotick? If there’s any truth to this, comically desperate.

Bobby Kotick Interview With VentureBeat 

Activision Blizzard CEO (until the door hits his ass on the way out) Bobby Kotick, in an interview with Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat, on why they sold to Microsoft:

And so when Phil called, it happened to be at a time where we were getting ready to start our long range planning process, and realizing that these were going to be issues and challenges. We had the discussion. Phil and I know each other well, and we have a great relationship, and the company has a great relationship. And when you start to think about all the skills we need, all the resources we need, and what they have, it made a lot of sense.

When they originally called, we said we would we think about it, and then they made this offer that was incredibly attractive at 45% premium over the stock price. And I think it just made a lot of sense. And so, the more we spent the time talking about how it would work, and what would happen, what resources were available, they clearly were the best partner.

Translation: Microsoft really had us by the balls.

Who Else Was in the Running to Buy Activision Blizzard? 

Dina Bass and Liana Baker, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Yet even as Activision fought to salvage its reputation with players and investors — the stock dropped about 15% in the month after the Wall Street Journal article — and weighed the potential takeover, Kotick and the board weren’t sold on Microsoft as the acquirer, two people familiar with the matter said. Activision made calls to try to find other interested parties, said the people, who asked not to be identified talking about private conversations. Those included Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. and at least one other big company. But no other serious interest materialized. In an interview, Spencer declined to discuss how the deal went down. A Meta spokesperson declined to comment, and a representative for Activision didn’t return requests for comment.

I’ve been pondering this since yesterday. Who else even could have been in the running to buy Activision Blizzard? Microsoft is paying just under $69 billion in cash. What other companies have $70 billion in cash and even a vague interest in owning Activision? Apple and Google have the cash, but I can’t see how either of them would have any interest in Activision. Sony? A cursory check suggests they don’t have that much cash, and even if they could swing a $70B deal I don’t think they’d be interested in owning Activision Blizzard anyway.

That leaves Facebook as a company they could plausibly suggest having shopped themselves to. But I just don’t see Facebook having an interest either. Activision Blizzard makes games for PCs, game consoles, and mobile phones. Facebook doesn’t own any of those platforms. Facebook is, obviously, pushing to build a “metaverse” platform and has a VR platform that’s a big part of that, but Activision Blizzard doesn’t really have any major VR games. There’s talk of Microsoft’s acquisition being “metaverse” related but in this context metaverse is just a word investors think they want to hear. Neither Call of Duty nor Candy Crush seems much aligned with Facebook’s “metaverse” vision.

I really think it was Microsoft or bust. Activision knew that but doesn’t want to admit it, and Microsoft knew it and put the screws to Activision to make it happen on their terms. This deal was some Old Testament ass-kicking Microsoft. No wonder Phil Spencer got his title bumped to “Xbox CEO”.

* Given the source, take it with a “Big Hack” sized grain of salt, of course.

Opera Launches a Dedicated Crypto Browser 

S. Dent, reporting for Engadget:

Opera has launched its Web3 “Crypto Browser” into beta with features like a built-in crypto wallet, easy access to cryptocurrency/NFT exchanges, support for decentralized apps (dApps) and more. The aim is to “simplify the Web3 user experience that is often bewildering for mainstream users,” Opera EVP Jorgen Arnensen said in statement.

If it’s ever crossed your mind in recent years, Hey, whatever happened to Opera?”, you now have your answer: cryptocurrency grift.

Supreme Court Justices Deny Spat on Gorsuch Wearing a Face Mask 

Robert Barnes, reporting for The Washington Post:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in a statement Wednesday that she did not ask Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to wear a mask on Supreme Court bench, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. followed up by saying he did not make such a request of their other colleagues either.

The rare statements from the justices seemed aimed at knocking down reporting that Sotomayor, who has health reasons to be especially worried about contracting Covid-19, was participating remotely in oral arguments because Gorsuch was not wearing a mask.

The statements did not directly address that, but did refute some elements of an NPR report that raised the issue.

“Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us. It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends,” said a joint statement from Sotomayor, one of the court’s most liberal members, and Gorsuch, one of its most conservative.

Unusual, to say the least, to directly contradict the reporting of a writer as established as Nina Totenberg at NPR.

Army Spouse Uses AirTag to Track Down Shady Moving Truck Driver 

David Roza, reporting for Task & Purpose:

McNulty attached the tag to a box of her son’s toys, then her family of four headed out to the east coast. She told Task & Purpose that her family had been waiting about a month for their things to arrive, which surprisingly isn’t that bad compared to what some families go through. “Some families end up waiting months upon months to receive their household goods,” she said. [...]

The mover was supposed to drop off the goods on Friday, January 7, but when that didn’t happen, the moving company told McNulty to expect the delivery on Sunday. A few hours after that call, however, the truck driver transporting their belongings called to say that he just picked up their shipment in Colorado and the earliest he could get it to them would be Monday.

McNulty knew better. Using her AirTag, she found out that the driver was not in Colorado, but only a half day’s drive south in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

“When we brought up the fact that we knew his exact location he hung up on us,” McNulty later recalled. “He then called back several minutes later and said ‘Well the earliest I can get it to you is Sunday.’”

Lost amidst the worrisome stories about AirTags being used by creeps and stalkers are tales like this one, where they’re being put to good use.

Mozilla Stops Accepting Cryptocurrency, Wikipedia May Be Next 

Brandon Vigliarolo, writing for TechRepublic:

The original tweet from Mozilla mentioned three forms of cryptocurrency: the two main players, Bitcoin and Ethereum, and Dogecoin , all three of which use a system called proof of work (PoW) in order to add an entry to their respective blockchains. It’s here we find the first big sticking point: what Zawinski describes as “planet-incinerating” levels of energy use.

The proof of work problem has been known for a while, as has the ever-increasing carbon footprint of the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchain, the cause of which is the growing energy needs of their PoW networks.

As of this writing, a single transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain eats up the same amount of energy as the average US household in a 77.8-day, or roughly two and a half month, period. Ethereum, though nowhere near as large, still eats up the same amount of energy that a US household does in 8 days.

Such numbers seem too bad to be true, but take a look.

Do your research.”

NPR: ‘Fissures at the Supreme Court Suggest Justices Are Like a Dysfunctional Family’ 

Nina Totenberg, reporting for NPR, on discord amongst the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court:

Sotomayor has diabetes, a condition that puts her at high risk for serious illness, or even death, from COVID-19. She has been the only justice to wear a mask on the bench since last fall when, amid a marked decline in COVID-19 cases, the justices resumed in-person arguments for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.

Now, though, the situation had changed with the omicron surge, and according to court sources, Sotomayor did not feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked. Chief Justice John Roberts, understanding that, in some form asked the other justices to mask up.

They all did. Except Gorsuch, who, as it happens, sits next to Sotomayor on the bench. His continued refusal since then has also meant that Sotomayor has not attended the justices’ weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone.

Gorsuch, from the beginning of his tenure, has proved a prickly justice, not exactly beloved even by his conservative soulmates on the court.

More than just prickly, he appears to be a flat-out prick.

Update: Never mind? Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests 

More good news: the Biden administration’s website to get free at-home COVID tests — four tests per household — has soft-launched a day ahead of schedule. Worked like a charm for me and my extended family.

Omicron: ‘A Flash Flood More Than a Wave’ 

Josh Marshall, with some good news on the Omicron front:

New York City was one of the first parts of the United States hit by the Omicron variant. The trajectory of the city’s surge now appears remarkably similar to the pattern we saw earlier in South Africa and other countries.

Data out of South Africa showed a roughly four week interval between the start of the Omicron surge and its peak. “Peak in four weeks and precipitous decline in another two,” said Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council. “It was a flash flood more than a wave.”

New York City numbers appear to match this pattern almost exactly.

How Omicron Symptoms Differ From Delta, Past COVID-19 Variants 

Aria Bendix and Shayanne Gal, reporting for Insider:

Almost as soon as Omicron started spreading, doctors noticed slight differences in their patients’ symptoms relative to prior variants. Mild, coldlike symptoms — such as sore throats, sneezing, and runny noses — were increasingly common. But former hallmarks of COVID-19 — such as fevers, coughs, and loss of taste or smell — had dwindled.

“The most reported symptoms of Omicron are really very much like a cold, especially in people who’ve been vaccinated,” Dr. Claire Steves, a scientist involved with the Zoe COVID Symptom Study, said in a recent video.

Listeners of Dithering are aware that I had pretty strong cold symptoms — sneezing, headache, and a very runny nose — last Thursday. I tested negative for COVID at the time, and again over the weekend, and started feeling much better the very next day. But when we recorded on Thursday night, I was still under the wrong impression that a running nose and sneezing were not common COVID symptoms. That was true with COVID classic, but it’s no longer true with Omicron. This article from Insider has good charts showing the most common Omicron symptoms and the symptomatic differences between variants.

Will the U.S. Government Approve Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard? 

Peter Kafka, writing for Recode:

“When we think about our vision for what a metaverse can be, we believe there won’t be a single, centralized metaverse,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said after announcing the deal on Tuesday.

You can also read that statement as a message to Lina Khan, the head of the Federal Trade Commission, along with the rest of the Biden administration’s antitrust enforcers: I know it seems like we are swallowing up a lot of the games business, but don’t think of this as consolidation in an important industry — think of it as competition against Facebook in a new industry. Competition is good, right?

This deal is certainly going to draw a lot of attention in Washington, which has been focusing on big and small deals made by most of the tech industry — but has largely left Microsoft alone until now. (The irony, of course, is that Microsoft spent a long time fighting federal antitrust charges over its web browser dominance two decades ago; the company averted a forced break-up but lost much of its mojo along the way).

Update: I don’t see why the government would block this acquisition. Some anti-capitalists will oppose it on the ideological grounds of being against big companies getting bigger, but that’s not the law, and that’s not how our system works. If Microsoft were trying to buy Nintendo or Sony, that, in my opinion, should be blocked on anti-competitive grounds, because Nintendo and Sony make platforms that very successfully compete against Xbox. But a game studio, even a big one like Activision Blizzard? No.

Back of the Envelope Math on Microsoft’s Activision Acquisition 

Phil Spencer, announcing Microsoft’s intention to buy Activision for $68.7 billion:

Until this transaction closes, Activision Blizzard and Microsoft Gaming will continue to operate independently. Once the deal is complete, the Activision Blizzard business will report to me as CEO, Microsoft Gaming.

Upon close, we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog. We also announced today that Game Pass now has more than 25 million subscribers. As always, we look forward to continuing to add more value and more great games to Game Pass.

Game Pass subscriptions cost between $10–15 per month. Let’s just call that about $150/year per subscriber. That’s just under $4 billion per year. Assume that the Game Pass subscriber base will keep growing, and $69 billion for Activision doesn’t seem absurd as a long-term investment. And that’s just counting Game Pass subscription revenue, not traditional game sales.

Microsoft to Buy Activision Blizzard for Nearly $69 Billion 

Maddy Myers, reporting for Polygon:

Microsoft plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, publisher of some of the most popular games on the planet (from World of Warcraft to Call of Duty), as well as the studios currently embroiled in multiple lawsuits related to accusations of gender discrimination in its workplace, the company announced Tuesday. Xbox boss Phil Spencer will serve as the CEO of Microsoft Gaming and oversee Activision Blizzard once the transaction is finalized.

The deal is worth $68.7 billion, Microsoft said, the largest acquisition in the company’s history.

In a blog post about the acquisition, Spencer said that Microsoft “will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog.”

That’s a lot of money. Microsoft spent $26 billion on LinkedIn back in 2016. I’m not saying it’s too much — just that it’s indicative of how dominant video games are in today’s entertainment world. Context: Disney bought Lucasfilm — including the entire Star Wars franchise — for just $4 billion a decade ago.

From the perspective of Activision’s board, this seems like a good face-saving solution to the company’s leadership and culture problems. Let Microsoft clean house at the executive and management level. Even putting aside that Activision’s stock has dipped, I don’t think this acquisition happens if not for the recent controversies.

‘Bob Saget’s Sublime, Filthy Comedy’ 

Penn Jillette, remembering Bob Saget, in a piece for the NYT:

He had a big smile and joy for the world in “Full House” and on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Everyone loved and trusted Bob in those roles. You wanted to hug him.

Some people are saying now that the real Bob was very different from that good-guy image, but I disagree. Offstage he was loving, kind, open, funny, a great friend and a great father. He also told filthy, disgusting, offensive jokes.

The Aristocrats — which Jillette produced — is not for everyone, that’s for sure, but I loved it.

U.K. Government Plans Publicity Campaign to Build Public Sentiment Against End-to-End Encryption 

James Ball, reporting for Rolling Stone:

The UK government is set to launch a multi-pronged publicity attack on end-to-end encryption, Rolling Stone has learned. One key objective: mobilizing public opinion against Facebook’s decision to encrypt its Messenger app.

The Home Office has hired the M&C Saatchi advertising agency — a spin-off of Saatchi and Saatchi, which made the “Labour Isn’t Working” election posters, among the most famous in UK political history — to plan the campaign, using public funds. [...]

In a lecture last November, former chief executive of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre Ciaran Martin criticized the Home Office’s rhetoric on encryption — and its broader approach. [...]

“In other words, the policy is technological ‘cakeism’ — the government is trying to eat its lawful access cake while having end-to-end encrypted protection for citizens more generally … Most experts are highly doubtful, and believe the government is searching for the digital equivalent of alchemy.”

“The digital equivalent of alchemy” — what a great turn of phrase to describe the persistent notion that it’s possible to create strong encryption with a backdoor that only “good guys” can use.


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‘The Greek Who Makes the Odds’ – 1961 Sports Illustrated Profile of Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder 

Speaking of legal sports betting, this 1961 feature profile of Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder by Gilbert Rogin is a hell of a read for modern eyes. (The Sports Illustrated story spells his first name “Jimmie”, but he eventually went to “Jimmy”.) The web version has a few OCR errors, but they’ve also got the entire original print issue of the magazine scanned, and it’s a hoot to page through just to look at the ads. (Lots and lots of booze.)

If you’re old enough, you’ll recall Snyder as a mainstay on CBS’s “The NFL Today” football studio team back in the 1980s, until he was fired after making offensive remarks about black athletes in a 1988 interview.

Back in 1961, though, Snyder was running a small legal sportsbook in Las Vegas, at a time when the major casinos didn’t handle sports betting. No internet, of course, and no cable TV. So this is how they got information and scores:

Nowadays Jimmie relies chiefly on newspapers for information; he subscribes to 27. “There’s a lot of handicappers that know how to read newspapers,” he says. “They’re called good readers.” Other sources of information are magazines, wire-service-clips and college brochures. [...]

On Saturdays during the football season the gamblers — the affluent and the busted valises alike — gather in the smoky interior of the Hollywood Sports Service to watch the televised game on two sets, listen to another on radio, get the results, which come in fitfully over an often faulty Western Union ticker and bawl for free hamburgers. Snyder soothes the malcontents, pleads for last-minute “starkers,” or sure bets, and finer language, dissuades customers from betting more than they can afford — really — and tries, vainly it seems, to lead them in cheers and song.

The anti-Semitism in the piece is rather shockingly matter-of-fact:

And through meeting an Arabian prince who admired his suit (Jimmie later gave him a stunning white number — “a perfect fit,” he says) at Maxim’s, the Paris restaurant, he got involved in another oil proposition. This took him to Saudi Arabia and would have made him a millionaire if he hadn’t innocently included a Jew on his board of directors. The deal fell through.

Jimmie is often mistaken for a Jew or an Italian. Once, when he was staying at a restricted hotel in Miami, the manager told him that a lady had complained he was Jewish. Her reason: he had bet a horse $200 across the board. Jimmie protested that members of many ethnic groups bet horses $200 across the board. The manager explained that he had told the lady the very same thing. She had replied: “But Mr. Snyder won.”

Times change.

‘The United States’ Most Prestigious Business Publication Addresses “Green Bubbles”’ 

Nick Heer, in a fine column at Pixel Envy:

Messaging services come and go. Overall, I find it hard to see any specific correlation between device user base and messenger choice. Sure, iOS devices and iMessage are popular in the United States, but it is not the case that both are similarly popular around the world. In Japan, for instance, iOS devices have a higher market share than they do in the U.S., but the dominant messaging service is LINE, the “do-everything platform”. In most other countries, WhatsApp is the messaging app everyone uses regardless of smartphone operating system. In Indonesia, BBM was wildly popular until it was shuttered globally in 2019, even though sales of BlackBerry devices dried up long before. It also depends on which part of a country’s population you are measuring: in Canada, where iOS’ market share is neck-and-neck with Android’s, WhatsApp is not very popular except with new Canadians, 84% of whom use it daily.

I knew that Line was dominant in Japan, but I was not aware that the iPhone has higher market share in Japan than in the U.S.

9to5Mac: Apple Will Allow Dating Apps in the Netherlands to Use Alternative Payment Systems, But Developers Must Maintain a Separate App Binary 

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

In order to comply with a ruling from The Netherlands authorities, late on Friday Apple announced that it would allow developers of dating apps to offer alternative payments systems other than Apple’s In-App Purchase system, thereby circumventing Apple’s traditional 15-30% IAP cut. However, Apple will still charge a commission on these purchases regardless (details yet to be disclosed).

However, implementing this will not be straightforward. Developers will need to create and maintain a completely separate app binary which includes special entitlements, and is only made available in the Netherlands App Store. [...]

Maintaining a wholly separate app binary for one region is not convenient. This obstacle is one way Apple will discourage developers from going down this route; they can avoid all of the inconvenience by continuing to offer Apple In-App Purchase only. Depending on the commission rate Apple sets, it may not be worth it for a third-party developer to offer alternative payment systems at all.

The piecemeal regulations popping up around the world are so odd. Only dating apps and only in the Netherlands. Again, alternate payment processing in-app is not the answer, if Google and Apple are still going to take their cut of each transaction. Just send users to the web to process payments outside the app, and stipulate that apps must be allowed to link to their websites.

Netflix Raises Monthly Subscription Prices in U.S. and Canada 


The standard plan, which allows for two simultaneous streams, now costs $15.49 per month, up from $13.99, in the United States. Prices also rose in Canada, where the standard plan climbed to C$16.49 from C$14.99. [...]

The U.S. price of Netflix’s premium plan, which enables four streams at a time and streaming in ultra HD, was increased by $2 to $19.99 per month. For Netflix’s basic plan, with one stream, the cost rose by $1 to $9.99 per month.

The $20 plan is the only way to get 4K, even if you’re the only person using it. And the $10 basic plan streams at 480p. Perhaps 4K streaming is expensive enough, bandwidth-wise, that it’s fair to only offer it on the premium plan, but for $10/month everyone ought to get 1080p. 480p is ridiculous.

(Worth noting, too, that none of the other major streaming platforms charge extra for 4K. HBO Max limits 4K to their ad-free tier, but that’s fair.)

Donald G. McNeil Jr. on Trump Backing Vaccine Boosters: ‘Clearly, Someone Did the Math for Him’ 

Donald G. McNeil Jr.:

Genius or no, he is suddenly doing something very smart: in interview after interview, he endorses vaccines and boosters. He’s even called political rivals who refuse to admit they’ve been boosted “gutless.”


My guess is that somebody has done the math for him.

The math that says: “Uh, sir? Your voters are dying in droves.” […]

As of this week, about 1,800 Americans a day are dying of Covid; the C.D.C. expects that number to rise above 2,600. Virtually all are adults. If 95 percent were unvaccinated and we assume that 75 percent of those were Trump supporters, that’s 1,300 to 1,900 of his voters being subtracted from the rolls every single day.

If there’s a hole in McNeil’s back-of-the-envelope math it’s that he’s not accounting for the one-third of American adults who didn’t vote in 2020. It is undeniable though that COVID is now killing far more Republicans than Democrats. But whatever Trump’s motives, I’m genuinely glad to see him encourage his supporters to get vaccinated.

Google’s Alleged Schemes to Corner the Online Ad Market, Now Unredacted 

Gilad Edelman, reporting for Wired:

So when you see an ad on a website, it’s a good bet that the advertiser used Google to place it, Google’s exchange submitted it to the site, and the site used Google to make the space available. Google, in other words, runs the auction while representing both the buyers and sellers in that auction.

It’s kind of hard to believe that anyone ever went along with this, but Google’s control over all sides of the market slowly accrued over time. If they had come out of the gate with the whole system fully-formed, not just running the auction while representing both buyers and seller, but themselves competing in the same auctions, they’d have been laughed at. But here we are.

According to the complaint, under Dynamic Revenue Share Google would peek at all the bids and adjust its commission rate in order to win an auction. The newly unredacted complaint quotes a Google employee suggesting that the system was deceptive: “One known issue with the current DRS is that it makes the auction untruthful,” they wrote. By allegedly letting itself adjust its commission on a case-by-case basis, Google gave itself an advantage over other exchanges, which have to worry about losing auctions if they set their fees too high.

The final scheme alleged in the complaint undermines one of the most important aspects of second-price auctions. Because the winner’s bid is never disclosed, no one finds out how much they would have been willing to pay.

A program called Reserve Price Optimization allegedly undermined that benefit. In an ad auction, publishers get to set a minimum price, or floor, for the ad impression. If the floor is higher than the second-place bid, it essentially becomes the second-place bid. So if the top bid is $10, the second bid is $5, but the floor is $8, the winner ends up paying $8. According to the lawsuit, the RPO program used advertisers’ bid history to artificially inflate those price floors. For example, if a headphone company has repeatedly bid $20 to show you their ad, Google could use that information to raise the floor to $19.90 — even if the publisher thought it had set its floor at $10. In other words, Google allegedly used advertisers’ past bids to squeeze more money out of them.

The whole thing has been as crooked as a $3 bill. Billions and billions of $3 bills.

Here’s Google’s official response from Adam Cohen, the company’s director of economic policy. Doesn’t address any of the above allegations to my eyes, but you be the judge.

Top Three States for Legal Sports Betting: Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania 

I swear I have nothing to do with Pennsylvania’s high ranking.

Web3 Is Going Just Great 

Also from Molly White is this splendid new blog, documenting grift in the world of “Web3”. Here’s one recent gem:

A SolSea-verified NFT project on the Solana blockchain, Doodled Dragons, touted that they would distribute all profits “straight to charities protecting animals on the brink of extinction”. They announced on Twitter that they would be donating $30,000, “our first donation”, to the World Wildlife Fund. Two hours later, they tweeted, “actually. fuck that. our charity will instead now be... my bank account. cya nerds.” They deleted the Twitter account shortly after.

I couldn’t subscribe to this RSS feed fast enough. Good little glossary too.

Molly White: ‘Blockchain-Based Systems Are Not What They Say They Are’ 

Molly White:

If you go out seeking to learn from their proponents why blockchains and the systems built atop them are apparently the future of our web, you’ll begin to see some common themes. Two of the ones I see most frequently are:

  • Decentralization: data in blockchains are distributed across innumerable servers run by innumerable people and organizations, rather than stored on servers controlled by one organization

  • Immutability: what is written to a blockchain cannot be changed or deleted, unlike more traditional databases

These fall apart under further scrutiny. [...]

Blockchain technologies have somehow managed to land in the worst of both worlds — decentralized but not really, immutable but not really.

A cogent read.

Update 15 January: And another one, “It’s Not Still the Early Days”:

The more you think about it, the more “it’s early days!” begins to sound like the desperate protestations of people with too much money sunk into a pyramid scheme, hoping they can bag a few more suckers and get out with their cash before the whole thing comes crashing down.


Fun, deceptively simple drawing app from Maxwellito:

Minimator is a minimalist graphical editor.

All drawings are made of lines in a grid based canvas. The lines are limited to vertical and horizontal lines, and quarter circles.

The editor was built with touch tablets in mind. Providing undo/redo/zoom/move in a simple gesture. An info tooltip is available in the editor to list the shortcuts available.

It’s a web app but designed for tablets, stores all data locally, and works well on iPads via the Add to Home Screen command in Safari. Nothing but circles and horizontal/vertical lines sounds limiting, but the results can be quite rich.

(Via Andy Baio.)

From the DF Archive: ‘On iMessage’s Stickiness’ 

Yours truly, five years ago:

As an iOS/MacOS exclusive, iMessage is a glue that “keeps people stuck to their iPhones and Macs”, not the glue. iMessage for Android would surely lead some number of iPhone users to switch to Android, but I think that number is small enough to be a rounding error for Apple. Apple wins by creating devices and experiences that people want to use, not that they have to use. Apple creates desire, not obligation. If the iPhone isn’t thriving simply by being the best, then Apple is already in deep trouble. I would argue that in some ways Apple might be better off releasing iMessage for Android, simply to remove a crutch.

Evergreen topic.

Google, Throwing Stones From Its Glass House 

Ron Amadeo, in a piece for Ars headlined “After Ruining Android Messaging, Google Says iMessage Is Too Powerful”:

Even if Google could magically roll out RCS everywhere, it’s a poor standard to build a messaging platform on because it is dependent on a carrier phone bill. It’s anti-Internet and can’t natively work on webpages, PCs, smartwatches, and tablets, because those things don’t have SIM cards. The carriers designed RCS, so RCS puts your carrier bill at the center of your online identity, even when free identification methods like email exist and work on more devices. Google is just promoting carrier lock-in as a solution to Apple lock-in.

Despite Google’s complaining about iMessage, the company seems to have learned nothing from its years of messaging failure. Today, Google messaging is the worst and most fragmented it has ever been. As of press time, the company runs eight separate messaging platforms, none of which talk to each other: there is Google Messages/RCS, which is being promoted today, but there’s also Google Chat/Hangouts, Google Voice, Google Photos Messages, Google Pay Messages, Google Maps Business Messages, Google Stadia Messages, and Google Assistant Messaging. Those last couple of apps aren’t primarily messaging apps but have all ended up rolling their own siloed messaging platform because no dominant Google system exists for them to plug into.

Tesla’s Dogecoin FAQ 

This support document makes cryptocurrency seem wonderful: network fees, no refunds, no cancellations, and processing times of up to six hours. How did we ever live before? (Via Kevin Jones.)

David Sparks Goes Full-Time on MacSparky 

David Sparks:

A few months ago, I wrote about a good book, Ikigai. one of my takeaways from that was that some very old, very happy people in Japan all had one thing in common, a sense of purpose, their Ikigai. The book explained how their actual purpose evolved during their lifetimes for many of these folks, yet they still did each have a strong sense of purpose. So I started with a simple question.

“What is my purpose? What am I here to do?”

Simple question, right? Simple, but also not easy to answer. Rather than get lost in the big question, I moved on to consider the law practice and MacSparky.

I’ve been reading MacSparky for a long time; glad to know there’s going to be even more of it.

Bloomberg: Apple VR Headset Might Be Pushed to Next Year 

Mark Gurman, Takashi Mochizuki, and Debby Wu, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Apple Inc. is considering pushing back the debut of its mixed-reality headset by at least a few months, potentially delaying its first major new product since the Apple Watch in 2015, according to people familiar with the situation. [...]

The delay would mark a setback for a product seen as one of Apple’s famous “next big things” — a new category that can keep sales growing and help justify the tech giant’s nearly $3 trillion market valuation. The company hasn’t discussed the headset publicly, but the product has been years in the making and already delayed before.

It’s a semantic argument, but “pushed back” feels fair for an unannounced product. Shipping is hard, COVID makes everything harder. “Delayed” and “setback” don’t feel fair, though. When it actually does get announced, do we get a “finally”?

* You know.

I Need a Five-Letter Word for ‘This Story Is Fantastic’ 

Steven Cravotta, in a brief but fantastic Twitter thread:

Here’s how a mobile game I built 5 years ago suddenly got blown up by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Jimmy Fallon.

Stay until the end, trust me. If the story this week about that shithead rip-off bro bummed you out a little, Cravotta’s tale will pick you right up.

Fortnite Is Returning to iOS as a Web App to Be Played in Safari 


Starting next week, Fortnite on GeForce Now will launch in a limited-time closed beta for mobile, all streamed through the Safari web browser on iOS and the GeForce Now Android app. [...]

Alongside the amazing team at Epic Games, we’ve been working to enable a touch-friendly version of Fortnite for mobile delivered through the cloud. While PC games in the GeForce Now library are best experienced on mobile with a gamepad, the introduction of touch controls built by the GeForce Now team offers more options for players, starting with Fortnite.

If this works and Fortnite inside iOS Safari — as a web app! — works as well, or is even in the same ballpark, as the native Fortnite app did, this will be a landmark achievement and a technical marvel. If it’s not even in the same ballpark as native Fortnite, I don’t understand why Epic would put the Fortnite name on it.

Apple Presents Plan to Allow External Payment Processing in Apps to South Korea Regulator, Details Currently Scant 

The South Korea Herald:

Apple said it plans to provide an alternative payment system at a reduced service charge compared with the current 30 percent charge, as the tech giant turned in its compliance plans to the Korea Communications Commission (KCC).

The company did not provide the exact date of when the policy will take effect or the service fee to be applied but said it plans to discuss with the KCC on further details.

I’d bet money that Apple’s compliance plan will follow Google’s, which was announced two months ago. They’ll create a set of APIs for apps to use if they wish to process payments on their own, and those APIs will track the amount of money so that Apple can still collect their cut as the platform owner. Google’s plan reduced the rate by 4 percent, so an app that would get an 85/15 split through the Play Store’s built-in payments system will instead pay 11 percent of the transaction price to Google. Apps in South Korea will be able to process payments on their own, but they’ll have to use the APIs that ensure Google (and now Apple) get their cut.

These are platform fees, not payment processing fees. Google’s and Apple’s app stores are platforms, and they have every right to charge whatever fees they want. This whole thing shows how misguided South Korea’s legislation is. The right answer is simply to pass legislation making it illegal to ban apps from linking from within apps to their websites. The web is the open platform where developers are free to accept payments however they wish, with no fees paid to Apple or Google (or Sony or Nintendo or Microsoft).

I just took a shower and this small conundrum popped into my head, though: What about a native app for iOS or Android that itself is a web browser, which the user has set to be their default web browser? How would a third-party web browser “send users to the web, outside the app” to take payments for a subscription or to unlock features? That’s a corner case, to be sure, but it’s not outlandish. My spitball answer is that if an app is a web browser, and it is set by the user to be their default, then payment links can just open in tabs within the app. Done.

Local Note: Tonight Is Jim Gardner’s Final 11 PM Newscast on ‘Action News’ 

Rob Tornoe, reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The big story on Action News tonight is the end of an era in Philadelphia broadcasting — Jim Gardner will anchor his final 11 p.m. broadcast on 6ABC.

It goes without saying Gardner is an institution in the Delaware Valley, and is just as iconic as the timeless Action News jingle. He’s delivered the news at 11 p.m. since taking over for Larry Kane way back in 1977, and said he has mixed feelings as he approaches his final late-night newscast on Tuesday.

“It’s been a long run, and it’s the first step towards retirement,” Gardner told The Inquirer. “I hope we’ve done a good job with the 11 o’clock news over a period of almost 45 years. I think we have.”

If you’ve never lived in Philadelphia, you have no idea what an icon Jim Gardner is. He hasn’t just been anchoring a Philly newscast for 45 years, he’s been anchoring the Philly newscast for 45 years. 6ABC isn’t just the ratings leader here, they’ve been in first place for decades, typically with 2–3× the viewers of whichever channel is in second place — sometimes even more. The only reason people in Philadelphia watch the news on other networks is if they forget to change the channel.

No hyperbole: Jim Gardner might be the most well-known and beloved person in Philadelphia since Benjamin Franklin. His is the voice of Philadelphia. 45 years on top.

The good news: he’s still anchoring the 6 PM news for another year. I don’t know what we’ll do then.

Update: Gardner’s sign-off last night, naming Rick Williams as his successor. Perfect.

Unvaccinated Quebecers Will Have to Pay a Health Tax, Legault Says | CBC News 

Verity Stevenson and Isaac Olson, reporting for CBC News:

Quebec Premier François Legault said Tuesday the province would be imposing a health tax on Quebecers who refuse to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks. […] “These people, they put a very important burden on our health-care network,” Legault said. “I think it’s reasonable a majority of the population is asking that there be consequences.”

Roughly 10 per cent of eligible Quebecers remain unvaccinated, but health officials say they take up about 50 per cent of COVID-19 beds in hospitals.

I asked for “more like this, please” just the other day, and the good people of Quebec obliged.

App Store Scam of the Week: ‘AmpMe’ 

Kosta Eleftheriou has found another apparently multi-million-dollar-grossing app that’s been on the App Store for over three years: a shitty music “volume boosting” music player named AmpMe that costs $10 per week after the three-day trial. Thousands of obviously fake reviews, millions of dollars “earned”. Even worse: Apple has repeatedly featured this app in the App Store.

Again I say: Apple needs an App Store bunco squad that hunts for scam apps, sorted by gross revenue. An app like this should be trivial to find and boot from the store.

More on T-Mobile Blocking iCloud Private Relay 

The T-Mo Report (who knew there was a site dedicated to T-Mobile news?):

According to internal documents shared with us here at The T-Mo Report, the blocking of Apple’s privacy-focused service is actually due to a conflict with existing content filtering services on T-Mobile. [...]

This seems to indicate that the blocking isn’t actually intentional by the carrier, but merely a necessary step to ensure their own services work properly. The blocking affects very few customers in practice, and it seems that there are currently no plans to expand the blocking of Apple’s service to standard customers.

Impacted customers will receive one of two error messages, shown below (sourced from the same internal document), stating that their plan isn’t compatible with the iCloud Private Relay service.

As I wrote in an update to my earlier post, if it’s true, this is fair and makes sense. If you actually want your carrier to filter your network traffic, you have to let them see your network traffic. There seem to be a lot of reports from T-Mobile customers running into this problem who claim not to be using T-Mobile’s content filtering features, though.

Another thing to check: in Settings → Cellular → Cellular Data Options, make sure “Limit IP Address Tracking” is turned on.

Update 14 January: iOS 15.3, now in beta, updates the description for iCloud Private Relay in Settings to make things more clear.

Casey Newton on the Danger of Signal Adding Anonymous Payments 

Speaking of Signal, Casey Newton, writing for Platformer:

There’s nothing sinister about putting payments into a messaging app, and Signal is not alone in adding crypto payments to messaging: the company formerly known as Facebook has undertaken a multiyear effort to create a new currency and integrate it with WhatsApp and Messenger. What sets Signal’s effort apart is the combination of end-to-end encryption in messaging and a cryptocurrency with privacy features designed to make any transactions anonymous.

Last year, current and former Signal employees told me they were worried about what that combination would bring to the app. Anonymous transactions would likely attract criminals, they told me, and that in turn would attract regulatory scrutiny. Given that end-to-end encryption already faces legal challenges around the globe, they said, Signal’s addition of anonymous payments was a needless provocation. And it could give more ammunition to lawmakers who want to end encryption as we know it.

Moxie Marlinspike Steps Aside as Signal C.E.O. 

Speaking of Moxie Marlinspike, from Signal’s blog:

It’s a new year, and I’ve decided it’s a good time to replace myself as the CEO of Signal.

I have now been working on Signal for almost a decade. It has always been my goal for Signal to grow and sustain beyond my involvement, but four years ago that would still not have been possible. I was writing all the Android code, was writing all of the server code, was the only person on call for the service, was facilitating all product development, and was managing everyone. I couldn’t ever leave cell service, had to take my laptop with me everywhere in case of emergencies, and occasionally found myself sitting alone on the sidewalk in the rain late at night trying to diagnose a service degradation.

I’ve spent the past four years endeavouring to change that, and today the picture is radically different. [...]

I will continue to remain on the Signal board, committed to helping manifest Signal’s mission from that role, and I will be transitioning out as CEO over the next month in order to focus on the candidate search. Brian Acton, who is also on the Signal Foundation board, has volunteered to serve as interim CEO during the search period.

I hope this Acton fellow knows something about cryptographically-secure messaging.

T-Mobile Might Be Blocking iPhone Users From Enabling iCloud Private Relay in the U.S. 

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

In the UK, carriers including T-Mobile, EE, and others have already started blocking Private Relay usage when connected to cellular data. 9to5Mac has also now confirmed that T-Mobile is extending this policy to the United States.

This means that T-Mobile and Sprint users in the United States can no longer use the privacy-preserving iCloud Private Relay feature when connected to cellular data. An error message in the Settings app explains:

Your cellular plan doesn’t support iCloud Private Relay. With Private Relay turned off, this network can monitor your internet activity, and your IP address is not hidden from known trackers or websites.

This is some serious bullshit. It has nothing to do with improving network quality and everything to do with T-Mobile selling your usage data. Curious how Apple will respond. I’d say switch carriers if you’re on T-Mobile, but if they get away with this, I fear Verizon and AT&T will follow.

[Update: T-Mobile in a statement to 9to5Mac: “Customers who chose plans and features with content filtering (e.g. parent controls) do not have access to the iCloud Private Relay to allow these services to work as designed. All other customers have no restrictions.” That makes sense, and is fair. If you actually want your carrier to filter your network traffic you have to let them see your network traffic.

But, responding to T-Mobile’s statement, Miller states: “However, many of the users we’ve heard from, and tested ourselves, do not have any such content filtering enabled. We’ve followed up with T-Mobile for additional clarification, but have not yet heard back.”]

Also at 9to5Mac today, Benjamin Mayo:

It seems carriers in Europe don’t like that idea too much. Via The Telegraph, operators including Vodafone, Telefonica and T-Mobile signed an open letter voicing their opposition to the rollout of the feature. In fact, some carriers are already blocking support as shown in screenshots from readers below.

The letter said that Private Relay cuts off networks and servers from accessing “vital network data and metadata” and will have “significant consequences in terms of undermining European digital sovereignty”. They say it will also impact “operator’s ability to efficiently manage telecommunication networks”.

It’s unclear why the companies are speaking out against Private Relay, when general VPN services have been widely available for years and do much of the same role. Perhaps it is the fact that Private Relay is so easily accessible that they expect a lot of people to use it; the feature is built into iOS 15 and available to any customer with a paid iCloud plan.

Let’s see if the EU’s vaunted regulators know which side of this dispute is actually working in favor of user privacy. There should be no debate which side is right here.

First-Dose Vaccinations Quadruple in Quebec Ahead of Restrictions at Liquor and Cannabis Stores 

CTV News in Quebec:

The number of appointments for the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has risen sharply this week in Quebec, according to Health Minister Christian Dubé.

Thursday, Dubé announced that vaccine passports would be required to enter Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) and Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) locations starting Jan. 18. He explains the decision was made to curb an increase in cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

He says he hopes this measure will be an additional incentive for some people to get their first dose of vaccine against COVID-19, as more than 50 per cent of people currently hospitalized are non-vaccinated people, though they represent about 10 per cent of the population.

A stick works better to motivate people when it’s used to dangle a carrot, rather than as a switch. More like this, please.

(Worth noting too that Quebec had a high vaccination rate prior to these new restrictions.)

Moxie Marlinspike: ‘My First Impressions of Web3’ 

Moxie Marlinspike:

Despite considering myself a cryptographer, I have not found myself particularly drawn to “crypto.” I don’t think I’ve ever actually said the words “get off my lawn,” but I’m much more likely to click on Pepperidge Farm Remembers flavored memes about how “crypto” used to mean “cryptography” than I am the latest NFT drop.

Also — cards on the table here — I don’t share the same generational excitement for moving all aspects of life into an instrumented economy.

Even strictly on the technological level, though, I haven’t yet managed to become a believer. So given all of the recent attention into what is now being called web3, I decided to explore some of what has been happening in that space more thoroughly to see what I may be missing.

What does this guy know about cryptography, though?

Norton 360 Now Comes With a Cryptominer 

Brian Krebs:

Norton 360, one of the most popular antivirus products on the market today, has installed a cryptocurrency mining program on its customers’ computers. Norton’s parent firm says the cloud-based service that activates the program and allows customers to profit from the scheme — in which the company keeps 15 percent of any currencies mined — is “opt-in,” meaning users have to agree to enable it. But many Norton users complain the mining program is difficult to remove, and reactions from longtime customers have ranged from unease and disbelief to, “Dude, where’s my crypto?”

Krebs also reports that Avira antivirus — which apparently has 500 million users and is owned by the same parent company as Norton — is doing the same thing.

Given how much energy it takes to mine cryptocurrencies, I suspect that few users who opt into this will net any money for themselves. It’s just a scam, like most antivirus software itself and the whole world of cryptocurrencies.

15 Years Ago: ‘Today, We’re Introducing Three Revolutionary Products of This Class’ 

Greg Joswiak:

Life moves pretty fast. 15 years ago today, the world met iPhone for the first time and in a moment everything changed. Many more big moments to come.

Arguably the greatest computing device ever made. Inarguably the best product introduction ever.


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‘The PC Guys Are Not Going to Just, You Know, Knock This Out’ 

Speaking of Dieter Bohn, Palm, and yours truly, it turns out Ed Colligan didn’t say what we thought he said about Apple’s then-imminent iPhone in December 2006. Bohn:

All of this context is in service to correcting the record on one of Colligan’s responses. Somewhat famously, a line of his has been quoted over and over — most often by John Gruber at Daring Fireball in a post titled “Palm CEO Ed Colligan’s Head Seems to be Stuck Somewhere.” He quotes the following real-time transcription — which, as it turns out, is inaccurate:

Responding to questions from New York Times correspondent John Markoff at a Churchill Club breakfast gathering Thursday morning, Colligan laughed off the idea that any company — including the wildly popular Apple Computer — could easily win customers in the finicky smartphone sector.

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

We’ve gotten the original recording of the interview — our thanks to the Computer History Museum, which has received the Churchill Club’s archives after it sadly had to shut down. Here’s the actual exchange, which begins after the Apple speculation.

Colligan’s actual quote: “And so I just would caution people that think they’re going to walk in here and just and do these. We’ve struggled for a few years here, figuring out how to make a decent phone. The PC guys are not going to just, you know, knock this out. I guarantee it. So, look, welcome, let’s go for it. We can’t stop all that. It’s going to happen, but it’s going to be, I don’t think it’ll be so easy for everybody, as everybody thinks to enter it. It’s a tough space.”

Not quite as juicy as the original (para)phrasing, but the sentiment is still there. It’s good to have the actual quote on the record now.

The Talk Show: ‘High-Margin Candy Bar’ 

Dieter Bohn joins the show to talk about his excellent new documentary, Springboard: The Secret History of the First Real Smartphone — a history of Handspring and the creators of the original PalmPilot.

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Apple: ‘iCloud Private Relay Overview’ (PDF) 

New whitepaper from Apple with a lot of details about how iCloud Private Relay works. Still doesn’t list Apple’s CDN partners for the second relay hop, but that’s obviously some sort of strategic decision on Apple’s part. As the paper makes clear, you don’t need any particular trust in those CDN partners, because they never receive anything that could identify you, or locate you any more precisely than an 800 km2 region.

iCloud Private Relay is still officially in beta, but it’s been so reliable for me that I had to check just now that I’ve got it enabled on all my eligible devices.

ToDon’t – First App Created and Published Using Swift Playgrounds on an iPad 

Matt Waller:

I didn’t know entirely what I was getting myself into by making an app on the iPad.

I went in aware of its limitations and tried to think of a little something I could make for myself that would be useful and extremely simple.

Thus I settled on the love song of so many developers, the thing that there is plenty of in the world, and yet which is close enough to our souls that we always find ways to make it our own.

I mean, of course, the to-do app.

I’m an odd bird, so I thought it would be fun to load a to-do app with lots of random and silly things to NOT do, so that I could have a giggle, and check it off for that tiny dopamine hit.

Waller’s post is a great write-up delineating both the pros and cons of using Swift Playgrounds to develop (and publish) an entire app. He also kept a public development journal on Twitter, replete with animated screencasts of the app in-progress.

The app itself is relatively simple, but it’s fun, and it looks and feels quite polished. App development using Swift Playgrounds is clearly nascent, but based on ToDon’t, I’d say the future looks very bright. ToDon’t is $3 in the App Store, and well worth it just to reward Waller for making something fun and documenting his experience.

(Via José Adorno at 9to5Mac.)

Update 14 January: Thord D. Hedengren interviewed Waller for Switch to iPad.

Thoughts on The Athletic’s $550 Million Price Tag 

Is $550 million a fair price for The New York Times to pay for The Athletic? I don’t know. But just eight years ago, Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for just $250 million. Something seems off here. Either Bezos got The Post for a song or the Times bought The Athletic at high tide.

I suspect it’s the latter. Does it make any sense that The Athletic raised $140 million in venture capital? Not to me. They have over one million paying subscribers (including me — I pay $60/year through iTunes) but somehow lost $100 million in 2019 and 2020? I don’t understand that.

New York Times to Buy The Athletic for $550 Million in Cash 

The New York Times:

The New York Times Company has reached an agreement to buy The Athletic, the online sports news outlet with 1.2 million subscriptions, in an all-cash deal valued at $550 million, The Times said on Thursday.

The deal brings the Times, which has more than eight million total subscriptions, quickly closer to its goal of having 10 million subscriptions by 2025, while also offering its audience more in-depth coverage of the more than 200 professional teams in North America, Britain and Europe that are closely followed by The Athletic’s journalists.

The Athletic is terrific. Good writers, good design, and a model that supports both national and local coverage. For baseball, they have national writers like Jayson Stark and Ken Rosenthal, but also beat writers for every team. Lindsey Adler, The Athletic’s Yankees beat writer, is terrific. The Athletic’s success is built upon one simple notion: good writers doing good work. No clickbait, no bullshit, and no ads. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Intel Braggadocio 

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

Intel today unveiled new 12th-generation Core processors suitable for laptops, and as part of the announcement, it claimed that the new Core i9 is not only faster than Apple’s M1 Max chip in the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but is the fastest mobile processor ever.

The new Core i9 features a 14-core CPU with six performance cores and eight efficiency cores, while the 10-core M1 Max chip has eight performance cores and two efficiency cores. The high-end Intel chip has a max Turbo Boost frequency of 5.0GHz, but power draw can reach up to 115 watts, which is significantly more power than the M1 Max chip ever uses and not ideal for the thermal envelope of devices like the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

Intel shared a very basic performance vs. power chart as part of its marketing, with fine print indicating that performance was measured based on compiling binaries with the SPEC CPU 2017 benchmark suite.

If you look at the chart, the Core i9 may well be faster, but it uses way more power than the M1 Max. You could never fit that chip in a design like the new MacBook Pros. This is a chip for big heavy laptops with big loud fans. I’m sure some people like that tradeoff, but folks at Apple will look at these chips and think “Yeah, this is exactly why we divorced Intel.

Lenovo’s Upcoming ThinkBook Plus Gen 3: A Large Laptop With an Integrated Tablet 

Shipping in May, starting at $1,400, the ThinkBook Plus Gen has a 17-inch display with a widescreen 21:10 aspect ratio, and an iPad Mini-sized color touchscreen to the right of the keyboard (which keyboard is thus way off-center). Kinda wild, definitely original.

Dell’s Upcoming XPS 13 Plus 

Monica Chin, writing for The Verge:

First, Dell got rid of the function row. It’s been replaced with what the company is calling a “capacitive touch function row,” which refers to little LED buttons on a flat bar that you can tap to fiddle with things like brightness and volume. Dell insists that this is not a touch bar (but it is, I mean, a bar that you touch to toggle things, so anyone else whose brain immediately jumped to that comparison, you are valid, and I see you), and to that point, they have a fixed set of functions like real function keys. The touch keys were responsive in my brief testing time, and I was never worried about accidentally bumping them like I always am with the Touch Bar on older MacBook Pros.

They’re capacitive, like the Touch Bar, but the buttons are set in hardware.

Another thing you’ll probably notice: there’s no delineated trackpad beneath the keyboard. Dell has outfitted the XPS 13 with what it calls a “haptic ForcePad.” As is the case with MacBook touchpads, this one doesn’t physically depress when you click; it just reproduces the sensation of depressing. I imagine there might be some learning curve to figuring out where you can and can’t click, though Dell thinks muscle memory will make that a non-issue.

This non-delineated trackpad makes for a very clean look, but I feel like I want to know where the edges of the trackpad are. The edge-to-edge keyboard looks cool, too, and brings to (my) mind the 12-inch PowerBook G4 from 2004 — one of the best-looking laptops ever. (The speakers on the Dell XPS 13 Plus are under the keyboard.)

Notably missing? A headphone jack.

The ‘Sindogs’ Excel Bug 

Steven Sinofsky, in a fascinating post on software reliability on his Hardcore Software blog/newsletter:

I created many bugs on my own before Microsoft and learned how to find bugs planted in Microsoft code during my training in Apps Development College (ADC), but I learned about my first commercial bug during my first summer at Microsoft. DanN my lead in ADC shared (JonDe refreshed my memory of the specifics) the story of the infamous “Sindogs” bug in Excel 2.0, which was the first Windows version that shipped with Windows 2.0 about 18 months before I arrived. The bug manifested itself when an important part of Windows, a plain text file with all the system settings, was corrupted — in the file where it was supposed to say “[Windows]” it somehow was changed to “[Sindogs].” Neither the word Sindogs appeared in any code nor did any code write that string, so its appearance was rather mysterious. The bug took days to materialize and was only discovered after Excel testers ran an automated test to create and print charts over and over, for many hours. Eventually, through a significant amount of sleuthing, the team narrowed it down to a bug in drawing code in Windows, which was called when adding arrows to charts then printing them on old-school dot-matrix printers. There was a memory corruption, which changed the contents of the settings file that was in memory before it was saved to the disk. Stories were told about it for years. The Excel team even renamed their file server after the bug, and through Office 97 we connected to the server “\\SINDOGS\REL” (REL was short for release) for release builds of Excel.

Imagine tracking down a crazy bug after the product was in market and trying to figure out what caused it, then multiplying that by all the possible printers, video cards, and programs involved. Looking back, it was an engineering marvel that anything worked at all. In moments of frustration, or desperation, that is what we told ourselves.

Apple’s Dueling iPhone OS Projects 

Re: the previous item on Facebook purportedly scrapping their ground-up new OS for AR/VR in favor of continuing with the forked version of Android that currently powers Oculus headsets, NBC News has a non-paywalled archive of Businessweek’s 2011 profile of Scott Forstall (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice at Apple”) by Adam Satariano, Peter Burrows, and Brad Stone:

Around 2005, Jobs faced a crucial decision. Should he give the task of developing the device’s software to the team that built the iPod, which wanted to build a Linux-based system? Or should he entrust the project to the engineers who had revitalized the software foundation of the Macintosh? In other words, should he shrink the Mac, which would be an epic feat of engineering, or enlarge the iPod? Jobs preferred the former option, since he would then have a mobile operating system he could customize for the many gizmos then on Apple’s drawing board. Rather than pick an approach right away, however, Jobs pitted the teams against each other in a bake-off.

Forstall led the Mac-centric approach. He commanded a team of fewer than 15 engineers who went to work stripping down Apple’s OS X operating system to see if it would work on a device with considerably less power and battery life than a regular computer. Leading the other group was Fadell, who helped create the iPod. Another boy wonder, Fadell in 2005 had become one of Apple’s youngest-ever senior vice-presidents at 36. The competition, according to former Apple employees, turned explosive, with Fadell and Forstall arguing over talent, resources, attention and credit.

Update, 25 February 2022:On the Origin of the iPhone” explains, in some detail, why Tony Fadell shouldn’t be described as having led the embedded Linux phone OS project.

The Information: ‘Meta Platforms Halts VR and AR Operating System Project’ 

Sylvia Varnham O’Regan, reporting for The Information:

Facebook parent company Meta Platforms has stopped development of a new software operating system to power its virtual reality devices and upcoming augmented reality glasses, according to two people familiar with the decision. [...]

Meta uses an open-source version of Google’s Android operating system to power Meta’s existing Oculus Quest VR devices. But Meta wanted to create an OS from scratch to power them and future devices, a project that became known internally as XROS. XR is a catch-all term for VR, AR, and mixed reality. In MR, the wearer of a headset could view and use real-world objects, such as a keyboard, to do work or play games in a VR-like app.

Instead, the company has told some staff it would continue to modify an open-source version of Android, which Google developed for smartphones but which other companies have used to power various devices, the people familiar with the matter said. Meta’s modified version of Android, known internally as VROS, powers existing Oculus VR headsets.

Hard to say what this means. Operating systems are hard — there are only a handful of successful ones in the world.

I wonder if this is sort of like the early days of Apple’s iPhone efforts, when there were two competing OS teams inside Apple: a Scott Forstall/Bertrand Serlet-led team trying to shrink Mac OS X down to run on a phone, and a Tony Fadell/Jon Rubinstein/Steve Sakoman-led team trying to scale the iPod’s embedded Linux OS up to serve as a phone OS. [Update, 25 February 2022:On the Origin of the iPhone” explains, in some detail, why Tony Fadell’s name is struck-through above.]

Maybe what happened at Facebook isn’t so much “We give up on our own new OS, let’s just use Android”, but more like “Our effort to build our own OS atop Android is working better, let’s go with that one”. Facebook’s Oculus device OS as it stands today doesn’t resemble Google’s Android that runs on phones and tablets. It’s their own fork of Android. I don’t think they’re dependent on Google in any way with this.

Update: Also interesting is that Mark Lucovsky, the leader of Facebook’s XROS team, left the company in November, apparently because he only just then realized that Facebook is a spectacularly shitty company:

Contacted by The Information, Lucovsky said in a text message: “I made my decision to leave Facebook after the 60 Minutes interview [with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen] on 10/4, subsequent readings of the material supplied to the SEC, and the company’s new metaverse-centric focus.”

Facebook cancelled the XROS project shortly after Lucovsky quit.

(Via 9to5 Mac.)

Brik Font: Creating Type With Lego 

Jason Kottke, linking to the beautiful work of Craig Ward on Instagram:

There is just something so satisfying about meticulously rendering digital artifacts in a physical medium like Lego.

Amen to that.

Mayo Clinic Fires 700 Unvaccinated Employees, About 1 Percent of Its Workforce 

CBS Minnesota:

The dismissed employees make up about 1% of Mayo’s 73,000 workforce. Officials say while it’s sad to lose valuable employees, it’s essential to keep patients, the workforce, visitors and communities safe.

People released Tuesday can return to Mayo Clinic for future job openings if they get vaccinated.

More like this, please.

Novak Djokovic Is Refused Entry Into Australia Over Vaccine Exemption 

The New York Times:

On Thursday, he was told he would need to leave the country, following a 12-hour standoff with government officials at a Melbourne Airport, where he was held in a room overnight over the validity of his visa and questions about the evidence supporting a medical exemption from a coronavirus vaccine. The exemption was supposed to allow Djokovic, a 20-time Grand Slam champion and one of the biggest stars in sports, to compete in the Australian Open even though he has not been vaccinated.

The chain of events represented a startling turnabout for Djokovic, who in a little more than 24 hours went from receiving special, last-minute permission to enter Australia, to boarding an intercontinental flight, to essentially being told by the prime minister of Australia that he was not welcome in the country.

More like this, please.


Fun little profile of Josh Wardle, creator of the web-based word game Wordle, by Daniel Victor for The New York Times:

“I think people kind of appreciate that there’s this thing online that’s just fun,” Mr. Wardle said in an interview on Monday. “It’s not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It’s just a game that’s fun.” [...]

The breakthrough, he said, was limiting players to one game per day. That enforced a sense of scarcity, which he said was partially inspired by the Spelling Bee, which leaves people wanting more, he said. [...]

While other games send notifications to your phone hoping you’ll come back throughout the day, Wordle doesn’t want an intense relationship. “It’s something that encourages you to spend three minutes a day,” he said. “And that’s it. Like, it doesn’t want any more of your time than that.”

I’ve been playing Wordle most days for the past month. It’s nice to see it explode in popularity. It’s fun and simple, and the fact that you can do one and only one puzzle per day is a huge part of the charm. It’s a habit, not an addiction, and feels like a wee bit of mental calisthenics to start the day. (I’ve long done the NYT’s “Mini” crossword for the same reason.)

Media Columnist Ben Smith Leaves the NYT to Start New Publication With Bloomberg CEO Justin Smith 

David Gelles, reporting for The New York Times:

Ben Smith, the media columnist for The New York Times, is leaving the media outlet to start a new global news organization with Justin Smith, who is stepping down as chief executive of Bloomberg Media.

Ben Smith said in an interview that they planned to build a global newsroom that broke news and experimented with new formats of storytelling. He did not provide details on what beats or regions would be covered, how much money they planned to raise or when the new organization would start.

“There are 200 million people who are college educated, who read in English, but who no one is really treating like an audience, but who talk to each other and talk to us,” said Ben Smith, who is not related to Justin Smith. “That’s who we see as our audience.”

I’ve enjoyed Smith’s stint as the Times media columnist; it’s the first time that column has been good since David Carr died in 2015. Not sure what Smith is angling for with his idea that targeting college-educated readers is somehow novel, though. That’s exactly the demographic who reads the Times.

See also: Clare Malone’s brief interview with Ben Smith yesterday, for The New Yorker.

Peer Review of Marc Andreessen’s Theranos Tweets 

Don’t know why he deleted this gem from 2015.

How Much Fraud Can a Fraudster Fraud? 

Matt Levine, in his Money Stuff column for Bloomberg:

And so when Holmes was charged with wire fraud, it was for a mix of investor fraud and patient fraud. “Jurors heard Theranos patients testify their blood-test results falsely led them to believe they had unhealthy conditions,” but found Holmes not guilty on those counts. I don’t know why — I was not at the trial, and I certainly wasn’t in the jury room — but it seems plausible that Holmes was less personally culpable for those tests than she was for her own pitches to investors. But never mind that.

Instead, my point here is that if you do a fake blood test on a patient, you have arguably defrauded him (though Holmes was acquitted of that), but how much have you defrauded him really? Arguably the answer is quite a lot; arguably he is quite badly harmed by thinking he had a deadly disease and taking drastic steps to fight it, or thinking he did not have a deadly disease and missing the chance to fight it. But arguably the answer is $14.95, or whatever he paid for the blood test (I made that number up): You were doing fraud for money, and the money you got from any one patient is fairly small. Whereas the money you got from Betsy DeVos was $100 million.


January 2022 cover art for Dithering, depicting a kid with a sled on a snowy field.

Dithering is back after the holiday break. If you’re not listening, you’re missing out. Best $5/month you’ll ever spend, trust me.

What Hi-Fi: ‘Is Bluetooth Holding Back Apple’s AirPods?’ 

Tom Parsons has a good interview with Gary Geaves, VP of acoustics at Apple, providing some insight into the design of AirPods 3:

Everything points to Apple taking sound quality very seriously with the AirPods 3, and all of its modern-day audio products for that matter, and the recent launches of Lossless, Hi-Res Lossless and (in a slightly different way) Spatial Audio point to a real push towards higher audio quality. But there’s a catch, as far as I can see it — a bottle-neck that’s been preventing real qualitative leaps in the sound of wireless headphones essentially since wireless headphones came into being. I’m talking about Bluetooth, of course, which almost all wireless headphones, including AirPods, rely upon and which doesn’t have the data rate for hi-res or even lossless audio. I ask Geaves whether the use of Bluetooth is holding back his hardware and stifling sound quality.

“Obviously the wireless technology is critical for the content delivery that you talk about”, he says, “but also things like the amount of latency you get when you move your head, and if that’s too long, between you moving your head and the sound changing or remaining static, it will make you feel quite ill, so we have to concentrate very hard on squeezing the most that we can out of the Bluetooth technology, and there’s a number of tricks we can play to maximise or get around some of the limits of Bluetooth. But it’s fair to say that we would like more bandwidth and ... I’ll stop right there. We would like more bandwidth”, he smiles.

A rare exception to Betteridge’s Law. I sincerely hope Apple has something proprietary in the works, perhaps for AirPods Pro 2.

Kelly Evans: ‘The iPhone Is Going Away’ 

Kelly Evans, writing last month for CNBC:

This may seem like a comical thing to say when Apple is about to potentially sell 40 million iPhones this holiday season, according to Wedbush. But the iPhone is in its sunset years. It has maybe the rest of this decade left before it’s put out to pasture. And all the buzz now is over Apple’s upcoming goggles.

VR headsets will never replace phones. I highly doubt AR glasses ever will either. The iPhone is like the Mac — a 38-year-old platform that is selling better than ever — here to stay.


Mark Gurman’s lede sentence for his Bloomberg column this week:

After a modest set of device launches in 2021, Apple Inc. is set for a stronger 2022 — with new iPhones, AirPods and potentially a VR headset.

New M1 iMacs in May: almost universally hailed; nothing like them available for PCs. Apple has simply pantsed Intel and AMD, not just on performance-per-watt but performance, period.

iPad Pros with M1 in May: almost universally hailed, nothing like them for Android. (New iPad Mini in September, too.)

iPhones 13 in September: still the best phones in the world; camera better than ever.

Apple Watch Series 7 in October: Series 6 was undeniably the best smart watch on the market, and Apple made something altogether better: bigger screen, significantly better battery life.

14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with M1 Pro and M1 Max: I can’t even.

New third-generation AirPods in October, and hell, they even released a new Apple TV with a good remote control this year. Calling 2021 a “modest” year for Apple device launches is just obstinately cranky. If 2021 wasn’t a great year for new Apple hardware, what year was?

Bob Lefsetz on ‘Don’t Look Up’ 

Bob Lefsetz:

We haven’t had a movie that’s captured the zeitgeist like this since Network. And that may be a better movie, but it’s not as good of a snapshot of life in these United States and the media business.

Do you feel alone? Is life confusing? Does it make no sense? Do you not even recognize our country? Then Don’t Look Up is for you. The truth is we’re shown the fiction every damn day that the center is holding. The media business functions like it’s still the twentieth century while it might as well be the twenty-third. The internet came along and blew the old world apart. It democratized the country. I’m not talking about DEMOCRACY, but democratization. Now everybody has a voice, like the feed of comments scrolling down the images in this picture. Everybody’s got a hater, EVERYBODY! Hell, they want to take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools. We’ve become unmoored and the distance has become too far for the rope to be thrown to reconnect us.

See also Frank Oz:

I just do not get it. Someone does something so daring & funny & needed as Don’t Look Up from Netflix and it’s being given mixed & negative reviews! What???!!! It’s our Dr. Strangelove for today! “We really did have it all, didn’t we?” Those words need to be imbedded in our souls!

John Madden, Teacher 

Bryan Curtis, writing for The Ringer:

One of the coolest things about John Madden is that he was an academic. It was a brief run, but still. In 1979, after Madden quit as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, he was hired by the University of California, Berkeley, to teach an extension course called “Man to Man Football.” Madden’s students had watched football on TV. Now, they wanted to understand how it worked.

Professor Madden stood in front of a board that was like the Telestrator he later used on TV. Madden drew X’s and O’s and carefully studied his students’ faces. “I wanted to see at what point I lost ’em,” he told me years later. Madden was trying to find the most simple way to explain a complex game. He was converting passive football fans into smart fans. For the next 30 years, Madden performed the same trick on TV every week.

See also:

Tomorrow Is Doomsday for BlackBerry Devices 

From BlackBerry’s OS services FAQ:

As a reminder, the legacy services for BlackBerry 7.1 OS and earlier, BlackBerry 10 software, BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.1 and earlier versions, will no longer be available after January 4, 2022. As of this date, devices running these legacy services and software through either carrier or Wi-Fi connections will no longer reliably function, including for data, phone calls, SMS and 9-1-1 functionality.

I wonder how many people are still hanging on to old BlackBerry phones. At one point, they truly had a cult following.

It’s also worth noting that there are seemingly no significant Android phones with hardware keyboards. Like none. The iPhone all-screen form factor with an on-screen software keyboard has completely won out.

Count COVID Hospitalizations, Not Cases 

Gina Kolata and Anna P. Kambhampaty, reporting for The New York Times:

Dr. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, noted on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that many new infections, especially in people who are vaccinated and boosted, result in no symptoms or mild symptoms, making the absolute number of cases less important than it was for previous versions of the virus.

“As you get further on and the infections become less severe, it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases,” Dr. Fauci said.

That advice is in keeping with what many epidemiologists have said all along. Despite the daily drumbeat of case counts, the number of positive tests has never been a perfect indicator of the course of the epidemic.

The New York Times itself needs to take this advice to heart. Over the weekend they published a scaremongering story about rising cases in Puerto Rico, but as Nate Silver pointedly observed, only 13 paragraphs into the story did they mention that only 317 people — on an island with 3 million people — were hospitalized for COVID. What’s going on right now in Puerto Rico is a vaccine triumph.

Samsung Promises ‘Groundbreaking’ New TV Feature: NFT Support 

Chris Welch, The Verge:

“With demand for NFTs on the rise, the need for a solution to today’s fragmented viewing and purchasing landscape has never been greater,” the company said in a press release. “In 2022, Samsung is introducing the world’s first TV screen-based NFT explorer and marketplace aggregator, a groundbreaking platform that lets you browse, purchase, and display your favorite art — all in one place.”

No. Just no.


My thanks to CoreCode for sponsoring this week at DF to promote MacUpdater. MacUpdater automatically tracks the latest updates of all applications installed on your Mac. See at a glance which of your apps are outdated and update any app with a single click. Don’t waste time manually searching for updates, downloading, installing, and cleaning up. MacUpdater takes care of everything for you.

Great new features in MacUpdater 2 include: an optional menubar-only interface, “Update All” button, Touch Bar support, auto-quitting running apps, Apple Silicon native binary, advanced security and scan timing options, higher performance, and improved release notes viewing.

MacUpdater is a great tool for any Mac user with a bunch of apps installed.