Linked List: March 2022

Tim Bray, 5G Skeptic 

Tim Bray:

When I was working at AWS, around 2017 we started getting excited pitches from companies who wanted to be part of the 5G build-out, saying that obviously there’d be lots of opportunities for public-cloud providers. But I never walked away convinced. Either I didn’t believe the supposed customers really needed what 5G offered, or I didn’t believe the opportunity was anywhere near big enough to justify the trillion-dollar build-out investment. Six years later, I still don’t. This is a report on a little online survey I ran, looking for actual real-world 5G impact to see if I was wrong.

Bray collected a lot of comments from various readers. Most of them seem to agree with Bray (and me) that 5G offers no substantial practical advantages over LTE. There are some people who report getting good 5G coverage in remote locations that have poor LTE coverage, and 5G seemingly does work much better than LTE in places like stadiums and arenas with big crowds of people.

The Verge: ‘A Facebook Bug Led to Increased Views of Harmful Content Over Six Months’ 

Alex Heath, reporting for The Verge:

A group of Facebook engineers identified a “massive ranking failure” that exposed as much as half of all News Feed views to “integrity risks” over the past six months, according to an internal report on the incident obtained by The Verge.

The engineers first noticed the issue last October, when a sudden surge of misinformation began flowing through the News Feed, notes the report, which was shared inside the company last week. Instead of suppressing dubious posts reviewed by the company’s network of outside fact-checkers, the News Feed was instead giving the posts distribution, spiking views by as much as 30 percent globally. Unable to find the root cause, the engineers watched the surge subside a few weeks later and then flare up repeatedly until the ranking issue was fixed on March 11th.

It really does sound like a bug, and some bugs really are devilishly tricky to track down and fix. But it seems a bit odd that it took Facebook six months to fix this one, given how intense the scrutiny of the company has gotten for the very problem this bug made worse.

Jon Fortt Argues Both Sides of Apple’s Original Streaming Content Strategy 

Three-minute clip from CNBC’s Squawk Box, wherein Jon Fortt argues — compellingly — both sides of the “What’s the business case for Apple’s original content strategy?” question. Count me on the side of his second argument.

John Siracusa: ‘Independence Day’ 


LA Times: ‘Bruce Willis’s Aphasia Was Suspected by Coworkers for Years’ 

Meg James and Amy Kaufman, reporting for the LA Times:

According to those who have worked with the elder Willis on his recent films, the actor has been exhibiting signs of decline in recent years. In interviews with The Times this month, nearly two dozen people who were on set with the actor expressed concern about Willis’ well-being. […]

Jesse V. Johnson, who directed the low-budget film “White Elephant,” first worked with Willis decades ago when he was a stuntman. But when the filmmaker and the actor met briefly before shooting began in Georgia last April, “it was clear that he was not the Bruce I remembered,” Johnson said. Concerned about Willis’ mental state, he said he approached the actor’s team — which is led by his assistant-turned-handler Stephen J. Eads — and bluntly asked about the actor’s condition.

“They stated that he was happy to be there, but that it would be best if we could finish shooting him by lunch and let him go early,” Johnson recalled of the conversation. Filmmakers proceeded to quickly film the actor’s parts, even as Willis questioned where he was: “I know why you’re here, and I know why you’re here, but why am I here?” two crew members said he asked aloud.

Sad story, but it explains Willis’s seemingly-odd low-budget film choices in recent years. According to The Times, Willis made 22 movies in 4 years.

I’ve been a huge Bruce Willis fan ever since Moonlighting (a show that, to my mind, doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves for ushering in the modern era of “prestige TV”). Willis had the it that all great acting stars do: once you saw him in a role, it was impossible to imagine anyone else playing that part.

A Spate of SMS Spam From People’s Own Phone Numbers 

Chris Welch, writing for The Verge:

This morning, I received a very blatant spam text offering me “a little gift” for supposedly paying my phone bill. Normally I’d groan, roll my eyes, and quickly delete such a thing, but there was something different about this particular message: it was spoofed as coming from my own phone number. As best my iPhone could tell, it was a legitimate message from me to myself. Tapping into the sender details took me to my own contact card. [...]

Turns out I wasn’t alone. Many customers on Verizon have reported getting similar spam from their respective numbers over the last few days — same for its MVNO Visible — and several Verge employees on other carriers have also encountered them. I posted an Instagram story about it and have gotten plenty of “same” responses. SMS phishing, or “smishing,” has been on the rise in recent years, but there’s something more disconcerting and invasive about it being linked to your own number. It’s all very “the call is coming from inside the house.”

I got the same exact spam over the weekend, but instead of coming from my personal phone number (which is indeed on Verizon), it came to my personal phone number from my Google Voice number. Spooky, to say the least.

My wife got the same spam over the weekend too, from her own number to her own number, and for a moment, it was really freaky, because she had previously only texted herself to send photos from one device to another. So the whole chain of messages above the spam message made it look like the spammer was somehow sending her photos from her own photo library.

Matthew Panzarino’s Interview With Apple Execs Regarding the Mac Studio and Studio Display 

Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch two weeks ago (I’m just now digging out of my hardware reviews catch-up):

“We look very much at Mac studio for what it is, a completely new Mac product line. Which is rare. We don’t add product lines to the Mac very often,” says Tom Boger, Vice President of Mac & iPad Product Marketing at Apple. “Our philosophy was not at all to take a Mac Mini and scale it up, it was ‘we know we’re working on this M1 Ultra chip and we want to bring it to those users who want performance and conductivity and a modular system. And let’s allow it to live right on people’s desks so it’s within easy reach. And that’s what we delivered.”

I spoke to Boger, along with Shelly Goldberg, Senior Director, Mac and iPad Product Design, and Xander Soren, Director of Product Marketing, Pro Apps at Apple about the design and development of Mac Studio.

Panzarino’s take, combined with the interview, really nails the ways that the Mac Studio and Studio Display fill important spots in the Mac hardware lineup that have long been vacant.

The Washington Post: ‘Facebook Paid Republican Strategy Firm to Malign TikTok’ 

Taylor Lorenz and Drew Harwell, reporting for The Washington Post:

Facebook parent company Meta is paying one of the biggest Republican consulting firms in the country to orchestrate a nationwide campaign seeking to turn the public against TikTok.

The campaign includes placing op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets, promoting dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, and pushing to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping take down its biggest competitor. These bare-knuckle tactics, long commonplace in the world of politics, have become increasingly noticeable within a tech industry where companies vie for cultural relevance and come at a time when Facebook is under pressure to win back young users. [...]

Targeted Victory needs to “get the message out that while Meta is the current punching bag, TikTok is the real threat especially as a foreign owned app that is #1 in sharing data that young teens are using,” a director for the firm wrote in a February email.

We all know that the smart way to alter the opinions of today’s teenagers is to ... place op-eds in local newspapers around the country.

Recall too that Facebook was caught using a Republican smear-campaign firm back in 2018 — their target then was George Soros.

Apple and MLB Announce ‘Friday Night Baseball’ Schedule Beginning April 8 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple and Major League Baseball (MLB) today announced the first half of the 2022 “Friday Night Baseball” schedule. These scheduled games are available to anyone with internet access, for free, only on Apple TV+. “Friday Night Baseball” will premiere April 8 with two marquee games: the New York Mets versus the Washington Nationals, live from Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., beginning at 7 p.m. ET, featuring the anticipated Mets debut of three-time Cy Young Award-winner and eight-time All-Star Max Scherzer taking on All-Star Juan Soto and the Nationals; and the Houston Astros versus the Los Angeles Angels, live from Angel Stadium, beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET, featuring three-time American League MVP Mike Trout and reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani and the Angels taking on Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman and the defending American League Champion Astros. “Friday Night Baseball,” a weekly doubleheader, will be available to fans in eight countries exclusively on Apple TV+ on Fridays throughout the regular season.

Given that Japan is one of the eight countries where Friday Night Baseball will be streamed, it’s no surprise that the Angels — with the sensational Shohei Ohtani — are on the schedule three times in the first half of the season.

Jason Snell has a few good questions, including who’s going to be in the broadcast booths for these games, and who’ll be hosting the pre- and post-game shows. Snell also makes note of how interesting it is that the games on this initial schedule will be available free to everyone with the Apple TV app, even if they’re not TV+ subscribers.

Nebraska Lawmaker Apologizes for Debunked Claim That Schools Are Providing Litter Boxes for Students Who Identify as Cats 

Grant Schulte, reporting for the AP:

A Nebraska state lawmaker apologized on Monday after he publicly cited a persistent but debunked rumor alleging that schools are placing litter boxes in school bathrooms to accommodate children who self-identify as cats.

Sen. Bruce Bostelman, a conservative Republican, repeated the false claim during a public, televised debate on a bill intended to help school children who have behavioral problems. His comments quickly went viral, with one Twitter video garnering more than 300,000 views as of Monday afternoon, and drew an onslaught of online criticism and ridicule. [...]

“They meow and they bark and they interact with their teachers in this fashion,” Bostelman said during legislative debate. “And now schools are wanting to put litter boxes in the schools for these children to use. How is this sanitary?”

The rumor has persisted in a private Facebook group, “Protect Nebraska Children,” and also surfaced last month in an Iowa school district, forcing the superintendent to write to parents that it was “simply and emphatically not true.”

Those today who believe whatever nonsense they see on Facebook are like the people who, a generation ago, believed the nonsense printed in supermarket tabloids like “The Weekly World News”. The difference is that instead of being crackpots who write letters to elected officials, a bunch of them today are elected officials.

January 6 White House Logs Given to House Select Committee Show 7-Hour Gap in Trump Calls 

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, reporting for The Washington Post:

Internal White House records from the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that were turned over to the House select committee show a gap in President Donald Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes, including the period when the building was being violently assaulted, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News.

The lack of an official White House notation of any calls placed to or by Trump for 457 minutes on Jan. 6, 2021 – from 11:17 a.m. to 6:54 p.m. – means the committee has no record of his phone conversations as his supporters descended on the Capitol, battled overwhelmed police and forcibly entered the building, prompting lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence to flee for safety. […]

In a statement Monday night, Trump said, “I have no idea what a burner phone is, to the best of my knowledge I have never even heard the term.”

Not a fan of The Wire, apparently.

Apple TV+’s “CODA” Wins Oscar for Best Picture, a First for a Streaming Service 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple tonight made history after “CODA” landed three Academy Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with wins for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Troy Kotsur, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Siân Heder. The winners were revealed this evening at the 94th Annual Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

“CODA” is the first motion picture starring a predominantly Deaf cast in leading roles to win Best Picture; Troy Kotsur is the first Deaf male actor to win Best Supporting Actor; and writer-director Siân Heder earned her first-ever Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

I didn’t watch the show, but I’ll bet this is all anyone is talking about regarding the Oscars today.

Tip: ‘Show Window Title Icons’ in MacOS 12’s Accessibility Preferences 

Adam Engst, writing at TidBITS:

Alas, in macOS 11 Big Sur, Apple decided to hide the proxy icon by default, forcing you to hover over the window title for a second to make the proxy slide in from the left. It was discovered that this Terminal command could make the delay shorter, though hovering is still required.

defaults write -g NSToolbarTitleViewRolloverDelay -float 0

I use proxy icons a lot, but I missed the online chatter that included this Terminal command, so I’ve been quietly muttering at Apple every time I waited for a proxy icon to appear. More frustrating is that I also missed the fact that Apple silently provided an option to bring back proxy icons completely in macOS 12 Monterey. I was recently helping a TidBITS reader who didn’t know about Reduce Transparency in System Preferences → Accessibility → Display when I saw another checkbox that was new to me: Show Window Title Icons.

The Talk Show: ‘A Cold Glass in Hell’ 

For your weekend listening enjoyment: special guest Casey Liss joins the show to talk about Apple’s new Studio Display and what makes a good martini.

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‘Helvetica’ Celebrates 15 Years 

Gary Hustwit’s amazing documentary Helvetica turns 15 this month, to celebrate, you can stream it for free through March 30. So good.


My thanks to Kolide for once again sponsoring DF. Kolide is a SaaS app that sends employees important, timely, and relevant security recommendations concerning their Mac, Windows, and Linux devices, right inside Slack.

Kolide is perfect for organizations that want to move beyond a traditional lock-down model and move to one where employees are educated about security and device management while fixing nuanced problems. Kolide calls this approach Honest Security.

For example, Kolide can:

  • Instruct developers to set passphrases on the unencrypted SSH keys littered throughout their devices.
  • Find plain-text two-factor backup codes and teach end-users how to store them securely.
  • Convince employees to uninstall dangerous (yet allowed) browser extensions that sell their browser history to marketing companies.

You can try Kolide on an unlimited number of devices with all its features for free and without a credit card for 14 days.

Foo Fighters Drummer Taylor Hawkins Dead at 50 

Rolling Stone:

Taylor Hawkins, the jovial, ferocious drummer for Foo Fighters for more than two decades, has died at the age of 50, according to a statement from the band.

“The Foo Fighters family is devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of our beloved Taylor Hawkins,” read the message, which was posted to social media. “His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever.” Foo Fighters are currently on tour in South America and were scheduled to perform at Festival Estéreo Picnic in Bogotá, Colombia, at the time of Hawkins’ death, a rep for the band told Rolling Stone. No cause of death was given.

So it goes.

The New Yorker: ‘Legal Scholars Are Shocked by Ginni Thomas’s “Stop the Steal” Texts’ 

Jane Mayer, reporting for The New Yorker:

Several of the country’s most respected legal scholars say that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas must immediately recuse himself from any cases relating to the 2020 election and its aftermath, now that it has been revealed that his wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, colluded extensively with a top White House adviser about overturning Joe Biden’s victory over then President Donald Trump. On March 24th, the Washington Post and CBS News revealed that they had obtained copies of twenty-nine text messages between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows, the Trump White House chief of staff, in which she militated relentlessly for invalidating the results of the Presidential election, which she described as an “obvious fraud.” It was necessary, she told Meadows, to “release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down.” Ginni Thomas’s texts to Meadows also refer to conversations that she’d had with “Jared”—possibly Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who also served as a senior adviser to the Administration. (“Just forwarded to yr gmail an email I sent Jared this am.”)

Stephen Gillers, a law professor at N.Y.U. and a prominent judicial ethicist, described the revelations as “a game changer.” In the past, he explained, he had supported the notion that a Justice and his spouse could pursue their interests in autonomous spheres. “For that reason, I was prepared to, and did tolerate a great deal of Ginni’s political activism,” he said. But “Ginni has now crossed a line.” In an e-mail reacting to the texts, Gillers concluded, “Clarence Thomas cannot sit on any matter involving the election, the invasion of the Capitol, or the work of the January 6 Committee.”

And we thought it was bad back in 1991 when we learned he joked to his employees about pubic hair being planted on his can of Coke.

Twitter Adds Support for Searching DM’s 

Twitter Support:

We know you’ve been waiting for the option to search your DMs…

Now you can use the search bar in your inbox to find specific messages using keywords and names.

No-sarcasm finally on this one. The lack of search for DMs has been utterly baffling for at least a decade. Good on Twitter for adding this though — truly better late than never.

Telegram Is Not End-to-End Encrypted by Default 

Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike, on Twitter a month ago:

Telegram is the most popular messenger in urban Ukraine. After a decade of misleading marketing and press, most ppl there believe it’s an “encrypted app”.

The reality is the opposite — TG is by default a cloud database w/ a plaintext copy of every msg everyone has ever sent/recvd.

Every msg, photo, video, doc sent/received for the past 10 yrs; all contacts, group memberships, etc are all available to anyone w/ access to that DB.

Many TG employees have family in Russia. If Russia doesn’t want to bother w/ hacking, they can leverage family safety for access.

He links to a longer thread he wrote in December about Telegram and the common misconception that it uses E2EE across the board. I made this mistake yesterday. (We regret the error.)

E.U. Legislation to Mandate Sideloading Is Nearing Completion, But Details Remain Unknown 

Sam Schechner and Tim Higgins, reporting last week for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

The new European Union legislation — which could be effectively completed as soon as this month — is set to direct Apple to allow software to be downloaded outside its cash-generating App Store and limit how companies impose their own payment systems on apps, according to people involved in the negotiations. Failure to comply would carry penalties of up to tens of billions of dollars.

Not the sort of fines Apple can just pay from the loose change in Luca Maestri’s couch.

Rivals and critics of Apple’s power hope the EU law will serve as a catalyst for other jurisdictions, such as in the U.S., where similar legislation is pending before Congress.

“Apple is playing 5D chess right now,” said Paul Gallant, a policy analyst for Cowen & Co. “It will struggle to explain why government changes will radically change the iPhone when Google already does it and it will struggle to explain why it can’t do it in the United States when it may soon do it in Europe.”

What a dumb quote. First, what the hell is the fifth dimension? It’s like he was going to say “4D chess” — which itself is a poor metaphor, given that regular chess is complex enough and takes place in two dimensions — and decided to give it some extra oomph. Second, the iPhone is different from Android. It is true that the fact that Android supports sideloading doesn’t seem to adversely affect typical Android users, but one of Apple’s core arguments against legally mandated sideloading is that it would remove from the market a choice to buy devices where sideloading is not possible. Third, no one from Apple has ever once argued that they “can’t” enable sideloading on iOS because that’s obviously nonsense. They don’t want to enable it.

The full effect of the sideloading provision isn’t yet clear as lawmakers work on final language defining security exceptions that could give Apple leeway to limit the scope of sideloading.

That’s really the rub.

Eliot A. Cohen: ‘Ukraine Is Winning’ 

Eliot A. Cohen, writing for The Atlantic:

The evidence that Ukraine is winning this war is abundant, if one only looks closely at the available data. The absence of Russian progress on the front lines is just half the picture, obscured though it is by maps showing big red blobs, which reflect not what the Russians control but the areas through which they have driven. The failure of almost all of Russia’s airborne assaults, its inability to destroy the Ukrainian air force and air-defense system, and the weeks-long paralysis of the 40-mile supply column north of Kyiv are suggestive. Russian losses are staggering — between 7,000 and 14,000 soldiers dead, depending on your source, which implies (using a low-end rule of thumb about the ratios of such things) a minimum of nearly 30,000 taken off the battlefield by wounds, capture, or disappearance. Such a total would represent at least 15 percent of the entire invading force, enough to render most units combat ineffective. And there is no reason to think that the rate of loss is abating — in fact, Western intelligence agencies are briefing unsustainable Russian casualty rates of a thousand a day.

Along similar lines, see this interesting Twitter thread from Levi Westerveld about how The New York Times’s graphics desk has evolved their cartography over the last month to better illustrate the state of Russia’s invasion.

John Roach, Spearhead of the TRS-80 Personal Computer, Dies at 83 

Sam Roberts, writing for The New York Times:

He was instrumental in prodding Tandy to venture into the computer market. At the time, most small computers were sold as kits to be assembled by hobbyists, but Mr. Roach believed that consumers would welcome a model that they just needed to plug in.

His team presented the original TRS-80 prototype — cobbled together from a black-and-white RCA monitor, a keyboard and a videocassette recorder — to Tandy’s chief executive, Charles Tandy, and to Lewis Kornfeld, the president of RadioShack, in January 1977.

The Apple 1 had been introduced the year before, and Commodore and other companies were marketing their own home computers, but the TRS-80 (the initials stood for Tandy RadioShack) quickly became, for a time, the most popular computer on the market.

“Charles blew a little smoke and said, ‘Build a thousand and if we can’t sell them, we will use them in the store for something,’” Mr. Roach recalled in remarks to the Fort Worth Executive Round Table last month. “We were finally able to ship some machines in September and shipped 5,000 that year, all we could assemble,” Mr. Roach said. “Our competitors shipped none.”

The links in the passage above are not to be missed, including this 1977 Times story on home computers. But the last one is the most interesting — it’s a YouTube video of a speech Roach gave just last month. He’s funny as hell. Glad to see he was active and sharp right up to the end.

As a kid, the TRS-80 was, for whatever reason, the personal computer I had the least exposure to. I had friends with Commodore 64’s and my school had a bunch of Texas Instruments TI-99/4A’s and a precious handful of Apple II’s, but to my recollection I only ever saw a TRS-80 when I was inside a Radio Shack. But you can be damn sure when I did, I played with it until my parents dragged me out of the store.

Display Analyst Ross Young Thinks a 15-Inch Consumer MacBook Is Coming 

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

The full report is limited to those in the display industry who subscribe, but display analyst Ross Young provided a bit of color on what can be expected. Apple is working on a MacBook Air that’s somewhere around 15 inches in size, with the machine set to debut alongside a “slightly larger” 13-inch MacBook Air.

According to Young, the larger-sized 15-inch MacBook Air is slated for release in 2023, but a specific launch date unknown. This is not the first time that we’ve heard about a 15-inch MacBook Air, as Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said last year that Apple was working on a larger MacBook Air with a 15-inch display size. [...]

Internal Apple emails that came out during the Epic Games v. Apple trial also indicate that Apple considered a larger 15-inch MacBook Air as early as 2008, but instead went with the smaller 13-inch model.

Out of all the devices Apple could make but doesn’t, the one that I think might prove the most popular is a big consumer MacBook. Apple has never made a 15-inch or larger laptop that wasn’t a pro-specced and pro-priced MacBook Pro or PowerBook. Surely there are a lot of people out there who would buy a MacBook Air with a 15-inch display if one existed. Plus, now that the latest MacBook Pros have gained a wee bit of thickness and weight in the interest of better serving pro users’ needs, there’s room for a thinner, lighter large-display MacBook to stand out. But why wait for 2023? I’d love to see such a thing appear later this year, when M2 MacBooks are unveiled.

The current MacBook Air (13 inches) starts at $1000. The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2000. The 16-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2500. So the missing MacBook is a 15-inch MacBook Air that starts at $1500. There must be some number of 16-inch MacBook Pro buyers who really do buy them just to get the big display, and they’d spend around $1000 less if a large-display consumer MacBook were available. But I can’t help but think Apple could make up for the lost revenue from those customers by upselling more MacBook Air buyers on a larger screen.

“The largest display option is only available in the pro models” is true for iPads and iPhones too, of course. But rumors strongly suggest that the iPhone 14 will appear with 6.1- and 6.7-inch sizes in both the Pro and non-Pro models. A big-screen non-Pro MacBook would follow that same pattern.

‘Jackassery’ in the Senate 

Senator Ben Sasse (Republican of Nebraska), during today’s confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson:

I think we should recognize that the jackassery we often see around here is partly because of people mugging for short-term camera opportunities.

I’ve been using jackassery here on DF for close to 20 years, and I’m still looking at red underscores each time I do. Let’s get this splendid, indispensable word into the dictionary.

(It’s really quite a keen observation by Sasse about the effect of televising Congressional hearings, too. Watch the whole video.)

Some iPhone 7 vs. iPhone 12 Comparison Photos 

John Nack:

If anyone reads that New Yorker article and thinks they’ll prefer shooting on an iPhone 7, please show them these iPhone 7-vs-12 shots I took.

That’s a reference to Kyle Chayka’s “Have iPhone Cameras Become Too Smart?” article, which I commented on yesterday. It’s coincidental that Nack’s year-ago series of comparison photos pitted the same two iPhones against each other that Chayka referenced. Chayka wrote:

In January, I traded my iPhone 7 for an iPhone 12 Pro, and I’ve been dismayed by the camera’s performance. On the 7, the slight roughness of the images I took seemed like a logical product of the camera’s limited capabilities. I didn’t mind imperfections like the “digital noise” that occurred when a subject was underlit or too far away, and I liked that any editing of photos was up to me. On the 12 Pro, by contrast, the digital manipulations are aggressive and unsolicited.

A lot of times when new iPhones are reviewed — including my own reviews — camera comparisons are made to iPhones from just one or two years prior, and differences can seem subtle. Separate iPhones by five years, though, and the results are striking. (It’s pretty easy to tell in Nack’s gallery which photos are from which iPhone, but if you want to be certain, click the “(i)” button in Google Photos.)

How do you take a photo like this or this — to pick two of my own recent photos taken with iPhone 13 Pro — with an iPhone 7? You can’t.

Google to Pilot Third-Party Payments Alongside Play’s Own Payments, Starting With Spotify 

Sameer Samat, writing for Google’s Android Developers Blog:

Building on our recent launch allowing an additional billing system alongside Play’s billing for users in South Korea and in line with our principles, we are announcing we will be exploring user choice billing in other select countries. This pilot will allow a small number of participating developers to offer an additional billing option next to Google Play’s billing system and is designed to help us explore ways to offer this choice to users, while maintaining our ability to invest in the ecosystem.

We’ll be partnering with developers to explore different implementations of user-choice billing, starting with Spotify.

From Spotify’s own announcement:

Spotify has been publicly advocating for platform fairness and expanded payment options, among other things, because fair and open platforms enable better consumer experiences and allow developers to grow and thrive — when this happens everyone wins.

Gee, I wonder which platforms — there are so many that Spotify really cares about — they consider unfair.

Sarah Perez, reporting for TechCrunch on the deal:

Reached for comment, Spotify declined to say what sort of commission it would be paying Google as a part of this pilot test, noting that the agreement was confidential. But a company spokesperson suggested that the commercial terms met Spotify’s “standards of fairness.”

Google also declined to detail the commission structure involved. However, it noted that user choice billing, such as is the case in South Korea, will still involve a service fee regardless of which billing system the user chooses.

Nova, Half-Priced Through the End of March 

This is a good ad for a good deal for a great Mac-assed Mac app.

Nilay Patel Interviews Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton 

I’ve been greatly enjoying Nilay Patel’s Decoder podcast, no episode more so than this recent interview with Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton. The recurring theme: general purpose computers vs. appliance computers. And my favorite line from Upton, neatly summarizing Raspberry Pi’s ethos: “We build the products we want to buy.”

My aforelinked item on John Calhoun’s “SystemSix” project is a perfect example of Raspberry Pi’s general purpose utility and affordability. If Raspberry Pi didn’t exist, there are of course ways Calhoun could have built something similar, but I doubt he would have.


John Calhoun:

SystemSix is a desk calendar that displays the weather forecast and phase of the moon on an e-ink display. This is a kind of love-letter to my first Macintosh.

It’s powered by a Raspberry Pi 3. The display is 5.83″ e-ink display from Waveshare.

  • If you configure it to point to a public calendar it will fetch the next six calendar events and display them (see below, the events are the folder names in the window in “list view”).

  • Configure your latitude and longitude in the settings and it will fetch the local weather forecast (see below, being displayed in the Scrapbook).

  • In the evening SystemSix displays the current phase of the moon (see below, looking like a “desk accessory” in vintage-Mac parlance).

  • The trash icon is displayed “full” on the day of your choice (for me it’s Monday, to remind me to take the trash to the curb for Tuesday pickup).

There are two rubs. First, it’s not an interactive classic Mac emulator. It looks like a Mac, but it’s just a static dashboard that looks like a classic Mac. Second, Calhoun built this for himself as a project. It is not, alas, a product for sale.

Future ideas:

I’m happy with this project. It satisfied both my curiosity about e-ink displays and Python as well as rekindled fond memories for the early Mac. There’s plenty more I can do with this though. I mentioned already that there are a number of “layouts” left still to implement like a Hypercard layout or two. I also got screenshots for potential layouts of an install in progress, KeyCaps, a print panel, Chooser, etc.

Perhaps Glider would work well in one of these layouts.

Nicole Nguyen Tests 5G’s Effect on Battery Life on iPhones and iPads 

Nicole Nguyen, writing for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

So, I wanted to compare 5G and 4G battery performance for myself. I streamed a long YouTube video of relaxing ocean footage, with video quality set to “Auto,” on different Apple devices until they ran out of battery, first on 5G, then on LTE. It isn’t a perfect test, but it proved to be a consistent way to witness 5G’s added battery drain. [...]

The new SE lasted nearly an hour longer on 4G than on 5G, while the new iPad Air and iPhone 13 Mini went for about 1.5 additional hours. And while the iPhone 13 Pro ran a remarkable 12 hours and 50 minutes on 5G, it still lasted about 2.5 hours longer on LTE.

Nguyen includes a tip at the end of her column explaining how to create a simple Shortcuts automation to switch cellular networking to LTE when your device’s battery hits a certain threshold, like say 40 percent. But I look at these results and wonder why I enable 5G at all. There is nothing I do with my iPhone — nothing — where I find LTE even just a little bit “too slow”.

I wrote about 5G, including mmWave “ultra wideband”, networking speeds in my review of the iPhones 12 and 12 Pro back in October 2020. Verizon’s ultra wideband network speeds are truly extraordinary — I still typically get 1,500–2,000 Mbps down with 5G ultra wideband. With both regular 5G and LTE, I typically get between 50–100 Mbps down — and I see a regular 5G connection far far more often than I do 5G ultra wideband. I don’t see any practical advantage to regular 5G compared to LTE. Those crazy-fast ultra-wideband download speeds are like owning a car that can go 200 MPH. So I’m just going to set my iPhone to use LTE all the time and save battery life. I’ll turn 5G Auto back on if I ever run into a situation where my LTE signal seems weak or slow.

The carriers certainly aren’t going to suggest you do this because their current marketing campaigns are entirely about how great their 5G networks are — even though they’re only now starting to deliver meaningful real-world advantages over LTE. And Apple’s not going to suggest you turn off 5G either, because they are co-marketing partners with the carriers. But I’ll suggest it: try turning off 5G to save battery life and see if you miss it at all.

Arizona Is the First State to Support Driver’s Licenses in Apple Wallet 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple announced that Arizona is the first state to offer driver’s license and state ID in Wallet. Starting today, Arizonans can add their driver’s license or state ID to Wallet, and tap their iPhone or Apple Watch to seamlessly and securely present it at select TSA security checkpoints in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. [...]

Additional states will offer driver’s license and state ID in Wallet soon. Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, Ohio, and the territory of Puerto Rico plan to bring this feature to their residents, along with the seven states Apple previously announced.

I’ll save you a click: the other seven states are Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Microsoft Security on the “Lapsus$” / DEV-0537 Hacking Group 

Microsoft Security:

The activity we have observed has been attributed to a threat group that Microsoft tracks as DEV-0537, also known as LAPSUS$. DEV-0537 is known for using a pure extortion and destruction model without deploying ransomware payloads. DEV-0537 started targeting organizations in the United Kingdom and South America but expanded to global targets, including organizations in government, technology, telecom, media, retail, and healthcare sectors. DEV-0537 is also known to take over individual user accounts at cryptocurrency exchanges to drain cryptocurrency holdings.

Unlike most activity groups that stay under the radar, DEV-0537 doesn’t seem to cover its tracks. They go as far as announcing their attacks on social media or advertising their intent to buy credentials from employees of target organizations. DEV-0537 also uses several tactics that are less frequently used by other threat actors tracked by Microsoft. Their tactics include phone-based social engineering; SIM-swapping to facilitate account takeover; accessing personal email accounts of employees at target organizations; paying employees, suppliers, or business partners of target organizations for access to credentials and multifactor authentication (MFA) approval; and intruding in the ongoing crisis-communication calls of their targets.

Scroll down, and they acknowledge having been exploited themselves this week:

This week, the actor made public claims that they had gained access to Microsoft and exfiltrated portions of source code. No customer code or data was involved in the observed activities. Our investigation has found a single account had been compromised, granting limited access. Our cybersecurity response teams quickly engaged to remediate the compromised account and prevent further activity. Microsoft does not rely on the secrecy of code as a security measure and viewing source code does not lead to elevation of risk. The tactics DEV-0537 used in this intrusion reflect the tactics and techniques discussed in this blog. Our team was already investigating the compromised account based on threat intelligence when the actor publicly disclosed their intrusion. This public disclosure escalated our action allowing our team to intervene and interrupt the actor mid-operation, limiting broader impact.

Social engineering always has been, and remains, the most effective and destructive form of computer hacking.

The Verge: ‘Nothing’s First Smartphone Is Aimed at Apple, Not OnePlus’ 

Jon Porter, writing for The Verge:

Today, Nothing is releasing a series of images of Nothing OS, the Android skin it plans to ship on the Phone 1. The images don’t reveal much about what the software might be able to do, but Pei is keen to emphasize its look, which very consciously lines up with the rest of Nothing’s branding. The interface is a sea of black, white, and red that leans heavily on the dotted font that Nothing uses for its logo.

Pei’s also very into the sound of the phone, an area he thinks is often overlooked. “Our sound design is really cool,” he says, “so definitely check that out.”

I don’t know how broad the appeal is, but I dig the retro dot matrix aesthetic. But Samsung has got to be wondering about that headline.

Ken White: ‘Our Fundamental Right to Shame and Shun The New York Times’ 

Ken White, writing for The Popehat Report:

I’m going to offer a working definition for the purposes of this essay: “cancel culture” is when speech is met with a response that, in my opinion, is very disproportionate. Perhaps that sounds cynical, and I could certainly give you a Justice-Breyer-seven-factor balancing test, but that’s what this discussion boils down to: just as we constantly debate norms of what speech is socially acceptable, we debate norms about what responses to speech are socially acceptable. […]

Why should we care about having a serious discussion about defining cancel culture? We should because simply complaining about it in the abstract, without attempts to define it, without actionable responses, and without taking the rights of “cancellers” doesn’t ease the culture war. It inflames it.

I loved this entire piece, but the above encapsulates my thinking on the term “cancel culture” perfectly.

FastScripts 3.1 Adds AppleScript Commands for Regular Expressions 

Speaking of automation, here’s an update near and dear to my regex-loving heart. Daniel Jalkut, writing at the Red Sweater blog:

This update introduces an expansion of FastScripts’s own built-in scripting additions, with three powerful new commands for searching, replacing, and splitting text with regular expressions.

These can be used by any AppleScript on your Mac, whether you’re running the script from FastScripts or not. These new commands are also completely free of charge, so if you install and keep FastScripts running in the background, your scripts will always have access to these features.

Like anything scripting-related, there are many ways to use regular expressions for searching and replacing text in AppleScript. Having a few good commands (searching, replacing, and splitting) built into a utility like FastScripts though, with a good scripting dictionary for the syntax, is really convenient. I started beta testing this version of FastScripts a few weeks ago, and I’ve already made a few new scripts that use it, and edited a few old scripts to use FastScripts’s regex commands to replace the now-unnecessary kludges workarounds I was using before. Very cool, too, for sharing scripts with others, that these regex commands are available in the free version of FastScripts.

Five-Year Anniversary of Apple’s Acquisition of Workflow, Which Is Now Shortcuts 

Matthew Panzarino, five years ago today:

Apple has finalized a deal to acquire Workflow today — a tool that lets you hook together apps and functions within apps in strings of commands to automate tasks. We’ve been tracking this one for a while but were able to confirm just now that the ink on the deal is drying as we speak. [...]

The app was made by a small team that includes Ari Weinstein, a former iPhone jailbreaker. I’ve been following his efforts since the iPod Linux days and covered his very useful DeskConnect app a few years back.

Workflow has been around for a couple of years and we’ve covered it and its updates. It shares some similarity with the service IFTTT, in that it allows people to group together a bunch of actions that can allow them to perform complicated tasks with one tap. It had built up a sizeable number of users and downloads over the past few years.

I was reminded of this anniversary via John Vorhees, who linked to this prescient piece by Federico Viticci written shortly after the acquisition. Viticci was far ahead of his time in seeing the potential for Workflow/Shortcuts.

I’m of two minds about the current state of Shortcuts. First, Shortcuts seems to be improving at a faster pace than ever before. The biggest improvement, of course, was bringing it to MacOS this year, with cross-platform compatibility with iOS wherever it makes sense, but also enabling Mac-only actions like executing AppleScript and shell scripts. Until Apple showed that they were committed to Shortcuts post-acquisition, there really was no system-wide automation story for iOS. It’s very encouraging that Shortcuts isn’t just alive at Apple, it’s alive and seemingly thriving.

But there’s a part of me that thinks Shortcuts as a first-party automation technology should be even further along than it is after five years inside Apple. My recent look back at the origins of the iPhone and iOS in particular, and thinking about how much that relatively small team accomplished in just two years, has lowered my overall patience for platform advancements.

Okta Statement on Breach by Hackers 

David Bradbury, chief security officer for Okta, in a brief post on the company’s blog:

In January 2022, Okta detected an unsuccessful attempt to compromise the account of a customer support engineer working for a third-party provider. As part of our regular procedures, we alerted the provider to the situation, while simultaneously terminating the user’s active Okta sessions and suspending the individual’s account. Following those actions, we shared pertinent information (including suspicious IP addresses) to supplement their investigation, which was supported by a third-party forensics firm.

Following the completion of the service provider’s investigation, we received a report from the forensics firm this week. The report highlighted that there was a five-day window of time between January 16-21, 2022, where an attacker had access to a support engineer’s laptop. This is consistent with the screenshots that we became aware of yesterday.

The screenshots they “became aware of yesterday” were shared on social media and, because Okta provides secure authentication to many companies, the breach has been widely-publicized. What Bradbury claims matches the evidence to date — that the attackers gained the privileges of a support engineer and no more. That’s something, but it doesn’t seem to be catastrophic. It would be a lot more reassuring, though, if the January incident had been disclosed before these screenshots were leaked to the public.

(This same hacking group, “Lapsus$”, claims to have stolen the source code for Cortana, Bing, and other projects from Microsoft.)

Update: New post from Bradbury:

After a thorough analysis of these claims, we have concluded that a small percentage of customers — approximately 2.5% — have potentially been impacted and whose data may have been viewed or acted upon. We have identified those customers and are contacting them directly. If you are an Okta customer and were impacted, we have already reached out directly by email. We are sharing this interim update, consistent with our values of customer success, integrity, and transparency.

Yowza. Seems pretty likely to me this is how “Lapsus$” stole source code from Microsoft.

Axios: ‘Vulnerable Democrats Eye G.O.P. Transit Mask Repeal’ 


The chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm and some of the vulnerable members he’s charged with re-electing are voicing support for a Republican-led mask mandate repeal bill.

Why it matters: This would set up a potential showdown with the White House, which recently issued a one-month extension on the federal mask mandate for public transit and airplanes.

Mask mandates are political death at this point in state-wide races. An overwhelming majority of voters are opposed to continuing them. The new normal should be “Wear a mask to protect yourself if you want to.” Democrats need to repeal these mandates now so that they’re ancient history come November.

Double-down on vaccines. Vaccines are the solution to COVID-19, and Democrats can own them as a political issue. Take mask mandates off the table and just make it all about vaccinations, which really work and really help.

45 Years at Apple for Employee 8 

Chris Espinosa, on Twitter, marked his 45-year anniversary at Apple last week in typical understated fashion. For the record, my favorite Espinosa story.

Nick Heer on Computational Photography’s Uncanny Valley 

Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy regarding Kyle Chayka’s aforelinked argument in the New Yorker that iPhone cameras have gotten too smart:

There are many things about the default camera app’s processing that are not to my tastes, but one attribute tops the list: its aggressive noise reduction. I wish it would back off and permit a little more grain, which gives images texture and compromises details less.

I understand why Apple’s Camera software is so aggressive about noise reduction, but I’m with Heer in preferring a little noise and texture in my low-light photos. It would be great if noise reduction were added to the list of Photo Styles we can adjust in iOS 16 this year. Keep the default aggressive but let us choose to dial it back.

Kyle Chayka: ‘Have iPhone Cameras Become Too Smart?’ 

Kyle Chayka, writing for The New Yorker:

In January, I traded my iPhone 7 for an iPhone 12 Pro, and I’ve been dismayed by the camera’s performance. On the 7, the slight roughness of the images I took seemed like a logical product of the camera’s limited capabilities. I didn’t mind imperfections like the “digital noise” that occurred when a subject was underlit or too far away, and I liked that any editing of photos was up to me. On the 12 Pro, by contrast, the digital manipulations are aggressive and unsolicited. One expects a person’s face in front of a sunlit window to appear darkened, for instance, since a traditional camera lens, like the human eye, can only let light in through a single aperture size in a given instant. But on my iPhone 12 Pro even a backlit face appears strangely illuminated. The editing might make for a theoretically improved photo — it’s nice to see faces — yet the effect is creepy. When I press the shutter button to take a picture, the image in the frame often appears for an instant as it did to my naked eye. Then it clarifies and brightens into something unrecognizable, and there’s no way of reversing the process. David Fitt, a professional photographer based in Paris, also went from an iPhone 7 to a 12 Pro, in 2020, and he still prefers the 7’s less powerful camera. On the 12 Pro, “I shoot it and it looks overprocessed,” he said. “They bring details back in the highlights and in the shadows that often are more than what you see in real life. It looks over-real.”

Chayka’s is an interesting take, for sure. He references Halide’s aforelinked deep analysis of the iPhone 13 Pro camera system (which is what reminded me to link to it) thus:

Yet, for some users, all of those optimizing features have had an unwanted effect. Halide, a developer of camera apps, recently published a careful examination of the 13 Pro that noted visual glitches caused by the device’s intelligent photography, including the erasure of bridge cables in a landscape shot. “Its complex, interwoven set of ‘smart’ software components don’t fit together quite right,” the report stated.

That shot of the bridge was not a good result, but it wasn’t emblematic of the typical iPhone 13 camera experience in any way. I don’t think Chayka is being overly disingenuous, but for 99 percent of the photos taken by 99 percent of people (ballpark numbers, obviously) the iPhone 12 or 13 is a way better camera than an iPhone 7. Yet Chayka might leave some readers thinking they’re going to get better photos from a six-year-old iPhone, which simply isn’t true.

The problem is not that iPhone cameras have gotten too smart. It’s that they haven’t gotten smart enough. There most certainly are trade-offs between old-fashioned dumb photography and today’s state-of-the-art computational photography, but those trade-offs overwhelmingly favor computational photography. Chayka’s whole argument feels somewhat like arguments that shooting on film produced superior results compared to digital sensors circa 15 years ago.

Sebastiaan de With on the iPhone 13 Pro Camera System 

Sebastiaan de With, writing for Lux’s Halide blog:

This year’s deep dive into Apple’s latest and greatest — the iPhone 13 Pro — took extra time. I had to research a particular set of quirks.

“Quirk”? This might be a bit of a startling thing to read, coming from many reviews. Most smartphone reviews and technology websites list the new iPhone 13 Pro’s camera system as being up there with the best on the market right now.

I don’t disagree.

But I must admit I don’t take photos like most people. An average iPhone user snaps a picture in Apple’s Camera app, and … I work on my own camera app. I take photos in both Apple’s app and our own — and that lets me do something that Apple’s can’t: take native RAW photos. These shots let me poke and prod at the unprocessed photo that comes straight out of the hardware. Looking at the raw data, I’ve concluded that while Apple has taken more than one leap forward in hardware, they’re in a tricky position in software.

I missed this last month when it appeared. Well-illustrated, well-explained look at the state-of-the-art in mobile phone photography.

‘MacPaw’s Operations Amidst the Russian Aggression Against Ukraine’ 

Oleksandr Kosovan, founder of MacPaw:

Being humans of the 21st century, we all wish that the tragic days of war were a thing of the past. However, now once more, with the Russian aggression against Ukraine, we’ve been made to witness how easy freedom, independence, and the human right to life and choice are put on the line.

MacPaw was founded and operated primarily in Kyiv, Ukraine. For us, the security of our team members is paramount. We’ve prepared various assistance programs and launched an emergency plan to ensure the safety of our peers based in Ukraine.

MacPaw is a longtime Mac development shop, with well-known utilities like CleanMyMac and the app subscription service Setapp. I’ve met Kosovan and several other MacPaw employees at WWDCs past — and I hope to see them all again.

Kosovan’s post concludes with a slew of links to services to which you can donate to support Ukraine.

Author Lauren Hough Loses Lambda Prize Nomination After Suggesting People Read a Forthcoming Book Before They Condemn It 

Lauren Hough:

My book won’t win a prize because my friend Sandra Newman wrote a book. The premise of her book is “what if all the men disappeared.” When she announced the book on twitter, YA twitter saw it. This is the single most terrifying thing that can happen to a writer on twitter. YA twitter, presumably fans of young adult fiction, are somehow unfamiliar with the concept of fiction. YA twitter doesn’t do nuance. They don’t understand metaphor or thought experiment. They expect fictional characters to be good and moral and just, whether antagonist or protagonist. They expect characters and plot to be free of conflict. They require fiction to portray a world without racism, bigotry, and bullies. And when YA twitter gets wind of a book that doesn’t meet their demands, they respond with a beatdown so unrelenting and vicious it would shock William Golding. They call it “call-out culture” because bullying is wrong, unless your target is someone you don’t like, for social justice reasons, of course.

Publishing hasn’t yet figured out how to respond to YA twitter. Authors who’ve been targeted have left social media entirely. Reviewers shy away. Publishers have pulled books. Authors have changed lines, characters, and scenes in their books hoping to avoid becoming a target, or to appease YA twitter once they have. And once they have become targets, those writers often find themselves alone — their friends and colleagues silent for fear of becoming targets themselves. The entirety of the publishing world is terrified of a few hundred self-described book lovers on social media who are shockingly bad at reading books.

Very strange that Hough’s award nomination would be revoked for this, because after The New York Times editorial board’s much-discussed opinion piece last week, backed by polling, arguing that America has a problem with free speech as a social ideal, I learned on Twitter that this just isn’t so and that “cancel culture” does not exist.

(Snark aside, may I suggest that even if you disagree with the Times editorial board’s opinion, their polling results are eye-opening regarding whether Americans — on both the right and left — believe that we have a growing problem with tolerance for opinions we disagree with. Much of the knee-jerk reaction to the Times editorial board’s opinion seems like proof in and of itself that they were right.)

Speaking of The Times, here’s their story today by reporter Marc Tracy on Lambda Literary’s revocation of Hough’s award nomination:

Hough said Monday that she could not recall whether she had deleted any tweets, and denied that any of her tweets had been transphobic. Lambda did not provide examples of the posts they were most critical of. The Times has not reviewed any deleted tweets.

That’s really something. Jeet Heer:

I’m a bit baffled by this. How do we adjudicate a controversy about something said when its deleted, neither party wants to quote it, and the reporter hasn’t seen it?

Apple Studio Display Contains 64 GB of Storage 

Harley Charlton, MacRumors:

As highlighted by developer “Khaos Tian” on Twitter, the Studio Display only uses 2GB of its 64GB of internal NAND storage. Some free space is likely needed for firmware updates, but the 62GB of unused space is seemingly otherwise useless at the current time. Apple has not confirmed the quantity of the Studio Display’s internal storage in its technical specifications.

This is one of those things that both makes perfect sense (the Studio Display contains an embedded A13 SoC and the A13’s lowest storage tier is 64 GB) and seems kind of crazy (the Studio Display has 64 GB of storage that is mostly unused and isn’t accessible to users). Effectively there’s a base model 9th-generation iPad in there.

iCloud and Many Other Apple Services Are Down 

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

Affected services and apps include the App Store, iCloud, Siri, iMessage, Apple Maps, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, Apple Fitness+, Apple TV+, Find My, FaceTime, Notes, Stocks, and many others, according to complaints across Twitter and other online platforms. Apple’s developer website is also inaccessible due to server issues.


Apple TV App on Android TV and Google TV No Longer Lets Users Buy or Rent Movies 

Rasmus Larsen, writing for FlatpanelsHD:

The Apple TV app arrived on Google TV in early 2021 and on Android TV in the summer of 2021, complete with Apple TV+ access, channels, and the ability to rent and purchase iTunes movies directly on the device.

The latest app update has removed the option to rent and purchase movies on Android TV and Google TV devices. The two buttons have been replaced by a new “How to Watch” button which states: “You can buy, rent or subscribe in the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, and other streaming devices.” [...]

It is unclear why Apple has downgraded its app on Android TV and Google TV but it could be related to commission rates.

I can confirm via, as they say, sources familiar with the matter, that this is entirely about Apple and Google not being able to reach mutually agreeable terms on in-app payment commissions. Until this update, Apple had been running on an exemption not to use Google’s IAP. The exemption expired, so Apple TV on Android TV is now “reader only”. Apple TV on Amazon’s Fire platform has long been “reader only” as well for the same reason: Apple would rather not sell or rent any content at all on these platforms than do so while paying Google/Amazon the commissions they demand.

Ben Lovejoy, commenting on FlatpanelsHD’s report at 9to5Mac:

If so, it would be ironic at a time when Apple is defending its own App Store commissions against developer complaints and antitrust investigations around the world.

I don’t think Apple going read-only on these platforms is ironic at all. Apple is doing on these platforms what all developers can choose to do on Apple’s platforms: if they don’t like the commission rates, don’t sell anything.

What’s hypocritical is Apple offering a “How to Watch” button, with a simple clear explanation of how you can buy or rent new content to watch on Android TV by making the purchase on a different device. That’s not allowed on Apple’s own platforms — Apple has a rule against explaining the rules.

Plain Text Sports 

“Live sports scores, play-by-play and boxscores, in plain text. No ads, no tracking, no loading.”

I love this, and yet despite being out for about a year, only heard about it today for the first time. Any website that is slower than this is too slow.

Only some sports have live box scores (like the NBA); others (like NCAA basketball) link through to external sites for box scores. But the scores are all live, and the website is fast fast fast.


My thanks to MacStadium for sponsoring last week at DF. MacStadium is the premiere provider of cloud-hosted Macs. You’re probably already familiar with them — they’re a longtime sponsor here, for one thing — but they’ve got a lot of new stuff:

  • M1 Macs — Move from Intel to Apple silicon with MacStadium. They have a full selection of M1s in the US and Europe.

  • Orka — Virtualize MacOS on M1, Intel, or in a mixed cluster with Orka 2.0.

  • Mac Remote Desktops — Provide remote workers access to MacOS on cloud-hosted Macs.

There are so many potential uses for MacStadium but a big one is app development — MacStadium lets your team build, test, and deploy from the cloud. Gain efficiency by cloning VMs instead of manually re-imaging individual Macs.

Learn more and keep up with what’s new at

Update to Popular NPM Package Deletes Files to Protest Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine 

Ax Sharma, writing for Bleeping Computer:

This month, the developer behind the popular npm package ‘node-ipc’ released sabotaged versions of the library in protest of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. Newer versions of the ‘node-ipc’ package began deleting all data and overwriting all files on developer’s machines, in addition to creating new text files with “peace” messages. [...]

Popular JavaScript front end framework ‘Vue.js’ also uses ‘node-ipc’ as a dependency. But prior to this incident, ‘Vue.js’ did not pin the versions of ‘node-ipc’ dependency to a safe version and was set up to fetch the latest minor and patch versions instead [...]

The way the Node community works, just blindly slurping in other people’s package updates without knowing what’s in them, continues to boggle my mind.

‘Inside the Palace With Mohammed bin Salman’ 

Graeme Wood, in a remarkable feature for The Atlantic, profiling Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia:

In Washington, many see MBS’s rise as abetted, perhaps even made inevitable, by American support. “There was a moment in time where the international community could have made it clear that the Khashoggi murder was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and that we weren’t willing to deal with MBS,” Senator Murphy told me. The Trump administration’s support, when MBS was at his most vulnerable, saved him. “If MBS ultimately becomes king,” Murphy said, “he owes no one bigger than Jared Kushner,” Trump’s personal envoy to the crown prince. (“You Americans think there is something strange about a ruler who sends his unqualified son-in-law to conduct international relations,” one Saudi analyst told me. “For us this is completely normal.”)

What’s New in Shortcuts in iOS 15.4 and MacOS 12.3 

Apple support document:

  • Double-clicking on an item in “Choose From List” now chooses the item and continues running on macOS

  • Text entry dialogs can now be dismissed with the ⌘+return keyboard shortcut on macOS

These two have been high atop my list of “Have the people making Shortcuts for Mac ever used a Mac?” questions. Glad to see them fixed in a mid-cycle update.

  • “Get Current Web Page from Safari” now supports retrieving details like name, page contents, and selection on macOS

That’s a big one for a lot of typical automation needs — while you’re doing something in some other app, it’s convenient to get the details of the frontmost Safari tab without having to actually switch back to Safari manually. Truly excited to see how much better Shortcuts will get this year at WWDC.

Studio Display Videoconferencing in Action 

Dan Moren and Jason Snell got together yesterday for a live YouTube stream about the Mac Studio and Studio Display, and Snell recorded his side entirely with Center Stage from the Studio Display. Both a good discussion and a good example of the Studio Display camera in action.

Three Updates Regarding the Studio Display 

Three quick notes on the Studio Display:

  1. An hour or so ago I posted an update to my Studio Display review worth flagging here in a post of its own. After the paragraph where I wrote that I wasn’t going to hold my breath for a software update that actually makes the image quality from the Studio Display camera good, the update reads:

    Maybe I should hold my breath. Multiple little birdies familiar with the Studio Display, each birdie independent of the others, tell me that the image quality problems really are a software problem, not hardware — a bug introduced at the last minute — and a future software update might not merely somewhat improve image quality, but raise it to a level commensurate with the iPad models equipped with the same camera (the new Air and last year’s Pros), modulo the differences between the M1 and A13 ISPs. That would be excellent news, if true. But someone at Apple is having a very bad day today, if true.

    Here’s hoping.

  2. Speaking of software updates for the Studio Display, you can check the “display firmware version” in System Information, under “Graphics/Displays”. There, you can see that not only does the Studio Display run iOS, it literally runs iOS 15.4: “Version 15.4 (Build 19E241)”. That’s iOS 15.4 right down to the build number — 19E241 is the same build number as iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4.

    Screenshot from System Information showing that the display firmware version number of the Studio Display is “Version 15.4 (Build 19E241”.

    I shouldn’t be surprised by this but I am. But this means that if the camera image quality issues can be remedied/improved via a software update, we’re not waiting for a bug fix release for MacOS 12, but for iOS 15. Or both? I’m curious to see how software updates for the Studio Display work.

  3. I should have mentioned this in the review itself but forgot to: “Apple Studio Display” is a great name.

Troy Aikman and Joe Buck Leave Fox for ESPN and Monday Night Football 

Big football news from ESPN today:

ESPN has signed acclaimed play-by-play commentator Joe Buck and leading football analyst Troy Aikman to multi-year deals, as the NFL’s longest current booth pairing and Pro Football Hall of Fame members will become the new voices of Monday Night Football. The iconic duo’s 2022 Monday Night Football debut will mark their 21st NFL season in the booth together, matching the legendary Pat Summerall and John Madden’s all-time record as on-air NFL partners. In their two decades together, Buck and Aikman have called six Super Bowls, surpassing all other pairings/booths except for Summerall and Madden. [...]

Troy Aikman said, “The opportunity to be a voice on Monday Night Football, adding to its legacy and being a part of the future of the NFL on ESPN, has me motivated and reflective. As a kid in California, the voices of Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell, and my mom’s personal favorite, Don Meredith, echoed throughout our living room each week. Joe and I are humbled to be part of that same tradition that has existed for more than 50 years across generations of football fans.”

The shine has been off Monday Night Football ever since John Madden and Al Michaels left for NBC in 2006. Aikman and Buck put the shine back on. (And Don Meredith was everyone’s favorite; Cosell was the guy everyone in America loved to hate.) ESPN and ABC have the Super Bowl in 2027 and 2031, too. And now it looks like Fox is left holding a bag of “Who?” for their top booth team.

McLaren Racing Announces Multi-Year Partnership With Google 


The partnership will bring the best of Google products to McLaren to provide a more seamless technology experience across devices. Throughout the season, McLaren will use 5G-enabled Android devices and Chrome browser across its operations during practice sessions, qualifying and races to support the drivers and team, with the goal of improving on-track performance.

Android and Chrome branding will be carried on the engine cover and wheel covers of the MCL36 Formula 1 race cars, and on the helmets and race suits of McLaren Formula 1 drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo from the 2022 Formula 1 season.

The Chrome logo on the wheels is clever. But it seems curious that the prime sponsorship space on the engine cover is for Android. Not Google, not Pixel, but Android generally. Interesting choice!

(Apple sponsored Porsche in 1980 at Le Mans and the livery was a thing of beauty.)

Derpy Trump Advisor Stephen Miller Is Still on His Parents’ Cell Phone Plan 

Jon Blistein, reporting for Rolling Stone last week:

Stephen Miller, the former adviser Trump adviser known for pushing the administration’s family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, is suing to block the Jan. 6 committee from obtaining his phone records. The suit argues that the phone records requested contain sensitive family information, and notes that Miller is still on his parents’ T-Mobile cell phone plan.

I didn’t repeatedly call it a kakistocracy for nothing. They wreaked havoc and will again if given the chance, but the whole Trump administration was staffed with stone cold losers.

Business Coalition for Ukraine: Tracking Businesses Withdrawing From Russia 

A long list, growing longer by the day, compiled by Alex Algard:

A global coalition of businesses has united in support of the people of Ukraine and against Putin’s brutal invasion. As of March 15th, this tracking list recognizes 411 companies that have announced material actions to either withdraw entirely from Russia or otherwise materially curtail their operations within Russia. These companies want to be on the right side of history in the eyes of their customers, employees, and shareholders.

One thing I didn’t notice while watching last week’s “Peek Performance” Apple event is that while Tim Cook didn’t say anything about the war in Ukraine, he wore a blue sweater with a yellow watch strap. Subtle, yes, but no coincidence.

‘I Really Thought Death Was Upon Me’ 

David Letterman and his longtime producer Barbara Gaines browse through photos on Dave’s iPad.

(Also: I think this was shot using Cinematic Mode on an iPhone 13 Pro.)

U.S. Senate Approves Bill to Make Daylight Saving Time Permanent in 2023 


The U.S. Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to make Daylight Savings Time permanent, a move supporters say would make winter afternoons brighter and end the twice changing of clocks.

The measure still needs approval from the U.S. House of Representatives and the backing of President Joe Biden. On Sunday, most of the United States resumed Daylight Savings Time, moving ahead one hour. The United States will resume standard time in November 2022.


(Grammar note: Pluralizing the “saving” in “daylight saving time” is so common that it’s now accepted (and apparently either house style at Reuters or the mistake slipped past their copy desk), but formally, it’s singular. My mnemonic: there’s only one “s” in “DST”. Update: The Reuters copy desk has caught the mistake and singularized “saving” in the headline and article text.)

10 Years Ago on DF: ‘Chris Pirillo’s Dad Tries Windows 8’ 

Got a nice reminder on Twitter about this brief item I wrote 10 years ago this week, when Chris Pirillo published a video of his dad, a longtime Windows user, trying Windows 8:

Could be this has no predictive value regarding how regular people will think about Windows 8, but it’s an eye-opener regarding the risk Microsoft is taking by making essential UI navigation elements hidden until you hover the mouse in the right spots. People navigate with their eyes, not by scrubbing the screen with the mouse. It’s a few minutes long but worth watching for the payoff at the end.

Alas, “essential UI elements hidden until you hover the mouse” describes many of the changes to MacOS in the Alan Dye era of UI design. Or in some cases they may not be hidden, but just nonstandard, unlabeled, and lacking tooltips when you do hover over them, wondering what the heck they do.

‘Scott, You Don’t Understand’ 

Thinking about Apple’s for-pay on-campus employee cafes always makes me think about this story from Scott Forstall, from Steven Levy’s wonderful “Oral History of Apple’s Infinite Loop” for Wired:

Whenever I ate with Steve, he insisted on paying for me, which I thought was a little odd. Even if we went in together and he selected something quick like pre-made sushi, and I ordered a pizza in the wood-burning pizza oven, he would wait for me at the cash register for 10, 15 minutes. I felt so awkward. Finally, I told him. “Seriously, I can pay for myself, so please don’t stand there and wait for me.” He said, “Scott, you don’t understand. You know how we pay by swiping your badge and then it’s deducted from your salary? I only get paid a dollar a year! Every time I swipe we get a free meal!” Here was this multi-billionaire putting one over on the company he founded, a few dollars at a time.

Facebook to Cut Back on Employee Perks 

Mike Isaac, Ryan Mac, and Sheera Frenkel, reporting for The New York Times:

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, told employees on Friday that it was cutting back or eliminating free services like laundry and dry cleaning and was pushing back the dinner bell for a free meal from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., according to seven company employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The new dinner time is an inconvenience because the last of the company’s shuttles that take employees to and from their homes typically leaves the office at 6 p.m. It will also make it more difficult for workers to stock up on hefty to-go boxes of food and bring them to their refrigerators at home.

I feel just awful for these awful people who willfully work for an awful company.

The changes could be a warning shot for employees at other companies that are preparing to return to the office after two years of the coronavirus pandemic. Google, Meta and others have long offered creature comforts like on-site medical attention, sushi buffets, candy stores and beanbag chairs to lure and retain top talent, which remains at a premium in the tech industry.

Apple has never really been a part of the Silicon Valley extravagant perks game. When upstart companies like Google were giving away free meals and haircuts and installing adult-sized sliding boards, Apple stayed the course with on-campus cafes where the food was good, but employees had to, you know, pay for it. People said Apple was out of touch then.

Foxconn Shuts Factories for at Least a Week Because of COVID Lockdown 

Tiffany May, reporting for The New York Times:

Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics firm that assembles Apple’s iPhones, said Monday that its factories in Shenzhen, China, would suspend operations after the city imposed a seven-day coronavirus lockdown.

Shenzhen borders Hong Kong, which has reported nearly 3,780 Covid-19 deaths and nearly 700,000 new cases since late January. While infections in the rest of China remain low compared with the rest of the world, the number of reported cases is growing rapidly. China’s National Health Commission reported 3,122 new cases on Sunday, about double the amount on Saturday and three times that on Friday.


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MKBHD: The Green iPhones 13 in 59 Seconds 

Two more videos: iJustine and Rene Ritchie.

Apple provided me with review units of both of these phones, and, well, I agree the consensus from the above three — they’re both nice greens. They’re also way more green green than the “midnight green” iPhone 11 Pro. My wife commented that she prefers the iPhone 13 Pro’s “alpine green” to the 11 Pro’s midnight green specifically because midnight green was so muted — it looked green in some lighting from some angles, but more like dark gray in others. I will add that I don’t think the iPhone 13 Pro’s alpine green is a different shade or tint of green than the iPhone 13’s no-adjective green — the difference is simply the Pro’s matte finish, which is desaturating. I feel more confident than ever that the next round of non-Pro MacBooks are going to come in an array of fun colors.

Also: one more knock against the argument that Apple has something against the color green.

Rumor of the Day: Only the iPhone 14 Pro Models Will Get the New A16 Chip 

Ming-Chi Kuo finally has a Twitter account, and dropped this today:

According to Apple’s rules for naming iPhones, the four new 2H22 iPhones could be called iPhone 14 (6.1”), iPhone 14 Max (6.7”), iPhone 14 Pro (6.1”), and iPhone 14 Pro Max (6.7”).

Only two Pro models would upgrade to the A16 processor, while the 14 & 14 Max will remain the A15. All four new models will likely come with 6GB RAM, with the difference being LPDDR 5 (14 Pro & 14 Pro Max) vs. LPDDR 4X (14 & 14 Max).

Via Hartley Charlton at MacRumors, who reports in the comments that MacRumors confirmed with Kuo that is indeed his Twitter account.

If true, it’s impossible (for us) to know the reason. A TSMC production issue? A cost issue? Or perhaps it’s pure strategy, with Apple being confident that the A15 will remain ahead of the best Snapdragon chips from Qualcomm for another year (if not longer), and thus creating a new annual pattern where the very latest and greatest A-series chips only go in the iPhone Pro models, and the non-Pro models use the new chips from the previous year. Right now the Pro and non-Pro iPhones are differentiated primarily by cameras and external finishes (polished steel with matte glass vs. matte aluminum with polished glass).

If Kuo is correct, starting next year, Pro and non-Pro iPhones will be differentiated by their chip performance, too, and I would expect that to remain the case year after year. That makes sense to me — it’s true for Apple’s “Pro” models in the MacBook and iPad lineups.

Siri, Checking Your Account Balance at the Timer Bank 

Wilfredo Sánchez, on Twitter:

Common HomePod interaction of late:

—Hey Siri, can you set a timer?
—How long?
—5 minutes
—…Hrm … this is taking a while … I didn’t hear back.


I set timers using the HomePods in my kitchen frequently, have run into this same interaction, and wondered the same thing. And then my wife tells me, “Why don’t you just use Alexa?”

Logger for Shortcuts 

Alex Hay, developer of the excellent Toolbox Pro for Shortcuts, has a new tool for Shortcuts developers:

Logger is a new app that makes developing complex shortcuts a breeze. Log text or images to the console and see them appear in realtime, as your shortcut runs. [...]

JSON is formatted for easy reading and the console can be exported to plain text or Markdown. All your messages are synced securely between your devices using iCloud.

There’s an old joke that the best way to debug a program or script is by using a bunch of print() statements that log what’s going on. I’ve personally found it very frustrating while trying to create even relatively simple workflows in Shortcuts that there’s no equivalent — and that frustration has largely kept me from even trying to create more complex workflows. Logger seems like it’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

$10 unlocks the app for iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS.

Percent of Time in New iPhone Presentations That Apple Spent Talking About the Camera 

Josh Lee on Twitter:

don’t think i ever shared this

over the years, % of time in a new iphone presentation apple spent talking about the camera

I knew it was true that the camera has steadily become more of an area of focus for Apple. You can see this just by looking at how big the camera modules have gotten over the years. The first two iPhone models didn’t even shoot video. Today, the “Shot on iPhone” ad campaign might now be the longest-running ad campaign Apple has ever run. Apple spends a lot of engineering and design effort on the iPhone cameras (and Camera app), and they spend a lot of marketing effort telling people about it.

And I knew it was true that Apple didn’t talk much about the camera in the early years. But seeing these numbers is rather striking. Lee posted a follow-up tweet showing the entire presentation time for the iPhone 3G camera in 2008: three seconds!

Display Analyst Ross Young: 27-Inch ‘Studio Display Pro’ With Mini-LED and ProMotion Could Launch in June 

Sami Fathi, writing for MacRumors:

Apple plans to launch a “Pro” version of its new Studio Display in June of this year that measures 27-inches and has mini-LED and ProMotion, according to well-respected display analyst Ross Young.

In a tweet, Young says he’s still expecting Apple to release a 27-inch mini-LED display in June and has confirmed such plans with sources within Apple’s supply chain. Young had previously said that an iMac Pro would launch as early as summer 2022 but no longer believes that to be the case.

This isn’t a crazy idea — it’s rather conspicuous that the new Studio Display doesn’t support ProMotion, even though that’s been a big selling point for Apple across its lineup of “Pro” products. And mini-LED would offer some brightness advantages, too. But the timing sounds a little weird. Surely there are a lot of people who have been waiting for a standalone Apple display that costs less than the Pro Display XDR, and a lot of them have already ordered the new Studio Display. Maybe they’d have waited if they knew a Studio Display Pro was also imminent?

Shipping products is hard, I’m always reminded.

More on the 27-Inch iMac Being Discontinued 

Andrew Cunningham, reporting for Ars Technica:

But the future of the big-screened iMac is currently in doubt. Following the announcement of the screen-less Mac Studio desktop today, the 27-inch Intel iMac disappeared from Apple’s online store. The 24-inch iMac is currently the only iMac referenced in the navigation bar, and all existing direct links to its 27-inch counterpart now redirect to the Mac page. Even more mystifying, Apple hardware SVP John Ternus said that there was only “one more” Mac that had yet to make the transition to Apple Silicon — and the system he named was the Mac Pro, not the larger iMac. [...]

Update: Apple confirmed to Ars that the 27-inch iMac has reached end of life.

Apple is going to be Apple, and I don’t think they want to just come out and say that the new Studio Display — combined with a modular approach to which Mac fits your budget and performance needs — replaces the all-in-one 27-inch iMac. But I think clearly it does. The Ternus line in the keynote about “one more” Mac is as big a tell as any.

Is the 27-Inch iMac Over, or Merely on Hiatus? 

Killian Bell, writing for Cult of Mac:

After gracing us with its jaw-dropping Mac Studio and 27-inch Studio Display on Tuesday, Apple finally discontinued the aging 27-inch iMac. The machine is no longer available to purchase through official Apple retail channels.

It’s probably not gone for good, however. Cupertino is rumored to be working on a larger iMac model that could appear alongside other new Mac models — including a new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro — later this year.

I can’t speak to the rumors, but product-fit-wise, I think the 27-inch iMac doesn’t have a spot in the lineup anymore. I think the Mac Studio and Studio Display fill that spot. It even makes sense in hindsight that the consumer-level iMac went from 21 to 24 inches, if it’s going to be the one and only iMac.

The Talk Show: ‘Billionaires Have Beefs’ 

Special guests Tom Watson and Daniel Agee join the show to talk about Glass, their upstart photo sharing app and community.

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Yours Truly on CNBC TechCheck 

Recapping yesterday’s “Peek Performance” Apple event.


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9to5Mac: ‘Mac Studio’ – New Desktop Mac, Between Mac Mini and Mac Pro 

Filipe Espósito, reporting for 9to5Mac:

Based on information seen by 9to5Mac, the new Mac Studio is primarily based on the Mac mini, but with much more powerful hardware. Apple has two versions of Mac Studio under development. One features the M1 Max chip (the same as the 2021 MacBook Pro) and the other a variant of the Apple Silicon chip that is even more powerful than the current M1 Max.

According to our sources, the new Mac Studio is known internally by the codename “J375”.

Although the name “Mac Studio” may change, it represents a new category between Mac mini and Mac Pro aimed at professional users. The brand also matches the “Apple Studio Display” that the company has been working on, which suggests that Apple will widely advertise both products as a perfect combo for professional work.

I don’t understand the “primarily based on the Mac Mini” part if it uses the M1 Max and an as-yet-unannounced chip even more powerful than the M1 Max, but this “Mac Studio” pretty much sounds like the mythical “xMac” many Mac nerds have been clamoring for — for almost 20 years. Stranger things have happened — “Wouldn’t it be cool if Apple made a stripped-down version of the Mac’s OS that could run on a handheld?” used to be just a spitball idea, too.

As linked in the blockquote above, Espósito also reported today on an “Apple Studio Display” with 7K resolution. He has no idea how big the display is, or whether it’s a replacement for the Pro Display XDR or a new lower-priced display. But if the names are right it sure sounds like a new prosumer-priced display.

Disney+ to Introduce an Ad-Supported Subscription Later This Year 

Disney press release:

In a first for Disney’s premier direct-to-consumer streaming service, Disney+ will expand its offerings for consumers by introducing an ad-supported subscription in addition to its option without ads, beginning in the U.S. in late 2022, with plans to expand internationally in 2023.

“Expanding access to Disney+ to a broader audience at a lower price point is a win for everyone — consumers, advertisers, and our storytellers,” said Kareem Daniel, Chairman, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution.

Note that they’re talking about a lower price, not free.

The thing that gets me, and will never stop getting me, is that when we first started using computers to watch TV, with TiVo and other DVRs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we were able to use them to skip, or at least fast-forward, commercials. The computerization of TV, in that early era, worked for us, the viewers.

Today, with streaming, the computerization of viewing leaves us with un-skippable, un-fast-forwardable commercials. I find that endlessly depressing. I’d rather not subscribe to a streaming service at all than subscribe to a tier with un-skippable ads.

Samsung Encryption Flaw in Over 100 Million Recent Phones 

Bruce Schneier:

Gadzooks. That’s a really embarrassing mistake. GSM needs a new nonce for every encryption. Samsung took a secure cipher mode and implemented it insecurely.

Here’s a link to the paper (PDF) from three researchers at Tel-Aviv University. Abstract:

In this work, we expose the cryptographic design and implementation of Android’s Hardware-Backed Keystore in Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S9, S10, S20, and S21 flagship devices. We reversed-engineered and provide a detailed description of the cryptographic design and code structure, and we unveil severe design flaws. We present an IV reuse attack on AES-GCM that allows an attacker to extract hardware-protected key material, and a downgrade attack that makes even the latest Samsung devices vulnerable to the IV reuse attack. We demonstrate working key extraction attacks on the latest devices.

Matthew Green, associate professor of computer science at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, in a tweet thread:

Ugh god. Serious flaws in the way Samsung phones encrypt key material in TrustZone and it’s embarrassingly bad. They used a single key and allowed IV re-use.

So they could have derived a different key-wrapping key for each key they protect. But instead Samsung basically doesn’t. Then they allow the app-layer code to pick encryption IVs. This allows trivial decryption.

Dieter Bohn Leaves The Verge to Join Google 

Dieter Bohn:

Ten years after we founded it, The Verge continues to be the best place to discover the import and impact of technology’s place in our culture — but after today, the team will be doing that without me. After 20 years in media, I’ve decided it’s time to do something new. If you’ve been a Vergecast listener, you know that disclosure is our brand, so here’s mine: I’m headed to Google to work on the Platforms & Ecosystems team. I am excited to help shape the future of software platforms like Android and Chrome — and continue to work at the nexus of technology and culture, just in a different way.

File this as another media departure I did not see coming. (I never see them coming.)

See also: Bohn has a poignant — and philosophical — goodbye video on YouTube, and he joined Nilay Patel and special guest Walt Mossberg for a goodbye on The Vergecast noodlepants.

Most Apple Employees Will Begin Returning to Offices on April 11 

Tim Cook, in a company-wide email to employees:

While many of you have been coming in regularly for quite some time, we are now looking forward to welcoming those of you who shifted to working remotely back to our corporate offices. In the United States, beginning on April 11, we’ll begin the phased approach to the hybrid pilot, with teams returning to the office initially one day a week, and then, beginning in the third week, two days a week. This transitional period will now be extended from four to six weeks.

We will then begin the hybrid pilot in full on May 23, with people coming to the office three days a week — on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday — and working flexibly on Wednesday and Friday if you wish.

Cities across the nation (and world) are dropping mask mandates, including here in Philly. Went shopping without a mask indoors yesterday for the first time since last summer. Feels both weird and very good.

Samsung Caught Excepting Benchmark Apps From Performance Throttling (Again) 

Hadlee Simons, writing for Android Authority:

Twitter user GaryeonHan and Korean netizens have posted a list of 10,000 apps (accessible here) that are apparently subjected to “performance limits” as part of Samsung’s Game Optimizing Service (GOS). The company’s Korean Community forum is also inundated with pages and pages of complaints from users as a result.

The purported list isn’t limited to games, as we see prominent apps like Instagram, Microsoft’s Office apps, Netflix, Google Keep, and TikTok here. Even Samsung’s own apps and services are listed here, such as Secure Folder, Samsung Cloud, Samsung Pay, Samsung Pass, and the dialer.

It’s no surprise to hear that benchmark apps like 3DMark, Antutu, PCMark, GFXBench, and GeekBench 5 aren’t listed here. This suggests that Samsung isn’t subjecting benchmark apps to throttling. A Korean YouTuber went so far as to change the 3DMark package name to reflect Genshin Impact (which does appear on the list) and ran the benchmark. The renamed package achieved a drastically lower benchmark score and average frame rate.

Crooked as a three-dollar bill.

The ‘Pod’ in ‘Podcast’ 

Last week I linked to this Statista post on podcast client usage. It contains this weird line:

The term podcast, the name being a merge of the words “play on demand” and “broadcast”, refers to audio or video content in episodic formats that can be streamed or downloaded digitally.

I don’t know where they got “play on demand”, but that’s retcon nonsense. The pod in podcast comes from iPod. There’s no ambiguity or question about it. Here’s a 2006 article about TWiT founder Leo Laporte winning a “podcaster of the year” award and using his keynote speech to endorse changing the name for the format to “netcast”: “Is podcasting the right name, given also Apple’s asserting it owns the word ‘pod’ and is it good for Apple to be a monopoly in this?”

Here’s a section of a long column I wrote in 2005 about Apple’s full-on embrace of podcast listening as a built-in feature for iTunes and iPods:

The other bit of good fortune is the name: podcasting. Good fortune for Apple, at least. Clearly the “pod” in “podcasting” is about the iPod. Apple couldn’t have come up with a better name for this phenomenon if they’d gotten to choose it themselves. If the whole “audio enclosures via RSS” scene were still known as “audioblogging”, as it was when Maciej Ceglowski recorded his seminal “Audioblogging Manifesto”, I seriously wonder whether Apple would have done this now.

If you’re an engineer, you might be tempted to argue that RSS-with-enclosures by any other name is still just RSS-with-enclosures, and that it makes no technical difference whether you call it “podcasting” or “audioblogging” or “noodlepants”.

But names do matter. And what makes this so delicious for Apple is that the more popular “podcasting” becomes as the name for publishing audio via RSS, the less likely it will be that a new name will ever take hold. Which leaves Apple’s competitors — including Microsoft, Sony, and the various other gadget-makers producing Windows Media-based players — in the extremely uncomfortable position of choosing from the following courses of action:

  1. Embracing the word “podcasting”, even though it contains the name of the competitor they’re chasing, and which name subtly implies that podcasting is meant for use with iPods, which implication sort of further implies that every other digital music player is just an iPod knock-off. I mean, can you imagine Apple using a term like “walkmancasting”, “dellcasting”, or “wincasting”? It’s embarrassing.

  2. Devising and using a new term for “podcasting” that doesn’t use “pod”. Good luck with that, considering that everyone — everyone — who is publishing podcasts is already calling them “podcasts”. [UPDATE: According to this story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Microsoft employees are pushing “blogcasting” as a “pod”-free alternative. Good luck with that.]

  3. Ignoring the whole podcasting phenomenon.

Pretty prescient, I must say, other than the fact that in a footnote I suggested I wasn’t going to create podcasts myself. What I didn’t foresee in 2005 is that podcasting would have a far longer shelf life for relevance than the term iPod itself.

See also:Would Twitter exist today if Apple hadn’t added podcast support to iTunes in 2005?

From the Department of Grading on a Curve 

From Monica Chin’s review of Dell’s new XPS 15 for The Verge, which she describes as “the closest Windows-running contender [to Apple’s MacBook Pros] that I’ve been able to find”:

Generally, when I review a laptop, even a fairly thin one, I might see an occasional spike above 90 degrees (Celsius) while running heavy loads. Larger laptops with very competent cooling (such as Asus’ ROG Zephyrus G15) are very capable of keeping their CPUs below the 80s. Recent MacBooks basically don’t turn on their fans ever.

But this XPS 15 unit was really ... something. Throughout my various testing, the CPU was consistently around 99-100 degrees. This wasn’t a matter of brief spikes in temp — it was very worryingly hot.

My fellow Americans should keep in mind that water boils at 100°C.

The fans weren’t holding back, either. They were roaring the entire time throughout most of my tests. The XPS could be heard from across the room for the duration of our 4K video export test (which it completed in 3:57 — a respectable but not amazing time). [...] Outside of benchmark testing, while running my comparably lighter load of Chrome tabs, apps, and streaming with occasional Zoom calls overtop, I wasn’t necessarily hearing the fans all the time. But I did hear them occasionally, and more concerningly, I did feel quite a bit of heat. [...]

And, of course, even these mid-range chips come with a fairly substantial downside: battery life. Even with the GPU disabled, this XPS is getting a fraction of the lifespan that a MacBook Pro can get. (I’m sure the high-resolution screen isn’t helping.) I was only averaging three hours and 46 minutes of continuous work with the screen at medium brightness, with occasional downloads running, files copying, and other such tasks.

So it runs very hot and very loud and the battery doesn’t last 4 hours in typical use. The Verge’s score: 8.5/10. The Aristocrats!

Miguel de Icaza Is Leaving Microsoft 

Mary Jo Foley, reporting for ZDNet:

Well-known open source advocate and developer Miguel de Icaza, who joined Microsoft in 2016 when it acquired Xamarin, the mobile-tool company he cofounded, is leaving Microsoft. De Icaza — a Microsoft distinguished engineer — confirmed to me on March 2 that he has decided to leave and will be taking some time off before moving to a new job. [...]

When I asked what he planned to do next, de Icaza told me “I am going to rest while the kids are in school” and later vacation with them. “Living in this industry is like the kid at the candy store - too many things are happening and there are too many choices. So I want to spend some time sampling some of the candy, and then deciding which one I want to buy a pound of,” de Icaza said.

De Icaza is a great follow on Twitter, and had an interesting appearance on Rene Ritchie and Guy English’s Debug podcast back in 2015, before Microsoft acquired Xamarin. Whatever he does next, I’ll bet it’s going to be interesting.

Panic’s Playdate SDK Is Out 

Documented APIs for both Lua and C, design recommendations and guidelines, a bitmap font editor, and more. And don’t forget that they shipped Pulp, their web-based all-in-one game-making environment for Playdate.

‘Peek Performance’ – Apple Event Next Tuesday 

Jason Snell, on the “Peek Performance” Apple event next week:

At least we only have a few days to wait to find out. But, as silly and dad-jokey as “peek performance” is as a concept, I have to admit that it’s increased my anticipation for the event. So… mission accomplished, I suppose. We’ll see if next week’s event can deliver on that slogan’s promise.

Like Snell, I don’t want to waste too much time trying to guess what the event name means, but performance makes me think we’re getting the larger iMac (“iMac Pro”?). As for peek, I have no idea — I doubt there’s any major camera-related news and it feels even more doubtful that Apple’s rumored VR headset is getting announced now, so I’ll just go with “sometimes a pun is just a pun”. Update: For peek — maybe new standalone displays? Or is that just wishful thinking?

Mozilla Foundation: ‘Tinder’s Opaque, Unfair Pricing Algorithm Can Charge Users Up to Five-Times More for Same Service’ 

Mozilla, in a report issued three weeks ago:

Tinder Plus users around the world must engage with an opaque and unfair personalized pricing algorithm, according to new research by Mozilla and Consumers International.

The research — which spanned five continents — reveals that within a single country, consumers can be quoted up to 31 unique price points for a Tinder Plus subscription. Further, some people are charged up to five times more for the exact same service: In the Netherlands, prices ranged from $4.45 to $25.95. In the U.S., they ranged from $4.99 to $26.99.

Consumers International and Mozilla also determined that Tinder’s personalized pricing algorithm can charge older users more money. On average across the six countries investigated, 30-49 year-olds were charged 65.3% more than 18-29 year-olds. This is occurring even after Tinder faced a $24 million lawsuit for unfair pricing based on age in California.

Florian Mueller, writing at FOSS Patents:

Who is hurting consumers more:

  1. a dating-app maker that clandestinely charges some of its users up to five times more for the same service than it charges others; or

  2. a smartphone operating system maker that transparently and consistently imposes a 30% tax on payments in dating apps (and roughly the same for out-of-app payments)?

Sorry to say so: even a vocal App Store critic like me can’t possibly answer the question with “Apple.”

Dutch Regulator Continues Fining Apple 5 Million Euros Per Week 

Toby Sterling, reporting for Reuters:

A letter from Apple to the ACM dated Feb. 28 seen by Reuters said the solution it has offered would require only a “minor technical change” with no additional costs. The letter argued it is common practice for developers to modify their software to comply with law in various jurisdictions.

“I understand that currently we have a difference of opinion that may ultimately have to be resolved by a court,” the letter signed by Apple Chief Compliance Officer Kyle Andeer said. “I hope we can find a mutually agreeable solution that will allow us to move past this issue.”

A spokesperson for the ACM said the agency was aware of Apple’s letter but it did not represent a change of position.

Seems inevitable this is heading to court.

The Talk Show: ‘2006: Hard Work’ 

Special guest Ken Kocienda, author of Creative Selection, joins the show to talk about his years at Apple and the creation of the original iPhone.

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Apple Halts All Sales From Its Online Store in Russia 

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

Apple today stopped all product sales from its online website in Russia, which means customers in Russia can no longer purchase Macs, iPhones, iPads, and other Apple devices. Attempting to make a purchase from the Russia store results in a “delivery unavailable” result when trying to add a product to the online cart.

Unclear if the Russian App Store is still online, but Ukrainian vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov has publicly called upon Tim Cook to close that too.

Update: Statement from Apple, sent to me via email:

We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all of the people who are suffering as a result of the violence. We are supporting humanitarian efforts, providing aid for the unfolding refugee crisis, and doing all we can to support our teams in the region.

We have taken a number of actions in response to the invasion. We have paused all product sales in Russia. Last week, we stopped all exports into our sales channel in the country. Apple Pay and other services have been limited. RT News and Sputnik News are no longer available for download from the App Store outside Russia. And we have disabled both traffic and live incidents in Apple Maps in Ukraine as a safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens.

We will continue to evaluate the situation and are in communication with relevant governments on the actions we are taking. We join all those around the world who are calling for peace.