Linked List: October 2022

The Talk Show: ‘A Fit of Pique’ 

Federico Viticci returns to the show to talk about iPads, Stage Manager, and Apple’s ill-considered foray into expanding ads in the App Store.

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The Verge Reviews the $140 Amazon Fire TV Cube 

Chris Welch writing for The Verge, “A Streaming Box With No Equal”:

Advertising across Fire TV OS remains way more in your face than I’d like. When the Cube is left idle and goes into screensaver mode, you’ll see promoted movies and TV shows, sure, but there are also ads for Lexus cars. At the top of the homescreen over the last few days, there’s been a banner ad for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, which doesn’t even seem relevant to the platform outside of Twitch streams. And ads are now taking up room in the live channel guide, which is frustrating some Fire TV owners. When you’re perusing through the carousels of content on the homescreen, Amazon’s own selections still get the lion’s share of promotion. The latter shouldn’t come as a surprise on the company’s own hardware, but the dial really needs to be turned down on the rest. It cheapens the whole user experience and feels unwarranted on a $140 product. Ads are inevitable on $40 streaming sticks; that’s how they’re so affordable in the first place. But Amazon should be able to detect when customers have paid a premium for the Fire TV Cube and pull it back.

No equal indeed. The Apple TV streaming boxes don’t have any ads at all. They’re way behind. (Maybe I shouldn’t give Apple any ideas about putting annoying ads in tvOS.)

The Math on Twitter’s Debt 

Lauren Hirsch, The New York Times:

The numbers are already daunting. The $44 billion acquisition was the largest leveraged buyout of a technology company in history. To do the deal, Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, loaded about $13 billion in debt on the company, which had not turned a profit for eight of the past 10 years. The deal was inked before the global economy looked to be headed toward a recession as interest rates surged higher. And digital advertising, which makes up 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue, has been falling at social media companies. [...]

Last year, Twitter’s interest expense was about $50 million. With the new debt taken on in the deal, that will now balloon to about $1 billion a year. Yet the company’s operations last year generated about $630 million in cash flow to meet its financial obligations.

That means that Twitter is generating less money per year than what it owes its lenders. The company also does not appear to have a lot of extra cash on hand.

Interest payments are a bitch. The optimistic take on Musk taking Twitter private is that it frees Twitter from pursuing increased revenue at all costs to please shareholders. But what’s the point if Twitter now needs to pursue increased revenue at all costs to service its debt?

Scott Forstall Was Forced Out of Apple 10 Years Ago 

Apple, 10 years ago:

Apple today announced executive management changes that will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams. As part of these changes, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will add more responsibilities to their roles. Apple also announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.

Hard to believe it’s been 10 years. Also hard to believe that Forstall hasn’t done anything else in tech since. He obviously butted heads with the rest of the executive team, and did not last long without Steve Jobs providing him political cover. But he was incredibly successful, and people who worked in his organization loved him. He was demanding, yes, but he went to bat companywide for the people and teams that worked for him. (At least one time, literally.) “Scott had our backs” is a phrase I’ve heard from a slew of people at (or formerly at) Apple.

Less notable, from the same press release:

Additionally, John Browett is leaving Apple.

Twitter Might Merge Twitter Blue and Verification, and Thus Charge for Being Verified 

The Verge’s Alex Heath had the scoop over the weekend:

The directive is to change Twitter Blue, the company’s optional, $4.99 a month subscription that unlocks additional features, into a more expensive subscription that also verifies users, according to people familiar with the matter and internal correspondence seen by The Verge. Twitter is currently planning to charge $19.99 for the new Twitter Blue subscription. Under the current plan, verified users would have 90 days to subscribe or lose their blue checkmark. Employees working on the project were told on Sunday that they need to meet a deadline of November 7th to launch the feature or they will be fired.

I can verify that a team has been tasked with this, but I heard the deadline was this Friday (November 4), not Monday (the 7th). But my real quibble is reporting anything going on at Twitter right now as a definitive plan. It’s a fact that Musk tasked a team at Twitter with building this and gave them “a week” to build it; it’s not a fact that it’s ever going to see the light of day.

As for the idea of charging verified users to remain verified (or, perhaps better put, requiring verified users to sign up for Twitter Blue), it strikes me as an idea that’s contrary to the reason verification exists. Nate Silver:

I’m probably the perfect target for this, use Twitter a ton, can afford $20/mo, not particularly anti-Elon, but my reaction is that I’ve generated a ton of valuable free content for Twitter over the years and they can go fuck themselves.

Stephen King:

$20 a month to keep my blue check? Fuck that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.

There’s a weirdly but unsurprisingly deeply insecure faction on the right that considers verified Twitter users to be one of their many enemy factions. They call them “bluechecks”. And while I’m sure there are some verified Twitter users who really do see it as some sort of prestige status thing, as Silver and King point out, in practical terms it’s for Twitter’s benefit, not for the verified users. It’s Twitter that benefits from millions of users being able to feel certain that the “Stephen King” with 7 million followers on Twitter is really the Stephen King. It’s Twitter that benefits from Nate Silver engaging with users and tweeting analysis. Popular tweeters aren’t getting paid to tweet. And now Elon Musk thinks they should pay to tweet?

Count me as skeptical that this is going to happen as currently discussed.

Decker 1.0 

John Earnest:

Decker builds on the legacy of HyperCard and the visual aesthetic of classic MacOS. It retains the simplicity and ease of learning that HyperCard provided, while adding many subtle and overt quality-of-life improvements, like deep undo history, support for scroll wheels and touchscreens, more modern keyboard navigation, and bulk editing operations.

Anyone can use Decker to create E-Zines, organize their notes, give presentations, build adventure games, or even just doodle some 1-bit pixel art. The holistic “ditherpunk” aesthetic is cozy, a bit nostalgic, and provides fun and distinctive creative constraints. As a prototyping tool, Decker encourages embracing a sketchy, imperfect approach. Finished decks can be saved as standalone .html documents which self-execute in a web browser and can be shared anywhere you can host or embed a web page. Decker also runs natively on MacOS, Windows, and Linux.

Decker is astonishing. At first glance you might mistake it as shallow, a fun nostalgic gimmick. How serious could something that looks so retro be? But it’s in fact quite deep: Earnest created his own custom scripting language, Lil, which is very approachable but includes things like an SQL-like query syntax for tabular data. The whole thing is beautiful and fun and useful and so engaging that I literally had a dream about using it last night. I don’t know what I’m going to make with Decker but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to make something. It’s that inspiring.

Even the names are perfect. “Decks” are to Decker what stacks were to HyperCard. Decks contain cards and cards contain widgets. The file format is plain text and very much human-readable. A deck shared on the web contains the whole runtime to present and run it in a browser, so all you need to do is publish a .html file. Decker’s Guided Tour is a fine example — both for trying Decker out and for viewing the source. (You’ll want to try it in a desktop browser, or maybe an iPad with a keyboard and trackpad — it’s not meant for phones.)

The native Mac app is just 4 MB. It’s free of charge and open source, but Earnest is accepting voluntary payments on the downloads page. Be generous! And if you make any cool decks let me know.


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‘Only the GOP Celebrates Political Violence’ 

David Frum:

But if both Republicans and Democrats, left and right, suffer political violence, the same cannot be said of those who celebrate political violence. That’s not a “both sides” affair in 2020s America.

You don’t see Democratic House members wielding weapons in videos and threatening to shoot candidates who want to cut capital-gains taxes or slow the growth of Medicare. Democratic candidates for Senate do not post video fantasies of hunting and executing political rivals, or of using a firearm to discipline their children’s romantic partners. It’s not because of Democratic members that Speaker Nancy Pelosi installed metal detectors to bar firearms from the floor of the House. No Democratic equivalent exists of Donald Trump, who regularly praises and encourages violence as a normal tool of politics, most recently against his own party’s Senate leader, Mitch McConnell. As the formerly Trump-leaning Wall Street Journal editorialized on October 2: “It’s all too easy to imagine some fanatic taking Mr. Trump seriously and literally, and attempting to kill Mr. McConnell. Many supporters took Mr. Trump’s rhetoric about former Vice President Mike Pence all too seriously on Jan. 6.”

Twitter, the Subway of the Internet 

Dave Winer:

Why would I leave Twitter? It’s like living in NY and not taking the subway. Sure it’s dirty and smells bad, but it’s how you get places.

Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to a perfect analogy.

Nilay Patel on Twitter, Content Moderation, and Elon Musk 

Nilay Patel, “Welcome to Hell, Elon”:

The essential truth of every social network is that the product is content moderation, and everyone hates the people who decide how content moderation works. Content moderation is what Twitter makes — it is the thing that defines the user experience. It’s what YouTube makes, it’s what Instagram makes, it’s what TikTok makes. They all try to incentivize good stuff, disincentivize bad stuff, and delete the really bad stuff. Do you know why YouTube videos are all eight to 10 minutes long? Because that’s how long a video has to be to qualify for a second ad slot in the middle. That’s content moderation, baby — YouTube wants a certain kind of video, and it created incentives to get it. That’s the business you’re in now. The longer you fight it or pretend that you can sell something else, the more Twitter will drag you into the deepest possible muck of defending indefensible speech. And if you turn on a dime and accept that growth requires aggressive content moderation and pushing back against government speech regulations around the country and world, well, we’ll see how your fans react to that.

I don’t disagree with a word of Patel’s column. It’s good and smart and informed (with links) about the various content moderation problems Twitter faces and will continue to face around the world. And again, I can see this acquisition going badly — for Twitter as an institution, for Musk personally, or both. It’s high risk. That’s what makes it captivating. This is a $44 billion personal wager.

But I’m not sure any of us outside Musk’s circle know what he really wants to do content-moderation-wise. Musk personifies the axiom that you should judge someone by their actions, not their words. Musk says he envisions Twitter as a “free speech” haven that would allow even for speech most of us would consider hateful. A lot of people predicting doom for Twitter under Musk’s ownership take him at his word on that. Here come the Nazis, more or less.

But maybe — maybe! — there’s an “Only Nixon could go to China” element at play here. To wit: that Twitter can continue moderating content to block genuinely hateful and threatening posts but maintain broad credibility on the right side of the political spectrum because so many people on that side of the fence implicitly trust Musk.

A Bigger iPad Would Just Be a Bigger iPad 

Wayne Ma, reporting for The Information:

Apple is developing its largest iPad yet, a model with a 16-inch screen that it hopes to release in the fourth quarter of next year, according to a person familiar with the project. The device would further blur the line between the iPad and MacBook, bringing the tablet’s screen size in line with that of Apple’s largest laptop, which also features a 16-inch display. Apple’s biggest iPad currently sports a 12.9-inch screen. [...]

The move would again raise speculation about whether Apple will one day merge the iPad and MacBook into a single product line or merge the two operating systems given their overlapping features. Apple executives have said they consider the MacBook and iPad different products. MacBooks are designed to work best with external inputs like keyboards and trackpads, while the iPad works best with touch.

A 16-inch iPad Pro would just be a 16-inch iPad Pro. It would neither mean nor suggest anything other than that some iPad users would enjoy and make good use of a larger display. This obsession with “merging” iPads and Macs is nonsense. “Apple executives have said they consider the MacBook and iPad different products” is the dumbest sentence I’ve read in weeks. They are different products. Even adding touchscreen displays to MacBooks — which I doubt will happen more than ever — would not imply a platform “merger” is in the works.

Only someone who has no understanding of one or both of the two platforms could even think a “merger” is possible. Any scenario where Apple unifies both platforms into one OS would be pointlessly destructive — utterly ruining one or the other platform (and most likely ruining both).

New iCloud Website Is Available in Public Beta 

Seems better all around: looks better, loads faster, and better navigation.

Elon Musk Posts Open Letter to Twitter Advertisers on the Cusp of Completing His Acquisition 

Elon Musk:

And I do so with humility, recognizing that failure in pursuing this goal, despite our best efforts, is a very real possibility.

That said, Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences! In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.

I’m more optimistic about Twitter’s future than I have been in years. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a very real chance that under Musk’s leadership, Twitter might break apart and fade into irrelevance. But Musk himself notes the same thing! Keeping Twitter open to a wide range of content, but making it easy to control what content you see, as user, is a worthy ideal. Pulling it off, that’s the trick. But as a privately-held company Musk is free to make changes that move Twitter away from being optimized for engagement and towards being optimized for enjoyment.

The risk of fading into irrelevance is far greater, if not nearly certain, under Twitter’s current leadership. I think Twitter is worth saving. I think Twitter requires massive changes in order to be saved — both outward-facing as a service and platform, and internally as a company. I would not have picked Elon Musk as the person to lead the company through those changes. But you dance with the one who bought the company and took it private.

I also very much believe that advertising, when done right, can delight, entertain and inform you; it can show you a service or product or medical treatment that you never knew existed, but is right for you. For this to be true, it is essential to show Twitter users advertising that is as relevant as possible to their needs. Low relevancy ads are spam, but highly relevant ads are actually content! Fundamentally, Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise.

That’s a good North Star. Ads as desirable content has been my mantra at Daring Fireball ever since I turned on the revenue spigot.

Joanna Stern Interviews Federighi and Joz at WSJ Tech Live 

The bit that’s getting all the attention is Joz’s “Obviously we’ll have to comply” remark about EU regulations mandating a USB-C port on phones starting at the end of 2024. I encourage you to make time to watch the whole interview — it’s really good, and it’s only 35 minutes long. But if you only watch one bit, watch Joz’s two-minute answer to that question. It’s far more nuanced than just “Obviously we’ll have to comply.”

(Also worth enjoying Federighi’s subtle chuckle at the question, because he knows answering that one is Joz’s problem.)

Update: Now available on YouTube, too.

The Talk Show: ‘Neither Fish Nor Fowl’ 

Jason Snell returns to the show to talk about the new 10th-gen iPad and M2 iPads Pro.

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Tim Cook Waved the Checkered Flag at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin 

I don’t know why people are poking fun at Cook’s flag-waving enthusiasm. This is Tim Cook when he’s very excited.

(Whole thing does make me wonder if it’s a sign that Apple is close to inking a deal to stream Formula 1 races on Apple TV. Update, Minutes Later: Welp, so much for that idea — Disney subsidiary ESPN just this weekend renewed the rights through 2025 for a purported $85M per year.)

Update: Ah, now it makes sense. I had forgotten that back in June, Apple Original Films landed a Formula 1 major motion picture, from director Joseph Kosinski (Top Gun: Maverick) and starring Brad Pitt. It’s being pitched as Top Gun: Maverick on a race track, in terms of verisimilitude and a visceral cinematic sense of speed and danger. Pitt was in attendance at the U.S. Grand Prix as well.

Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple One Price Increases 

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

The Apple Music monthly price has been upped by ~$1 for individuals and ~$2 for families. Apple TV+ is rising by $2 (which only has one tier and supports Family Sharing on all plans). Apple One is also going up by approximately $3 per month. This represents the first time Apple has raised the subscription price of Music, TV+ and Apple One in the United States. […]

From an Apple spokesperson:

The subscription prices for Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple One will increase beginning today. The change to Apple Music is due to an increase in licensing costs, and in turn, artists and songwriters will earn more for the streaming of their music. We also continue to add innovative features that make Apple Music the world’s best listening experience. We introduced Apple TV+ at a very low price because we started with just a few shows and movies. Three years later, Apple TV+ is home to an extensive selection of award-winning and broadly acclaimed series, feature films, documentaries, and kids and family entertainment from the world’s most creative storytellers.

Subscription prices are going up industry-wide, no doubt partly due to inflation. But there’s no change in price, apparently, for iCloud+ storage — and no change in iCloud storage capacities, either.

It’s OS Update Day 

Josh Centers, writing for TidBITS:

Apple has now released macOS 13 Ventura and iPadOS 16 (in the form of iPadOS 16.1) alongside updates to iOS 16, watchOS 9, tvOS 16, and HomePod Software 16. Let’s discuss what’s new and when you should consider updating, starting with iOS 16.1, since it introduces several features new to the Apple ecosystem. We’ll also discuss Matter, which arrives in these updates, and why it may not matter for home automation just yet.

I’ve updated my devices across the board, with the exception of my Macs. I have no particular or specific concerns about Ventura, I’m just always more conservative about MacOS updates than other devices, because my Macs are so essential for my work.

More on Twitter’s Absurd Headcount 

Lots of pushback from readers on my post yesterday on Twitter’s 7,500-employee headcount, and my basic agreement with David Heinemeier Hansson that their soup is spoiled many times over due to far too many chefs. The pushback is primarily along the following line: It’s unfair if not ridiculous to compare Twitter to WhatsApp circa 2014 because WhatsApp is a private messaging service and Twitter is a public microblogging service, and thus Twitter has enormous content-moderation / trust-and-safety problems that WhatsApp didn’t (and doesn’t).

Sure. No one claimed otherwise. No one is arguing that WhatsApp’s 50-employee headcount in 2014 means Twitter only needs 50 employees today. That’s a straw man argument. I’m talking mostly about software engineers and designers. Twitter has thousands of them. Everyone I know who has (or still does) work there has told me the same thing: the company is lousy with do-nothing employees and layers of bureaucracy to support their preposterously high headcount and needless managerial fiefdoms. For the sake of argument, let’s just concede for the moment that every single person currently employed at Twitter working on content moderation is necessary, doing a good job, and ought to be retained. Hell, let’s say they all ought to get a raise. Twitter still has way too many employees in other areas of the company.

Another angle of pushback is that Twitter needs thousands of employees because their business model is different from WhatsApp’s. Twitter’s business model sucks. I mean it doesn’t just suck, it infamously sucks. Twitter arguably has the worst ratio of revenue to user attention of any media company in history. And again, even if I concede that Twitter needs a massive ad sales staff — and I won’t concede that point — that’s irrelevant to their massive engineering and design headcount.

In Praise of Apple’s Unmagical Smart Keyboard Folio 

Yours truly, yesterday:

In an ideal world, all 11-ish-inch iPads would support the same keyboard accessories. But here we are, with the new 10th-gen iPad only supporting the new Magic Keyboard Folio and the iPad Pro and iPad Air only supporting the Magic Keyboard. (Those latter two iPads also support the no-trackpad Smart Keyboard Folio, but I honestly have no idea who buys that thing other than people who’ve never tried iPadOS with a trackpad and thus have no idea how fun and useful it is.)

I’ve heard from a few friends who swear by the Smart Keyboard Folio already. Said one: “It’s about weight and ruggedness.” Said another: “This may come as a shock, but I use my daily driver iPad Pro 12.9-inch with a Smart Keyboard Folio. It’s lighter. I also have Magic Keyboards but my go to is the Folio.”

For the 12.9-inch models, the Smart Keyboard Folio weighs 407g; the Magic Keyboard 710g. 300 grams is two-thirds of a pound — a notable difference.

Another comment, from the first friend quoted above: “I think Magic Keyboard makes it more MacBook-like, Keyboard Folio is more iPad-esque.” I agree — and it explains my strong preference for the Magic Keyboard, extra weight be damned. It’s certainly easier to rotate the iPad to portrait — for, say, marking up a document with a Pencil — while it’s in a Keyboard Folio than a Magic Keyboard — if only because the keyboard half can be folded behind the iPad like that of a non-keyboard cover.

Bungie Might Be Working on a Marathon Reboot for 2025 

Owen S. Good, writing for Polygon:

Bungie intends to reboot its seminal, 1990s sci-fi shooter Marathon, according to a report on Thursday. The game, said to be in a pre-alpha state, will return as a squad-based, team-extraction type multiplayer shooter, according to Insider Gaming. Bungie did not acknowledge the rumor, Insider Gaming said, and a public relations agency declined to comment. [...]

Marathon, which launched in 1994, was a critical and commercial success and, notably, an Apple MacOS exclusive. So were its two sequels, 1995’s Marathon 2: Durandal (although a version for windows launched one year later) and 1996’s Marathon Infinity. The series launched one year after Id Software’s groundbreaking Doom for MS-DOS and Windows PCs, and was a standard-bearer in Macintosh desktop gaming’s brief heyday from 1995 to 1997.

That would be “Mac OS exclusive”, with a space, thank you very much. And indeed, Marathon exemplified the heyday of Mac gaming. Just a fantastic game in every regard. I hope it’s true that Bungie is rebooting it, and I hope they do it justice.

(That said, the description from Insider Gaming of the game Bungie is purportedly working on sounds nothing like Marathon, and more like some fool at Bungie found “Marathon” in a dusty folder named “Unused Intellectual Property”.)

Lara Logan Is Too Crazy for Newsmax 

Justin Baragona, reporting for The Daily Beast:

Nearly a year after she was kicked to the curb by Fox News for essentially calling Dr. Anthony Fauci a Nazi, Lara Logan was on Newsmax’s primetime airwaves pushing QAnon tropes, invoking blood libel, and fear-mongering about a “global cabal” planning to “dilute the pool of patriots” in the United States with “100 million illegal immigrants.” [...]

“Newsmax condemns in the strongest terms the reprehensible statements made by Lara Logan and her views do not reflect our network,” the network said in a statement. “We have no plans to interview her again.”

Wingnut goes on Newsmax and spews such craziness that they’re banned from the network generally isn’t notable news. But Lara Logan was once the chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News. Going from a contributor on 60 Minutes to getting banned by Newsmax is like going from playing for the Yankees to getting kicked out of a beer league softball squad.

DHH (and Fred Brooks) on Twitter’s Headcount 

David Heinemeier Hansson:

When WhatsApp was sold to Facebook in 2014, it had almost half a billion monthly users, but a team of just 50 people running everything. Compare this to Twitter, which today has a staff of 7,500 to manage half the number of users. Yet Musk is the crazy one here for suggesting that maybe Twitter could operate with a mere TWO THOUSAND employees? Please.

Being understaffed hurts any team or business in obvious, intuitive ways. You have more work to be done than people to do it. You can see it today, nationwide, in restaurants.

Being overstaffed hurts a team in counterintuitive ways. It feels like throwing more engineers at a project ought to make the work go faster. But it doesn’t, past a certain point. Fred Brooks published The Mythical Man-Month in 1975, wherein he coined Brooks’s Law: “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” To my knowledge, there are no known exceptions to this axiom. It is always true.

WhatsApp circa 2014 — with 50 employees and 500 million users — is a good counterpoint.

Bloomberg Reports That Biden Administration Is Considering Security Reviews Regarding Elon Musk’s Acquisition of Twitter 

Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Biden administration officials are discussing whether the US should subject some of Elon Musk’s ventures to national security reviews, including the deal for Twitter Inc. and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network, according to people familiar with the matter. [...]

US officials have grown uncomfortable over Musk’s recent threat to stop supplying the Starlink satellite service to Ukraine — he said it had cost him $80 million so far — and what they see as his increasingly Russia-friendly stance following a series of tweets that outlined peace proposals favorable to President Vladimir Putin. They are also concerned by his plans to buy Twitter with a group of foreign investors.

This is a plot twist I did not see coming, but feel like I should have.

* Take Bloomberg’s so-far exclusive reporting on this story with a large grain of salt, of course, especially as it pertains to national security. Bloomberg is the publication that published “The Big Hack” in October 2018 — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all, was vehemently denied by all companies involved, has not been confirmed by a single other publication (despite much effort to do so), and has been largely discredited by one of Bloomberg’s own sources. By all appearances “The Big Hack” was complete bullshit. Yet Bloomberg has issued no correction or retraction, and their only ostensibly substantial follow-up contained not one shred of evidence to back up their allegations. Bloomberg seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract “The Big Hack” or provide evidence that any of it was true.

Evans Hankey Is Leaving Apple 

Mark Gurman with the scoop of the week:

Apple Inc.’s head of hardware design, Evans Hankey, is leaving the iPhone maker three years after taking the job, creating a significant hole at the top of a company famous for its slick-looking products, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Hankey was named to the post in 2019 to replace Jony Ive, the company’s iconic design chief for two decades. Before taking her current role as vice president of industrial design, Hankey spent several years at Apple reporting to Ive. Since then, she has reported to Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams.

The departure was announced inside the Cupertino, California-based technology giant this week, with Hankey telling colleagues that she will remain at Apple for the next six months. Hankey oversees several dozen industrial designers, and the company hasn’t named a replacement.

Interesting, to say the least. Hard to imagine that there’s a more prestigious job on the planet for an industrial design executive than the top spot at Apple.

The Washington Post: Musk Plans Massive Layoffs at Twitter 

The Washington Post:

Twitter’s workforce is likely to be hit with massive cuts in the coming months, no matter who owns the company, interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post show, a change likely to have major impact on its ability to control harmful content and prevent data security crises.

Elon Musk told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.

Even if Musk’s Twitter deal falls through — and there’s little indication now that it will — big cuts are expected: Twitter’s current management planned to pare the company’s payroll by about $800 million by the end of next year, a number that would mean the departure of nearly a quarter of the workforce, according to corporate documents and interviews with people familiar with the company’s deliberations. The company also planned to make major cuts to its infrastructure, including data centers that keep the site functioning for more than 200 million users that log on each day.

I’ve had a few friends and sources inside Twitter over the years, and I’ve long heard that Twitter is vastly overstaffed. There’s just no reason for Twitter to have so many employees given the scope of what they offer today. And it’s ossifying for a company culture to carry a lot of dead weight. But Twitter has had a hiring freeze for the last six months, and roughly 25 percent of employees have left in the last year — so their headcount is quite a bit smaller today than it was before Musk launched his takeover bid.

I suspect they’re still overstaffed. But a further 75 percent reduction would be cutting with a machete, not a scalpel. Maybe a machete is what Twitter needs, I don’t know, but if this is the plan Musk pursues, it’s drastic. It’s also possible that Musk is floating this drastic proposal now so that a big staff reduction — but far smaller than 75 percent — will taste more palatable when it comes.

HP Uses MacOS Screenshot in Ad for Windows Laptop 

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Windows PC maker HP appears to believe that “the perfect laptop” is one that runs macOS — at least according to an ad the company promoted on Reddit. The ad shows an HP laptop with a macOS screenshot in what is clearly a Photoshop job gone wrong.

To be fair, HP did have a license to sell their own branded iPods back in 2004.

The Verge on Laptop Screen Resolution, Circa 2017 

Back in 2017, after Apple announced the last pre-retina MacBook Air hardware refresh, Jacob Kastrenakes wrote the following for The Verge (emphasis added):

Not only does the super-slim MacBook start at $1,299, but so does the new MacBook Pro. And since the MacBook Air, still selling for $999, is woefully out of date — with a low-res screen that’ll look bad next to any current smartphone — $1,299 is essentially the starting price for a modern Mac laptop. So I’ve been wondering: if I want to spend $1,299 again, which one should I get?

So five years ago, the lack of a retina display was reason enough not to consider buying a MacBook Air. Fair enough — I would have said the same thing. But here we are in 2022 and non-retina pro-priced PC laptop displays are “nice”.

Don’t Step on Her Blue Velcro Shoes 

Samantha Cristoforetti, astronaut for the European Space Agency, tweeting from low earth orbit:

2022 A Space Odyssey. Turns out, yes, you can walk with Velcro shoes. Slowly, very very slowly 😉

Proper musical score to boot.

Monica Chin Reviews the New Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga 

Monica Chin, writing for The Verge:

My unit, currently listed for $2,369, has a Core i7-1260P with eight efficiency cores and four performance cores (as well as 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage). Unfortunately, that new processor doesn’t deliver the kind of performance gains I imagine many X1 Yoga users will care about — but it does lead to a decrease in efficiency that I think harms its outlook overall, especially compared to laptops from Apple. That may be an Intel problem rather than a Lenovo problem, but it is a problem all the same. [...]

For things like document markup, presentations, word processing, and video calls, I never got any heat or heard any fan noise — even on the Battery Saver profile, with 15-ish tabs and apps running in the background.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to say the dreaded sentence: I wasn’t impressed with the battery life. I got an average of six hours and 13 minutes out of this device at medium brightness — and while I sometimes saw the device break seven hours of continuous use with lighter workloads, it died after close to four and a half in other trials.

Intel’s chip offerings are clearly to blame, but that very much is a Lenovo problem. A huge problem, really. ThinkPads are supposed to be top-tier industry-leading laptops. It’s a proud brand with a great history. But now they’ve released a $2,400 notebook that gets crap battery life and only stays cool and quiet when you stick to basic productivity tasks.

Intel’s performance-per-watt problems have been obvious for years, as has Apple’s custom silicon performance-per-watt prowess. None of this is the least bit surprising.

Sidenote in My Continuing Series of Observing PC Hardware Being Graded on a Curve: Chin describes the 14-inch 1920 × 1200 display as “nice” and it goes into the “Good” column. But that’s just 162 pixels per inch. MacBook Air displays are 224 PPI. MacBook Pros: 254 PPI. iPad Pros: 264 PPI. The 2007 original iPhone had a 162 PPI display. This ThinkPad display is “nice” only if you have a time machine and carry it back to before retina displays became the norm.

Apple Card to Soon Offer Interest-Bearing Savings Accounts 

Apple Newsroom, last week:

Apple today announced a new Savings account for Apple Card that will allow users to save their Daily Cash and grow their rewards in a high-yield Savings account from Goldman Sachs. In the coming months, Apple Card users will be able to open the new high-yield Savings account and have their Daily Cash automatically deposited into it — with no fees, no minimum deposits, and no minimum balance requirements. Soon, users can spend, send, and save Daily Cash directly from Wallet.

Apple Card users will be able to easily set up and manage Savings directly in their Apple Card in Wallet. Once users set up their Savings account, all future Daily Cash received will be automatically deposited into it, or they can choose to continue to have it added to an Apple Cash card in Wallet. Users can change their Daily Cash destination at any time.

Apple evolving into a bank is a turn I never would have predicted a decade ago. But so far their offerings are all very consumer-friendly. The annual yield hasn’t been announced yet because interest rates are in such flux. (A lot of you reading this are probably too young to remember when savings accounts accrued meaningful interest; that’s one upside to higher interest rates.)

The Next iPhone SE, Probably Coming in Spring 2024, Will Probably Be Based on the iPhone XR / iPhone 11 Design 

Hartley Charlton, writing for MacRumors last week:

Now, Young’s revised forecast claims that the device will feature a 6.1-inch display with a notch. Whether the iPhone SE ‘s notch will contain a TrueDepth camera array like other iPhone models to facilitate Face ID is not known. Some rumors indicate that the iPhone SE will not gain Face ID, instead sticking with Touch ID like previous models to keep costs down.

Moving to an all-screen design, there will no longer be space for a capacitive Touch ID Home button in the device’s bottom bezel. Multiple reports, including information from MyDrivers and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggest that Apple is planning to add a Touch ID Side button to the iPhone SE, much like the iPad Air and iPad mini.

Apple hasn’t yet set a consistent pattern with iPhone SE models, but one thing that has been consistent is that they’ve been based on “old” iPhone hardware designs. The first-gen SE was like an iPhone 5S; the 2020 and 2022 models look like the iPhone 6/7/8. What gets upgraded in the SE models are the A-series chips.

It makes all the sense in the world that the next SE will ship in the spring of 2024, and will be based on the iPhone XR / iPhone 11 (non-pro) design. I had been holding out hope, idly, that the next SE might be based on the iPhone 12/13 Mini design, but the XR/11 makes way more sense. The SE iPhone models are supposed to be popular but low-priced, and as sad as it makes me to say it, the iPhone Mini has not been popular. It’s also the case that the iPhone Minis have nice OLED displays; the XR/11 have LCD displays that aren’t as nice but cost less. That LCD screen technology has “next SE” written all over it.

This is all just rumor and conjecture, of course. But I’d bet a few dollars on it. I’d even bet that this next XR-lookalike SE will come with the A16 chip from last month’s new iPhone 14 Pro models — that’ll be the same chip in next September’s non-pro iPhone 15 models, and then this 4th-gen SE will come out six or so months later.

This would mean that this year’s 3rd-gen SE will be the last iPhone with the classic home button design, and, sadly, we might never see a Mini-sized iPhone again.

Jef Holbrook: ‘Stage Manager on iPadOS 16 Is Multitasking Soup’ 

Painful-to-watch video of Jef Holbrook — with assistance from his cat — trying to figure out how Stage Manager works on iPadOS 16. Understatement of the year: “A lot of it is very imprecise.”

The design remains muddled and implementation half-baked. But the new iPad hardware is here so it’s time to ship.

Kakao, Korea’s Everything App, Suffers Serious Outage 

Bryan Pietsch, reporting for The Washington Post:

In South Korea, Kakao is ubiquitous. Nearly everyone, from schoolchildren to the elderly, uses the Korean tech company’s apps for messaging, taxis, navigation and payments. It’s Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Uber, Google Maps and Venmo wrapped into one.

So when a fire broke out this weekend at the building where the company’s servers are run, disabling its apps, people joked that the country would shut down. But the outage forced a serious reckoning over security and monopoly concerns in Korea, where a handful of giant conglomerates hold dominance over the country’s economy. (Hyundai, known for its cars in the United States, operates apartment complexes and department stores here; Samsung, the technology giant, also sells insurance and owns a high-end clothing company.)

It makes no sense to me why ride-hailing, payments, and messaging would fit together in a single app, but once these things get entrenched, it’s easy to see how they stay entrenched thanks to network effects.

With Kakao in particular, there’s a concept of “multi-profiles”, where a single user can have different profiles for different groups within the platform. But as part of a data leak that resulted from their clumsy recovery from the outage, many of these heretofore private profiles were revealed, with predictably disastrous results.

‘Humble’ and ‘Humane’ Both Start With ‘Hum’ but Do Not, in Fact, Share a Common Etymology 

It’s been a few months since last we checked in on Humane, the secretive startup founded by and staffed by ex-Apple folks who helped create the iPhone and iPad. Here’s a tweet from co-founder Imran Chaudhri, yesterday:

the rumours are true... the smartphone is dead

and coming next year from @Humane, the world’s first device built from the ground up for AI

This reminds me of that time in the fall of 2006, months ahead of the original iPhone’s unveiling, when Steve Jobs shot his mouth off on Twitter and declared that Nokia, Symbian, and RIM were dead companies walking, all soon to be forgotten, and that “next year” Apple would release the device that would completely redefine what it meant to be a “phone” or a “personal computer” and would sell in such vast, almost unimaginable quantities that it would, in a mere decade, propel Apple to become the most valuable and profitable company in the world with a market cap exceeding a trillion dollars.

MacOS 13 ‘Ventura’ Ships This Monday 

New text on Apple’s Ventura page:

Available on 10.24

iPadOS 16, of course, ships Monday too.

AI-Generated Podcast Interview Between Joe Rogan and Steve Jobs 

I gave this about 10 minutes before I had enough. I’ve heard from a lot of people who were impressed by it, and who say they found parts of it — especially in the second half — to sound “real”, but not me. I found it creepy and stilted.

But, man, I don’t know what we’re going to do when AI gets better at stuff like this. What happens when political ratfuckers use AI to generate interviews ostensibly from their opponents? Dark times are ahead, I fear.

Update: I also don’t buy their claim that these voices are completely generated. Most of Jobs’s lines have auditorium echo — they sound like clips copy-and-pasted. If they can really generate these voices, why doesn’t their virtual Rogan actually say Steve Jobs’s name? Send me a clip of virtual Steve Jobs saying “John Gruber is a bozo, and I tell people not to waste their time reading Daring Fireball.” Then I’ll believe it.

Labor Unions in the U.S. 

Over the weekend, linking to a story about an Oklahoma Apple Store’s vote to unionize, I wrote, “Apple’s retail stores are exceptional, but it’s starting to look like they won’t be exceptions to the resurgence of unionization in the U.S.”

Describing the current state of union membership in the U.S. as resurgent was sloppy. The actual situation is more nuanced. Union membership remains at a historic low, per this report by Madison Hoff for Business Insider:

The union membership rate has dropped over time. In 1983, the first year with available data, 20.1% of wage and salary workers were union members. A decade later in 1993 it had fallen to 15.7%. Decades later in 2021, the rate stood at 10.3%.

But public support for labor unions is at a historic high:

Additionally, Gallup data from the Gallup’s annual Work and Education survey shows that 71% of Americans approve of labor unions in 2022, up from 68% a year ago. The share in 2022 means it’s the highest share since 1965.

This public enthusiasm for labor unions is manifesting in high-profile unionization drives at big companies like Starbucks, Amazon, and now Apple.

‘Elon Musk’s X App for “Everything” Might Be a Non-Starter in the U.S.’ 

Rita Liao, writing for TechCrunch:

Any organization that needs to produce content is on WeChat, from state media to fashion brands. The online media landscape in the U.S. is a lot more diverse. People read news on news apps, seek thought leadership on LinkedIn and encounter brands’ stories through blogs. The majority of businesses in China might not have a website, but they probably maintain a WeChat Public Account.

Over time, Public Accounts has morphed into a digital infrastructure for businesses that’s not unlike Shopify. That was made possible with the launch of WeChat Pay in 2013. While America spent the past decade improving magnetic card-enabled transactions, China never had widespread credit card adoption and went straight from paying with cash to mobile payments using QR codes.

WeChat Pay quickly attracted users in droves by becoming the default payment option for a few popular apps, including ride-hailing upstart Didi and food delivery platform Meituan — which are both backed by Tencent, one of the most prolific corporate investors in the world. Were Musk to start a new payments solution that follows WeChat Pay’s playbook, he’d have to form alliances with other internet giants to drive adoption.

Since writing about this last week, I’ve heard from numerous readers that there are more successful “everything apps” in Asian countries than I alluded to. E.g. Grab in Singapore. But WeChat is clearly the most successful, and the model for Musk’s vaguely defined “X” concept. It can’t be overstated just how essential payments are to WeChat’s dominant role in Chinese life, but that’s because — as Liao writes — China went from cash to QR codes. That’s never going to happen in the U.S. or Europe.

Neither news nor payments are centralized in the West, and we already have cemented leaders in the personal messaging space. Those are the tentpoles of these “everything apps”. Worse still for Musk and his dream of using Twitter to bootstrap such an app is that Twitter DMs are the worst personal messaging service I’ve ever used.

See also: Nitin Pai: “Why an ‘Everything App’ Is Bad News for Liberal Democracies and Free Markets”.

John Carmack: ‘There’s a Bunch That I’m Grumpy About’ 

Kyle Orland, reporting for Ars Technica on Facebook “executive advisor” John Carmack’s unscripted (and un-legged) talk at their Meta Connect virtual conference last week:

As a “counterpoint” to the push for the Quest Pro in the Meta offices, Carmack says he “personally still [tries] to drum up interest internally in this vision of a super cheap, super lightweight headset.” His rallying cry, he says, is a target of “$250 and 250 grams” for a headset that cuts out as many extraneous features as possible while still being usable (the Quest Pro weighs 722 grams, while the Quest 2 is 503 grams). That could help bring “super light comforts” to “more people at low-end price points. [...] We’re not building that headset today, but I keep trying,” Carmack said with some exasperation.

Carmack also cautioned that developing for the Quest Pro and then “crunching it down” for Quest 2 users could lead to some “tragically bad decisions” if you’re not testing on the cheaper headset as well. “The low-end system is going to be where all your real customers are,” he warned.

That’s the catch-22. If the software is written to target the $400 Quest 2, what’s the point of buying the $1,500 Quest Pro? But if the software is written to take full advantage of the Quest Pro, what kind of experience do Quest 2 users get? This entire endeavor is not going well for Facebook — at least yet — but it seems clear that one fundamental mistake they made is selling consumer-priced hardware years before the user experience for $400 VR headsets is any good at all. Just because you want to sell $400 headsets doesn’t mean you should.

Compare and contrast with Apple, whose long-rumored upcoming headset is purported to have a starting price of $2,000. (Keep in mind that while still merely rumored, the iPad was expected to start at $1,000 but in fact started at $500.) Better to start with a great experience at a high price than a crummy experience at a low price. Set the baseline for a great experience and it will trickle down to lower price points year after year. Few new platforms ever get off the ground starting with a crap experience, no matter their price.

Throughout his talk, Carmack seemed to reserve the bulk of his grumpiness for one core area of concern: “The basic usability of Quest really does need to get better.”

For instance, you currently either need to leave your Quest 2 on and plugged in to download frequent OS and app updates, or sit through a lengthy “update hell” almost every time you pick up the headset. That leads to a lot of VR sessions that are “aborted in frustration,” Carmack said (though he hoped that the Quest Pro charging dock could help with this problem in aggregate).

Carmack shared word of internal posts from Meta employees bemoaning a 20-minute, multi-reboot process to get an old headset ready for the Connect presentation that day. He also talked about tales of Quest owners who don’t even get their headsets out to show off to houseguests because of the anticipated hassle of setting everything up for a demo.

And once a headset is up and running, Carmack complained about how slow and awkward it is to connect to other people in Meta’s metaverse. “Our app startup times are slow, our transitions are glitchy,” he said, bluntly. “We need to make it a whole lot better ... much, much faster to get into.”

Underpowered hardware and clunky software do not make for a good pairing.

Parker Ortolani’s Mockup for a Hypothetical ‘Apple Sports’ App 

Speaking of Apple and sports, Parker Ortolani recently tweeted some mockups for a dedicated “Apple Sports” app. He’s got some fun ideas like trading-card-style player cards. The idea is a lot like Apple’s Stocks app, which is really just a business-specific offshoot of Apple News. For the same reason that print newspapers always had discrete business and sports sections, dedicated business and sports apps for Apple News make sense. And as Apple gets deeper into live sports streaming, I think it makes even more sense for them to offer a dedicated Apple Sports app than it does to have a Stocks app. In addition to sports-related news and stats, Apple Sports could be the home for live-streamed games. Streaming sports is very unlike streaming other content because watching live is so essential. So instead of cramming sports news into Apple News and sports streaming into the Apple TV app, put everything sports-related into an Apple Sports app. That should be better for everyone — sports fans get a dedicated app, and non-fans can just ignore it.

CNBC: ‘NFL Sunday Ticket Still Up for Grabs as Apple Pushes for Flexibility With Game Rights’ 

Alex Sherman, reporting for CNBC:

Apple isn’t interested in simply acting as a conduit for broadcasting games, according to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services. Cue oversees Apple’s media and sports partnerships and its streaming service, Apple TV+. Apple is looking for partnerships with sports leagues in which it can offer consumers more than standard rights agreements — such as having free rein to offer games globally or in local markets. Apple has that type of deal with Major League Soccer, a 10-year partnership that begins in 2023.

“We weren’t interested in buying sports rights,” Cue said this week at a Paley Center for Media panel in New York. “There’s all kinds of capabilities that we’re going to be able to do together because we have everything together. And so if I have a great idea, I don’t have to think about, OK, well, my contract or the deal of interest will allow this.”

The iPhone maker is MLS’s exclusive broadcast partner, though some linear networks may buy simulcast rights to the soccer league’s games. The pact allows Apple to stream every game of every season for the next 10 years globally. It plans to build MLS steaming capabilities into its apps, such as Apple News.

Surely Apple has no belief that it can secure terms from the NFL similar to what it has with MLS. But Apple, from all accounts I’ve ever read or heard about from sources, always plays hardball with all negotiations. It’s part of the company’s DNA to demand the moon. And the Sunday Ticket package is apparently going to sell for billions of dollars per year. That’s real money, by anyone’s standards. But the NFL is the undisputed king of U.S. sports, and is accustomed to getting whatever it wants from its broadcast (and now streaming) partners.

Apple clearly wants to get deeper into streaming sports, and the NFL likes spreading its rights around between the major TV networks and streaming platforms. All things considered, it seems clear that the NFL would prefer for Apple to buy the Sunday Ticket rights. But neither party needs the other. Oh to be a fly on the wall for these negotiations.

Kanye West, Recently Suspended by Twitter and Instagram Over Unhinged Antisemitic Posts, to Acquire Parler 

Brian Fung, CNN Business:

Parler’s parent company announced the deal on Monday morning, saying West had made “a groundbreaking move into the free speech media space and will never have to fear being removed from social media again.” The acquisition comes after West, who has legally changed his name to Ye, had his account temporarily locked by Twitter this month over an antisemitic tweet.

Exact terms of the Parler deal weren’t disclosed, though Parler said it must still enter into a definitive agreement with West and expects to close in the fourth quarter. Parler’s parent, Parlement Technologies, would remain involved by providing technical services and cloud support.

We need online betting markets to let us gamble on whether these “so-and-so is buying a social network” acquisitions actually go through. (For background, here’s a piece from Vox on Kanye West’s recent descent into angry, ugly, hateful antisemitic conspiracy delusions. “Theories” is too cohesive a word to describe beliefs with no more cohesion than a puff of smoke.)

Using Gestures Inside the Dynamic Island With iOS 16.1 Betas 

I was a bit confused when people started tweeting about these gestures last week, because I couldn’t get any of them to work. Turns out they’re not present in iOS 16.0, but are enabled in the 16.1 betas. (As of this writing, that’s beta 5, released last week.) After installing the beta and playing with these gestures for a few days, I can’t say I’m a fan. I don’t see what these gestures add other than confusion — I think most people would experience these things only by accident, and consider them bugs, not features.

While I’m writing about the Dynamic Island: The more I use it, the more I agree with the common request that simply tapping an item in the Dynamic Island should open the expanded view, instead of jumping you into the app responsible for that item. Or at least there should be an option to allow single-tapping to open expanded views. Then you wouldn’t need to long-press anything. A simple single-tap would open the Dynamic Island item’s expanded view, and another single-tap inside the expanded view would jump you to the app. (Single-tapping inside the expanded view already works to jump you to the app responsible for the item.)

I see two problems with the way things work now, where you need to long-press a compact item in the Dynamic Island to open its expanded view. First, long-pressing is not discoverable. It’s very much the touchscreen equivalent of right-clicking in MacOS. There have always been some features in iOS that require a long-press — putting the home screen into jiggle mode to rearrange and remove apps, for example — but I don’t think the Dynamic Island’s expanded view should require it. I worry too many people aren’t going to know the expanded views even exist. Second, for people who do know about the expanded view, why not make it as easy as possible to get to it? Long-pressing is, by definition, slow — getting to the expanded Dynamic Island view feels like the opposite of a shortcut.


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Meller was troubled by the widely accepted idea among cybersecurity professionals that end users should be treated, first and foremost, as threats. This way of thinking informs the traditional approach to device management, which relies on MDMs that take control of devices and come with surveillance capabilities that most companies don’t need or even really want. Kolide works by notifying your employees of security issues via Slack, educating them on why they’re important, and giving them step-by-step instructions to resolve them themselves.

Want to see how it works for yourself? Check out Kolide’s free trial, with no credit card required.

Sad Numbers for Facebook’s Horizon Worlds 

Jeff Horwitz, Salvador Rodriguez, and Meghan Bobrowsky, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

Meta initially set a goal of reaching 500,000 monthly active users for Horizon Worlds by the end of this year, but in recent weeks revised that figure to 280,000. The current tally is less than 200,000, the documents show. Most visitors to Horizon generally don’t return to the app after the first month, and the user base has steadily declined since the spring, according to the documents, which include internal memos from employees.

By comparison, Meta’s social-media products, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, together attract more than 3.5 billion average monthly users — a figure equivalent to almost half the world’s population. Horizon is currently reaching less than the population of Sioux Falls, S.D.

Horizon is designed to be a sprawling collection of interactive virtual spaces, or worlds, in which users appearing as avatars can shop, party and work. Yet there are rarely any girls in the Hot Girl Summer Rooftop Pool Party, and in Murder Village there is often no one to kill.

No girls at the Hot Girl Summer Rooftop Pool Party, and no one to murder in Murder Village — that really says it all.

Related: the avatars-with-legs demo Zuckerberg presented last week was fake. I’d say I’m kicking them while they’re down, but kicking requires real legs.

Oklahoma City Apple Store Is Second to Unionize 

Josh Eidelson, reporting for Bloomberg:

As with the Machinists’ victory in Towson, Maryland, the Oklahoma vote could quickly embolden Apple workers who have been privately discussing organizing elsewhere. The fact that the effort prevailed in a deep-red state, whose unionization rate is only around half the US average, underscores the campaign’s potential to spread nationwide.

Patrick Hart, a leader in the Oklahoma City campaign, said he’s now eager to advise other Apple stores on how to organize. “I want this to become a labor movement,” he said. “We’re going to be that catalyst for people.”

With two stores unionizing, Apple will have a tougher time maintaining the status quo, said Epstein Becker & Green attorney Steven Swirsky. “If I lost one, it could concern me,” Swirsky, who advises companies on how to avoid unionization, said prior to the vote. “If you lose more than one, then it starts to become hard to explain away.”

Apple’s retail stores are exceptional, but it’s starting to look like they won’t be exceptions to the resurgence of unionization in the U.S.

‘Donald Trump, January 6th, and the Elusive Search for Accountability’ 

Susan Glasser, writing at The New Yorker:

Cheney was clear in her remarks on Thursday that she believed Trump deserved not just public excoriation but also criminal sanction. “Our nation cannot only punish the foot soldiers who stormed our Capitol,” Cheney said, and yet so far that is all that has happened. The Justice Department has charged some nine hundred people with participating in the January 6th insurrection — but not a single person close to Trump, who summoned the mob that rampaged in his name and on his behalf, has been indicted. “Without accountability, it all becomes normal, and it will recur,” she warned.

Arrest him, try to put him in prison where he belongs, and let the cards fall where they may.

Where’s the VR Beef? 

Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy:

Are businesses chomping at the bit to have staff sit in a virtual board room instead of just on a call? Is this solving a meaningful problem for them?

Zuckerberg preemptively responded to criticisms like these by reminding everyone that this category is just getting started. But that is a bit of misdirection. Oculus, the virtual reality hardware company Meta bought, was founded in 2012; Meta bought it in 2014. On a technical level, Meta can point to plenty of improvements. But it is much more difficult for anyone to point to clarifications in the concept and purpose of virtual reality. Again, I would be an idiot to argue there are none at all, but this week’s keynote would have been a great time for Meta to illustrate something new and enrich the story. So far, it does not have legs.

I quipped to my Dithering cohost Ben Thompson a few days ago that it sort of feels like Facebook is building the BlackBerry of VR. The obvious low-hanging fruit platform, just waiting to be disrupted by some actual breakthrough platform — by Apple, perhaps, again — at some point in the future. But the more I think about it, I think that’s unfair to BlackBerry. BlackBerry was, for its time, a sensation. It wasn’t a mainstream hit, but the people who used BlackBerrys loved their BlackBerrys. They called them “CrackBerrys”.

I don’t see anyone saying “I wouldn’t want to go back to life without it” regarding their Quest headsets.

The Talk Show: ‘Big Booger Came After You’ 

Merlin Mann returns to America’s favorite three-star podcast to talk about AI image generation (along with a few asides).

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‘Ask Apple’ for Developers 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today introduced Ask Apple, a new series of interactive Q&As and one-on-one consultations that will provide developers with even more opportunities to connect directly with Apple experts for insight, support, and feedback.

Developers participating in Ask Apple can inquire about a variety of topics, such as testing on the latest seeds; implementing new and updated frameworks from Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC); adopting new features like the Dynamic Island; moving to Swift, SwiftUI, and accessibility; and preparing their apps for new OS and hardware releases. Ask Apple is free of charge and registration is open to all members of the Apple Developer Program and the Apple Developer Enterprise Program. [...]

“We’ve been listening to feedback from developers around the world about what will be most helpful to them as they build innovative apps, and we’ve seen an increased appetite for one-on-one support and conversation with Apple experts,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations and Enterprise and Education Marketing. “Our team is committed to continuously evolving our support for our diverse global developer community, and we’re excited to offer Ask Apple as another new resource.”

Sounds like a weeklong Slack Q&A, sort of like the labs during WWDC since it went remote in 2020. Anything that puts third-party developers in touch with real engineers inside Apple is good for everyone.

Design interpolation: Interesting too that the artwork for Ask Apple is in the shape of photo-realistic enamel pins. I’m just so thirsty for anything like this that isn’t blandly flat. Texture and depth are fun.

Should a CEO Be a Nerd About Their Company’s Products? 

Speaking of Ben Schlappig at One Mile at a Time, he had a post last week that I’ve been thinking a lot about. The gist:

American Airlines CEO Robert Isom appeared in court yesterday as part of the current Department of Justice case. While being questioned, the topic of JetBlue Mint came up, which is JetBlue’s business class product. Isom claimed that he has never flown JetBlue Mint, and doesn’t know if JetBlue Mint is lie-flat. He then clarified that he understands that Mint is JetBlue’s domestic first class, but “can’t speak to all the amenities they include.”

Here’s the part that I’ve been thinking about:

I’ve had the opportunity to interact with quite a few senior airline executives over the years, and I find that their knowledge about competitors is typically one extreme or the other:

  • Some airline executives literally couldn’t tell you the first thing about their competitors, and have no knowledge of their passenger experience, fleet, etc.
  • Some airline executives know literally everything about their competitors, down to being able to tell you how many seats competitors have on specific planes

I find there are very few executives who are just kind of in the middle, as it’s pretty polarizing. Either they know virtually everything about competitors, or nearly nothing. Without naming any names, I’ll say that generally speaking there’s a high correlation between airlines that have a great passenger experience, and airlines that have executives that keep very close tabs on the competition.

If you ask me, every CEO of a US airline offering a premium product should have to fly JetBlue Mint, to see how good seats, service, Wi-Fi, entertainment, food, and drinks, can be on a domestic flight.

As someone who flies business class on American a few times per year, I am zero percent surprised that Isom doesn’t know or care about the experience flying American’s competitors.

The sentiment Schlappig expressed above isn’t airline-specific. I think it comes down to the classic idea of a “businessperson”. That an executive can just have a knack for “business”. That an MBA trains a would-be executive to run any sort of company. That’s probably the sort of executives who run most companies in most industries. But I don’t think it’s how excellent companies are led. Excellent companies, in any industry, seem to be led by executives who live and breathe whatever it is their companies do, and they stay up at night and wake up in the morning thinking about how to lead their industries in quality.

If the CEO’s primary perspective on the company is via spreadsheets — if it’s all just P&L to them — that company is not going to excel at quality. Or if they do excel at quality, they won’t for long.

Layoffs at Sketch 

Sketch co-founders Pieter Omvlee and Emanuel Sá, in a post at LinkedIn:

Today is a very tough day for everyone at Sketch. In response to challenging market conditions and with a desire to keep our product-first strategy, we’ve taken the difficult decision to reduce our team by just over 80 people. This will mostly impact Operations and Marketing, who have done great work in the recent weeks and months. Our Product team remains well-equipped, with a core team continuing to drive things forward.

That’s about one-third of their headcount, from my understanding. I sure am rooting for Sketch — it’s a such a great product. But it’s obviously tough right now in an ever more Figma-dominated world.

Celsius Bankruptcy Leaderboard 

Zi Wang, writing for Decrypt:

A new tool now lets anyone see just how much money some users have lost after the troubled crypto lender filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July. It’s easy to check whether someone has made it onto the questionable “leaderboard” of biggest losers from the Celsius debacle, by simply typing their name into the convenient search bar. Only those who’ve lost more than $12 million have made it into the top ten.

I’ve been telling everyone for years that Celsius is no good, but this cryptocurrency scam makes the temperature scale seem OK.

AirTags in Checked Baggage 

Ben Schlappig, writing at his usually excellent One Mile at a Time, under the headline “Lufthansa Bans AirTags: Will Other Airlines Follow?”:

German media reports that Lufthansa is no longer allowing AirTags in checked bags.

Lufthansa argues that baggage trackers fall in the category of portable electronic devices, and are therefore subject to dangerous goods regulations issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This is specifically because of the transmission function. Lufthansa claims that the transmission function needs to be turned off during flight when in checked luggage, just as is required for cell phones, laptops, etc.

So you can leave an AirTag in a checked bag, it just can’t transmit, which of course renders it useless. As of now, no other major airline has issued a similar ban, and international aviation authorities also haven’t issued any sort of warnings about AirTags.

I don’t think this is what Lufthansa said at all, and the headline here is inaccurate. If you follow the link to the original German-language report at Watson, Safari’s translation to English reads:

The problem, however, is that AirTags are officially not allowed in airplane cases! This was reported by “Wirtschaftswoche” some time ago and referred to Lufthansa. At the same time, it became clear that a final regulation has not yet been made. [...] A spokeswoman for Lufthansa made it clear to Watson:

Luggage trackers belong to the category of portable electronic devices and are therefore subject to the dangerous goods regulations issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization for transport in aircraft. Accordingly, due to their transmission function, the trackers must be deactivated during the flight, similar to mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc. if they are in checked baggage.”

This reads to me, pretty clearly, as Lufthansa taking the by-the-book stance that AirTags are not expressly permitted, which is very different from saying AirTags are expressly banned. They’re neither officially allowed nor officially banned. People put all sorts of electronic devices in their checked baggage without removing the batteries.

Even if airlines wanted to ban AirTags, I’m not sure they could detect them in checked bags. If you’re already in the habit of putting AirTags in your checked bags — and it’s an obvious use case — I wouldn’t hesitate to keep doing it, even when flying Lufthansa. That said, Lufthansa’s official Twitter account is tweeting conflicting statements about whether AirTags are banned or not. I wouldn’t take these tweets as anything other than German officiousness. They’re just tweets — ignore them. (Probably good advice for almost every tweet in existence.)

Update 13 October: Lufthansa, on Twitter:

The German Aviation Authorities (Luftfahrtbundesamt) confirmed today, that they share our risk assessment, that tracking devices with very low battery and transmission power in checked luggage do not pose a safety risk. With that these devices are allowed on Lufthansa flights.

So, like I thought, never mind.


My thanks to Flexibits for again sponsoring DF last week. Their calendar app Fantastical and contacts app Cardhop are two of my very favorite apps. Both apps work and look great on the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and of course, Mac. You can try them for free, and see for yourself. And one simple subscription for Flexibits Premium, all features are unlocked in both Fantastical and Cardhop, across all platforms. And a Premium subscription gives you access to Fantastical Scheduling, a new feature that makes scheduling meetings with multiple participants so easy, I dare say it’s fun. It makes me wish I had more meetings to schedule. (OK, that’s a lie, but almost.)

Best of all: they’re running a limited-time 20 percent discount just for Daring Fireball readers. If you’ve been on the fence about subscribing to Flexibits Premium, now is the time to act. Trust me, it’s so worth it.

Facebook’s VR Platform ‘Horizon’ Sucks 

Alex Heath, for The Verge:

Meta’s VR social network Horizon Worlds — the company’s flagship “metaverse” app — is suffering from too many quality issues and even the team building it isn’t using it very much, according to internal memos obtained by The Verge. [...]

A key issue with Horizon’s development to date, according to Shah’s internal memos, is that the people building it inside Meta appear to not be using it that much. “For many of us, we don’t spend that much time in Horizon and our dogfooding dashboards show this pretty clearly,” he wrote to employees on September 15th. “Why is that? Why don’t we love the product we’ve built so much that we use it all the time? The simple truth is, if we don’t love it, how can we expect our users to love it?”

In a follow-up memo dated September 30th, Shah said that employees still weren’t using Horizon enough, writing that a plan was being made to “hold managers accountable” for having their teams use Horizon at least once a week. “Everyone in this organization should make it their mission to fall in love with Horizon Worlds. You can’t do that without using it. Get in there. Organize times to do it with your colleagues or friends, in both internal builds but also the public build so you can interact with our community.”

The answer is right in front of Shah’s face: Horizon obviously sucks. Early-development bugginess wouldn’t keep employees from wanting to use it if it were exciting and fun. If Horizon were promising, they wouldn’t have to mandate using it — they’d have to fight to keep employees from trying to get in on the beta.

Using a turd of a product more isn’t going to make employees fall in love with it. You either love something — or someone — or you don’t. You can’t be forced to fall in love.

The ‘Eierlegende Wollmilchsau’ 

2011 post from the German Embassy in Washington:

Picture this: a pig, covered in fluffy fur, that lays eggs and gives out milk. The image you have in your head right now is this week’s word of the week, the Eierlegende Wollmilchsau, which could roughly be translated as “egg-laying wool-milk-sow”. While this little creature may sound like a bit of a freak of nature, it is every farmer’s wet dream: the perfect farm animal, uniting the qualities of chickens (laying eggs), sheep (producing wool), cows (giving out milk) and pigs (can be turned into bacon). The Eierlegende Wollmilchsau produces all the daily necessities and is tasty to boot, it is an animal that only has good sides to it. It goes without saying that this creature does not exist. [...]

And so the Eierlegende Wollmilchsau is nowadays mostly used to describe some unachievable ideal, proving that Germans not only have a finely tuned sense of irony, but are also more creative than given credit for.

Good working name for Elon Musk’s “everything app” if “X” doesn’t work out.

Thanks to Maximilian Mackh for the link. (And kudos to the German Embassy for working “wet dream” into a fun post.)

Aaron Judge Hits Record-Breaking 62nd Home Run of Season 

Would be fun to see him keep hitting dingers all the way until the end of the month.

Latest iOS 16.1 Beta Removes Adaptive Transparency Toggle for Original AirPods Pro 

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:

After updating last week, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max owners running the AirPods firmware beta found an “Adaptive Transparency” toggle in the AirPods settings, and it was initially assumed that Apple had brought the Adaptive Transparency feature of the AirPods Pro 2 to older AirPods models.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman yesterday said that the Adaptive Transparency option was actually a bug, which Apple has now confirmed by removing the setting in the current beta.

Seemed too good to be true, and it was. Makes sense that was just a bug in an iOS 16.1 beta. Apple claimed in the introduction for the new second-gen AirPods Pro that Adaptive Transparency required the brand-new H2 chip, and in my usage, the feature works so well it’s borderline magic.

Dr. Nick, Candidate for Senate 

I seldom link to political ads because I typically link to things I think you might enjoy and/or learn something from. And regardless of party affiliation, there’s nothing to learn from or enjoy about most political ads.

John Fetterman’s campaign for the Senate here in Pennsylvania is a little different, and this spot exemplifies that.

Bloomberg: ‘Elon Musk Proposes to Buy Twitter for Original Price of $54.20 a Share’ 

Jef Feely and Ed Hammond, reporting an hour ago for Bloomberg:

Elon Musk is proposing to buy Twitter Inc. for the original offer price of $54.20 a share, Bloomberg News reports.

Musk made the proposal in a letter to Twitter, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information. Shares in Twitter climbed as much as 18% on the news, after trading was briefly halted.

The roller coaster is back in action.

Update: Twitter user “NYCSouthpaw” has posted the actual letter from Musk’s attorney, and observes:

The text of the letter is helpful because (to my eyes, at least) it makes clear — much more clear than the news articles about it — that Musk is seeking an adjournment of the trial and his upcoming deposition without actually promising anything new or giving up anything at all.

Basically, Twitter is taking Musk to court to make him go through with his legally-binding offer from April. Musk today is proposing that if Twitter drops the suit, he will ... go through with his offer from April.

David Smith: ‘Testing an Apple Watch Ultra in the Scottish Highlands’ 

David Smith:

While I was putting together this review I kept coming back to the analogy that the Ultra is like a pick-up truck. Useful in regular, daily life but capable of heading off-road or carrying gravel from the garden store. It still drives like a regular car, but can do more. The Ultra has retained its “Apply Watch-ey-ness” while expanding its range of uses, which is exactly what I want. If they had instead made a dump truck (which in this analogy are the highly specialized, sport specific watches) it certainly would have been able to carry more gravel than a pick-up, but also been way less useful overall.

I like this analogy quite a bit.

I also greatly enjoyed the video Smith shot documenting his expedition. His written review is a fine article, thoughtful and succinct, but his video gives you a real feel for his hike. It’s visceral. What a wonderful era we live in when we can all shoot and edit our own little personal documentaries like this. It’s a little over half an hour long, and I enjoyed every moment of it. Grab a beverage, get comfortable, and watch it.


My thanks to Flexibits for sponsoring last week at DF. Their calendar app Fantastical and contacts app Cardhop are two of my very favorite apps. Both apps work and look great on the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and of course, Mac. You can try them for free, and see for yourself. And one simple subscription for Flexibits Premium, all features are unlocked in both Fantastical and Cardhop, across all platforms. And a Premium subscription gives you access to Fantastical Scheduling, a new feature that makes scheduling meetings with multiple participants so easy, I dare say it’s fun.