Linked List: August 2023

Today’s Front Page of The Daily Tar Heel (PDF) 

Heartbreak and terror, evoked by graphic design.

The Talk Show: ‘A Photocopy of a Fax’ 

Jason Snell, come on down. You’re the next contestant on The Talk Show. Special topics: John Warnock and Adobe, Disney and Apple, the iMac’s 25th anniversary, and more.

(This episode was released last night, but we added a little gag in the opening segment after the initial upload. If your podcast player automatically downloads episodes in the background, I suggest deleting and re-downloading to make sure you have the good version. You can tell, before even hitting Play, by checking whether “contestant” is spelled correctly in the episode description.)

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Apple Announces ‘Wonderlust’ Event on Tuesday 12 September 

What’s the over/under on how many times the word “titanium” gets uttered in the announcement video? Gotta figure there will be a bunch of mentions for the iPhone 15 Pro models, and a few more for the second-gen Apple Watch Ultra (including, I hope, a dark/black variant).

Daring Fireball Sponsorship Openings 

I can’t explain it, but while most of the remaining sponsorship weeks for the year are sold, three of the next four are open — including this very week. All months are good months, but September is a particularly busy month covering Apple, traditionally. So if you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s discerning audience, get in touch. And if you’re willing and able to jump on this very week’s opening, I’m sure we can work out a deal.

In related news, there are more openings than usual on the sponsorship schedule for The Talk Show for the next quarter. Similar audience, of course, but a lower price. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Maybe we should sponsor Gruber’s podcast...” you should get in touch with my colleagues at Neat FM.

Inside the Apple Vision Pro Developer Labs 

Apple’s Developer News site has a nice interview with three indie developers who’ve visited the Vision Pro labs, including Michael Simmons from Flexibits and David “Underscore” Smith, of Widgetsmith fame:

For his part, Simmons saw Fantastical work right out of the box. He describes the labs as “a proving ground” for future explorations and a chance to push software beyond its current bounds. “A bordered screen can be limiting. Sure, you can scroll, or have multiple monitors, but generally speaking, you’re limited to the edges,” he says. “Experiencing spatial computing not only validated the designs we’d been thinking about — it helped us start thinking not just about left to right or up and down, but beyond borders at all.”

Simmons’s remarks echo my biggest takeaway from my demo experience: the lack of a “frame” encompassing windows.

And as not just CEO but the lead product designer (and the guy who “still comes up with all these crazy ideas”), he came away from the labs with a fresh batch of spatial thoughts. “Can people look at a whole week spatially? Can people compare their current day to the following week? If a day is less busy, can people make that day wider? And then, what if like you have the whole week wrap around you in 360 degrees?” he says. “I could probably — not kidding — talk for two hours about this.”

Two hours, you say? I know a guy.

Porsche Previews New CarPlay Interface 

Remember last year at WWDC, when Apple previewed the next generation of CarPlay, with support for screens that span the entire dashboard? Here’s a MotorTrend report on the 2024 Porsche Cayenne SUV. Slide 2 shows a CarPlay interface that I had first wrongly presumed spans the entire dashboard, but in fact does not.

Update 1: A few readers have chimed in to suggest this is not next-gen CarPlay 2, it’s just extended use of CarPlay 1. It’s definitely improved, but it is not the new stuff Apple previewed last June. My question: If this is not CarPlay 2, when, if ever, will we actually see a carmaker announce CarPlay 2 support? (Voice from the cheap seats: “When Apple makes their own car.”)

Update 2: Here’s a hands-on report by Jameson Dow for 9to5Mac from last month:

We got a chance to test out some of its features on a 2024 Cayenne, and it’s the first time we’ve felt an Apple-like experience from software made by a traditional automaker.

We’re still waiting for the next-gen CarPlay experience which Apple announced last year, which promises greater integration with vehicle functions than today’s version of CarPlay. In the meantime, though, Porsche has taken it upon itself to build its own app which offers the best of both worlds — a snappy, CarPlay-like user interface, along with control of some vehicle functions which were heretofore unavailable through Apple’s software.

So it might be the best CarPlay interface yet to ship in a car, but it’s not the next-gen CarPlay announced by Apple last year. It’s just CarPlay in the middle with other displays showing built-in stuff from Porsche based on PCM, their own in-house software platform.

Update 3: I’ve now received feedback from three different readers who’ve all said more or less the same thing: they paid extra for these extra screens in their Cayennes or Taycans, and the software experience on them is terrible. They regret paying for it. “A wasted useless screen” said one.


My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring last week at DF. Getting OS updates installed on end user devices should be easy. After all, it’s one of the simplest yet most impactful ways that every employee can practice good security. On top of that, every MDM solution promises that it will automate the process and install updates with no user interaction needed. Yet in the real world, it doesn’t play out like that. Users don’t install updates and IT admins won’t force installs via forced restart.

With Kolide, when a user’s device — be it Mac, Windows, Linux, or mobile — is out of compliance, Kolide reaches out to them with instructions on how to fix it. The user chooses when to restart, but if they don’t fix the problem by a predetermined deadline, they’re unable to authenticate with Okta.

Watch Kolide’s on-demand demo to learn more about how it enforces device compliance for companies with Okta.

Bob Barker Dies at 99 

Two great clips from the Letterman archive: “Top Ten Things That Make Bob Barker Angry” from 1994, and “Top Ten Things Bob Barker Can Say Now That He’s Retiring” from 2007. If you’re of a certain age (mine), sick days home from school revolved around watching The Price Is Right at 11am.

Adobe Co-Founder John Warnock Dies at 82 

Clay Risen, reporting for The New York Times:

John Warnock, a founder of Adobe Systems whose innovations in computer graphics, including the ubiquitous PDF, made possible today’s visually rich digital experiences, died on Aug. 19 at his home in Los Altos, Calif. He was 82.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, Adobe, which Dr. Warnock started in 1982 with Chuck Geschke, said in a statement.

It was just a month ago that pancreatic cancer took Kevin Mitnick, and I remarked on how many people this specific cancer has taken of late.

Until Dr. Warnock and Adobe came along, desktop printing was an arduous, expensive and unsatisfying endeavor. Users relied on either a screechy dot-matrix printer, with its pixelated text, or a specialized typesetting machine, which could cost $10,000 and take up most of a room.

Dr. Warnock developed protocols that came loaded into desktop printers themselves, and that accurately rendered what a computer sent them. Adobe’s first such protocol, PostScript, went into Apple’s revolutionary LaserWriter, released in 1985, and within a few years it was the industry standard.

PostScript, licensed to hundreds of software and hardware companies, helped make Adobe rich. But the company was largely unknown to the public until 1993, when it released Acrobat, a program designed to render and read files in what it called a Portable Document Format, or PDF.

PDF was an enormous breakthrough, and is more relevant today than ever. A true document format for the ages. But Adobe was well on its way before 1993. Photoshop 1.0 launched in early 1990. They began shipping their library of original PostScript fonts and the essential Adobe Type Manager software in 1989. And Illustrator 1.0 launched back in 1987, shipping with this video tour demonstrated by Warnock himself.

Warnock and Geschke understood what Steve Jobs often preached: technology alone was not enough. PostScript was — and remains! — excellent technology. But it was not a product. The LaserWriter was a product. You hooked it up, went to File → Print in any application, and you got professional-grade 300 DPI output with no technical expertise necessary. It was as easy to print high-quality output on a LaserWriter as it was to print junk output on a slow, noisy dot-matrix printer. That was a product.

And Illustrator turned PostScript from a rather difficult but highly-capable programming language into a tool designed for use by artists. They didn’t just make a nice code editor for writing PostScript. They created an app that presented a visual framework in which you directly manipulated shapes, lines, and curves as objects. Even expert Illustrator users were never exposed to PostScript directly. The Illustrator metaphor was a complete encapsulation. That too was a product, and Illustrator remains an essential tool. If Warnock and Geschke had been satisfied merely with shipping great technology alone, Adobe Systems would be a nearly forgotten Silicon Valley footnote. Instead, they pushed to make Adobe the great tool-making product company we know today.

Threads Web App Launches 

Started rolling out earlier this week, but by yesterday, I think it was available to everyone. Missing some features from the native iPhone/Android apps (e.g. there’s no access to the chronological “following” feed yet), but quite solid overall — and there are some very nice touches on the features that are present. [Update: Turns out the following feed is there, I just didn’t see it. There’s a toggle button in the lower left of the window. Huzzah.]

MG Siegler has a post comparing the web app vs. the native app on an iPad. Just as with Threads’s older sibling Instagram, the native iOS app only runs with an iPhone screen layout on iPad. The web app (again, just like with Instagram) looks and feels very much like a native app would.

MacOS 14 Sonoma — currently in public beta, set for release this fall — adds built-in support for saving web apps as standalone apps, like the “Add to Home Screen” feature that’s been in iOS since even before the App Store. I’m not running Sonoma yet, but those who are report being pleased with Threads as a web app. Parker Ortolani has a nice tip for making the icon look better, too.

‘Giving Up the iPad-Only Travel Dream’ 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

In the battle between iPad and Mac, I’m a longtime member of Team Both — I use my Mac most of the day at my desk, but when I write elsewhere in the house or backyard, I switch to an iPad Pro in the Magic Keyboard case. And that iPad (in a regular case) is my primary computing device when I’m not in work mode.

I’m not at all ready to declare the “use iPad to get work done” experiment dead. With the forthcoming release of iPadOS 17, Stage Manager has thrown in a bunch of improvements that suggest the iPad’s progression to more functional status continues, albeit at a pace that’s a bit too slow for my liking.

But here I sit at my mother’s dining room table, typing on a MacBook Air. Something has changed in my approach to travel, and I’m trying to understand just what it is and what it tells me about the trajectory of the iPad as a productivity tool.

I’ve written at length, multiple times, about my decidedly mixed feelings regarding the iPad — most stridently in January 2020, in a piece titled “The iPad Awkwardly Turns 10”. Stage Manager is the biggest change to the iPad interface since I wrote that, and its existence certainly helps on that “power user” front. (And Stage Manager sees some nice improvements in this year’s iPadOS 17.) But for me personally, I continue to find that I’m most productive when I spend my working time in front of my Mac. Gobs of people thrive using their iPads for writing and other creative endeavors. But I know I’m best off, productivity-wise, using my iPad basically as a single-tasking consumption device for long-form reading and video watching.

The reason this topic remains evergreen is that I want to use my iPad more. There’s something ineffable about it. It’s a thrill when I use my iPad to do something that an iPad is actually best at. I honestly think I’d be more productive if I owned no iPad at all, yet I keep trying to find ways to use it more.

So when I travel, it’s never a question whether I’ll pack my MacBook Pro. Even if I don’t plan or want to work during a particular trip, the one-man-show nature of Daring Fireball means I feel that I need to be able to. (I was on a family vacation, preparing to head to dinner, when this news broke 12 years ago yesterday.) The question is whether I even pack my iPad Pro at all, or just go it alone with iPhone and Mac. When I’m packing, I generally wind up tossing the iPad in my bag, thinking I’ll miss it if I don’t. But when I do just leave the iPad at home, I don’t miss it. It’s confounding, though, because I’m going on a trip next week and I bet I’ll take my damn iPad.

Apple Lends Support to California ‘Right to Repair’ Bill 

Brian Heater, reporting for TechCrunch:

In a surprise move, Apple this week penned a letter to California state senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, voicing support for SB 244, a “right to repair” bill currently making its way through Sacramento’s State Capitol building. [...] Apple has, of course, softened its stance on right to repair legislation in recent years, including last year’s addition of a Self Service Repair program. The offering, which was viewed by many as a preemptive measure against looming state and federal legislation, provides users with rental tools to repair iPhones and Macs at home.

In the letter, Apple expresses its support on the grounds of offering consumers the ability to repair their devices safely, without risking privacy or data issues. “Apple supports California’s Right to Repair Act so all Californians have even greater access to repairs while also protecting their safety, security, and privacy,” the company says in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “We create our products to last and, if they ever need to be repaired, Apple customers have a growing range of safe, high-quality repair options.”

This sort of backing from a specific manufacturer is unusual — particularly from Apple. It is thus far the only major manufacturer to express its support for the bill in this manner. These kinds of statements are generally made through industry consortiums, such as TechNet.

I don’t find Apple’s support for this legislation surprising, but most people commenting on it do.

Dare Obasanjo:

This is less of a pivot and more of just accepting reality.

Apple pushing aesthetics such as no seams in their phones over consumer benefits like being able to replace your phone’s batteries has been deemed unacceptable by a number of governments including the EU.

Regulation is coming whether they like it or not, so they might as well get some positive PR for “supporting” the regulations.

Jason Koebler, writing at 404 Media:

Apple told a California legislator that it is formally supporting a right to repair bill in California, a landmark move that suggests big tech manufacturers understand they have lost the battle to monopolize repair, and need to allow consumers and independent repair shops to fix their own electronics.

Koebler’s use of “monopoly” hints at the assumption that authorized repairs are a profit center. That is true for some manufacturers in some industries. Koebler himself has copiously documented the saga with John Deere tractors. All the nonsense inkjet printer makers go through to try to keep people from using third-party replacement ink cartridges is another. That’s never been Apple’s reason for opposing these laws. Apple’s stance is more about control.

And I’d argue that Obasanjo is missing the possibility that Apple actually thinks California’s SB 244 is a well-written law. Would Apple prefer no such law at all? I think the answer is obviously yes. Providing all the necessary documentation, tools, and parts for every new device the company makes is a pain in Apple’s corporate ass, and I think that’s why Apple resisted such legislation. From their perspective any such law is an unnecessary annoyance. But it’s undeniably reasonable for there to be consumer protection laws, and if there are going to be Right to Repair laws that cover computing devices, those laws ought to be good ones. And the plain language of Apple’s letter is that the company thinks this is a good one.

I highly doubt we’re going to see any such letter from Apple to the EU endorsing their Digital Markets Act, the law that, among numerous other sweeping provisions, is poised to mandate sideloading on all phones. Apple continues to oppose the EU law requiring USB-C ports in all rechargeable devices, and that law is already passed. Apple has complied, begrudgingly, with the Netherlands’s rather specific regulations regarding dating apps and in-app payments — but they’ve issued no praise for the law.

If Apple says they support California’s SB 244, it probably just means they actually support it.

‘Apple Buying Disney Isn’t the Fairy Tale It Once Was’ 

A Jason Snell daily double — this time his Macworld column, speculating on rumors of an Apple acquisition of Disney:

If this sounds outlandish, well, if I traveled back in time to 2011 and told you that Apple would be producing some of the best TV shows in the world, wouldn’t that seem bizarre? And yet the company has grown and changed–and will continue to.

But leaving the growth aside for a moment, there’s also this: Apple and Disney do have ties. They do feel similar in so many ways. From the Imagineers working on new Disneyland features to the VFX artists at Industrial Light & Magic to the animators at Pixar, so much of Disney is located at the same intersection of Technology and the Liberal Arts that Apple calls home. (And when I look at the bill for my last family trip to Disneyland, I recognize that both companies are very good at charging me a lot of money.)

Last week when I was working — slowly, as ever — on my own take on the Apple-Disney speculation, I saw in my feed reader that Snell had published his own take. So, I averted my eyes until I finished my own. Glad I did, because I’m not sure I would have been able to resist lifting that keen observation about both companies residing at the intersection of Technology and the Liberal Arts. That’s exactly why this whole notion, though unlikely, feels like a “but, well ... maybe” idea.

‘How the iMac Saved Apple’ 

Jason Snell, writing at The Verge last week, marking the iMac’s 25th anniversary:

Upon its release, the iMac became so well known that it may have even eclipsed the Apple brand for a little while. It was at least a strong enough signifier that Apple began using it on other products. The iBook laptop was an obvious choice, but in 2001, the company chose to reuse the branding for its new music player, the iPod.

The iPod didn’t connect to the internet, but it didn’t matter. Apple was declaring that the “i” stood for another cool Apple product you’d want to buy, and people bought an awful lot of iPods. Apple began slapping the lowercase “i” in front of a lot of its hardware, software, and services, culminating in the release of the iPhone and iPad.

An astute remembrance of a seminal product. Snell rightly emphasizes how controversial some of the iMac’s features were: the lack of a floppy disk drive and dropping all legacy I/O ports in favor of USB. The branding power of that “i” prefix remains so strong that I still hear people calling Apple Watches “iWatches”.

In hindsight it seems obvious that Jobs and Ive would go on to create not just numerous great new products, but to do so in new (or at least new to Apple) product categories. But they had to start somewhere. The easiest way for Apple to have failed upon Jobs’s return would have been to shoot for the moon out of the gate. The next big things would come. First, they rightly decided to focus on righting the ship that was Apple’s previous big thing: a desktop personal computer. Everything the company has designed, built, and shipped since can be traced back to that Bondi Blue surprise.


My thanks to Rewatch for sponsoring this last week at DF. Rewatch set out to solve the problem of (seemingly endless) remote meetings taking time away from your real work. A lot of meetings could be skipped if there were quality notes.

Rewatch fixes this by recording your Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams meetings and generating AI-powered recaps that catch you up in seconds via their web, iOS, and Android apps. Need to continue the conversation? Use Rewatch’s desktop screen recorder for Mac and Windows to share when a “quick sync” (that winds up never being all that quick) or meeting across time zones isn’t ideal.

Get your time back. Try Rewatch for free today.

Changing Its Name Tanked X’s Downloads in App Store and Play Store 

Speaking of Twitter/X, Eric Seufert, writing on Threads:

Twitter has seen a dramatic decrease in its Top Downloaded chart position across both platforms since the app was renamed to X. Why? The situation presents a fascinating case study at the intersection of brand equity and mobile platform dynamics.

The case is somewhat unprecedented: Twitter built a ubiquitous, household-name brand over the course of nearly 2 decades and then simply abandoned it, leaving it to be exploited by competitors, unopposed, through the mobile platforms’ branded search ads. [...]

My hypothesis is that, while the terminally-online are entirely aware of Twitter’s rebrand to X, most consumers aren’t, and their searches for “Twitter” on platform stores surface ads and genuine search results that are in no way redolent of Twitter.

So if you don’t know that Twitter changed its name to X, and search for “Twitter”, the top result is a paid ad from a competitor (Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), and the result for X doesn’t look anything like Twitter. It doesn’t have the name, doesn’t say “formerly Twitter”, and isn’t even blue. It’s just the ugly X icon and the insipid slogan “Blaze your glory!”

At this moment, Threads is #2 on the App Store’s top free downloads list, and X is #51. On the Play Store, Threads is #6 and X is (scroll, scroll, scroll...) #66. This rebranding would be a firing offense if the mastermind behind it didn’t own the company. (So much for Threads being the one that’s supposedly gasping for air.)

Amazon Pulls the Rug on ‘The Peripheral’ Season 2 

Joe Otterson, reporting for Variety with the shittiest news of the day:

The Peripheral” has been canceled at Amazon’s Prime Video, Variety has learned. The news comes despite the fact that Amazon renewed the show for a second season back in February. The series, based on the William Gibson novel of the same name, debuted on Amazon on Oct. 21, 2022.

It starred Chloë Grace Moretz and hailed from executive producers Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan under their rich overall deal with Amazon. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, the decision to not move forward with the second season was heavily influenced by the ongoing writers and actors strikes. In essence, even if the show was to go back into production soon, Season 2 would not be available until close to if not into 2025. [...]

“The Peripheral” was the first series to debut under Nolan and Joy’s deal with Amazon, which is reportedly worth $150 million. The duo are also prepping a series based on the video game franchise “Fallout,” though that project does not yet have a premiere date. Production was reportedly finished on the series earlier this year.

This sucks. The Peripheral season 1 was really good: smart, entertaining, surprising, great characters and cast. It looked good too. Nolan and Joy were the team behind HBO’s Westworld, and The Peripheral was both stylistically and thematically similar — but just better. It’s like Nolan and Joy took another crack at the same thing. It’s so good I suggest watching it even knowing that there’s no future, and thus it ends very unsatisfyingly.

I’m pissed that Netflix dropped 1899 after just one season, but knowing that 1899 has no future, I’m a bit more reluctant to suggest watching it — it wasn’t nearly as good as The Peripheral. But we’re all used to this from Netflix. Sad to see Amazon go that route.

And I don’t get how the writer and actor strikes justifies this decision at all — everything is going to be delayed by these strikes. This just seems like Amazon getting cheap after they blew billions on a shitty Lord of the Rings show and the big expensive letdown Citadel. A company that isn’t committed to an exceptional show like The Peripheral should get the fuck out of the business.

Little Musk Who Cries ‘Wolf’ Daily Claims X Will ‘Delete’ the Block Feature, But No One Knows What That Even Means 

Adi Robertson, reporting for The Verge:

Elon Musk says X’s — formerly Twitter’s — block feature is on the chopping block, repeating his long-standing gripe against the basic social networking feature. “Block is going to be deleted as a ‘feature’, except for DMs,” Musk said in an X reply on Friday. He followed up with another post: “It makes no sense.”

Twitter founder and multi-time former CEO Jack Dorsey (capitalization sic): “💯. mute only.”

Apple’s App Store Guidelines:

1.2 User-Generated Content

Apps with user-generated content present particular challenges, ranging from intellectual property infringement to anonymous bullying. To prevent abuse, apps with user-generated content or social networking services must include:

  • A method for filtering objectionable material from being posted to the app
  • A mechanism to report offensive content and timely responses to concerns
  • The ability to block abusive users from the service

Excerpted from Google’s Play Store Policy Center on “User Generated Content”:

Apps that contain or feature UGC, including apps which are specialized browsers or clients to direct users to a UGC platform, must implement robust, effective, and ongoing UGC moderation that:

  • Conducts UGC moderation, as is reasonable and consistent with the type of UGC hosted by the app; [...]
  • Provides an in-app system for reporting objectionable UGC and users, and takes action against that UGC and/or user where appropriate;
  • Provides an in-app system for blocking UGC and users;

Both platforms thus require social media apps to support users being able to block other users. Google’s language is unambiguous. The rub is how “blocking” is defined. If all Musk wants to do is changing blocking to mean that blocked users can still see tweets from users who blocked them, but can’t interact (reply, quote, retweet) with them, I think that’s fine. Blocked users can see those tweets by just opening a private/incognito browser tab as it stands. But if Musk wants to truly “delete” the block feature, he’s going to run right into Apple and Google’s app store rules. Google is arguably stricter than Apple about enforcing UGC rules, having kept Donald Trump’s Truth Social app out of the Play Store for months (after it was available in Apple’s App Store) citing insufficient content moderation.

Trump Thinks Fox News Makes Him Look Fat and Orange 

Alternative headline: “Trump Faults Fox News for Accurate Photography”.

‘All His Life Has He Looked Away, to the Future, to the Horizon. Never His Mind on Where He Was. What He Was Doing. What’s Coming Out Just Next Month.’ 

Mark Gurman, in his Power On column for Bloomberg last week:

Because of the Apple Watch’s slow evolution over the years, the design has remained largely the same since the Series 4 launched in 2018 — aside from the Ultra model.

The cause and effect is backwards here: Apple Watch has evolved slowly because the original design nailed it so well. There was a gentle form-factor change with Series 4, but at a glance, today’s Series 8 (and, almost certainly, next month’s Series 9) looks nearly identical to the original “Series 0” models. It’s almost criminally under-remarked-upon just how good the original Apple Watch design was. 1993 Macs didn’t look like the 1984 original Macintosh, except for the gimmicky Color Classic that almost no one bought then and even fewer remember now. The iPhone underwent multiple major form factor revisions in its first decade: iPhone 4, 5, 6, and X. Yet here we are on the cusp of the 9th generation Apple Watch and the original design still looks fresh and remains band-compatible with the original models. But, says Gurman:

But that’s poised to change. Apple is planning a “Watch X” model to mark the device’s 10-year anniversary, and it promises to be the biggest overhaul yet. (The category was unveiled in 2014 and released the following year, so Apple is planning to launch Watch X either in 2024 or 2025.) With the X model, Apple designers are working on a thinner watch case and have explored changing the way bands are attached to the device.

Starting with the original Apple Watch, bands have slid into the sides of the chassis and attached with a locking mechanism. Keeping that design the same let the bands stay compatible with old and new models, but it has downsides. People involved in the development of new Apple Watches say the system takes up a considerable amount of space that could be better filled with a bigger battery or other components.

To that end, the company has explored a new magnetic band attachment system, though it’s unclear if it will be ready or used in the Watch X revamp. Even bigger changes are coming as well: a microLED display that tops the color and clarity of the current OLED screens, as well as a technology for monitoring blood pressure.

Surely the band connectors will break backwards compatibility eventually, but it’s worth noting that even the Apple Watch Ultra is band-compatible with the regular “large” Apple Watches.

If Apple goes with “X” in lieu of “10”, a la iPhone X, I’d still bet on “Series X”, not just “X”. And we can take it to the bank that all this will happen, just like we could when Gurman reported, two weeks before it was announced in 2021, that Series 7 would have both a flat display and flat-sided case. (Series 7 watches in fact had rounder displays and the curvature of the cases didn’t change a whit.)

Watch Bands Get Dirty, Headlines Get Clickbaity 

From a report published in Advances in Infectious Diseases by researchers at Florida Atlantic University, “Prevalence and Disinfection of Bacteria Associated with Various Types of Wristbands”:

Wristbands, often worn daily without routine cleaning, may accumulate potentially pathogenic bacteria. However, the quantity and taxonomy of bacteria found on the wristbands in this experiment show that there is a need for regular and popular sanitation of these surfaces. Generally, it was found that rubber and plastic wristbands had higher bacterial counts, while metal ones, especially gold and silver, had little to no bacteria. Bacteria found were common skin residents, of the genera Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas, and intestinal symbionts, like of the genera Escherichia. The ability of many of these bacteria to significantly affect the health of immunocompromised hosts indicates a special need for healthcare workers and others in hospital environments to regularly sanitize these surfaces. Common household disinfectants, such as Lysol Disinfectant Spray, 70% Ethanol, and Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar all proved at least somewhat effective on all materials (rubber, plastic, cloth, and metal), although antibacterial efficacy was significantly increased at two minutes compared to thirty seconds.

“Apple” appears 14 times in the report; all 14 are references to using apple cider vinegar as a cleanser. Yet here’s how the New York Post ran with it: “Apple Watch, Fitbit Wristbands Carry Shocking Levels of Bacteria: Experts”. Then 9to5Mac, crediting the Post with the scoop: “Your Apple Watch Band Is Likely Covered in Bacteria, New Study Says”.

‘Number Go Up’ 

Zeke Faux, in an excerpt from his new book, Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall, published at Bloomberg (News+ link):

Thuy was 29 but looked younger, with a thin mustache and wavy bangs that covered his forehead. When he opened his mouth to light a cigarette, he revealed that he was missing at least four front teeth—knocked out, he told me, by his captors in Cambodia. Sitting cross-legged on the green-tiled floor of his aunt’s tiny apartment, we went over satellite photos of Chinatown. Thuy showed me the gates manned by guards and the areas the captive workers couldn’t leave. He also pointed out a hotel with a gilded facade within the complex where he said the bosses were serviced by prostitutes.

He was eager to tell me more about his ordeal in Chinatown. He showed me a ragged scar behind his ear and one on his arm. And he brushed his bangs aside to point out a long lump on his forehead, from a fracture that was still healing.

Thuy told me he’d only managed to arrange to be rescued because he’d stolen a guard’s iPhone and hid it inside his rectum. When the phone died, he took it apart without using any tools, peeled out the dead battery, charged it by hot-wiring it to a fluorescent light fixture, and used it to contact the YouTuber, who then paid the ransom. He offered to demonstrate the hot-wiring. We found a shop, where I bought a used phone for about $50. Then we went to my hotel, where, without hesitation, Thuy took apart an LED bulb in the lamp in my room. Using a USB cable he stripped with his teeth, he proceeded to wire the bulb to the iPhone’s battery. When he reinstalled it, the phone powered on.

“I was very calm, no fear at all, because I thought that I would die either way,” Thuy told me. “If they found out I was the one stealing that phone, I would either be beaten up or killed. But if I managed to hide it, I would have a chance to live.”

The “pig butchering” scam Faux describes works like this: Scammers pose as vivacious young Asian women. They spam WhatsApp and other messaging platforms with random “wrong messages” (I get such entreaties periodically, perhaps because my WhatsApp number is the same as my number for Signal, which I make public), then start flirting after apologizing for their “mistake”. Then, they drop that they happen to be profiting mightily from cryptocurrency trading, and encourage their marks to get into the action. Easy money. When the marks convert dollars into crypto (Tether, most commonly) and transfer the crypto to their new online girlfriends, the money, of course, goes to the Chinese gangsters running the racket. Worse still, the workers running the scams are captives enslaved in massive compounds, one of which Faux visits in Cambodia, the very one his source Thuy escaped from.

Seems like a crackerjack book.

‘Trump’s Toast, Folks’ 

Clark Neily, writing for Cato:

America has seen its fair share of lying politicians, but Donald Trump is in a class of his own. He appears to view literally any interaction with another human being as an opportunity to be exploited and a game to be won. In Trump’s world, rules are for chumps, norms are for losers, and the truth is whatever you can get another person to believe — nothing more. And of course, history makes clear that this approach has been quite effective at advancing Trump’s interests in certain settings — preening on the set of a game show, for example, or spinning up a fawning, frothing crowd at a campaign event.

But not only will those antics not work in a courtroom, they will backfire. Given the nature of the allegations against him, Trump will have to take the stand even though he has a right not to, and given his nature, he will lie to the jury just like he has lied to everyone else his entire life.

Nothing new in that description, of course, but as Josh Marshall notes, it’s a “tight and concise run-through”. Marshall adds:

I note this because Trump’s press conference seems to presage a new and insipid public debate about what Donald Trump really believes. We’d be remiss if we didn’t note that it’s actually irrelevant what Trump believes. Believing the bank owes you money isn’t a defense for robbing the bank. But that’s not the core point. Trump’s current antics are like a liar’s version of a fake insanity defense in which the defendant makes a spectacle of bizarre behavior to prove his case. Surely, we’re supposed be thinking, or rather doubting, he wouldn’t go back to the well, provide yet more evidence for the prosecution, unless he somehow truly believe this stuff.

But Trump doesn’t think of truth or lies the way you or I do. Most imperfect people, which is to say all of us, exist in a tension between what we believe is true and what is good for or pleasing to us. If we have strong character we hew closely to the former, both in what we say to others and what we say to ourselves. The key to understanding Trump is that it’s not that he hews toward the latter. It’s that the tension doesn’t exist. What he says is simply what works for him.

25th Anniversary of the iMac 

Steven Levy, in a 1998 profile for Newsweek that holds up startlingly well:

“Look at that!” says Steve Jobs as he pulls his Mercedes into a parking space. He’s pointing at a new Volkswagen Beetle, and as soon as he parks, he dashes over, circling the shiny black Bug, taking the measure of a well-publicized update of once great product design. “They got it right,” he concludes.

Last Wednesday Jobs himself received a more thunderous thumbs-up at the announcement of Apple Computer’s successor to its own hall-of-fame classic, the original Macintosh: a machine designed for consumers dubbed the iMac (only Apple would dare to lowercase the “I” in Internet). The crowd in Cupertino, Calif.’s Flint Center — site of the historic Mac launch 14 years ago — largely consisted of Apple employees. But due to an industrial-strength cone of silence shrouding the new product, few had been aware of its existence. So after a morale-boosting slide show documenting the company’s new profits, and a demonstration of the speed of its sleek new laptops, the crowd went bonkers when interim CEO Jobs, in a rare appearance in a business suit, literally unveiled a piece of hardware that blends sci-fi shimmer with the kitsch whimsy of a cocktail umbrella. As distinctively curvy as the Beetle, dressed in retro-geeky, translucent plastic, the iMac (due to ship in August) is not only the coolest-looking computer introduced in years, but a chest-thumping statement that Silicon Valley’s original dream company is no longer somnambulant.

That first iMac shipped 25 years ago this week. No amount of praise heaped upon it is sufficient. It reestablished the Mac platform, and paved the way for everything the entire company has since accomplished. (The Macintosh platform was younger then (14) than the iPhone is today (16), an observation that I find rather upsetting.)

This line from Larry Ellison, then an Apple board member, at the invitation of Jobs, defines Apple as much as it does Jobs personally:

Yes, his demeanor can be alarmingly frank — he can sometimes glance at an employee’s hard-won accomplishment and sneer, “This is a ‘D’.” But critics who focus on the brutality of his assessments miss the point: Jobs’s verbal boot camp can catalyze previously untapped greatness. “There’s too much emphasis on this style issue,” says Larry Ellison. “Steve is obsessed with quality, and that can make him uncompromising, but he gets results.”

As Jobs himself would soon say, “Design is how it works.” The original iMac exemplifies that. Yes, everyone noticed first what it looked like. But it was an insanely great computer.

See Also: Umar Shakir’s copiously illustrated retrospective for The Verge of every major iMac design.

Last week I noticed a feature for the first time: the contextual menu for a link or image sent in Messages has a “Pin” command. This is a different form of pinning than pinning an entire thread — it’s just for individual messages, and only messages that are links or images. I couldn’t figure out what this did until I found this write-up at AppleInsider, which explains the point. When you pin a link, you can refer back to it in the profile details for the contact(s) in that thread. That’s the popover you get by:

  • Tapping the user avatar in the center of the top navigation bar on iOS.
  • Clicking the “i”-in-circle Info button on MacOS.

Scroll down in that popover and there’s a section for pins, right above the section showing all photos in the conversation.

Kind of a weirdly obscure feature. I can see using it, maybe, now that I know it’s there. But I never would have guessed it was there, and couldn’t even figure out what “Pin” meant in this context until I searched the web for an answer.

Update 1: The AppleInsider article I’m linking to claims the feature works for images in addition to links, and I originally just took them at their word for that, but it turns out it only works for links. We regret the error. But it just further confirms how unintuitive the feature is.

Update 2: These pinned links also show up in Safari, in Safari’s “Shared With You” list. In iOS Safari, you get to “Shared With You” by tapping in the URL location field — they appear under your Favorites. On the Mac, “Shared With You” is in Safari’s sidebar, at the bottom, under your tab groups. Pinned links, as you’d guess, stay at the top of the “Shared With You” list. But you can’t unpin them in Safari on either iOS or MacOS, nor you can you pin other items in Shared With You from within Safari. And even within Messages, the only place where you can unpin a link is in its original location within the message thread. So if you pin a link in a busy thread, and want to unpin it after some time as passed, you need to scroll all the way back to when it originally appeared. You can’t unpin links from the contact popover where they’re listed. And if you “delete” a pinned link in the contact popover in Messages, it deletes the original message, not merely removes its pin. The more I figure out about this feature, the more half-baked it seems.

Dahlia Lithwick: ‘Trump’s Last Two Indictments Complement Each Other Perfectly’ 

Dahlia Lithwick, writing for Slate:

The two most recent indictments filed against Donald J. Trump are mirror images in many ways. Jack Smith’s federal document filed in Washington was spare almost to the point of being an inky line drawing, whereas Fani Willis’ Georgia filing is rich and detailed and pointillist. Smith targeted one defendant only, whereas Willis went after 19 defendants on 41 counts. Smith mentions a handful of co-conspirators; Willis notes 30 unindicted co-conspirators. As Norm Eisen and Amy Lee Copeland point out, Smith’s case will likely be blacked out for television and audio audiences, whereas Willis’ suit will most likely become must-see TV for weeks on end. Jennifer Rubin argues that the D.C. trial will happen quickly, while the Georgia case may face months of wrangling, flipping, bargaining with conspirators, and lengthy pretrial shenanigans. Claire Potter points out that Willis can seize Trump’s assets under Georgia’s RICO law. And Rick Hasen observes that Fani Willis has centered race and racialized vote suppression in a fashion that is far more explicit than the federal analogue.

Jack Smith as a literary character is tight-lipped and spare; Willis has been more voluble and open.

Trump, 18 Others Indicted for Trying to Overthrow 2020 Georgia Election 

Tamar Hallerman and Bill Rankin, reporting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Former President Donald Trump orchestrated a sweeping criminal enterprise, committing more than a dozen felonies, as he tried and failed to overturn his defeat in Georgia’s 2020 election, according to an indictment handed up Monday by a Fulton County grand jury.

The indictment also lodged charges against 18 of Trump’s allies, who helped him spread false conspiracy theories and twist the arms of top state officials as he scrambled to cling to power.

The blockbuster 41-count, 98-page indictment said Trump and his co-defendants refused to accept the fact that Trump lost in Georgia. But “they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump. That conspiracy contained a common plan and purpose.”

This is only the fourth time in the history of the United States that a former president has been indicted.

Hanlon’s Razor Meets Its Match: Twitter/X 

Jeremy B. Merrill and Drew Harwell, reporting for The Washington Post:

The company formerly known as Twitter has begun slowing the speed with which users can access links to the New York Times, Facebook and other news organizations and online competitors, a move that appears targeted at companies that have drawn the ire of owner Elon Musk. [...] The delayed websites included X’s online rivals Facebook, Instagram, Bluesky and Substack, as well as the Reuters wire service and the Times. All of them have previously been singled out by Musk for ridicule or attack.

The delay affects the domain, a link-shortening service that X uses to process every link posted to the website. Traffic is routed through the middleman service, allowing X to track — and in this case throttle — activity to the target website, potentially taking away traffic and ad revenue from businesses Musk personally dislikes.

The Post’s analysis found that links to most other sites were unaffected — including those to The Washington Post, Fox News and social media services such as Mastodon and YouTube — with the shortened links being routed to their final destination in a second or less. A user first flagged the delays early Tuesday on the technology discussion forum Hacker News.

The Hacker News thread has the sort of nerdery you’d expect, including the fact that you won’t see the delay when using curl with its default user-agent string, because curl is special-cased by

Hanlon’s Razor — “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” — is a remarkably accurate rule of thumb. But in the case of Twitter/X, it’s not helpful: the stupidity behind the company’s poorly run services is matched by the spitefulness of its owner. Purposeful spite and inadvertent bug strike me as equally likely here, and the list of domain that suffer this delay really does look like Musk’s shitlist. But regardless of the cause, the effect is undeniably bad for users: click or tap a link to these popular sites from Twitter, and it takes about 5 seconds for the URL to resolve.

Trump’s Unsent Draft Tweets 

From a Business Insider report last July:

The House committee investigating the Capitol riot on Tuesday revealed a draft tweet in which President Donald Trump called on his supporters to go to the US Capitol after his speech on January 6, 2021.

“I will be making a Big Speech at 10AM on January 6th at the Ellipse (South of the White House). Please arrive early, massive crowds expected. March to the Capitol after. Stop the Steal!!” Trump wrote in the draft tweet, which is undated.

Trump never sent the tweet, but its existence, along with other messages exchanged between rally organizers, offer proof that the march to the Capitol was premeditated, the January 6 committee said.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida presented the evidence during Tuesday’s hearing, and said: “The evidence confirms that this was not a spontaneous call to action, but rather it was a deliberate strategy decided upon in advance by the president.”

Unsent draft tweets seem among the most likely targets of the January 6 special counsel subpoena — and it’s possible that Twitter saves everything each user has ever typed in the tweet-editing field.

Todd Vaziri on Corridor Crew’s ‘VFX Artists React’ 

My favorite segment was on the three different ways — all utterly different — ILM made lava for the Anakin/Obi-Wan duel on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith. Watch the video before reading Vaziri’s notes. (Nice socks on Vaziri, too.)

Kolide – Device Trust for Okta 

My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. In the few short months since ChatGPT debuted, hundreds of AI-powered tools have come on the market. But while AI-based tools have genuinely helpful applications, they also pose profound security risks. Unfortunately, most companies still haven’t come up with policies to manage those risks. In the absence of clear guidance around responsible AI use, employees are blithely handing over sensitive data to untrustworthy tools.

AI-based browser extensions offer the clearest illustration of this phenomenon. The Chrome store is chock-a-block with extensions that (claim to) harness ChatGPT to do all manner of tasks: drafting emails, designing graphics, transcribing meetings, and writing code. But these tools are prone to at least three types of risk: malware, data governance, and prompt injection attacks.

Kolide is taking a two-part approach to governing AI use: allowing you to draft AI policies as a team, and using Kolide to block malicious tools. Visit Kolide’s website to learn more about how Kolide enforces device compliance for companies with Okta.

Misbehavior in Robotaxis 

Liz Lindqwister, writing for The San Francisco Standard:

Ever thought about getting down and dirty in a robotaxi? Want to light up a cig or a joint on the drive home from the club? You’re not alone.

As autonomous vehicles become increasingly popular in San Francisco, some riders are wondering just how far they can push the vehicles’ limits — especially with no front-seat driver or chaperone to discourage them from questionable behavior.

For some, that’s a welcome invitation to test the autonomous vehicles’ limits. Megan, a woman in her 20s, took her first robotaxi ride on a recent late-night excursion. It was also her first time having sex in a driverless vehicle. The Standard is not providing exact dates of the riders’ debauchery to protect their privacy but has verified the rides took place through documentation. Names have been changed because of the riders’ privacy concerns.

Setting aside questions regarding their driving ability, autonomous taxis will prove to be an interesting behavioral playground. How clean will they remain? What’s to keep people from smoking, littering, pissing, puking, and, yes, screwing inside? If 95 percent of passengers can behave as they would in a human-driven taxi or ride share, but the other 5 don’t, they could turn putrid quickly. Like I wrote last night, you need to design for how people do behave, not how they should.

These robotaxis are all equipped with cameras, and the paying passenger is known through their account with the service, but the more you surveil their behavior while riding, the more you encroach on their privacy.

‘X Marks the Verb’ 

A few weeks ago when Twitter was renamed to X, and we learned that Elon Musk somehow thinks people are going to use “x” as both a verb and noun, I recalled having once stumbled upon this 1983 “On Language” column from the late great William Safire:

“The Federal bureaucracy has invented a new verb,” says Charles DeLaFuente of Kew Gardens, N.Y., who had just sent in his 1040 income-tax return to the Internal Revenue Service. He attached an addressed envelope that he had received from the I.R.S.; in the upper left-hand corner, where the return address of the taxpayer belongs, is the heavy black outline of a box. Next to the box are the words “X box if refund.”

“Never mind the unanswered question, ‘If refund what?’,” the irate taxpayer observed. “We all know they mean to x the box if you have a refund coming. Maybe the ink they saved on those instructions will pay for the next round of tax cuts.”

Mr. DeLaFuente — his name means “of the fountain” — is blowing his geyser for the wrong reason. The verb to x is not new. In 1849, Edgar Allan Poe wrote in one of his tales: “‘I shell have to x this ere paragrab,’ said he to himself, as he read it over.” In 1935, Jonas Bayer carried that crossing-out metaphor into the mechanical age in Startling Detective magazine: “An imported hatchet man with a .45-caliber typewriter can x out the dangerous canary.” Merriam-Webster’s first citation in the one-letter verb’s literal sense is from Henry Cassidy’s 1943 book “Moscow Dateline”: “I x’d out the word ‘west’ in the third question, changing it to ‘east.’”

The whole column is a goldmine, including a section on the Philly accent (Eagles = “Iggles”) and another referencing perhaps the coolest-named American who ever lived, Pussyfoot Johnson. (NYT subscribers can read the scans of the original Sunday magazine issue.)

‘The Famous F40’ Vector Illustration by David Rumfelt 

Matt Sephton:

I was looking through some old Macintosh CD-ROMs, searching for my usual things that I do whenever I add new discs to my collection: hanafuda, specific artists, favourite software, plugins for said favourite software, and so on. Whilst I was deep in the filesystem I stumbled across some old sample files from Deneba Canvas and noticed how they were all credited to the artist.

Intrigue got the better of me so I did a quick google and came up with a post on the Canvas GFX website (yes, the software still exists!) about David Rumfelt and his most famous work: a cutaway illustration of a Ferrari F40. [...]

Maybe this will transport you back through time to when you were young!?

Indeed, this took me back in time so clearly that it might as well have been a DeLorean, not a Ferrari.

‘Fantasy Meets Reality’ 

Cabel Sasser:

But honestly, a lot of it, I think, is just that some designers are amazing at imagining things, but not as amazing at imagining them surrounded by the universe. That beautiful thing you’re working on, it lives in a window on your monitor tucked under a title bar, and that’s as tricky as it gets. What if you can’t imagine your thing in its final context? What if you aren’t great at predicting human behaviors other than your own? What if you push a worst-case scenario out of your mind because you like your idea so much that it’s “at least worth trying”? (I’ve done this!) Maybe you’ve forgotten how you would goof around with your friends to make them laugh way back when. Or maybe, a little bit sadly, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to experience the world as a kid. Not everyone will, or can, have these skills.

It almost seems like there’s a real job here for the right type of person. “Real World Engineer”? Unfortunately, the closest thing most companies currently have is “lawyer”.

Design is for humans, and needs to account for how people do behave, not how they should.

CNet Deletes Thousands of Old Articles in Futile, Wrong-Headed Attempt to Game Google Search 

Thomas Germain, reporting for Gizmodo:

Archived copies of CNET’s author pages show the company deleted small batches of articles prior to the second half of July, but then the pace increased. Thousands of articles disappeared in recent weeks. A CNET representative confirmed that the company was culling stories but declined to share exactly how many it has taken down. The move adds to recent controversies over CNET’s editorial strategy, which has included layoffs and experiments with error-riddled articles written by AI chatbots.

“Removing content from our site is not a decision we take lightly. Our teams analyze many data points to determine whether there are pages on CNET that are not currently serving a meaningful audience. This is an industry-wide best practice for large sites like ours that are primarily driven by SEO traffic,” said Taylor Canada, CNET’s senior director of marketing and communications. “In an ideal world, we would leave all of our content on our site in perpetuity. Unfortunately, we are penalized by the modern internet for leaving all previously published content live on our site.” A representative for the CNET Media Workers Union declined to comment. (Disclosure: Gizmodo’s Editor in Chief Dan Ackerman is a former CNET employee.)

CNET shared an internal memo about the practice. Removing, redirecting, or refreshing irrelevant or unhelpful URLs “sends a signal to Google that says CNET is fresh, relevant and worthy of being placed higher than our competitors in search results,” the document reads.

If you think it sounds really stupid that Google would penalize websites in search rankings for new content because they’re hosting an archive of older content, you’re right, that is stupid. And Google isn’t stupid. From Google’s Search Liaison Twitter account yesterday:

Are you deleting content from your site because you somehow believe Google doesn’t like “old” content? That’s not a thing! Our guidance doesn’t encourage this. Older content can still be helpful, too. Learn more about creating helpful content.

Countering this clear message from Google not to do this, Gizmodo cites the other side:

However, SEO experts told Gizmodo content pruning can be a useful strategy in some cases, but it’s an “advanced” practice that requires high levels of expertise, according to Chris Rodgers, founder and CEO of CSP, an SEO agency.

Expertise you can only obtain by hiring a firm like CSP, of course. And:

“Just because Google says that deleting content in isolation doesn’t provide any SEO benefit, this isn’t always true,” said Lily Ray, Senior Director of SEO and Head of Organic Research at Amsive Digital.

This is like quoting voodoo witch doctors arguing that voodoo sometimes works.

Gizmodo Editor-in-Chief Dan Ackerman Sues Apple, Alleging ‘Tetris’ Movie Ripped Off His Book 

Blake Brittain, reporting for Reuters:

Dan Ackerman, editor in chief of the tech-news website Gizmodo, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court on Monday accusing Apple, the Tetris Company and others of adapting his book about the landmark video game Tetris into a feature film without his permission. Ackerman said he sent his book The Tetris Effect in 2016 to the Tetris Company, which allegedly copied it for the movie and threatened to sue him if he pursued his own film or television spinoffs.

Reuters is hosting a copy of Ackerman’s complaint, which begins:

The movie entitled “Tetris” demonstrated the confiscation of Dan Ackerman’s original work and creation of his book “The Tetris Effect.”

Plaintiff Ackerman’s book took a unique approach to writing about the real history of Tetris, as it not only applied the historical record, but also layered his own original research and ingenuity to create a compelling narrative non-fiction book in the style of a Cold War spy thriller.

Mr. Ackerman’s literary masterpiece, unlike other articles and writings, dispelled of the emphasis on the actual gameplay and fans, and instead concentrated on the surrounding narrative, action sequences, and adversarial relationship between the players.

This was the identical approach Defendants adopted for the Tetris Film, without notable material distinction, but often resonating the exact same feel, tone, approach, and scenes as the book introduced several years prior.

I have watched the movie (enjoyable, but flawed) and not read Ackerman’s book, so I’m in no position to judge whether the movie is a rip-off of the book.

I do find it a bit curious that there’s no coverage of this lawsuit, at least yet, at Gizmodo itself, nor from Ackerman.

Banks Fined $549 Million for Conducting Business Via iMessage, Signal, and WhatsApp 

Wes Davis, reporting for The Verge:

Several US financial firms, including multiple Wells Fargo companies, will pay a combined $549 million in fines after admitting they couldn’t produce discussions about company business from smartphone messaging apps used by their employees, “including those at senior levels.”

Both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) fined banks for being unable to produce discussions going back to at least 2019. The regulators say employees used their personal devices to discuss official company business via apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, or Signal and that those “off-channel communications” weren’t “maintained or preserved.”

Not keeping records of those conversations violates the 1934 Securities Exchange Act’s recordkeeping rules, as well as similar rules from the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, according to the SEC. The CFTC maintains its own recordkeeping requirements, which it says were violated.

My first thought was, “I’ll bet they regret using encrypted messaging for this.”

My second thought was, “But... depending on what they were discussing, maybe not?”

Sometimes paying a fine — even a stiff one — is a win.

Stranded in Maui Wildfire, No Cell Service, Rescued Via Emergency SOS 

Michael J. Miraflor on Twitter/X:

My brother’s girlfriend’s cousin and his family were caught in their vehicle in Maui while the wildfires suddenly erupted around them.

No cell service, so Apple Emergency SOS was the only way they could get in contact with first responders. Literally saved their lives.

Trapped in a car, surrounded by fire, no visibility. The screenshots of this exchange with emergency services had my palms sweating.

Worth a moment to remind yourself how the SOS feature works.

Stanford Study on CSAM on Mastodon 

David Thiel and Renee DiResta, announcing their own report for Stanford’s Internet Observatory investigating child sexual abuse material on Mastodon servers:

Analysis over a two-day period found 112 matches for known child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in addition to nearly 2,000 posts that used the 20 most common hashtags which indicate the exchange of abuse materials. The researchers reported CSAM matches to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The report finds that child safety challenges pose an issue across decentralized social media networks and require a collective response. Current tools for addressing child sexual exploitation and abuse online — such as PhotoDNA and mechanisms for detecting abusive accounts or recidivism — were developed for centrally managed services and must be adapted for the unique architecture of the Fediverse and similar decentralized social media projects.

Their report is interesting and nuanced, and points to aspects of the problem you might not have considered. For example, tooling:

Administrative moderation tooling is also fairly limited: for example, while Mastodon allows user reports and has moderator tools to review them, it has no built-in mechanism to report CSAM to the relevant child safety organizations. It also has no tooling to help moderators in the event of being exposed to traumatic content — for example, grayscaling and fine-grained blurring mechanisms.

I cannot agree with the headlines regarding this report:

  • The Washington Post: “Twitter Rival Mastodon Rife With Child-Abuse Material, Study Finds”
  • The Verge: “Stanford Researchers Find Mastodon Has a Massive Child Abuse Material Problem”
  • Engadget: “Mastodon’s Decentralized Social Network Has a Major CSAM Problem”

Every instance of CSAM is a heinous crime. But it’s impractical to think that any large-scale social network could be utterly free of CSAM, or CSAM-adjacent material. Words like rife, massive, and major to me do not fairly describe the report’s findings. My conclusion is that while Mastodon server admins can do a better job — and seem sorely in need of better content moderation tooling for handling CSAM — the overall frequency of such material on the top 25 instances is lower than I expected, especially from the headlines.

(I also suspect, simply through gut feeling, that much if not most CSAM in the fediverse occurs on smaller fly-by-night instances, not the big public ones which the Stanford study examined.)

Remembering Mimi Sheraton, Innovative New York Times Food Critic 

In the course of researching that previous item, wherein then-NYT restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton accompanied Colonel Sanders to a Manhattan KFC in 1976, I learned that she died just a few months ago, at age 97. Truly a groundbreaking career:

An adventurer with a passion for offbeat experiences, an eclectic taste for foods and the independence to defy pressures from restaurateurs and advertisers, Ms. Sheraton was the first woman to review restaurants for The Times. She pioneered reviewing-in-disguise, dining in wigs and tinted glasses and using aliases for reservations, mostly in high-end places where people would have otherwise known her from repeat visits and lavished their attentions on her.

“The longer I reviewed restaurants, the more I became convinced that the unknown customer has a completely different experience from either a valued patron or a recognized food critic,” she wrote in her 2004 memoir, “Eating My Words: An Appetite for Life.” “For all practical purposes, they might as well be in different restaurants.”

Knowing what I know about the restaurant industry, it’s hard to believe reviews were ever conducted not in disguise. That regular patrons (and recognized critics) get better service and food couldn’t be more obvious, which is the reason it’s such a joy to find your favorite spots and become a valued regular at them.

Colleagues and other restaurant critics described her reviews as tough but fair and scrupulously researched. The Times required three visits to a restaurant before publishing a review; she dined six to eight times before passing judgment. For an article on deli sandwiches, she collected 104 corned beef and pastrami samples in one day to evaluate the meat and sandwich-building techniques. [...]

Another of her reviews, based on blind tastings by several Times staff members, favored private-label liquors over popular brand names of Scotch, bourbon, rye, vodka and gin. The review ran weeks before Christmas, the busy liquor-selling season.

“I heard that two million dollars’ worth of advertising had been canceled,” Ms. Sheraton recalled in her memoir. She approached the executive editor. “I asked Abe Rosenthal if that was true. He said, ‘That’s none of your business. It was a great story.’”

‘For the Colonel, It Was Finger‐Lickin’ Bad’ 

MrBeast being displeased with the quality of MrBeast Burgers brings to my mind Colonel Harland Sanders, who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken, sold the company to a conglomerate in 1964, and then remained their paid spokesman for the remainder of his life, despite the fact that he despised their food and professed deep regret that he sold the chain. In 1976, New York Times restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton accompanied the then-86-year-old Sanders to a KFC in midtown Manhattan:

Once in the kitchen, the colonel walked over to a vat full of frying chicken pieces and announced, “That’s much too black. It should be golden brown. You’re frying for 12 minutes — that’s six minutes too long. What’s more, your frying fat should have been changed a week ago. That’s the worst fried chicken I’ve ever seen. Let me see your mashed potatoes with gravy, and how do you make them?”

When Mr. Singleton explained that he first mixed boiling water into the instant powdered potatoes, the colonel interrupted. “And then you have wallpaper paste,” he said. “Next suppose you add some of this brown gravy stuff and then you have sludge.” “There’s no way anyone can get me to swallow those potatoes,” he said after tasting some. “And this cole slaw. This cole slaw! They just won’t listen to me. It should he chopped, not shredded, and it should be made with Miracle Whip. Anything else turns gray. And there should be nothing in it but cabbage. No carrots!”

Mr. Singleton replied, “I just do what I’m told, sir,” and Colonel Sanders then said gently to the now stunned manager, “Well, it’s not your fault. You’re just working for a company that doesn’t know what it’s doing.”

Sanders was being paid $200,000 a year at the time to represent the chain in commercials. But what were they going to do — fire him? I wonder how many kids today realize Sanders was a real man who actually founded the chain, and not a fictional mascot, like Ronald McDonald, or the great pizza connoisseur Charles Entertainment Cheese?

MrBeast Sued for $100 Million by Company Behind His Virtual Burger Restaurant Chain 

Elizabeth Wagmeister, reporting for Variety:

The biggest YouTube star in the world — Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast — is being sued by Virtual Dining Concepts, the ghost kitchen company that operates his virtual restaurant chain, MrBeast Burger. [...]

In Donaldson’s original lawsuit against VDC, he blamed the company for poor food quality and said that the majority of MrBeast Burger virtual restaurants have negative culinary reviews from fans who are “deeply disappointed by the fact that MrBeast would put his name on this product.” The lawsuit said that VDC “has caused material, irreparable harm to the MrBeast brand and MrBeast’s reputation,” and claimed that while the business has made millions of dollars, he has “not received a dime.” In response, last week, VDC asserted that the YouTube star’s brand grew “exponentially” in part “because of the MrBeast Burger brand itself.”

The argument that Donaldson’s brand grew because of the burger brand seems specious. But perhaps I’m out of touch with the latest trends in fast food — I’d never heard of MrBeast Burger until recently, but it turns out they have “ghost kitchens” all over the place, including here in Philadelphia.

Yankee Stadium Drone Fly-Through 

I suspect even those who dislike the Yankees will enjoy this. Captivating. Also, this might be the only good thing to happen at Yankee Stadium this entire season.

Update: Turns out this was made by the same team, JayByrd Films, that made Right Up Our Alley, a remarkably fun drone fly-by film I linked to a few years ago.

William Friedkin Dies at 87 

William Grimes, writing for The New York Times:

William Friedkin, a filmmaker whose gritty, visceral style and fascination with characters on the edge helped make “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist” two of the biggest box-office hits of the 1970s, died on Monday at his home in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 87.

The cause was heart failure and pneumonia, said his wife, Sherry Lansing, the former head of Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. His death came just weeks before the release of his most recent directorial effort, “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” a movie based on the Herman Wouk play.

Amongst his lesser-known films, Sorcerer is an absolute gem: riveting, visceral, and gritty.

Callsheet 1.0 

Casey Liss:

When I watch a movie or TV show, I’m constantly trying to figure out who that actor is, who the director is, and so on. Early this year, I wanted a way to look this up that was native to iOS/iPadOS, but also fast, with no fluff that I wasn’t interested in. I wanted a bespoke version of the IMDB app.

So I wrote it. It’s called Callsheet, and I’d love for you to try it. Callsheet is a subscription-based app, but all subscription plans have a one-week free trial. Additionally, your first twenty searches are free, before you’re compelled to subscribe.

A few years ago I switched from IMDB to The Movie Database (TMDB) for my movie/TV lookups. IMDB, once great, is now laden with obtrusive ads to an extent that is user-hostile. But I’d been vaguely wishing that there were a top-notch native iPhone TMDB app. Callsheet is that app. I’ve been beta-testing it for months, and ever since, Callsheet has been one of the few apps I use almost daily. Super-useful, super-convenient.


My thanks to Warp for sponsoring last week at DF. Warp is a blazingly fast, Rust-based terminal reimagined from the ground up to work like a modern app. A lot of “modern” terminal apps just offer ways to make your windows look cool — colors, transparency, stuff like that. Warp offers all of that in spades — it’s a very cool-looking terminal. But Warp is highly innovative in functional ways too. Even if you don’t care at all how your terminal looks, Warp is definitely worth checking out.

Warp lets you edit your commands like in an IDE, with selections, auto-suggestions, and completion menus. Generate commands from natural language using AI so you don’t have to context switch to Google (or whatever your preferred search engine is) anymore. Navigate through your terminal output command-by-command instead of scrolling through a wall of text.

And with the newly released Warp Drive, there’s a secure place to save your commands as workflows so you can annotate, share, and execute them on-demand.

Warp works with bash, zsh, and fish (my favorite shell) and requires zero config. You can just download it and start using it. It’s been my go-to terminal app for over a year now.

Android Spyware Maker LetMeSpy Shuts Down After Hacker Deletes Server Data 

Zack Whittaker, reporting for TechCrunch:

Poland-based spyware LetMeSpy is no longer operational and said it will shut down after a June data breach wiped out its servers, including its huge trove of data stolen from thousands of victims’ phones. [...]

LetMeSpy was an Android phone monitoring app that was purposefully designed to stay hidden on a victim’s phone home screen, making the app difficult to detect and remove. When planted on a person’s phone — often by someone with knowledge of their phone passcode — apps like LetMeSpy continually steal that person’s messages, call logs and real-time location data.

A copy of the database was obtained by nonprofit transparency collective DDoSecrets, which indexes leaked datasets in the public interest, and shared with TechCrunch for analysis. The data showed that LetMeSpy, until recently, had been used to steal data from more than 13,000 compromised Android devices worldwide, though LetMeSpy’s website claimed prior to the breach that it controlled more than 236,000 devices.

The database also contained information that shows the spyware was developed by a Krakow-based tech company called Radeal, whose chief executive Rafal Lidwin did not respond to a request for comment. LetMeSpy is the latest spyware operation to shut down in the past year in the wake of a security incident that exposed victims’ data, but also the identities of its real-world operators.

Like cockroaches scurrying when the lights come on.

Where’s My Fainting Couch? 

Richard Lawler, reporting for The Verge:

In news that isn’t very surprising given the recent history of Twitter, which Elon Musk is currently rebranding to X, the company won’t be able to make some promised payments on time. The X Support account says that because its “Ads Revenue Sharing” program is so popular, “We need a bit more time to review everything for the next payout and aim to get all eligible accounts paid as soon as possible.”

Related: Jeremy Vaught registered the @music account on Twitter 16 years ago, and had posted to it frequently. He is a paying Twitter Blue subscriber. And X Corp just took the handle from him, like they did to the guy who had @x. This company is a great and trustworthy partner for individual creators.

Apple Q3 2023 Results 

Jason Snell, Six Colors:

Apple announced its results for its fiscal third quarter on Thursday. As expected, it was a down quarter — though at a 1% drop over the year-ago quarter, it’s a better result than the previous quarter, which was down 3% year-over-year. The company reported $81.8B in revenue and $19.9B in profit.

The three key hardware categories were all down year-over-year: Mac was down 7%, iPad was down 20%, and the all-important iPhone was down 2%. Things were a little different in the two portions of Apple’s business that have shown indefatigable growth in recent years: Services revenue was up 8% and the Wearables, Home, and Accessories category was up 2%.

In a press release accompanying the results, Apple CFO Luca Maestri trumpeted that it has broken the billion paid subscriptions barrier.

No big surprises. Still lots of switchers coming to iPhone and Mac, and a lot of first-time iPad buyers. That, to me, is a healthy pulse check.

Apple Card’s Savings Account Reached $10 Billion in Deposits 

Apple Newsroom:

Today, Apple announced that Apple Card’s high-yield Savings account offered by Goldman Sachs has reached over $10 billion in deposits from users since launching in April. Savings enables Apple Card users to grow their Daily Cash rewards with a Savings account from Goldman Sachs, which offers a high-yield APY of 4.15 percent.

Last week, in The Information:

As of earlier this year, the Apple Card had roughly 10 million users, according to a person with direct knowledge of the figure, which hasn’t been previously reported.

That works out to a nice even $1,000 average per Apple Card user. I’m guessing though, that the median is much lower, and the mean average is $1,000 because a smaller number of users have transferred large amounts to take advantage of the 4.15 percent interest rate. (I currently get 3.93 percent from TD Bank, so I just use my Apple Card savings account for my cash back rewards.)

Apple Watch Ultra 2 to Be Available in Dark Titanium, Says Leaker 

Leaker ShrimpApplePro, on Twitter/X:*

Apple Watch Ultra 2. Same design. And I can confirm this year we will have the black titanium this year along with the current standard titanium.

Yours truly, reviewing the Apple Watch Ultra last year:

I don’t own the silver link bracelet to try it, but I suspect it doesn’t play paired with the Ultra. Brushed stainless steel and titanium are too different to be considered a match, but too similar to have deliberate contrast. I wish Apple were committed enough to the Link Bracelet to make a new one in titanium to match the case of the Ultra. (I also hope that future generations of Apple Watch Ultra are available with a space gray or black coating.)

The last Apple Watch I bought for myself was a Series 7 in space black titanium. Given that the original Ultra was a hit, it seems like a no-brainer to offer it in a dark option this year. I think the biggest logistical complication for Apple with this is that it will multiply the number of Ultra straps they need to offer — the Alpine Loop and Trail Loop bands have titanium fixtures that ought to match the watch case, and ideally, they’d color match the buckle hardware on the elastomer Ocean Bands too. But there’s a reason they put the COO in charge of Apple Watch.

One question I have: is the Action button going to remain orange, or is that color going to change each year? I’m hoping it stays orange. (The orange hints on Vision Pro’s head strap suggest the color is more than a seasonal fad.)

(Via MacRumors.)

* I’ll drop the “Twitter” when starts redirecting to, and not the other way around. Even with the slapdash way they’ve enacted this name change, you’d think that would’ve happened by now. Must be a complicated mess behind the scenes.

Arc 1.0 

Upstart web browser Arc, which remains exclusive to the Mac for now, is out of beta. I find Arc hard to explain in a nutshell, and personally, it’s not for me. But I’ve got some friends who really dig it, and I can see why. It’s a rethinking of how a web browser should look and work. It’s less like a traditional browser and more like a virtual environment/platform unto itself, where tabs are more like apps inside a parent Arc window.

The reason it doesn’t resonate with me is that I’m both deeply accustomed to and really like Safari. But if you find yourself dissatisfied with Safari and other traditional browsers like Chrome, you should definitely give Arc a look. It’s clever and ambitious. Ultimately they’re a company that’s just trying to make a really great, novel web browser for power users. I even love the name of the company: The Browser Company of New York.

Flighty 3.0 

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch last week:

With today’s launch of Flighty 3.0, users will have a new way of sharing their flight information with trusted others, without having to rely on forwarding airline confirmation emails or sending texts.

Instead, Flighty is introducing the concept of “Flighty Friends,” a way to track loved ones’ flight details automatically. The concept builds on the friends’ flights feature already available in previous versions of Flighty, which allowed users to share their live flight information with others through the app.

Now, users can connect directly with one another in Flighty — similar to how you would “friend” someone on a social network. Afterward, the connected users would receive updates about their family members’ or friends’ flights on an ongoing basis. The app’s notifications would then read something like “mom has landed,” instead of just noting a flight number has landed, and would include the user’s profile photo.

Terrific update to one of my very favorite iOS apps. We don’t fly a ton, but my family flies often enough that Flighty’s $89/year family plan feels like a bargain. It’s just $49/year for a single-user account. Everything about Flighty is just so nice, and so convenient. Its Live Activities widget is so well done that Apple featured Flighty in the WWDC keynote, and gave it an Apple Design Award this year.

Last year I had a flight get cancelled about an hour before it was supposed to start boarding. I got an alert from Flighty, immediately dashed over to the nearest gate agent, and got rebooked on another flight before American Airlines notified me that the original flight had been cancelled.

Back in January I wrote about the vast discrepancy between best-of-breed apps on iOS compared to Android, using Mastodon clients as an example. Flighty is another such exemplar. It’s exclusive to iOS and MacOS, and there’s simply nothing close to it on Android. Flighty’s free mode is quite useful too, and you get access to Flighty Pro free of charge for your first flight.

See also: Gunnar Olson writing for Thrifty Traveler, and
Dawn Gilbertson writing for the WSJ.

Donald Trump Indicted Over Efforts to Overturn 2020 Election 

The New York Times:

Former President Donald J. Trump was indicted on Tuesday in connection with his widespread efforts to overturn the 2020 election following a sprawling federal investigation into his attempts to cling to power after losing the presidency to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The indictment was filed by the special counsel Jack Smith in Federal District Court in Washington. It accuses Mr. Trump of three conspiracies: one to defraud the United States, a second to obstruct an official government proceeding and a third to deprive people of civil rights provided by federal law or the Constitution.

Can you even believe it? Well, other than the fact that we watched him do all of this live on television, repeatedly over the course of his final months in office, can you believe it? Read the full indictment here. It opens thus:

The Defendant, DONALD J. TRUMP, was the forty-fifth President of the United States and a candidate for re-election in 2020. The Defendant lost the 2020 presidential election.

The indictment, poetically, is 45 pages long.

Reed Jobs Starts VC Fund Focused on Cancer Treatments 

DealBook at The New York Times:

Reed Jobs is stepping into the spotlight: The 31-year-old son of Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell Jobs is starting a venture capital firm to invest in new cancer treatments, DealBook is the first to report. It’s an area that hits close to home, since his father, the iconic Apple co-founder, died from complications of pancreatic cancer in 2011.

“My father got diagnosed with cancer when I was 12,” Mr. Jobs told DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin in his first interview with a news organization. That led him to begin focusing on oncology, starting with a summer internship at Stanford when he was 15.

Pixar, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, and Nvidia Form Alliance for OpenUSD 

Apple Newsroom:

Pixar, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, and NVIDIA, together with the Joint Development Foundation (JDF), an affiliate of the Linux Foundation, today announced the Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD) to promote the standardization, development, evolution, and growth of Pixar’s Universal Scene Description technology. [...]

Created by Pixar Animation Studios, OpenUSD is a high-performance 3D scene description technology that offers robust interoperability across tools, data, and workflows. Already known for its ability to collaboratively capture artistic expression and streamline cinematic content production, OpenUSD’s power and flexibility make it an ideal content platform to embrace the needs of new industries and applications.

The alliance will develop written specifications detailing the features of OpenUSD. This will enable greater compatibility and wider adoption, integration, and implementation, and allows inclusion by other standards bodies into their specifications. The Linux Foundation’s JDF was chosen to house the project, as it will enable open, efficient, and effective development of OpenUSD specifications, while providing a path to recognition through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Conspicuously absent: Meta, which supposedly has bet its future on XR. (Likewise the word metaverse.)

I suspect some people will be surprised by Apple’s inclusion, thinking that Apple is only interested in proprietary technology. But that’s not the case. Apple’s interests tend to be at both ends of the proprietary spectrum, and the company has historically embraced open content/file formats in particular. A huge part of the original iPhone’s appeal was its groundbreaking support for the full web (as opposed to, as Steve Jobs called it, the “baby web” supported by mobile devices of the time). Nvidia executives have repeatedly made the analogy that USD is to 3D content what HTML is to 2D.

Four Score and Seven Likes Ago 

Aisha Malik at TechCrunch:

Meta is gearing up to roll out AI-powered chatbots with different personas as early as next month, according to a new report from the Financial Times. The chatbots are designed to have humanlike conversations with users on Meta’s social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

The report indicates that these chatbots will take on different personas, including one that advises users on travel plans in the style of a surfer and another that speaks like Abraham Lincoln. The new chatbots could launch as early as next month. Meta reportedly sees the move as a way to boost engagement with its social platforms.

It’s always Lincoln.

The Talk Show: ‘What’s Happening‽’ 

Craig Hockenberry, the special guest with the special fleshy palms, returns to the show. Topics include Twitter/X, foldable phones, and our favorite features in iOS 17 now that it’s in public beta.

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