Linked List: December 2023


My thanks to Flexibits for sponsoring last week — and, spoiler, next week — at Daring Fireball. Fantastical isn’t just the best calendaring app for iOS and Mac; Cardhop isn’t just the best contacts app for iOS and Mac — these are two of the best apps in the world today, period.

2023 was a huge year for Flexibits, and they have a terrific year-in-review blog post that runs down all the details. But the highlights are obvious: excellent support for widgets (on all platforms, including interactive widgets on the latest OSes) and Live Activities on iOS. They also added several improvements to their Openings feature that lets people find meeting times that work for everyone.

Through the end of next week, Flexibits has a killer offer for DF readers: 20 percent off for up to two full years, both for new and current Flexibits subscribers.

‘Poor Charlie’s Almanack’ (and the Tragic State of E-Books) 

When Charlie Munger — Warren Buffet’s longtime partner at Berkshire Hathaway — died last month at 99, I mentioned that a new edition of Poor Charlie’s Almanack was about to be published by Stripe Press (a subsidiary of the very same Stripe of e-payments renown).

The hardcover edition is out, but Stripe has also made the entire book available on this marvelous website. The site is beautiful, fun, and clever, and reminds me greatly of the web edition of The Steve Jobs Archive’s Make Something Wonderful. Both are damning condemnations of the state of e-books.

Regarding Make Something Wonderful, Sebastiaan de With wrote:

It’s hard to capture the delight of a real book, but this website does a fantastic job coming close. Lots of delightful, thoughtful little details.

I say “ebook” because it isn’t a word used anywhere on the website, likely for good reason: there are no good ebooks. The ePub file lacks all the delight of the beautiful website. Books on Apple Books are objectively worse than their written counterparts. This might be nicer.

Kindle editions are even more primitive, design-wise. Compare the Kindle preview of Poor Charlie’s Almanack to the website edition. It’s like comparing a matchbook to a blowtorch. With the e-book editions — Kindle, Kobo, Apple Books, whatever — you can merely read these books. With the web editions, you experience them.

iPhone 16 Models Rumored to Add Dedicated ‘Capture Button’ 

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

MacRumors has shared multiple details on the iPhone 16’s design, including the unveiling of a new button that is planned for the devices, the Capture Button. While we’ve known the name and location of the button, the internal information that we’ve obtained does not detail what it will be used for.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the Capture Button will be able to record video. In this week’s Power On newsletter, Gurman says that the iPhone 16 models will include a “new dedicated button for taking video.” [...]

The Capture button will be a capacitive button with haptic feedback rather than a mechanical button, and it is expected to include a force sensor that can recognize pressure. The location of the button may make it easy to trigger, but if it is activated via pressure, it could be that holding it down will launch into the camera and allow video recording to start.

If this comes true — and I hope it does — the button might default to shooting video, but I’d bet the house it will be configurable, like this year’s Action button. When using an iPhone as a camera, the main thing I miss from dedicated cameras is a hardware shutter button. With dedicated cameras, the shutter button can be pressed halfway to set exposure and focus, and only captures on a full press. A force-sensitive Capture button could work similarly.

You can set the iPhone 15 Pro’s Action button to act as a shutter button for the Camera app, but it’s in the wrong location on the frame of the phone. I don’t want to press a shutter button with my left thumb, I want to press it with my right index finger. (You can orient the Action button to be on the top right by holding the iPhone horizontally with camera at the bottom, but that feels awkward to me.)

Tommy Smothers as Johnny Carson 

Great clip from a great comic. Rest in peace.

Apple’s Next Magic Trackpad Should Have a Touch ID Sensor (But Probably Won’t) 

Jason Snell, in a post from August 2022:

I wanted to do a quick follow-up on my recent post about attaching an Apple Magic Keyboard with Touch to the underside of my desk, because I’ve now done what I threatened to do at the end of that piece: I’ve broken into the keyboard, removed the important bits, and then reassembled it into a little 3-D printed case that contains just the Touch ID button. [...]

Anyway: It works. But I would really love it if Apple would just make a Magic Trackpad with integrated Touch ID.

My desk setup: MacBook Pro with the lid closed, connected to a Studio Display, with my beloved Apple Extended Keyboard II, a mouse on the left (I’m right-handed for most things but taught myself to mouse left-handed all the way back in college, when I started getting RSI), and a Magic Trackpad on the right.

I’m happier with this setup than I’ve ever been with any Mac I’ve ever used. The downside though is that I don’t have Touch ID, because my MacBook’s lid is closed, and I don’t use Apple’s Magic Keyboard. So on workdays, I tend always to wear my Apple Watch, which gives me a lot of the same advantages as Touch ID: I can log into my sleeping Mac without typing my account password, and I can confirm many actions (like Apple Pay purchases, and moving protected files to the Trash) with a double-click of the side button on my watch.

But whenever I’m wearing one of my other watches, I really miss Touch ID. I don’t miss it enough to go through the DIY project of ripping apart a Magic Keyboard to move the Touch ID sensor into a standalone case, though. So I wish that either (a) Apple would add a Touch ID sensor to the Magic Trackpad; or (b) someone would start selling pre-assembled Touch ID sensors in a nice case, repurposed from Magic Keyboards. It’s a bit of a waste to destroy a Magic Keyboard just to repurpose the Touch ID button, but I’d happily pay for it. And while I wish Apple would add a Touch ID sensor to the Magic Trackpad, I doubt they will — that would sully the minimalist “no buttons” look of the Magic Trackpad, and, for people who use a Magic Trackpad alongside a Magic Keyboard, would give them two Touch ID buttons.

Update: Perhaps a hypothetical Magic Trackpad with Touch ID need not look that different at all. There are Android handsets with fingerprint sensors under the display; Apple could put one under the surface of the trackpad, perhaps with nothing more than a subtle dimple or divot to indicate it.

Update 2: Basic Apple Guy mocked up a standalone Touch ID “Magic Button” back in 2022, and Quinn Nelson made a video about making his own.

‘Triangulation’ – Complex Exploit Backdoored Unknown Number of iPhones Over 4 Years 

Dan Goodin, reporting for Ars Technica:

Researchers on Wednesday presented intriguing new findings surrounding an attack that over four years backdoored dozens if not thousands of iPhones, many of which belonged to employees of Moscow-based security firm Kaspersky. Chief among the discoveries: the unknown attackers were able to achieve an unprecedented level of access by exploiting a vulnerability in an undocumented hardware feature that few if anyone outside of Apple and chip suppliers such as ARM Holdings knew of.

“The exploit’s sophistication and the feature’s obscurity suggest the attackers had advanced technical capabilities,” Kaspersky researcher Boris Larin wrote in an email. “Our analysis hasn’t revealed how they became aware of this feature, but we’re exploring all possibilities, including accidental disclosure in past firmware or source code releases. They may also have stumbled upon it through hardware reverse engineering.” [...]

The mass backdooring campaign, which according to Russian officials also infected the iPhones of thousands of people working inside diplomatic missions and embassies in Russia, according to Russian government officials, came to light in June. Over a span of at least four years, Kaspersky said, the infections were delivered in iMessage texts that installed malware through a complex exploit chain without requiring the receiver to take any action.

From the report by the Kaspersky researchers:

If we try to describe this feature and how the attackers took advantage of it, it all comes down to this: they are able to write data to a certain physical address while bypassing the hardware-based memory protection by writing the data, destination address, and data hash to unknown hardware registers of the chip unused by the firmware.

Our guess is that this unknown hardware feature was most likely intended to be used for debugging or testing purposes by Apple engineers or the factory, or that it was included by mistake. Because this feature is not used by the firmware, we have no idea how attackers would know how to use it.

Ivory 1.8 Introduces ‘Explore’ Tab 


Ivory v1.8 is now available to download on the App Store! It features the brand new Explore Tab (which replaces the Search Tab) with much improved search and a new Popular & Trending section. There’s also a few new app Icons and some bug fixes.

The new Explore tab is good: it surfaces both popular Mastodon posts and news stories being shared by many people.

Federal Appeals Court Pauses Import Ban on Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 

Hartley Charlton, reporting for MacRumors:

Apple filed an emergency request to the United States Court of Appeals following President Biden’s decision to decline a veto on the sales ban, allowing it to take effect earlier this week. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today accepted an interim stay while the court reviews Apple’s request for a full stay for the length of the appeal, effectively pausing the ban on Apple Watch imports for a brief period.

Apple, in a statement to 9to5Mac’s Chance Miller:

“We are thrilled to return the full Apple Watch lineup to customers in time for the new year. Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, including the blood oxygen feature, will become available for purchase again in the United States at Apple Stores starting today and from tomorrow by 12pm PT.”

The Man wasn’t going to let Apple down.

Apple News+ Adds The Athletic, but NYT Articles Remain Unavailable 

Todd Spangler, reporting last week for Variety:

The New York Times Co. inked a deal with Apple to add The Athletic’s full sports coverage to the Apple News+ subscription bundle. In addition, the Times’ Wirecutter product reviews will be available for free to all Apple News users beginning early next year.

However, articles from the New York Times Co.’s namesake newspaper remain unavailable in the tech giant’s popular Apple News app. The NYT Co. ended its partnership to provide articles from the Times to Apple News in 2020, saying at the time that the Apple News model did not fit with the company’s need for “a direct path” from digital platforms for sending “readers back into our environments, where we control the presentation of our report, the relationships with our readers and the nature of our business rules.” [...]

The Athletic has more than 450 full-time writers, editors and producers. The outlet covers hundreds of professional and college teams across sports leagues globally. That includes the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, English Premier League, PGA, National Women’s Soccer League, NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, NCAA men’s college basketball, NCAA women’s college basketball, LaLiga and UEFA Champions League.

I’ve been subscribed to The Athletic for years, and now get it bundled with my Times subscription. It’s both good and, as the third paragraph quoted above indicates, broad — they have beat writers for all major teams. Adding it to News+ is a major upgrade to News+’s sports coverage. There’s nothing else quite like The Athletic.

It does seem curious, though, that the Times considers it worthwhile to bundle The Athletic (and also Wirecutter — which, unlike The Athletic, stinks) with News+ but not content from the Times itself. Also worth mentioning that the Times closed its own sports desk last year, and now relies upon The Athletic for all sports coverage.

Amazon Prime Video Will Start Showing Ads Next Month 

Amazon, in an email to Prime subscribers:

We are writing to you today about an upcoming change to your Prime Video experience. Starting January 29, Prime Video movies and TV shows will include limited advertisements. This will allow us to continue investing in compelling content and keep increasing that investment over a long period of time. We aim to have meaningfully fewer ads than linear TV and other streaming TV providers. No action is required from you, and there is no change to the current price of your Prime membership. We will also offer a new ad-free option for an additional $2.99 per month that you can sign up for here.

Prime is a very compelling value.

“Meaningfully fewer ads” than Apple TV+ or Max is not possible, because they have no ads. Netflix has a lower-priced “with ads” tier, but Prime Video is no peer to Netflix. This is a rinky-dink move that solidifies Prime Video’s status as a second-rate streaming service. Maybe if they hadn’t blown $250 million on Citadel and nearly $500 million on Rings of Power — both of which shows were absolutely terrible — they wouldn’t be in this position.

Gurman: Tang Tan, Apple’s Departing VP of iPhone and Watch Design, to Join LoveFrom to Work on ‘AI Hardware’ With OpenAI 

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Legendary designer Jony Ive and OpenAI’s Sam Altman are enlisting an Apple Inc. veteran to work on a new artificial intelligence hardware project, aiming to create devices with the latest capabilities.

As part of the effort, outgoing Apple executive Tang Tan will join Ive’s design firm LoveFrom, which will shape the look and capabilities of the new products, according to people familiar with the matter. Altman, an executive who has become the face of modern AI, plans to provide the software underpinnings, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the endeavor isn’t public. [...]

Tan will lead hardware engineering at the project while working at LoveFrom, the people said. Bloomberg News previously reported that the executive was stepping down as Apple’s vice president of iPhone and watch product design. He isn’t slated to depart until February, though his responsibilities were already divided up this month.

“Aiming to create devices with the latest capabilities” is an empty description, but the overall dynamic is interesting nonetheless.

In all, more than 20 former Apple employees have joined the design firm. [...] Shota Aoyagi, another member of Ive’s storied industrial design team at Apple, has also exited. He just started at LoveFrom.

More designers from Ive’s team at Apple now work at LoveFrom than remain at Apple.

Update 27 Dec 2023: From a little birdie:

An important distinction on Tang Tan that Gurman doesn’t get, or is intentionally vague about: Tang ran mechanical engineering for iPhone (“product design”). He was never part of the industrial design group (“design team” or just “the studio”). Obviously, product design works very closely with the design team.

Bobby Kotick Is Out as Microsoft Takes Control of Activision 

Tom Warren and Ash Parrish, reporting for The Verge last week:

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is stepping down officially December 29th. Microsoft has not appointed a direct replacement and instead has rolled the suite of Activision Blizzard executives — including Blizzard president Mike Ybarra, Activision publishing president Rob Kostich, and Activision Blizzard vice chair Thomas Tippl — under Microsoft’s game content and studios president Matt Booty.

That door finally did hit Kotick’s ass.

52 Interesting Things Jason Kottke Learned in 2023 

Two of my favorites:

34. Ernest Hemingway only used 59 exclamation points across his entire collection of works.

42. MLB broadcaster Vin Scully’s career lasted 67 seasons, during which he called a game managed by Connie Mack (born in 1862) and one Julio Urías (born in 1996) played in.


From the DF archive:

The truth is, I’m the luckiest person in the world today. I hope you are too.


My thanks to Obsidian for sponsoring last week at DF. Obsidian is a remarkably flexible and powerful writing and note-taking app that is designed to adapt to the way you think. Obsidian helps you create connections and links between your notes so you can organize your thoughts. You can create links between everything — ideas, articles, lists, locations, books — anything you can put in a note, you can link to other notes. It’s like building your own personal wiki.

Obsidian’s guiding principles:

  • Free for personal use
  • Available on all operating systems (including Mac, iOS, and iPadOS)
  • Interoperable, local Markdown files
  • No tracking, no account required
  • Private, end-to-end encrypted
  • Easy to modify with API, plugins, and themes
  • 100% user-supported, no VC funding

Obsidian exemplifies the mindset of a proper power-user tool: it makes easy things easy, and hard things possible. Another way to think of Obsidian is like an IDE for your notes, thoughts, and ideas. Fresh out of the box it’s useful, powerful, and obvious how to get started. But Obsidian also has a rich ecosystem of plugins and a great community of users — you can customize it in incredible ways. It’s also the sort of Markdown-based tool that does things with Markdown that I never would have imagined when I created it.

They’re offering a special deal for DF readers: sign up for their optional add-on sync service, Obsidian Sync, by 1 January 2024 and you’ll get 5 times the storage space — 50 GB for the price of 10 GB. Get started simply by downloading Obsidian for free.

The Talk Show: ‘Error -37’ 

Special holiday guest: John Siracusa. Special holiday topics: the Apple/Masimo patent dispute over the blood oxygen sensors in Apple Watches, the ongoing Beeper Mini/iMessage saga, iOS 17.3’s upcoming Stolen Device Protection feature, Apple’s new Journal app. Also, an ode to big-ass tower desktops.

Sponsored by:

  • Trade Coffee: Let’s coffee better. Get a free bag of fresh coffee with any Trade subscription.
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Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 No Longer Available From U.S. Online Store 

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

As promised, Apple today stopped selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in its online store in the United States, with the devices pulled from sale just days ahead of when an Apple Watch import ban goes into effect. When attempting to purchase an Apple Watch Series 9 or Apple Watch Ultra 2 to the online store, the devices say “currently unavailable.” Apple has also removed refurbished Apple Watch Series 7 and Series 8 models from its website. [...]

The Apple Watch is still available for purchase from Apple’s retail stores, but Apple will stop store sales after December 24. Sales will be paused only in the United States and only at Apple’s own retail locations. Third-party stores like Target, Walmart, and Best Buy can continue to sell the Apple Watch until supplies run out.

Mark Gurman, at Bloomberg:

After Dec. 25, Apple also won’t be able to exchange a watch purchased before the ban, say for a different color or size, during the typical return period. Retail staff was told a product swap won’t be allowed, but Apple will replace accessories like bands. Watches can still be returned for a refund.

Earlier this week, Apple employees were told they can’t inform customers that the Apple Watch remains on sale at third-party retailers, such as Best Buy and Target, due to the legal order. The watch will likely continue to be available at those retail outlets until the supply already in the US runs out.

Things would have been drastically different for Apple’s holiday sales if this order had gone into effect weeks ago, but still, online orders are now cut off, and post-Christmas exchanges won’t be available, like for giftees who wanted a different color. Not to mention post-Christmas sales to people shopping with cash and gift certificates.

Apple’s Infinite Loop Company Store Is Closing Next Month 

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Apple today confirmed that it will be permanently closing its Infinite Loop retail store in Cupertino, California on January 20. Infinite Loop served as Apple’s headquarters between the mid-1990s and 2017, when its current Apple Park headquarters opened a few miles away.

Apple will be offering all employees at the store the opportunity to continue working with the company. A source informed us that at least some employees will be able to relocate to nearby stores, including the Apple Park Visitor Center and Apple Valley Fair. [...]

The store first opened in 1993 as The Company Store, and it focused primarily on selling Apple-branded merchandise. Following renovations in 2015, it reopened as a more traditional Apple retail store, with products like the iPhone, Mac, and Apple Watch displayed on beige tables, but it continued to sell a limited selection of merchandise, like t-shirts, reusable bottles, mugs, and notebooks. The store is one of Apple’s smaller locations, and it does not offer Genius Bar appointments or “Today at Apple” creative sessions.

Infinite Loop is a popular attraction for Apple enthusiasts, who often make the pilgrimage to the campus and the store. However, it has been overshadowed by the Apple Park Visitor Center since that location opened in 2017. A different collection of Apple-branded merchandise is available for purchase at the Apple Park Visitor Center, and the location also serves as a traditional Apple retail store.

I had no idea that the Infinite Loop store carried different merchandise (mainly t-shirts, I’m reliably informed) than the Visitors Center store. I’ve only ever been there once, I think, and it was after the 2015 renovation.

I suppose this isn’t surprising, but you know the original campus is in trouble if building IL7 closes.

Update: Photos from The Company store in the 1990s, and if you scroll down a few comments, there’s a link to a screen capture of a QuickTime VR walkthrough of the store as it was circa 1994.

Axios: ‘Warner Bros. Discovery in Talks to Merge With Paramount’ 

Sara Fischer, reporting for Axios:

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav met with Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish on Tuesday in New York City to discuss a possible merger, Axios has learned from multiple sources. [...] Zaslav also has spoken to Shari Redstone, who owns Paramount’s parent company, about a deal.

WBD’s market value was around $29 billion as of Wednesday, while Paramount’s was just over $10 billion, so any merger would not be of equals. The meeting between Zaslav and Bakish, which sources say lasted several hours, took place at Paramount’s headquarters in Times Square. The duo discussed ways their companies could complement one another. For example, each company’s main streaming service — Paramount+ and Max — could merge to better rival Netflix and Disney+.

Merging the streaming platforms would be a certainty. Consolidation is coming — sooner rather than later — to the streaming industry, and Paramount+ has no chance whatsoever on its own. They just don’t have nearly enough original prestige-quality content, and their low-quality filler content is just shows from CBS that you can get for free on regular TV. But because they do own CBS, it limits their options for who they can merge with — Disney owns ABC and Comcast owns NBC, so they’re out. Make Paramount a studio within Warner Bros. Discovery, close Paramount+, and add all the content to Max. This seems so obvious I’d bet it will happen.

Look, I’m an idiot — money falls through my hands like water (as my late friend Dean Allen said of himself) — so I stay subscribed to too many streaming services. Smart industrious people pay attention to what’s being offered and what they’re actually watching on each streaming service, and churn — subscribe for a month or two, watch the thing you wanted to watch, and then unsubscribe. Dumb lazy people like me subscribe to a service to watch one show and then just stay subscribed. That was me with Paramount+, and the show was The Offer — an excellent 10-part series about the development and production of The Godfather.* I watched that last year and yet lo, here I am, still paying $12/month for Paramount+. I keep telling myself I’m going to watch the third season of Picard but I ought to just give up, cancel my subscription today, and just wait for the merger and for Picard to show up inside Max. Of all the streaming services I’ve pissed good money away on by remaining subscribed to them while watching very little or not all, Paramount+ is probably the worst. (MGM+ is giving me a “Hold my beer.”)

* I’d promise to stay subscribed to Paramount+ if they promised to make a sequel/spin-off starring Matthew Goode as Robert Evans, who, in my opinion, just fucking stole The Offer.

The Obsessor 

Matthew Panzarino has a new website:

Though I built a great audience for sites like The Next Web and TechCrunch doing that, I’ve never had a place to collect my thoughts on the broader spectrum of my interests. I’ll be dropping anything I find interesting on the site here as it occurs to me and then once a week shipping a newsletter on a bigger idea or theme. And we might even have some contributors dropping by to share thoughts on something that they have working experience of, rather than it being translated through a lens, darkly.

Given that I just spent about 10 years running TechCrunch in some form or another, managing a team of up to 50 people, I didn’t get a lot of time to write about a lot of the things that I love so much. And I love a lot. Fashion, movies, music, food, theme parks, robots, product development and design, business and company building, collecting and art. You name it, I’ve probably obsessed over it.

Perfect name. Insta-subscribed. And the bastard probably just cost me $350.

‘What Happens When Facebook Heats Your Home’ 

Morgan Meaker, writing for Wired:

Søren Freiesleben has lived in Odense his entire life. He likes the historic Danish city for its size. It’s not too big — just 200,000 people live there — and he never feels like he’s drowning in crowds. So far so normal. But there is something unusual about Odense: Its homes are heated by the social giant Meta.

Since 2020, Meta’s hyperscale data center — spanning 50,000 square meters on an industrial estate on the edge of the city — has been pushing warm air generated by its servers into the district heating network under Odense. That heat is then dispersed through 100,000 households hooked up to the system, with Meta providing enough heat to cover roughly 11,000.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade; when massive data centers generate heat, warm houses.

(Also via Dave Pell.)

Colorado Supreme Court Rules Trump Ineligible for President Under 14th Amendment 

Dave Pell, writing at NextDraft:

Donald Trump has been kicked out of the mile high club. In a 4-3 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that Trump is ineligible to be on the ballot in the state under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. “The decision from a court whose justices were all appointed by Democratic governors marks the first time in history that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment has been used to disqualify a presidential candidate.” For now, the decision is stayed, giving the Supreme Court time to weigh in on the matter. [...]

Why 14th Amendment bars Trump from office: A constitutional law scholar explains principle behind Colorado Supreme Court ruling. In Slate, Lawrence Lessig explains why the 14 Amendment actually doesn’t do that at all: “The Supreme Court Must Unanimously Strike Down Trump’s Ballot Removal”. Once you’re done reading the analysis, you might want to shift your focus to the 21st Amendment, because you’re gonna need a drink.

I dislike the AP’s emphasis on the fact that the justices on Colorado’s supreme court were all nominated by Democratic governors — it emphasizes partisanship in the branch of government that ought to be least partisan. (After serving an initial term, Colorado supreme court justices must stand for statewide election; the four of them who have served that long have been retained by voters overwhelmingly.) The AP does not use such language when describing the decisions of the United States Supreme Court, of which 6 of 9 justices were nominated by Republican presidents — and who never stand for retention by voters. (This, despite the fact that voters have, in the aggregate popular vote, overwhelmingly favored Democratic candidates for president over the last 30 years. The only Republican candidates to win the popular vote after Reagan were George H.W. Bush in 1988 (7.7% margin) and George W. Bush in 2004 (2.5%).)

The argument that the 14th Amendment bars Trump from running again for federal office — and that it’s self-executing — was first put forth in a paper by two law professors, William Baude and Michael Stokes Paulsen, who are members of the very conservative Federalist Society. It’s not some crackpot left-wing plot.

To Pell’s list of reading material, I’ll add George Conway, also writing at The Atlantic:

But last night changed my mind. Not because of anything the Colorado Supreme Court majority said. The three dissents were what convinced me the majority was right.

The dissents were gobsmacking — for their weakness. They did not want for legal craftsmanship, but they did lack any semblance of a convincing argument.

I find Lessig’s argument that SCOTUS should overrule Colorado compelling, but not convincing. The only thing about this I’m certain of is that you’re a damn fool if you think it isn’t devilishly tricky. If you’re of the mind that our current SCOTUS is in the bag for Republicans, I don’t disagree — but I don’t think that means for a second they’re in the bag for Orange Jesus. They’re Republican hacks, not Trump hacks. Even his three nominees to the Court — Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett — owe him nothing, and if anything, might want to assert their independence. My gut feeling is that SCOTUS will either rule unanimously that the 14th amendment doesn’t apply to presidential candidates, or, in a split decision (with the hackiest of hacks, Alito and Thomas at least, and maybe Gorsuch, kowtowing to Trump), they’ll pull a Caesar on Trump and keep him off the ballot.

Comcast Xfinity Discloses Data Breach Affecting Over 35 Million People 

Sergiu Gatlan, Bleeping Computer:

Cybersecurity company Mandiant says the Citrix flaw had been actively exploited as a zero-day since at least late August 2023.

Following an investigation into the impact of the incident, Xfinity discovered on November 16 that the attackers also exfiltrated data from its systems, with the data breach affecting 35,879,455 people.

“After additional review of the affected systems and data, Xfinity concluded on December 6, 2023, that the customer information in scope included usernames and hashed passwords,” the company said. “[F]or some customers, other information may also have been included, such as names, contact information, last four digits of social security numbers, dates of birth and/or secret questions and answers. However, the data analysis is continuing.”

Not sure what that last sentence means other than “Hold onto your butts, it might be even worse than we know so far.”

Joanna Stern Goes to Prison 

Joanna Stern, writing for The Wall Street Journal (Apple News+ link for the story; YouTube link for the excellent video):

Before the guards let you through the barbed-wire fences and steel doors at this Minnesota Correctional Facility, you have to leave your phone in a locker. Not a total inconvenience when you’re there to visit a prolific iPhone thief.

I wasn’t worried that Aaron Johnson would steal my iPhone, though. I came to find out how he’d steal it.

“I’m already serving time. I just feel like I should try to be on the other end of things and try to help people,” Johnson, 26 years old, told me in an interview we filmed inside the high-security prison where he’s expected to spend the next several years.

According to the Minneapolis Police Department’s arrest warrant, Johnson and the other 11 members of the enterprise allegedly accumulated nearly $300,000. According to him, it was likely more.

Fascinating and remarkable interview. Humanizing, but Stern in no way absolves Johnson for his thievery. (Points to Johnson for honesty too: he mostly regrets getting too greedy.)

One aspect that struck me from Johnson’s description of his modus operandi is that it relied little on observing people surreptitiously to glean their device passcodes. Instead it was mostly pure social engineering. He’d make fast friends with a target in a bar and just talk his way into the target telling him their passcode, so he could show them his Snapchat account or whatever. He’d talk people into giving him what he needed. Never underestimate how much digital crime revolves around person-to-person social engineering.

I’m glad Apple is adding the new Stolen Device Protection feature in iOS 17.3 (currently in beta), but my main takeaway from this entire saga is that everyone, including Apple, needs to spread awareness that device passcodes need to be treated as holiest-of-holy secrets. You should protect your device passcode with as much care and secrecy, if not more, as you do your ATM card PIN. Use Face ID (or Touch ID), and if you ever find yourself needing to enter your device passcode in public — anywhere in public — find a private location to enter it, far from any prying eyes or cameras. If you keep your device passcodes secret, you’re safe. I’m sure enough about this that I don’t think I’m going to enable Stolen Device Protection, personally.

Christopher Nolan on John August’s Script Notes Podcast 

John August:

John welcomes writer and director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) to discuss experimentation, subjectivity and adaptation as they take an in-depth look at his screenplay, Oppenheimer. They explore Chris’ writing process, how to make non-linear structures work, finding the story in real-life events, being kinetic on the page, the importance of embracing editing, and why theme can be a tricky thing.

Just a terrific interview; Nolan is as cogent as you’d expect. Even if you don’t write screenplays, I think his advice and experience are applicable to any creative endeavor, in terms of how to translate nebulous ideas churning around in your head into a concrete written description or plan. Writing is thinking, and it’s in the writing of ideas that they become fully formed.

Aston Martin and Porsche Preview Next-Gen CarPlay Interfaces 

Greg S. Fink, reporting for Car and Driver:

This next-generation CarPlay builds upon previous versions by integrating into all of the displays of a given vehicle and not just the central infotainment screen. Though the familiar CarPlay experience remains, multiple template options and special details ensure the interface reflects the ethos of a given brand.

For instance, the preview of Porsche’s CarPlay interface shows that it features a trio of circular gauges in the cluster and a background wallpaper that mimics the brand’s distinct houndstooth (or Pepita in Porsche-speak) seat pattern.

Aston Martin, on the other hand, goes a slightly different route. Its cluster includes a central information screen bookended by a circular speedometer and tachometer, the latter of which integrates “Handbuilt in Great Britain” wraparound text. [...]

This connection to the vehicle also means this new generation of CarPlay can cohesively display information from the vehicle’s native infotainment system (think tire-pressure information and the like), as well.

Not a false alarm like back in August — these really are the first announcements of support for the next-generation CarPlay that Apple announced at WWDC 2022, just under the wire for the promised “before the end of 2023”. Next-gen CarPlay was beginning to take on just the faintest aroma of vaporware.

Interesting to note that Porsche and Aston Martin are two companies that deeply value the branding of their dashboards and instrument displays, and are the first two to announce next-gen CarPlay support. The biggest knock against CarPlay — particularly the next-gen version — is that it takes branding out of the hands of the carmaker. Nilay Patel and I discussed just this issue on the last episode of The Talk Show (starts around 23m:10s).

Keith Richards at 80 

Josh Marshall:

Richards often makes lists of the greatest guitar players of all time. But at a technical level he’s no particular standout. One-time Stones guitarist Mick Taylor was and is certainly superior by that measure. Even a casual rock fan could easily list a dozen guitarists who top him by that measure. Richards’ genius isn’t technical proficiency but knowing what to play, what not to play — both in the sense of the genius of composition but the role of silence in constructing an unshakeable riff. In interviews he has often spoken of silence as the composer’s canvass. For a man notorious for excess, his music is built on economy and restraint. His obsession with finding just the right sound, just the tonal palette he needs, leads him to start using a so-called “open G” tuning, a way to tune a guitar descended from banjo tuning. It literally involved removing one of the six strings. Most of the Stones’ most distinctive and indelible songs come after that switch. You can’t quite play most Stones songs on a conventionally tuned guitar. Very close. Almost the same, but not quite.

Richards was on The Tonight Show a few months ago, and played through a few songs on an acoustic guitar with Jimmy Fallon standing in for Mick Jagger. (He does a great Jagger.) It’s just amazing to me how he can get that Keith Richards sound out of seemingly any guitar. I think of it as a distinctly electric-guitar sound, but it’s not.

As Marshall (who’s about my age) points out, during the peak decades of the Stones’ run, Richards did not, shall we say, seem to be living a lifestyle amenable with a long lifespan. I grew up adoring The Rolling Stones (thanks, Mom), but expecting Keith not to be long for this world. But here we are, and he’s not just alive and well at the age of 80, he’s about to embark on a world tour behind the Stones’ best studio album since Tattoo You in 1981. Extraordinary. What a gift.

Update 4 January 2024: A handful of my favorite Keith quotes:

  • “Like I said many years ago, I never had a problem with drugs, only with cops.”

  • “I would rather be a legend than a dead legend.”

  • “There’s only one fatal disease, I’ve concluded. It’s called hypochondria. And it is deadly.”

  • “You know, I knew Muddy Waters up until the last months of his life. And the guy was never, ever just doing a gig. Never. He was always pushing, up until the last minute. That’s an inspiration to me — that’s the sort of analogy I go for.”

  • “The only thing Mick and I disagree about is the band, the music, and what we do.”

  • “The problem is that no one is used to a band being around this long. It’s very hard for me to think that half the audience we play to can’t remember a world without the Rolling Stones. We’ve become like the air you breathe. The sun comes up, the stars come out, and a new Stones album appears every couple of years.”

Google to Change How It Handles Location History Data, Seemingly Ending Controversial ‘Geofence Warrants’ 

Jennifer Lynch, writing for the EFF:

Google announced this week that it will be making several important changes to the way it handles users’ “Location History” data. These changes would appear to make it much more difficult — if not impossible — for Google to provide mass location data in response to a geofence warrant, a change we’ve been asking Google to implement for years.

Geofence warrants require a provider — almost always Google — to search its entire reserve of user location data to identify all users or devices located within a geographic area during a time period specified by law enforcement. These warrants violate the Fourth Amendment because they are not targeted to a particular individual or device, like a typical warrant for digital communications. The only “evidence” supporting a geofence warrant is that a crime occurred in a particular area, and the perpetrator likely carried a cell phone that shared location data with Google. For this reason, they inevitably sweep up potentially hundreds of people who have no connection to the crime under investigation — and could turn each of those people into a suspect.

Google’s announcement, from Marlo McGriff, director of product for Google Maps:

The Timeline feature in Maps helps you remember places you’ve been and is powered by a setting called Location History. If you’re among the subset of users who have chosen to turn Location History on (it’s off by default), soon your Timeline will be saved right on your device — giving you even more control over your data. Just like before, you can delete all or part of your information at any time or disable the setting entirely.

If you’re getting a new phone or are worried about losing your existing one, you can always choose to back up your data to the cloud so it doesn’t get lost. We’ll automatically encrypt your backed-up data so no one can read it, including Google.

The reason these overly broad geofence warrants “almost always” were specific to Google is that Apple never collected location data that could be collected in the aggregate like this. From Apple’s most recent government transparency report (PDF), covering the first half of 2022:

Apple may also receive requests from government agencies seeking customer data related to specific latitude and longitudes coordinates (geofence) for a specified time period. Apple does not have any data to provide in response to geofence requests.

I checked with a source at Apple, and they believe they have never collected or stored geolocation data in a manner that can be linked to groups of individuals in a certain area or areas.

Good on Google, though, for changing this.

Apple, on the Losing Side of a Patent Dispute, Plans to Halt Sales of Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 This Week 

Chance Miller, reporting for 9to5Mac:

In a statement to 9to5Mac, Apple has announced that it will soon halt sales of its flagship Apple Watch models in the United States. [...] The move comes following an ITC ruling as part of a long-running patent dispute between Apple and medical technology company Masimo around the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen sensor technology. [...]

Here is Apple’s full statement to 9to5Mac:

A Presidential Review Period is in progress regarding an order from the U.S. International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute pertaining to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature. While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand. This includes pausing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from starting December 21, and from Apple retail locations after December 24.

Apple’s teams work tirelessly to create products and services that empower users with industry-leading health, wellness, and safety features. Apple strongly disagrees with the order and is pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers.

Should the order stand, Apple will continue to take all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the U.S. as soon as possible.

There’s some room here to finish holiday gift sales, but color me surprised that this dispute has gone to the deadline like this. Apple will continue selling Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches outside the U.S., but here, the only model that will remain available is the SE.

Curious strategy from Apple to put this news out in a statement originally given only to one publication. My guess, and it’s just a wild guess, is that they’re playing chicken with the Biden administration, hoping President Biden will issue a veto on this ITC import ban. President Obama issued a similar veto back in 2013 that would have been banned the import of the iPhone 4 and some iPad models. The Biden administration, I’m guessing, was hoping that Apple would just write a check to Masimo to settle this dispute, and doesn’t want to be seen putting its thumb on the scale favoring a “big tech” company, all of which are considered villainous to some degree on the left.

Figma and Adobe Abandon $20 Billion Acquisition Plan 

Dylan Field, co-founder and CEO of Figma:

Figma and Adobe have reached a joint decision to end our pending acquisition. It’s not the outcome we had hoped for, but despite thousands of hours spent with regulators around the world detailing differences between our businesses, our products, and the markets we serve, we no longer see a path toward regulatory approval of the deal.

We entered into this agreement 15 months ago with the goal of accelerating what both Adobe and Figma could do for our respective communities. While we leave that future behind and continue on as an independent company, we are excited to find ways to partner for our users.

From a joint press release:

Although both companies continue to believe in the merits and procompetitive benefits of the combination, Adobe and Figma mutually agreed to terminate the transaction based on a joint assessment that there is no clear path to receive necessary regulatory approvals from the European Commission and the UK Competition and Markets Authority.

“Adobe and Figma strongly disagree with the recent regulatory findings, but we believe it is in our respective best interests to move forward independently,” said Shantanu Narayen, chair and CEO, Adobe.

Adobe owes Figma a $1 billion termination fee, but it’s unclear to me whether Figma was adequately prepared to go it alone as an independent company. Who else could and would acquire them for a similar price?

Benedict Evans, on Threads:

I did not understand how this could possibly get past regulatory review even without the current shift in attitudes. ‘Company that dominates a market buying a hugely strong new challenger that’s changing the market’ looked like an old-fashioned textbook competition case.

Yours truly, a year ago, when the acquisition was announced:

Figma’s breakthrough is that it was the first web-app to establish itself as a leading tool for professional designers. It’s hard to overstate how profoundly Figma disrupted Adobe’s status as the undisputed leader in design tools, because Figma made collaboration a first-class part of its workflow. Adobe has had many competitors over the decades, but Figma was the first that seemingly was reducing Adobe’s relevance to professional designers. I don’t think this acquisition was driven by revenue so much as by relevance.

Flappy Dird: Flappy Bird Implemented in MacOS Finder 


I made a game. It’s called Flappy Dird. It’s Flappy Bird inside MacOS Finder.

It has instructions, high score tracking, and marquee banner ads. You double-click to start a game and select any file in the window to jump. It runs at 4 frames a second and can’t run much faster. It occasionally drops inputs for reasons that you’ll understand if you finish this blog.

There are two types of hacks I just love: those that are surprisingly useful, and those that are utterly useless but completely joyful. Pretty clear which type Flappy Dird is. Even better than the game itself is the detail Eieio puts into explaining how it works, including this gem of a sentence:

I was reluctant to do this because adding any amount of control flow to an AppleScript seemed hard — but I was also pretty excited to get to say “I rewrote it in AppleScript for speed.”

MacOS Tip: Quick Access to System Information 

Craig Hockenberry:

Do you hate how hard it is to get to System Information now? (System Settings… > General > About > System Report…)

Just hold down the Option key in the Apple menu…

This is actually a great meta tip: on the Mac, it’s an idiom that goes all the way back to the classic Mac OS era for additional menu items to be exposed by holding down the Option key. One common idiom — which you’ll notice in the Apple menu — is using Option as a modifier to skip a confirmation step. So the “Restart…” and “Shut Down…” commands — whose ellipses indicate that they require confirmation — turn into “Restart” and “Shut Down” while holding Option.

(Also: System Information is just an app, so you can launch it using Spotlight, LaunchBar, Alfred, Raycast, etc.)


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.

Rudy Giuliani Ordered to Pay $148 Million to Election Workers in Defamation Trial 

Eileen Sullivan, reporting for The New York Times:

A jury on Friday ordered Rudolph W. Giuliani to pay $148 million to two former Georgia election workers who said he had destroyed their reputations with lies that they tried to steal the 2020 election from Donald J. Trump.

Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington had already ruled that Mr. Giuliani had defamed the two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. The jury had been asked to decide only on the amount of the damages.

The jury awarded Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss a combined $75 million in punitive damages. It also ordered Mr. Giuliani to pay compensatory damages of $16.2 million to Ms. Freeman and $16.9 million to Ms. Moss, as well as $20 million to each of them for emotional suffering.

I’m sure Rudy isn’t concerned — he’s good friends with the former president of the United States, who swears he’s a multi-billionaire and is a loyal friend, so I’m sure he’ll foot the bill. (Multi-billionaires often find themselves hawking NFT comic-book portraits of themselves on trading cards. Totally normal thing to do.) No need to worry that Giuliani will need to switch to plastic jug scotch.

GM Floats a Bullshit ‘Safety’ Excuse for Dropping CarPlay 

Scott Evans, writing for MotorTrend regarding GM’s announcement earlier this year that they’d be dropping CarPlay (and Android Auto) support from future vehicles:

Tim Babbitt, GM’s head of product for infotainment, gave MT a better explanation at a press event for the new Chevrolet Blazer EV, the flagship vehicle in the no CarPlay or Android Auto strategy (and our 2023 MotorTrend SUV of the Year winner). According to him, there’s an important factor that didn’t make it into the fact sheet: safety. Specifically, he cited driver distraction caused by cell phone usage behind the wheel.

According to Babbitt, CarPlay and Android Auto have stability issues that manifest themselves as bad connections, poor rendering, slow responses, and dropped connections. And when CarPlay and Android Auto have issues, drivers pick up their phones again, taking their eyes off the road and totally defeating the purpose of these phone-mirroring programs. Solving those issues can sometimes be beyond the control of the automaker. You can start to see GM’s frustration.

Babbitt’s thesis is that if drivers were to do everything through the vehicle’s built-in systems, they’d be less likely to pick up their phones and therefore less distracted and safer behind the wheel. He admits, though, GM hasn’t tested this thesis in the lab or real world yet but believes it has potential, if customers go for it.

What a load of horseshit. If CarPlay is unsafe, why isn’t GM recalling all its existing cars that have it equipped? And that last sentence is the real kicker: hasn’t been tested, even in a lab, but he’s just guessing. In his imagined scenario, people check their phones while driving when the CarPlay connection flakes out. But if the car doesn’t support CarPlay, people will use their phones for every single thing that’s on their phones but not in GM’s built-in system. “If drivers were to do everything through the vehicle’s built-in systems” is as much a fantasy as, say, “If drivers always obeyed all posted speed limits.” It’s not going to happen. There is no plausible scenario where the drivers of future GM vehicles without CarPlay support check their iPhones less frequently than they do in vehicles that support CarPlay.

As GM continues to try to dig their way out of this idiotic hole, Ford CEO Jim Farley continues to laugh:

We’re committed to keeping Apple CarPlay & Android Auto. @Ford customers love the features because they help keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. We work closely with Apple & Google to create a very high-quality experience for customers. And I think we have the best experience out there with SYNC 4A.

It’s enough to make you think that GM’s decision to drop CarPlay was made by moles in the company planted by Ford.

Update, 12 December: MotorTrend appended the following to the bottom of the story:

After this story was published, GM contacted us with the following statement:

We wanted to reach out to clarify that comments about GM’s position on phone projection were misrepresented and to reinforce our valued partnerships with Apple and Google and each company’s commitment to driver safety. GM’s embedded infotainment strategy is driven by the benefits of having a system that allows for greater integration with the larger GM ecosystem and vehicles.

Someone at GM realizes what a colossal fuck-up it was to suggest that millions of their own cars on the road are fundamentally unsafe, without a whit of evidence.

Threads Has Begun Federating Via ActivityPub 

Adam Mosseri, on Threads, with the other big news of the day:

Second, threads posted by me and a few members of the Threads team will be available on other fediverse platforms like Mastodon starting this week. This test is a small but meaningful step towards making Threads interoperable with other apps using ActivityPub — we’re committed to doing this so that people can find community and engage with the content most relevant to them, no matter what app they use.

And behold, you can now follow @[email protected] from any Mastodon instance whose administrators haven’t chosen to preemptively block Threads. When Threads launched this summer, with the stated intention of federating via ActivityPub, there were a lot of naysayers who thought it would never happen. But here we are.

Johannes Ernst, on his blog:

I participated in a meeting titled “Meta’s Threads Interoperating in the Fediverse Data Dialogue” at Meta in San Francisco yesterday. It brought together a good number of Meta/Threads people (across engineering, product, policy), some Fediverse entrepreneurs like myself, some people who have been involved in ActivityPub standardization, a good number of industry observers / commentators, at least one journalist, and people from independent organizations whose objective is to improve the state of the net. Altogether about 30 people.

It was conducted under the Chatham House rule, so I am only posting my impressions, and I don’t identify people and what specific people said. [...]

I came away convinced that the team working on Threads indeed genuinely wants to make federation happen, and have it happen in a “good” way. I did not get any sense whatsoever that any of the people I interacted were executing any secret agenda, whether embrace-and-extend, favoring Threads in some fashion or anything like that. (Of course, that is a limited data point, but I thought I’d convey it anyway.)

Yours truly, back in June (before Threads even launched): “Not That Kind of ‘Open’”.

Threads Launches in the E.U., Where, Apparently, Many People Live 

Jon Porter, The Verge:

Meta’s Twitter competitor, Threads, is now available in the European Union, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced. “Today we’re opening Threads to more countries in Europe,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post on Threads. The launch follows the service’s debut in the US and over 100 other countries across the world, including the UK, in July 2023. But until now, Threads hasn’t been available to the 448 million people living in the EU, and the company has even blocked EU-based users from accessing the service via VPN.

To coincide with today’s launch, Meta is giving users in the region the ability to browse Threads without needing a profile. Actually posting or interacting with content will still require an Instagram account, however.

Threads has continued to thrive, grow, and improve, and that should accelerate significantly now that EU citizens can join. There’s a persistent but false narrative that Threads is struggling, which just isn’t true. E.g. from The Guardian today:

Threads launched in July 2023 and quickly amassed more than 100 million users in its first week. The platform has since seen a large drop off in active users, but Zuckerberg in earnings calls has remained steadfast that the platform would eventually reach its goal of 1 billion users.

Like I wrote back in July: “Nobody Uses Threads Anymore, It’s Too Crowded”. While Twitter/X seemingly still has more daily active users, Threads has consistently ranked way way ahead of X in the rankings on both the App Store and Play Store. Those app store rankings don’t measure usage, but they do reflect momentum — Threads is gaining it, and Twitter/X is losing it. And that’s before Threads was available in the EU.

Apple Now Sells the AirPods Pro USB-C Case by Itself 

Chris Welch, writing at The Verge:

Apple has begun selling the USB-C charging case for its second-generation AirPods Pro as a standalone purchase. But it doesn’t come cheap. The MagSafe-compatible case, available immediately, is priced at $99.

Glad they’re offering the standalone case, but alas, it seems like you can’t get it engraved like you can when you buy a whole set of AirPods.

Shohei Ohtani’s $700 Million Contract With the Dodgers Will Pay Him Just $2 Million Per Year 

Lindsey Adler and Richard Rubin, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

Shohei Ohtani joined a new team this weekend. You probably heard about it. The Japanese superstar on Saturday agreed to a blockbuster 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that will pay him $700 million in total, making it the largest contract in U.S. sports history. But Ohtani won’t actually be the highest-paid athlete in America for a while yet. Next season, in fact, the man with the richest contract in baseball history will be making less than some rookies.

Ohtani will take home just $2 million per season over the 10-year span of his contract, which was made official Monday night. In an unprecedented structure, Ohtani will defer $68 million per season until the end of his contract, meaning the Dodgers will pay him $680 million between 2034 and 2043. By the time Ohtani receives his final paycheck from the team, he will be 49 years old. [...]

The contract will also have implications for the Dodgers’ payroll under MLB’s luxury tax rules, which calculates its average annual value based on actual yearly salary ($2 million, in this case) and the present day value of the deal (roughly $44 million). As a result, the Dodgers will take a $46 million hit against their luxury tax payroll each season, a record-setting annual average value, but a steep decrease from a $70 million per year hit if the salary were paid out in full during the course of Ohtani’s contract.

This report from the WSJ is the first I’ve seen that accurately explains the luxury tax implications. All the reporting I read over the weekend, when the news of this unusual structure broke, made it sound like only the $2 million per year they’ll be paying Ohtani while he’s actually playing over the next decade would count toward the team’s payroll, which seemed grossly unjust. $46 million per year seems about right.

Ohtani earns an estimated $45–50 million per year in endorsement contracts, so it’s doubtful he’ll need to move into the YMCA while wearing Dodger blue. If I were him I’d have pulled a Steve Jobs and taken just $1 per year until the deferments kick in.


My thanks to Obsidian for sponsoring last week at DF. Obsidian is a remarkably flexible and powerful writing and note-taking app that is designed to adapt to the way you think. Obsidian helps you create connections and links between your notes so you can organize your thoughts. You can create links between everything — ideas, articles, lists, locations, books — anything you can put in a note, you can link to other notes.

Obsidian’s guiding principles:

  • Free for personal use
  • Available on all operating systems
  • Interoperable, local Markdown files
  • No tracking, no account required
  • Private, end-to-end encrypted
  • Easy to modify with API, plugins, and themes
  • 100% user-supported, no VC funding

Obsidian exemplifies the mindset of a proper power-user tool: it makes easy things easy, and hard things possible. It’s also the sort of Markdown-based tool that does things with Markdown that I never would have imagined when I created it.

They’re offering a special deal for DF readers: sign up for their optional add-on sync service, Obsidian Sync, by 1 January 2024 and you’ll get 5 times the storage space — 50 GB for the price of 10 GB. Get started simply by downloading Obsidian for free.

Secret Deal With Google Allows Spotify to Completely Bypass Play Store Payment Fees 

Adi Robertson and Sean Hollister, reporting for The Verge three weeks ago:

Music streaming service Spotify struck a seemingly unique and highly generous deal with Google for Android-based payments, according to new testimony in the Epic v. Google trial. On the stand, Google head of global partnerships Don Harrison confirmed Spotify paid a 0 percent commission when users chose to buy subscriptions through Spotify’s own system. If the users picked Google as their payment processor, Spotify handed over 4 percent — dramatically less than Google’s more common 15 percent fee.

Google fought to keep the Spotify numbers private during its antitrust fight with Epic, saying they could damage negotiations with other app developers who might want more generous rates. [...]

But Harrison says Spotify’s “unprecedented” popularity was great enough to justify a “bespoke” deal. “If we don’t have Spotify working properly across Play services and core services, people will not buy Android phones,” Harrison testified. As part of the deal, both parties also agreed to commit $50 million apiece to a “success fund.”

When this was first reported last month, I installed Spotify on my Pixel phone and tried it myself. Not only does Spotify on Android default to using its own in-app purchasing system — giving not a penny to Google in fees, apparently — but I couldn’t even find a way to choose to pay using the Play Store system. Google has granted Spotify a complete exemption to any sort of payment fee, and Spotify simply uses its own in-app payment processing.

On iOS, needless to say, Spotify has no such exemption. I just checked, and all Spotify does on iOS is list the features of each Premium account tier, with a message under each tier that reads “You can’t upgrade to Premium in the app. We know, it’s not ideal.” They don’t even list the prices or tell you where to go to sign up.

So I don’t really buy the argument that Spotify’s “unprecedented” popularity forced Google to offer this secret sweetheart deal. It doesn’t even make sense. Harrison’s argument is that Google had to offer Spotify this complete exemption from the regular Play Store payment processing rules because otherwise ... Spotify would have to do the same thing on Android that they do on iOS? It beggars belief that Spotify would pull its app from the Play Store. What makes more sense is that Google wanted to get Spotify — an EU-based company — off their backs as vocal critics of their app store policies, so they offered them this sweetheart deal to shut them up. But it sounds like these sweetheart deals, offered only to large companies like Spotify, are part of what led the jury to rule in Epic’s favor in the Epic v. Google lawsuit.

Jury Rules for Epic Games in Lawsuit Against Google 

Sean Hollister, reporting for The Verge:

Three years after Fortnite-maker Epic Games sued Apple and Google for allegedly running illegal app store monopolies, Epic has a win. The jury in Epic v. Google has just delivered its verdict — and it found that Google turned its Google Play app store and Google Play Billing service into an illegal monopoly.

The jury unanimously answered yes to every question put before them — that Google has monopoly power in the Android app distribution markets and in-app billing services markets, that Google did anticompetitive things in those markets, and that Epic was injured by that behavior. They decided Google has an illegal tie between its Google Play app store and its Google Play Billing payment services, too, and that its distribution agreement, Project Hug deals with game developers and deals with OEMs were all anticompetitive. [...]

Mind you, we don’t know what Epic has actually won quite yet — that’s up to Judge James Donato, who’ll decide what the appropriate remedies might be. Epic never sued for monetary damages; it wants the court to tell Google that every app developer has total freedom to introduce its own app stores and its own billing systems on Android, and we don’t yet know how or even whether the judge might grant those wishes.

It’s certainly big news that Epic won, but as Hollister makes clear, we have no idea what this will actually mean in practice. I’m still not quite sure what Epic even wants. Android already supports third-party app stores, and Epic already runs one. I think one thing Epic wants is to force Google to allow third-party app stores to be installed without any sort of warnings or friction, which would be a disaster for device security. I’ve installed the Epic Games app on Android, and the installation and permission-granting process seems perfectly reasonable to me. It just isn’t popular.

The other thing Epic wants is to be able to use its own payment processing for apps distributed through the Play Store and Apple’s App Store. Implementing such a payment circumvention scheme was what got them kicked out of both stores back in 2021.

Apple Updates Law Enforcement Guidelines to Require a Judge’s Approval Before Handing Over Push Notification Records 

After Senator Ron Wyden broke the news last week that law enforcement agencies were surveilling people by obtaining their push notification records from Apple and Google, I noted, with disapproval, that Apple required only a subpoena to turn such records over, whereas Google required a subpoena subject to court oversight. Apple has now updated its guidelines, and now requires a search warrant:

The Apple ID associated with a registered APNs token and associated records may be obtained with an order under 18 U.S.C. §2703(d) or a search warrant.

This is good.

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill Resigns After Embarrassing Testimony in Congressional Antisemitism Hearing 

Like I wrote the other day, a reckoning was due. In addition to Magill, the chair of Penn’s board of trustees also submitted his resignation. After only 18 months as president, Magill’s was the shortest tenure in Penn’s 260-year history.

If Penn wants to see how you do it, they need look no further than right across Walnut Street.

Verizon Gave a Woman’s Phone Data to an Armed Stalker Who Posed as Cop Over Email 

Joseph Cox, reporting for 404 Media:

The FBI investigated a man who allegedly posed as a police officer in emails and phone calls to trick Verizon to hand over phone data belonging to a specific person that the suspect met on the dating section of porn site xHamster, according to a newly unsealed court record. Despite the relatively unconvincing cover story concocted by the suspect, including the use of a clearly non-government ProtonMail email address, Verizon handed over the victim’s data to the alleged stalker, including their address and phone logs. The stalker then went on to threaten the victim and ended up driving to where he believed the victim lived while armed with a knife, according to the record.

The news is a massive failure by Verizon who did not verify that the data request was fraudulent, and the company potentially put someone’s safety at risk. [...] As the complaint against Glauner notes, this “search warrant” was not correctly formatted and did not include an additional form that is required for search warrants in North Carolina. That, and the Cary Police Department confirmed that no such Steven Cooper is employed with the agency, the document says. The judge who allegedly signed the document, Gale Adams, was shown the document and told investigators the signature was not hers either. Most obviously of all, the document was sent with a ProtonMail email address, which is “not an official government email address,” the complaint says.


Ex-Apple Lawyer in Charge of Enforcing Compliance With the Company’s Insider Trading Policies Sentenced to Probation for Insider Trading 

David Thomas, reporting for Reuters:

Apple’s former top corporate lawyer will receive no prison time after pleading guilty last year to U.S. insider trading charges, a judge said on Thursday. U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, New Jersey, sentenced Gene Levoff to four years of probation and 2,000 hours of community service. Levoff was also ordered to pay a $30,000 fine and forfeit $604,000. [...]

Levoff ignored quarterly “blackout periods” that barred trading before Apple’s results were released and violated the company’s broader insider trading policy that he himself was responsible for enforcing, prosecutors said.

Who watches the watchmen?

Tip of the Day: You Can Select Multiple Tabs, Then Drag Them, in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox 

Jack Wellborn:

I just recently discovered that you can select and drag multiple Safari tabs by holding Shift or Command, just as you would to select and drag multiple items in Finder.

I had no idea you could do this with tabs. Just like making multiple selections in a list view, Shift-click will select an entire range at once, and Command-clicking lets you select (and deselect) noncontiguous tabs. If I’d known you could do this, I probably never would have written the AppleScript I posted the other day — but if I hadn’t written and posted that script, I don’t think I would have learned this trick. Once you have multiple tabs selected, you can drag them together to create a new window, or do things like close them all at once.

This same trick works in Firefox and Chrome (and Chrome-derived browsers like Brave), too. This trick does not work in Safari on iPadOS, because iPads are baby computers where you can’t select more than one thing at a time.

Update: In a reply on Threads, Jay Robinson points out (and includes a nice screencast) that you can select multiple Safari tabs on iPad with multitouch. Drag one tab out of the tab bar, then, while keeping the drag active with one finger, use another finger to tap additional tabs to add them to the collection of tabs being dragged. But: all you can seemingly do with such a collection of dragged tabs is move them to another area in the current Safari window, or drop them as URLs into another app, like a message in Mail or Apple Notes. You can drag a single tab in iPad Safari to the edge of the screen to move it to a new split screen window, but if you have more than one tab in the drag collection, you can’t do that. Nor can you take group actions on the collection of tabs, like closing them all at once, or closing all tabs in the window other than the selected ones, like you can with the multiple-tab-selection feature in the big-boy Safari on MacOS. You can drag a collection of tabs on iPadOS into a tab group, if you have the sidebar open. That’s useful in combination with tab search, to filter the list of visible tabs — search, select the tabs that match the search term, and drag them together to a new or existing tab group. (You can create a drag collection of multiple tabs in iPhone Safari the same way.)

Apple Quietly Releases MLX, an Open Source Array Framework for Machine Learning on Apple Silicon 

“Quietly” is a much-abused adverb in headlines, but I think apt for this. Apple’s machine learning research team has simply released this new framework on GitHub, with no fanfare:

The MLX examples repo has a variety of examples, including:

Seems quite useful already today, and expands the groundwork for on-device AI features in the future.

Idiot Cops Are Spreading Misinformation FUD About NameDrop 

Jason Snell:

This is so bizarre. NameDrop is a feature that lets you AirDrop your contact information to someone else. For the feature to work, both phones need to be unlocked and one has to be placed directly over the other. The entire new tap-to-connect system is built to use physical proximity to confirm consent to sending or receiving data, replacing the old system in which you could leave your device open to AirDrop from all users — and receive all sorts of nasty unwanted stuff from nearby randos.

Once the physical act of tapping is done — it takes a few seconds, there’s a prominent animation, it’s nothing that is going to happen accidentally — you are given the option to share your contact information with the other person, and get to choose which information is shared! If you only want to share a phone number and not your home address, you can do that! It’s entirely in the user’s control. (If someone nefarious approached you and wanted to steal your information, they’d be better off just grabbing your unlocked phone and running away with it.)

Gemini: Google’s New AI Model 


Gemini is also our most flexible model yet — able to efficiently run on everything from data centers to mobile devices. Its state-of-the-art capabilities will significantly enhance the way developers and enterprise customers build and scale with AI.

We’ve optimized Gemini 1.0, our first version, for three different sizes:

  • Gemini Ultra — our largest and most capable model for highly complex tasks.
  • Gemini Pro — our best model for scaling across a wide range of tasks.
  • Gemini Nano — our most efficient model for on-device tasks.

Loosely speaking, Gemini Ultra is competing with GPT 4, and Gemini Pro with GPT 3.5. Nano, the on-device model, will first appear on Pixel 8 Pro phones. It’s unclear to me whether that’s because Gemini Nano is tuned to specifically take advantage of the Pixel 8 Pro’s Tensor G3 chip, or if it will expand to additional Android phones with other silicon.

Google has a 6-minute demo of Gemini in action, and it’s rather incredible. But it also comes with this disclaimer: “For the purposes of this demo, latency has been reduced and Gemini outputs have been shortened for brevity.” Why not show it in real time, even if it’s slow? It seems like the whole demo ought be considered fraudulent — a fake. What’s wrong with Google as a company that they repeatedly try to pass off concept videos as legitimate demos of actual products?

iOS 17.2 Adds NameDrop-Like Feature for Sharing Boarding Passes, Movie Tickets, and Other Wallet Items 

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Starting with the upcoming iOS 17.2 software update, there is a new NameDrop-like feature that allows an iPhone user to quickly share boarding passes, movie tickets, and other Wallet app passes with another iPhone user.

To use the feature, open the Wallet app and tap on the pass that you want to share. Then, hold your iPhone near the top of another iPhone, and a “Share” button will appear below the pass on your iPhone. Finally, tap on the “Share” button to send the pass to the other iPhone via AirDrop. Both iPhones must be updated to iOS 17.2.

Harvard, M.I.T., and Penn Presidents Under Fire After Dodging Questions About Antisemitism 

Stephanie Saul and Anemona Hartocollis, reporting for The New York Times:

Support for the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and M.I.T. eroded quickly on Wednesday, after they seemed to evade what seemed like a rather simple question during a contentious congressional hearing: Would they discipline students calling for the genocide of Jews?

Their lawyerly replies to that question and others during a four-hour hearing drew incredulous responses. “It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: Calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country,” said a White House spokesman, Andrew Bates. [...]

Much of the criticism landed heavily on Ms. Magill because of an extended back-and-forth with Representative Stefanik. Ms. Stefanik said that in campus protests, students had chanted support for intifada, an Arabic word that means uprising and that many Jews hear as a call for violence against them. Ms. Stefanik asked Ms. Magill, “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s rules or code of conduct, yes or no?”

Ms. Magill replied, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment.”

Ms. Stefanik pressed the issue: “I am asking, specifically: Calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?”

Ms. Magill, a lawyer who joined Penn last year with a pledge to promote campus free speech, replied, “If it is directed and severe, pervasive, it is harassment.”

Ms. Stefanik responded: “So the answer is yes.”

Ms. Magill said, “It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman.”

Ms. Stefanik exclaimed: “That’s your testimony today? Calling for the genocide of Jews is depending upon the context?”

The reckoning has come for the bizarro-world political climate that’s taken hold at these universities in the last decade or two. This patently offensive equivocation — when the correct answer was obviously an unambiguous “Yes” — makes sense in the context of the insular far-left worldview where the oppressed are viewed as inherently just, but comes across as absurd to everyone living in the real world. All three of these elite university presidents are obviously utterly tone-deaf and detached from the real world.

You can only pretend to live in a bubble for so long. Then the bill comes due.

New Mexico Sues Meta Over CSAM Content on Facebook and Instagram 

Rohan Goswami, reporting for CNBC:

Facebook and Instagram created “prime locations” for sexual predators that enabled child sexual abuse, solicitation, and trafficking, New Mexico’s attorney general alleged in a civil suit filed Wednesday against Meta and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The suit was brought after an “undercover investigation” allegedly revealed myriad instances of sexually explicit content being served to minors, child sexual coercion, or the sale of child sexual abuse material, or CSAM, New Mexico attorney general Raúl Torrez said in a press release.

The suit alleges that “certain child exploitative content” is ten times “more prevalent” on Facebook and Instagram as compared to pornography site PornHub and adult content platform OnlyFans, according to the release.

This follows the recent and ongoing investigative reporting by The Wall Street Journal into child porn rings on Instagram, and the ways in which their content algorithms send these deviants further down their perverted rabbit holes.

Which in turn leads the Muskateers paying for Twitter/X to ask questions like “Why are advertisers still on Facebook and Instagram but have such a massive problem with X, which bans such content?”

No content is more electrifyingly objectionable than CSAM. No bones about it, Meta has both a content moderation problem and PR fiasco on its hands. They have got to stamp this out, or advertisers will start abandoning their platform. But there are huge differences between Meta and X. Meta does not want CSAM or even CSAM-adjacent content on its platforms. Their current content moderation infrastructure quashes a shocking amount of it already. They need to do better, and I think most people believe they want to. The objectionable material on Twitter/X, on the other hand — the racism, the antisemitism, the outright Nazism — is explicitly permitted in the name of “free speech”. And in terms of perception, which is what advertisers care most about, Twitter/X is defined now by its number-one user, Elon Musk. He is the star of the platform, like what Tucker Carlson was to Fox News.

Also, more cynically, ads on Instagram work — advertisers gain more in sales than they spend on the ads. That’s less true — and perhaps not true at all — on Twitter/X.

Meta’s big legal problem isn’t that they’ve looked the other way at CSAM, but that they’ve deliberately looked the other way at under-13 users signing up for Instagram accounts, and purposely optimized their algorithms to engage teens. It doesn’t pass the sniff test that they’d want CSAM on Instagram; it easily passes the sniff test that they’d want to hook kids on the platform as young as possible.

Norman Lear: The Mensch 

Dave Pell, writing at NextDraft about Norman Lear, who died at the ripe age of 101:

From his tours of duty during WWII to his sensational, culture changing television creations, to his political activism, to the good, decent, kind life he lived, Norman Lear represented the greatest of the greatest generation. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Norman. Yes, he was a comedic genius and maybe television’s most important creator, but he was also a deeply interested, open, curious, people person. He was great, and also good. He truly lived the lyrics of the theme for his show One Day at a Time. This is it. This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball.

What a career. He didn’t just create some of the best sitcoms on TV during his prime, he created most of the best sitcoms: Sanford & Son (my dad’s favorite), One Day at a Time, Maude, Good Times, Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, The Jeffersons, and, of course, his masterpiece, All in the Family.

Over at BoingBoing, Mark Frauenfelder has a 50-year-old All in the Family clip that, aside from Rob Reiner’s hairstyle, could have been recorded today. Archie Bunker was a more coherent Trump than Trump.

(With Charlie Munger dying at 99, Henry Kissinger at 100, and now Lear at 101, I’d be nervous if I were a famous 102-year-old.)

Update: A delightful anecdote from Alex Edelman, about Lear pitching him an idea for a new show at age 100.

23andMe Confirms Hackers Stole Ancestry Data on 6.9 Million Users 

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for TechCrunch:

On Friday, genetic testing company 23andMe announced that hackers accessed the personal data of 0.1% of customers, or about 14,000 individuals. The company also said that by accessing those accounts, hackers were also able to access “a significant number of files containing profile information about other users’ ancestry.” But 23andMe would not say how many “other users” were impacted by the breach that the company initially disclosed in early October.

As it turns out, there were a lot of “other users” who were victims of this data breach: 6.9 million affected individuals in total.

In an email sent to TechCrunch late on Saturday, 23andMe spokesperson Katie Watson confirmed that hackers accessed the personal information of about 5.5 million people who opted-in to 23andMe’s DNA Relatives feature, which allows customers to automatically share some of their data with others. The stolen data included the person’s name, birth year, relationship labels, the percentage of DNA shared with relatives, ancestry reports and self-reported location.

Here’s a real shocker: 23andMe has updated their terms of service in attempt to prevent a class action lawsuit. Good luck with that.

Apple Requires Only a Subpoena to Turn Over Push Notification Tokens to Law Enforcement; Google Requires a Court Order 

Drew Harwell, reporting for The Washington Post:

Apple said in a statement that “the federal government had prohibited us from sharing any information” about the requests and now that the method had become public, it was updating its upcoming transparency reports to “detail these kinds of requests.”

Apple’s Law Enforcement Guidelines, the company’s rules for how police and government investigators should seek user information, now note that a person’s Apple ID, associated with a push-notification token, can be “obtained with a subpoena or greater legal process.”

Neither Wyden nor Apple detailed how many notifications had been reviewed, who had been targeted, what crimes were being investigated or which governments had made the requests.

Law enforcement agents can issue subpoenas on their own, so there’s no oversight here. Google, on the other hand, requires a court order:

For U.S. requests of push notifications and other non-content information, Google said it requires a court order, not just a subpoena, that is subject to judicial oversight. With such orders, federal officials must persuade a judge that the requested data is relevant and material to an ongoing criminal probe.

Score one for Google here.

Update, 11 December 2023: Apple has updated its guidelines and now requires a court order as well.

Senator Ron Wyden: Governments Are Spying on Apple and Google Users Through Push Notifications 

Raphael Satter, reporting for Reuters:

Unidentified governments are surveilling smartphone users via their apps’ push notifications, a U.S. senator warned on Wednesday. In a letter to the Department of Justice, Senator Ron Wyden said foreign officials were demanding the data from Alphabet’s Google and Apple. Although details were sparse, the letter lays out yet another path by which governments can track smartphones. [...]

In a statement, Apple said that Wyden’s letter gave them the opening they needed to share more details with the public about how governments monitored push notifications. “In this case, the federal government prohibited us from sharing any information,” the company said in a statement. “Now that this method has become public we are updating our transparency reporting to detail these kinds of requests.”

Google said that it shared Wyden’s “commitment to keeping users informed about these requests.”

From Wyden’s letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland:

Apple and Google should be permitted to be transparent about the legal demands they receive, particularly from foreign governments, just as the companies regularly notify users about other types of government demands for data. These companies should be permitted to generally reveal whether they have been compelled to facilitate this surveillance practice, to publish aggregate statistics about the number of demands they receive, and unless temporarily gagged by a court, to notify specific customers about demands for their data. I would ask that the DOJ repeal or modify any policies that impede this transparency.

See also: Joseph Cox, reporting at 404 Media: “Here’s a Warrant Showing the U.S. Government is Monitoring Push Notifications”.

The Standalone iTunes Movies and TV Shows Apps Are Discontinued in tvOS 17.2 

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

As first reported in October, Apple will discontinue the standalone iTunes Movies and iTunes TV Shows apps on the Apple TV box, starting with tvOS 17.2 The warning message seen above has started appearing in the release candidate version of tvOS 17.2 beta, released yesterday.

Apple directs users to the TV app instead to manage their purchases, and buy and rent from the store. At least as far as Apple’s video content is concerned, the iTunes brand is on the way out.

Apple has updated the TV app in 17.2 in preparation of the migration away from the standalone iTunes videos app, bringing across some functionality that was previously missing in TV. That includes things like filtering by genre in purchased tab, and the inclusion of box sets in the store listings. The TV app also features a new sidebar design in this update, which includes a dedicated store and purchases tab for quick navigation.

It’s the updates to the TV app that make this possible. It’s a good simplification overall: Apple’s own content — both iTunes purchases and TV+ streaming content — is in the TV app.

Gurman Predicts Big March for Apple: New iPads Pro and Air, M3 MacBook Airs, and New iPad Peripherals 

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

The iPad Air, which is the company’s mid-tier tablet, currently comes with a 10.9-inch screen. For next year’s release, the company will add a version that’s about 12.9 inches, matching the size of what’s currently the biggest iPad Pro.

The company is also preparing revamped versions of the Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard accessories, which it will sell alongside the new iPad Pro. The new Pencil — codenamed B532 — will represent the third generation of the product. The company released a new low-end model in November.

The new Magic Keyboards — codenamed R418 and R428 — will make the iPad Pro look more like a laptop and include a sturdier frame with aluminum.

A big iPad Air is interesting, and I suspect will prove popular. No word, alas, on a new iPad Mini though. (I wish Apple would drop the “Mini” brand and just make the iPad Air in three sizes: mini, regular, and large, with identical specs.)

Gurman offers no details about the form factor for the updated iPad Pro models. Given that last year’s 10th-generation regular iPad moved the front-facing camera to the long side of the device — the appropriate location for a camera when the iPad is being used laptop-style — it seems like a safe guess that Apple will do the same with these next-gen iPad Air and Pro models. But the spot where that camera would go is currently the same spot where current iPad Pros have the magnetic attachment for a 2nd-gen Apple Pencil. So I think that’s why Apple is going to introduce a 3rd-gen Pencil — they might need an altogether new way of pairing, charging, and attaching Pencils if they move the front-facing camera to the long side. (Well, that’s one reason to create a 3rd-gen Pencil. Other reasons, of course, would include various ways of making a better stylus — the current 2nd-gen Pencil is now over 5 years old.)

I’m also quite curious about the purported reimagined Magic Keyboards. The current ones are transformative for iPads, functionally, but the rubbery surface material just isn’t durable enough — especially the white ones. MacBooks are remarkably durable; iPad Magic Keyboards demand to be treated carefully. On mine, the rubber is peeling away around my most-used keys. That shouldn’t happen with any keyboard, but it definitely shouldn’t happen with one that costs $300-350.

Bloomberg: ‘Apple Set to Avoid EU Crackdown Over iMessage Service’ 

Samuel Stolton, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Apple Inc.’s iMessage service looks set to win a carve out from new European Union antitrust rules to rein in Big Tech platforms after watchdogs tentatively concluded that it isn’t popular enough with business users to warrant being hit by the regulation. [...]

In order to fall under the scope of the rules, a service must be deemed an “important gateway” for business users. EU enforcers now consider this is not the case for iMessage, according to the people.

If iMessage ended up being targeted by the Digital Markets Act, Apple would have faced potentially onerous obligations to make iMessage work with rival online messaging services, such as Meta Platforms Inc.’s WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger — a move that Apple has already strongly contested.

The elephant in the room with this particular issue is that the interoperability demands of the DMA between E2EE messaging platforms make no technical sense whatsoever. It’s all just hand-waving on the part of the EU bureaucrats who are demanding it. They have no idea what E2EE really means. They just want to demand that a WhatsApp user should be able to send a message to someone on iMessage or Facebook Messenger. Just make it happen.

Who would run key exchange, and manage the discovery and distribution of said keys, for E2EE messages sent across platforms? Key exchange and discovery is essential, and a difficult problem to solve within each platform itself. I think it’s impossible across platforms. Within each platform, the platform owner is in charge and handles these things. With this EU fantasy of mandatory interop across messaging platforms, who would be in charge?

Apple getting exempted from this, I think, will mainly benefit Apple by letting them ignore an impossible mandate. I don’t think this interop will ever come to fruition, no matter what the EU demands, because I don’t think it can, nor do I think it should. Would be nice to just avoid the debate.

* You know.

Thieves Rob D.C. Uber Eats Driver, Steal Her Car, But Reject Android Phone 

Carl Willis, reporting for ABC 7News in Washington D.C.:

“As soon as he parked the car two masked gentlemen came up to him, armed,” she said. “They robbed him, took everything he had in his pockets, took the keys to my truck and got in and pulled off.”

She said one of them approached on foot in the 2400 block of 14th Street, NW. The other was in a black BMW, both of them armed with guns. She said the robbers were bold taking her husband’s phone, but then giving it back because it wasn’t to their liking.

“They basically looked at that phone and was like ‘Oh, that’s an Android? We don’t want this. I thought it was an iPhone,’” she said.

Leave the Android, take the cannoli.

Bending Spoons, the Parent Company That Now Owns – and Laid Off the Staff of – Filmic 

The Impassioned Moderate, a year ago:

News came out a few weeks ago that Bending Spoons, a consumer app studio, raised a massive $340 million round of financing. The press gushed about it: “Hollywood star, tech execs invest in Italian start-up Bending Spoons”, “Ryan Reynolds invests in ‘terrifying’ Italian start-up Bending”. And Ryan himself said things that are just so easy to imagine him saying (a testament to the spectacular job he’s done branding himself): “Their apps enable anyone to become a creative genius with minimum effort. In fact, their products terrify me so much, I had to invest.” (Ironically - or not? - his ad agency is called Maximum Effort…)

The problem? Bending Spoons is the one the most predatory actors on the entire App Store - they’re terrifying in a completely different way.

Bending Spoons’s business model is to buy successful apps, change them to a weekly auto-renewing subscription model that perhaps tricks users into signing up, and using the revenue to buy more apps and repeat the cycle. Filmic, for example, now defaults to a $3/week subscription — over $150/year. To be fair, there’s also a $40/year subscription.

It doesn’t seem like a scam, per se, but Bending Spoons doesn’t seem like a product-driven company. Apps seemingly don’t thrive after acquisition by Bending Spoons — instead, they get bled dry. There are some apps where a weekly subscription makes sense — Flighty comes to mind, for occasional travelers — but a camera app? Feels deceptive.

Bending Spoons is a big company with a lot of revenue that spends a lot of money on App Store and Play Store search ads. (Here’s Tim Cook visiting their office last year.)

Kino: Forthcoming Video Camera App for iPhone From the Makers of Halide 

The timing is surely coincidental with regard to the news about Filmic, but, as they say, fortune favors the prepared.

Filmic’s Entire Staff Laid Off by Parent Company Bending Spoons 

Jaron Schneider, reporting for PetaPixel:

Filmic, or FiLMiC as written by the brand, no longer has any dedicated staff as parent company Bending Spoons has laid off the entire team including the company’s founder and CEO, PetaPixel has learned. Considered for years as the best video capture application for mobile devices, the team behind Filmic Pro and presumably Filmic Firstlight — the company’s photo-focused app — has been let go. [...]

It is unclear what Bending Spoons intends to do with Filmic Pro or Filmic Firstlight, but there were early signs of trouble when the company’s most recent major update was last year. The most recent notable update to Filmic Pro came in October which brought support for Apple Log into the app, but there was no mention of the addition of external SSD support, odd considering that Filmic Pro had a strong track record for updating its platform to work with all of the new iPhone updates — especially those that are particularly important for video.

In Filmic’s absence, Blackmagic Design’s iOS app has become the most popular way to capture footage with the new iPhones and was used by Apple’s in-house team for the production of its Mac event on October 31.

Christina Warren, on Threads:

Hate this but I’m sadly not at all surprised. Filmic has an incredible product they were afraid to charge for and when they finally changed pricing models, it was too little too late and users rebelled. If they had been charging $100 a year or even upfront in 2015, I think they could have survived without selling to the Bending Spoons vultures. But now they’ve got a subscription app that isn’t actively improving and free competition from Black Magic who uses their apps as loss leaders. Hate it.

Filmic was featured by Apple in numerous iPhone keynotes and App Store promotions over the years — for a long stretch it was undeniably the premier “pro” video camera app for iPhones.

India Is Considering EU-Style Charger Rules That Would Block Older iPhones From Sale 

Aditya Kalra and Munsif Vengattil, reporting for Reuters from New Delhi:

India wants to implement a European Union rule that will require smartphones to have a universal USB-C charging port, and has been in talks with manufacturers about introducing the requirement in India by June 2025, six months after the deadline in the EU. While all manufacturers including Samsung have agreed to India’s plan, Apple is pushing back. [...]

In a closed-door Nov. 28 meeting chaired by India’s IT ministry, Apple asked officials to exempt existing iPhone models from the rules, warning it will otherwise struggle to meet production targets set under India’s production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, according to the meeting minutes seen by Reuters. [...]

In terms of market share, Apple accounts for 6% of India’s booming smartphone market, compared with just about 2% four years ago. Apple suppliers have expanded their facilities and make most iPhone 12, 13, 14 and 15 models in India for local sales and exports, Counterpoint Research estimates. Only iPhone 15 has the new universal charging port. Apple told Indian officials in the meeting that the “design of the earlier products cannot be changed,” the document showed.

Consumers in India’s price-conscious market prefer buying older models of iPhones which typically become cheaper with new launches, and India’s push for the common charger on older models could hit Apple’s targets, said Prabhu Ram, head of the Industry Intelligence Group at CyberMedia Research. “Apple’s fortunes in India have primarily been tied to older generation iPhones,” he said.

I was under the impression that the EU’s USB-C requirement will only apply to new devices, but maybe not? A plain reading of this EU press release suggests that all phones sold, starting in 2025, must have USB-C charging ports:

By the end of 2024, all mobile phones, tablets and cameras sold in the EU will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C charging port. From spring 2026, the obligation will extend to laptops.

That would mean, starting in January 2025, that the only iPhones available in the EU will be this year’s iPhones 15 and next year’s iPhones 16. A new fourth-generation iPhone SE with USB-C would give Apple a much-needed lower-priced model. The second-gen SE came in 2020; the current third-gen SE in 2022.

See also: Ben Lovejoy at 9to5Mac.

An AppleScript for Safari: Split Tabs to New Window 

I finally got around to scratching a longstanding itch. I’m an inveterate web browser tab hoarder, and a scenario I frequently encounter is wanting to move the most recent (typically, rightmost) tabs into a new window all by themselves. Let’s say, for example, I have 26 tabs open in the frontmost Safari window, A through Z. The current selected tab is X. This script will move tabs X, Y, and Z to a new window, leaving tabs A through W open in the old window. It starts with the current tab, and moves that tab and those to the right.

I have the script saved in my FastScripts scripts folder for Safari, but I tend to invoke it from LaunchBar (which I have configured to index my entire scripts folder hierarchy). Command-Space to bring up LaunchBar, type “spl” to select this script, hit Return, done.

Worth a warning though: “moving” tabs with this script doesn’t actually move them like drag-and-drop does. The tabs “moved” by this script will reload in the new window, so you’ll lose (a) the current scroll position, and, more dangerously, (b) any text you’ve entered in a text field in the web page.

I have no idea how many others might want this, but in recent years here at DF I’ve gotten away from sharing my occasional scripting hacks, and feel like I ought to get back to sharing them. Can’t let Dr. Drang have all the fun.

Update: Leon Cowle adapted my script to be more elegant and concise. If you’re using this but grabbed the script before 10:30pm ET, go back and re-grab it.

Second update, 1 March 2024: Via this Stack Overflow thread, the script now uses a remarkably elegant solution that’s effectively just 7 lines of code, with no loops.

iCloud Advanced Data Protection Uptake Amongst DF Readers 

Back in August I ran a poll on Mastodon, asking my followers if they have iCloud Advanced Data Protection enabled. iCloud Advanced Data Protection was announced two years ago this week, alongside support for security keys (e.g. Yubico). The results, from 2,304 responses:

  • Yes: 29%
  • No: 59%
  • No, but would if not for device(s) with old OSes: 12%

Count me in that last group. I’ve got a handful of old devices that I still use which can’t be updated to an OS version that supports the feature. But one of these days I’ll just sign out of iCloud on those devices and enable this.

As ever when I run polls like this, it should go without saying that the Daring Fireball audience is not representative of the general public. The results of this poll — with nearly 30 percent of responders having an esoteric security feature enabled — illustrate that.

‘The Lost Voice’ 

One of Apple’s latest accessibility features is Personal Voice — for people who are “at risk of voice loss or have a condition that can progressively impact your voice”, Personal Voice lets you create a voice that sounds like you.

The Lost Voice is a two-minute short film directed by Taika Waititi celebrating this feature. It’s a splendid, heartwarming film, and it’s especially remarkable to see so much effort, such remarkable production values and filmmaking talent, being applied to marketing a feature for a tiny fraction of Apple’s users. Most people do not need this feature. But for those who do, it seems life-altering. Genuinely profound.

Apple at its very best.

See also: Shelly Brisbin at Six Colors.

First Trailer for ‘Grand Theft Auto VI’ 

Three thoughts:

  • I did not expect to hear a Tom Petty song in a GTA trailer, but I love it. It works. (Hard to escape the feeling though that the Petty estate is willing to sell songs in ways Petty himself wouldn’t have.)

  • The game looks amazing.

  • “Coming 2025”! Holy smokes, this game has been in development for a decade. (GTA 5 came out in late 2013 and has sold 190 million copies and generated over $8 billion.)

Software Applications Incorporated 

You’ve probably seen Infinite Mac, the web-based emulator of classic Mac OS, before. But Software Inc. — a new company from some of the people behind Workflow, which became Shortcuts after acquisition by Apple — used it to create their company website, and it’s delightful.


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.

The Talk Show: ‘The Blurry Edge of Acceptable’ 

Nilay Patel returns to the show. Topics include the iPhones 15, journalism in the age of AI, and what it’s like to have Barack Obama on your podcast.

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Maybe It Was a Panoramic Photo 

Faruk Korkmaz posits a seemingly likely explanation for that “computational photography glitch in a bridal shop” photo: it was taken in Panoramic mode. The subject claims it wasn’t a Panoramic mode photo, but she didn’t snap the photo, and if a photo taken in Panoramic mode isn’t wide enough to reach some threshold, the Photos app does not identify/badge it as such. And conversely, a normal photograph cropped to a very wide aspect ratio will be badged as Panoramic — like this and this from my own library — even though it wasn’t snapped in Panoramic mode.

I think it’s quite likely Korkmaz is correct that this is the explanation for how this photo was created; I remain unconvinced that it wasn’t a deliberate publicity stunt.

‘Voice of a Star Wars Fan’ 

This is just an astonishing 20-minute film by Hiroshi Sumi. An homage and loving look back at the earliest days of Industrial Light and Magic. I don’t want to say much more than that lest I spoil the wonder of it. I don’t know why anyone would exert so much effort to make something like this but I’m so inordinately delighted that Sumi did. It speaks to the power of obsession.

After you watch it, take a look at this tweet from Sumi, and this prototype rendering from three years ago.

Just amazing. So much obvious love. (Via Todd Vaziri.)

CNBC Gets an Inside Look at an Apple Chip Lab 

Katie Tarasov, CNBC:

In November, CNBC visited Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California, the first journalists allowed to film inside one of the company’s chip labs. We got a rare chance to talk with the head of Apple silicon, Johny Srouji, about the company’s push into the complex business of custom semiconductor development, which is also being pursued by Amazon.

“We have thousands of engineers,” Srouji said. “But if you look at the portfolio of chips we do: very lean, actually. Very efficient.”

Can’t say there’s any news in this, but it’s neat to see inside the chip-testing lab. (Same video is available on YouTube, too, if that’s your jam.)

Amazon’s Fire TV Is Adding Full-Screen Video Ads That Play When You Start Your Fire TV 

Luke Bouma, writing for Cord Cutters:

Today, Cord Cutters News has confirmed that Amazon is adding full-screen video ads that will play when you start your Fire TV unless you quickly perform an action on it.

This new update will be rolling out to all Fire TVs made in 2016 or newer. With this update, the ad at the top of your Fire TV will now start playing full-screen, often promoting a movie or TV show. By hitting the home button, you can quickly exit the ad or if you quickly perform an action on the Fire TV once it finishes, you will avoid the video ad, but you only have a few seconds.

“Our focus is on delivering an immersive experience so customers can enjoy their favorite TV shows and movies, as well as browse and discover more content they’ll want to watch. We’re always working to make the Fire TV experience better for customers and have updated one of the prominent placements in the UI to play a short content preview if no other action is taken by a customer upon turning on their Fire TV.” Amazon said in a statement to Cord Cutters News.

What a load of horseshit from Amazon in that statement. Autoplaying ads aren’t “immersive”. And this is in no way “working to make the Fire TV experience better for customers”. Working to make things better would mean getting rid of shit like this, not adding it.

I really don’t understand how anyone uses anything but an Apple TV box. Apple TV is far from perfect but holy hell, it really does start from the perspective of respecting you, the user. The people at Apple who make it are obviously trying to create the experience that they themselves want when they’re watching TV at home.

Calling ‘Fake’ on the ‘iPhone Computational Photography Glitch in a Bridal Shop’ Viral Photo 

Wesley Hillard, self-described “Rumor Expert”, writing at AppleInsider:

A U.K. comedian and actor named Tessa Coates was trying on wedding dresses when a shocking photo of her was taken, according to her Instagram post shared by PetaPixel. The photo shows Coates in a dress in front of two mirrors, but each of the three versions of her had a different pose.

One mirror showed her with her arms down, the other mirror showed her hands joined at her waist, and her real self was standing with her left arm at her side. To anyone who doesn’t know better, this could prove to be quite a shocking image.

To the contrary, to anyone who “knows better”, this image clearly seems fake. But it’s a viral sensation:

Coates, in her Instagram description, claims “This is a real photo, not photoshopped, not a pano, not a Live Photo”, but I’m willing to say she’s either lying or wrong about how the photo was taken. Doing so feels slightly uncomfortable, given that the post was meant to celebrate her engagement, but I just don’t buy it. These are three entirely different arm poses, not three moments in time fractions of a second apart — and all three poses in the image are perfectly sharp. iPhone photography just doesn’t work in a way that would produce this image. I’d feel less certain this was a fake if there were motion blur in the arms in the mirrors. You can get very weird-looking photos from an iPhone’s Pano mode, but again, Coates states this is not a Pano mode image. (Perhaps you can generate an image like this using a Google Pixel 8’s Best Take feature, but this is purportedly from an iPhone, which doesn’t have a feature like that. And even with Best Take, that’s a feature you invoke manually, using multiple original images as input. I don’t think any phone camera, let alone an iPhone, produces single still images such as this.)

In a thread on Threads, where several commenters are rightfully skeptical:

  • Tyler Stalman (who hosts a great podcast on photography and videography):

    Any iPhone photographer can confirm that this is not an image processing error, it would never look like this.

  • David Imel (a writer/researcher for MKBHD):

    I really, REALLY do not think this is a real image. HDR on phones takes 5-7 frames with split-second exposure times. Whole process like .05 sec. Even a live photo is < 2 seconds.

    Even if the phone thought they were diff people it wouldn’t stitch like this and wouldn’t have time.

    This is spreading everywhere and it’s driving me insane.

I challenge anyone who thinks this is legit to produce such an image using an iPhone with even a single mirror in the scene, let alone two. If I’m wrong, let me know.

Update 1: Claude Zeins takes me up on my challenge.

Update 2: In a long-winded story post, Coates says she went to an Apple Store for an explanation and was told by Roger, the “grand high wizard” of Geniuses at the store, that Apple is “beta testing” a feature like Google’s Best Take. Which is not something Apple does, and if they did do, would require her to have knowingly installed an iOS beta.

Update 3: Best theory to date: it was, despite Coates’s claim to the contrary, taken in Panoramic mode.