Linked List: April 2024

The Talk Show: ‘I Decapitated the MacBook Air’ 

Federico Viticci returns to the show to discuss MacStories’s 15th anniversary, Apple’s upcoming “Let Loose” keynote for new iPad hardware, and more.

Sponsored by:

  • The world’s best snacks, delivered fast and fresh.
  • Trade Coffee: The best coffee is made at home. Enjoy a free bag of roasted-to-order coffee and $15 off select plans when you join Trade.
  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Use code talkshow for 10% off your first order.
Google Security Blog: ‘How We Fought Bad Apps and Bad Actors in 2023’ 

Google Security Blog:

In 2023, we prevented 2.28 million policy-violating apps from being published on Google Play in part thanks to our investment in new and improved security features, policy updates, and advanced machine learning and app review processes. We have also strengthened our developer onboarding and review processes, requiring more identity information when developers first establish their Play accounts. Together with investments in our review tooling and processes, we identified bad actors and fraud rings more effectively and banned 333K bad accounts from Play for violations like confirmed malware and repeated severe policy violations.

Additionally, almost 200K app submissions were rejected or remediated to ensure proper use of sensitive permissions such as background location or SMS access.

App stores are just greedy monopolies, am I right?

European Commission Designates iPadOS a DMA ‘Gatekeeping’ Platform Too 

European Commission press release (italics added):

On 5 September 2023, the Commission designated Apple as a gatekeeper for its operating system iOS, its browser Safari and its App Store. On the same day, the Commission opened a market investigation to assess whether Apple’s iPadOS, despite not meeting the quantitative thresholds laid down in the DMA, constitutes an important gateway for business users to reach end users and therefore should be designated as a gatekeeper.

The rules are what the EC commissioners decide they are, not what the DMA says. Among their reasons cited:

  • End users are locked-in to iPadOS. Apple leverages its large ecosystem to disincentivise end users from switching to other operating systems for tablets.

  • Business users are locked-in to iPadOS because of its large and commercially attractive user base, and its importance for certain use cases, such as gaming apps.

The “lock-in” is basically just features exclusive to Apple’s own platforms. I’m not even sure how Apple could possibly create a platform without “lock-in”.

On the other hand, iPadOS is clearly more of a marketing distinction than a technical one. It’s iOS under the hood, so I doubt it’ll be much trouble for Apple to apply its DMA compliance features from iOS to iPadOS. I would have been surprised if the EC had not decided to designate iPadOS a “gatekeeping” platform, and I’m guessing Apple itself is unsurprised as well.


My thanks to WorkOS for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. WorkOS is a modern identity platform for B2B SaaS, supporting SSO, SCIM, user management, and RBAC.

Recently, WorkOS acquired Warrant, the Fine Grained Authorization (FGA) service for developers. Warrant’s product is based on Zanzibar, the open source authorization system originally designed by Google to power Google Docs and YouTube. This enables fast authorization checks at enormous scale while maintaining a flexible model that can be adapted to even the most complex use cases.

WorkOS is already used by hundreds of high-growth startups like Vercel, Webflow, Plaid, and Perplexity.

If you are looking to build enterprise features like SSO, SCIM, or RBAC, consider WorkOS. It’s a drop-in replacement for Auth0 and supports up to 1 million monthly active users for free.

M4 Chips in New iPad Pros? 

Mark Gurman, in his Power On column for Bloomberg:

Earlier this month, I broke the news that Apple is accelerating its computer processor upgrades and plans to release the M4 chip later this year alongside new iMacs, MacBook Pros and Mac minis. The big change with the M4: A new neural engine will pave the way for fresh AI capabilities. Now here’s another development. This year’s Macs may not be the only AI-driven devices with M4 chips.

I’m hearing there is a strong possibility that the chip in the new iPad Pro will be the M4, not the M3. Better yet, I believe Apple will position the tablet as its first truly AI-powered device — and that it will tout each new product from then on as an AI device. This, of course, is all in response to the AI craze that has swept the tech industry over the last couple years.

This would be a delightful surprise, but I have to say this makes no sense to me, especially given that in the very same column Gurman reiterates that Apple originally hoped to unveil these new iPads in March. The M3 generation of chips only debuted in November. The M3 MacBook Airs only debuted in March, when, according to Gurman, Apple had hoped to ship these iPads. How does that make any sense?

I have no doubt that Apple is poised to promote a slew of “AI” features across its platforms. But is the message at WWDC going to be that this year’s OS releases will bring new AI-powered features to all Apple devices — existing and new — or only to brand-new devices? Gurman is saying it’s the latter, but what are these “fresh AI capabilities” that require an M4, rather than just run a little faster on an M4?

Also, while Apple’s M-series chips have not yet settled into any sort of predictable pattern — as I wrote last week — Apple silicon has been on a very predictable annual schedule since 2011 or so. That’s when the iPhone 4S shipped, with the A5 chip, and new generations of A-series chips have appeared in September or October every single year since. Every generation of M-series chip has been developed alongside a corresponding generation of A-series chips. The M3 chips are the M-series siblings of the A17 Pro. The M4 generation chips, presumably, are siblings to the A18, which we presumably won’t see until the iPhones 16 launch in September.

Even putting aside the rumor — from Gurman himself! — that these new iPads were originally slated for March, it just seems highly unlikely that M4 chips are ready to go in May, just 6 months after the M3 debuted and 8 months after the A17 Pro. And it just doesn’t make sense that Apple would put them in iPad Pros first when they just launched MacBook Airs with the M3. It makes sense for the iPhone to get the first crack at each new generation of Apple silicon, because the iPhone is the most popular line of computers ever made. It makes sense of the Mac to get new M-series generations shortly after new iPhones, because the Mac is Apple’s workstation platform. It makes little sense for a new generation of Apple silicon to debut in iPads.

M4 iPads next week feel about as realistic as those flat-sided Series 7 Apple Watches that Gurman reported three years ago. So I’d bet money against this. In some sense it’s a can’t-lose bet — either I’m right and these iPad Pros will have M3 chips, or Apple’s silicon game is racing far ahead of what I considered possible, which would be rather amazing. Am I nuts or is no one else even skeptical about this?

David Heinemeier Hansson on the Framework 13 Laptop 

Speaking of fascinating perspectives, here’s David Heinemeier Hansson, who recently switched from Mac, on the Framework 13 laptop:

Those are all the good parts, but there are plenty of drawbacks too. Compared to a modern MacBook, the battery is inferior. I got 6 hours in mixed use yesterday. The screen is only barely adequate to run at retina-like 2× for smooth looking fonts. Linux is far less polished than macOS. But somehow it just doesn’t really matter.

First of all, 6 hours is enough for regular use. If I’m doing more than that in a single stint without getting up, I’ll be paying for it physically anyway. And the somewhat cramped resolution has made me fall in love with full-screen apps again, like I used to do with that 11” MacBook Air.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the Mac-vs.-Wintel rivalry was the tech rivalry. Other rivalries came and went — like Netscape-vs.-IE, Word-vs.-WordPerfect, Quark-vs.-Pagemaker, C-vs.-Pascal — but the main event was always Mac-vs.-Wintel. When the smartphone revolution occurred that rivalry was eclipsed by iPhone-vs.-Android. But it’s still there.

I’m fascinated following DHH’s switching saga. And my personal devotion to and reliance upon MacOS is such that, if the best-available MacOS-running laptop I could find got me only 6 hours of battery life, I’d accept it. I certainly remember getting less than 6 hours of battery life with a PowerBook. I specifically remember when it was dicey whether you could get through a coast-to-coast flight using a fully-charged Mac laptop. I lived. But nowadays, I wouldn’t fret boarding a coast-to-coast flight with my MacBook Pro only half-charged.

Apple silicon has spoiled me. I don’t even turn the display brightness down when running my MacBook Pro on battery power. I literally just don’t worry about it. It’s like two competing alternative universes when it comes to performance-per-watt. Presumably that’s what Microsoft seeks to change with Windows-on-ARM and these imminent new Surface laptops based on new chips from Qualcomm.

Paul Thurrott Reviews the 15-Inch M3 MacBook Air 

Paul Thurrott, writing at his eponymous website:

Ultimately, I concluded that this isn’t just about looks, though that obviously plays a role. Instead, it’s a sum of its attributes, the total package. It’s the feeling of incredible lightness, given its size, when I pick it up to move to another room. The way it can sit on a bed or other soft surface and never get too hot or fire up some loud fans that aren’t even necessary or present in this device. How the battery just lasts and lasts and lasts, and makes a mockery of other companies’ “all-day battery life” claims.

It’s the little things, like effortlessly opening the lid with one finger and seeing the display fire up instantly every single time. Or the combination of these daily successes, the sharp contrast with the unpredictable experience that I get with every Windows laptop I use, experiences that are so regular in their unpredictableness, so unavoidable, that I’ve almost stopped thinking about them. Until now, of course. The attention to detail and consistency I see in the MacBook Air is so foreign to the Windows ecosystem that it feels like science fiction. But having now experienced it, my expectations are elevated.

I want to be clear about this. There is nothing like this in the PC space. Any laptop that’s configured such that it can handle workstation-class workloads will fire up jet engine-class fans for the duration, while any laptop that gets decent battery life and is reasonably quiet is incapable of those higher-end workloads. The MacBook Air does it all, in silence, without breaking a sweat. And it does so all day long on battery power.

Fascinating perspective. Spot-on review.

Local Note: ‘McGillin’s Bartender John Doyle Marks 50 Years at Philly’s Oldest Bar’ 

Stephanie Farr, writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer (News+):

But his big break came when the downstairs bartender broke a bottle over an unruly customer’s head (the patron had reached behind the bar to serve himself). Doyle had to cover the bar when his coworker was hauled out by police in handcuffs.

And that’s how Doyle, 79, a married father of two and grandfather of four, came to be the longest-serving bartender at Philly’s oldest-operating bar. This month marks 50 years for Doyle at McGillin’s, which opened on Drury Street near 13th in 1860, and in true Philly fashion, the bar is throwing a yearlong party in his honor.

If you ever visit McGillin’s — and you should if you can — their exclusive McGillin’s 1860 IPA is the beer to order. Good food too. Back when I was in college they had some sort of ridiculous Friday night wings special — 100 wings for $10? — that never ceased to seem too good to be true.

Joanna Stern Rigs a Drone to Drop-Test Phones From 300 Feet 

Long story short, if your phone drops out of a plane, hope that it lands on grass.

Widespread Problem Has Locked Many Out of Their Apple IDs 

Chance Miller, reporting for 9to5Mac:

There appears to be an increasingly widespread Apple ID outage of some sort impacting users tonight. A number of people on social media say that they were logged out of their Apple ID across multiple devices on Friday evening and forced to reset their password before logging back in…

We received our first tip about this around 8 p.m. ET. In the hours since then, the problem has gained significant traction on social media.

Apple’s System Status webpage doesn’t indicate that any of its services are having issues this evening. Still, it’s clear based on social media reports that something wonky is going on behind the scenes at Apple. A few of us here at 9to5Mac have also been directly affected by the problem.

Apple’s separate Developer System Status dashboard lists “Account” as having undergone maintenance and also having additional maintenance scheduled for later today. Apple ought to provide an explanation for exactly what’s gone wrong here, but has not yet.

The lockout hit Michael Tsai (again) and he copiously documented the entire experience, including being required to wait an hour before setting a new password because he has Stolen Device Protection enabled — despite the fact that he was at home, which is supposed to be a trusted location.

I just checked on my own iPhone, and the only two “Significant Locations” listed in Settings → Privacy & Security → Location Services → System Services → Significant Locations are “Work” and my favorite (and truly oft-visited) grocery store. But the “Work” location is centered three entire city blocks (~0.2 miles) from my home, which leaves my home just outside the radius that counts as that location. Luckily I wasn’t hit by this account lockout, but this also reassures me that I’m right to not yet have enabled Stolen Device Protection.

Microsoft Open Sources MS-DOS 4.0 

Scott Hanselman and Jeff Wilcox, on Microsoft’s Open Source Blog:

Ten years ago, Microsoft released the source for MS-DOS 1.25 and 2.0 to the Computer History Museum, and then later republished them for reference purposes. This code holds an important place in history and is a fascinating read of an operating system that was written entirely in 8086 assembly code nearly 45 years ago.

Today, in partnership with IBM and in the spirit of open innovation, we’re releasing the source code to MS-DOS 4.00 under the MIT license. There’s a somewhat complex and fascinating history behind the 4.0 versions of DOS, as Microsoft partnered with IBM for portions of the code but also created a branch of DOS called Multitasking DOS that did not see a wide release.

I am reminded once again that I somehow managed to get a computer science degree despite being utterly baffled by assembly code.

Brian Heater on the Rabbit R1 Launch Event 

Brian Heater, writing for TechCrunch:

If there’s one overarching takeaway from last night’s Rabbit R1 launch event, it’s this: Hardware can be fun again. After a decade of unquestioned smartphone dominance, there is, once again, excitement to be found in consumer electronics. The wisdom and longevity of any individual product or form factor — while important — can be set aside for a moment. Just sit back and enjoy the show.

I ordered one back on January 9, but still haven’t even gotten a shipping notice. But a slew of people have theirs already. Some first-look videos I enjoyed:

Horse : Carriage :: Content : Ads 

While I’m on a follow-up kick today, my item yesterday regarding Ed Zitron’s compelling essay on the corruption of Google Search quality by putting it in the hands of Prabhakar Raghavan, formerly head of ads at Google, reminded me of this oft-cited quote from Walt Disney:

We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.

Can’t say it better than that.

More on Keycap Shine 

Another follow-up post, this one regarding my post yesterday regarding how “greasy”-looking keyboard keys are not, in fact, in need of cleaning, but instead are worn away because they’re made from soft ABS plastic, not hard PBT plastic. DF reader Brian Barefoot Burns wrote me:

Hey, John. Even on keyboards made with PBT key caps, the space bars are usually still made with ABS. The reason is that PBT shrinks more than ABS does during the manufacturing process. For the smaller key caps, this shrinkage can be managed, but it’s so significant on large keys like the spacebar, that even the IBM Model M and similar keyboards that used PBT still had ABS spacebars.

That explains both the visible erosion and yellowing of the space bars on my Apple Extended Keyboard II’s.

Also, there was a discussion on ATP episode 562 back in November about keycap wear, and one of their listeners pointed out that ABS can be made transparent to let backlighting shine through, but PBT cannot. You can make PBT keycaps with clear (ABS-filled) cut-outs for the letters, but that would undoubtedly add cost and complexity. My beloved Apple Extended Keyboard II has no backlighting at all. It’s quite possible that this entirely explains why Apple sticks with ABS despite the shiny-when-worn factor.

It’s also the case that some people’s natural skin oil wears away ABS plastic more than others. That same ATP episode’s show notes link to this extreme (and extremely gross) example. Jiminy. (Poor U, the least-typed vowel.)

Dumbphones in 2024 

Kyle Chayka, writing for The New Yorker:

Two years ago, they both tried Apple’s Screen Time restriction tool and found it too easy to disable, so the pair decided to trade out their iPhones for more low-tech devices. They’d heard about so-called dumbphones, which lacked the kinds of bells and whistles — a high-resolution screen, an app store, a video camera — that made smartphones so addictive. But they found the process of acquiring one hard to navigate. “The information on it was kind of disparate and hard to get to. A lot of people who know the most about dumbphones spend the least time online,” Krigbaum said. A certain irony presented itself: figuring out a way to be less online required aggressive online digging.

The couple — Stults is twenty-nine, and Krigbaum is twenty-five — saw a business opportunity. “If somebody could condense it and simplify it to the best options, maybe more people would make the switch,” Krigbaum said. In late 2022, they launched an e-commerce company, Dumbwireless, to sell phones, data plans, and accessories for people who want to reduce time spent on their screens.

Chayka’s story ran under the bold headline “The Dumbphone Boom Is Real”, which is incongruously clickbait-y for The New Yorker:

Stults takes business calls on his personal cell, and on one recent morning the first call came at 5 a.m. (As the lead on customer service, he has to use a smartphone — go figure.) They pack each order by hand, sometimes with handwritten notes. They have not yet quit their day jobs, which are in the service industry, but Dumbwireless sold more than seventy thousand dollars’ worth of products last month, ten times more than in March, 2023. Krigbaum and Stults noticed an acceleration in sales last October, which they speculate may have had something to do with the onslaught of holiday-shopping season. Some of their popular phone offerings include the Light Phone, an e-ink device with almost no apps; the Nokia 2780, a traditional flip phone; and the Punkt., a calculator-ish Swiss device that looks like something designed for Neo to carry in “The Matrix” (which, to be fair, is a movie of the dumbphone era).

$70K/month in sales is legit, but far from a boom.

The two things that get me when I ponder, even for a moment, carrying a dumbphone: audio (podcasts/music) and camera. Pre-iPhone I’d leave the house with both a phone and an iPod, and sometimes a camera too. I actually just bought a new pocket-sized camera last year, but it seems ludicrous to even consider carrying a dedicated device just for audio, and with music streaming, people expect their portable audio player to have always-available networking. Also: AirPods. I’m not going back to wired earbuds, especially in the winter.

Absolutely scathing dissection of what’s gone wrong at Google Search, by Ed Zitron for his newsletter/blog:

In an interview with FastCompany’s Harry McCracken from 2018, Gomes framed Google’s challenge as “taking [the PageRank algorithm] from one machine to a whole bunch of machines, and they weren’t very good machines at the time.” Despite his impact and tenure, Gomes had only been made Head of Search in the middle of 2018 after John Giannandrea moved to Apple to work on its machine learning and AI strategy. Gomes had been described as Google’s “search czar,” beloved for his ability to communicate across departments.

Every single article I’ve read about Gomes’ tenure at Google spoke of a man deeply ingrained in the foundation of one of the most important technologies ever made, who had dedicated decades to maintaining a product with a — to quote Gomes himself — “guiding light of serving the user and using technology to do that.” And when finally given the keys to the kingdom — the ability to elevate Google Search even further — he was ratfucked by a series of rotten careerists trying to please Wall Street, led by Prabhakar Raghavan.

Do you want to know what Prabhakar Raghavan’s old job was? What Prabhakar Raghavan, the new head of Google Search, the guy that has run Google Search into the ground, the guy who is currently destroying search, did before his job at Google?

He was the head of search for Yahoo from 2005 through 2012 — a tumultuous period that cemented its terminal decline, and effectively saw the company bow out of the search market altogether. His responsibilities? Research and development for Yahoo’s search and ads products.

Long story short, Ben Gomes was a search guy who’d been at Google since 1999, before they even had any ads in search results. He was replaced by Prabhakar Raghavan, who previously was Head of Ads at the company. So instead of there being any sort of firewall between search and ads, search became a subsidiary of ads.

Zitron’s compelling narrative is largely gleaned through emails released as part of the DOJ’s antitrust case against Google. Is the story really that simple? That around 2019 or so Google Search’s institutional priorities flipped from quality-first/revenue-second, to revenue-first/quality-second? It might be more complicated than that, but the timeline sure does add up.

And as a truism this feels right: if content reports to ads, content will go to hell. Publications, TV networks, operating systems, search engines — no matter the medium, you can’t let the advertising sales inmates run the asylum.

Why Your Most-Used Keyboard Keys Get Shiny 

Jeff Gamet on Mastodon:

Know why you can’t clean the greasy spots off your compute keyboard? Because that isn’t grease. Lots of computer keys are made from ABS plastic, which is soft and cheaper than PBT plastic. Those shiny spots are where you polished the keys by typing.

I’m at least somewhat of a keyboard nerd, but somehow I only learned this a few years ago. The way worn-down ABS keycaps looks greasy, even though they’re not, reminds me of how snakes look wet, even though they’re not.

Over the last 30 years I’ve primarily used two Apple Extended Keyboard II’s at my desk (the “e” key’s switch died on my first one in 2006) and the only key that’s gotten a tad shiny on either of them is the space bar, where my right thumb hits it. You can literally see how the space bar eroded on the one I used from 1992–2006, which, not coincidentally, was a time when I played a lot of games on my Mac. The Extended Keyboard II I’ve been using since 2006 — which I’m using to type this sentence — shows some shine on the space bar, but no erosion.

Those old keycaps clearly weren’t made from cheap ABS plastic. But in recent decades, Apple’s keyboard keycaps have been made from ABS plastic (or, at least, some sort of plastic that develops a greasy-looking shine through use). I’d love to see Apple fix this problem. Apple’s just not known for cheaping out on materials.

Update: Follow-up post.

Senate Passes Bill to Force Sale of TikTok 

Cristiano Lima-Strong, reporting for The Washington Post:

Congress late Tuesday passed legislation to ban or force a sale of TikTok, delivering a historic rebuke of the video-sharing platform’s Chinese ownership after years of failed attempts to tackle the app’s alleged national security risks.

The Senate approved the measure 79 to 18 as part of a sprawling package offering aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, sending the proposal to President Biden’s desk — with the House having passed it Saturday. Biden issued a statement minutes after the Senate vote saying he plans to sign the bill into law on Wednesday.

Once signed, the provision will give TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, roughly nine months to sell the wildly popular app or face a national ban, a deadline the president could extend by 90 days.


Apple Renews ‘For All Mankind’ and Announces New Spinoff Series ‘Star City’ 

Apple Newsroom:

Following its critically acclaimed fourth season, which has been praised as “the best-written show on all of television” and “superior sci-fi,” Apple TV+’s hit, award-winning space drama series “For All Mankind” has landed a renewal for season five. Additionally, Apple TV+ and “For All Mankind” creators Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi will expand the “For All Mankind” universe with a brand-new spinoff series, “Star City,” which will be showrun by Nedivi and Wolpert. [...]

A robust expansion of the “For All Mankind” universe, “Star City” is a propulsive, paranoid thriller that takes us back to the key moment in the alt-history retelling of the space race — when the Soviet Union became the first nation to put a man on the moon. But this time, we explore the story from behind the Iron Curtain, showing the lives of the cosmonauts, the engineers and the intelligence officers embedded among them in the Soviet space program, and the risks they all took to propel humanity forward.

I can’t think of another show quite like For All Mankind. For one thing, there just aren’t many “alternate history” shows or movies, even though I tend to think it’s a great genre — a way to ground fantastic inventions with familiar elements. But the biggest distinction is the way For All Mankind has decade-long gaps in the timeline between seasons. We’ve seen some characters age 30+ years over just four seasons.

Bertrand Serlet: ‘Why LLMs Work’ 

Bertrand Serlet — who was Apple’s SVP of software engineering from 2003–2011 and a staple during WWDC keynotes during that era — is now a YouTuber. Great 30-minute lecture explaining how LLMs and AI in general actually work.

FTC Announces Rule Banning Noncompetes 

The FTC:

Today, the Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule to promote competition by banning noncompetes nationwide, protecting the fundamental freedom of workers to change jobs, increasing innovation, and fostering new business formation.

“Noncompete clauses keep wages low, suppress new ideas, and rob the American economy of dynamism, including from the more than 8,500 new startups that would be created a year once noncompetes are banned,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “The FTC’s final rule to ban noncompetes will ensure Americans have the freedom to pursue a new job, start a new business, or bring a new idea to market.”

As I wrote a year ago, I used to think that noncompete agreements (“agreements”?) were mainly a thing in the tech industry. But their use became so rampant that even sandwich shop chains were requiring them.

NASA Engineers Successfully Debugged Voyager 1 From a Light-Day Away 

Happy ending to this saga. Remarkable engineering.

Charles Edge Dies 

Adam Engst, writing at TidBITS:

This one is way too close to home. News started to spread this morning on the MacAdmins Slack, Rich Trouton’s Der Flounder blog, and Tom Bridge’s site about how our friend and Take Control author Charles Edge died suddenly and unexpectedly on 19 April 2024. He was in his late 40s, and yes, his standard bio picture below gives you a feel for his sense of humor and irreverence.

Tom Bridge:

I don’t know what we’ll do without him.

But I can tell you how I’ll remember him, always. Charles always had a kind word for people. He always would take your call. He was the kind of friend who’d drop everything to help you, or to see if he could connect you to someone that could if he couldn’t.

I will miss his levity, his wisdom, his inescapable drive for knowledge, his passion for his friends and family, and his humbleness.

The MacAdmins Podcast has a nice In Memorium page, collecting a slew of other remembrances. Nothing but good thoughts to all of his friends and family.

Inside TSMC’s Expansion Struggles in Arizona 

Viola Zhou, reporting for Rest of World on TSMC’s massive, but now much-delayed, chip fabrication campus outside Phoenix:

The American engineers complained of rigid, counterproductive hierarchies at the company; Taiwanese TSMC veterans described their American counterparts as lacking the kind of dedication and obedience they believe to be the foundation of their company’s world-leading success.

Some 2,200 employees now work at TSMC’s Arizona plant, with about half of them deployed from Taiwan. While tension at the plant simmers, TSMC has been ramping up its investments, recently securing billions of dollars in grants and loans from the U.S. government. Whether or not the plant succeeds in making cutting-edge chips with the same speed, efficiency, and profitability as facilities in Asia remains to be seen, with many skeptical about a U.S. workforce under TSMC’s army-like command system. “[The company] tried to make Arizona Taiwanese,” G. Dan Hutcheson, a semiconductor industry analyst at the research firm TechInsights, told Rest of World. “And it’s just not going to work.” [...]

TSMC’s work culture is notoriously rigorous, even by Taiwanese standards. Former executives have hailed the Confucian culture, which promotes diligence and respect for authority, as well as Taiwan’s strict work ethic as key to the company’s success. Chang, speaking last year about Taiwan’s competitiveness compared to the U.S., said that “if [a machine] breaks down at one in the morning, in the U.S. it will be fixed in the next morning. But in Taiwan, it will be fixed at 2 a.m.” And, he added, the wife of a Taiwanese engineer would “go back to sleep without saying another word.”

Even the use of wife rather than spouse speaks to the culture clash.

Sonar Is Now Taska 

Made by Windmill recently launched a fantastic Mac App for GitHub and GitLab issues. When it launched two months ago (and sponsored DF), it was named Sonar. They’ve changed the name to Taska, but it’s the same great app from the same great team. As I wrote when thanking them (now with the new name):

Taska combines the lightweight UI of a to-do app with the power of enterprise-level issue tracking, all in a native app built by long-time Mac nerds. The interface is deceptively simple, and very intuitive. Fast and fluid too. Everything that’s great about native Mac apps is exemplified by Taska. If you’ve ever thought, “Man, if only Apple made a native GitHub client...”, you should run, not walk, to download it.

Taska saves all your changes directly to GitHub/GitLab using their official APIs, so your data remains secure on GitHub’s servers — not Taska’s. Do you have team members not using Taska? No problem. Changes you make in Taska are 100% compatible with the web UI.

Free to try for 14 days — no subscriptions or purchases required. Taska remains my favorite new Mac app of the year. As stated above, Made by Windmill sponsored DF back in February, but this post today isn’t sponsored. I just like Taska so much that I want everyone to hear about the name change.

Apple Announces ‘Let Loose’ Event on May 7, Presumably to Announce New iPad Lineup 

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Apple has announced it will be holding a special event on Tuesday, May 7 at 7 a.m. Pacific Time (10 a.m. Eastern Time), with a live stream to be available on and on YouTube as usual. The event invitation has a tagline of “Let Loose” and shows an artistic render of an Apple Pencil, suggesting that iPads will be a focus of the event.

Tim Cook, on Twitter/X:

Pencil us in for May 7! ✏️ #AppleEvent

The entirety of the iPad lineup is due for updates, and the rumor mill expects a new model, a 13-inch-ish iPad Air. It seems clear a new Apple Pencil is forthcoming. The Pencil 2 launched in 2018, alongside the 3rd-gen iPads Pro, which sport A12X chips that benchmark comparably to the then-fastest MacBook Pros available. Those were fantastic iPads that foretold the Apple silicon revolution. My personal iPad remains a 2018 11-inch iPad Pro.

Also rumored: a new Magic Keyboard, with a more MacBook-like (and hopefully more durable) aluminum body and a larger trackpad. The current Magic Keyboards are now four years old. Apple might be settling all iPad family business in two weeks.

What I hope to see:

  • New Pencil and new Magic Keyboards (11- and 13-inch) that work with all new iPads, Air and Pro alike. The Pencil compatibility situation has been a mess the last few years; now is the time to clean that up with a Pencil 3 that works across all new iPads.
  • All new iPads with the front-facing camera on the long side, optimized for use in landscape/laptop orientation.
  • Face ID replacing top-button Touch ID in the iPad Airs.

Why they’re showing the video at 7am PT / 10am ET, I don’t know. (Glad I’ll be on the East Coast though.)

‘The Apple Jonathan: A Very 1980s Concept Computer That Never Shipped’ 

Stephen Hackett, writing at 512 Pixels:

The backbone of the system would need to accept modules from Apple and other companies, letting users build what they needed in terms of functionality, as D’Agostino writes:

(Fitch) designed a simple hardware “backbone” carrying basic operations and I/O on which the user could add a series of “book” modules, carrying hardware for running Apple II, Mac, UNIX and DOS software, plus other modules with disk drives or networking capabilities.

This meant that every user could have their own unique Jonathan setup, pulling together various software platforms, storage devices, and hardware capabilities into their own personalized system. Imagining what would have been required for all this to work together gives me a headache. In addition to the shared backbone interface, there would need to be software written to make an almost-endless number of configurations work smoothly for the most demanding of users. It was all very ambitions, but perhaps a little too far-fetched.

I’d go further than “never shipped” and describe this is a concept that never could have shipped. It was a pipe dream. The concepts sure did look cool though.

Meta to Start Licensing Quest’s Horizon OS to Third-Party OEMs 

Alex Heath, The Verge:

Meta has started licensing the operating system for its Quest headset to other hardware makers, starting with Lenovo and Asus. It’s also making a limited-run, gaming-focused Quest with Xbox.

On the theme of opening up, Meta is also pushing for more ways to discover alternative app stores. It’s making its experimental App Lab store more prominent and even inviting Google to bring the Play Store to its operating system, which is now called Horizon OS. In a blog post, Meta additionally said that it’s working on a spatial framework for developers to more easily port their mobile apps to Horizon OS. [...]

Zuckerberg has been clear that he wants his company to be a more open platform than Apple’s. Here, he’s firmly positioning Meta’s Horizon OS as the Android alternative to Apple’s Vision Pro. Given how Android was more of a reaction to the iPhone, an analogy he’d probably prefer is how Microsoft built the early PC market by licensing Windows.

It definitely seems more like Windows than Android — there’s no word that Horizon OS is going open source. But we have an answer regarding what Zuckerberg meant when he positioned the Quest platform — now the Horizon OS platform, I suppose — as the “open” alternative to Apple’s VisionOS.

‘LLM in a Flash: Efficient Large Language Model Inference With Limited Memory’ (PDF) 

Re: my previous item on LLMs being RAM-hungry while iPhones are relatively low on RAM, this certainly isn’t news to Apple. Back in December, a team of eight researchers from Apple published this paper, which states in its abstract:

This paper tackles the challenge of efficiently running LLMs that exceed the available DRAM capacity by storing the model parameters in flash memory, but bringing them on demand to DRAM. Our method involves constructing an inference cost model that takes into account the characteristics of flash memory, guiding us to optimize in two critical areas: reducing the volume of data transferred from flash and reading data in larger, more contiguous chunks. Within this hardware-informed framework, we introduce two principal techniques. First, “windowing” strategically reduces data transfer by reusing previously activated neurons, and second, “row-column bundling”, tailored to the sequential data access strengths of flash memory, increases the size of data chunks read from flash memory. These methods collectively enable running models up to twice the size of the available DRAM, with a 4-5× and 20-25× increase in inference speed compared to naive loading approaches in CPU and GPU, respectively. Our integration of sparsity awareness, context-adaptive loading, and a hardware-oriented design paves the way for effective inference of LLMs on devices with limited memory.

On-Device AI Craves RAM 

Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica on a purported leak of a trio of Pixel 9 phones:

Rozetked says (through translation) that the phone is “similar in size to the iPhone 15 Pro.” It runs a Tensor G4 SoC, of course, and — here’s a noteworthy spec — has a whopping 16GB of RAM according to the bootloader screen. The Pixel 8 Pro tops out at 12GB.

Anything could change between prototype and product, especially for RAM, which is usually scaled up and down in various phone tiers. A jump in RAM is something we were expecting though. As part of Google’s new AI-focused era, it wants generative AI models turned on 24/7 for some use cases. Google said as much in a recent in-house podcast, pointing to some features like a new version of Smart Reply built right into the keyboard, which “requires the models to be RAM-resident” — in other words, loaded all the time. Google’s desire to keep generative AI models in memory means less RAM for your operating system to actually do operating system things, and one solution to that is to just add more RAM. So how much RAM is enough? At one point Google said the smaller Pixel 8’s 8GB of RAM was too much of a “hardware limitation” for this approach. Google PR also recently told us the company still hasn’t enabled generative AI smart reply on Pixel 8 Pro by default with its 12GB of RAM, so expect these RAM numbers to start shooting up.

That last link is to a story positing that Google’s Gemini Nano runs on the Pixel 8 Pro but not the regular Pixel because the Pro has more RAM (12 vs. 8 GB).

Comparing iPhone RAM to Android RAM has never been apples-to-apples (same goes for battery capacity), but still, it’s hard not to wonder whether Apple’s on-device AI plans are hamstrung by the relatively stingy amounts of RAM on iPhones. Here’s a list from 9to5Mac showing the RAM in each iPhone going back to the original (which had just 128 MB!). iOS 17 supports models dating back to 2018’s iPhone XS and XR (4 and 3 GB of RAM, respectively). If iOS 18 drops those models, the new baseline will be the iPhones 11 and 11 Pro, which all sport 4 GB. The most RAM on any iPhone to date is 8 GB in the 15 Pro models, but 8 GB is what Google deemed insufficient for the Pixel 8 to run Gemini Nano.

Might some iOS 18 on-device AI features be limited to newer models with more RAM?

Update: Follow-up post regarding base Mac memory.


My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring last week at DF. The September 2023 MGM hack is one of the most notorious ransomware attacks in recent years. Journalists and cybersecurity experts rushed to report on the broken slot machines, angry hotel guests, and the fateful phishing call to MGM’s help desk that started it all.

But while it’s true that MGM’s help desk needed better ways of verifying employee identity, there’s another factor that should have stopped the hackers in their tracks. That’s where you should focus your attention. In fact, if you just focus your vision, you’ll find you’re already staring at the security story the pros have been missing.

It’s the device you’re reading this on.

To read more about what Kolide learned after researching the MGM hack — like how hacker groups get their names, the worrying gaps in MGM’s security, and why device trust is the real core of the story — check out the Kolide blog.

Might Meta Go Pay-Only in the EU? 

Eric Seufert, writing at Mobile Dev Memo, spitballing how Meta might respond if the EU accepts the recommendation from the EDPB that their “Pay or OK” model is illegal:

Charge a nominal fee for the ad-supported versions of Facebook and Instagram

Meta could introduce a small fee to use the ad-supported versions of Facebook and Instagram, rendering them as completely paid products in the EU. By eliminating its free tier, Meta should theoretically sidestep the conditions proposed in the EDPB’s opinion, since the elimination of a free tier supported by personalized advertising renders the Pay or Okay restrictions irrelevant.

As frequent MDM Podcast guest Mikołaj Barczentewicz points out in this blog post, both Netflix and Disney+ target ads behaviorally in their paid, ad-supported tiers. Meta could point to these products as examples of this pricing model being invoked: all options are paid, but the cheapest option is subsidized by behaviorally-supported ads. Of course, the EDPB has given itself latitude with its definition of “large online platform” to only litigate specific instances of commercial strategy.

I didn’t think of this when I spitballed my own ideas for how Meta might respond. Maybe they offer two tiers: €1/month with targeted ads, or €6/month without ads. Maybe they even make the fee for the ad tier truly nominal, say €1/year? The problem with this might be that too few people are willing to pay anything at all for social networking. Because it’s always been free-of-charge, people (not unreasonably!) now think it ought to forever remain free-of-charge.

Regarding the “just exit the EU” option, Seufert writes:

I don’t believe that Meta will respond by exiting the EU market altogether — at least not in the near term. Per above: the EU is 10% of (what I understand to be) Facebook’s global advertising revenue, and GDPR fines aren’t as significant as those incurred under the DMA. The maximum fine under the GDPR is 4% of annual worldwide turnover, whereas the maximum fine under the DMA is 20% of annual worldwide turnover. While I do believe the EU regulatory regime’s intransigence will influence a scaled, US-domiciled tech company to exit the EU market in the medium term, my sense is that Meta won’t take that course of action in immediate response to this decision.

That 10 percent figure is big but not indispensable. And it’s not much bigger than Apple’s 7 percent figure for App Store revenue from the EU. The EU is indeed a big and important market, but it’s nowhere near as big or important as the European Commissioners think.

Twitter Alternative Post News Is Shutting Down 

Noam Bardin:

It is with a heavy heart that I share this sad news with you. Despite how much we’ve accomplished together, we will be shutting down Post News within the next few weeks.

We have done many great things together. We built a toxicity-free community, a platform where Publishers engage, and an app that validated many theories around Micropayments and consumers’ willingness to purchase individual articles. We even managed to cultivate a phenomenal tipping ecosystem for creators and commenters.

But, at the end of the day, our service is not growing fast enough to become a real business or a significant platform. A consumer business, at its core, needs to show rapid consumer adoption and we have not managed to find the right product combination to make it happen.

Post News was a longshot from the start, going up against (a) the entrenched leader in the space, Twitter/X; (b) the open alternative of Mastodon; (c) Meta-backed and Instagram-derived Threads; and (d) the Jack-Dorsey-funded Bluesky. I’m not sure there’s room for all four of those, let alone a fifth.

But I think Post shot itself in the foot right out of the gate going web-only. They eventually got around to putting an “app” in the App Store but it’s just a thin wrapper around their website — so thin that you can drag-and-drop the tab controller buttons and see exactly which PWA framework they used from the custom URLs shown in the drag proxy. People don’t want to use PWAs; they want real apps. Native iOS apps are so important to social networking that Threads launched app-only for its first two months before launching its web version.

China Orders Apple to Remove WhatsApp, Threads, Signal, and Telegram From Chinese App Store 

Aaron Tilley, Liza Lin, and Jeff Horwitz, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads as well as messaging platforms Signal and Telegram were taken off the Chinese App Store Friday. Apple said it was told to remove certain apps because of national security concerns, without specifying which.

“We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree,” an Apple spokesperson said.

These messaging apps, which allow users to exchange messages and share files individually and in large groups, combined have around three billion users globally. They can only be accessed in China through virtual private networks that take users outside China’s Great Firewall, but are still commonly used.

I’m surprised any of these apps had been available in China until now. Two questions:

  • Are these apps still on the iPhones of Chinese people who already had them installed? I don’t recall Apple ever using the kill switch that revokes the developer signing for already-installed copies of apps pulled from the App Store. E.g., iGBA, the rip-off Nintendo emulator that briefly rocketed to the top of the charts last weekend — pulled from the App Store early this week, but if you installed it while it was available, you can still use it.

  • Do Android phones in China offer sideloading?

Update: The answer re: sideloading is yes, and both Signal and WhatsApp offer direct downloads of their latest Android builds.

The Best Simple USB-C Microphone: Audio-Technica’s ATR2100×-USB 

Joe Fabisevich asked a common question on Threads:

What’s the go to simple USB-C podcast mic that sounds good, but doesn’t have to be top of the line or super expensive? Think more “I need to sound professional on a podcast or two”, not “I make my money by recording podcasts.”

My answer: Audio-Technica’s ATR2100×-USB. It costs just $50 at Amazon. (That’s an affiliate link that will make me rich if you buy through it.) Spend an extra $4 and get a foam windscreen cap. I mean just look at it — it literally looks like the microphone emoji: 🎤. You can just plug it into a USB-C port and it sounds great. No need for an XLR interface, but it does support XLR if you ever have the need.

My main podcasting microphone remains the $260 Shure BETA 87A Supercardioid Condenser, which I connect to a $180 SSL 2 audio interface. But that stays in my podcast cave in the basement. I keep the ATR2100× in my carry-on suitcase, so it’s with me whenever I’m away from home. My Dithering co-host Ben Thompson uses the same ATR2100× when he’s away from home, too. It’s a great simple mic and a fantastic value at just $50.

Google Reorg Puts Android, Chrome, Photos and More Under Leadership of Devices Team 

David Pierce, writing for The Verge:

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced substantial internal reorganizations on Thursday, including the creation of a new team called “Platforms and Devices” that will oversee all of Google’s Pixel products, all of Android, Chrome, ChromeOS, Photos, and more. The team will be run by Rick Osterloh, who was previously the SVP of devices and services, overseeing all of Google’s hardware efforts. Hiroshi Lockheimer, the longtime head of Android, Chrome, and ChromeOS, will be taking on other projects inside of Google and Alphabet.

This is a huge change for Google, and it likely won’t be the last one. There’s only one reason for all of it, Osterloh says: AI. “This is not a secret, right?” he says. Consolidating teams “helps us to be able to do full-stack innovation when that’s necessary,” Osterloh says.

I’m sure this is about AI, but I think it’s also about getting the company’s shit together and forming a cohesive strategy for integration with their consumer devices. Lost amid the schadenfreude surrounding the near-universal panning of Humane’s AI Pin is the question of, well, what are the device form factors we need for AI-driven features? I would argue, strenuously, that the phone is the natural AI device. It already has: always-on networking, cameras, a screen, microphones, and speakers. Everyone owns one and almost everyone takes theirs with them almost everywhere they go.

Putting all of Android under a new division led by the guy in charge of Pixel devices since 2016 says to me that Google sees AI not primarily as a way to make Android better, in general, but to make Pixel devices better, specifically. Best-of-class AI, only on Pixels, could be the sort of differentiation that actually results in Pixels gaining traction.

Elizabeth Warren, Still Using Twitter/X: ‘It’s Time to Break Up Apple’s Smartphone Monopoly’ 

Senator Elizabeth Warren seemingly thinks Apple ought to be forced to operate iMessage as a public utility, free of charge. Or something? She doesn’t actually say what she thinks should happen. Is she suggesting Apple be forced to spin off “iMessage” as a separate company? If not, what is she advocating “breaking up”?

Google Fires 28 Employees Who Disrupted Workplaces to Protest Israel Cloud Contract 

Chris Rackow, Google’s head of global security, in a company-wide memo published at The Verge, under the clear subject “Serious consequences for disruptive behavior”:

Behavior like this has no place in our workplace and we will not tolerate it. It clearly violates multiple policies that all employees must adhere to — including our Code of Conduct and Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation, Standards of Conduct, and Workplace Concerns.

We are a place of business and every Googler is expected to read our policies and apply them to how they conduct themselves and communicate in our workplace. The overwhelming majority of our employees do the right thing. If you’re one of the few who are tempted to think we’re going to overlook conduct that violates our policies, think again. The company takes this extremely seriously, and we will continue to apply our longstanding policies to take action against disruptive behavior — up to and including termination.

It says a lot about how adrift Google was that “We are a place of business” needed to be stated, but better late than never. I can’t believe they let these goofs occupy Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian’s office for 8 hours before having them arrested. They look and act like college students doing a sit-in at the dean’s office, not professional employees protesting their CEO. In college you pay to be there — students are the customers, ostensibly. At work they pay you, at will.

Meta Releases New AI Assistant Powered by Llama 3 Model 

Alex Heath, reporting for The Verge:

ChatGPT kicked off the AI chatbot race. Meta is determined to win it.

To that end: the Meta AI assistant, introduced last September, is now being integrated into the search box of Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Messenger. It’s also going to start appearing directly in the main Facebook feed. You can still chat with it in the messaging inboxes of Meta’s apps. And for the first time, it’s now accessible via a standalone website at

For Meta’s assistant to have any hope of being a real ChatGPT competitor, the underlying model has to be just as good, if not better. That’s why Meta is also announcing Llama 3, the next major version of its foundational open-source model. Meta says that Llama 3 outperforms competing models of its class on key benchmarks and that it’s better across the board at tasks like coding. Two smaller Llama 3 models are being released today, both in the Meta AI assistant and to outside developers, while a much larger, multimodal version is arriving in the coming months.

I keep circling back to the notion that OpenAI has no moat. ChatGPT is certainly the best-known LLM, and perhaps still the best, but I don’t think that’s any more of a long-term competitive advantage than some company in 1986 having “the best C compiler”. What’s needed are ways to bring LLMs to users. To give them purpose, in products. That’s what Meta is doing, by integrating their AI into all of their major products.

Netflix Will Stop Reporting Subscriber Numbers Next Year 

Todd Spangler, reporting for Variety:

Netflix will no longer report subscriber numbers — which has been a key metric for streaming services for years — beginning with the first quarter of 2025.

The company made the announcement in releasing its first-quarter 2024 earnings Thursday. Netflix handily topped expectations for subscribers net adds, gaining 9.33 million in the period, to reach nearly 270 million globally. It also beat Wall Street expectations on the top and bottom lines. [...]

Despite the Q1 earnings beat, Netflix shares dropped more than 4.5% in after-hours trading Thursday, possibly as investors reacted negatively to the news that the streamer will stop reporting quarterly sub totals.

In its Q1 letter to shareholders, Netflix said that engagement — time spent with the service — is its “best proxy for customer satisfaction.” As such, it will no longer report quarterly membership numbers or average revenue per member (which it dubs “ARM”), as of Q1 2025. Netflix said it will announce “major subscriber milestones as we cross them” but will cease disclosing quarterly subscriber numbers.

I don’t think investors should be alarmed. This is what companies do when their growth phase is over. Apple used to break down unit sales for its various devices and stopped long ago. Netflix is no longer an up-and-comer — they’re the established leader in streaming, and should be judged accordingly. Keeping existing subscribers happy and watching is more important at this point than signing up new ones.

U.S. Court Rules That Police Can Force a Suspect to Unlock Phone With Thumbprint 

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica:

The US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination does not prohibit police officers from forcing a suspect to unlock a phone with a thumbprint scan, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday. The ruling does not apply to all cases in which biometrics are used to unlock an electronic device but is a significant decision in an unsettled area of the law. [...]

Payne’s Fifth Amendment claim “rests entirely on whether the use of his thumb implicitly related certain facts to officers such that he can avail himself of the privilege against self-incrimination,” the ruling said. Judges rejected his claim, holding “that the compelled use of Payne’s thumb to unlock his phone (which he had already identified for the officers) required no cognitive exertion, placing it firmly in the same category as a blood draw or fingerprint taken at booking.”

“When Officer Coddington used Payne’s thumb to unlock his phone — which he could have accomplished even if Payne had been unconscious — he did not intrude on the contents of Payne’s mind,” the court also said.

Via Jamie Zawinski, who advises never using Touch ID or Face ID. I strongly disagree with that advice. Almost everyone is far more secure using Face ID rather than relying on a passcode/passphrase alone. People who don’t use Face/Touch ID are surely tempted to use a short easily-entered passcode for convenience, and anyone who disables Face/Touch ID while using a nontrivial passphrase is encountering a huge inconvenience every single time they unlock their phone. There’s no good reason to put yourself through that.

My advice is to internalize the shortcut to hard-lock an iPhone, which temporarily disables Face/Touch ID and requires the passcode to unlock: squeeze the side button and either of the volume buttons for a second or so. I wrote an entire article about this two years ago. Don’t just learn this shortcut, internalize it, so that you don’t have to think about it under duress. Just squeeze the side buttons until you feel the phone vibrate. Then it’s hard-locked. Do this whenever you go through security — be it at the airport, the ballpark, or anywhere. If you see a magnetometer, hard-lock your iPhone. If you get pulled over by a cop while driving, hard-lock your phone before you do anything else. (You can still launch the Camera app from the lock screen to record the encounter, if you wish, while the phone remains hard-locked.) Tell everyone you know how to hard-lock their iPhones.

(Also, this ruling is specific to the details of this particular case, and thus only addresses fingerprint authentication, not facial recognition. Those concerned with civil liberties should presume, though, that the same court would rule similarly regarding cops unlocking a device by waving it in front of the suspect’s face. But with “Require Attention for Face ID” — which is on by default — Face ID won’t work if you keep your eyes closed, and I don’t think a court would allow police to force your eyes open. The trick to worry about is the police handing you back your phone, under the pretense that you can use it to make a call or something, and then yanking it from your hands after you unlock it.)

Nothing Integrates ChatGPT With Its Wireless Earbuds and Phones 

James Pero, writing at Inverse:

Nothing’s audio products — including the newly announced Ear and Ear A — are bringing what the company calls an “industry-first” integration with ChatGPT that allows users who also own a Nothing Phone like the recently released Phone 2a to launch the chatbot with a pinch gesture on their Nothing earbuds.

“By integrating ChatGPT with Nothing earbuds, including the new Nothing Ear and Ear A, and with Nothing OS, we’ve taken our first steps towards change, and there’s more to come,” said Nothing CEO, Carl Pei, in a press release.

Looks like it’s time for the DOJ to file another lawsuit against Apple for offering tight integration between its phones and peripherals.

‘Oh the Humanity’ 

Ben Sandofsky:

An ex-Apple designer who went on to startup success once told me, “I wish I could give a workshop for Apple alumni jumping into startups, to help them un-learn The Apple Way.” As someone who strives to build products with the craft and quality of Apple, it pains me to admit that The Apple Way can destroy a lot of startups. Which brings us to Humane.

Great piece. And it brings to mind an observation I’m far from the first to make: There are far fewer startups founded by former Apple employees than one would expect, given Apple’s spectacular run over the past 25 years.

Nest is an obvious exception, but Tony Fadell had a very atypical career at Apple. He was brought in as a contractor in 2001 to help create the iPod, and stayed until 2008. He was more “the iPod guy” not “an Apple person”. And the original Nest thermostat couldn’t be more opposite from Humane’s AI Pin — the Nest did exactly what it promised, very well. Even the fact that it included a screen. Most importantly, Nest’s thermostat took aim at replacing existing dumb thermostats, which were terrible. Nest’s product really was something like 10× better than what it aimed to disrupt. The AI Pin took aim at the iPhone, which is insanely great.

Ippei Mizuhara, Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter and Friend, Stole $16 Million to Pay Only a Portion of His Gambling Losses 

Speaking of sports gambling scandals, here’s Tim Arango and Michael S. Schmidt, reporting for The New York Times:

Ohtani has many other accounts, of course — he earns more money from endorsements and business deals than he does from his lucrative baseball salary. But it was this account, solely for Ohtani’s baseball earnings, that Mizuhara would scheme to take control of and then, as he fell deeper into a gambling addiction, pilfer for years, according to prosecutors.

Mizuhara changed the settings of the account so alerts and confirmations of transactions would go to him, not Ohtani. Drawing on phone recordings obtained from the bank, prosecutors said Mizuhara had also impersonated Ohtani to gain the bank’s approval for certain large transactions. And whenever one of Ohtani’s other advisers — his agent, tax preparer, bookkeeper or financial adviser, all of whom were interviewed for the federal investigation — inquired about the account, Mizuhara told them that Ohtani preferred the account to remain private.

Between November 2021 and January this year, Mizuhara stole $16 million from the account to feed his “voracious appetite for illegal sports betting,” according to E. Martin Estrada, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.

Sounds like the plot from a Coen brothers movie. At every step where anyone tried to check with Ohtani on this bank account, they went through Mizuhara as a translator.

This being a baseball story, the criminal complaint was stuffed with numbers:

  • 19,000 bets.
  • $142,256,769.74 total winning bets.
  • $182,935,206.58 total losing bets.

That’s 20-some bets per day, for years, for nearly $20,000 per wager on average. Just the frequency alone, setting aside the high stakes, is staggering.

It’s good to know, though, that Ohtani was oblivious to all of it.

NBA Bars Jontay Porter for Betting 

Joe Vardon, reporting for The Athletic:

The league said that Porter, who spent part of his time in the NBA and part of it in its developmental G League, privately told a sports bettor he was hurt, removed himself from a game to control prop bets on his own play, and placed his own wagers on NBA games.

He is the first active player or coach to be expelled from the NBA for gambling since Jack Molinas in 1954.

According to the results of a league investigation, Porter, 24, gave a confidential tip about his health to a person he knew to be a sports bettor, prior to the Raptors’ game on March 20 against the Sacramento Kings. A third individual, connected to both Porter and the original recipient of Porter’s health information, placed an $80,000 parlay bet to win $1.1 million, betting that Porter would underperform against the Kings.

To make sure that the bet hit, the league found, Porter pulled himself out of that game against the Kings after just three minutes, claiming he was ill. The investigation also showed that from January through March, while either playing for Toronto or the Raptors’ G League affiliate, Porter placed at least 13 bets on NBA games using an associate’s online betting account. While none of those bets were on games in which Porter played, he did bet on the Raptors to lose as part of a parlay bet. The wagers ranged in size from $15 to $22,000, and totaled $54,000. He netted nearly $22,000 in winnings on the wagers, the league said.

Porter is a bench player, but in the NBA bench players do well. Porter’s salary this season was $411,000, and he’s earned close to $3 million since he made the NBA four years ago. But how much do you want to bet he’s not the last player in a major sport to get caught up in a point-shaving scam like this?

Of Course Regulation Can Work 

Dan Moren, writing last week at Six Colors:

Lately you can’t throw a digital camera without hitting a story on the various regulatory and legal challenges Apple’s been facing. While some have decried these actions as interference in the internal operations of a company, there’s one salient detail that I think those opinions often overlook.

Regulation works.

Here are just a handful of examples from the past few months of Apple changing its policies due to regulations — or, in some cases, the mere threat of regulation.

I’d change “regulation works” to “regulation can work” or “regulation sometimes works”. But there’s no question we’re seeing results. Moren cites three recent examples:

These changes are all wins. But they’re also all low-hanging fruit. Apple has no major self-interested reasons to fight against any of them, and regulatory scrutiny forced the company to stop ignoring them. It’s similar to how the Japan Fair Trade Commission’s investigation led to Apple loosening its anti-steering rules for “reader” apps worldwide in 2021. That might not have happened at all without the regulatory scrutiny, and certainly wouldn’t have otherwise happened when it did. But it was the lowest of low-hanging fruit: Apple, to my eyes, lost nothing by loosening those anti-steering provisions.

The real regulatory rubber hits the road on the issues that are against Apple’s own interests, or detrimental to the experience of users (which issues are, effectively, against Apple’s interests — Apple is in the business of making its users happy).

  1. The parts-pairing stuff is complex. Right-to-repair advocates often wrongly assume that Apple’s repair policies are geared toward making money — either turning a profit on the repairs and replacement parts directly, or by implicitly encouraging users to buy brand-new devices to replace broken ones rather than fix them. That’s just not the case. Repairs are not a profit center for Apple. The complexity Apple is trying to manage is guaranteeing that supposedly genuine replacement components are in fact genuine, and that stolen devices can’t be mined for black-market components. Last week’s changes seem to manage a good balance of all these factors. ↩︎

Delta Game Emulator Now Available From the App Store 

Everything is coming up Milhouse this week for Riley Testut. Juli Clover for MacRumors:

Game emulator apps have come and gone since Apple announced App Store support for them on April 5, but now popular game emulator Delta from developer Riley Testut is available for download. [...]

Delta is an all-in-one emulator that supports game systems including NES, SNES, N64, Nintendo DS, Game Boy, and Game Boy Advance. It works with popular game controllers, and supports cheats, save states, backups, syncing, and more. As this is Testut’s longtime project, it is more polished and feature rich than other emulators that have popped up. [...]

Delta can be downloaded from the App Store for free, and it does not collect information or include ads. The app is available in the United States and other countries, but it is not available in the European Union where it is instead being offered through an alternative app marketplace.

An incredibly polished, high-performance game emulator, available free of charge with no ads. That’s some old-school internet awesomeness. (App Store link.)

The alternative app marketplace for EU denizens to get Delta is Testut’s own AltStore PAL. (Delta is free there, too, but AltStore PAL requires a €1.50/year subscription to cover Apple’s Core Technology Fee.)

Now the questions is: Does Nintendo care? Nintendo recently shut down Yuzu, a popular open source Switch emulator. (David Pierce and Sean Hollister made a great episode of Decoder about this whole saga.) There’s a big difference between emulating the Switch — which is still current — and emulating classic consoles, but Nintendo still monetizes those classic consoles via emulation on the Switch.

Update: 24 hours later and Delta is the #1 app in the App Store. You love to see it. David Smith:

While the App Store is far from perfect, seeing Delta sustain its position at the top of the App Store is a lovely reminder of its best feature.

That an indie developer can dedicate years honing their craft and then create something so compelling that it beats out apps from trillion-dollar companies, enriching the lives of millions of people along the way.

That’s beautiful. That’s inspiring. And just plain awesome.

AltStore PAL Launches in the EU 

Riley Testut:

I’m thrilled to announce a brand new version of AltStore — AltStore PAL — is launching TODAY as an Apple-approved alternative app marketplace in the EU. AltStore PAL is an open-source app store made specifically for independent developers, designed to address the problems I and so many others have had with the App Store over the years. Basically, if you’ve ever experienced issues with App Review, this is for you!

We’re launching with 2 apps initially: my all-in-one Nintendo emulator Delta — a.k.a. the reason I built AltStore in the first place — and my clipboard manager Clip, a real clipboard manager that can actually run in the background. Delta will be FREE (with no ads!), whereas Clip will require a small donation of €1 or more. Once we’re sure everything is running smoothly we’ll then open the doors to third-party apps — so if you’d like to distribute your app with AltStore, please get in touch.

Exciting times for iOS users in the EU. Both of these things can be true:

  • The DMA is a bad law that, I believe, will result in more harm than good for most users.
  • For iOS power users and enthusiasts, alternative app marketplaces are going to be fun and useful. Right now there’s no better place to be an iPhone user than the EU.

(Also: How fun is the name AltStore PAL?)

Donald Trump Writes and Narrates Documentary Short Film on the Battle of Gettysburg 

Amazing he found time for this amidst his campaigning and legal travails. But like many former presidents, he has a serious interest in history.

‘Papyrus 2’ 

Jason Kottke:

Ryan Gosling was on Saturday Night Live this weekend and they did a sequel to one of my favorite SNL sketches (which is completely dorky in a design nerd sort of way) ever: Papyrus. Behold, Papyrus 2.

See also: Elle Cordova’s “Fonts Hanging Out” trilogy.

‘MKBHDs for Everything’ 

Ben Thompson, marking the 10th anniversary of Stratechery as a full-time endeavor:

Who, though, is to blame, and who benefited? Surely the responsibility for the Humane AI Pin lies with Humane; the people who benefited from Brownlee’s honesty were his viewers, the only people to whom Brownlee owes anything. To think of this review — or even just the title — as “distasteful” or “unethical” is to view Humane — a recognizable entity, to be sure — as of more worth than the 3.5 million individuals who watched Brownlee’s review.

This is one of the challenges of scale: Brownlee has so many viewers that it is almost easier to pretend like they are some unimportant blob. Brownlee, though, is successful because he remembers his job is not to go easy on individual companies, but inform individual viewers who will make individual decisions about spending $700 on a product that doesn’t work. Thanks to the Internet he has absolutely no responsibility or incentive to do anything but.

The review is now up to 4.2 million views.

Walt Mossberg, Still the King 

Regarding the jacktastic argument that Marques Brownlee shouldn’t call the worst product he’s ever reviewed the worst product he’s ever reviewed, I’m reminded of the lede from Alan Deutschman’s 2004 profile of Walt Mossberg for Wired:

Walt Mossberg is walking through a convention hall at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when a man starts screaming at him. The screamer, Hugh Panero, blames Mossberg for his company’s recent problems: falling stock price, a sudden plunge in consumer interest. Mossberg is annoyed but hardly intimidated. As the author of the weekly “Personal Technology” column in The Wall Street Journal, he’s used to dealing with disgruntled execs. He lets Panero shout. A crowd is gathering. Finally, Mossberg yells back, “I don’t give a fuck about your stock price!”

Keep reading. The story doesn’t end there.

What Mossberg always got right was that he relentlessly focused on his readers. Not what a product was supposed to be. Not what future versions might be. And not the fucking stock price of the company that made it. What he cared (and cares, in retirement) about was the actual experience of using the actual product, as it actually was, by actual users. He was rewarded with his readers’ trust.

That same mentality is what made Siskel and Ebert superstar film critics: they loved movies and they judged them for what they were, from the perspective of fellow moviegoers. They weren’t Hollywood insiders, and in the same way Mossberg didn’t give a fuck about XM Radio’s stock price, they didn’t give a fuck about how their reviews might affect opening weekend box office numbers. They cherished the trust of their TV viewers and newspaper readers, and rewarded them by providing nothing less than their fully honest expert appraisals of the movies they reviewed.

Art criticism has a long history, though. Consumer technology criticism does not. Mossberg blazed the trail.

Jackass of the Week: Daniel Vassallo 

Daniel Vassallo, who has over 172,000 followers on Twitter/X, regarding Marques Brownlee’s scathing but utterly fair (if not bend-over-backwards fair) “The Worst Product I’ve Ever Reviewed... For Now” review of the Humane AI Pin:

I find it distasteful, almost unethical, to say this when you have 18 million subscribers.

Hard to explain why, but with great reach comes great responsibility. Potentially killing someone else’s nascent project reeks of carelessness.

First, do no harm.

Marques Brownlee:

We disagree on what my job is.

There’s cool, and then there’s cool.

No Notes 

John Davidson, writing for the Australian Financial Review on Phil Schiller’s testimony in Australia, where Apple is once again facing off against Epic Games (archive link in case FR’s web server goes down):

The casual approach to its meetings, instituted by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs when he returned to the company in 1997 after having been fired in 1985, explained why Epic’s lawyers could find precious few contemporaneous records of Apple’s decision-making processes since the App Store was first launched in 2007, Mr Schiller suggested.

“When Mr Jobs came back in 1997, in one of the earliest meetings someone was taking notes, writing down what [Mr Jobs] was saying about what we’re doing. He stopped and said ‘Why are you writing this down? You should be smart enough to remember this. If you’re not smart enough to remember this you shouldn’t be in this meeting’. We all stopped taking notes and learnt to just listen and be part of the conversation and remember what we were supposed to do. And that became how we worked.” Mr Schiller testified.

“It was very action-oriented. It was built to be like a small start-up where we all are working together on the same things, and we all know what our plans are and what we’re doing.”


Nor is there much talk in meetings of how profitable the Apple App Store is, despite the fact it would be the 63rd biggest company on the Fortune 500 if it were hived off as a separate entity.

“Are you telling His Honour that you have no idea whether ... the App Store has been profitable?” asked an incredulous Neil Young, KC, leading the cross-examination on behalf of Epic Games.

“I believe it is [profitable],” replied Mr Schiller, who has been in charge of the App Store since the beginning. “I’m simply saying ‘profit’ as a specific financial metric is not a report I get and spend time on. It’s not how we measure our performance as a team,” he said.

Sounds like Epic is getting its hat handed to it once again.

Seeing What One Wants to See 

Matt Stoller, linking to the aforelinked FT report on Apple “losing” the top spot in IDC’s phone market share figures:

The early signs that Apple is having a Boeing-like slow collapse.

That’s quite the take. It is true that iPhone sales have been relatively flat for two years — here are the quarterly revenue and year-over-year revenue change charts from Six Colors for the October–December 2023 quarter. But they’re not in decline. Apple’s problem — or perhaps better said, Apple investors’ problem — is that iPhone sales have peaked because they’ve saturated the globe. Everyone who wants one and can afford one has one.

But whatever is going on with iPhone sales, a comparison to Boeing is just dumb. Boeing’s problem isn’t cheap Chinese competition. It’s that when Boeing was Boeing — a truly great American company — it was an engineering-driven company. It was — past tense — in broad strokes similar to Apple in that regard. Then Boeing “merged” with McDonnell Douglas, the McDonnell Douglas CEO became Boeing’s CEO, other executives with zero aviation experience came over from companies like General Electric, and “a passion for great planes was replaced with a passion for affordability.” The 737 Max isn’t just unpopular — it’s an engineering disaster. The iPhone 15 lineup is, by consensus, the best lineup of phones in the industry — the fastest chips, great reliability, and industry-leading customer satisfaction. Even if iPhone sales were in decline — which only IDC is claiming to be true — it’s not for reasons that bear any resemblance to Boeing at all.

Call me when Apple is led by executives who lack a passion for great computers.

The Financial Times Pretends Apple Plays the Market Share Game 

Tim Bradshaw and Michael Acton, reporting for the Financial Times, under the eye-opening headline “Apple Loses Smartphone Crown to Samsung as Chinese Rivals Gain Ground” (archive link):

Apple lost its lead in the global smartphone market at the start of 2024, with iPhone sales falling 10 per cent as lower-cost Chinese rivals such as Xiaomi experienced rapid growth.

Sounds bad! Then comes the second paragraph of the report:

Samsung regained its position as the world’s largest smartphone maker by volume in the first quarter, according to market researcher International Data Corporation, just three months after Apple claimed the top spot for the first time.

So we’re talking about unit sales volume (a measure Apple has never pursued as a top priority), using numbers from IDC (sketchy at best), and a supposed lead that Apple held for ... three months? Which three months happen to be the holiday quarter, when — every single year — all of Apple’s sales go up, and when new iPhone models drop. Warm up your dictionaries, time to refresh your memory of how to spell beleaguered.

The iPhone’s success is so poorly reflected by market share numbers that the Department of Justice invented a fictional category of “performance smartphones” just to make it maybe sorta kinda — if you squint just right — look like they might possibly hold a monopoly under U.S. law.

IDC estimated that global iPhone shipments declined 10 per cent to 50.1mn in the first three months of 2024 compared with the same period in 2023, giving it a 21 per cent market share.

Let’s see if there’s a 10 percent drop in iPhone revenue year-over-year when Apple reports results for the January–March quarter on May 2. If so, that’ll be quite the feather in IDC’s cap. If not, I’m sure we’ll see a correction from IDC and the FT.

Update, 2 May 2024: IDC nailed it — iPhone sales were down exactly 10 percent.

Not All Web APIs Are Good APIs 

Eric Lee on Threads:

I was wondering why I haven’t seen websites utilizing Vibration API when I see more and more apps using it including Arc Search and AirChat. Safari doesn’t even support it so there it goes 🫠

This exemplifies the broken thinking among many web developers and PWA advocates regarding Safari and WebKit. Just because an API exists and some browsers support it does not mean all browsers should support it. I never ever want a website to be able to vibrate my device. Ever. Nor do I want websites to be able to prompt me with an alert asking for permission to vibrate my device. Not supporting the Vibration API is a feature, not an omission.

If you want web apps to have the same full range of capabilities as native apps, iOS is not the platform for you. PWA advocates treat it as axiomatic that web apps should be peers to native apps, but that’s not true for everyone. I think of native apps as software I carefully consider before installing, even from the App Store. I think of websites and web apps as software I will visit/run without consideration, because they’re so comparatively restricted.

The Etak Navigator 

James Killick, writing on Map Happenings:

Today, I’d like to tell you about the Etak Navigator, a truly revolutionary product and the world’s first practical vehicle navigation system. [...]

Nearly everything about the Etak Navigator had to be conceived from scratch. Most important was the self contained positioning system. Remember that back in 1985 GPS was not available.

Not only was GPS unavailable, neither, of course, was wireless data. Or affordable hard drives. Data for the Etak Navigator was stored on cassette tapes. Tapes offered more storage than floppy disks but it took 6 cassettes just to cover the San Francisco Bay area. And of course Nolan Bushnell was involved. What a story. What a product.

Update: The utterly forgettable 1991 film Nothing But Trouble features several scenes showing the Etak Navigator in action.

John Sterling, Radio Voice of the Yankees for 36 Years, Retires at 85 

Bryan Hoch,

The Yankees announced on Monday that Sterling has retired, effective immediately. The 85-year-old Sterling will be recognized in a pregame ceremony on Saturday at Yankee Stadium. He will visit the WFAN radio booth during that afternoon’s game against the Rays.

“I am a very blessed human being,” Sterling said in a statement. “I have been able to do what I wanted, broadcasting for 64 years. As a little boy growing up in New York as a Yankees fan, I was able to broadcast the Yankees for 36 years. It’s all to my benefit, and I leave very, very happy. I look forward to seeing everyone again on Saturday.” [...]

Known for his gyrating “Sterling Shake” victory call (“Yankees win … theeeeee Yankees win!”), humorous phrases tacked onto play-by-play action (“Back to back, and a belly to belly!”) and personalized home run calls (“Bern Baby Bern!”), Sterling called 5,060 consecutive games from September 1989 to July 2019 — every at-bat of Derek Jeter’s career, every inning of Mariano Rivera’s and more.

The story includes a slew of his all-time great calls; more here on Twitter/X. There’s something different about radio announcing from TV announcing. Some guys can do both. But there was something ineffably radio about Sterling. I will always think of stadium announcer Bob Shephard as “the voice of the Yankees”, but John Sterling was the voice of Yankee fans. He just unabashedly loved the team, and was ecstatic for every win, and crushed with every loss.

And think about this: He called over 5,400 Yankee games over 36 years. He’s legitimately considered a living legend for it. But he didn’t get the job until he was 49 years old.

Apple’s Mysterious Fisheye Projection 

Mike Swanson:

If you’ve read my first post about Spatial Video, the second about Encoding Spatial Video, or if you’ve used my command-line tool, you may recall a mention of Apple’s mysterious “fisheye” projection format. Mysterious because they’ve documented a CMProjectionType.fisheye enumeration with no elaboration, they stream their immersive Apple TV+ videos in this format, yet they’ve provided no method to produce or playback third-party content using this projection type.

Additionally, the format is undocumented, they haven’t responded to an open question on the Apple Discussion Forums asking for more detail, and they didn’t cover it in their WWDC23 sessions. As someone who has experience in this area — and a relentless curiosity — I’ve spent time digging-in to Apple’s fisheye projection format, and this post shares what I’ve learned.

Fascinating deep dive.

Nominee for Claim Chowder of the Year 2024: Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2023 Award for Humane’s AI Pin 

When this was published in late October it struck me as deeply weird that Time would give an award to a product that was, at the time of publication, over five months away from actually shipping. And now that it has shipped, and appears poised to go down in history as an Edsel-like infamous bomb, it seems even more weird. But in this case the footnote seemingly explains it:

* (Investors in Humane include Time co-chairs and owners Marc and Lynne Benioff)

Shocker: ByteDance Still Receives Data From U.S. TikTok Users 

Alexandra Sternlicht, reporting for Fortune (News+):

Evan Turner, who worked at TikTok as a senior data scientist from April to September in 2022, said TikTok concealed the involvement of its Chinese owner during his employment. When hired, Turner initially reported to a ByteDance executive in Beijing. But later that year, after the company announced a major initiative to store TikTok’s U.S. user data only in the U.S., Turner was reassigned — on paper, at least — to an American manager in Seattle, he says. But Turner says a human resources representative revealed during a video conference call that he would, in reality, continue to work with the ByteDance executive. The stealth chain of command contradicted what TikTok’s executives had said about the company’s independence from ByteDance, Turner says. [...]

Nearly every 14 days, as part of Turner’s job throughout 2022, he emailed spreadsheets filled with data for hundreds of thousands of U.S. users to ByteDance workers in Beijing. That data included names, email addresses, IP addresses, and geographic and demographic information of TikTok U.S. users, he says. The goal was to sift through the information to mine for insights like the geographical regions where users watched the most videos of a particular genre and decide how the company should invest to encourage users to be more active. It all took place after the company had started its initiative to keep sensitive U.S. user data in the U.S., and only available to U.S. workers.

“I literally worked on a project that gave U.S. data to China,” Turner says. “They were completely complicit in that. There were Americans that were working in upper management that were completely complicit in this.”

Packy McCormick:

It’s astonishing that we don’t have the political will to simply ban TikTok.

Pok Pok 

My thanks to Pok Pok for sponsoring last week at DF. Pok Pok is a delightful collection of digital toys for kids aged 2–7, for both iPhone and iPad. Designed by parents and educators unhappy with the apps they found, Pok Pok has no ads, no overstimulating sounds, and no addictive gimmicks to get kids hooked. It’s just fun. Each toy is playful and open, letting kids explore and discover at their own pace. Existing toys are expanded and new ones are added regularly to keep play fresh.

Pok Pok has won both an Apple Design Award and an App Store Award for Cultural Impact just last year. Beautiful graphics, fun sound design, and great haptics. Try Pok Pok for free — you and your kid(s) will love it.

The Masters VisionOS App 

It’s Sunday at Augusta, the leaderboard is tight at the top, and Augusta National has a pretty damn good VisionOS app. Some cool VR features like tabletop-style VR maps of the holes, with 3D shot-tracking. All free of charge, too, from one of the only major sporting events in the entire world with a restrained approach to advertising and sponsorships.

Underpromise and Overdeliver 

Eric Migicovsky (on a different subject), in a post on Twitter/X:

Aspiring consumer HW makers (big and small) - this may sound obvious, but my rec is to underpromise/overdeliver for your first version. It’s hard because you want to balance sharing the vision for what the product category will become, but get customers adjusted to the reality that you need to ship what’s most likely an MVP for your first version.

Big or small, old or new — or even hardware or software. It’s always true: underpromising and overdelivering is always the path to delight, but also always devilishly difficult to pull off. That’s the game. The subtext for Migicovsky’s tweet is obviously Humane, whose AI Pin clearly overpromises and underdelivers. Migicovsky links to Nilay Patel’s 2013 review of the original Pebble Smartwatch, which concludes:

After using the Pebble for a few days, I realized that I was daydreaming about it: I wanted it to do more. That’s unusual — I rarely trust new products to work correctly, especially new products from unproven companies. But the Pebble’s charming simplicity and fundamental competence inspires confidence. It’s so good at what it does now that it’s easy to imagine all other things it might do in the future. There’s no reason it can’t replace a Fitbit or Nike Fuelband, for example, and I’d love to be able to send replies to emails and text directly from the device.

Pebble obviously didn’t make it, but that’s the sort of 1.0 review you want to see: It’s good at what it already does and I can see how it could do more in the future. The one and only review of the Humane AI Pin that expresses a sentiment like that is Raymond Wong’s for Inverse.

Sidenote: Andru Edwards on Threads:

The fact that people on’s PR team keep leaving, and those who take over are unresponsive has been making the planning of this sit-down interview with them that I’ve been working on for a few months, a challenge to say the least. Just sent another follow-up 😅🤞🏽

It’s generally considered a bad sign when a company experiences large-scale turnover in their PR/comms teams right around the launch of the company’s first product.

More on the Problem With ‘The Problem With Jon Stewart’ 

Week-old news I’d been meaning to link to:

In a new interview with Khan that aired late Monday on Comedy Central, Stewart claimed Apple leaned on him to avoid talking to Khan, who took over as head of the FTC in 2021.

“I wanted to have you on a podcast, and Apple asked us not to do it,” Stewart said. He continued: “They literally said, ‘Please don’t talk to her,’ having nothing to do with what you do for a living. I think they just … I didn’t think they cared for you, is what happened.”

Stewart had a brief stint on Apple TV from 2021 to 2023 with a show called “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” which had an accompanying podcast. The partnership ended over creative differences last fall. Stewart returned to Comedy Central as a part-time “Daily Show” host in February.

The thing I don’t understand about this is why Apple ever hired Stewart to do that show, or why Stewart agreed to do that show with Apple. Based on, you know, the entire body of Stewart’s work, it’s obvious that Lina Khan is exactly the sort of person he’d want to interview. It’s not like something changed. My only guess is that the part of Apple that agreed to host The Problem With Jon Stewart didn’t get buy-in from the top of the company. But I find that hard to believe. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s like hiring Martha Stewart to do a show and then asking her not to do any cooking segments.

Personally, I think Apple should put its big boy pants on and gladly host a topical news show that is free to criticize the company or the technology industry as a whole. John Oliver regularly skewered then-HBO owner AT&T and now skewers new owner Warner Bros. Discovery on Last Week Tonight. It’s an age-old tradition. Letterman lambasting NBC execs. Or the time Letterman tried to deliver a welcoming fruit basket to GE headquarters after they bought NBC (stay with that one through the end to learn the official General Electric corporate handshake).

But the real problem with The Problem With Jon Stewart was that the show stunk and no one watched it. I’m a big Jon Stewart fan and watch a bunch of shows in the same basic genre (I never miss Last Week Tonight and most weeks we watch Bill Maher’s Real Time). And now I’m once again enjoying Stewart in his Monday spot hosting The Daily Show. But The Problem With Jon Stewart just wasn’t good. Now, thanks to this outed dirty laundry about a conflict with Apple over political subject matter, there are people who think that’s the sole reason why the show was cancelled. That surely played a part. But the main reason is almost certainly that the ratings stunk. What’s weird about the streaming era of TV is that streaming services are incredibly secretive about ratings — that’s the complete opposite of over-the-air TV and theatrical box office numbers for movies, where viewership numbers were public. If the viewership numbers for The Problem With Jon Stewart had been public, everyone would’ve surmised that Apple cancelled the show because it wasn’t popular, not because he wanted to interview Lina Khan (on the podcast even — not the show itself!) or express misgivings about the tech industry.

It’s just a real head-scratcher why Apple ever wanted to host the show in the first place. Even if it had been entertaining and thus popular, it seems clear Apple wasn’t comfortable with Jon Stewart talking about Jon Stewart topics.

‘A Tour de Force of International Crisis Management for the Biden White House’ 

Josh Marshall, writing at Talking Points Memo:

Together, Israel, the U.S. and various allied Arab states took down 99% or more of all those devices. Iran launched a massive aerial bombardment and virtually none of it got through. And now the U.S. has managed to get Israel not to launch an immediate and inevitably escalatory retaliation.

It goes without saying that no administration works on its own. It comes to the game with the world’s most powerful military and major power status. It’s operating with Arab allies who have been gravitating toward a de facto anti-Iran alliance with Israel for years. And yet, anyone who knows anything about foreign or defense policy knows that most of it is all the endless number of things that can go wrong and the one or two ways they can go right. Navigating the last week to this point today is a tour de force of international crisis management for the Biden White House.

See also: Marshall’s previous post, regarding Iran’s intentions for yesterday’s attack. I’m with him. My first thought was that Iran’s attack was performative, a stunt. But the more we learn the more it looks like Iran really tried to hit Israel hard — and, thankfully, were stopped.

I went to bed last night with a dreadful feeling I’d wake up to find the U.S. and Israel enmeshed in a regional war. Knock on wood, that hasn’t happened, and might not. And I think that’s entirely thanks to the Biden administration’s diplomacy, and Biden himself.

Microsoft Is Testing Ads in the Windows 11 Start Menu 

More Windows news from Tom Warren at The Verge:

Microsoft says it’s starting to test ads inside the Start menu on Windows 11. The software maker will use the Recommended section of the Start menu, which usually shows file recommendations, to suggest apps from the Microsoft Store.

“This will appear only for Windows Insiders in the Beta Channel in the US and will not apply to commercial devices (devices managed by organizations),” says Microsoft in a blog post.

The app promotions can be disabled in the Settings section of Windows 11, but it appears that Microsoft will enable these by default. Microsoft is seeking feedback on the changes, so it’s possible the company could decide to ditch these ads in development builds of Windows 11 if there’s enough feedback that suggests they’re not going to be a popular addition.

This feels more like a late (and unfunny) April Fools gag than a serious idea.

Joanna Stern’s Humane AI Pin (Mini) Review 

Not even worth a full column, just a 90-second social media video. Or “vid”, if you will.

She points out that Humane only offers a website — no apps — for accessing your captured photos, videos, and notes. I totally get why Humane designed the AI Pin as a standalone device, not a phone peripheral (like Apple Watch or AirPods are) — Apple can make such peripherals do whatever they want because Apple can make the iPhone do whatever they want. (Which, yes, is the wrongheaded foundation of much of the DOJ’s antitrust complaint against Apple.) “If you want things done right, do it yourself” is always true advice.

But not making iPhone or Android apps for interacting with Humane’s back-end is just pure stubbornness. Humane cofounder Bethany Bongiorno is swearing up and down, now, that “ai pin is not about replacing your smartphone”, but their Change Everything teaser film from July 2022 — about which I had some thoughts — positioned it as the successor to the phone. The no-screen thing is just stubborn, and the website-but-no-apps thing is stubborn too. If they had an app it could put photos and videos shot with the AI Pin right in your library, for one thing. Imagine if Nest thermostats — also created by ex-Apple folks — didn’t have apps. Who would buy one?

(My closer on that teaser video from July 2022: “Sometimes a dead canary is just a dead canary, and sometimes a dud ad is just a dud ad, but I’d check the Humane mine for methane just in case.”)

Cherlynn Low’s Humane AI Pin Review for Engadget 

Cherlynn Low:

When you can read what’s on the screen, interacting with it might make you want to rip your eyes out. Like I said, you’ll have to move your palm closer and further to your chest to select the right cards to enter your passcode. It’s a bit like dialing a rotary phone, with cards for individual digits from 0 to 9. Go further away to get to the higher numbers and the backspace button, and come back for the smaller ones.

This gesture is smart in theory but it’s very sensitive. There’s a very small range of usable space since there is only so far your hand can go, so the distance between each digit is fairly small. One wrong move and you’ll accidentally select something you didn’t want and have to go all the way out to delete it. To top it all off, moving my arm around while doing that causes the Pin to flop about, meaning the screen shakes on my palm, too. On average, unlocking my Pin, which involves entering a four-digit passcode, took me about five seconds.

On its own, this doesn’t sound so bad, but bear in mind that you’ll have to re-enter this each time you disconnect the Pin from the booster, latch or clip. It’s currently springtime in New York, which means I’m putting on and taking off my jacket over and over again. Every time I go inside or out, I move the Pin to a different layer and have to look like a confused long-sighted tourist reading my palm at various distances. It’s not fun.

One thing all the reviewers seem to agree upon is that the AI Pin feels like an impressive piece of kit: small, lightweight, sturdy, well-made. And it packs a lot into a small form factor: camera, laser projector, speaker/microphone. But it’s also seemingly bursting at the seams, battery-life and heat-dissipation-wise. So I get it, me suggesting they should have added something else to the hardware — anything else — would pose a design and engineering challenge.

But with that throat-clearing out of the way: it seems obvious that the AI Pin should have a fingerprint scanner for authentication. You have to touch it for all interactions anyway — it doesn’t listen for a trigger word — so why not add the equivalent of Touch ID? Every single review notes the same thing Low complains about above: authenticating with your passcode takes too long, is error-prone, and you need to do it periodically throughout the day.

Green’s Dictionary of Slang 

From its About page:

Green’s Dictionary of Slang is the largest historical dictionary of English slang. Written by Jonathon Green over 17 years from 1993, it reached the printed page in 2010 in a three-volume set containing nearly 100,000 entries supported by over 400,000 citations from c. ad 1000 to the present day. The main focus of the dictionary is the coverage of over 500 years of slang from c. 1500 onwards.

The printed version of the dictionary received the Dartmouth Medal for outstanding works of reference from the American Library Association in 2012; fellow recipients include the Dictionary of American Regional English, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. It has been hailed by the American New York Times as ‘the pièce de résistance of English slang studies’ and by the British Sunday Times as ‘a stupendous achievement, in range, meticulous scholarship, and not least entertainment value’.

On this website the dictionary is now available in updated online form for the first time, complete with advanced search tools enabling search by definition and history, and an expanded bibliography of slang sources from the early modern period to the present day. Since the print edition, nearly 60,000 quotations have been added, supporting 5,000 new senses in 2,500 new entries and sub-entries, of which around half are new slang terms from the last five years.

I forget when I first came across Green’s Dictionary of Slang, but it’s so astonishingly good, in every possible way that it could be good, that I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a household name like Merriam-Webster. The web edition is beautiful, fast, and free of charge. It doesn’t even have ads. It’s amazing.

And now I can’t believe I haven’t recommended it here sooner. Bookmark it, trust me.

Microsoft’s Hard-Sell Pitch to Windows 10 Users With PCs Ineligible for Windows 11 

Tom Warren, writing at The Verge:

Microsoft is trying to entice Windows 10 users to upgrade to Windows 11 with fullscreen prompts 18 months before the end of support cutoff. Reddit user Woopinah9 spotted a notification “while in the middle of working,” where Microsoft thanks Windows 10 “customers” for their loyalty with a full-screen message and then explains the end of support date. You might be expecting a free upgrade as part of this interruption, but unfortunately for this Reddit user, their PC can’t upgrade to Windows 11, so it’s more “hey check out this cool thing we have! oh but you cant have it,” as one Redditor puts it.

Upon reading this lede, I was more or less thinking “Eh, so what?” Interruptions in the middle of working are annoying, so notifications like this should only appear after a restart or login, at the beginning of work session. That’s a legit gripe. But the basic gist — that Windows 10 is approaching end-of-life for updates, including security fixes, in 18 months, and your PC doesn’t meet the requirements for upgrading to Windows 11 — is something users should be notified about. And it’s not like Microsoft is pulling the plug on Windows 10 early — it shipped in July 2015.

But then I read on:

Surprisingly, Microsoft’s full-screen prompt doesn’t directly mention that consumers will be able to continue securely using the operating system beyond October 14th, 2025, if they’re willing to pay. Microsoft revealed last week that it will cost businesses $61 per device for the first year of Extended Security Updates (ESU) for Windows 10. This then doubles to $122 for the second year and then doubles again in year three to $244.

Microsoft hasn’t detailed ESU pricing for consumers yet, but the company did previously reveal it will offer these extended updates to consumers for the first time ever. Schools will be offered a big discount, with Microsoft offering a $1 license for year one, which then doubles to $2 for year two and doubles again to $4 for the third year. Hopefully, non-business users of Windows 10 will get similar discounts, but Microsoft says it will share details “at a later date.”

What a racket. If Microsoft has engineers working on Windows 10 updates, everyone should get them. It’s wild to think there are teams in Redmond concocting ways to squeeze customers out of money for updates to decade-old PCs.

The Verge’s Review Scale 

Re: my postscript wondering how in the world David Pierce’s scathing review of the Humane AI Pin resulted in a 4/10 score — I didn’t realize that The Verge has a page describing their review scale:

We assume the 10-point scale is relatively straightforward, but below is a short guide as to how we view the numbers. All review scores are whole points. We no longer use half points or decimals when scoring a product.

  1. Utter garbage and an embarrassment.
  2. A product that should be avoided at all costs.
  3. Bad — not something we’d recommend.
  4. Mediocre — has multiple outstanding issues.
  5. Just okay. This product works well in some areas but likely has significant issues in others.
  6. Good. There are issues but also redeeming qualities.
  7. Very good. A solid product with some flaws.
  8. Excellent. A superb product with minor or very few flaws.
  9. Nearly perfect.
  10. The best of the best.

Those are great descriptions and that’s a useful 10-point scale! But by these guidelines, the AI Pin should have gotten a 2. Maybe a 3, tops, but I’d say “should be avoided at all costs” fits. Definitely far short of 4’s “mediocre”.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve found The Verge’s review scoring incoherent.

David Pierce Reviews Humane’s AI Pin: ‘Nope. Nuh-Uh. No Way.’ 

David Pierce, mincing no words at The Verge:

That raises the second question: should you buy this thing? That one’s easy. Nope. Nuh-uh. No way. The AI Pin is an interesting idea that is so thoroughly unfinished and so totally broken in so many unacceptable ways that I can’t think of anyone to whom I’d recommend spending the $699 for the device and the $24 monthly subscription. [...]

As the overall state of AI improves, the AI Pin will probably get better, and I’m bullish on AI’s long-term ability to do a lot of fiddly things on our behalf. But there are too many basic things it can’t do, too many things it doesn’t do well enough, and too many things it does well but only sometimes that I’m hard-pressed to name a single thing it’s genuinely good at. None of this — not the hardware, not the software, not even GPT-4 — is ready yet.

Ever since Humane de-stealthed and revealed the AI Pin last July, the big question (for me at least) has been whether it’d actually be useful to own a gadget that does what the AI Pin is supposed to do. It’s seemed to me all along that almost everything the AI Pin does would be just as well, if not better, done by a phone with an LLM-powered voice assistant. But Humane has far bigger problems, because the AI Pin clearly doesn’t even do what it’s supposed to. Pierce:

I’d estimate that half the time I tried to call someone, it simply didn’t call. Half the time someone called me, the AI Pin would kick it straight to voicemail without even ringing. After many days of testing, the one and only thing I can truly rely on the AI Pin to do is tell me the time.

The more I tested the AI Pin, the more it felt like the device was trying to do an awful lot and the hardware simply couldn’t keep up. For one, it’s pretty much constantly warm. In my testing, it never got truly painfully hot, but after even a few minutes of using it, I could feel the battery like a hand warmer against my skin. Bongiorno says the warmth can come from overuse or when you have a bad signal and that the device is aggressive about shutting down when it gets too hot. I’ve noticed: I use the AI Pin for more than a couple of minutes, and I get notified that it has overheated and needs to cool down. This happened a lot in my testing (including on a spring weekend in DC and in 40-degree New York City, where it was the only warm thing in sight).

The battery life is similarly rough.

Pierce’s review is so brutal it’s uncomfortable at times. I don’t know where Humane goes from here but this launch might be impossible to recover from reputationally. It seems borderline criminal that they shipped it in this state. Here’s one more tidbit:

Me: “Play ‘Texas Hold ’Em’ by Beyoncé.”

The AI Pin: “Songs not found for request: Play Texas Hold ’Em by Beyonc\u00e9. Try again using your actions find a relevant track, album, artist, or playlist; Create a new PlayMusic action with at least one of the slots filled in. If you find a relevant track or album play it, avoid asking for clarification or what they want to hear.”

That’s a real exchange I had, multiple times, over multiple days with the AI Pin.

I thought perhaps the “\u00e9” thing was a CMS glitch, but no — watch Pierce’s corresponding video review and you’ll hear the AI Pin pronounce “Beyoncé” as “beeyonk-backslash-you-zero-zero-ee-nine”.

(Yet, somehow, the AI Pin garnered a 4/10 on The Verge’s review scale. How bad, how broken, would a product experience have to be to get a lower score? Would the reviewer need to be electrocuted by the device to rate it lower? “3/10, sent me to the ER with a nasty burn”? “1/10, it killed my spouse when she tried it”?)

Eclipses Should Be Celebrations of Science, Not Pseudoscience 

Narayana Montúfar, covering the astrological “impact” of Monday’s solar eclipse for Women’s Health:

So, what makes the Great American Eclipse of April 8, 2024 so special? Ancient astronomers — who, by the way, were also astrologers — believed that the geographical area where any eclipse was visible would energetically feel its effects the most.

Astrology fans like to say it’s all just harmless fun, but they also love to wave their hands and pretend their pseudoscience is even vaguely related to the hard science of astronomy. It’s a genuine travesty that the two words in English are so similar. I stumbled across this story earlier in the week and it’s been irritating me like a piece of popcorn stuck in my teeth ever since. Astrologers horning in on the excitement about the eclipse is scientific sacrilege.

Actual science is the great accomplishment of mankind. The antidote to ignorance, superstition, religious zealotry, and nonsensical beliefs in general. An eclipse exemplifies, to even the lay-est of laypeople, just how advanced modern science is. We were informed by astronomers, years in advance, exactly when and exactly where the eclipse would occur — down to the second, down to the meter — and everyone in the path of totality could literally see how exactly right those predictive calculations were. We should be celebrating and emphasizing this to laypeople, because these same scientists are the same people who’ve been telling us for decades that we’re destroying our climate with carbon emissions.

So here’s my “by the way” retort to Montúfar’s aside: how many astronomers today — not in “ancient” times — are also astrologers? Spoiler: the answer is fucking zero.

Mattel Makes New Version of Scrabble for Dum-Dums 

Jack Guy, CNN:

Now, an updated game named Scrabble Together adds “a second side to the board that is collaborative and faster-paced to make gameplay more accessible for anyone who finds word games intimidating,” according to a statement from Mattel published Tuesday.

Instead of competing, players collaborate to complete goal cards, and there are helper cards if assistance is required.

Mattel said it conducted research among British board-gamers that shows that competitiveness is perceived as declining in younger generations.

Being forced to play this version of the game sounds like the penalty one should suffer if they get caught cheating in the real version. Competition can be one of the most fun things in the world.

Automattic Acquires Beeper, Will Merge With Texts 

Eric Migicovsky:

If you haven’t heard of Beeper before, welcome! We make a universal chat app — one app to send and receive messages on 14 different chat networks. You might have also heard about Beeper Mini, our briefly available iMessage-on-Android app.

While the Beeper Mini/iMessage thing is where Beeper garnered, by far, the most publicity, it was always a sideshow from their primary goal of building a universal messaging app for multiple (14!) platforms. Think of it like a modern-day Adium.

In many ways, our journey has only just begun. Beeper has just over 115,000 users and was, until today, in beta. Given the state of the messaging landscape today, we believe there is a huge opportunity for us to push boundaries and create new experiences in chat. The majority of other chat apps have stagnated, entrenched in their positions, with no significant new players emerging since Discord’s launch in 2015. Given the state of the messaging world, we’ve long felt the need for a strong ally with the resources to support us on our quest. Automattic has a long history of putting user control and privacy first with open source, and great bilateral relationships with Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Matrix and others that we hope can usher in a new era of collaboration. [...]

This is a big bet. Automattic is doubling down on chat after their acquisition last year of, a messaging app with a similar mission. Our teams and products will merge, and I will take on the role leading the team as Head of Messaging. It will take a bit of time for us to integrate and combine forces under the Beeper brand. We’ve got big plans!

I’d describe as having not just a similar mission as Beeper, but the exact same mission. I’ve been using Texts on my Mac as my primary interface to Twitter/X DMs for over a year (since Twitter shut down third-party clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific). I don’t get a ton of Twitter DMs, and I get fewer now than ever before, but Texts offers a better interface to them than Twitter/X itself does. I also have my Instagram, WhatsApp, and Signal accounts connected to Texts. If I used any of those platforms heavily, I’d rely on their dedicated apps. But I don’t, so a universal messaging inbox is better. I’m more interested in having one central place to check than anything else for those platforms.

Now that I’ve tried Beeper for Mac (connecting Twitter/X, WhatsApp, Signal, Instagram, and Slack accounts) — it’s remarkable how similar it is to Texts. They’re both Electron/React apps, and both suffer from a lot of Electron-isms. (What in the world is going on with the keyboard shortcuts in the contextual menu for the text editing field?) Both are just big bloated Electron web apps pretending, by appearance, to be Mac apps. I feel like they should be merged, not that we’re losing a competition that offered a choice between two different approaches. Beeper might have some unique tech but Texts is by far a better app on the Mac.

As for iMessage, here’s Matt Mullenweg:

A lot of people are asking about iMessage on Android… I have zero interest in fighting with Apple, I think instead it’s best to focus on messaging networks that want more engagement from power-user clients. This is an area I’m excited to work on when I return from my sabbatical next month.


OJ Simpson Dies From Cancer at 76 

Man, I hope this doesn’t throw a kink into the Liam Neeson-starring The Naked Gun reboot that’s shooting this year.

TSMC Will Build Third Arizona Fab After Winning $6.6B in CHIPS Funding 

Ashley Belanger, reporting for Ars Technica:

The US Department of Commerce has proposed another round of CHIPS Act funding up to $6.6 billion for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which President Joe Biden hopes will “support the construction of leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing facilities right here in the United States.”

With this award — which includes additional funding up to $5 billion in low-cost government loans — TSMC has agreed to increase funding in Arizona fabrication plants to $65 billion. That’s the largest foreign direct investment in a new project in US history, the Commerce Department said, and it will fuel construction of TSMC’s third Arizona fab. [...]

But analysts told the Financial Times that the US is still moving too slowly to become a global chip leader. One engineer told FT that by 2028, “Nvidia and other AI chip vendors are likely to have migrated to 2nm” process technology, ahead of the TSMC Arizona fabs reaching that goal. In January, TSMC Chairman Mark Liu told investors that Taiwan-based fabs “will start 2nm mass production next year” and that the company has “plans to build ‘multiple’ more fabs operating on that technology” in Taiwan, FT reported.

The goal should be to jump ahead of Taiwan, not merely catch up. I suspect that’s just not remotely feasible, though. Still though, any domestic chip fabrication is better than no domestic chip fabrication.

From the Annals of Underpromising and Overdelivering: Apple’s Timing for the Mac’s Transition to Apple Silicon 

In the previous item I mentioned Microsoft’s “the boy who cried wolf” problem regarding its upcoming Surface devices powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite chips. To wit: Microsoft has been trying to promote ARM-based Surface laptops and tablets — and ARM-based Windows PCs in general — for 12 years. Each time they do, they promise that the performance will be great. And each time so far, that’s turned out to be wrong. So their problem now isn’t just whether the performance — including x86 emulation — really will be good with these new Snapdragon X Elite chips. It’s whether anyone will believe them even if performance is great. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” goes the saying.1 Microsoft is way past “twice” at this point.

Compare and contrast with Apple’s transition of the Mac to Apple silicon. They could have made the transition years earlier than they did, but chose to wait until the advantages were overwhelming — in performance, efficiency, and price. Here’s the section on performance from my review of the first-generation iPad Pros in 2015, five years before the M1 Macs debuted:

The iPad Pro is without question faster than the new one-port MacBook or the latest MacBook Airs. I’ve looked at several of my favorite benchmarks — Geekbench 3, Mozilla’s Kraken, and Google’s Octane 2 — and the iPad Pro is a race car. It’s only a hair slower than my year-old 13-inch MacBook Pro in single-core measurements. Graphics-wise, testing with GFXBench, it blows my MacBook Pro away. A one-year-old maxed-out MacBook Pro, rivaled by an iPad in performance benchmarks. Just think about that. According to Geekbench’s online results, the iPad Pro is faster in single-core testing than Microsoft’s new Surface Pro 4 with a Core-i5 processor. The Core-i7 version of the Surface Pro 4 isn’t shipping until December — that model will almost certainly test faster than the iPad Pro. But that’s a $1,599 machine with an Intel x86 CPU. The iPad Pro starts at $799 and runs an ARM CPU — Apple’s A9X. There is no more trade-off. You don’t have to choose between the performance of x86 and the battery life of ARM.

We’ve now reached an inflection point. The new MacBook is slower, gets worse battery life, and even its cheapest configuration costs $200 more than the top-of-the-line iPad Pro. The iPad Pro is more powerful, cheaper, has a better display, and gets better battery life. It’s not a clear cut-and-dry win — MacBooks still have more RAM (the iPad Pro, in all configurations, has 4 GB of RAM, although Apple still isn’t publishing this information — MacBook Pros have either 8 or 16 GB), are expandable, and offer far more storage. But at a fundamental level — CPU speed, GPU speed, quality of the display, quality of the sound output, and overall responsiveness of interface — the iPad Pro is a better computer than a MacBook or MacBook Air, and a worthy rival to the far more expensive MacBook Pros.

The entire x86 computer architecture is living on borrowed time. It’s a dead platform walking. The future belongs to ARM, and Apple’s A-series SoC’s are leading the way.

So at a time when Microsoft was already three years into pushing underpowered ARM-based Windows laptops, Apple had ARM chips that really were competitive with Intel’s x86 offerings, but waited five years to build an overwhelming, undeniable advantage before making the switch on the Mac.

By 2018 it was incredibly obvious that Apple would make the switch on the Mac, but it was still two years away. When you ask people to switch from something tried and true to something new, “good enough” isn’t good enough. The new thing needs to be something like an entire order of magnitude better in at least one way, and preferably multiple ways.

  1. Or, if you prefer, George W. Bush’s poetic rendering of the adage: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” God bless old W — we all know how hard it is to put food on your family↩︎

Microsoft Preparing New Push for ARM-Powered Windows Laptops 

Tom Warren, reporting for The Verge:

Microsoft is getting ready to fully unveil its vision for “AI PCs” next month at an event in Seattle. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that Microsoft is confident that a round of new Arm-powered Windows laptops will beat Apple’s M3-powered MacBook Air both in CPU performance and AI-accelerated tasks.

Keep in mind when this event takes place that raw CPU performance isn’t what makes Apple silicon great. It’s performance-per-watt, along with the efficiencies of the entire OSes being optimized for the architecture.

After years of failed promises from Qualcomm, Microsoft believes the upcoming Snapdragon X Elite processors will finally offer the performance it has been looking for to push Windows on Arm much more aggressively. Microsoft is now betting big on Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon X Elite processors, which will ship in a variety of Windows laptops this year and Microsoft’s latest consumer-focused Surface hardware.

And the next version of Bluetooth might offer rock-solid reliability.

Microsoft is so confident in these new Qualcomm chips that it’s planning a number of demos that will show how these processors will be faster than an M3 MacBook Air for CPU tasks, AI acceleration, and even app emulation. Microsoft claims, in internal documents seen by The Verge, that these new Windows AI PCs will have “faster app emulation than Rosetta 2” — the application compatibility layer that Apple uses on its Apple Silicon Macs to translate apps compiled for 64-bit Intel processors to Apple’s own processors.

Faster x86 emulation than Rosetta 2 would be quite the achievement, but is it really a bragging point? Three-and-a-half years into the Mac’s Apple silicon era, we’re so far into the transition that almost every app is now native. Are there any remaining pro Mac apps, where performance matters, that still only run under Rosetta?

Whereas on Windows, there’s relatively little ARM-native software, despite the fact that Microsoft started pushing ARM-based Surface devices back in 2012 — 12 years ago. Rosetta emulation is already a non-issue for Mac users in 2024, but x86 emulation might remain forever a problem for Windows. Windows laptop users would surely agree that they’d like longer battery life and quiet fans (if not fanless laptops, like the MacBook Air), but they seemingly have no desire to buy ARM-based machines.

So I guess the favorable comparisons to Rosetta 2 aren’t about being competitive versus the Mac, but instead are an attempt to reassure skeptical Windows users that, this time, ARM-based Surface laptops really will perform just fine even running x86 software. That’s condemning both of all existing ARM-based PCs and the state of x86 chips from Intel and AMD. The implicit message might be that the best way to run x86 Windows software is with an ARM-based chip. That’s certainly the case for Apple silicon Macs — they’re so fast and so efficient that right out of the gate they ran Intel-compiled apps as fast — or faster — than Intel-based MacBooks could. But Microsoft has a real “boy who cried wolf” problem on this front — they’ve made this promise before and it hasn’t panned out.

Google Expands in-House Chip Efforts for AI Data Centers 

Miles Kruppa and Asa Fitch, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

Google is making more of its own semiconductors, preparing a new chip that can handle everything from YouTube advertising to big data analysis as the company tries to combat rising artificial-intelligence costs.

The new chip, called Axion, is a type of chip commonly used in big data centers. It adds to Google’s efforts stretching back more than a decade to develop new computing resources, beginning with specialized chips used for AI work. Google has leaned into that strategy since the late 2022 release of ChatGPT kicked off an arms race that has threatened its dominant position as a gateway to the internet.

The chip efforts promise to reduce Google’s reliance on outside vendors and bring it into competition with longtime partners such as Intel and Nvidia, analysts said. Google officials said they didn’t view it as a competition. “I see this as a basis for growing the size of the pie,” said Amin Vahdat, the Google vice president overseeing the company’s in-house chip operations.

Alan Kay’s adage remains evergreen: “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”

Apple’s New iPhone Ad: ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ 

I saw this new iPhone 15 commercial a few times over the weekend, watching basketball. (Congrats to the South Carolina women and UConn men, both of whom won championships convincingly.) The gist of the commercial is that you shouldn’t worry about deleting photos to free up storage, because modern iPhones have plenty of space. The commercial-ending tagline as our protagonist stops deleting photos and resumes shooting new ones of his adorable dog: “Lots of storage for lots of photos / Relax it’s iPhone 15”.

It’s true that the iPhones 15, 14, and 13 all start with 128 GB of storage, which I think is the perfect baseline storage capacity. Only the so-old-it-still-has-a-home-button 3rd-gen iPhone SE starts at 64 GB. Especially when you’re talking about photos — which is what this commercial is about — 128 GB is a lot of on-device storage.

But this commercial made me want to yell at my TV each time it came on: “The problem is iCloud storage, not on-device storage!” The free tier of iCloud remains just 5 GB, and the $1/month paid tier offers just 50 GB, which may not be enough to back up even a 64 GB iPhone SE. I’m an outlier — 660 GB in iCloud Photos alone — but my wife, a casual/occasional photographer, has 55 GB in iCloud Photos. Even people who don’t shoot many photos in a year can wind up with large photo libraries because they’ve been using iPhones for 10–15 years.

I’d much rather have constrained storage on-device, with ample storage online, than the other way around. iOS does a great job in this situation with the (on by default) “Optimize iPhone Storage” option in Settings → Photos. But the other way around is surely the situation for many, if not most, iPhone users: more space on device than storage in iCloud. And no amount of cleverness in iOS can protect a user with un-backed-up photos and videos if they lose or break their iPhone.

Am I missing something? It feels like this new commercial is just whistling past the single biggest shortcoming in the Apple ecosystem.

Google Launches Upgraded Find My Device Network for Android 

Erik Kay, writing on Google’s company blog:

Today, the all-new Find My Device is rolling out to Android devices around the world, starting in the U.S. and Canada. With a new, crowdsourced network of over a billion Android devices, Find My Device can help you find your misplaced Android devices and everyday items quickly and securely. Here are five ways you can try it out. [...]

Starting in May, you’ll be able to locate everyday items like your keys, wallet or luggage with Bluetooth tracker tags from Chipolo and Pebblebee in the Find My Device app. These tags, built specifically for the Find My Device network, will be compatible with unknown tracker alerts across Android and iOS to help protect you from unwanted tracking. Keep an eye out later this year for additional Bluetooth tags from eufy, Jio, Motorola and more.

Sounds like Google isn’t planning to make its own tracker tags.

A separate post by Dave Kleidermacher on the Google Security Blog gives a high-level overview of the platform’s privacy and security features.


My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring DF last week. Kolide’s Shadow IT report found that 47% of companies let unmanaged devices access their resources, and authenticate via credentials alone.

Even with phishing-resistant MFA, it’s frighteningly easy for bad actors to impersonate end users — in the case of the MGM hack, all it took was a call to the help desk. What could have prevented that attack (and so many others) was an un-spoofable form of authentication for the device itself.

That’s what you get with Kolide’s device trust solution: a chance to verify that a device is both known and secure before it authenticates. Kolide’s agent looks at hundreds of device properties; their competitors look at only a handful. What’s more, Kolide’s user-first, privacy-respecting approach means you can put it on machines outside MDM: contractor devices, mobile phones, and even Linux machines.

Without a device trust solution, all the security in the world is just security theater. But Kolide can help close the gaps.

The ‘xz’ Back Door 

Dan Goodin, writing for Ars Technica:

The compression utility, known as xz Utils, introduced the malicious code in versions ​​5.6.0 and 5.6.1, according to Andres Freund, the developer who discovered it. There are no known reports of those versions being incorporated into any production releases for major Linux distributions, but both Red Hat and Debian reported that recently published beta releases used at least one of the backdoored versions — specifically, in Fedora Rawhide and Debian testing, unstable and experimental distributions. A stable release of Arch Linux is also affected. That distribution, however, isn’t used in production systems. [...]

Several people, including two Ars readers, reported that the multiple apps included in the HomeBrew package manager for macOS rely on the backdoored 5.6.1 version of xz Utils. HomeBrew has now rolled back the utility to version 5.4.6. Maintainers have more details available here.

There are several notable things about this hack. One is that it was years in the making — “Jia Tan”, the developer who added the back door, had been contributing legit patches to the xz project for years. Another is that it was very subtle: the ultimate goal was a back door in OpenSSH but the attacker(s) put their code in a compression library that was sometimes a dependency for another library that was itself only sometimes a dependency of OpenSSH. Yet another is that it seems nearly miraculous that it was discovered — Andres Freund, the Microsoft engineer who uncovered it, only became suspicious when he noticed that his SSH connections initiated from the command line went from taking about 0.2 seconds to 0.7 seconds. It pays to be picky sometimes!

Question 1: How do we keep this from happening again?

Question 2: How do we know similar back doors haven’t been successfully put in place already?

More from Goodin here, including a good overview diagram.

Evan Boehs: “Everything I Know About the XZ Backdoor”.

Amazon Ditches ‘Just Walk Out’ Checkouts at Its Grocery Stores 

Maxwell Zell, writing for Gizmodo:

Amazon is phasing out its checkout-less grocery stores with “Just Walk Out” technology, first reported by The Information Tuesday. The company’s senior vice president of grocery stores says they’re moving away from Just Walk Out, which relied on cameras and sensors to track what people were leaving the store with.

Just over half of Amazon Fresh stores are equipped with Just Walk Out. The technology allows customers to skip checkout altogether by scanning a QR code when they enter the store. Though it seemed completely automated, Just Walk Out relied on more than 1,000 people in India watching and labeling videos to ensure accurate checkouts. The cashiers were simply moved off-site, and they watched you as you shopped.

It was The Information, too, that broke the story about how labor-intensive “Just Walk Out” was, reporting last May:

For its part, Amazon still relies on a significant amount of human staffing to power Just Walk Out behind the scenes, according to a person who has worked on the technology. Amazon had more than 1,000 people in India working on Just Walk Out as of mid-2022 whose jobs included manually reviewing transactions and labeling images from videos to train Just Walk Out’s machine learning model, the person said. The reliance on backup humans explains in part why it can take hours for customers to receive receipts after walking out of a store, the person said.

Molly White, back in January, regarding the purported AI-generated George Carlin comedy special:

Need to start keeping a list of all the times some big supposed display of bleeding edge technology turns out to just be A Guy.

Google to Delete Search Data From Tens of Millions of Users Who Used ‘Incognito’ Mode in Chrome 

Bobby Allyn, reporting for NPR:

Google will destroy the private browsing history of millions of people who used “incognito” mode in its Chrome browser as a part of a settlement filed to federal court on Monday in a case over the company’s secret tracking of web activity. For years, Google simply informed users of Chrome’s internet browser that “you’ve gone Incognito” and “now you can browse privately,” when the supposedly untraceable browsing option was turned on — without saying what bits of data the company has been harvesting.

Yet, according to a 2020 class-action lawsuit, the tech giant continued to scrape searches by hoovering up data about users who browsed the internet in incognito mode through advertising tools used by websites, grabbing “potentially embarrassing” searches of millions of people. Google then used this data to measure web traffic and sell ads. [...]

As the suit was pending, Google changed the splash screen of incognito mode to state that websites, employers and schools and internet service providers can view browsing activity in incognito mode. But under the deal, Google will have to state that the company itself can also track browsing during incognito mode.

That was quite the omission. I’m not sure there was ever a product in history more purposefully misleadingly named than Chrome’s “Incognito” mode.

Yahoo Is Acquiring Artifact, Folding It Into Yahoo News 

Also from David Pierce at The Verge:

The two sides declined to share the cost of the acquisition, but both made clear Yahoo is acquiring Artifact’s tech rather than its team. Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, Artifact’s co-founders, will be “special advisors” for Yahoo but won’t be joining the company. Artifact’s remaining five employees have either gotten other jobs or are planning to take some time off.

The acquisition comes a bit more than a year after Artifact’s launch and about three months after Systrom and Krieger announced its death. “We have built something that a core group of users love,” the co-founders wrote in January, “but we have concluded that the market opportunity isn’t big enough to warrant continued investment in this way.” They said that the biggest reason to shut down was in order to focus on “newer, bigger and better things that have the ability to reach many millions of people.” The bet behind Artifact was always that AI had the potential to be a huge, internet-changing technology; maybe there were just more interesting things to work on than a news app without a big news audience. [...]

Artifact, the app, will go away once the acquisition is complete. But Artifact’s underlying tech for categorizing, curating, and personalizing content will soon start to show up on Yahoo News — and eventually on other Yahoo platforms, too. “You’ll see that stuff flowing into our products in the coming months,” says Downs Mulder. It sounds like there’s also a good chance that Yahoo’s apps might get a bit of Artifact’s speed and polish over time, too.

Yahoo, where scrappy startup acquisitions go to thrive”, said no one, ever.

Google Podcasts Moves to the Google Dump 

David Pierce, writing for The Verge:

Google Podcasts is dead. It has been dying for months, since Google announced last fall that it was killing its dedicated podcast app in order to focus all its podcasting efforts on YouTube Music. This is a bad idea and a big downgrade, and I’d be more mad if only I were more surprised.

The Podcasts app is just the latest product to go through a process I’ve come to call The Google Cycle. It always goes the same way: the company launches a new service with grandiose language about how this fits its mission of organizing and making accessible the world’s information, quickly updates it with a couple of neat features, immediately seems to forget it exists, eventually launches a competitor out of some other part of the company, obviously begins to deprecate it and shift focus to the new competitor, and then, years later, finally shuts it down for real. The Google Graveyard is full of apps like Reader, Duo, Inbox, Allo, Wallet, and countless others that have been through The Google Cycle, and it feels just as bad every time.

The saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” With people who come to rely on new apps from Google, it’s more like “Well, you’ve fooled me a dozen times so far, please don’t do it again with this new thing you made that I like.”

I haven’t been bitten by Google killing an app or service since Google Reader, because I never again trusted them. I suppose this might be a lot more difficult for Android users, but I honestly don’t even remember the last time I added a new Google app or service to the set of tools I rely upon. The only Google services I use are YouTube (and even there, I have complaints), Google Search (and even there, it hasn’t been my default web search for nearly a decade), and Gmail (and even there, I access it via IMAP from Apple Mail and Mimestream). The only Google apps on my iPhone are YT Studio (which, given how infrequently I publish videos to my channel, I probably don’t need), Chrome, and Google Keep. And the only reason I have Chrome and Keep installed is for syncing browser tabs and notes between my iPhone and my burner-device-to-see-how-things-are-on-Android Pixel phone. I wouldn’t be surprised if they shut down Google Keep and started an all new Google-branded notes app soon.

Oh, and the Nest app. I have that because we have (and love) Nest thermostats, but I don’t really think of that as a Google app.

I don’t eschew Google products as any sort of statement. I just don’t like most of what they make, and what I do like, I don’t trust them to keep around. It’s rather glorious living a nearly Google-free digital life.

Trump Media Plunges as Truth Social’s $58 Million Loss Reported 

Drew Harwell, reporting for The Washington Post:

Former president Donald Trump’s social media company said Monday it lost more than $58 million last year, sending its stock plunging more than 21 percent only days after a highflying public debut set the company’s value at more than $8 billion.

Trump Media and Technology Group, which owns Truth Social, said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the company generated just over $4 million in revenue last year, including less than $1 million in the last quarter.

The nosediving share price of the company — which uses the stock ticker DJT, for Trump’s initials — fell to its lowest level since Trump Media went public last week and shaved more than a fifth of its market value in a single day. It also slashed the value of Trump’s 57 percent ownership in the company by roughly $1 billion, to $3.8 billion.

The company’s 8-K filing is just bananas. They not only aren’t turning a profit, they don’t foresee ever making one. They don’t track any sort of metrics typical for a social media company — signups, monthly active users, average revenue per user — none of it. And they don’t plan to, either. To call it a scam gives scams a bad name.

I want to laugh, but: If Trump is elected again in November — which, based on the close results of 2016 and 2020, and the current polling data, is definitely possible — shaking down lobbyists and foreign governments with exorbitant rates for ads on Truth Social seems like a much better grift than running a hotel across the street from the White House. A corrupt president owning a social media site would be a grift that scales. If there’s any rational reason for Trump Media to have any value at all, it’s that. It’s worthless today, but could be a veritable goldmine in a second Trump administration.

Donald Trump’s Easter Madness 

Taegan Goddard, writing at Political Wire:

While you were spending time with family over the weekend, enjoying the start of the baseball season or watching college basketball, Donald Trump was glued to Truth Social. After 71 mostly all caps posts, Trump finally had this Easter message.

It’s 168 words, the first 165 of which are (ostensibly) a single sentence. You really need to see it for yourself. Here’s a screenshot; here’s a link to the post on Truth Social.


There are only so many ways we can say Trump’s behavior is not normal. If someone close to you behaved this way, you would desperately try to get them psychiatric help.

Cleveland Plain Dealer Editor Chris Quinn: ‘You Saw It’ 

Chris Quinn, in his Letter From the Editor column at The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The north star here is truth. We tell the truth, even when it offends some of the people who pay us for information.

The truth is that Donald Trump undermined faith in our elections in his false bid to retain the presidency. He sparked an insurrection intended to overthrow our government and keep himself in power. No president in our history has done worse.

This is not subjective. We all saw it. Plenty of leaders today try to convince the masses we did not see what we saw, but our eyes don’t deceive. (If leaders began a yearslong campaign today to convince us that the Baltimore bridge did not collapse Tuesday morning, would you ever believe them?) Trust your eyes. Trump on Jan. 6 launched the most serious threat to our system of government since the Civil War. You know that. You saw it.

The facts involving Trump are crystal clear, and as news people, we cannot pretend otherwise, as unpopular as that might be with a segment of our readers. There aren’t two sides to facts. People who say the earth is flat don’t get space on our platforms. If that offends them, so be it.

There’s no need for any straight news publication to tie itself in knots over Trump and Trumpism. There are all sorts of reasons left-leaning Americans were opposed to right-leaning policies when Trump was president. Likewise, there are all sorts of reasons right-leaning Americans are opposed to left-leaning policies of the Biden administration. That’s called politics. And it makes sense that straight news publications try to stay above the fray on those divides.

What Trump did after losing the 2020 election isn’t on that spectrum. As Quinn put it so well, you know that. You saw it. We all saw it. It’s that simple.