Linked List: March 2024


My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring DF this week. Kolide has seen cyber insurance premiums go up by 40 percent in just the last two years, and got curious about:

  • What’s driving the increases?
  • Who really needs cybersecurity insurance?
  • How can the average company reduce their premiums?

What Kolide found was that insurance companies themselves can help get us out of this crisis, by mandating some (pretty basic) security requirements for their customers — things like MFA, endpoint security, and retiring end-of-life software. Read their full report to learn more about their findings.

The Talk Show: ‘You’ve Never Seen Email Like This Before’ 

The one and only John Moltz returns to the show to talk about the relative dearth of original content for Vision Pro, WWDC rumors and guesses, and, yes, a wee bit about Apple’s regulatory/antitrust tribulations.

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Meta Used Its Onavo VPN to Snoop on Users’ Encrypted Snapchat Traffic 

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for TechCrunch:

“Whenever someone asks a question about Snapchat, the answer is usually that because their traffic is encrypted we have no analytics about them,” Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in an email dated June 9, 2016, which was published as part of the lawsuit. “Given how quickly they’re growing, it seems important to figure out a new way to get reliable analytics about them. Perhaps we need to do panels or write custom software. You should figure out how to do this.”

Facebook’s engineers solution was to use Onavo, a VPN-like service that Facebook acquired in 2013. In 2019, Facebook shut down Onavo after a TechCrunch investigation revealed that Facebook had been secretly paying teenagers to use Onavo so the company could access all of their web activity.

After Zuckerberg’s email, the Onavo team took on the project and a month later proposed a solution: so-called kits that can be installed on iOS and Android that intercept traffic for specific subdomains, “allowing us to read what would otherwise be encrypted traffic so we can measure in-app usage,” read an email from July 2016. “This is a ‘man-in-the-middle’ approach.” [...]

Later, according to the court documents, Facebook expanded the program to Amazon and YouTube. Inside Facebook, there wasn’t a consensus on whether Project Ghostbusters was a good idea. Some employees, including Jay Parikh, Facebook’s then-head of infrastructure engineering, and Pedro Canahuati, the then-head of security engineering, expressed their concern. “I can’t think of a good argument for why this is okay. No security person is ever comfortable with this, no matter what consent we get from the general public. The general public just doesn’t know how this stuff works,” Canahuati wrote in an email, included in the court documents.

There’s the Facebook we know and love.

In 2018 Apple removed Onavo from the App Store, but the fact that Facebook was using Onavo in this way was known a year earlier.

WhatsApp: The World’s Default Communication App 

Pranav Dixit, writing for Engadget:

“WhatsApp is kind of like a media platform and kind of like a messaging platform, but it’s also not quite those things,” Surya Mattu, a researcher at Princeton who runs the university’s Digital Witness Lab, which studies how information flows through WhatsApp, told Engadget. “It has the scale of a social media platform, but it doesn’t have the traditional problems of one because there are no recommendations and no social graph.”

Indeed, WhatsApp’s scale dwarfs nearly every social network and messaging app out there. In 2020, WhatsApp announced it had more than two billion users around the world. It’s bigger than iMessage (1.3 billion users), TikTok (1 billion), Telegram (800 million), Snap (400 million) and Signal (40 million.) It stands head and shoulders above fellow Meta platform Instagram, which captures around 1.4 billion users. The only thing bigger than WhatsApp is Facebook itself, with more than three billion users .

WhatsApp has become the world’s default communications platform. Ten years after it was acquired, its growth shows no sign of stopping. Even in the US, it is finally beginning to break through the green and blue bubble battles and is reportedly one of Meta’s fastest-growing services. As Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the New York Times last year, WhatsApp is the “next chapter” for the company.

Anecdotally, I’m seeing more American usage of WhatsApp too. Putting aside the (deeply misguided, IMO) antitrust arguments about iMessage, Apple’s decade ago decision to eschew an iMessage client for Android might be proven to have been a mistake the old-fashioned way: through market forces.

Evan Gershkovich’s Stolen Year in a Russian Jail 

Eliot Brown, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

Evan Gershkovich was supposed to be with his friends in Berlin the first week of April 2023.

The Wall Street Journal Russia correspondent was set to stay in an Airbnb in the edgy Neukölln neighborhood, a base to explore the city’s cobble-lined streets with his tightknit crew of journalist pals exiled there from Moscow. He was going to drink coffee in hipster cafes and chat into the night over glasses of beer.

It was the start of his stolen year.

Russian authorities detained Evan in Yekaterinburg on March 29, 2023, and threw him into a jail cell in Moscow. He was a fully accredited journalist on a reporting trip and was detained on an allegation of espionage, which he, his employer and the U.S. government vociferously deny.

Kudos to the Journal for putting together a huge package to raise awareness of Gershkovich’s unjust incarceration. Tons of coverage online, but man, sometimes print design can do things that otherwise can’t be expressed. What a statement today’s front page makes.

‘MLB for VisionOS Strikes Out on Opening Day’ 

More sports-on-Vision-Pro news from Jason Snell:

That might still happen, but just before Opening Day the app was updated to support real, live baseball games, and all the exciting stuff is gone. Today I took it for a spin and was deeply disappointed — it’s essentially just a front end for watching games via MLB TV, and a buggy one at that.

I couldn’t find support for Gameday when I first used the app, though later when playing back an archived stream, I did find Gameday available — from within the video playback, so you can’t use it for a game you’re not watching on the app. And it’s immersive, so you can’t put it up and then do something else, which is also probably a mistake.

The app also only plays back a single video at a time, even if multiple games are going on at once — despite the fact that watching multiple video streams at once is basically what VR was made for.

I watched the end of the Yankees opener against the Houston Asterisks wearing Vision Pro, and share all of Snell’s gripes about the app. It’s downright bizarre that the app has a “main” window that, if closed, quits the entire app — but that’s not the window where you watch video!

And so many little paper cuts, like the fact that the app doesn’t integrate with the system Keychain APIs, so you don’t get autofill for passwords. I’m so used to password autofill across all my devices that it felt like I was using some sort of retro device, entering my password manually.

Glad to see MLB have a native app on Opening Day, but man, they have a long way to go before it’s actually good.

Andrew Aude, in Happier Times, Before Anyone Could Argue Apple Pay Was a Monopoly 

A DF reader with a better memory than mine thought Andrew Aude’s name rang a bell, and lo, I mentioned him once before, while he was still a student at Stanford in 2014. Aude cleverly figured out how the ultimately-doomed, but then-nascent CurrentC payments app worked while it was still in invitation-only testing.

iOS 17’s Creepy-Sounding ‘Discoverable by Others’ Journaling Setting Isn’t Actually Creepy 

Speaking of The Wall Street Journal and Apple’s new Journal app, Joanna Stern has a great column about a creepy-sounding Journal setting:

You can turn on Journaling Suggestions. This recommends topics to write about based on things your phone (but not Apple) knows about you — music you’ve listened to, people you’ve called or messaged, photos you’ve recently taken, places you’ve visited, etc. You decide if you want to turn this on. When you first launch the Journal app, it will prompt you to do that. Those suggestions aren’t ever shared with Apple.

Here’s where it gets weird. When you go into Settings → Privacy & Security → Journaling Suggestions, you’ll see that Discoverable by Others is enabled by default — even if you never turned on suggestions. Under the setting it says, “Allow others to detect you are nearby to help prioritize their suggestions.” [...]

A company spokeswoman said claims on social media that Apple is sharing your name and location with others are inaccurate. The phone can use Bluetooth to detect the number of devices nearby that are in your contacts. It doesn’t store which of these specific contacts were around but instead may use this as context to improve and prioritize journaling suggestions, the spokeswoman said.

Here’s an example provided by Apple: Say, you hosted a dinner party at your house, with friends who are in your contacts. The system might prioritize that in the suggestions, as it knows from the head count that there was something different about that event. It wasn’t just your average night at home with your family.

This is a fine feature, and I think it’s fine that it’s on by default. But the description of the feature in Settings is just atrocious. It sounds creepy as hell. I suspect this is one of those cases where everyone at Apple involved with the feature knew that everything related to the new Journal app and associated new journaling-prompt APIs is, in fact, extraordinarily private. Just like with Health data, everything is stored on-device, including the keys, and iCloud sync is E2EE. Even if faced with a law enforcement warrant, Apple has nothing to turn over related to Journal.

But most people don’t know this. And many people — quite reasonably! — are deeply suspicious that all big tech companies are spying on them and play loosey-goosey with anything related to privacy. To someone at Apple — especially those who work on Health and Journal stuff — it’s absurd to think that Apple would even consider adding a setting to iOS that makes you personally “discoverable” by anyone, friends and strangers alike, if you’re simply within Bluetooth range of their iPhone. Let alone make that setting on by default!

But that’s exactly what the description of this feature in Settings → Privacy & Security → Journaling Suggestions sounds like. When describing features like this, Apple needs to presume that the user is assuming the worst.

Apple Sues Former Employee for Leaking to Reporters From The Wall Street Journal and The Information 

Joe Rossignol, reporting for MacRumors:

Apple this month sued its former employee Andrew Aude in California state court, alleging that he breached the company’s confidentiality agreement and violated labor laws by leaking sensitive information to the media and employees at other tech companies. Apple has demanded a jury trial, and it is seeking damages in excess of $25,000. [...]

In April 2023, for example, Apple alleges that Aude leaked a list of finalized features for the iPhone’s Journal app to a journalist at The Wall Street Journal on a phone call. That same month, The Wall Street Journal’s Aaron Tilley published a report titled “Apple Plans iPhone Journaling App in Expansion of Health Initiatives.”

Using the encrypted messaging app Signal, Aude is said to have sent “over 1,400” messages to the same journalist, who Aude referred to as “Homeboy.” He is also accused of sending “over 10,000 text messages” to another journalist at the website The Information, and he allegedly traveled “across the continent” to meet with her.

10,000 text messages seems like ... a lot? Makes me wonder if there was a personal aspect to that relationship, beyond leaking. MacRumors has posted a copy of Apple’s lawsuit, which includes this gem:

Apple learned of Mr. Aude’s misconduct in the fall of 2023. When Apple met with him to discuss his improper disclosures, Mr. Aude promptly confirmed his guilt through his actions, if not his words. At the start of his November 7, 2023 interview, Mr. Aude repeatedly denied that he had leaked any information to anyone. He also claimed that he did not have his Apple-issued work iPhone with him. Feigning the need to visit the bathroom mid-interview, Mr. Aude then extracted his iPhone from his pocket during the break and permanently deleted significant amounts of evidence from his device. This included the Signal app, which memorialized his history of leaking information to “Homeboy” (and likely others) via encrypted communications.

Part of the evidence Aude left behind were screenshots he kept of otherwise secure messages:

In connection with one leak, Mr. Aude admitted that he violated his obligations to Apple so he could “kill” products and features with which he took issue. As his frequent Google searches, article shares, and screenshots saved to his Apple-issued work iPhone reveal, vanity and personal enjoyment of the media’s attention also played a significant role in his malfeasance. In Mr. Aude’s screenshot below memorializing his exchange with the WSJ journalist, Mr. Aude exclaimed that he could not “wait for chaos to break out” in reaction to a forthcoming article reflecting his leaked information.

Worth noting that Aaron “Homeboy” Tilley was a reporter for The Information until September 2019, when he left to join the WSJ. Anyway, I’m sure the WSJ will help Aude out with his legal bills.

‘2023 MLS Cup Highlights’: 5-Minute Apple Immersive Video for Vision Pro Debuts Tonight 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

Apple announced today that the first Apple Immersive Video documentary for Vision Pro, featuring highlights from last year’s MLS playoffs, will debut tonight (March 28) at 6 p.m. Pacific. [...]

I’m excited to see the finished product — all of Apple’s immersive videos have been pretty amazing — but I have to point out that this five-minute highlight packages is being released 110 days after last year’s MLS Cup Final. That’s not great turnaround time. If immersive video for sports is going to be a thing, turnaround is going to need to be a lot faster.

In addition to the four-month turnaround time, there’s also the fact that five minutes is pretty short. Perhaps the single most surprising aspect of Apple’s launch plan for Vision Pro is the relative dearth of original immersive content. It’s the most compelling experience with the product but there’s hardly any of it. I would have thought Apple would drop new immersive content at least a few times per month, if not weekly, but this MLS Cup highlight film is the first new one since launch.

Kara Swisher Interviews Margrethe Vestager 

Terrific interview; Kara Swisher is so damn good at this. I learned a lot. Vestager comes across as very likable and very sharp. I disagree with her on quite a bit, but I like her. The segment on Apple’s Core Technology Fee was particularly interesting. (I remain of the opinion that the CTF will stand, with only minor tweaks.)

(Vox Media’s CMS (seemingly?) makes it maddeningly difficult to link to a single podcast episode, so here are direct links for Apple Podcasts and Overcast.)

The Talk Show: ‘Less Space Than a Nomad? Lame’ 

Jason Snell returns to the show to talk about the DOJ’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple. And sports gambling.

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Canva Acquires Affinity 

Affinity — makers of a terrific suite of design apps — back in September 2022, when the now-aborted acquisition of Figma by Adobe was announced:

Ain’t nobody acquiring us 😎

Affinity CEO Ashley Hewson today:

I am thrilled to announce that Affinity is joining the Canva family.

WWDC 2024: June 10–14 

No changes to the format: online conference with in-person attendance for the Monday keynote:

WWDC24 will include an in-person experience on June 10 that will provide developers the opportunity to watch the keynote at Apple Park, meet with Apple team members, and take part in special activities. Space will be limited, and details on how to apply to attend can be found on the Apple Developer site and app.

Announced pretty much right on schedule too. 2020 was an unusual year, to say the least, but starting in 2021 the WWDC dates were announced March 30, April 5, March 29, and now March 26.

Update: Greg Joswiak on Twitter/X:

Mark your calendars for #WWDC24, June 10-14. It’s going to be Absolutely Incredible!

“Absolutely Incredible” with capital letters. No idea what that could mean. A true puzzle for the ages.

The Original Original ‘Apple Vision’ 

I thought going back to the 1990s was old, but here’s an Integer BASIC graphics and sound demo from 1978 named “Apple-Vision”. (Thanks to DF reader James Mitchell.)

Data Suggests Twitter/X Is Bleeding Users 

David Ingram, reporting for NBC News:

Data from two research firms and figures published by Musk and X suggest a deteriorating situation for X by some metrics. Musk has marketed it as the world’s “town square,” but in number of users it continues to lag far behind social media rivals that focus on video, such as Instagram and TikTok.

In February, X had 27 million daily active users of its mobile app in the U.S., down 18% from a year earlier, according to Sensor Tower, a market intelligence firm based in San Francisco. The U.S. user base has been flat or down every month since November 2022, the first full month of Musk’s owning the app, and in total it’s down 23% since then, Sensor Tower said.

You know I’m skeptical regarding Sensor Tower’s data, but if they’re measuring all social network mobile app use the same way, it seems like a fair comparison against other social networks. And it jibes with my personal anecdata.

‘How Comics Were Made: A Visual History of Printing Cartoons’ 

Glenn Fleishman:

If you love newspaper comic strips, you will love my new book How Comics Were Made: A Visual History from the Drawing Board to the Printed Page. I’ve combined years of research and the diligent collection of unique comics printing artifacts with dozens of interviews with cartoonists, historians, and production people to tell the story of how a comic starts with an artist’s hand, and makes it way through transformations into print and, more recently, onto a digital screen. I need your help to make it happen!

The book will be a glorious full-color celebration of the art form, heavily illustrated from the 1890s to the present day with materials that you’ve never seen before, drawn from my personal collection and museums, cartoonists and their estates, and institutions around the United States. It will also feature never-before-published strips and versions of some popular comics.

I’m a sucker for labor-of-love books, and remain fascinated by the history of printing technology. So of course I’m backing Fleishman’s Kickstarter campaign. But I’ll bet a lot of you might share the same interest. Here’s a brief taste: “The Week in Doonesbury That Wasn’t” on YouTube.

The campaign is just over 75 percent funded with three days to go.

The Original ‘AppleVision’ Lineup 

I quipped in my post linking to Apple’s updated style guide that if Vision Pro had been a product from the 1990s, Apple might have named it “AppleVision”. Turns out Apple did make products under that name — a short-lived line of CRT displays. From a little birdie who worked on them:

It was an ill-fated (and largely disgraced) line of CRTs with automatic color calibration built-in. [...] The on-screen brightness and volume controls that still grace macOS today are there largely because of the AppleVision product, though an earlier form of them showed up on a 14” CRT just prior. Also, DigitalColor Meter (now styled as “Digital Color Meter”) came out of that software effort as well.

But the AppleVision displays were, despite a huge amount of innovation, extremely unreliable. It was the first time Apple had attempted to build a multiscan CRT on their own, and it turns out that multiscan CRTs are really, really hard to get right. Apple took a large (for the time, in the mid 90s) financial hit on the AppleVision 1710 and 1710av, in particular. The name was eventually abandoned as it had been tarnished beyond usefulness.

‘Harrison Bergeron’ 

The overriding gist of the DOJ’s lawsuit against Apple brought to mind, for DF reader E.G., Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian short story Harrison Bergeron. Despite being an enormous Vonnegut fan, I couldn’t recall reading it before. It’s so apt. As E.G. quipped in his email to me, “Only in making all products, services, and experiences equally bad, will we have equality and fairness.”

There are a couple of plain text versions of the story on the web, but none that do justice to the story typographically. So, channeling my inner Dean Allen, I typeset one. Curl up with it on your iPad — or, dare I suggest, go old-school and print it out.

Update: “Harrison Bergeron” is included in Vonnegut’s short story collection Welcome to the Monkey House, available from Amazon, Bookshop, and Apple Books (which includes it in its free preview).

Digital Wallets and Per-Merchant Card Numbers 

Matt Birchler, writing at Birchtree:

It’s notable that it’s called a DPAN and not “the Apple Pay number” — it’s a generic term, and that’s because this is a standard feature of digital wallets everywhere, not just Apple Pay. Google Pay and Samsung Pay are the biggest other digital wallets in the U.S. and they both do exactly the same thing. While it’s not technically using a DPAN since the payment runs through different companies, Amazon Pay and Shop Pay buttons also obscure the actual FPAN (full card number) from merchants.

I feel like this comes up a lot, but I can not stress enough to you how little merchants want to ever ever ever handle your actual credit card number. It adds so much risk on their end and modern payment acceptance tools make it easy to collect payment details in a way that makes sure as few people as possible have access to the real card info.

Gruber mentions banks absolutely not wanting to use DPANs themselves, but we actually don’t need to speculate about this, we have this info already. Numerous banks from Walls Fargo to Chase to Bank of America have (or had) digital wallets, all of which used DPANs to protect your plain text account number. Paze is what a few big U.S. banks use today and it of course uses DPANs as well. In fact the top reason they give for why you should use Paze is, “Paze does not share your actual card number with the merchant.”

The Exception That Proves the Rule: HP Sold PCs With iTunes Pre-Installed in 2004 

Apple press release from January 2004:

Working to provide consumers with the most compelling digital content whenever and wherever they desire, HP and Apple today announced a strategic alliance to deliver an HP-branded digital music player based on Apple’s iPod, the number one digital music player in the world, and Apple’s award-winning iTunes digital music jukebox and pioneering online music store to HP’s customers.

As part of the alliance, HP consumer PCs and notebooks will come preinstalled with Apple’s iTunes jukebox software and an easy-reference desktop icon to point consumers directly to the iTunes Music Store, ensuring a simple, seamless music experience. This offering is yet another way that HP is helping consumers enjoy more from their personal digital entertainment content.

My point stands that iTunes on Windows was successful largely from users who installed it themselves, but it’s worth a correction to point out that it was pre-installed on HP PCs for a while, and at the time HP was the second-biggest PC maker. Hard to believe I forgot this, because the most remarkable part of the deal wasn’t that HP pre-installed iTunes, but that Apple granted HP a license to sell HP-branded iPods.


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Seven Years of Institutional Anti-‘Big-Tech’ Bias at The New York Times Might Lead to Cognitive Dissonance 

Brian X. Chen — the “Tech Fix” columnist for The New York Times who is so unenthused about tech products that he advised readers to “just use flash” rather than upgrade their phone if their low-light photos look bad — in a column on Roku’s recent licensing shenanigans:

Roku’s no-good month stirred discussions in online forums about what it means when a company can essentially deactivate the device you paid for. That’s similar to how companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft can decide to stop issuing software updates for older devices, which gradually degrades their performance.

That’s just stated as fact. But here’s Chen back in 2017, in a column headlined “A New Phone Comes Out. Yours Slows Down. A Conspiracy? No.”:

The phenomenon of perceived slowdowns is so widespread that many believe tech companies intentionally cripple smartphones and computers to ensure that people buy new ones every few years. Conspiracy theorists call it planned obsolescence.

That’s a myth. While slowdowns happen, they take place for a far less nefarious reason. That reason is a software upgrade.

So getting software updates was the cause for slowdowns in 2017, but not getting software updates is now the cause in 2024. Got it.

New Humane Demo Video: ‘What Is Ai Pin?’ 

Humane is getting closer to shipping, and better at making videos. One clever trick each presenter in this new video does is continue talking to the audience while waiting for responses from the Ai Pin (which, it seems, can take a while).

The Verge: ‘CarPlay Is Anticompetitive, Too, US Lawsuit Alleges’ 

Andrew J. Hawkins, reporting for The Verge:

“By applying the same playbook of restrictions to CarPlay, Apple further locks-in the power of the iPhone by preventing the development of other disintermediating technologies that interoperate with the phone but reside off device,” the lawsuit says.

The inclusion of CarPlay, as well as digital key functions through Apple’s Wallet feature, came as a surprise to some analysts, who say that the DOJ may be misunderstanding the utility and functions of the phone-mirroring system.

This is especially true for the next-generation version, which prosecutors described insidiously as taking “over all of the screens, sensors, and gauges in a car, forcing users to experience driving as an iPhone-centric experience if they want to use any of the features provided by CarPlay.”

That’s misleading, said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights and an expert on vehicle software. “Even with the next-gen system, OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] don’t actually have to let Apple take over all the screens,” he said in an email. “They can limit the interface to whichever screens they want.”

“Misleading” is too kind. It’s just flat-out wrong. The biggest problem with CarPlay 2 is its relative dearth of adoption to date — previewed only by Porsche and Aston Martin, neither of which is even vaguely a mainstream brand.

Apple Style Guide, March 2024 Edition 

Another terrific resource from Apple’s documentation team, also available as a PDF. Apple has long made its style guide publicly available, but I suspect many people aren’t aware of it. The previous edition was from 2022.

Worth noting though that this is Apple’s style bible, and while most of it is inarguably good advice, some of it is simply arbitrary. For example, Apple famously styles some of its product names without title-casing them: Mac mini, iPod nano, macOS, visionOS, watchOS, etc. That’s purely style though, not spelling, and my style — like most publications — is to capitalize proper names.

A new entry, some of the idiosyncrasies of which many of you have likely already noticed in Apple’s marketing and documentation:

Apple Vision Pro — Always use the full name. In general references, don’t use the with Apple Vision Pro. It’s OK to use another article or a possessive adjective: Adjust the fit of your Apple Vision Pro.

You put on and take off Apple Vision Pro. When you have it on, you’re wearing it.

Put on Apple Vision Pro and adjust the fit.
Don’t run while you’re wearing Apple Vision Pro.

In text, don’t write the name Apple Vision Pro by combining the  symbol with Vision Pro.

Correct: Get started with Apple Vision Pro.
Incorrect: Get started with Vision Pro.

Don’t refer to Apple Vision Pro as a headset. In most cases, use the product name; in content where the name is repeated frequently, you can use device.

Outside Cupertino, no one eschews the in front of Apple product names when doing so sounds natural, and everyone calls the Vision Pro a “headset”, because, well, it is a headset.

(I keep thinking that if it had come out in the 1990s, it might have been named AppleVision Pro, closed-up and camel-cased, and also keep thinking that it kind of looks cool that way. Similarly: AppleWatch.)

Jason Snell on US v. Apple 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors, with a first take I found myself nodding my head in agreement with throughout:

For me, the most unexpected part of the document was the DoJ’s explanation that Apple’s success as a company largely stems from… the DoJ itself. It points out that Apple’s resurgence early in this century was due to the release of the iPod, which only became a hit when it arrived on Windows. The DoJ argues that the iPod’s presence on Windows was only due to Microsoft being under a consent decree from the DoJ for monopolistic behavior.

I don’t know enough about the specifics of the Microsoft consent decree to weigh in on the idea that an unconstrained Microsoft would have made it impossible for Apple to make the iPod compatible with Windows. It’s a pretty big hypothetical, and I’m skeptical, but I’m impressed that the DoJ would try to place its current case within the larger DoJ Connected Universe.

You don’t need to be a lawyer to see that this is a nonsensical claim. Microsoft played all sorts of hardball with Windows’s licensing to PC makers back in the 1990s, but nothing they did would have ever stopped Apple from making iTunes for Windows and allowing iTunes for Windows to manage an iPod connected over USB. That’s one thing Windows (and DOS before it) always was: open to third-party software, and open to connected peripherals. iTunes, to my recollection, was always software that users downloaded and installed themselves. iTunes was not pre-installed on PCs and thus subject to Microsoft’s licensing shenanigans (e.g. the way Microsoft used licensing discounts to discourage PC makers from shipping computers with Netscape pre-installed). At a technical level I don’t even see how Microsoft could have hindered iTunes or the iPod even if they had wanted to.

[Update: I forgot about the 2004 HP-iPod deal, which included pre-installing iTunes on HP PCs, but the larger point stands.]

What strikes me most about this document is that people… like using the iPhone? This suit (joined by 16 other attorneys general, mostly of blue states) has a political element to it, in the sense of trying to send a message that your government is looking out for your rights and protecting you from big, bad tech companies.

What happens when that collides with a product that has extremely high customer satisfaction ratings? Those of us in the know are well aware of all the ways that Apple plays hardball, and understand that the company is so powerful that really the only way it will be convinced to change its ways is under threat of government intervention. But will American iPhone users feel like the government is on their side, in taking on an American tech giant that makes a product they actually enjoy using?

I wonder very much about this too. The biggest US antitrust case in my lifetime was the breakup of Ma Bell, a.k.a. AT&T Classic. The “phone company” was universally reviled at the time, if only for the exorbitant long-distance phone call rates they charged. Ma Bell was both unpopular and inarguably a monopoly — the Bell system was the only way to place telephone calls.

I think the public, by and large, was ambivalent about Microsoft’s monopoly abuse in the 1990s. But Apple is popular, the iPhone in particular. And many of the complaints lodged by the DOJ regarding the iPhone are for the very things that make it popular.

Merrick Garland’s Remarks on the Lawsuit Against Apple’s Supposed Monopoly 

Attorney General Merrick Garland:

When an iPhone user puts a credit or debit card into Apple Wallet, Apple inserts itself in a process that could otherwise occur directly between the user and card issuer. This introduces an additional potential point of failure for the privacy and security of Apple users.

Apple Pay through Wallet obfuscates your actual credit card numbers, which retailers infamously use to track customers. It’s far more private than using your credit card itself. I highly doubt any banks or credit card issuers would do this themselves if given access to NFC tap-to-pay.

[Update: Whoops, I was wrong about that. Matt Birchler, who works in the payments industry, has a great explainer about how this works, and it turns out major banks and credit cards do generate per-merchant “DPAN” numbers for tap-to-pay transactions. I stand by my argument that Apple Wallet is at least as, if not more secure than, any digital payment app provided by a card issuer.]

And that is just one way in which Apple is willing to make the iPhone less secure and less private in order to maintain its monopoly power. The Supreme Court defines monopoly power as “the power to control prices or exclude competition.”

As set out in our complaint, Apple has that power in the smartphone market.

Defining the iPhone as a monopoly when it has somewhere around 55 percent market share in the U.S. is obviously the first thing the DOJ needs to prove. Microsoft had roughly 95 percent market share of the PC operating system market when the DOJ sued them in the late 1990s. The DOJ tries to get around the uncomfortable fact of Apple’s mere 55 percent share by defining a market for “performance smartphones”. I don’t really see how Apple has any power over the price of phones made by other companies.

Now, having monopoly power does not itself violate the antitrust laws. But it does when a firm acquires or maintains monopoly power — not because it has a superior product or superior business acumen — but by engaging in exclusionary conduct. As set out in our complaint, Apple has maintained its power not because of its superiority, but because of its unlawful exclusionary behavior.

Completely backwards. Superiority is exactly what made the iPhone what it is — superior hardware, superior software, superior integration. Even a superior retail experience. Not only is the DOJ’s take on the iPhone’s success a complete misunderstanding of the actual market dynamics for phones, it’s flabbergastingly insulting.

U.S. Department of Justice Sues Apple, Accusing It of Illegally Abusing an iPhone Monopoly 

David McCabe and Tripp Mickle, reporting for The New York Times:

The lawsuit filed Thursday focuses on a group of practices that the government said Apple had used to shore up its dominance.

The company “undermines” the ability of iPhone users to message with owners of other types of smartphones, like those running the Android operating system, the government said. That divide — epitomized by the green bubbles that show an Android owner’s messages — sent a signal that other smartphones were lower quality than the iPhone, according to the lawsuit.

But of course SMS is a vastly lower-quality platform than iMessage. Without having read the actual lawsuit yet, I’m curious what they think Apple should do differently on this front. Is Apple obligated to ship an iMessage client for other platforms? For free?

Apple has similarly made it difficult for the iPhone to work with smartwatches other than its own Apple Watch, the government argued. Once an iPhone user owns an Apple Watch it becomes far more costly for them to ditch the phone.

Apple peripherals and Apple software exclusive to Apple devices is, in a nut, what Apple does and what has made their products popular. This summary reeks of technical naivety. The DOJ is alleging that, for example, Apple Watch and iPhone work better together than third-party watches with iPhones not because of specific integration, but because Apple is locking third parties out. Same with Tile trackers vs. AirTags. The only alternative would be to allow third parties to install system software extensions on iOS, like on a Mac or PC.

Watching the DOJ press conference (transcripts of the prepared statements, including Attorney General Merrick Garland’s, are here), there’s a strong undercurrent to the DOJ’s argument that iPhone users are, en masse, trying to switch to Android but finding it too difficult and expensive. That’s not based on reality. Every customer satisfaction survey I’ve seen, from 2007 onward, has shown iPhone owners to be overwhelmingly happy. It’s not just the most successful consumer electronics product in history — perhaps product, period — but it’s arguably the most liked.

Apple Support: ‘Manuals, Specs, and Downloads’ 

New home page for Apple Support documentation. Worth a bookmark.

Update: It’s so comprehensive that it has tech specs — but alas, not the documentation — going back to the original 1984 Macintosh.

Keyboard Maestro 11 

Another recent-ish update to one of my essential Mac utilities:

Keyboard Maestro 11 expands on the powerful base of previous versions, improving the editor, adding many new actions and triggers, New Macro Wizard, a new Security preference pane, a keyboardmaestro command line tool, support for Apple Text Recognition, and more. Keyboard Maestro 11 requires macOS 10.13 High Sierra or later.

My number one tip for anyone looking to up their Mac power-user game is to get Keyboard Maestro. It’s like having super powers. $36 for a new license, $25 to upgrade. And of course there’s a free trial.

BBEdit 15 

BBEdit 15.0.2 just shipped, which reminded me that I never linked to BBEdit 15. Most interesting and useful to me, among many new features:

There’s a new document type, “ChatGPT Worksheet”. This is created from File → New as with other document types, and provides an interface for conversational exchanges with ChatGPT. In order to use this feature, you will need a ChatGPT account, and an API key. [...]

ChatGPT worksheets work similarly to a shell worksheet: type something in, and press the Enter key to send it to ChatGPT. (You can also use the “Send Command” keyboard equivalent, as set in the “Worksheets” section of BBEdit’s “Menus & Shortcuts” preferences. The default for this command is Control-Return.) After some period of time, you’ll receive a response which BBEdit will insert into the document window.

If you wish to cancel your request before the response arrives, Command-period or Control-C will do that.

Responses from ChatGPT are automatically quoted, as long as the worksheet’s language is set to “Markdown”. If you change the worksheet’s language, this quoting will not occur.

(Since worksheets are Markdown, you can use “Preview in BBEdit” on a worksheet to visualize it.)

Because chats depend heavily on history, a worksheet saves your prompts and the server’s responses. Thus, the document size will grow over time and context is preserved, even if you delete previous prompts and responses from the text area.

BBEdit ChatGPT worksheets are my favorite interface to ChatGPT in general, but they particularly shine when using ChatGPT for programming advice. It’s so convenient to have the chat in a freeform format right there in your text editor.

Other tentpole new features include a minimap palette, customizable cheat sheets, and significant improvements to “projects”. BBEdit remains my favorite app in the world. $60 for a new license, $30 to upgrade from an older version, or $4/month or $40/year from the Mac App Store.

See also: Michael Tsai and Jason Snell.

Nvidia Keynote Fills 11,000-Seat SAP Center 

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

The Nvidia frenzy over artificial intelligence has come to this: Chief Executive Jensen Huang unveiled his company’s latest chips on Monday in a sports arena at an event one analyst dubbed the “AI Woodstock.”

Customers, partners and fans of the chip company descended on the SAP Center, the home of the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks, for Huang’s keynote speech at an annual Nvidia conference that, this year, has a seating capacity of about 11,000.

Professional wrestling’s WWE Monday Night RAW event took place there in February. Justin Timberlake is scheduled to play the arena in May. Even Apple’s much-watched launch events for the iPhone and iPad didn’t fill a venue this large.

Apple never tried to fill a venue that large for a keynote (the big keynotes at Macworld Expo and WWDC, in Moscone West and the San Jose Convention Center, were capped at about 4,000 to 5,000), but surely could have. But the point stands: Nvidia has the world’s attention, and deservedly so.

On the Ever-Increasing Accuracy of Weather Forecasts 

Hannah Ritchie, writing for Our World in Data:

It wasn’t until 1859 that the UK’s Meteorological Service (the Met Office) issued its first weather forecast for shipping. Two years later, it broadcasted its first public weather forecast. While meteorological measurements improved over time, the massive step-change in predictions came with the use of computerized numerical modeling. This didn’t start until a century later, in the 1960s.

Forecasts have improved a lot since then. We can see this across a range of measurements, and different national meteorological organizations. The Met Office says its four-day forecasts are now as accurate as its one-day forecasts were 30 years ago.

When I was a kid it was a running gag that weathermen were always wrong. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone joke about weather forecasts being useless. Over the last 40 years, 7-day forecasts have gone from a coin toss to “highly accurate”. (Via Kottke.)

Reuters: ‘EU’s Vestager Warns About Apple, Meta Fees, Disparaging Rival Products’ 

Foo Yun Chee, again reporting for Reuters, after an exclusive interview with Margarethe Vestager, EU commissioner and renowned user-experience designer:

A new fee structure includes a core technology fee of 50 euro cents per user account per year that major app developers will have to pay even if they do not use any of Apple’s payment services, which has triggered criticism from rivals such as Fortnite creator Epic Games.

Vestager said the new fees have attracted her attention.

“There are things that we take a keen interest in, for instance, if the new Apple fee structure will de facto not make it in any way attractive to use the benefits of the DMA. That kind of thing is what we will be investigating,” she told Reuters in an interview.

There are already several marketplaces that have announced plans to open: AltStore, Setapp, Mobivention, and of course Epic’s game store, to name four. So the CTF obviously isn’t making it “not in any way attractive to use the benefits of the DMA”. But whether this is Vestager’s code-speak for “We’re going to declare the CTF non-compliant not because it violates the terms of the DMA but simply because we don’t like it”, I don’t know.

From a transcript of yesterday’s workshop on Apple’s DMA compliance plans, the opening remarks from the EC included this gem: “The reason is that we want to achieve compliance with the spirit of the DMA not just with the letter.”

That’s not how the rule of law works in the U.S.

Vestager expressed her reservations on Meta’s new fees. The company earlier on Tuesday said it has offered to almost halve its monthly subscription fee for Facebook and Instagram to 5.99 euros from 9.99 euros but Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems said the issue is not about the level of the fee.

“I think there are many different ways to monetize the services that you provide. Because one thing are the very targeted advertising that builds on data being consumed. Another way of showing your advertising is to make that contextual,” she said. “So I think it’s important to continue the conversation with Meta and we will assess also finally, what is the next push in order for them to be compliant with the DMA.”

If the EC wants to ban targeted advertising, they should pass a law banning targeted advertising. But they haven’t. Targeted advertising is legal in the EU; Meta simply has to offer users a reasonable opt-out. It seems like Vestager is hinting that the only acceptable opt-out — “spirit”-wise — is non-targeted advertising that generates only pennies on the dollar compared to Meta’s incredibly lucrative targeted ads. This is quite a message the EC is sending to businesses around the world.

Vestager also warned companies against discouraging users from switching to rivals by disparaging them, saying this kind of behaviour could trigger an investigation. Apple has said some of its changes could expose users to security risks.

“I would think of it as unwise to say that the services are not safe to use, because that has nothing to do with the DMA. The DMA is there to open the market for other service providers to get to you and how your service provider of your operating system, how they will make sure that it is safe is for them to decide,” she said.

So it doesn’t matter whether sideloaded apps are dangerous, or, say, that third-party browser engines may adversely affect battery life — Apple can’t make honest recommendations to its customers if those recommendations would discourage switching. Even though the entire reason many, if not most, people choose Apple products is that they trust Apple. The EU is not, obviously, America, but holy hell does it sound wrong to my American ears to claim it’s illegal for a company to offer customers the truth. (And this is exactly why I’ve been so adamantly opposed to Apple’s own anti-steering rules in the App Store all along.)

Meta Offers to Reduce No-Ads Subscription Fee for Facebook and Instagram in EU, but Critics Want No Fee at All 

Foo Yun Chee, reporting for Reuters from day 2 of the EC’s DMA compliance workshops:

Meta Platforms has offered to almost halve its monthly subscription fee for Facebook and Instagram to 5.99 euros from 9.99 euros, a senior Meta executive said on Tuesday, a move that aims to address concerns from privacy and antitrust regulators. The price cut follows mounting criticism from privacy activists and consumer groups about Meta’s no-ads subscription service in Europe, which critics say requires users to pay a fee to ensure their privacy. Meta launched the service in November to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which curbs its ability to personalise advertisements for users without their consent, hurting its major revenue source. [...]

Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems said the issue is not about the fee.

“We know from all research that even a fee of just 1.99 euros or less leads to a shift in consent from 3-10% that genuinely want advertisments to 99.9% that still click yes. The GDPR requires that consent must be ‘freely’ given,” he said, referring to the EU privacy legislation.

“In reality it is not about the amount of money — it is about the ‘pay or okay’ approach as a whole. The entire purpose of ‘pay or okay’ is to get users to click on okay, even if this is not their free and genuine choice. We do not think the mere change of the amount makes this approach legal.”

Consider Meta’s average revenue per user (ARPU) per quarter by region. For the US and Canada, it’s about $50–60 per quarter, or over $200 per year per user. In Europe, with its stagnant economy, it’s about $20 per quarter and rising. (This number is probably inflated by wealthier non-EU countries in Europe, particularly the UK, but Meta doesn’t break out ARPU by country.) So €10/month was a reasonable deal, especially when extrapolating Meta’s ARPU trendline. €6/month is a veritable bargain — users who opt to pay would be generating slightly less than average revenue, but gaining a no-ads experience. (Sorry for mixing euros and dollars here, but they’re close enough at the moment — $1 ≈ €0.92 — to treat them interchangeably for ballpark comparisons.)

But Schrems’s argument, seemingly, is that Meta should be required to offer a no-tracking version of Instagram and Facebook completely free of charge. Meta could show ads to those users, but not the sort of ads that actually generate money. “Why can’t you just sustain your business with non-personalised ads without charging a subscription?” was, according to Kay Jebelli’s live coverage of the workshop, an actual question asked today. Next up: free ice water in hell?

Privacy fundamentalists seem upset that when given the choice between a free service with personalized ads (and tracking to do the personalization), and paying a fair fee for a service, the overwhelming majority choose the personalized ads.

The Sun: Aaron Taylor-Johnson to Take the Role of James Bond 

Howell Davies and Ellie Henman, reporting for The Sun:

Brit actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson is taking his martinis shaken, not stirred, after being formally offered the job as the new James Bond. Insiders said the Kick-Ass movie star is expected to accept the role as 007, taking over from Daniel Craig, who has played MI6’s most famous spy for 15 years.

Eon Productions, which makes the spy thriller films, is on course to start shooting this year.

A source said: “Bond is Aaron’s job, should he wish to accept it. The formal offer is on the table and they are waiting to hear back. As far as Eon is concerned, Aaron is going to sign his contract in the coming days and they can start preparing for the big announcement.”

Take it with a grain of salt, as The Sun is a News Corp tabloid and there are conflicting reports from more reputable publications, but I loved Taylor-Johnson in Bullet Train (and loved Bullet Train itself). I could endorse this casting.

VisionDevCamp: March 29–31 in Santa Clara 


VisionDevCamp is a not-for-profit developer event focused on creating applications for Apple Vision Pro and visionOS. Attendees are encouraged to develop native visionOS, Unity PolySpatial, and web applications during the event.

Registration is open, and costs just $100 — and that includes six meals over the weekend. From the team behind the long-running iOSDevCamp (which is so long-running it began as iPhoneDevCamp — before iOS had its name).

‘Lengthy Memoranda and Gobbledygook Language’ 

Maury Maverick, chairman and general manager of the Smaller War Plants Corporation, in a company-wide memo back in 1944:

Be short and use Plain English.

Memoranda should be as short as clearness will allow. The Naval officer who wired “Sighted Sub — Sank Same” told the whole story.

Put the real subject matter — the point — and even the conclusion, in the opening paragraph and the whole story on one page. Period! If a lengthy explanation, statistical matter, or such is necessary, use attachments.

Stay off gobbledygook language. It only fouls people up. For the Lord’s sake, be short and say what you’re talking about. Let’s stop “pointing-up” programs, “finalizing” contracts that “stem from” district, regional or Washington “levels”. There are no “levels” — local government is as high as Washington Government. No more patterns, effectuating, dynamics. Anyone using the words “activation” or “implementation” will be shot.

80-year-old advice that holds up today. Also: this is the first known use of gobbledygook, a fabulous word with no true synonym. (Thanks to DF reader David Wooten for the link.)

(Also: Who had a cooler name? Maury Maverick or the Smaller War Plants Corporation?)

Apple Is Working on the ‘Viral Hit’ Problem With the Core Technology Fee 

Steven Troughton-Smith posted this great clip from today’s Apple DMA compliance workshop held by the European Commission. AltStore founder Riley Testut — who is apparently ready to go with a launch of the AltStore as an app marketplace in the EU — asked about the “viral hit” problem with the Core Technology Fee. E.g. what happens if a small developer — or even a kid in the proverbial garage — gets a 10-million-download hit and suddenly owes Apple 4.5 million euros? Apple’s Kyle Andeer (VP of legal) gives a too-long answer but ends with, “This is something we need to figure out. And it is something we’re working on. So I would say on that one, stay tuned.”

European Commission Holds ‘Apple DMA Compliance Workshop’ 

This was an opportunity for critics of Apple’s DMA compliance plans to address questions to representatives from Apple. There’s video of the 9-hour workshop, but it’s locked behind a password (insert joke about the EC’s support for openness here). I can’t imagine sitting through that, even at 2× speed. Lucky for us, Kay Jebelli followed along live and took copious notes in a thread on Twitter/X:

Interesting detail: the EC told Apple that they aren’t allowed to notarize apps to protect users. So “government authorities are the ones that are going to have to step up to protect” app developers and users from the risks of these 3rd-party apps.

In other words, the EC has a problem with Apple doing any vetting whatsoever on apps distributed outside the App Store. The EC will take care of making sure malware, phishing, scams, clones, IP rip-offs, and pirated apps aren’t getting through. This also means that apps distributed outside the app store will be able to use private APIs. One can argue that what Apple is calling “notarization” in its DMA compliance plan is actually just a less extensive form of app review, but without this step, Apple has no oversight over software distributed outside the store at all. That seems to be exactly what the EC is saying the DMA demands. I don’t think this is going to go well.

[Update, March 20: Jebelli, in a follow-up: “Looking through some of what else has been put out, I could have misheard, and the point was that notarization doesn’t address all of the risks of alternate distribution, and it’s these other risks where governments will have to step up (not due to total removal of notarization).” So it looks like Apple’s plan to notarize and inspect all apps remains.]

Pushed again on the CTF, Apple re-asserts that it is fully compliant with the DMA. It isn’t charging an additional fee for interoperability, but compensation for technologies that it was previously monetising through its original model (effectively tolling digital app sales).

We know from today’s workshop that (a) Apple has already gotten specific pushback from the EC on aspects of its DMA compliance plan; and (b) Apple continues to think the CTF is perfectly cromulent under the terms of the DMA. That to me says the CTF is going to fly. The idea that the entire CTF is disallowed under the DMA is an argument that the DMA disallows a company from monetizing access to its own platform and IP. EC fans may be surprised to hear this but the EC is a capitalist body. I really don’t think they want to send a message to the world that the EU will strip companies of their own platforms. As Jebelli writes in an aside in his thread:

It’s pretty incredible if you take a step back, in what other industry do entire regulatory frameworks pop up to address a dispute between different businesses over the question of “Why can’t I have gratuitous access to this infrastructure, at zero cost to myself?”

The crybaby Spotifys in the EU have already gotten a lot from the EC protection racket, including a large number of huge concessions in Apple’s DMA compliance plan. Not paying anything to Apple under any condition is all they’ll settle for though.

Debugging the Voyager 1 From a Light Day Away 

Denise Hill, writing on NASA’s The Sun Spot blog:

Since November 2023, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has been sending a steady radio signal to Earth, but the signal does not contain usable data. The source of the issue appears to be with one of three onboard computers, the flight data subsystem (FDS), which is responsible for packaging the science and engineering data before it’s sent to Earth by the telemetry modulation unit.

On March 3, the Voyager mission team saw activity from one section of the FDS that differed from the rest of the computer’s unreadable data stream. The new signal was still not in the format used by Voyager 1 when the FDS is working properly, so the team wasn’t initially sure what to make of it. But an engineer with the agency’s Deep Space Network, which operates the radio antennas that communicate with both Voyagers and other spacecraft traveling to the Moon and beyond, was able to decode the new signal and found that it contains a readout of the entire FDS memory. [...]

Because Voyager 1 is more than 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) from Earth, it takes 22.5 hours for a radio signal to reach the spacecraft and another 22.5 hours for the probe’s response to reach antennas on the ground. So the team received the results of the command on March 3. On March 7, engineers began working to decode the data, and on March 10, they determined that it contains a memory readout.

Remind me never to complain about anything I’ve had to debug again.

Update 22 April 2024: Success!

Is Apple Out of the Generative AI Game? 

Dare Obasanjo, on Mastodon:

2024 is the year Apple faced its limitations. First giving up the dream of competing with Tesla in EVs and now conceding it can’t compete with Google and OpenAI in generative AI.

This means iOS users end up winning as we get actual cutting edge features and not Siri warmed over.

I agree that Apple users win either way — either Apple builds out its own best-of-breed generative AI system, or they license the best one(s) from whoever makes them. But it could well be like maps. Lean on Google or others until the in-house project is ready to go. (Put aside the fact that Apple was forced to switch to their own maps a year or two before it was ready.) Or compare it to Apple building Macs on Intel’s x86 architecture until three years ago.

We are only in the very early days of LLMs and generative AI, and the only moat that seems to exist is large-scale data center processing power, not the models themselves.

Apple Researchers Publish ‘Breakthrough’ Paper on Multimodal LLMs 

Michael Nuñez, reporting for VentureBeat:

Apple researchers have developed new methods for training large language models on both text and images, enabling more powerful and flexible AI systems, in what could be a significant advance for artificial intelligence and for future Apple products.

The work, described in a research paper titled “MM1: Methods, Analysis & Insights from Multimodal LLM Pre-training” that was quietly posted to this week, demonstrates how carefully combining different types of training data and model architectures can lead to state-of-the-art performance on a range of AI benchmarks.

“We demonstrate that for large-scale multimodal pre-training using a careful mix of image-caption, interleaved image-text, and text-only data is crucial for achieving state-of-the-art few-shot results across multiple benchmarks,” the researchers explain. By training models on a diverse dataset spanning visual and linguistic information, the MM1 models were able to excel at tasks like image captioning, visual question answering, and natural language inference.

Summary thread on Twitter/X from team member Brandon McKinzie, Hacker News thread, and roundup of commentary from Techmeme. The consensus is that this paper is remarkably open with technical details.

Gurman: ‘Apple in Talks to License Google Gemini’ 

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is in talks to build Google’s Gemini artificial intelligence engine into the iPhone, according to people familiar with the situation, setting the stage for a blockbuster agreement that would shake up the AI industry.

The two companies are in active negotiations to let Apple license Gemini, Google’s set of generative AI models, to power some new features coming to the iPhone software this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Apple also recently held discussions with OpenAI and has considered using its model, according to the people.

Apple’s own LLM efforts seem directed toward on-device processing, but there are some AI tasks that require enormous cloud computing resources, which Apple simply doesn’t have (and likely doesn’t want to build) the infrastructure for. As Ben Thompson noted in today’s Stratechery daily update, it’s quite possible that Google alone could handle such features if built into iOS — OpenAI is currently struggling under load at times, without the veritable avalanche of traffic that would come from integration into iOS.

I could also see Apple negotiating deals to use multiple AI providers behind the scenes, treating them like white-label providers, while presenting the features to users under the Siri brand. Apple used to — and might still? — do something similar with cloud storage providers like AWS and Azure.

Alphabet shares rose as much as 7.4% on Monday as the markets opened in New York. It was the biggest intraday gain since Feb. 2, 2023. Apple was up 2.2%.

Bloomberg gonna Bloomberg.

Nick Heer on the MacOS 14 Sonoma Typography Palette 

Nick Heer, Pixel Envy:

For a long time, this palette was a dry list of checkboxes and disclosure triangles. A user would need to first know this palette exists, and then know what each option did. But, in a recent version of MacOS, the palette has been updated with icons that more clearly display what will change. Depending on the font file in question, there are many different options available, and the numerically differentiated “stylistic sets” have never been clear. This is much nicer.

This is indeed a nice update to a little-known but wonderful standard feature in Cocoa’s text system. Who says AppKit is dead?

(One gripe I have is that the small caps options are no longer labelled “small caps” — you just sort of have to know what they are from the glyphs alone. And, oddly, on my Mac, for many but not all fonts, instead of seeing “A → A” to indicate small caps, I see a dollar sign: “$ → $”.)


My thanks to Rich Mogull for sponsoring DF last week to promote CloudSLAW — Cloud Security Lab a Week. He wants to make cloud security knowledge accessible to anyone, with or without security or cloud experience, for free. CloudSLAW delivers a 15-30 minute lab to your inbox, RSS feed, or YouTube. You don’t need to be a tech pro, but, as Rich says, it helps to know the difference between an API and an IPA.

Rich has taught cloud security around the world for over a decade. He’s also one of the preeminent writers about security issues in general, and Apple platforms particularly. If you’re a regular reader, you probably recognize his name: I’ve linked to articles by Rich dozens of times over the years, and he was my guest on The Talk Show just a few years ago. He knows his shit and he’s great at explaining it. CloudSLAW is his attempt to help anyone go from zero to hero on cloud security. Go ahead and sign up now — it’s free of charge.

Using ASCII Art to Work Around Content Restrictions in the Top 5 AI Chatbots 

Dan Goodin, reporting for Ars Technica:

Researchers have discovered a new way to hack AI assistants that uses a surprisingly old-school method: ASCII art. It turns out that chat-based large language models such as GPT-4 get so distracted trying to process these representations that they forget to enforce rules blocking harmful responses, such as those providing instructions for building bombs.

Such a silly trick, but it epitomizes the state of LLMs. It’s simultaneously impressive that they’re smart enough to read ASCII art, but laughable that they’re so naive that this trick works.

Why Mickey Mouse Is So Famous 

10-minute video by Phil Edwards positing that Mickey Mouse is a singularly famous character because of a technology breakthrough: synchronized sound.

‘The Gentlemen’ on Netflix 

New series on Netflix created by Guy Ritchie (who directed the first two episodes as well). I’ve been a fan of Ritchie’s zany, violent crime movies ever since 1998’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and The Gentlemen scratches the same itch. (Ritchie also made a movie called The Gentlemen in 2020, which I think takes place in the same cinematic universe as the show.)

I enjoyed this show so much, it took all my self-restraint not to stay up all night and binge it straight through. Funny, clever, exciting. Recommended.

The Wedge-Shaped M1 MacBook Air Lives On: At Walmart, Starting at $700 


Walmart will begin selling MacBook Air with the M1 chip — continuing to deliver premium quality and unmatched affordability for customers. MacBook Air features amazing performance and a long battery life in its thin and light design. This is the first time customers can purchase a Mac directly from Walmart. The MacBook Air with the M1 chip is now available on and will soon be available in select Walmart stores for only $699.

“Our mission at Walmart is to help customers save money so they can live better — it’s not an either/or proposition. The very heart of that mission is the belief that customers should not have to sacrifice quality because of price,” said Julie Barber, executive vice president of Merchandising at Walmart U.S. “We’re working hard to bring premium brands to our physical and virtual shelves, and we’re excited to work with Apple to do just that.”

This is a big deal. When the M3 MacBook Airs arrived last week, Apple dropped the M1 Air from its lineup and moved the M2 Air to the magic $999 spot in the lineup. But it looks like Apple is going to keep producing the M1 MacBook Air for this deal with Walmart. These aren’t refurbs, or leftover stock (Apple hasn’t kept excess stock in inventory for bestselling products for decades — keeping inventory low is one of the hallmarks of Apple’s operations in the Cook era).

And while, yes, these machines are now over three years old, for $700 this is a great deal. That’s 30 percent less than the cheapest MacBook in an Apple Store. I’d bet serious money that a base M1 MacBook Air outperforms any other $700 laptop on the market. Show me another $700 laptop with a retina display. I’ll wait.

Fascinating example of pricing-as-branding that Apple won’t sell this machine in its own stores, but will through Walmart — which doesn’t sell any other Macs.

Privacy-Conscious EU Now Requires Developers to Include Mailing Address and Phone Number on App Store Listings 

Apple Developer, “Manage European Union digital services act compliance information”:

You’ll be asked to disclose whether or not you’re a trader under the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) in order to stay compliant across regions when distributing on the App Store. If you’re distributing content as a trader, the DSA requires that you provide certain identification information, including address and contact details, to be displayed on your App Store product pages to consumers in the European Union (EU). Confirm your trader status if you have at least one app that qualifies you as a trader. You’ll then have the option to turn off or specify your trader status for each specific app that you distribute. If you’re not a trader, consumers in the EU will be informed that consumer rights stemming from applicable consumer protection laws won’t apply to contracts between you and them.

How to know if you’re a trader

The DSA defines a trader as “any natural person, or any legal person irrespective of whether privately or publicly owned, who is acting, including through any person acting in his or her name or on his or her behalf, for purposes relating to his or her trade, business, craft or profession.” If you have questions about your status as a trader, consult with your legal advisor.

Clear as a bell, that definition. (Via Michael Tsai.)

’Objectified’ Turns 15, Streaming Free Through March 17 

Objectified (2009, 75 minutes) is a documentary film about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them. What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?

A lovely film, and you can’t beat the price this week.

Masimo Proves New Apple Watch Series 9 Units Still Have the Blood Oxygen Sensor 

Florian Mueller, writing at IP Fray:

The January 12, 2024 CBP order has recently been published (CBP webpage). The parties’ filings with the appeals court were heavily redacted where they discussed the enforcement dispute over Apple’s workaround. Now it’s a bit clearer what technical changes Apple made and why they managed to get their workaround Watches cleared. There is some hardware “designation” in the newer Watches that tells the software in those Watches not to perform pulse oximetry although all of the necessary components are present. Masimo managed to reenable pulse oximetry, but only after jailbreaking older iPhones and using them to manipulate the Watch, which constitutes a “significant alteration” of the product.

The fact that Masimo could reenable the feature by running some custom software on jailbroken older iPhones absolutely positively means that Apple itself can reactivate that feature for its customers in the event it prevails on appeal or, in the alternative, in late August 2028 at the latest (because the patents-in-suit expire then).

It’s been pretty clear since January that the sensors in dispute are still present in newly-sold Apple Watches, and they’re simply disabled in software, but this seemingly confirms it.

Speedometer 3.0 Browser Benchmark 

Ryosuke Niwa, writing on the WebKit blog:

As announced on today, in collaboration with other browser engine developers, Apple’s WebKit team is excited to introduce Speedometer 3.0, a major update that better reflects the Web of today. It’s built together by the developers of all major browser engines: Blink, Gecko, and WebKit with hundreds of contributions from companies like Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Mozilla. This post is a deep dive into how the collaborative Speedometer project improved the benchmark’s measurements methods and test content.

I care about Speedometer not for comparing different browser engines against each other on the same machine (even though that’s Speedometer’s primary purpose), but as a benchmark for measuring CPUs. It measures something very real and utterly practical: how fast web rendering is in an actual browser.

House Passes Bill That Requires ByteDance to Sell TikTok or Face Ban in the U.S. 

Cristiano Lima-Strong, Jacob Bogage, and Mariana Alfaro, reporting for The Washington Post:

The House overwhelmingly passed a measure Wednesday to force TikTok to split from its parent company or face a national ban, a lightning offensive that materialized abruptly after years of unsuccessful negotiations over the platform’s fate. The legislation, approved 352 to 65, is a sweeping bipartisan rebuke of the popular video-sharing app — and an attempt to grapple with allegations that TikTok’s China-based parent, ByteDance, presents national security risks.

For years, lawmakers have been introducing proposals seeking to restrict the company’s activities in the U.S., and finding limited momentum. But these lengthy behind-the-scenes deliberations were hastened, lawmakers said, by the Biden administration’s growing support of the effort, coupled with concerns about TikTok’s potential to influence U.S. politics, which intensified after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Private briefings from national security and law enforcement officials, including a classified hearing last week, served as a “call to action” for Congress to “finally” take a stand against TikTok, said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It’s unclear whether these meetings with the FBI, Justice Department and Office of the Director of the National Intelligence surfaced new evidence against the company.

It seems pretty clear those briefings did surface alarming evidence. The two concerns about TikTok are that (a) the Chinese government is using it to surveil Americans; and (b) that it serves as a powerful propaganda vehicle for the PRC. It’s the latter concern — propaganda — that has had me calling for a TikTok ban (or divestiture by ByteDance) for years.

Remember too: China itself bans all foreign social networks. Facebook, Instagram, Threads, Twitter/X, Pinterest — none of them are available in mainland China. It’s bananas that we allow an algorithmically-driven social media app controlled by China here.

The DMA Has Crippled Google Search in the EU 

Oliver Bethel, legal director at Google, back in January, on changes to search results in the EU:

When you are searching for something like a hotel, or something to buy, we often show information to help you find what you need, like pictures and prices, as part of our results. Sometimes this can be as part of a result for a single business like a hotel or restaurant, or sometimes it can be a featured group of relevant results. Over the coming weeks in Europe, we will be expanding our testing of a number of changes to the search results page. We will introduce dedicated units that include a group of links to comparison sites from across the web, and query shortcuts at the top of the search page to help people refine their search, including by focusing results just on comparison sites.

Most of those comparison sites are garbage. I suspect these changes will make Google Search far less useful for hotels and shopping.

For categories like hotels, we will also start testing a dedicated space for comparison sites and direct suppliers to show more detailed individual results including images, star ratings and more. These changes will result in the removal of some features from the search page, such as the Google Flights unit.

Unreal. Google Flights is the best cross-airline search tool I’m aware of. Years ago I used Hipmunk — which was great — but, alas, they shut down in January 2020. I presume people in the EU can still go to the dedicated Google Flights page, but just typing “PHL to SFO” on Google’s homepage or in your browser’s location field is what most people expect to work.

Google’s EU Choice Screens for Android, for Default Browser and Default Search Within Chrome, Only Show Up on New Devices 


The browser and search choice screens will begin appearing on new devices distributed in the EEA on or after March 6, 2024.

Not clear to me why Apple did this in a software update for all eligible iPhones, but Google is only doing it for newly-sold ones.

Over 15,000 Hacked Roku Accounts Sold for 50 Cents Apiece 

Bill Toulas, writing for BleepingComputer:

Roku has disclosed a data breach impacting over 15,000 customers after hacked accounts were used to make fraudulent purchases of hardware and streaming subscriptions. However, BleepingComputer has learned there is more to this attack, with threat actors selling the stolen accounts for as little as $0.50 per account, allowing purchasers to use stored credit cards to make illegal purchases. [...]

The company says that once an account was breached, it allowed threat actors to change the information on the account, including passwords, email addresses, and shipping addresses. This effectively locked a user out of the account, allowing the threat actors to make purchases using stored credit card information without the legitimate account holder receiving order confirmation emails.

More good news for Roku users, including the fact that Roku first discovered the hack in early January, and waited until now to notify affected users.

Don Lemon Is Shocked – Shocked – That the Face-Eating Leopard Ate His Face 

Back on January 10, Twitter/X and former CNN host Don Lemon announced a deal for Lemon to host a new show on the platform.

Last Friday Lemon interviewed Elon Musk for his first episode of the show. Not liking the questions he was asked, Musk cancelled the show the next day.

Agreeing to a deal with Musk is like agreeing to a deal with Trump. At best you’ll be paid pennies on the dollar, and probably will never see a nickel.

Help Sarah Perez 

GoFundMe drive to help longtime (and oft-cited here at DF) TechCrunch reporter Sarah Perez and her daughter:

In the early hours of March 13th, Sarah’s world turned upside down. As the bright glare of flames illuminated her bathroom window, she was able to escape safety with her 14-year-old daughter, Josie, and their dog Princess. They escaped the engulfing inferno just in time, but not without losing everything they held dear.

The fire department’s grim assessment confirmed the extent of the devastation: severe structural damage rendered their home uninhabitable, leaving them with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Sarah, a resilient single mother who has always worked tirelessly to provide for her family, now faces the task of rebuilding their lives from scratch.

A lot of people, each giving a little, can make a big difference here.

iPulse for iOS 

Craig Hockenberry, writing at The Iconfactory blog:

We released the first version of iPulse on a new operating system called Mac OS X in 2002. Our unobtrusive and stylish system monitor showcased the features of Apple’s new OS and was a hit.

Now, two decades later, we’re happy to announce that groundbreaking product is coming to iOS and iPadOS. And just as it did with macOS, it’s taking a new approach with its user interface to get the job done. An app that can monitor your device is a great thing to have when you need it, but can get in the way when you don’t. On iOS we solved this problem by using Picture in Picture technology.

$10 one-time purchase in the App Store. That’s a great deal for a great tool.

There are zillions of “system monitor”-type apps in the App Store. Good luck finding one other than iPulse that works well, is attractive and well-designed, and has no ads.

Steven Sinofsky: ‘Building Under Regulation’ 

Steven Sinofsky, back on January 27 (two days after Apple announced the first draft of their DMA compliance plans):

This week Apple detailed the software changes that will appear in an upcoming release of iOS to comply with the European Union Digital Markets Act (DMA). As I read the over 60 pages of the DMA when it was passed (and in drafts before that, little of which changed in the process) my heart sank over the complexity of a regulation so poorly constructed yet so clearly aimed at specific (American) companies and products. As I read through many of the hundreds of pages of Apple documents detailing their compliance implementation my heart sank again. This time was because I so thoroughly could feel the pain and struggle product teams felt in clinging to at best or unwinding at worst the most substantial improvement in computing ever introduced — the promise behind the iPhone since its introduction. The reason the iPhone became so successful was not a fluke. Consumers and customers voted that the value proposition of the product was something they preferred, and they acted by purchasing iPhone and developers responded by building applications for iOS. The regulators have a different view of that promise, so here we are.

Sinofsky warns that his essay is long, and it is. At over 18,000 words, it’s veritably booklet-length. But it’s really worth reading. I read it shortly after Sinofsky published it, and have been meaning to comment upon sections at length, but I might as well just link to it. Sinofsky, having been in charge of Windows when Microsoft went through the same sort of European Commission regulatory wringer Apple is now, is in a unique position to expound upon the dynamic. His focus on Apple’s “brand promise” with the iPhone, and how nearly every aspect of the DMA compliance plan breaks — or at least chips away at — that promise, is spot on.

The whole point of the DMA is the EC asserting that they know better than Apple (and Google) how phones should work.

App Store WTF of the Week: DealMachine for Real Estate 

[Update, 20 March: Turns out that DealMachine was exempt from being required to use IAP, ostensibly because physical products/goods are sold as part of their subscription. But, as of this update, DealMachine is now using IAP. Original post below.]

Message from a DF reader:

I came across an app that’s getting away with directly linking to a website to start a subscription instead of IAP. It’s a straightforward violation of App Store rules in the US. If you look at reviews, a lot of people complain about fraudulent charges and not being able to cancel. But apparently Apple hasn’t stopped them yet.

I downloaded the app and signed up; immediately after confirming your email address, you get sent to a screen in the app where you choose from account tiers to begin a free trial. The lowest tier is $100/month, the highest is $500/month. And after making your selection, you get sent to this page on DealMachine’s website to pay using Stripe. (That link won’t actually work, because I omitted the tracking code portion of the URL for the throwaway account I created, so here’s a screenshot.) Not only are they circumventing in-app payments, they don’t even offer using them as a choice.

Here’s a review from their App Store Listing:

No Customer Support / Rough
Their annual plan is over a thousand dollars. I haven’t used their service in months. The renewal comes around, they charge me another thousand dollars. I reach out to get a refund, all I get is a robot.

I don’t think DealMachine is a scam. Stripe is as legit as it gets. But when you handle payments on your own, you handle refunds and subscription cancellations on your own too. Renewal reminders too. And if you don’t send renewal reminders, customers don’t get them. And if you don’t feel like issuing a refund for a $1,000/year subscription that a customer wanted to cancel but didn’t, you can let the customer sort it out with their credit card company. All that stuff works awesome, from the user’s perspective, with Apple’s App Store payment system. So DealMachine offers a taste of what our friends in the EU may be getting from marketplace apps soon.

Business Insider Report Claims Apple Is Testing an AI-Powered Ads Platform 

Benjamin Mayo, reporting for 9to5Mac:

Apple is said to be testing an AI-powered ads platform with a select group of partners, via Business Insider.

The AI tool chooses where to place ads in the various App Store promoted ad placement slots. Right now, this is seemingly being used to improve advertiser campaign performance for App Store Search Ads. However, Business Insider speculates the technology could eventually be used elsewhere as Apple gradually expands its offering of ad-supported services.

If this AI system is so smart, I suggest Apple use it to figure out how to run the App Store without any ads at all.

Steven Spielberg, FineWoven Case Owner, Photographs His Hamburger at an Oscars Party Using an iPhone 15 Pro 

Zoom in on that first image and you can see his case is rather stained.

(Thanks to DF reader Harrison Krebs.)

Roku Locks Devices Until Users Agree to New Terms of Service 

Scharon Harding, reporting for Ars Technica:

This month, users on Roku’s support forums reported suddenly seeing a message when turning on their Roku TV or streaming device reading: “We’ve made an important update: We’ve updated our Dispute Resolution Terms. Select ‘Agree’ to agree to these updated Terms and to continue enjoying our products and services. Press * to view these updated Terms.” A large button reading “Agree” follows. The pop-up doesn’t offer a way to disagree, and users are unable to use their device unless they hit agree. [...]

Roku has further aggravated customers who have found that disagreeing to its updated terms is harder than necessary. Roku is willing to accept agreement to its terms with a single button press, but to opt out, users must jump through hoops that include finding that old book of stamps.

To opt out of Roku’s ToS update, which primarily changes the “Dispute Resolution Terms,” users must send a letter to Roku’s general counsel in California mentioning: “the name of each person opting out and contact information for each such person, the specific product models, software, or services used that are at issue, the email address that you used to set up your Roku account (if you have one), and, if applicable, a copy of your purchase receipt.” Roku required all this to opt out of its terms previously, as well.

Requiring a written letter (and a copy of the purchase receipt — how many people keep that for what may well be a years-old purchase?) is just a huge “fuck you” to their customers.

‘Your Father Wanted You to Have This When You Were Old Enough’ 

Jason Kottke:

When the Star Wars films aired in Chile, instead of cutting away from the movie for commercial breaks, the TV station “seamlessly” inserted ads for Cerveza Cristal beer. We’re talking Obi-Wan opening a chest to find a lightsaber for Luke and instead it reveals an ice-chest full of beer. Or the Emperor Force-reaching for a lightsaber and a can of beer flies into his hand.

These commercials aired like 20 years ago, but went supernova-viral last week. It’s impossible to explain how that works, but they deserved to go crazy viral. They’re so goddamn funny, even though you know the gag.

(Sidenote: Pitch-perfect redesign over there at the home of fine hypertext products since 1998.)

Signal Introduces Usernames 


Usernames in Signal do not function like usernames on social media platforms. Signal usernames are not logins or handles that you’ll be known by on the app — they’re simply a quick way to connect without sharing a phone number. [...]

Usernames simply allow you to initiate a connection on Signal without sharing your phone number, and Signal’s robust privacy safeguards remain unchanged. Signal is built so that we do not know who you message, what you say, which group chats you participate in, who’s in your contact list, and more.

If you want to create a username, you can do so in Settings > Profile. A username on Signal (unlike a profile name) must be unique and must have two or more numbers at the end of it; a choice intended to help keep usernames egalitarian and minimize spoofing. Usernames can be changed as often as you like, and you can delete your username entirely if you prefer to no longer have one.

Clever solution. Especially given that these usernames aren’t like social media handles, I particularly like the “every username gets at least 2 digits appended” rule.

How iOS Is Determining Eligibility for Alternative App Marketplaces in the European Union 

Apple support document:

To reflect the Digital Markets Act’s changes, users in the European Union are able to install alternative app marketplaces and install apps offered through alternative app marketplaces in iOS 17.4 or later. The country or region of your Apple ID must be set to one of the countries or regions of the European Union, and you must be physically located in the European Union.

Your device eligibility for alternative app marketplaces is determined by using on-device processing, with only an indicator of eligibility sent to Apple. To preserve your privacy, Apple does not collect your device’s location.

If you leave the European Union for short-term travel, you’ll continue to have access to alternative app marketplaces for a grace period. If you’re gone for too long, you’ll lose access to some features, including installing new alternative app marketplaces. Apps you installed from alternative app marketplaces will continue to function, but they can’t be updated by the marketplace you downloaded them from.

How long is “too long”? What a confusing mess this is shaping up to be.

Meta’s Plans for E2EE Messaging Interop for WhatsApp and Messenger 

Engineering at Meta:

To comply with a new EU law, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which comes into force on March 7th, we’ve made major changes to WhatsApp and Messenger to enable interoperability with third-party messaging services. [...]

To interoperate, third-party providers will sign an agreement with Messenger and/or WhatsApp and we’ll work together to enable interoperability. Today we’ll publish the WhatsApp Reference Offer for third-party providers which will outline what will be required to interoperate with the service. The Reference Offer for Messenger will follow in due course. [...]

In order to maximize user security, we would prefer third-party providers to use the Signal Protocol. Since this has to work for everyone however, we will allow third-party providers to use a compatible protocol if they are able to demonstrate it offers the same security guarantees as Signal.

Unclear to me whether these third-party providers will, somehow, only function in the EU, or if Meta is opening this up worldwide. Also unclear to me is who benefits from this?

Here’s the New iOS 17.4 Default Browser Nag for iPhone Users in Europe 

Thomas Ricker, writing for The Verge:

It’s DMA day in Europe, and I’ve immediately been prompted to choose a default browser after updating to iOS 17.4. The list is populated with “the most downloaded browsers on iOS in that country in the prior year.”

This screen is ridiculous. I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks this sort of user experience is anything but confusing to a typical user. Someone who’s been using Safari for a decade, and doesn’t even know what a “default browser” is, might have to scroll below the fold to even see Safari as an option, depending on the random order.

From Apple’s developer documentation for this screen:

Up to 11 of the most downloaded browsers on iOS in that country in the prior year that meet the above criteria will be selected for the browser choice screen in addition to Safari. Apple will update the list of browsers eligible to be shown on the choice screen once per calendar year.

The current list of browsers shown on the browser choice screen per country are below. The lists below are in alphabetical order, on a user’s device browsers will be shown in a randomized order per user. Click on a country below to jump to it.

If this is a good idea for web browsers, why stop there? Why not mandate the same sort of choice screen for every app? Mail, Calendar, Notes, Weather, Camera — why not require all of them to show a choice screen for picking a “default”?

Vision Pro’s Battery Indicator Is Confusing 

Apple, in a support document on charging Vision Pro:

The light next to the battery’s USB-C port can give you a quick look at the battery’s current charge state when you’re not wearing Apple Vision Pro. The light turns on briefly when you connect the battery to the USB-C Charge Cable, when you disconnect it, and when you move or gently tap it.

Here’s what the light means when you first connect the battery to power, or if you move or tap the battery while it’s charging:

  • Green for several seconds: the battery is charged to capacity.
  • Amber for several seconds: the battery’s charge level is less than 100%, but has enough charge for you to use Apple Vision Pro.
  • Amber pulsing slowly: the battery’s charge level is too low to power your Apple Vision Pro. Keep charging the battery for 10 minutes, or until the light shows amber steadily (not pulsing) when you tap the battery.

Here’s what the light means when you disconnect the battery from power, or if you move or tap the battery while it’s not connected to power:

  • Green for several seconds: the battery is charged to 50% or higher.
  • Amber for several seconds: the battery’s charge level is between 5% and 49%.
  • Amber pulsing slowly: the battery’s charge level is too low to power your Apple Vision Pro. Charge the battery for 10 minutes, or until the light shows amber steadily (not pulsing) when you tap the battery.

This seems like it could and should have been so much simpler. Why not have 4 lights instead of one, representing 25/50/75/100 percent charge levels? It seems like madness that green means “charged to capacity” when plugged in, but “50% or higher” when not. That’s a big difference!

Television for Vision Pro 

Speaking of new apps from recent guests on my podcast, Adam Lisagor has created a new app for Vision Pro that he introduces thus, with a clever one-minute video:

Welcome to the future of television. I call it ... Television.

The gimmick is that Television offers an assortment of realistic-looking televisions, old and new, and you can just place them in the world around you. You can watch videos from your Photos library, and, starting with the 1.1 update, from YouTube and other web streaming platforms.

I don’t know if this is a useful way to watch video but I’m certain that it’s fun. And I think fun is exactly what we need from developers in the early days of a new platform. In a weird way, that stupid beer-drinking iPhone app mattered. I think Television matters the same way. It’s joyful to plop a realistic old-time CRT TV on your desk. I get why Apple didn’t go this way — with skeuomorphic VR objects — with the system design of VisionOS, but that just means the opportunity is there for the taking for third-party developers.

It’s just fun.

Setapp Mobile 


MacPaw’s Setapp is the first subscription-based platform offering a curated collection of Mac and iOS apps to users. The platform empowers developers by aligning rewards with apps’ usage and market value, thus fostering a thriving ecosystem of innovation. Now, Setapp will be available directly on iOS devices, allowing for a more integrated and convenient user experience. This expansion promises a diverse selection of premium applications for users and a supportive environment for developers.

EU-only, of course. But so much for the notion that “no one” is going build an alternative app marketplace under Apple’s DMA compliance proposal.

Project Tapestry 

The Iconfactory:

What if you had one app that gave an overview of nearly everything that was happening across all the different services you follow? A single chronological timeline of your most important social media services, RSS feeds, and other sources. All of the updates together in one place, in the order they’re posted, with no algorithm deciding what you should see or when you should see it.

That’s what we’d like to build.

Already funded, but the stretch goals are sooo… good.

M3 MacBook Airs Are Out 

Apple’s Newsroom post announcing the speed-bumped M3 MacBook Airs has an entire section about “AI”:

World’s Best Consumer Laptop for AI

With the transition to Apple silicon, every Mac is a great platform for AI. M3 includes a faster and more efficient 16-core Neural Engine, along with accelerators in the CPU and GPU to boost on-device machine learning, making MacBook Air the world’s best consumer laptop for AI. Leveraging this incredible AI performance, macOS delivers intelligent features that enhance productivity and creativity, so users can enable powerful camera features, real-time speech to text, translation, text predictions, visual understanding, accessibility features, and much more.

With a broad ecosystem of apps that deliver advanced AI features, users can do everything from checking their homework with AI Math Assistance in Goodnotes 6, to automatically enhancing photos in Pixelmator Pro, to removing background noise from a video using CapCut. Combined with the unified memory architecture of Apple silicon, MacBook Air can also run optimized AI models, including large language models (LLMs) and diffusion models for image generation locally with great performance. In addition to on-device performance, MacBook Air supports cloud-based solutions, enabling users to run powerful productivity and creative apps that tap into the power of AI, such as Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365, Canva, and Adobe Firefly.


My thanks to WorkOS for sponsoring last week at DF. WorkOS is a modern identity and user management platform that enables B2B SaaS companies to accelerate enterprise adoption. Free up to 1 million MAUs, WorkOS brings a modular approach to B2B Auth with enterprise-ready features like SSO, SCIM, and User Management.

The APIs are flexible and easy to use, designed to provide an effortless experience from your first user all the way through your largest enterprise customer.

Today, hundreds of high-growth scale-ups are already powered by WorkOS, including ones you probably know, like Vercel, Webflow, and Loom.

Richard Lewis on Letterman 

So many fond remembrances of Richard Lewis are coming out — he really was “the menschiest of mensches” — but this highlight reel from his appearances on Letterman’s show, especially the early ones from the 1980s, hits home for me. He was a great comedian and an absolutely perfect talk show guest. He was seemingly always on Late Night back then, and every time he was, as a viewer, it was like, “Richard Lewis again? Can’t wait!”


Weather Up 3.0 

One more link from the latest episode of The Talk Show: Weather Up 3.0. If you’re a longtime reader you know I’m a nut for iPhone weather apps. There are so many great ones for iOS, starting with Apple’s own. I just love how much creativity and originality there is in presentation, emphasis, and information design.

Weather Up 3 stakes out two unique positions. The app itself presents a map-first design. No other weather app (that I’m aware of) goes map-first presentation-wise (which, as David Barnard explained on my podcast, is expensive).

But even more interesting is that Weather Up 3 is really widget-first — the app interface is secondary to the widget interface, which, for weather, I think is the right priority — and the widget design is:

  • Information-dense
  • Attractive
  • Original

Just a phenomenally good weather app, that you should definitely try.

‘Great Developers Steal Ideas, Not Products’ 

David Barnard, in a post from 2011 on the oft-cited (and oft-misattributed) adage about good artists copying and great artists stealing:

In dancing around the moral and semantic differences between borrowing and stealing, I’ve been missing the greater point. Elliot used the word steal, not for its immoral connotation, but to suggest ownership. To steal something is to take possession of it.

When you steal an idea and have the time and good taste to make it your own, it grows into something different, hopefully something greater. But as you borrow more and more from other products, there’s less and less of you in the result. Less to be proud of, less to own.

Barnard quotes the actual origin of the adage, from T.S. Eliot, and that alone is worth a bookmark. In Eliot’s formulation, it’s not copying vs. stealing, but imitating vs. stealing. That subtle distinction is clarifying. People who are creative and ethical generally see the clear distinction between remixing and ripping off. I add generally there because some people are truly offended when the ideas behind their own creations are remixed — stolen — by others.

To name one notable example, I’d argue that Android, as a whole, is a remix of the iPhone. But there are specific Android handsets — starting with some early Samsung Galaxy models — that are rip-offs of iPhone hardware designs. Steve Jobs, however, felt otherwise.

(And which is not to say Google hasn’t often been a shameless imitator/copycat.)

The Talk Show: ‘The Essence of Stealing’ 

Special guest David Barnard joins the show. Topics include the App Store — past, present, and post-DMA future — and the excellent new update to his app Weather Up.

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Links (which I usually don’t post here in Linked List posts for episodes, but which are exceptionally good this episode):