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Daring Fireball


‘Sooner or Later a False Belief Bumps Up Against Solid Reality, Usually on a Battlefield’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-15 22:16

George Orwell, writing in 1946:

The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

Apt, as ever.

Link: orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays…

The Deplorables

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-15 22:01

Pew Research:

As Joe Biden prepares to take office just days after a deadly riot inside the U.S. Capitol, 64% of voters express a positive opinion of his conduct since he won the November election. Majorities also approve of Biden’s Cabinet selections and how he has explained his plans and policies for the future.

Donald Trump is leaving the White House with the lowest job approval of his presidency (29%) and increasingly negative ratings for his post-election conduct. The share of voters who rate Trump’s conduct since the election as only fair or poor has risen from 68% in November to 76%, with virtually all of the increase coming in his “poor” ratings (62% now, 54% then).

Trump voters, in particular, have grown more critical of their candidate’s post-election conduct. The share of his supporters who describe his conduct as poor has doubled over the past two months, from 10% to 20%.

Hillary Clinton in September 2016:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

She said the other half of Trump’s supporters “feel that the government has let them down” and are “desperate for change.”

Link: pewresearch.org/politics/2021/01/15/biden-begins-presidency…

Nice NYT Profile on Letterboxd

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-15 21:54

Calum Marsh, writing for The New York Times:

Early last decade, Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow, web designers based in Auckland, New Zealand, were seeking a passion project. Their business, a boutique web design studio called Cactuslab, developed apps and websites for various clients, but they wanted a project of their own that their team could plug away at when there wasn’t much else to do.

Buchanan had an idea for a social media site about movies. At the time, he reflected, he used Flickr to share photos and Last.fm to share his taste in music. IMDb was a database; it wasn’t, in essence, social. That left a gap in the field. The result was an app and social media network called Letterboxd, which its website describes, aptly, as “Goodreads for film.”

Letterboxd harks back to an earlier era of the internet: it’s just nice. It’s nice to look at, nice to use, and serves several useful purposes. It’s a great place to track what you’ve watched and to find new things to watch. But also: that’s it. There’s no world domination plan. It’s just an exquisite app and website made by people trying to make something nice for movie lovers.

Link: nytimes.com/2021/01/13/movies/letterboxd-growth.html…

‘We Told You So’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-13 19:40, modified at 19:43

Representative Cedric Richmond, on the House floor:

In the first impeachment, Republicans said, “We don’t need to impeach him because he learned his lesson.” We said if we didn’t remove him, he would do it again. Simply put, we told you so. Richmond out.

Link: twitter.com/atrupar/status/1349417500728061955

‘Hey Siri, Who Invented Chess?’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-12 23:27

Siri: “Chess was invented in 1959 by Mr Chess.”

Link: twitter.com/vinnycoyne/status/1349096688053596163

Lost Passwords Lock Would-Be Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-12 23:15, modified at 23:26

Nathaniel Popper, reporting for The New York Times:

Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of this week, about $220 million.

The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 Bitcoin. While the price of Bitcoin dropped sharply on Monday, it is still up more than 50 percent from just a month ago, when it passed its previous all-time high of around $20,000.

The problem is that Mr. Thomas years ago lost the paper where he wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He has since tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations — to no avail.

“I would just lay in bed and think about it,” Mr. Thomas said. “Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”

Matt Levine, in his column at Bloomberg, makes the point that no one loses stock this way. But another lesson: use a good password manager, and print your most important passwords and recovery codes on paper, stored where you store other important documents.

Link: nytimes.com/2021/01/12/technology/bitcoin-passwords-wallets…

Twitter Suspends 70,000 QAnon Accounts

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-12 23:00

Twitter Safety:

Given the violent events in Washington, DC, and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday afternoon.

Many of the individuals impacted by this updated enforcement action held multiple accounts, driving up the total number of accounts impacted. Since Friday, more than 70,000 accounts have been suspended as a result of our efforts, with many instances of a single individual operating numerous accounts. These accounts were engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service.

Better late than never, again, but they knew these kooks were spreading poison months ago. It’s shocking how many people I know with immediate family members who’ve been consumed by this QAnon conspiracy cult.

Link: blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2021/protecting--the…

The Republicans Are Turning on Trump

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-12 21:46, modified at 22:49

Two links from The Times this afternoon illustrate how quickly Trump is falling into political ignominy and shame. First, Republicans in the House began inching away:

House Republican leaders have decided not to formally lobby members of the party against voting to impeach President Trump, making a tacit break with him as they scrambled to gauge support within their ranks for a vote on Wednesday to charge him with inciting violence against the country. While Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, has said that he will “personally” oppose impeachment and sought to steer Republicans in a different direction, his decision not to officially lean on lawmakers to vote against the move constituted a subtle shift away from the president.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican who was considering backing the impeachment charge against Mr. Trump, privately told colleagues on a call Monday the matter was a “vote of conscience.” Ms. Cheney, the scion of a storied Republican family, was also privately counseling fellow Republicans on how to navigate a vote that could shape their careers.

Second, Mitch McConnell, who leads Republicans in the Senate, (and who is a measure twice, cut once sort of fellow):

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has told associates he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking. The House is voting Wednesday to formally charge Mr. Trump with inciting violence against the country.

And, just a few hours after trying out the “I’m not for impeachment but it’s OK if other Republicans are” line, McCarthy moves even further:

At the same time, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader and one of Mr. Trump’s most steadfast allies in Congress, has asked other Republicans whether he ought to call on Mr. Trump to resign in the aftermath of last week’s riot at the Capitol, according to three Republican officials briefed on the conversations.

Political bankruptcy, just like the financial sort, happens two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.

Link: nytimes.com/live/2021/01/12/us/impeachment-trump-25th…

‘The American Abyss’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-12 20:45

Staggering essay by historian Timothy Snyder, published last weekend in The New York Times, accompanied by startling photographs of the Capitol insurrection by Ashley Gilbertson.

There’s a drumbeat to this essay I find remarkable. It is a sprawling, serious, and complex argument, but the essay wastes not a word. Each sentence builds upon the last; each paragraph furthers the argument toward its inexorable conclusion:

America will not survive the big lie just because a liar is separated from power. It will need a thoughtful repluralization of media and a commitment to facts as a public good. The racism structured into every aspect of the coup attempt is a call to heed our own history. Serious attention to the past helps us to see risks but also suggests future possibility. We cannot be a democratic republic if we tell lies about race, big or small. Democracy is not about minimizing the vote nor ignoring it, neither a matter of gaming nor of breaking a system, but of accepting the equality of others, heeding their voices and counting their votes.

I implore you not merely to read it, but to study it.

Link: nytimes.com/2021/01/09/magazine/trump-coup.html

The Legend of Sean Hannity’s Olive Garden Lifetime Pasta Pass

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-12 02:00

This, without question, is the funniest thing I’ve seen all week. My friend Louie Mantia tweeted a parody statement from Olive Garden, and it was so convincing to humorless wingnuts that Sean Hannity made it a segment on his show.

Link: boingboing.net/2021/01/09/hannity-debunks-menacing-twitter…

Bill Belichick Declines Presidential Medal of Freedom From Trump

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-12 01:51, modified at 20:55

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, formerly “great friends”, in a statement:

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients. Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award. Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy. I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team. One of the most rewarding things in my professional career took place in 2020 when, through the great leadership within our team, conversations about social justice, equality and human rights moved to the forefront and became actions. Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.

The passive voice is doing a lot of work in that statement: Belichick was offered the award, a decision was made not to “move forward” with it. I don’t blame Belichick for the PR dance, but here’s what he means: President Trump offered me the Medal of Freedom but because of what he did and the shame and disgrace he brought upon himself and our nation, I will not accept it.

Beyond the pure schadenfreude, consider how deep this stain is on Trump’s reputation. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is our nation’s highest honor, and Trump is so disgraced that Bill Belichick declined to accept it from him. There’s a lot of unprecedented stuff going on right now, but declining a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Has anyone ever declined this award previously? A cursory search suggests no.

I’m sure the MyPillow guy will accept his medal though.

Link: nytimes.com/2021/01/11/sports/football/trump-belichick…

New York State Bar Association Launches Inquiry to Expel Rudy Giuliani

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-11 21:42, modified on 2021-01-12 22:16

The New York State Bar Association:

But the president did not act alone. Hours before the angry mob stormed the Capitol walls, Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, addressed a crowd of thousands at the White House, reiterating baseless claims of widespread election fraud in the presidential election and the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs. “If we’re wrong, we will be made fools of, but if we’re right a lot of them will go to jail,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Let’s have trial by combat.” […]

NYSBA’s bylaws state that “no person who advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States, or of any state, territory or possession thereof, or of any political subdivision therein, by force or other illegal means, shall be a member of the Association.” Mr. Giuliani’s words quite clearly were intended to encourage Trump supporters unhappy with the election’s outcome to take matters into their own hands. Their subsequent attack on the Capitol was nothing short of an attempted coup, intended to prevent the peaceful transition of power.

Mr. Giuliani will be provided due process and have an opportunity — should he so choose — to explain and defend his words and actions.

So among his other troubles, the president’s personal attorney is going to be disbarred disgraced by the New York State Bar Association. “America’s Mayor”.

Update: The NY Bar Association is a voluntary organization — more like a private club — and neither bars nor disbars anyone. But it’s a bad look for Giuliani. And, unsurprisingly, he has been referred to the NY State Senate’s judiciary committee for proper disbarment.

Link: nysba.org/new-york-state-bar-association-launches-historic…

[Sponsor] FeaturePeek

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-12 02:08

Turn frontend deployment previews into your hub for continuous product review.

FeaturePeek is the easiest way for web development teams to collaborate on frontend work.

  • Take and annotate screenshots
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  • Tag coworkers and leave comments

FeaturePeek works with all frameworks and hosting providers and integrates with Linear, Clubhouse, Trello, and more.

Get started today for free at featurepeek.com and use code FIREBALL for 30% off upgrades to FeaturePeek for business teams.

Link: featurepeek.com/how-it-works?utm_source=df&utm_medium=rss…

Professional Golf Cuts Ties to Trump Courses

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-11 20:28

Russ Choma, reporting for Mother Jones:

Sunday night, the PGA of America announced that it was nixing its plans to hold the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump’s New Jersey golf course. It’s not a small move. Championships are named far in advance — the PGA website currently lists the site of future Championships through 2034 — and the PGA has been planning on using Trump Bedminster for its 2022 Championship since 2014. Since he started purchasing and developing golf courses, Trump has avidly pursued PGA events at his properties. These events not only bring media attention and crowds of visitors, but they confer the kind of acceptance Trump has always struggled to win from the moneyed and powerful classes. […]

In a nearly simultaneous blow, the R&A, golf’s Scotland-based governing body outside of the United States, issued its own statement early Monday morning. It announced that it will avoid using Trump’s premiere Scottish golf course, Turnberry, for the “forseeable future” for any of its championships. Turnberry is a legendary course and is one of a handful of courses in the United Kingdom that has been allowed to host a British Open Championship — one of the most prestigious events in all of golf.

When you’re a Republican and you lose the PGA — of all professional sports — you’re done.

Link: motherjones.com/politics/2021/01/pro-golf-finally-cancels…

Why Parler Is Likely to Fold

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-11 19:41, modified at 19:46

Good thread on Twitter by Dave Troy, on the troubles facing Parler if they try to rebound after being cut off by AWS. Technical hurdles, for sure — AWS is hard to replace, and most of the top alternatives, the ones that are closest to drop-in replacements, are unlikely to want Parler’s business — but perhaps the bigger problem is financial:

Should Matze/Wernick/Bongino/Peikoff decide to soldier on and go full zombie mode, they can try to do that. They probably can’t do so without Mercer support. Or material help from foreign nationals. Any US person risks sedition charges. And indeed, so do they.

Given the near zero possibility of survival, I assess that all involved will likely terminate this kamikaze mission, take the data they harvested, use it for future ops, share it with the Russian government in trade for something, and move on to a new venture.

Sounds like they’ve inadvertently shared their entire data store with the world, actually. This trove includes geolocation data for uploaded images and video (Parler apparently didn’t strip EXIF data), private DMs, and “deleted” posts that weren’t actually deleted from the database but just marked as “deleted”.

Always seemed pretty obvious that the minds behind Parler weren’t exactly sharp knives, but it’s looking more and more like they’re on the plastic cutlery end of the spectrum.

Link: twitter.com/davetroy/status/1348219824506368000


Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-11 04:00, modified at 17:24

My thanks to Motion for sponsoring last week at DF. Motion is a Chrome extension that reduces sources of friction people experience using their browser to do work. Think of it sort of as a productivity tool for Chrome power users. It’s not some sort of tool that makes you do more work by adding a “system” to manage, but rather a set of extensions to Chrome’s interface to make streamline and provide quicker access to the things you already do, all day every day.

Among other features, Motion gives you instant access to your Google Calendar and Google Docs from any tab (instead of waiting for the entire web apps to load in new tabs, each time you want to use them); tab search and tab de-cluttering tools (like workspaces and vertical sub-tabs); and ways to block distracting sites in a non-intrusive way.

If you’re a Chrome power user, check it out. If “like Superhuman, but for calendars” sounds interesting to you, you should definitely check it out. Motion is just a Chrome extension — easy to try. They offer a 7-day free trial, and it’s just $15/month after that.

Link: inmotion.app/?ref=daringfireball-post

‘They Absolutely Do Not Believe Their Own Bullshit, but It’s Useful for Them to Pretend They Do.’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-11 03:59, modified at 17:48

Wonderful thread on Twitter by Lili Saintcrow, on her dealings with an old racist neighbor:

One afternoon, Gene mentioned whatever the current outrage du jour on Fox was. (This was well before Der Trumpenfuhrer’s reign, by the way.)

He fixed me with his baleful, watery stare, and said, “Obama was born in Kenya, you know.” […]

So I dead-eyed Gene and said, “You don’t really believe that. I know you don’t.”

I will never forget the look that crossed his face. Because it was familiar. It was the same shit-eating grin my racist stepfather used to wear when spouting Rush Limbaugh dittohead shit at the dinner table. It was the same wink-wink-nudge-nudge all the fucking white supremacists and Satanic Panic assholes give.

Gene absolutely, positively did not believe that Obama was born in Kenya. But he would continue to say he believed it, no matter who asked, to the end of his life. Because he thought saying he believed it absolved him of responsibility.

“You know that isn’t true” — I’m going to remember that reply. She also includes this Zen koan, which I don’t recall seeing before, but which I just love, and is perfectly apt for our moment: “You cannot wake someone up who is pretending to be asleep.”

Link: twitter.com/lilithsaintcrow/status/1347293759155838976

Stripe Stops Processing Payments for Trump Campaign Website

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-11 01:36

The Wall Street Journal:

Stripe Inc. will no longer process payments for President Trump’s campaign website following last week’s riot at the Capitol, according to people familiar with the matter.

The financial-technology company handles card payments for millions of online businesses and e-commerce platforms, including Mr. Trump’s campaign website and online fundraising apparatus. Stripe is cutting off the president’s campaign account for violating its policies against encouraging violence, the people said.

The Trump campaign directly incited an insurrection against Congress in an attempt to overturn an election that Trump lost. How can any legitimate company do business with them henceforth?

Link: wsj.com/articles/stripe-stops-processing-payments-for-trump…

Bare Metal Parler Tricks

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-10 23:56, modified on 2021-01-11 00:37

Parler CEO John Matze, late last night in a post on Parler whose URL will likely soon stop resolving:

Sunday (tomorrow) at midnight Amazon will be shutting off all of our servers in an attempt to completely remove free speech off the internet. There is the possibility Parler will be unavailable on the internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch. We prepared for events like this by never relying on amazons [sic] proprietary infrastructure and building bare metal products.

We will try our best to move to a new provider right now as we have many competing for our business, however […]

12 hours later, here’s how that was going, from a report on Deadline:

Parler CEO John Matze said today that his company has been dropped by virtually all of its business alliances after Amazon, Apple and Google ended their agreements with the social media service. “Every vendor from text message services to email providers to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day,” Matze said today on Fox News. […]

He added: “We’re going to try our best to get back online as quickly as possible. But we’re having a lot of trouble because every vendor we talk to says they won’t work with us. Because if Apple doesn’t approve and Google doesn’t approve, they won’t.”

Here’s what Parler is (was?): pretty much 8kun/4chan for people who want something modeled on social media conceptually (a service with atomic “posts”) as opposed to a web forum, with the added veneer of Fox News-ish celebrity affirmation, having “stars” like Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino, Michael Cernovich, and whoever else they recognize from the Fox News cinematic universe, shitposting links to rightwing “news” sites on it.

4chan with rightwing celebrity endorsements. That’s Parler.

Link: deadline.com/2021/01/parler-ceo-says-service-dropped-by…

Arnold Schwarzenegger on Trump and the Attack on the Capitol

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-10 21:30, modified on 2021-01-12 02:17

Powerful and deeply personal message, directly equating the Proud Boys and the storming of the U.S. Capitol to the Nazis’ Kristallnacht of 1938.

Link: twitter.com/Schwarzenegger/status/1348249481284874240

Amazon Will Suspend Parler From AWS Web Hosting

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-10 03:07, modified at 19:37

John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Amazon on Saturday kicked Parler off its Web hosting services. Parler, a social network favored by conservative politicians and extremists, was used to help plan and coordinate the January 6 attempted coup on Washington D.C. It has recently been overrun with messages encouraging “Patriots” to march on Washington D.C. with weapons on January 19.

Amazon’s suspension of Parler’s account means that unless it can find another host, once the ban takes effect on Sunday Parler will go offline.

Bye-bye, Nazis.

(And trust me, having spent more time today digging into Parler than I’d recommend to anyone, Parler is a haven for fucking Nazis. Like, however many Nazis you think are cavorting on Parler — and let’s just say for the sake of argument that you’re a pessimist and you think there are a lot of them — there are more than you think.)

Update: A bit more, including their monthly bill to AWS:

“[W]e cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others,” the email continues. “Because Parler cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety, we plan to suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59PM PST.”

On Amazon Web Services, Parler had gone from negligible spend to paying more than $300,000 a month for hosting, according to multiple sources.

Link: buzzfeednews.com/article/johnpaczkowski/amazon-parler-aws

Apple Suspends Parler From App Store

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-10 00:56, modified at 00:57

Apple, in a statement to MacRumors:

We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity. Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety. We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.

Link: macrumors.com/2021/01/09/apple-suspends-parler-from-app…

Kieran Healy: ‘What Happened?’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-10 00:04

Kieran Healy:

I don’t know what happened. But here’s my current theory of what the White House thought was going to happen. […]

From the White House’s point of view, the crowd was not actually supposed to get inside the Capitol. The MAGA/Q contingent are the useful marks in all this. They believe all the crap they’re fed. But obviously they’re not going to get into the building. It’s the US Capitol for God’s sake! The very idea that the rush of events would propel them right into the chambers was not something the White House wanted to happen, or thought was going to happen.

Of course, before the rally some of the actually dangerous Q-marinated nutters absolutely did want to get inside the building, find Pence, and Pelosi, and the rest, and literally take them hostage and string them up.

This is so, so good. And I think it’s exactly what happened.

Link: kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2021/01/08/what-happened/

Google Suspends Parler From the Google Play Store

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-09 01:22

Not a good day for Nazis, fascists, or kooks.

Pretty good day for the rest of us.

Link: twitter.com/viacristiano/status/1347705178699558912?s=21

The MAGApocalypse: Twitter Also Bans Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and 8Kun Co-Owner Ron Watkins

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-09 01:17

Caroline Haskins, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Twitter is permanently suspending major accounts that are “solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” following the far-right insurrection at the nation’s Capitol.

Banned accounts include former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump attorney Sidney Powell, and 8kun co-owner Ron Watkins, who some journalists and researchers have speculated has the log-in information for the account “Q”, whose posts fuel the mass delusion, but doesn’t necessarily write Q’s posts.

I’d make a “Today I settle all family business” joke, but if Michael Corleone ran Twitter these crackpot wingnuts would’ve all been banned years ago.

Link: buzzfeednews.com/article/carolinehaskins1/twitter-banned…

Apple Gives Parler 24 Hours to Implement a Moderation Plan or It Will Be Removed From the App Store

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-09 00:38, modified at 01:03

From Apple’s letter to Parler, as published by BuzzFeed News:

We require your immediate attention regarding serious App Store guideline violations that we have found with your app, Parler.

We have received numerous complaints regarding objectionable content in your Parler service, accusations that the Parler app was used to plan, coordinate, and facilitate the illegal activities in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 that led (among other things) to loss of life, numerous injuries, and the destruction of property. The app also appears to continue to be used to plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities.

Our investigation has found that Parler is not effectively moderating and removing content that encourages illegal activity and poses a serious risk to the health and safety of users in direct violation of your own terms of service, found here: https://legal.parler.com/documents/Elaboration-on-Guidelines.pdf

It’s just a chef’s kiss to encapsulate so much with “(among other things)”. Consider what it includes: the breakdown of society, an attempted coup, the disgrace of our nation in the front of the world, all the way down to evidence of poor personal hygiene. Truly a parenthetical for the ages.

Link: buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanmac/apple-threatens-ban-parler

Twitter Permanently Bans Trump

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 23:39, modified on 2021-01-09 00:26


After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.

Behold his account. It’s a beautiful thing to see. We never have to read another Trump tweet again.

Can I just take a moment, while we’re dancing on his Twitter account’s grave, to talk about how stupid the “real” prefix in his account handle was? Even the way it was camel-cased was stupid and cut-rate.

Anyway, good fucking riddance.

Link: twitter.com/TwitterSafety/status/1347684877634838528

GM Unveils New Logo

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 22:57, modified on 2021-01-09 01:18

Thumbs down. Lowercasing the letters looks unserious, a bit childish, and the letter combination makes it look a bit like the icon for a chat app.

Scott Simpson:

GM’s new logo looks like an app that came free with CorelDraw in 2014.

Link: roadandtrack.com/news/a35164108/gm-new-logo-discussion/

China Banned ‘Christopher Robin’ Because Xi Jinping Looks Quite a Bit Like Winnie the Pooh and He Feels Bad About That

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 22:43

Benjamin Haas, reporting for The Guardian in 2018:

The Winnie the Pooh character has become a lighthearted way for people across China to mock their president, Xi Jinping, but it seems the government doesn’t find the joke very funny. […]

As comparisons grew and the meme spread online, censors began erasing the images which mocked Xi. The website of US television station HBO was blocked last month after comedian John Oliver repeatedly made fun of the Chinese president’s apparent sensitivity over comparisons of his figure with that of Winnie. The segment also focused on China’s dismal human rights record.

Another comparison between Xi and Winnie during a military parade in 2015 became that year’s most censored image, according to Global Risk Insights. The firm said the Chinese government viewed the meme as “a serious effort to undermine the dignity of the presidential office and Xi himself”.

No need to read too much into it. All sorts of men look like puffy little cartoon bears.

Link: theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/07/china-bans-winnie-the…

Chinese Solar Companies Tied to Use of Forced Labor

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 22:35

Ana Swanson and Christopher Buckley, reporting for The New York Times:

According to a report by the consultancy Horizon Advisory, Xinjiang’s rising solar energy technology sector is connected to a broad program of assigned labor in China, including methods that fit well-documented patterns of forced labor.

Major solar companies including GCL-Poly, East Hope Group, Daqo New Energy, Xinte Energy and Jinko Solar are named in the report as bearing signs of using some forced labor, according to Horizon Advisory, which specializes in Chinese-language research. Though many details remain unclear, those signs include accepting workers transferred with the help of the Chinese government from certain parts of Xinjiang, and having laborers undergo “military-style” training that may be aimed at instilling loyalty to China and the Communist Party. […]

In a statement, a representative for the Chinese Embassy in Washington called forced labor in Xinjiang “a rumor created by a few anti-China media and organizations,” adding that all workers in Xinjiang enter into contracts in accordance with Chinese labor law. “There is no such thing as ‘forced labor,’” the representative said.

No need to read too much into it.

Link: nytimes.com/2021/01/08/business/economy/china-solar…

Hong Kong Police Arrest Dozens of Pro-Democracy Leaders

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 21:00

Vivian Wang, Austin Ramzy, and Tiffany May, reporting for The New York Times:

The Hong Kong police arrested 53 elected pro-democracy officials and activists early Wednesday for their involvement in an informal primary election, the largest roundup yet under the new national security law imposed by Beijing to quash dissent.

The mass arrests — which included figures who had called for aggressive confrontation with the authorities as well as those who had supported more moderate tactics — underscored Hong Kong officials’ efforts to weaken any meaningful opposition in the city’s political institutions. The police also visited the offices of at least one law firm and three news media organizations to demand documents, broadening the burst of arrests that started before sunrise and sent a chill through Hong Kong’s already-demoralized opposition camp.

The moves suggested that the authorities were casting a wide net for anyone who had played a prominent role in opposing the government. The national security law, which the Chinese government imposed in June, has been wielded as a powerful tool to crack down on the fierce anti-Beijing protests that upended the city for months. Since then, the Hong Kong authorities have detained pro-democracy leaders, raided news media offices and ousted opposition lawmakers.

No need to read too much into it.

Link: nytimes.com/2021/01/05/world/asia/hong-kong-arrests…

‘Where Is Jack Ma?’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 20:55, modified at 20:56

Jeanne Whalen, writing for The Washington Post:

China’s most famous billionaire has suffered months of mounting trouble, with regulators turning the screws on his tech empire. And now social media is abuzz with the darkest speculation yet: Is Jack Ma missing?

The charismatic founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, known for his frequent Davos appearances and Michael Jackson dance moves, hasn’t been seen in public since late October, when he criticized Chinese regulators in a speech.

His absence, combined with regulatory troubles including a recent antitrust probe, have fueled wild speculation on social media about his whereabouts, with some fearing he is under house arrest. In China, it’s not unusual for powerful figures to disappear with little public explanation when they fall afoul of authorities — such as in 2018, when the country’s most prominent movie star, Fan Bingbing, fell off the map for months before reemerging to confess to tax evasion.

No need to read too much into it. I’m sure he’s fine.

Link: washingtonpost.com/business/2021/01/06/where-is-jack-ma/

WHO Team Investigating Virus Origins Denied Entry to China

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 20:53, modified at 22:30

BBC News:

A World Health Organization (WHO) team due to investigate the origins of Covid-19 in the city of Wuhan has been denied entry to China. […]

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “very disappointed” that China had not yet finalised the permissions for the team’s arrivals “given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute”.

“I have been assured that China is speeding up the internal procedure for the earliest possible deployment,” he told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday, explaining that he had been in contact with senior Chinese officials to stress “that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the BBC “there might be some misunderstanding” and “there’s no need to read too much into it”.

“No need to read too much into it.” I like that. We can use that for everything related to the Chinese government, whose behavior throughout this whole pandemic has been perfectly normal, and not at all suggestive of a serious cover-up.

Link: bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-55555466

Kara Swisher: ‘Ban Trump Forever’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 18:17, modified at 23:29

Kara Swisher, writing for New York Magazine:

That is why Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, which are the three main conduits of online communications for most Americans, must now de-platform Trump permanently.

I do not call for this lightly and have always thought that he should get a wider berth owing to being the most newsworthy person on the planet. But it’s long past time to make an example of him as a persistent violator of platform rules who cynically games their laudable impulse toward allowing as much speech as possible. […]

Twitter — Trump’s favored online communications vehicle — says as much in its civic integrity policy, noting that “you may not use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes.” Well, he has done that over and over on social media, raging like the monster that he has always been.

Trump is the biggest problem (and the immediate threat), no question, but this needs to be less about Trump personally and more about branding Trumpist viewpoints as beyond the pale. Intolerable. Twitter says “you may not use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes”, but by their actions, clearly the opposite is true. Donald Trump has used Twitter for just such purposes. And now Twitter has let him back on their platform to keep doing it.

Capitol Police said that white nationalist MAGA louts were not allowed to storm through the Capitol, humiliate both houses of Congress, steal with impunity and fart in Nancy Pelosi’s chair. But they did allow it. Federal law enforcement is facing a reckoning in the aftermath of Wednesday’s debacle not because of their words or intentions, but because of their actions and the results.

Twitter can say anything they want about what’s allowed on their platform. But we can see, plainly, that they have allowed, and continue to allow, Trump and his cohorts to debase American democracy.

Link: nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/01/its-time-for-social-media…

George Will on the Trump-Hawley-Cruz Seditionist Triumvirate

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 01:13

George Will, writing at The Washington Post:

“I want to take a moment to speak to my Democratic colleagues,” said Cruz. “I understand your guy is winning right now.” Read those weaselly words again. He was not speaking to his “colleagues.” He was speaking to the kind people who were at that instant assaulting the Capitol. He was nurturing the very delusions that soon would cause louts to be roaming the Senate chamber — the fantasy that Joe Biden has not won the election but is only winning “right now.”

The Trump-Hawley-Cruz insurrection against constitutional government will be an indelible stain on the nation. They, however, will not be so permanent. In 14 days, one of them will be removed from office by the constitutional processes he neither fathoms nor favors. It will take longer to scrub the other two from public life. Until that hygienic outcome is accomplished, from this day forward, everything they say or do or advocate should be disregarded as patent attempts to distract attention from the lurid fact of what they have become. Each will wear a scarlet “S” as a seditionist.

Bonus points for the use of louts.

Link: washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-hawley-and-cruz-will-each…

Those Radical Left-Wingers on The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Call on Trump to Resign

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 00:47

The Wall Street Journal editorial board:

We know an act of grace by Mr. Trump isn’t likely. In any case this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure. He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the Senate. Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.

It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.

Link: wsj.com/articles/donald-trumps-final-days-11610062773

‘The Biggest Mistake I’ve Ever Made in My Life’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-08 00:38

Bryan Lowry, writing for The Kansas City Star:

Former Missouri Sen. John Danforth spent years promoting Josh Hawley as the future of the Republican Party, a “once-in-a-generation” candidate destined to contend for the presidency, perhaps in 2024.

But a day after the riot at the U.S. Capitol left four people dead, Danforth blamed his former protégé for sparking the insurrection.

“I thought he was special. And I did my best to encourage people to support him both for attorney general and later the U.S. Senate and it was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life,” he said Thursday. “I don’t know if he was always like this and good at covering it up or if it happened. I just don’t know.”

Trump is out of office in 13 days. Hawley and Ted Cruz are not.

Link: kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article248346830…

Simon & Schuster ‘Has Decided to Cancel Publication of Senator Josh Hawley’s Forthcoming Book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech”’

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-07 23:25, modified on 2021-01-08 05:35

Simon & Schuster:

As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints; at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.

Every tech platform could and should follow Simon & Schuster’s lead and justification here. (Via CNN’s Brian Stelter.)

Update: Hawley’s crybaby response, expressing an utter disregard for basic civics.

Link: twitter.com/simonschuster/status/1347323295214030850

Twitch Suspends Donald Trump’s Channel

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-07 23:24, modified on 2021-01-08 00:39

Nathan Grayson, reporting for Kotaku:

In an email to Kotaku, a Twitch spokesperson explained the company’s rationale.

“In light of yesterday’s shocking attack on the Capitol, we have disabled President Trump’s Twitch channel,” the spokesperson wrote. “Given the current extraordinary circumstances and the President’s incendiary rhetoric, we believe this is a necessary step to protect our community and prevent Twitch from being used to incite further violence.”

For now, the suspension is indefinite. “We are focused on minimizing harm leading up to the transition of government and will reassess his account after he leaves office,” the spokesperson said.

I don’t know what Twitter is thinking reinstating his account after yesterday. This was the time to sever it.

Link: kotaku.com/twitch-suspends-trumps-channel-to-prevent-him…

Shopify Takes Trump Organization and Campaign Stores Offline

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-07 22:21, modified at 22:22

Vipal Monga, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Visitors to TrumpStore.com and shop.donaldjtrump.com, which sold official Trump branded apparel, “Make America Great Again” hats and other merchandise, were greeted with error messages on Thursday morning.

A Shopify spokeswoman said President Trump violated the company’s policy, which prohibits retailers on the platform from promoting or supporting organizations or people that promote violence. “As a result, we have terminated stores affiliated with President Trump,” the company said.

Link: wsj.com/articles/shopify-takes-trumpstore-com-offline-in…

Zuckerberg Bans Trump From Facebook

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-07 19:55, modified at 20:00

Mark Zuckerberg, on Facebook:

The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden. […]

We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.

Straightforward and to the point. We can — and I would — argue that this should have happened long ago, but it really is better late than never. We collectively need to talk about this clearly: Trump and his supporters are anti-democratic. We cannot tolerate a threat to democracy itself.

Link: facebook.com/zuck/posts/10112681480907401

[Sponsor] Motion

Permalink - Posted on 2021-01-05 00:04

Online distractions cost you a lot more than just 1-2 hours of each day.

  • Your self-satisfaction and happiness drop when you’re distracted online
  • Digital distractions decrease your IQ by about 10 points
  • You’re 2-3 times more likely to make mistakes when distracted

Motion is a Chrome extension that fights the distraction epidemic that’s taking over your browser. Funded by Y Combinator and used by successful entrepreneurs like Patrick Lee (Rotten Tomatoes) and Michael Seibel (Twitch), Motion reduces distractions by 70%.

For a limited time, you can try Motion free.

Link: inmotion.app/?ref=daringfireball-rss

★ Charger Nerdery

Permalink - Posted on 2020-12-31 21:04, modified on 2021-01-09 19:18

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors, “HomePod Mini Now Works With Select 18W Chargers Following 14.3 Software Update”:

As noted in a Reddit thread spotted by The 8-Bit, and confirmed by MacRumors, the HomePod mini now works with Apple’s own 18W USB-C power adapter and select third-party 18W power adapters from brands like Aukey. One user was even able to power the HomePod mini with an 18W battery pack from Cygnett, allowing for portable use.

Previously, when attempting to use the HomePod mini with a power adapter rated below 20W, the speaker would simply display an orange light and not function. This may still be the case with certain 18W power adapters, as certain power profiles may be required.

If you don’t know a little about how AC adapters work, it might seem crazy that the difference between an 18W charger and 20W charger could be significant. If you think it’s all about wattage, they sound so similar — how could 2 watts make a difference? And Apple’s own 20W charger (that they started selling this year, and which is included with the HomePod Mini) looks identical to Apple’s previous 18W charger (which was included with some iPads and the iPhones 11 Pro). The only way to tell Apple’s new 20W charger apart from their old 18W charger is to look at the hard-to-read small print (light gray text on a white background, a veritable crime against accessibility). And even when you read the small print, you have to know that Apple’s 20W chargers say “20W” on them and their 18W chargers aren’t labeled with a wattage. Seriously, Apple’s 18W charger doesn’t say “18W” — the only way to know it’s an 18W charger is to examine the even-harder-to-read smallest-of-small print and know or calculate that its stated maximum output of “9V × 2A” is 18W. (Their 20W charger is 9V × 2.2A, so it’s really a 19.8W charger.)

So on the one hand, because the HomePod Mini includes the 20W charger, it was fine that it didn’t work with the old 18W charger. But on the other hand, if you ever toss the 20W charger into a bag or drawer along with an Apple 18W charger, you needed an extraordinary amount of knowledge to know which charger the HomePod Mini required. Not sure how much work Apple had to put into the 14.3 software update to make the HomePod Mini work with the 18W charger too, but I’m glad they did. It’s too confusing otherwise.

This exact same sort of confusion — conflating two lookalike Apple-branded chargers — bit me earlier this year. In my April review of the iPad Magic Keyboard, I originally wrote that passthrough charging via the Smart Connector was slow. But other reviewers saw passthrough charging speeds that were as fast or nearly as fast as connecting the iPad directly to the charger. I checked with Apple and they confirmed that passthrough charging should not be slow, and I should make sure I was using the power adapter that came with the iPad Pro.

My mistake was using Apple’s slightly older 29W USB-C power adapter, which looks exactly like Apple’s more recent 30W USB-C power adapter. We’ve had that adapter plugged into our kitchen island for years, and it’s never before mattered. But with the Magic Keyboard, it did.

Turns out Apple’s 29W USB-C adapter is weird and limited. It only outputs two configurations: 14.5V × 2A = 29W (the maximum), or 5.2V × 2.4A = 12.48W.1 For high-power input, the iPad Magic Keyboard accepts 9V × 3A = 27W, but Apple’s 29W adapter can’t supply that. Apple’s 30W USB-C adapter, on the other hand, supplies a slew of output options:

  • 20V × 1.5A = 30W
  • 15V × 2A = 30W
  • 9V × 3A = 27W (bingo for the Magic Keyboard)
  • 5V × 3A = 15W

So the 29W adapter looks exactly like the 30W adapter, and if you make the perfectly reasonable but totally wrong assumption that the stated maximum wattage is all that matters, it sounds like it’s about 97% as powerful (29 ÷ 30), but what really matters when an adapter is negotiating with a device are the various voltage/amp configurations that the charger can supply as output, and the device can accept as input.

Plug the iPad Magic Keyboard into an Apple 30W adapter and the adapter can supply it with 27W (9V × 3A). Plug the Magic Keyboard into Apple’s 29W adapter, however, and the best output the charger can supply that the keyboard will accept is a measly 12.48W (5.2V × 2.4A). That closely jibes with my own observed estimate back in April, that the iPad Pro only charges at about 40 percent speed via passthrough when the Magic Keyboard is plugged into Apple’s 29W charger.

That 29W charger now lives in a drawer with a salty note attached.

  1. I’m oversimplifying here. Kevin van Haaren, on Twitter, before I added this footnote: “It isn’t correct to say a charger outputs ‘14.5V × 2A’. The amp rating is a maximum and is dictated by what the device draws. So a 14.5V × 2A charger supports all 14.5V devices that draw up to 2A, it supports 14.5V × 1A just fine.” My simplification of volts times amps equals watts is about maximum charging speeds, not minimal compatibility. My thinking is that you don’t need to worry about whether your stuff will charge at all, but whether it’s going to charge as fast as it should. ↩︎

★ Facebook’s Unknowable Megascale

Permalink - Posted on 2020-12-29 19:37, modified on 2021-01-10 03:13

Adrienne LaFrance, writing for The Atlantic, “Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine”:

People tend to complain about Facebook as if something recently curdled. There’s a notion that the social web was once useful, or at least that it could have been good, if only we had pulled a few levers: some moderation and fact-checking here, a bit of regulation there, perhaps a federal antitrust lawsuit. But that’s far too sunny and shortsighted a view. Today’s social networks, Facebook chief among them, were built to encourage the things that make them so harmful. It is in their very architecture.

I’ve been thinking for years about what it would take to make the social web magical in all the right ways — less extreme, less toxic, more true — and I realized only recently that I’ve been thinking far too narrowly about the problem. I’ve long wanted Mark Zuckerberg to admit that Facebook is a media company, to take responsibility for the informational environment he created in the same way that the editor of a magazine would. (I pressed him on this once and he laughed.) In recent years, as Facebook’s mistakes have compounded and its reputation has tanked, it has become clear that negligence is only part of the problem. No one, not even Mark Zuckerberg, can control the product he made. I’ve come to realize that Facebook is not a media company. It’s a Doomsday Machine.

This is a very compelling and cogent essay, and I largely agree with LaFrance. But here I disagree: Zuckerberg clearly can control it. There are dials on the algorithms that control what users see in their feeds. What can’t be controlled is what happens as Facebook pursues engagement. What keeps too many people hooked to Facebook is exactly the sort of worldview-warping toxic content that is damaging society worldwide. To some degree Facebook’s addictiveness and toxicity are directly correlated. This isn’t conjecture or speculation, we have proof. Plus, we have eyes: in some ways the societal harm from Facebook is as easy for anyone to see as the respiratory problems caused by smoking. I honestly believe Zuckerberg would prefer to reduce the toxicity of Facebook’s social media platforms, but not enough to do so if it reduces Facebook’s addictiveness. Again, likewise, I’m sure tobacco company executives would have loved to invent tobacco products that didn’t cause cancer.

A key insight from LaFrance:

The website that’s perhaps best known for encouraging mass violence is the image board 4chan — which was followed by 8chan, which then became 8kun. These boards are infamous for being the sites where multiple mass-shooting suspects have shared manifestos before homicide sprees. The few people who are willing to defend these sites unconditionally do so from a position of free-speech absolutism. That argument is worthy of consideration. But there’s something architectural about the site that merits attention, too: There are no algorithms on 8kun, only a community of users who post what they want. People use 8kun to publish abhorrent ideas, but at least the community isn’t pretending to be something it’s not. The biggest social platforms claim to be similarly neutral and pro–free speech when in fact no two people see the same feed. Algorithmically tweaked environments feed on user data and manipulate user experience, and not ultimately for the purpose of serving the user. Evidence of real-world violence can be easily traced back to both Facebook and 8kun. But 8kun doesn’t manipulate its users or the informational environment they’re in. Both sites are harmful. But Facebook might actually be worse for humanity.

This is the problem we, collectively, have not grasped. How do we regulate — via the law and/or social norms — a form of mass media with amorphous content? When you make a movie or write a book or publish a magazine, the speech that matters is the content of the movie/book/magazine. When you post something to Facebook, the “speech” that matters most isn’t the content of the post but the algorithm that determines who sees it and how. 3 billion users effectively means there are 3 billion different “Facebooks”. That’s the “megascale” which LaFrance equates to the megadeaths of a Strangelovian doomsday device.

A mere “website” — say, Wikipedia — that reaches an audience of billions is like the surface of an ocean: enormously expansive, but visible. Facebook is like the volume of an ocean: not merely massive, but unknowable.

We instinctively think that 8kun is “worse” than Facebook because its users are free to post the worst content imaginable, and because they are terribly imaginative, do. It feels like 8kun must be “worse” because its content is worse — what is permitted, and what actually is posted. But Facebook is in fact far worse, because by its nature we, as a whole, can’t even see what “Facebook” is because everyone’s feed is unique. 8kun, at least, is a knowable product. You could print it out and say, “Here is what 8kun was on December 29, 2020.” How could you ever say what Facebook is at any given moment, let alone for a given day, let alone as an omnipresent daily presence in billions of people’s lives?

A question I’ve pondered these last few post-election weeks: What would have happened if Mark Zuckerberg were all-in on Trump? What if instead of flagging and tamping down Trump’s utterly false but profoundly destructive “election fraud” anti-democratic power grab, Facebook had done the opposite and pushed the narrative Trump wants? What if Trump — or Rupert Murdoch — owned Facebook? What if Zuckerberg ran for president, lost, and pursued a similar “turn your supporters against democracy” strategy?

Is there any reason to believe that Facebook chose the pre- and post-election course it did because it was the right thing to do — good for the United States, good for the world, good for the principles of democracy and truth — rather than the result of a cold calculus that determined it was the optimal way to keep the most people the most engaged with Facebook?

I, for one, believe Facebook charted a course through this election primarily with Facebook’s continuing addictiveness in mind. But I know that whatever the reasons, they were ultimately determined by one person. That’s quite a thing.

★ Facebook: Free as in Bullshit

Permalink - Posted on 2020-12-18 23:23, modified on 2020-12-24 22:34

Facebook’s second full-page newspaper ad attacking Apple, helpfully transcribed (and photographed) by MacRumors:

Apple vs. the free internet

Apple plans to roll out a forced software update that will change the internet as we know it — for the worse.

Take your favorite cooking sites or sports blogs. Most are free because they show advertisements.

It’s an unfortunate quirk of the English language that free as in freedom and free as in beer are very different meanings of free. But when you see an ad headlined “Apple vs. The Free Internet”, most people would assume they’re about to hear an argument about free as in freedom.

Not Facebook. They’re arguing about free as in beer. I mean, they’re alleging that Apple is taking away freedom — the freedom of small business advertisers to benefit from unrestricted tracking for ad targeting — but their argument to the public is that such privacy initiatives will cost users their free beer.

There’s nothing “forced” about the software update Facebook is talking about either, which, I think, is going to be iOS 14.4. It’s actually quite interesting that Apple does not force software updates, or perform them in a hard-to-disable-or-detect manner. What’s “forced” isn’t the software update, but Facebook’s compliance with new rules that they wish they could ignore.

Apple’s change will limit their ability to run personalized ads. To make ends meet, many will have to start charging you subscription fees or adding more in-app purchases, making the internet much more expensive and reducing high-quality free content.

Are we talking about apps or websites? This is a very short ad — I haven’t omitted a word in my blockquoted text — but it suddenly veers from “cooking sites or sports blogs” to “in-app purchases” without explaining how it got there.

Apple clearly has no control over anything related to the advertising on websites, other than whatever privacy controls are built into Safari. Apple isn’t limiting the ability of apps on iOS to show personalized ads, either. They’re also not limiting the ability of ad-tracking technology to track users. What they’re doing is giving users awareness of and control over that tracking. In broad terms, changing tracking from opt-out to opt-in.

This may well result in diminishing the effectiveness of personalized advertising. If so, so be it. Facebook’s argument is along the lines of arguing that the police shouldn’t crack down on burglaries because doing so might hurt pawn shops that have been thriving during a years-long crime spree. The information used for tracking belongs to the users whose behavior and interests is being tracked, not to Facebook and the companies, no matter how small and noble, who advertise with them.

No fair! claims the company objecting to blinds being installed on windows it had long peered through unhindered.

Beyond hurting apps and websites, many in the small business community say this change will be devastating for them too, at a time when they face enormous challenges. They need to be able to effectively reach the people most interested in their products and services to grow.

Here come the pandemic waterworks. How dare Apple institute improved privacy controls during a severe recession. Boo-fucking-hoo. I do give some credit to Facebook for putting it so plainly that they’re claiming they need to invade our privacy without our awareness or permission.

Forty-four percent of small to medium businesses started or increased their usage of personalized ads on social media during the pandemic, according to a new Deloitte study. Without personalized ads, Facebook data shows that the average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% in their sales for every dollar they spend.

Well if Facebook says so, it must be true. If only anyone could remember a time when advertising wasn’t based on privacy-invasive tracking, we could know whether there were any successful small businesses back then.

This whole ad reads more like an ad for Apple’s privacy initiatives than against them. Apple’s response to this campaign is simply to show the very simple easily-understood opt-in dialog box that Facebook is objecting to. Apple’s entire statement:

We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not.

It’s illustrated with this example permission dialog:

Example ad tracking permission dialog for Facebook.

That’s what Facebook is objecting to. Given that their privacy nutrition label looks like this, you can almost sympathize.

★ I Suppose a Roman à Clef About a Design-Obsessed California Computer Maker With a Charismatic but Mercurial Founder Whose Youthful Arrogance Leads to His Ignominious Ouster and Exile, Only to Return a Decade Later to Not Only Save the Company From Seemingly Certain Ruin but Lead Them to Theretofore Unimaginable Triumph and Renown, Is Off the Table Too

Permalink - Posted on 2020-12-15 23:14, modified on 2020-12-16 21:29

Ben Smith has been doing crackerjack work writing the Media Equation column for The New York Times all year long, but his piece this weekend was pure mainline DF catnip. Headline: “Apple TV Was Making a Show About Gawker. Then Tim Cook Found Out.

The show was called “Scraper,” but it was clearly about Gawker Media, the network of aggressive, transgressive blogs that created mischief and headaches for America’s powerful until its targets sued the company into oblivion in 2016.

Two Gawker veterans sold the idea to Apple TV+, the new streaming service: Cord Jefferson, who left the site for a career writing for TV, and Max Read, Gawker’s former editor in chief. Apple hired two more former Gawker editors, Emma Carmichael and Leah Beckmann, as writers, and they had completed several episodes, people close to the production said.

Then, an Apple executive got an email from the company’s chief executive, Tim Cook.

Mr. Cook, according to two people briefed on the email, was surprised to learn that his company was making a show about Gawker, which had humiliated the company at various times and famously outed him, back in 2008, as gay. He expressed a distinctly negative view toward Gawker, the people said. Apple proceeded to kill the project. And now, the show is back on the market and the executive who brought it in, Layne Eskridge, has left the company. Gawker, it seems, is making trouble again.

The main thrust of the column is that Cook personally put the kibosh on this show, but it never explains the why. It’s hinted at — that Cook harbors a grievance toward Gawker, for their having outed him and/or for the Gizmodo stolen iPhone 4 prototype kerfuffle, and these ill feelings led Cook to (spitefully? unclear…) cancel Apple’s production of the show — but that’s not really an explanation. There’s an implied dot-dot-dot in the middle of this narrative that demands elucidation. There are essential blanks that are not filled in.

First, it is essential to keep in mind that the show wasn’t to be a documentary or true-life story about the actual Gawker. It’s clearly described as a fictional show about a Gawker-esque media company. Like the way The Morning Show is about a Today Show-like show, or Succession is about a Machiavellian media baron and his family like the Murdochs and News Corp. A roman à clef. So even if we accept it as fact that Tim Cook’s “distinctly negative view toward Gawker” is an understatement, that Cook in fact loathes Gawker, that alone doesn’t explain why he’d nix a show about a Gawker-like media company.

Consider the most famous and renowned roman à clef ever put to film: Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane. Charles Foster Kane was a thinly veiled take on William Randolph Hearst. Citizen Kane wasn’t made by people who liked Hearst, or who were even merely ambivalent toward him. It was a scathing portrait made by men who held Hearst in utter contempt, particularly screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz. By sheer coincidence, Mankiewicz’s writing of the Citizen Kane screenplay is the subject of David Fincher’s beautiful and astonishingly good Mank,1 which just debuted on Netflix. Mank is a remarkably timely reminder that a fictional series about a Gawker-like site wouldn’t necessarily imply a favorable take on Gawker-style journalism or journalists, and in fact might be just the opposite. Mad Men does not leave you thinking that the 1960s ad industry was a healthy place or a good culture, and The Sopranos is not exactly a ringing endorsement of New Jersey trash disposal companies.

Given that Scraper was created and being written by former Gawker editors and writers, it’s entirely possible that the gist of the show was, well, a largely favorable take, portraying the staff at “Scraper” as, say, righteous journalistic crusaders speaking truth to power, and that’s what Cook objected to. But perhaps the show was unflattering, giving Nick Denton the Kane/Hearst treatment, and Cook nixed it anyway, lest Apple look petty — which, if that’s the case, would be reasonable and not the least bit spiteful. Or maybe Cook just didn’t want Apple involved with former Gawker staffers, at a personal level, regardless of the slant or artistic quality of the show — which would be completely spiteful. My point here isn’t to dispute the basic reporting that Cook nixed the show, but to observe that what Smith reported is really just the setup, not the complete story, and the rest of the story would be interesting to know — both to satisfy our (or at least my) gossipy curiosity, and as insight into Tim Cook’s largely opaque mindset. He’s a hard man to read.

Assuming the show is good, it should land somewhere else for development into an actual series, and we shall see. Although we’ll never know if the Scraper that lands at Hulu or Amazon Prime or Quibi or wherever will represent what the Scraper at Apple TV+ would have been. But the show should land somewhere, unless it’s just a bad show, in which case the whole “Tim Cook nixed it out of spite” angle falls apart. Smith’s “look at how much power Tim Cook has” take would hold a bit more water if he alleged that Cook buried the series — keeping ownership of the rights but refusing to produce it — rather than releasing it for another streaming service to pick up.

As Kara Swisher observed regarding this story during an appearance yesterday on CNBC, are we supposed to be surprised, in the least, that it turns out Tim Cook runs Apple and has the final call over everything the company does?

Anyway, Smith’s focus on the Gawker/Scraper story buried the lede on two much more interesting nuggets regarding the rules of Apple TV+ content:

So far, Apple TV+ is the only streaming studio to bluntly explain its corporate red lines to creators — though Disney, with its giant theme park business in China, shares Apple’s allergy to antagonizing China’s leader, Xi Jinping.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for internet software and services, who has been at the company since 1989, has told partners that “the two things we will never do are hard-core nudity and China,” one creative figure who has worked with Apple told me. (BuzzFeed News first reported last year that Mr. Cue had instructed creators to “avoid portraying China in a poor light.”)

This isn’t gossipy — or the least bit surprising — but unlike the Gawker show getting nixed, this “don’t offend China” rule ought to be genuinely scandalous. Ben Thompson beat me to the punch on yesterday’s edition of Dithering, observing that a rule like this about Russia during the Cold War would have blocked the entire James Bond franchise from existing, not to mention just about any lesser spy movies from the era. Or what of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove? Like the Soviet Union in the decades after WWII, China is not some obscure small player on the world stage, and they systematically do things that deserve to be portrayed “in a poor light”. To take China off the table is to take much of what’s going on geopolitically in the world today off the table.

I get it, of course. I don’t agree with it, artistically or ethically, but I get it: money talks, and China is where Apple assembles most of its products and a big market where it sells them, too. But just because it’s so transparently obvious why Apple would forbid any negative portrayals of China doesn’t make it any less outrageous.

Even worse, Apple and Disney aren’t outliers in this complicity. Apple (with its supply chain reliance and desire to sell iPhones to the massive Chinese market) and Disney (with its theme parks) might have particularly unique reasons not to offend Chinese officials with their media productions, but all major Hollywood studios are reliant now on the Chinese box office — more so now than ever, with Chinese theaters open for business and U.S. theaters shuttered for untold months, maybe another year or longer, to come. Apple can refuse to make a show about Gawker and someone else will pick it up. But what major entertainment company is willing to portray China “in a negative light”?2 China has effectively foot-stomped and bribed its way into not being shown in movies for what it clearly is: a powerful, cruel, brutal Communist regime led by a thin-skinned dictator who does in fact quite resemble Winnie the Pooh. Which studios or streaming services would bankroll today’s equivalent of Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Great Dictator, with Xi Jinping in Hitler’s place as the deserving target of satiric mockery? Netflix — which doesn’t offer its service in China and has no dependence on theatrical box office revenue — maybe?

And then there’s this, which is neither scandalous nor gossipy, but just plain goofy:

And then, there are the phones: A person involved in another recent Apple show recalled instructions to avoid a scene in which a phone would be damaged.

A “no showing phones getting damaged” rule, if true,3 makes Apple look as much in need of a pair of big boy pants as the leaders of China.

  1. And ambitious! I mean, my god, imagine having the stones not just to make a movie about Citizen Kane, but to set out to make a Citizen Kane-like movie about Citizen Kane. That’s bold. And Fincher pulls it off with aplomb. ↩︎

  2. That goes for any sort of big-ticket entertainment. Consider the painfully awkward aftermath across the entire NBA last year after then-Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” — a sentiment that ought not be considered the least bit controversial anywhere but in China. (Morey is no longer with the cowardly Rockets, and is now the president of the soon-to-be-NBA-champion Philadelphia 76ers.) ↩︎︎

  3. Writer-director (and delightful podcast guest) Rian Johnson told Vanity Fair last year, while breaking down a scene from his excellent mystery Knives Out, that Apple won’t authorize iPhones to be used by the villains in any movie in which they’re providing “promotional consideration”. Which, in addition to being a spoiler clue in any movie with a secret bad guy (or an apparent bad guy who’s secretly a good guy), is just an insanely overprotective-of-brand-image mindset. ↩︎︎

★ Heavy Is the Head That Wears the AirPods Max

Permalink - Posted on 2020-12-11 04:59, modified on 2020-12-12 08:22

What a fascinating product Apple’s new AirPods Max are. At $550, they are indisputably expensive, and at 385 grams, they are undeniably heavy.

They’re also, indisputably, very nice.

Apple sent me a pair to review (Space Gray, natch) yesterday, and I’m really not sure what to make of them. Here’s what I can tell you after a day and a half.

AirPods Max are quite heavy: 385 grams. My Bose QuietComfort 35 II wireless headphones weigh 235 grams. Other noise-canceling wireless headphones are even lighter. You can definitely feel the difference in weight. The AirPods Max headband does seem to distribute the weight as comfortably as it can, but the weight is all in the ear cups, and heavy ear cups are, well, heavy. When you remain motionless, you can forget they’re there. But when you move around, the AirPods Max have inertia. They move a bit when you shake your head side-to-side, and they move a lot when you nod your head up and down. Look down at your feet and look back up and you’re instantly reminded, Oh yeah, I’ve got heavy cans on my ears. You feel a bit bobble-headed with them on. The heaviness of the AirPods Max doesn’t make them uncomfortable, per se, but it definitely feels like they’re intended for stationary use. Their lack of water resistance aside, the weight keeps them from being the sort of headphones you’d want to use while exercising any more vigorously than a brisk walk.

As mechanical devices, the AirPods Max are remarkable. Sturdy, solid, pleasant to touch. Every other pair of over-the-ear headphones I’ve ever used feels a bit cheap in comparison, because my over-the-ear headphones have all been constructed mostly of plastic. Plastic ear cups, plastic headband. Often, very nice plastic, but plastic. AirPods Max are very much metal. Aluminum ear cups, and a stainless steel headband. They are very sturdy, and very nice to the touch. It’s like when Apple started making laptops out of unibody aluminum — the plastic ones we had long accepted as the norm suddenly seemed cheapjack in comparison. In some ways, AirPods Max feel quite a bit like a premium Aeron-style modern desk chair — the mesh canopy atop the headband, the telescoping steel stems, the general sturdiness.

The foam ear pads are removable, and they’re just a delight to pop off and pop back on. They connect magnetically, and just jump into place.

I let my son try them out, and when he clicked the button to toggle the noise control mode, he said “Oh, that’s a nice button. It has a good click.”

“Is it a $550 click?” I asked.

He clicked it a few more times.

“It’s not not a $550 click.”

When it comes to audio quality, AirPods Max might not not sound like a $550 set of headphones, too. This is the part of the review where I’m tempted to preface everything with “Look, I’m not an audiophile…”, but screw that. I’m not an audio expert, but I do know what I like, and I love the way these headphones sound. They make music sound rich and make movies sound very real. I also love that there are no fiddly EQ settings. You set the noise mode (Noise Cancellation, Transparency, or none), you set the volume, and that’s it. The AirPods Max figure out the rest. That’s exactly how I want headphones (and speakers) to be. Just make it sound great.

Watching a movie with spatial audio is an experience. According to Apple, spatial audio kicks in when you listen to movies or other video encoded with 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, or Dolby Atmos. It’s uncanny and very clever when wearing AirPods Pro earbuds; with AirPods Max, it’s absolutely immersive, like something from an attraction at Disney World. Watching an action movie, it’s downright visceral. Get into a movie or show with compatible audio (Disney+’s The Mandalorian is good — it’s a fun show, period, and has great sound design) and you will forget you’re wearing headphones. It really does sound like you’re in a room equipped with theater-quality surround sound speakers. Spatial audio is rich and immersive and crystal clear. Effects and dialog sound like they’re coming from fixed spots around you, not just with direction but with depth. It’s less like wearing headphones and more like wearing an augmented reality audio headset.

But: spatial audio only works (for now at least) when the video source is an iPhone or iPad. The AirPods (Pro or Max) know when your head is moving, but the source device needs to be location-aware too, and for now, that means iPhones and iPads only. It’d be nice if it worked with MacBooks too — you shouldn’t pay an audio experience penalty for watching a movie on a MacBook rather than an iPad. But the device that’s just begging for spatial audio support is Apple TV. If you’ve got a small apartment, thin walls, or someone sleeping next to you, it’s natural to want to use AirPods Max to watch a movie with the full spatial audio experience, as loud as you want, on the biggest screen in your house, without disturbing anyone. But you can’t. You can only get this big room-sized audio experience with the small visual experience of an iPad or iPhone screen.

I get it. If spatial audio needs hardware support on the playback device and the Apple TV 4K doesn’t have it, then it doesn’t have it. But Apple TV 4K is $180! It’s crazy that Apple sells a premium movie-watching set-top box and very premium movie-listening wireless headphones and they don’t work together for a premium spatial audio movie-listening experience.

When am I going to watch a blockbuster movie on an iPad instead of my TV? When I’m traveling, of course. For me, personally, without Apple TV support, that’s the only time I’d ever use AirPods Max to watch video.

I almost never wear headphones while working at my desk, and for recording podcasts, I want wired headphones, to eliminate all latency. You can use AirPods Max as wired headphones with a Lightning to 3.5 mm headphone jack cable, but that’s certainly not what they’re meant for. Buying a pair of AirPods Max to use solely as wired headphones (especially purely to make voice calls) would be like buying an airplane to drive around on the ground.1

My main point of comparison is my aforementioned Bose QuietComfort 35 II wireless headphones. I’ve had them for about two years, maybe three, and use them almost exclusively while on airplanes. Well, used them. I haven’t been anywhere, let alone an airplane, since early March. And I actually took two trips last winter with just my then-new AirPods Pro, rather than the QuietComforts. There’s only so much space in a carry-on bag.

Once you get used to noise-canceling headphones on an airplane, there’s no going back. When you’re listening to music or podcasts or a movie, it’s almost essential to cancel out the noise of the plane itself. And even when I’m just reading or writing on a plane, I love wearing noise canceling headphones playing nothing, just to block the noise.

AirPods Pro noise cancellation is very good, for earbuds, but it’s nowhere near as effective as with over-the-ear headphones — if only for the obvious reason that over-the-ear headphones help block noise even when they’re powered off, because they double as physical ear muffs in addition to the active noise cancellation. Swapping the superior-sounding Bose QuietComforts for AirPods Pro (which I’d be traveling with regardless) is a win, space-wise, in a laptop bag. The trade-off in audio quality for a vast reduction in volume and weight felt like a close call overall, though.

AirPods Max, as travel headphones, go the other way. They’re heavier and twice the price of the QuietComforts ($550 vs. $270), but they sound so much better. And while the AirPods Max headphones themselves seem, I repeat, quite sturdy, the included “Smart Case” is less of a case than it is a pouch. The fact that it’s not a hard case helps narrow the weight gap — the AirPods Max in the Smart Case weigh 520 grams; the Bose QC35’s in their case weigh 410 grams — but it makes them something you might need to be a little careful with when packing, and because they don’t fold up (the ear cups do rotate to fold flat, though), they take up a bit more space:

Side-by-side shot of AirPods Pro and Bose QC35’s, both in their respective cases.

What makes the AirPods Max Smart Case “smart”? It includes magnets that let the AirPods Max know when they’re inside, which puts them into a hibernation state that prolongs battery life. Just how much difference that makes, battery-life wise, compared to just leaving them, unused, out of the case, I can’t say. I’ve only had them a day and I’ve spent a lot of that time wearing them. This, in turn, points to the fact that unlike just about any other wireless over-the-ear headphones, AirPods Max do not have an on/off switch. I’m not saying they should, but it’s very Apple-like that they don’t.

If I flew a lot more than I do (in non-pandemic times), especially longer flights, I’d order a pair of AirPods Max now. As it stands, I don’t know. Any movie with a soundtrack cool enough to blow me away with spatial audio is probably a movie I want to see on a big TV in my living room, not my iPad propped up on an airplane seat-back tray. But on the other hand, if I’m going to watch a movie on a plane, and I can’t make the screen bigger, maybe it’s worth it to make the audio as awesome as possible — to at least satisfy one of my senses.

Bottom Line: AirPods Max sound great and they’re very well-made, but their premium audio and build quality come at the expense of making them quite heavy, and, well, quite expensive. If you think any wireless headphones could be worth $550, these might be them. And Apple TV ought to support the spatial audio features, because if it did, these would be amazing living room headphones.

  1. AirPods Max don’t look like they have a built-in microphone for voice calls, but they do, and it’s at least as good as the mic on regular AirPods. ↩︎

★ M1 Macs: Truth and Truthiness

Permalink - Posted on 2020-12-03 04:05, modified on 2020-12-06 23:36

We knew this to be true: Computers could run fast and hot, or slow and cool. For laptops in particular, the best you could hope for is a middle ground: fast enough and cool enough. But if you wanted a machine that ran really fast, it wasn’t going to run cool (and wasn’t going to last long on battery), and if you wanted a computer that ran cool (and lasted long on battery), it wasn’t going to be fast.

We knew this to be true because that was the way things were. But now, with the M1 Macs, it’s not. M1 Macs run very fast and do so while remaining very cool and lasting mind-bogglingly long on battery. It was a fundamental trade-off inherent to PC computing, and now we don’t have to make it.

We should have known better, because iPhones and iPads run fast and cool, but, they’re different. Right? They’re over there, running iOS, while Macs and other PCs are over here, running MacOS and Windows. But they’re not really different. They’re all just computers. And the best aspects of those computers — running fast and cool — obviously ought to be true for all computers.

M1 Macs embarrass all other PCs — all Intel-based Macs, including automobile-priced Mac Pros, and every single machine running Windows or Linux. Those machines are just standing around in their underwear now because the M1 stole all their pants. Well, that just doesn’t happen, your instincts tell you. One company, even a company like Apple, doesn’t just embarrass the entire rest of a highly-competitive longstanding industry. But just because something hasn’t happened — or hasn’t happened in a very long while — doesn’t mean it can’t happen. And in this case, it just happened.

Another long-held belief: emulating or translating apps compiled for a different architecture is necessarily going to be irritatingly slow and somewhat incompatible at best, and unusably slow and wildly incompatible as a general rule. But Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation layer for running x86 software on Apple Silicon is a technical marvel. Remarkably compatible, and so fast that when combined with the pure speed of the M1 chips themselves, it actually runs Intel Mac software as fast or faster than on most actual Intel Mac hardware. It’s not like Intel apps running in Rosetta run OK, and native Apple Silicon apps run well; it’s more like Intel apps in Rosetta run well and Apple Silicon apps run even better. Yes, of course you want apps compiled to run natively, but most users running most apps — including some professional apps — won’t notice.

Those of us who’ve been paying attention aren’t surprised that the M1 Macs have overturned these assumptions about what tradeoffs are unavoidable in terms of performance per watt. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that Apple had a remarkably good translation solution ready to go (despite the fact that yours truly, once again, wrongly predicted otherwise). It’s just a delight to see it finally come to fruition.

For the industry as a whole, though, the M1 Macs have dropped as a bit of a shock. One reason for this, I think, is that Apple’s silicon prowess in iOS devices has been a slow boil. iPhones and iPads are better computers — faster and more efficient — than their Android competitors. But it’s been an annual incremental game. And it’s hard to tell what’s attributable to iOS’s software efficiency vs. Android and what’s attributable to Apple’s silicon prowess vs. Qualcomm and Samsung and whoever else is making chips for Android devices.

M1 Macs completely upend what we can and should expect from PCs. It’s a breakthrough along the lines of the iPhone itself in 2007.

The adage is, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Emphasis on probably — the M1 Macs are an exception. They really are that good. But, like the iPhone in 2007, there are people who refuse to believe it.

Exhibit A: Patrick Moorhead, whose review for Forbes — “Apple MacBook Pro 13” M1 Review — Why You Might Want to Pass” — took off when published last week.

Moorhead’s review bears little relation to the reality of the M1 Macs, but plays right into expectations of the status quo. ARM chips are efficient and Apple’s ARM chips are the best, but none of them are a threat to Intel and AMD’s x86 chips for high-end performance. Emulation is slow and buggy and it will take years for a lot of important software to be updated to run natively. None of that’s true in the M1 Macs’ case, but that’s the premise of Moorhead’s article.

And some folks bought it — some out of reasonable skepticism, and some out of stupidity.

Moorhead opens thus:

I’ve read the first batch of Apple MacBook Pro 13″ M1 reviews and you’d be hard to find anything negative about the new laptop. At the worst, there were some complaints about the iOS app experience, but on the whole, early reviews, described the new MacBook Pro 13″ essentially as God’s gift to the notebook wanting masses.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some very positive things about the new laptop. The new M1 processor is impressive, but far from perfect — it has many warts, that nearly nobody is discussing.

Not one of these purported “warts” with the M1 is ever mentioned. Whatever real problems Moorhead ran into (and some were indeed real), they’re all related to software issues. Either MacOS 11 Big Sur itself, or Rosetta, or apps he’s trying to use that have compatibility issues with MacOS 11 or Rosetta or both. But: software. Those issues are real, and the fact that M1 Macs require MacOS 11 Big Sur is the single biggest reason why some Mac users can’t or at least shouldn’t buy one just yet. Even if there were no architecture transition, in normal years it’s completely reasonable for many users to delay upgrading to major new releases of MacOS. I didn’t upgrade my old MacBook Pro to MacOS 10.15 Catalina until August of this year.

Here’s a terrific piece by Peter Steinberger — “Apple Silicon M1: A Developer’s Perspective” — that goes into great detail about how amazing the M1 is but also how many essential developer tools aren’t compatible or fully compatible with MacOS 11 on Apple Silicon yet. Steinberger’s conclusion:

The new M1 MacBooks are fast, beautiful and silent and the hype is absolutely justified. There’s still a lot to do on the software-front to catch up, and the bugs around older iOS Simulators are especially problematic.

All of that can be fixed in software and the whole industry is currently working on making the experience better, so by next year, when Apple updates the 16-inch MacBook Pro and releases the next generation of their M chip line, it should be absolutely possible to use a M1 Mac as main dev machine.

Steinberger’s is a scrupulously fair conclusion. Perversely, developers, who by nature of their profession best understand exactly what an architecture transition like this entails, might be among the few professions who can’t yet move their primary computing to an Apple Silicon device by nature of the software tools they depend upon. (Some developers can move now, and — because Xcode running on the M1 compiles code so much faster than any Intel MacBook — are rejoicing.)

Moorhead, on the other hand, claims that it’s the M1 that has — again, his word — “warts”:

I think the new MacBook Pro 13” M1 will likely be fine for users who use 100% Apple software, stay primarily in Safari and don’t need to connect it to a bunch of peripherals, and have a lot of money.

Is Chrome “100 percent Apple software”? Because Chrome runs better on the M1 than it does on any other Mac. Yes, Safari is faster and more energy efficient than Chrome, but Safari is faster than Chrome on Intel-based Macs as well. “And have a lot of money” — I have no idea what that even means other than being able to buy a Mac in the first place, which seems to me a given. But while the entry price for a MacBook Air remains $999, the effective usefulness of the new M1 $999 MacBook Air is far higher than that of the $999 Intel-based MacBook Air it replaced. The M1 is good news even for Mac users on a smaller budget.

I wanted to provide some balance to those early reviews and discuss who I believe shouldn’t consider the new MacBook Pro 13” M1. I know that may sound negative, but I call it balance. I’ve used my unit for nearly five days and here is my assessment of whom I think should avoid it.

Stephen Colbert famously quipped at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Well, the reality of the M1 has an Apple bias. There is no “Well, here’s the downside” with regard to the state of Apple Silicon versus the entire rest of the industry. Yes, the M1 is a consumer chip with consumer limits — two USB ports, a maximum of 16 GB of RAM — but that’s the nature of these Apple Silicon Mac models, not all Apple Silicon Mac models to come.

There is no balance, if by balance, you’re looking for a story that says any PC hardware, ARM or x86, is competitive in any way with the M1 Macs for low-energy computing. I’m reminded of another quote, from then-CEO Ed Colligan of then-company Palm in November 2006, a few months ahead of the iPhone’s introduction:

Responding to questions from New York Times correspondent John Markoff at a Churchill Club breakfast gathering Thursday morning, Colligan laughed off the idea that any company — including the wildly popular Apple Computer — could easily win customers in the finicky smart-phone sector.

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

Patrick Moorhead’s M1 Mac review can be paraphrased as “Intel and AMD have learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make decent PC chips. Apple hasn’t just magically figured this out. They’re not going to just walk in.

The difference is, Colligan at least hadn’t seen the iPhone yet. Moorhead has an M1 MacBook Pro in his hands. He either should know better, or does know better and wrote this grossly misleading tripe anyway, knowing there was an Apple-skeptical audience willing to lap it up.

We’ve seen this before. In 2013, Apple announced the iPhone 5S with the A7 chip, the first 64-bit mobile CPU — years ahead of industry expectations. Here’s what Moorhead said then:

“Adding 64-bit processor capabilities adds nothing to the user experience today, as it would requires over four gigabytes of memory,” Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy, and a former executive at AMD, told AllThingsD. “Most phones today only have one to two gigabytes of memory, and it will be years before the norm is four.”

That did not pan out well for Moorhead.

In 2015, Apple shipped the first iPad Pro, with the A9X chip. Aaron Souppouris wrote a piece for Engadget headlined “The iPad Pro’s Chip Is Not a Big Deal”. You will never guess who Souppouris’s expert source was:

But what of the benchmark tests that show the iPad Pro outperforming Intel’s Core M processor, and even coming close to Intel’s MacBook Pro range? Don’t believe them. Patrick Moorhead, a highly respected analyst with a strong background in chips, urges caution, especially when it comes to comparing GeekBench numbers, as many have. “GeekBench is a synthetic, mobile benchmark,” Moorhead tells Engadget. “The benchmark code is more like mobile application code than it is desktop code.” Using GeekBench to test A9X versus Intel chips is “like comparing apples and oranges or an SUV with a sedan on the straight-away,” he explains. […]

Apple doesn’t have such a large legacy to support — it only moved to Intel chips nine years ago — but there would be no perceivable benefit to switching an existing x86 platform to ARM. “I do not believe ARM-based chips will be powering Macs in the next few years,” said Moorhead. “I do believe Apple will attempt to scale up the iPad Pro even further, which could potentially eat into Macbook [sic] sales.” […]

According to Moorhead, Intel came close to putting one of its chips inside the iPad Pro. “[The iPad Pro] business is open to both Apple’s own ARM-based AX chips and Intel,” he explained, “Intel is fighting hard to get that business and I believe almost had [the iPad Pro contract] with the new Skylake-based Core M had it been available earlier.”

So on the M1 Mac rave-review side, we have every major professional reviewer, along with dozens and dozens of ordinary M1 Mac purchasers out in the real world, doing real things, who just can’t believe what the M1 is capable of.

And on the other side, we have Patrick Moorhead, the guy who said Apple’s 64-bit A7 chip in the iPhone 5S was no big deal; that we shouldn’t have believed the benchmarks showing the original iPad Pro pantsing Intel’s chips five years ago; and that not only was Apple unlikely to switch the Mac away from Intel, but that Intel, in fact, was this close to getting its chips into the iPad Pro.

One of these sides deserves more skepticism than the other.

Here’s an M1 MacBook Pro review I just loved, from Nadim Kobeissi:

At the risk of making this a very boring review, all I have to say is basically that all of the above is so far holding as true. This computer is nuts. Compiling tons of things in the background doesn’t slow down Safari web browsing, somehow. I haven’t had to plug it in once since I fully charged it up two days ago. Performance is so quiet and cool that I feel like my terminal compiling a bunch of things is actually an SSH into a much stronger workstation located somewhere else. I actually discovered that I’ve had an instinct of measuring my MacBook’s CPU usage by feeling the heat on the strip of aluminum right above the Touch Bar, and I can’t even do that anymore now. Because even if the M1 MacBook Pro has been running at 100% on all cores for ten straight minutes, you’ll barely feel it getting warm.

Kobeissi is both technically scrupulous (and clearly knowledgeable) but also doesn’t hide his genuine enthusiasm. The M1 is exciting! Even I am using exclamation marks. And what a keen point Kobeissi makes about subconsciously equating a laptop working hard with physical manifestations — as heat you can feel and fan noise you can hear. It is, for now, utterly uncanny that when an M1 MacBook exerts itself computationally it neither gets warm nor makes any noise. Soon though, that will seem utterly normal, and it’ll be every other laptop in the world, the ones that do get hot and do make noise (or never go fast in the first place) that will seem wrong and weird.

Kobeissi also calls out this particular slide from Apple’s M1 keynote:

Apple’s “M1 Performance vs. Power” Bezos chart.

He writes:

This graph is completely worthless. Honestly. Nobody knows to this day what Apple meant by “Latest PC laptop chip”, and both axes aren’t even numbered. It’s stupid that Apple still pulls this sort of thing off, and it immediately makes you question just how good the M1 is really supposed to be.

I get it. It’s a pure Bezos chart. With no scale on either axis and a comparison against an unnamed competitor, there’s no way to verify that it’s true.

But I also get why Apple presented it this way, because while it’s not meaningful in any scientific sense, per se, it is very much an accurate illustration of the M1 vs. its competition overall. Is this a graph of exporting video? Or compiling code? Or running complex web applications in a browser? Or playing a game? Yes. That’s what this graph is trying to say: yes to all of it. The M1 is up here, running fast and cool, and all the competing chips from Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, Samsung, and whoever else are down there, running hot or running slow, looking around for their recently stolen pants.

To borrow another Colbert-ism, sometimes an assertion of truthiness is actually true.