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Daring Fireball

By John Gruber


I Will Vote

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-19 20:46

The “I Will Vote” website is a great resource (along with Vote.org, which I’ve had linked in my election countdown up in the corner). Today is the voter registration deadline in a bunch of a states, including my home state of Pennsylvania. It’s a good reminder to register now if you haven’t already, and to check your registration if you’re already in.

If you’ve never voted, this is the year to start. If you know friends and family who’ve never voted, let them know how easy it is to start.



Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-18 18:39

My thanks to Kandji for sponsoring last week at DF. Kandji is an Apple device management (MDM) solution built exclusively for IT teams at businesses that run on Apple platforms.

Kandji provides granular control over your Apple fleet, keeping your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and even Apple TV devices secure and efficient. They announced iOS 14 support on release day, and they are ready to support new MDM features for MacOS 11 Big Sur as well. Features include: over 150 pre-built controls, automated deployment (DEP), support for App Store and custom apps, managed MacOS upgrades, and a lot more.

See a product tour or request access for a demo and get access to a 14-day trial.


★ Thoughts and Observations on Apple’s ‘Hi, Speed’ iPhone 12 Event

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-17 03:59

Last month’s “Time Flies” event for the Apple Watch Series 6 and new iPad Air was about an hour long; this week’s “Hi, Speed” event ran just a bit longer at 70 minutes. Perhaps, if 2020 had gone as planned, all of these products would have been announced in one big two-hour event in early September. There’s a lot I miss about in-person events,1 but in terms of dosing the news, I like the digestibility of these shorter, more focused events. There’s more than enough to process considering just the new iPhone 12 models and the dessert course (served before the entrees) of HomePod Mini.

The 2020 iPhone Lineup

So there are four new iPhones this year. Is that confusing? I don’t think so, and if anything is confusing or complicated about this year’s lineup, it’s at the high end, with the camera system differences between the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. The addition of a fourth iPhone, the 12 Mini, doesn’t complicate the lineup at all, because its name completely describes everything there is to know about it.

Really, the product names tell you how to understand the lineup. The iPhone 12 is the new iPhone — almost certainly the best choice for most people in the market for a new-model-year iPhone. Unless they really want an iPhone that is smaller, in which case they should, with no hesitation, get the iPhone 12 Mini. In terms of features and specs, it’s exactly like the iPhone 12, just smaller. It’s also $100 cheaper — but the reason to buy a 12 Mini is the size, not the price. If a lower price is more meaningful to you than device size, you should probably either get an iPhone 11 or XR and save some money, or, for a smaller device, get an iPhone SE and save a lot of money.

Here’s a matrix with the new lineup, organized the way I think makes the most sense. In the bottom row, I compare all storage tiers to 128 GB as a baseline. Storage is priced very consistently this year: across all iPhone models, every 64 GB of additional storage costs $50.

64 GB 128 GB 256 GB 512 GB
iPhone 12 Pro Max $1,100 $1,200 $1,400
iPhone 12 Pro 1,000 1,100 1,300
iPhone 12 830 880 980
iPhone 12 Mini 730 780 880
iPhone 11 600 650 750
iPhone XR 500 550
iPhone SE 400 450 550
Δ from 128 GB -50 +100 +300

I think it’s useful to include last year’s prices for the then-new iPhone 11 lineup for comparison:

64 GB 128 GB 256 GB 512 GB
(2019) 11 Pro Max $1,100 $1,250 $1,450
(2019) 11 Pro 1,000 1,150 1,350
(2019) iPhone 11 700 750 850

Zeroth, all prices I’ve listed are for unlocked phones. Apple’s promotion of the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini as starting (respectively) at $799/699 rather than $829/729 just because of some sort of marketing deals they cut with AT&T and Verizon for existing AT&T and Verizon customers is $30 worth of bullshit. (And now Apple has let T-Mobile join the club.)

First, comparing like-to-like models year-over-year, the regular iPhone 12 is $130 more expensive than the iPhone 11 was. The fact that the 12 Mini is just $30 more than the equivalent 11 was a year ago helps assuage that, but, again, I think the 12 Mini is best thought of as a variant for people who really prefer smaller phones, not as the base model.

Second, the Pro models are actually less expensive than they were last year. The base prices are the same, but base storage goes from 64 to 128 GB, which, to be honest, feels overdue. We can argue about how much the “Pro” in these iPhone product names means professional and how much it actually means deluxe, but 64 GB of storage in 2019 was neither professional nor deluxe. At the 256 and 512 GB tiers, prices are $50 lower this year.

But the main thing to take away is that the prices are much more continuous. Last year there was a gaping $300 chasm between the iPhone 11 and the 11 Pro; this year that difference is only $120. You don’t have to be Jeff Williams to figure out that OLED displays are expensive. 5G modems — exclusively available from Apple’s bitter frenemy Qualcomm — are probably expensive too, but with the Pro models going down in price year-over-year, it seems clear that the single biggest factor is OLED vs. LCD. When the iPhone 11 was LCD and the 11 Pros were OLED — and in 2018 when there was an LCD/OLED split between the XR and XS models — there was a gaping difference in price. This year, with all iPhone 12 models on OLED, there is no pricing gap.

12 Pro vs. 12 Pro Max and the Rather Confusing Nomenclature and Technical Differences Between Their Cameras

When Apple introduced the “Max” moniker with 2018’s iPhone XS, the proposition was much like that of the 12 and 12 Mini this year: the only difference was size. That was true last year with the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, too. For me, someone who desired the very best camera system Apple makes but not the biggest-ass display size, that was great.

No such good fortune this year.

The 12 Pro Max has several camera advantages over the 12 Pro, harking back to the iPhone 6 / 6S / 7 era, when the Plus models had camera features their regular-sized siblings did not.2 Herewith, I believe, is the full accounting of the differences between the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, camera by camera:

  • Front-facing (a.k.a. “TrueDepth”, a.k.a. “selfie”): Same across all iPhone 12 models.

  • Ultra Wide (0.5×): Same across all iPhone 12 models.

  • Wide (1×): Same on iPhone 12, 12 Mini, and 12 Pro, with a new ƒ/1.6 lens that captures 27 percent more light than last year’s 1× wide lens. The 12 Pro Max has the same ƒ/1.6 lens, but also has an altogether different sensor that is 47 percent larger than the 1× camera sensor on the other models. This bigger sensor has the same number of pixels (12 MP = 4032 × 3024), but those pixels are bigger. The larger sensor combined with the new-to-all-models ƒ/1.6 lens means the 1× wide camera on the 12 Pro Max captures 87 percent more light than last year’s iPhone 11 models. And that’s not all: in addition to being bigger, the new Pro Max’s 1× camera sensor exclusively features sensor-shift OIS, stabilizing the sensor rather than the lens, which according to Apple is beneficial both for photos and video. This sensor-shift OIS is also what enables the 12 Pro Max’s ability to capture up to 2-second exposures handheld, which, if it works as Apple describes, is a breakthrough that would be impractical in non-computational photography. Bottom line: all iPhone 12 models have the same 1× camera lens, which is faster than last year’s models, but the 12 Pro Max also has a bigger sensor and sensor-shift OIS.

  • Telephoto: This is the lens that the non-Pro models do not have. On the iPhone 12 Pro, it’s a 2× ƒ/2.0 lens with equivalent field of view to a 52mm lens. On the 12 Pro Max, it’s a 2.5× ƒ/2.2 lens equivalent to a 65mm lens. The sensors, apparently, are the same or effectively the same. 2.5× is “better” than 2.0× because it’s longer, offering more effective optical zoom. But ƒ/2.0 is “better” than ƒ/2.2, because it lets in more light. But whatever low-light advantage the 12 Pro’s ƒ/2.0 aperture might have over the 12 Pro Max’s ƒ/2.2 aperture, in practice this is almost certainly effectively moot, because in low-light situations the camera system probably gets better results using the faster 1× camera and digitally zooming to a 2×/2.5× crop factor.

Apple has confused all of this by promoting “4×” (12 Pro) and “5×” (12 Pro Max) “optical zoom range”. How can you get 4× or 5× optical zoom out of 2× and 2.5× lenses? What Apple is talking about here is the full range of optical zoom from the ultra wide 0.5× lens to the telephoto 2×/2.5× lenses. I think they’re doing this because the marketing looks better to say 4×/5× rather than 2×/2.5×.

Despite my being both a prosumer-grade camera enthusiast and professional-grade iPhone nerd, even I continually get confused when Apple refers to the 1× back camera as “wide”. Here’s how Apple refers to the lenses:

  • 0.5×: ultra wide
  • 1×: wide
  • 2/2.5×: telephoto

Here’s how my mind thinks about the lenses:

  • 0.5×: wide / zoomed out
  • 1×: regular
  • 2/2.5×: telephoto / zoomed in

To me, “1×” unambiguously implies “regular/default/normal”. (And yes, I know that in traditional photography, “normal” is lingo for a 50mm lens, roughly what the iPhone 2× lens offers. I’m using normal in the common sense of the word.) It just never fits my mental model to think of the 1× default lens as “wide”.

The Photographic Differentiators Between the 12 Pro Models and the non-Pro Ones

The biggest difference, most obviously, is the existence of a telephoto lens at all. Also, the existence of a lidar sensor, which the 12 Pro models use for faster autofocus in low light (6 times faster, according to Apple) and to enable Night Mode portrait shots.

All iPhone 12 models support shooting Dolby Vision 10-bit HDR video. But the 12 and 12 Mini only support Dolby Vision HDR at 30 FPS — the Pro models both support up to 60 FPS.

Apple’s upcoming ProRAW features — which will enable shooting RAW images using the built-in Camera app and a bunch of new APIs for third-party camera and photo-editing apps — are exclusive to the 12 Pro models. (Apple says ProRAW is coming “later this year” — I’m guessing that means iOS 14.2.)

When you consider the camera specs alone, that seems like pure marketing spite. All iPhone 12 models have the A14 SoC with the same CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine. But there might be a technical reason ProRAW is limited to the iPhone 12 Pro models: according to the latest version of Xcode, the 12 Pro models have 50 percent more RAM than the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini (6 GB vs. 4 GB). It seems reasonable to assume that ProRAW and 60 FPS Dolby Vision encoding are RAM-hungry features. But because Apple never ever talks about RAM in iOS devices, even in the small print of their advertised tech specs, this comes across as purely marketing-driven differentiation.

How Small Is the iPhone 12 Mini?

The iPhone 12 Mini is, by today’s standards, really small. It’s larger than the old 4-inch display models (5 / 5S / original SE) but noticeably smaller than the 4.7-inch display models (6 / 6S / 7 / 8 / new SE). Here’s an illustrative screenshot from Apple’s ever-excellent iPhone “Compare” page:

Side by side comparison of the iPhones SE (1st generation), 12 Mini, and SE (2nd generation).

On Twitter, Kate Matthews posted a series of helpful size comparison illustrations.

If you were holding out for a X-class iPhone significantly smaller than the 5.8-inch iPhone X, your patience has finally been rewarded. The iPhone 12 Mini seems like a fantastic device. You save $100 and pay no penalty in camera quality, performance, display brightness or color gamut. It’s just smaller. Battery life takes a hit compared to the regular iPhone 12, but, judging by Apple’s quoted numbers, the battery life difference seems commensurate with device volume. You can’t simultaneously clamor for a smaller device and a bigger battery.

The Missing iPhones

So Apple now sells modern X-class iPhones in small, medium, and large sizes. But a truly complete lineup would have two additional models: a non-Pro iPhone 12 Max and an iPhone 12 Pro Mini. Given that there is now a technology gap between the regular-size 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max camera systems (see above), it seems unfair to assume a 12 Pro Mini with all the features of the regular 12 Pro is possible without undesirable tradeoffs. There may well not be room for all the 12 Pro camera system features in a Mini-sized device.

But a non-Pro 12 Max is obviously technologically feasible. That’s a product Apple simply chooses not to make. If you want a big 6.7-inch display, you have to pay Pro prices, even if you don’t care about any of the Pro features or accoutrements (extra camera lens, lidar, premium stainless steel finish, sleeker wallpapers, etc.).

My purely hypothetical non-Pro iPhone 12 Max would slot into the product line as follows, presuming the same $100 difference as the Pro models. I’ll toss in the also-hypothetical 12 Pro Mini to complete this theoretically-complete lineup:

64 GB 128 GB 256 GB 512 GB
iPhone 12 Pro Max $1,100 $1,200 $1,400
iPhone 12 Pro 1,000 1,100 1,300
iPhone 12 Pro Mini 900 1,000 1,200
iPhone 12 Max 930 980 1,080
iPhone 12 830 880 980
iPhone 12 Mini 730 780 880

Look at that chart. One reason both of these hypothetical missing models are unlikely is that they muddle the middle. It was a problem in the last few years that there was a gap in the middle of the price range; with a Pro Mini and non-Pro Max, we’d have a confusing glut in the heart of the price range, with at least 8 configurations between $880–1,000.

But I think a non-Pro iPhone Max model, in particular, would be really popular, because I think a lot of people desire big-ass phones solely for the display size. And I think Apple doesn’t make them because a lot of people who really care that much about having the largest possible display will just pay the premium for the Pro Max. This product strategy is true for the iPad and MacBook lineups, too — Apple’s biggest displays are only in its “Pro” models. A 16-inch MacBook Air and 12.9-inch iPad Air would undeniably both be popular, but would cannibalize sales of the more expensive Pro models with the largest displays.

But, along those lines, it thus seems to me that of the two “missing” iPhones — Pro Mini and non-Pro Max — we’re more likely to someday see the one that’s more technically challenging (the Pro Mini) because it’s a product that would sell at a higher price to people whose first concern is size. But my gut says we’ll never see either of them.

People are complaining about Apple pinching pennies by no longer including the power adapter and headphones with new iPhones, but to me, the most notable omissions across the board are entire products that don’t exist: non-Pro iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks with large displays.

Speaking of the Stuff Apple No Longer Includes in the Box

I’m unequivocally in favor of no longer including headphones in the box. The move away from including power adapters is a little iffier, but I think it’s right. I think of it this way: they were never “free”. Whatever the price for the iPhone was, that price included the cost of the bundled power adapter. So if they’re included in the box, you might be (and in my case, personally, often were) paying for a power adapter and headphones you neither want nor need. And Apple has lowered the prices on their own peripherals: their Lightning earbuds and 20W power adapter (which replaces the 18W adapter they included with iPhone Pros last year) are each $19; they used to cost $29.

Not including the power adapter in the box also clearly nudges people toward spending the $39 for the new MagSafe charger (which does not itself include a power adapter), in the same way that removing the headphone jack nudged people toward buying AirPods. Cynically, yes, such nudging is in the direction of buying more stuff from Apple. But it’s also the direction of a better user experience. The future is clearly not iPhones with USB-C ports instead of Lightning, but iPhones with no ports at all, like Apple Watch.

If you want to argue that it’s a silent $38 price hike, fine, it’s a $38 price hike. But by that logic, savvy buyers who don’t need wired earbuds or yet another USB-C power adapter are getting a $38 discount. As a general rule in life, it’s better to pay for what you need.

5G 5G 5G

Did you hear about 5G and Verizon’s 5G network? If you watched the event, you certainly did. If you didn’t, here’s a supercut of every mention of “5G”.

Apple once named an iPhone after a cellular network technology upgrade and somehow this 5G stuff felt more heavy-handed. I just don’t see 5G as all that meaningful, and mentioning “5G” several dozen times throughout the event doesn’t change that. Going from 2G “EDGE” to 3G was a breakthrough in performance. 3G to LTE was significant. But today, when it comes to complaints and wishes for your phone, is “LTE is not fast enough” even on your list?

Before introducing the iPhone 12, Tim Cook handed the stage (literally — this part was shot in Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater) to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for four minutes. Four very long, conspicuous minutes. Vestberg was fine — this was not a Stan Sigman fiasco — but it just felt so gratuitous. I don’t know what Verizon paid Apple for this slot in the event, but it must have been a fortune (probably in marketing, advertising, and in-store promotion, not necessarily cash). Good god would I love to be privy to the negotiations between Apple, Verizon, and AT&T for this. (I just presume T-Mobile was not in the running.)

Without delving deeply into details that, to be honest, I just don’t care about, there are two main types of 5G service. In Verizon’s parlance, these are “5G Nationwide” and “5G Ultra Wideband”. 5G Nationwide is best thought of as regular 5G — for most people in most places in most situations on most carriers, when their phone is getting 5G service, this is what they’re getting. 5G Ultra Wideband is faster, maybe way faster, but looking at coverage maps it’s sort of like Wi-Fi in scope — it’s only available outdoors and limited in range to specific streets. Ultra Wideband support on all iPhone 12 models is limited to the United States, and is the reason U.S. iPhone 12’s have a window on the side under the power button. (iPhone 12’s in Europe have their own ugly turds marring the side — stupid regulatory etchings that are mandatory over there.)

HomePod Mini

Looks cool, $99 sounds right, looking forward to hearing it in action. The upcoming Intercom feature seems neat, too.


  • As a watch nerd I get it, but it’s kind of funny that the HomePod Mini is the same price as some of Apple’s watch bands.

  • I’m fascinated by the degree to which so many of Apple’s new products are doing cool things with magnets, of all things. iPad covers and keyboards, Apple Watch band clasps, and now MagSafe chargers and cases for iPhones.

  • There’s a weird display brightness tech spec difference between the Pro and non-Pro models I don’t understand. On Apple’s Compare page, the display specs for the 12 and 12 Pro are identical — same size, same pixel count, same contrast ratio — except for brightness. The 12 Pro is listed as “800 nits max brightness (typical)”; the 12 says “625 nits max brightness (typical)”. Yet both have the same max brightness (1,200 nits) for HDR content. Are these different components?

  • During Apple’s event, the iPhone 12 scenes were set in daytime, the 12 Pro scenes were at night. Apple’s iPhone 12 web pages are white, the 12 Pro pages black. Pro = dark mode.

  • I asked around, and a little birdie confirmed that Lisa Jackson really went up on the roof of Apple Park for her segment of the show. It looked breathtaking. This stunt reminded me of (now-disgraced) Steve Wynn’s introduction of Wynn Las Vegas in 2005 (which he reprised three years later for its sibling Encore).

  • Unsurprisingly, there’s no Touch ID in the power button like on the new iPad Air. Nor any mention of better support for face mask awareness with Face ID.

  • This was the first flagship iPhone introduction without Phil Schiller. Schiller, in fact, emceed the entire introduction of the iPhone 3GS at WWDC 2009 while Steve Jobs was on medical leave. He even told us what the “S” stood for!

  • Speaking of 2009, you may remember HomePod Mini introducer Bob Borchers from Apple’s iPhone Guided Tour videos and commercials back around that timeframe.

  • Our long national off-center Lightning port nightmare is over.

  1. The obvious thing I miss from in-person events is hands-on time with all of the announced products. I opened with this observation in my week-on-the-wrist review of the Series 6 Apple Watch. When it comes to color, material, and device size, you really need to see and hold and feel the products. But the bigger thing, really, is in-person nuance. I miss talking to my fellow hacks in the press, getting their impressions and thoughts. And I greatly miss talking to folks from Apple in person, both formally, through the official PR channel, and informally, simply by bumping into people I know. Like any meeting, in any sphere, the official product briefings are just higher-bandwidth in person than when conducted remotely. To me, the longer we go with this quarantine, the more glaringly obvious the endemic shortcomings of Zoom/Webex/whatever remote interaction become. It’s the difference between being able to chug straight from a cup and being forced to use an annoyingly narrow straw, despite being very thirsty. It sucks.

    And the unofficial interactions — they just don’t really happen the same way at all if they’re not in person. I’m not talking about anyone spilling state secrets — the folks at Apple who have the most interesting things to say are also the people who are the least likely to ever reveal anything that shouldn’t be revealed. I’m just talking about little things. Color, in the figurative sense. Insight into Apple’s thinking. Sometimes just gossip. Why certain things are the way they are — or are not the way they’re not — that the company isn’t going to publish or advertise. Apple, as a company, does not like to explain itself. Folks who work there, however, sometimes do. Even just a little.

    I miss it. ↩︎

  2. 2014’s iPhone 6 Plus had optical image stabilization for photos. In 2015 with the iPhones 6S, OIS remained Plus-only, but added support for video in addition to photos. In 2016, the iPhone 7 finally got OIS (for both photos and video), but the 7 Plus alone gained an entire second camera lens. ↩︎︎

Joe Biden: ‘Vote for America’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-16 22:57

One of the best commercials I’ve ever seen.


‘Corruption, Anger, Chaos, Incompetence, Lies, Decay’ — The Trump Kakistocracy In Review

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-16 17:14

The New York Times Editorial Board:

Mr. Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history. In 2016, his bitter account of the nation’s ailments struck a chord with many voters. But the lesson of the last four years is that he cannot solve the nation’s pressing problems because he is the nation’s most pressing problem.

He is a racist demagogue presiding over an increasingly diverse country; an isolationist in an interconnected world; a showman forever boasting about things he has never done, and promising to do things he never will.



That Unremarked-Upon Thing on the Side of iPhone 12’s Is a 5G mmWave Antenna Window, But It’s Only There on U.S. Models

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-16 16:55

Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge:

There’s a simple explanation behind the missing window, though: the iPhone 12 doesn’t support mmWave 5G outside of the United States. If you peruse Apple’s frequency bands page, you’ll see that compatibility with bands n260 and n261 are simply missing everywhere else in the world.

Honestly, I’m not sure it’s a huge loss. mmWave 5G does offer far higher speeds than the “nationwide” flavor of low-band 5G that you’ll also find rolling out today, but the only other consistent thing about mmWave is its inconsistency, since even outdoors, you might not find a signal from one street corner to the next.

People got excited when they saw this because it looks like the magnetic window for pairing an Apple Pencil to an iPad Pro.


Jose Altuve Has the Yips

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-16 16:39

Tyler Kepner, writing for The New York Times:

Altuve, a second baseman, made two throwing errors in Game 2 on Monday, the first with two outs in the first inning. Manuel Margot followed with a three-run homer, and the Rays won by one run.

In Game 3 on Tuesday, with the Astros leading by 1-0 in the sixth inning, Altuve tried to start a double play but bounced his throw to second, well in front of shortstop Carlos Correa. Instead of having two outs and the bases empty, the Rays had no outs and two runners on. They went on to score five runs in the inning.

You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out what’s wrong with Altuve. His guilty conscience is consuming him because he’s been exposed as a cheater, and he’s now the most despised player — deservedly so — in the game. The Astros would already be heading to the World Series if not for his yips. Instead, they’re on the cusp of losing to the Rays, a solid team of fine players — bitter but worthy division rivals of the Yankees. All because of Altuve. You hate to see it.


[Sponsor] Kandji

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-15 17:25

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Features include:

  • 150+ pre-built controls
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  • App Store & custom apps
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See a product tour or request access to see a demo and get access to an optional 14-day trial.


NYT: ‘As Virus Spread Early On, Reports of Trump Administration Briefings Fueled Sell-Off’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-15 01:32

Kate Kelly and Mark Mazzetti, reporting for The New York Times:

On the afternoon of Feb. 24, President Trump declared on Twitter that the coronavirus was “very much under control” in the United States, one of numerous rosy statements that he and his advisers made at the time about the worsening epidemic. He even added an observation for investors: “Stock market starting to look very good to me!” But hours earlier, senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the conservative Hoover Institution, were less confident. […]

The next day, board members — many of them Republican donors — got another taste of government uncertainty from Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council. Hours after he had boasted on CNBC that the virus was contained in the United States and “it’s pretty close to airtight,” Mr. Kudlow delivered a more ambiguous private message. He asserted that the virus was “contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don’t know,” according to a document describing the sessions obtained by The New York Times.

The document, written by a hedge fund consultant who attended the three-day gathering of Hoover’s board, was stark. “What struck me,” the consultant wrote, was that nearly every official he heard from raised the virus “as a point of concern, totally unprovoked.”

Incompetent and corrupt.


★ Telegram, Apple, Belarus, and Conflating ‘Irrelevance’ With ‘Inconvenience’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-15 01:05

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has been writing about a controversy that I think is fairly summarized as follows: Pro-democracy protestors in Belarus have been using Telegram to (among many other purposes, of course) post information about those who stole the recent election for President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Apple asked Telegram to delete certain posts on the grounds that the posts revealed personal information contrary to App Store rules for “user generated content”.

Durov originally claimed Apple was asking Telegram to shut down certain channels; Apple says no, they’re just asking for specific posts to be taken down; but Durov says such posts are the entire point of said channels, so effectively Apple is asking Telegram to take down the channels. This whole issue of Apple injecting itself into the internal policing of a third-party social network is complicated, to say the least.

But at a second level, it’s not complicated. Durov:

Previously, when removing posts at Apple’s request, Telegram replaced those posts with a notice that cited the exact rule limiting such content for iOS users. However, Apple reached out to us a while ago and said our app is not allowed to show users such notices because they were “irrelevant”.

Similarly, when Facebook wanted to inform its users that 30% of the fees users were paying for online events went to Apple, Apple didn’t let Facebook do it saying this information was (once more) “irrelevant”.

I strongly disagree with Apple’s definition of “irrelevant”. I think the reason certain content was censored or why the price is 30% higher is the opposite of irrelevant.

This has nothing to do with relevance and everything to do with convenience. I’ve said it before and will adamantly say it again: it is prima facie wrong that one of the rules of the App Store is that an app is not allowed to explain the rules of the App Store. I’m hard pressed to think of an exception to this conviction, not just on Apple’s App Store, but in any sphere of life — whether a harmless game or the administration of the law.

Medium Solves All Its Problems With Yet Another Altogether New Brand Identity

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-14 19:35

Hats off to you if you figure out what their new logo represents. My wrong guess was that it was a weird “M”. I am, for some reason, reminded of Pepsi’s ill-fated tilt-to-the-future logo redesign from a decade ago.

The multi-talented Jane Manchun Wong — before temporarily (I hope!) deactivating her Twitter account — made a nice tutorial recreating Medium’s new mark using state-of-the-art illustration software.


The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini Cost $30 More Than Apple Suggests

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-14 16:15

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

At the event, Apple referred to these products as starting at $699 (iPhone 12 mini) and $799 (iPhone 12), but those prices are not actually accurate unless you slap a big asterisk on there. (As Apple does on its marketing pages, because it must.)

Here’s what’s actually happening, at least in the U.S.: Apple has cut deals with AT&T and Verizon that give existing customers of those carriers $30 off their purchases. The actual prices of the two models are $729 and $829, and that’s what you’ll pay if you’re a U.S. subscriber to Sprint, T-Mobile, any smaller pay-as-you-go carriers, or if you want to buy a SIM-free model with no carrier connection at all. (The 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are the same price on all carriers.)

Outrageous? No. Unseemly? Yes.


Yours Truly on CNBC Yesterday, Before Apple’s Event

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-14 16:14

Look at me, on the TV. (My comments hold up pretty well post-event, I think.)


The Difference a Year Makes

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-14 05:24

Mark Gurman, tonight:

Testing 5G on an Android flagship in Los Angeles (a major city obviously) on T-Mobile — consistently seeing worse to equivalent on 5G versus 4G. Where’s the improvement? […]

I was sort of surprised how much time Apple spent marketing 5G today. When 3G got improvements in 2011 with the iPhone 4s, Apple basically shrugged it off. When they added 4G, it was very much positioned as a checking a box. This year, it’s almost the whole story.

Mark Gurman, 13 months ago:

I’ve seen a short-sighted meme from the usual suspects that the iPhone 11 is fine without 5G support because the U.S. doesn’t have much 5G coverage. Remember: People now keep phones for 3 years, and 5G will be strong in key markets within 12 months, including China and the U.S.


Revolutionary, Indeed

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-14 04:05

This is the Revolution R180 — a $270 toaster “controlled by a touchscreen with 63 precise settings for everything from bread and bagels to English Muffins and waffles”.

This is a 25-year-old internet joke that the people who made this toaster should have read before creating it.


Online Sportsbooks FanDuel’s Stats Are Down Too

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-14 01:47

Stephanie Dube Dwilson, writing for Heavy:

FanDuel scores are still down as of early afternoon, and some fans are wondering just how long it’s going to take to get the service up and running again. Live scoring from FanDuel’s stats provider was down this weekend and scores still haven’t been updated in the service itself by early Monday afternoon. RealitySportsOnline was also experiencing issues and has been working with a different provider to update their stats. Here’s a look at what’s happening and what we know so far.

Seems likely this same data provider is also the cause of Siri’s four-days-and-counting live sports outage — apparently a company called Stats Perform, who has been very quiet on Twitter. I just asked Siri for the score of the currently in-progress game 3 of the ALCS and I got the score of last night’s game 2.

Google Assistant, of course, got it right. You want it done right, you might need to do it yourself.


HomePod, HomePod Mini Pairing, New Home Theater Support Coming

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-13 23:20

Jim Dalrymple, writing for The Loop:

The short answer is no. You can’t make a stereo pair of a HomePod and a HomePod mini. You can make a stereo pair of two HomePods or two HomePod minis, but you can’t mix and match the two products. Now, if you have a HomePod and a HomePod mini in your house, they will work together so you can play music throughout the house or use the intercom feature. So, they do work together.

This makes sense — to create a stereo pair, you need to pair two of the same HomePods. But for just playing the same audio in multiple rooms, all HomePods work together.

There is an update coming for HomePod that will add features announced today as part of the HomePod mini launch. Those new features include Intercom from one HomePod to another, personal update, Maps continuity, multiuser support for Podcasts, support for third-party music services as they become available.

No word from Apple on when we might expect these features, other than in the future. That might sound snarky but I don’t mean it to be. I think there’s a lot of coordination required for these features — updates to iOS, tvOS, and the HomePod’s OS — and “coming soon” is just an honest answer.


Siri’s Sports Integration Has Been Down for Three Days

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-13 16:23

I cracked wise on Twitter Sunday afternoon after I asked Siri for the score of a football game that had already ended and Siri replied with the starting time for the game, four hours in the past. (Which led to this amusing reply.)

Turns out this wasn’t a brief hiccup. Siri’s ability to report sports scores was down all weekend. No scores for the Lakers-Heat NBA Finals clincher Sunday night, no football scores, and here we are on Tuesday morning and Siri still can’t tell me, say, when the Dodgers and Braves next play.

The timing could be entirely coincidental and this is just an unplanned outage, but I can’t help but wonder if this is related to some sort of Siri upgrade debuting at today’s Apple event.


From the DF Archive: ‘Flowers Are for Chumps’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-13 03:39

The item earlier today on Tim Sneath opening up a new-in-box G4 iMac brought to mind this piece I wrote on Valentine’s Day 2003. This was a good one.


DuckDuckGo Now Has Driving and Walking Directions Via Partnership With Apple Maps

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-12 23:41


Now we’re excited to announce a big step forward with the introduction of directions — private, as always, and like our embedded maps, powered by Apple’s MapKit JS framework and already familiar to millions of users.

You’ll now see a new addition to location and map search results that will help you plan trips by showing you a route overview, distance and travel time. Look out for it both at the top of search results that display a map, as well as within our expanded map module.

Example: walking directions from Big Ben to the Tower of London.

A lot of people have been wondering for a long time why Apple doesn’t launch its own search engine. Some think they actually are building toward that. Others wonder why Apple doesn’t just buy DuckDuckGo.

Those are good questions. But in the meantime, Apple and DuckDuckGo continue a fruitful but quiet partnership.


Spotify, Ever the Fans of Openness

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-12 21:34

SongShift is a nifty utility that lets you move playlists from one streaming music service to another. They support a bunch of services, including Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Music, and more. But one of these services is being a dick:

Unfortunately, as of SongShift v5.1.2, you will no longer be able to create transfers from Spotify to another music service. We understand this will be a disappointment for a lot of you. We wish we didn’t have to.

Why then?

The Spotify Developer Platform Team reached out and let us know we’d need to remove transferring from their service to a competing music service or have our API access revoked due to TOS violation. While this is not the news we wanted to hear, we respect their decision.

As we advance

To continue to provide some level of support for Spotify, we’ll still be supporting transferring from other services to Spotify.

Spotify: happy to let you move playlists to their service, unwilling to let you move them from their service.


Tim Sneath Unboxes a 2004 iMac G4

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-12 21:30

Fun thread, both in the beginning, when he’s tweeting under the conceit that it’s a genuinely new machine, and at the end, when he breaks character. (The iMac actually is new-in-box, which is cool, but you know what I mean by “genuinely new” here.)

There’s no question that the rate of progress for PCs has slowed tremendously. This 2004 Mac is radically better, more capable, and less expensive than one from 1989, in a way that’s not true comparing a 2004 iMac to one from today. That’s the nature of progress. The industry made just as much amazing progress in the last 15 years, but the vertigo-inducing radical progress happened in phones, not PCs.

Now, I think, phones are today where PCs were around 2004. (I count iPads as big phones in the context of this argument.)


★ Translation From Adorable Bullshit to English of Microsoft’s ‘10 Principles for the Microsoft Store on Windows’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-11 19:45

Rima Alaily, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel, announcing the company’s 10 principles for the Microsoft Store on Windows:

We and others have raised questions and, at times, expressed concerns about app stores on other digital platforms. However, we recognize that we should practice what we preach. So, today, we are adopting 10 principles — building on the ideas and work of the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) — to promote choice, ensure fairness and promote innovation on Windows 10, our most popular platform, and our own Microsoft Store on Windows 10.

Get your boots on.

1. Developers will have the freedom to choose whether to distribute their apps for Windows through our app store. We will not block competing app stores on Windows.

Windows will continue to work as Windows always has.

2. We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s business model or how it delivers content and services, including whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.

We would sure like to get our Xbox Game Pass streaming games into a single app on iOS.

  1. We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s choice of which payment system to use for processing purchases made in its app.

We would sure like to drop Apple’s in-app payments from our Office apps for iOS. Can you even fucking believe we have to cut them in on these subscriptions?

[Principles 4–10.]


We also operate a store on the Xbox console. It’s reasonable to ask why we are not also applying these principles to that Xbox store today.

We’re really in a pickle explaining this one.

Game consoles are specialized devices optimized for a particular use.

Game consoles are general purpose computers limited to particular uses by the platform owners.

Though well-loved by their fans, they are vastly outnumbered in the marketplace by PCs and phones.

We sure wish our attempts at a phone platform had taken off.

And the business model for game consoles is very different to the ecosystem around PCs or phones. Console makers such as Microsoft invest significantly in developing dedicated console hardware but sell them below cost or at very low margins to create a market that game developers and publishers can benefit from.

Game consoles are different because we own a successful game console platform.

Given these fundamental differences in the significance of the platform and the business model, we have more work to do to establish the right set of principles for game consoles.

We’re not changing anything about Xbox.

We think it is important to have a public discussion about how to fairly balance the interests of software developers and platform owners and the best path forward for app stores on our most popular platforms.

We know it’s a long shot but we’re hoping to rally public opinion to demand that Apple run iOS like a PC platform.

Apps play an important role in the daily lives of billions of consumers and help to enable the modern digital economy for millions of businesses.

There’s a lot of money at stake here and we really blew it with our attempts at a phone platform.

We know that regulators and policymakers are reviewing these issues and considering legal reforms to promote competition and innovation in digital markets. We think the CAF principles, and our implementation of them, can serve as productive examples. Applying these principles to the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 is a first step and we look forward to feedback from developers and the broader community.

Nothing is changing on Windows, which remains every bit as open as it always has been. Nothing is changing on Xbox, which remains every bit as closed as it always has been (which is actually quite a bit more closed than even iOS). But we’re sure hoping government regulators will force Apple to open up iOS and treat it more like a PC platform where third-party developers are free to do what they want, because we know Apple won’t do it of their own volition because we wouldn’t either if we were them.

Instabug: Application Performance Monitoring Built for Mobile Apps

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-11 19:44

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Apple Is Extending Some Apple TV+ Subscriptions Through February 2021 for Free

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-10 23:32

Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch:

Apple told me today that it will be extending Apple TV+ subscriptions that are set to end November 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 through their billing date in February of 2021.

The basic situation is that Apple gave away a free year of Apple TV+ to new device purchasers last year and those are all set to end in November. Apple knows everyone is still looking at a tough winter ahead filled with COVID-related restrictions so it’s bumping those subs out to February.

With Apple putting this out the week before new iPhones are announced, I take it to mean that new iPhones purchased this year will not come with a free year of TV+. That was a last year thing. Perhaps, though, new iPhones purchased this year will come with some sort of sweetener for Apple One subscriptions? That’s what I would do if I were Apple.


‘Did You Write Mine?’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-10 16:11

Marty Noble, himself now dead, writing about an encounter in Cooperstown with Whitey Ford back in 2010:

Because I no longer covered the Mets, as I had done for decades, he lost track of me. So when our paths crossed at the Otesaga, the hotel headquarters for Hall of Fame weekend, he asked what had become of me.

“I can’t find you on the box [the computer] anymore,” he said.

“Well, I have different assignments now,” I said. “Columns and features and I do a lot of obituaries of baseball people.”

“Jeez, how many guys die?” he said.

I explained that parts of obituaries are written well before deaths occur so that stories can be posted quickly when needed. “Newspapers have many obits done for famous people,” I said. “The [New York] Times updates the president’s almost every day.”

After a moment’s thought, Whitey looked at me quizzically and asked, “So, did you write mine?”

I said, “Yeah, as a matter of fact, I did.”

“How’d it turn out?” he asked.


Hodinkee Radio: All About the Apple Watch Series 6 and WatchOS 7

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-09 23:02

The new episode of the Hodinkee Radio podcast is all about Apple Watch. First up, Hodinkee’s Stephen Pulvirent has a really good interview with Apple VP of human interface design Alan Dye. Next, a roundtable discussion between Pulvirent, Om Malik, and yours truly.


The Talk Show: ‘I’m Expecting Led Zeppelin IV’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-09 20:12

MG Siegler returns to the show to talk about Apple Watch, the future of premium TV and movies, and a preview of next week’s “Hi, Speed” Apple event.

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★ Facebook and the Group That Planned to Kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-09 18:59

Charlie Warzel, writing for The New York Times:

Still, taken together, Facebook’s pre-election actions underscore a damning truth: With every bit of friction Facebook introduces to its platform, our information ecosystem becomes a bit less unstable. Flip that logic around and the conclusion is unsettling. Facebook, when it’s working as designed, is a natural accelerating force in the erosion of our shared reality and, with it, our democratic norms.

A good example of this appeared on Thursday in a criminal complaint released by the F.B.I. The complaint details a federal investigation that successfully stopped a plot to kidnap the Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and put her on “trial.” The investigation is the latest example of anti-government domestic terrorism among far-right extremists. The group also discussed plans to attack the Michigan State Capitol building in what the state attorney general, Dana Nessel, called an attempt to “instigate a civil war.”

Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment. Perhaps, as Facebook — and Twitter, which is far less a “social” network than Facebook, but more of a news distribution medium — make changes to de-escalate the use of their platforms by dangerous fringe groups unhinged from reality, we’ll look back on this past decade and see what these platforms have enabled as net goods for the world. Perhaps Facebook et al. have less exacerbated kookery — particularly but not exclusively on the right wing — than revealed what has always been there, under the surface of American culture and politics. Perhaps the undeniable increase in extreme political partisanship is not the problem, but in fact the solution — the natural result of our collective reckoning with the lid having been lifted, revealing deep and pervasive social rot that we’ve long pretended was neither deep nor pervasive. We’re re-sorting from a primarily left/right political divide to one that’s primarily sane/crazy.

Have a look at this TV news interview yesterday with the local sheriff in Michigan, who makes the case that these plotters — with whom he shared the stage a few months ago at an anti-Whitmer pro-coronavirus armed rally and doesn’t see any problem with that — might have been acting within the law, not attempting to “kidnap” Whitmer per se but rather make some sort of lawful citizen’s arrest. Really. You have to watch it to absorb the juxtaposition of the lunacy of his words with his calm-but-stern straight-out-of-Central-Casting “Michigan sheriff” demeanor.

Trust me, I think Facebook’s leadership is deeply culpable for looking the other way, ignoring the obvious consequences of building a system that fosters “engagement” by allowing like-minded extremists to find each other. But if we, collectively, act on what is now plainly before our eyes, we might see it as a net good. There’s a shoot-the-messenger aspect to saying this is all Facebook’s fault. We’ve been in denial for generations about how pervasive and dangerous this “militia” culture is.

Yankees Great Whitey Ford, ‘Chairman of the Board’, Dies at 91

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-09 16:29

Mark Feinsand, writing for MLB.com:

The left-hander — nicknamed “The Chairman of the Board” by batterymate Elston Howard — went 236-106 with a 2.75 ERA during his 16 years with New York, winning his only Cy Young Award in 1961. Ford, whose .690 winning percentage is the highest of any pitcher with at least 150 victories in the modern era, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

“I grew up on Long Island, not too far from Yankee Stadium,” Ford said during his Hall of Fame induction. “I was a Yankee fan since I was five or six years old. To think when I was 21 years old I’d be playing with [Joe] DiMaggio and [Yogi] Berra against guys like Stan Musial and Roy Campanella, it’s just something I can’t fathom. It’s just been great.” […]

Ford pitched in 11 World Series during his 16 seasons, winning six rings. His 10 World Series victories remain the most of any pitcher in history.

Richard Goldstein, for The New York Times:

Methodical on the mound, Ford was irrepressible off it. He joined with Mantle and Billy Martin for late nights on the town, inspiring Stengel to call them the Three Musketeers. Mantle, too, entered the Hall of Fame in 1974, and at the induction ceremony he was asked about the chemistry behind the friendship between him, the country boy from Oklahoma, and Ford, who grew up on the streets of Queens. “We both liked Scotch,” he said.


Business Insider: Microsoft Plans to Bring Xbox Game Pass to iOS as a Web App

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-09 01:52

Ashley Stewart, reporting for Business Insider:

Microsoft’s gaming boss Phil Spencer told employees at an all-hands meeting on Wednesday the company is planning to bring Game Pass to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, targeting 2021 for the potential release of a “direct browser-based solution,” Business Insider has learned.

“We absolutely will end up on iOS,” Spencer told employees, according to two people with direct knowledge of his comments. Microsoft did not comment at the time of publication.

I wondered if the web app route might be what Microsoft would try after Amazon announced that’s what it’s doing for its game streaming service. Really curious to see how well this will work.


‘We Hacked Apple for 3 Months: Here’s What We Found’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-08 23:11

Sam Curry:

Between the period of July 6th to October 6th myself, Brett Buerhaus, Ben Sadeghipour, Samuel Erb, and Tanner Barnes worked together and hacked on the Apple bug bounty program. […] During our engagement, we found a variety of vulnerabilities in core portions of their infrastructure that would’ve allowed an attacker to fully compromise both customer and employee applications, launch a worm capable of automatically taking over a victim’s iCloud account, retrieve source code for internal Apple projects, fully compromise an industrial control warehouse software used by Apple, and take over the sessions of Apple employees with the capability of accessing management tools and sensitive resources.

There were a total of 55 vulnerabilities discovered with 11 critical severity, 29 high severity, 13 medium severity, and 2 low severity reports. […] As of October 6th, 2020, the vast majority of these findings have been fixed and credited. They were typically remediated within 1-2 business days (with some being fixed in as little as 4-6 hours).

This is some truly eye-popping stuff. Read-only access to the source code to iOS and MacOS? That’s a far cry from read-write access, but still well into “wow” territory. Hacker News has good commentary, including this sub-thread with perspective from Thomas Ptacek on the economics of bug bounty hunting.


Denoting Texting Corrections

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-08 22:43

Ever since this XKCD comic appeared back in July, I’ve taken note of how people in my circle make texting corrections. Most just type the corrected spelling (often a de-autocorrection) without punctuation, but I’ve noticed a few who use asterisks. I use a carrot, which I’ve always thought was a natural mark for corrections.



Ars Technica: ‘Google’s Supreme Court Faceoff With Oracle Was a Disaster for Google’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-08 20:52

Timothy B. Lee, writing for Ars Technica:

The Supreme Court’s eight justices on Wednesday seemed skeptical of Google’s argument that application programming interfaces (APIs) are not protected by copyright law. The high court was hearing oral arguments in Google’s decade-long legal battle with Oracle. Oracle argues that Google infringed its copyright in the Java programming language when it re-implemented Java APIs for use by Android app developers. […]

Arguably Goldstein’s most important task here — and throughout Wednesday’s argument — was to convince justices that there was an important difference between APIs and other code and that this difference had legal implications.

“He did an abysmal job,” Cornell University legal scholar James Grimmelmann told Ars in a Wednesday phone interview. “At the level of nuance he was willing to get into, his case was a loser. The only way to make it stick is to be nuanced about what it means to declare code.”

My gut feeling is that Google is in the right here — APIs should not be copyrightable — but that they utterly failed to make the argument in a clear way.

The Verge’s Sarah Jeong live-tweeted the arguments, and as usual, her notes are a wonderful way to get the condensed gist.


How Excel’s Row Limit Caused Loss of 16,000 COVID Test Results in England

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-07 19:59

Alex Hern, writing for The Guardian:

A million-row limit on Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software may have led to Public Health England misplacing nearly 16,000 Covid test results, it is understood. The data error, which led to 15,841 positive tests being left off the official daily figures, means than 50,000 potentially infectious people may have been missed by contact tracers and not told to self-isolate. […]

In this case, the Guardian understands, one lab had sent its daily test report to PHE in the form of a CSV file — the simplest possible database format, just a list of values separated by commas. That report was then loaded into Microsoft Excel, and the new tests at the bottom were added to the main database.

But while CSV files can be any size, Microsoft Excel files can only be 1,048,576 rows long — or, in older versions which PHE may have still been using, a mere 65,536. When a CSV file longer than that is opened, the bottom rows get cut off and are no longer displayed. That means that, once the lab had performed more than a million tests, it was only a matter of time before its reports failed to be read by PHE.

The primary problem here isn’t Excel’s million-row limit; it’s the fact that if you import a CSV file that exceeds that limit, Excel doesn’t report an error. It just silently cuts them off, which is inexcusable. [Update: This tweet from Leon Zandman indicates that Excel does present an error message when it attempted to import a CSV file with too many rows or columns. Update 2: BBC News, without citing an explicit source, fingers the use of the old XLS Excel file format, which has a limit of just 65,000 rows of data.]

Everyone knows error messages are bad, but the reason they’re bad is the error part, not the message part. Not reporting errors just makes everything worse, by pretending that the errors aren’t even happening. (Apple, I’m looking in your direction.)

Also reminiscent of our cuckoo-in-chief’s unshakable belief that the solution to America’s COVID pandemic is to reduce testing, not reduce the number of infections.


‎Golf on Mars

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-07 19:30

Speaking of iPhone games I love, one of my all-time favorites is Justin Smith/Captain Games’s 2014 classic Desert Golfing (yours truly: 5,001 strokes through 1,925 holes — really let myself slide after hovering closer to 2 strokes per hole).

Finally, a sequel: Golf on Mars. It’s exquisite. $3 (cheap!) in the App Store.


Up Spell

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-07 19:15

Clever, deceptively simple new iPhone word game from Ken Kocienda (author of the excellent book Creative Selection and lead developer of the original iPhone keyboard, among numerous other accomplishments in his 15-year stint at Apple). Up Spell is like a fast-paced solo version of Scrabble. I enjoy so few games, I wind up linking to just about every one I do like — and I’m digging Up Spell. (I think I kind of stink at it, though, because while I’m decent at word games like Scrabble and Letterpress, I’m a slow thinker.)

$2 (cheap!) with no in-app purchase horseplay.


Netflix 4K Streaming on Mac Requires Safari on Big Sur and a Mac With a T2 Chip

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-07 19:04

Netflix Help Center:

Mac computers support streaming in the following browser resolutions:

  • Google Chrome up to 720p
  • Mozilla Firefox up to 720p
  • Opera up to 720p
  • Safari up to 1080p on macOS 10.10 to 10.15
  • Safari up to 4K on macOS 11.0 or later


Netflix is available in Ultra HD on Mac computers. To stream in Ultra HD, you will need:

  • A Mac computer with macOS 11.0 Big Sur installed.
  • The latest version of Safari browser
  • Select 2018 or later Mac computer with an Apple T2 Security chip
  • A 60Hz 4K capable display (with HDCP 2.2 connection if external display).

(Erratic use of bullet-point terminating periods, sic.)

I almost never watch Netflix on my Macs, personally, but I didn’t realize that non-Safari browsers are stuck with 720p. Not sure what the deal is with that. But the fact that 4K support is going to require MacOS 11 Big Sur and a T2-equipped Mac (or, surely, all future Apple Silicon-based Macs) is an anti-piracy measure. I think the T2 has an HEVC decoder built in, so all the video decoding happens at that level, making it harder for anyone to pirate. It basically makes the video decoding chain on Mac very much like the video decoding chain on iOS devices, where we’ve had 4K streaming from Netflix for years.

As a “march of progress” indicator, I find this fascinating. Until recently, efficiently decoding 4K video in real-time was computationally impossible. Now, Macs are doing it not with their CPUs or GPUs, but with this extra T2 subsystem that’s primarily there for security.


White House Refuses to Say When POTUS Last Tested Negative

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-07 16:29

Jake Tapper:

White House officials believe POTUS was infected at the event for Judge Barrett on Saturday Sept 26.

They will not say when POTUS last tested negative, raising questions as to whether he was tested at all between infection and the debate Tuesday Sept 29.

My theory ever since this White House outbreak erupted is that Trump had not been getting tested regularly, at all. The accurate tests aren’t painful but they are momentarily unpleasant (I got tested back in June), so I think Trump had been telling his doctors to just test everyone else around him, not him. I don’t think he was tested before the now-infamous super-spreader ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, I don’t think he was tested before the debate last Tuesday (which now seems forever ago, no?), and even after top advisor Hope Hicks got sick with coronavirus, I don’t think he got tested before heading out to campaign events in Minnesota and New Jersey last week.

They won’t say when last he tested negative because the answer is scandalous.


Instagram Brings Back Classic Icons With 10th Anniversary Easter Egg

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-07 00:54

Sam Byford, writing for The Verge:

Instagram launched ten years ago today: the photo-sharing app first hit the App Store on October 6th, 2010, a few months after the release of the iPhone 4. To celebrate, Instagram has added an easter egg to the app that lets you change its home screen icon.

The icons available include the classic Polaroid-style camera designs that were used for more than five years. There are themed variations on the current logo, too, including Pride rainbow colors and monochrome options. The app update also includes another feature: a private map and archive of your stories from the past three years.

In addition to depth and texture in UI design and iconography, I also miss Easter eggs.


Facebook Bans QAnon Across Its Platforms

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-07 00:38

Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, reporting for NBC News:

Facebook said Tuesday that it is banning all QAnon accounts from its platforms, a significant escalation over its previous actions and one of the broadest rules the social media giant has put in place in its history. […]

A company spokesperson said the enforcement, which started Tuesday, will “bring to parity what we’ve been doing on other pieces of policy with regard to militarized social movements,” such as militia and terror groups that repeatedly call for violence.

The best time to do this was long ago. The next best time is now. Good for Facebook for doing the right thing here.


Trump Says He Will Not Negotiate on COVID Relief Until After Election

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-07 00:17


President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he has instructed his representatives to stop negotiating with House Democrats on coronavirus relief until after the election, accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “not negotiating in good faith.” […]

Behind the scenes: Several Trump advisers told Axios’ Jonathan Swan they are utterly perplexed by the decision. They need this like a punch in the face.

A Trump campaign adviser said of the president’s decision to own pulling out of the talks: “You have to try to be this politically inept. What is going on in the White House? Where is Mark Meadows?” One GOP lawmaker told Axios that this is “a gift” for Pelosi.

This would actually make a certain sense, in his usual vindictive, divisive way, if Trump promised that he will only agree to post-election COVID relief for states that vote for him. But here in the real world, it makes no sense at all.


Eddie Van Halen Dies at 65

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-06 20:53

Andy Greene, writing for Rolling Stone:

Were it not for his titanic influence, hard rock after the late 1970s would have evolved in unimaginably different ways. He may not have invented two-handed tapping, but he perfected the practice and introduced it to a mass audience. Yet despite his complete mastery of the electric guitar, he never learned to read music.

“I don’t know shit about scales or music theory,” he told Rolling Stone in 1980. “I don’t want to be seen as the fastest guitar in town, ready and willing to gun down the competition. All I know is that rock & roll guitar, like blues guitar, should be melody, speed, and taste, but more important, it should have emotion. I just want my guitar playing to make people feel something: happy, sad, even horny.”

That it did.


House Judiciary Committee Report: ‘Investigation of Competition in Digital Markets’ (PDF)

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-06 20:40

The House Judiciary subcommittee that held a hearing with the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google back in July has issued a 449-page report on its findings and recommendations. It just dropped, so I’m not sure what’s in it, other than brief quotes from yours truly and Brent Simmons on pp. 341-342.


All Consuming

Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-06 17:42

New podcast from Noah Kalina and Adam Lisagor wherein they buy and try a new direct-to-consumer product (think: stuff advertised on podcasts and Instagram) and talk about it. I swore up and down I wasn’t going to buy anything they talk about but I’m already signed up for a breakfast cereal subscription.


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Permalink - Posted on 2020-10-06 01:19

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★ ‎Widgetsmith and The Case of the Missing App Store Bunco Squad

Permalink - Posted on 2020-09-26 19:58

Widgets and custom app icons via Shortcuts are the breakout hit features of iOS 14. This should be not surprising: people love to customize their stuff, and until now you couldn’t really customize much more than your wallpaper and icon arrangement on the iOS home screen. Now you can, and people are digging it. For youngsters who’ve grown up only knowing iOS, this is their first taste of this sort of thing.

“Underscore” David Smith’s new app Widgetsmith is, thus, having a bit of a moment. Widgetsmith is like a widget construction kit:

It starts with a wide collection of highly customizable widgets, which range in function from date, to weather, to astronomy. Each can be adjusted precisely to best fit your desired function and appearance.

This set of widgets can then be dynamically scheduled to appear on your home screen following rules you define. For example, a particular widget could show the weather first thing in the morning, then your calendar during your work day, then switch to your Activity ring progress as you wrap up your day. This lets you take full advantage of each slot on your home screen.

It’s rocketed to the #1 spot on the App Store’s Productivity list. My teenage son, out of the blue, asked me if I’d heard about it — not iOS 14 widgets in general, but Widgetsmith specifically.1 A well-deserved hit product. If you’re having fun playing around with widgets, you should definitely check out Widgetsmith if your neighborhood teenager hasn’t already turned you onto it.

And but so of course the rip-off scammers are already doing their thing, and the App Store is welcoming them. Search for “Widgetsmith” — the exact name of Smith’s app — and the first app in the results is not Widgetsmith but a name-alike rip-off called, I swear, “Widgetsmith - Color Widgets”. This utterly shameless rip-off, replete with a ham-fisted knockoff of the icon to boot, is listed above the actual Widgetsmith, despite the fact that the actual Widgetsmith is currently the #1 app in Productivity and has over 53,000 overwhelmingly positive reviews. The rip-off app has 25 5-star ratings, one 1-star rating, and one written review, which reads, verbatim, “Thank developer for making such great app especially for iOS 14!” The entire description of the rip-off app is written in similar broken English.

[Update 6PM: Two hours later, and the rip-off Widgetsmith is gone.]

Three points.

First, how in the world did this app get approved with this name and with this icon? And how is it still there? The rip-off version is now popular enough to be ranked #7 on the Entertainment list. Where’s the App Store bunco squad? This wouldn’t even be a hard case to crack. It wouldn’t be more obvious that this app is a rip-off if its name were “Widgetsmith - Rip-Off Version”. Apple keeps telling us how great the App Store is, but rip-offs like this remain commonplace. Apple right now has a promotion touting the benefits of the App Store on the front page of apple.com (gee, I wonder what prompted that?), which states:

The apps you love.
From a place you can trust.

For over a decade, the App Store has proved to be a safe and trusted place to discover and download apps. But the App Store is more than just a storefront — it’s an innovative destination focused on bringing you amazing experiences. And a big part of those experiences is ensuring that the apps we offer are held to the highest standards for privacy, security, and content. Because we offer nearly two million apps — and we want you to feel good about using every single one of them.

I doubt anyone feels good about “Widgetsmith - Rip-Off Version”, including the hucksters who made it. And if only the App Store were run just as a storefront, this wouldn’t happen. I’m pretty sure that if you go to Apple’s online store and search for “Solo Loop”, or walk into one of their retail stores and ask for one, you’re not going to be presented with a fly-by-night piece-of-crap knockoff named “Solo Loop - Color Bands”, with Apple’s actual Solo Loops hidden behind them.

The App Store is not trustworthy if that includes trusting that the apps in its trending lists and search results are legitimate. If Apple ran a food court like they run the App Store they’d let a McDowell’s open up two stores down from McDonald’s.

Second, even accepting that this app was allowed into the store with this name and this icon, how in the world does it rank ahead of the actual Widgetsmith in search results? How can App Store search be this wrong? It’d be bad enough if “Widgetsmith - Rip-Off Version” were listed after the actual Widgetsmith, but listed ahead of it? (And to be clear, the placement of “Widgetsmith - Rip-Off Version” atop the results is not from paid search placement — those are a problem too, but they are marked as ads. This is not an ad.)

Third, go check out the actual Widgetsmith, trust me.

  1. I’m like, “Yes, actually. In fact, I know the guy who made it! He’s …” and before I could finish, my son’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and he wandered away. ↩︎

★ More Adventures in Solo Loop Sizing

Permalink - Posted on 2020-09-23 20:48

Impeccable timing on my part last night:

This makes me suspect that many are using Apple’s measuring tool inaccurately, or printing it out at the wrong scale, or both, and perhaps Apple should clarify the printed instructions. The current instructions simply read:

Cut and wrap the tool around your wrist, snug but not too tight.

What those instructions don’t make clear, but perhaps should, is that I think you’re supposed to use the tool to precisely measure the circumference of your wrist, not to simulate the circumference of what you think would be a comfortable watch band. Think about how a tailor measures your chest or waist — you’re not cinching a tourniquet, but you don’t want any slack at all.

Apple today updated its Solo Loop PDF sizing tool. The sizes remain exactly the same, but the instructions have been clarified, much as I suggested, and are now accompanied by a helpful illustration. They now read:

Cut the tool. Then wrap it tightly around your wrist where you typically wear your watch. You can use tape to hold the wider part in place. Make sure the tool feels snug and doesn’t slide up or down.

No more ambiguous “snug but not too tight”. Now they’ve made clear that it should wrap tight enough not to slide around. Apple also clarified what to do if your wrist seems to fall between sizes:

Note the number the arrows point to — that’s your band size. If the arrows point to a line, choose the smaller of the two numbers closest to the line.

A few people have wondered why Apple doesn’t just map fluoroelastomer Sport Band sizes to Solo Loop sizes. I can see why Apple doesn’t do that — they can’t assume everyone already has access to an Apple Watch with a Sport Band, and even for people who do have access to one, Apple can’t assume it’s the right size watch (38/40mm vs. 42/44mm). And to further complicate matters, each Sport Band comes with two sizes for the side with the holes: “S/M” and “M/L”. So that’s four separate mappings from Sport Band holes to the new Solo Loop sizes. That’s complicated. But it’s no longer a safe assumption that everyone has access to a printer, either, so let’s figure out the mappings here.

It turns out Sport Band holes do map exactly to the new Solo Loop sizes. That makes sense, when you think about it, but it hadn’t occurred to me until today to just lay Sport Bands next to the measuring tool. The distance between the holes in every Apple Sport Band is exactly the same as the distance between the 12 sizes of Solo Loops on Apple’s measuring tool.

[Update: My measurements for the smaller 38/40mm Sport Bands had an off-by-one bug1 when I originally published the photo and table below. Sorry about that. I believe they are correct now.]

[Update 2: Don’t overthink these photos. The top of the bands aren’t supposed to line up. My methodology was simple. I tried all four Sport Band combinations on my own wrist: 40 and 44mm watches, with both the S/M and M/L bands. Then I lined up the Sport Band hole that fit my wrist best with the Solo Loop size that I know fits me best (size 7). That’s it. You line up the Sport Band hole that fits you best with the Solo Loop size that fits you best and the other hole-to-Solo-Loop-size mappings just fall into place. The fact that the tops of the bands don’t line up when you do this is irrelevant.]

Here are two photographs to illustrate the mappings. First, these black Sport Bands are for smaller Apple Watches (38/40mm):

Two black 40mm Apple Watch Sport Bands, one S/M and one M/L, laid next to a printout of Apple’s PDF sizing tool for Solo Loop bands.

These gray Sport Bands are for larger Apple Watches (42/44mm):

Two gray 44mm Apple Watch Sport Bands, one S/M and one M/L, laid next to a printout of Apple’s PDF sizing tool for Solo Loop bands.

No matter which width and length, all Sport Bands have 7 holes. The following table shows how those holes correspond to Apple’s new Solo Loop sizes:

38/40mm 42/44mm
S/M 1–7 3–9
M/L 4–10 6–12

To me, the photographs above make the mappings much more obvious than the table. It practically demands an illustration, lest you get lost between counting Sport Band holes and counting Solo Loop sizes.

The range of wrist sizes for the Sport Bands corresponds exactly to the new Solo Loops — the first hole on the 38/40mm S/M Sport Band is a size 1, and the last hole on the 42/44mm M/L Sport Band is a size 12.

  1. Here’s my mistake. It was really dumb, like any good off-by-one bug. I have a slew of old Sport Bands from various Apple Watches over the years, but not as many actual spare watches. And the spare watches I do have are mine, and thus are 42/44mm models. When I tried the smaller 38/40mm Sport Bands on my wrist, I snapped those bands onto my 44mm Apple Watch, rather than bother my wife or son to borrow one of their smaller 40mm watches, thinking it wouldn’t matter, because I happen to know the watch connectors will properly snap into place for all straps on all watches. It doesn’t look right, width-wise, but functionally you can securely connect a small Apple Watch band to a large Apple Watch, and vice versa.

    The obvious problem: trying small Apple Watch bands on a large Apple Watch body didn’t account for the fact that the larger watch body spreads the watch connectors a few extra millimeters apart. Hence the off-by-one bug. Duh. ↩︎