If Apple Gets Into AR or VR, It Should and Probably Will Be a New Platform 

Zach LeBar:

Here’s a crazy theory: what if Apple’s big AR play, is macOS-focused?

We know that Tim Cook has repeatedly talked about how AR is an interest of Apple’s. On analyst calls they often deflect attention from questions about VR towards AR. Up ‘til now, most have assumed this is because Apple is more interested in iOS-based applications of these technologies, and that they’re looking to differentiate themselves from their Android-based competitors who are already offering VR options. There have even been rumors from as recently as CES 2017 that talk about Carl Zeiss partnering with Apple on a set of AR glasses. The pundits are assuming it’s iPhone-related. But Scoble’s report doesn’t say one way or the other.

What if we’re all looking in the wrong direction? What if we’re blinded by iOS and missing what a tremendous play AR for macOS could be?

This isn’t how Apple typically approaches new human-computer interaction technologies. They don’t just retrofit their existing platform for the new technology. That’s what Microsoft does with Windows. The iPhone didn’t run the Mac OS. The underlying core OS, yes, but everything user-facing was done from scratch, specific to the nature of a touch screen. Apple creates new platforms for new interaction technologies.

I strongly suspect that’s what Apple would do for AR or VR. It could piggyback on the iPhone for network connectivity, as the Watch does, but it’d be its own software platform.

I suppose it’s possible that Apple could use AR just to impose a big virtual display in front of the user. That wouldn’t work at all with iOS’s touch-based paradigm. It could work with the Mac’s mouse pointer and keyboard paradigm. But it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. I don’t think it would be better than a non-virtual big display on your desktop, and I don’t think toting around a bulky pair of goggles would be better than the built-in displays on MacBooks. It just seems incredibly short-sighted to treat AR or VR as an output for traditional desktop computing.

The Problem With AMP 

Kyle Schreiber:

The largest complaint by far is that the URLs for AMP links differ from the canonical URLs for the same content, making sharing difficult. The current URLs are a mess. They all begin with some form of https://wwww.google.com/amp/ before showing a URL to the AMP version of the site. There is currently no way to find the canonical link to the page without guessing what the original URL is. This usually involves removing either a .amp or ?amp=1 from the URL to get to the actual page.

Make no mistake. AMP is about lock-in for Google. AMP is meant to keep publishers tied to Google. Clicking on an AMP link feels like you never even leave the search page, and links to AMP content are displayed prominently in Google’s news carousel. This is their response to similar formats from both Facebook and Apple, both of which are designed to keep users within their respective ecosystems. However, Google’s implementation of AMP is more broad and far reaching than the Apple and Facebook equivalents. Google’s implementation of AMP is on the open web and isn’t limited to just an app like Facebook or Apple.

Back in October I asked why websites are publishing AMP pages. The lock-in aspect makes no sense to me. Why would I want to cede control over my pages to Google? AMP pages do load fast, but if publishers want their web pages to load fast, they can just engineer them to load fast. Best answers I got were that it wasn’t really strategic — publishers are going with AMP just because their SEO people are telling them to, because Google features AMP pages in search results. I suppose that is a strategy, but ceding control over your content to Google isn’t a good one in the long term.

As Schreiber points out, with things like Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News, the canonical URL for each story remains on the publisher’s own website. With AMP, from the perspective of typical users, the canonical URL is on google.com.

Google Infrastructure Security Design Overview 

Google:

This document gives an overview of how security is designed into Google’s technical infrastructure. This global scale infrastructure is designed to provide security through the entire information processing lifecycle at Google. This infrastructure provides secure deployment of services, secure storage of data with end user privacy safeguards, secure communications between services, secure and private communication with customers over the internet, and safe operation by administrators.

Quite a few interesting bits in this document, including this:

A Google data center consists of thousands of server machines connected to a local network. Both the server boards and the networking equipment are custom-designed by Google. We vet component vendors we work with and choose components with care, while working with vendors to audit and validate the security properties provided by the components. We also design custom chips, including a hardware security chip that is currently being deployed on both servers and peripherals. These chips allow us to securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google devices at the hardware level.

FTC Charges Qualcomm With Monopolizing Key Semiconductor Device Used in Cell Phones 

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission:

Extracted exclusivity from Apple in exchange for reduced patent royalties. Qualcomm precluded Apple from sourcing baseband processors from Qualcomm’s competitors from 2011 to 2016. Qualcomm recognized that any competitor that won Apple’s business would become stronger, and used exclusivity to prevent Apple from working with and improving the effectiveness of Qualcomm’s competitors.

I wonder who brought this complaint to the FTC — Apple, Qualcomm’s competitors, or both?

The Commission vote to file the complaint was 2-1. Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen dissented and issued a statement. Both a public and sealed version of the complaint were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on January 17, 2017.

Ohlhausen’s dissent is quite brief, and worth a read.

The Pipe Dream of Ara 

How far out in the weeds was Google’s modular “Project Ara” phone concept before they finally pulled the plug on it? This far out, according to Harrison Weber’s report for VentureBeat:

Imagine the modules developers might dream up. There were the obvious ideas, like specialized cameras and high-end speakers. But modules could get stranger, wilder, too. One module idea, in particular, frequently derailed meetings inside ATAP’s walls, as studio leaders strained to picture a module gold rush akin to Apple’s App Store.

“One of the modules that we were working on was basically like a tiny aquarium for your phone,” said the source. “It was a little tiny biome that would go inside of a module and it would have a microscope on the bottom part, and it would have live tardigrades and algae — some people call them water bears. They are the tiniest living organism. We had this idea to build a tardigrade module and we’d build a microscope with it. So you’d have this app on your phone and you could essentially look at the tardigrades up close and watch them floating around.” Brooklyn-based art, design, and technology agency Midnight Commercial conceived the idea, and was commissioned by Google to build it, demonstrating the depth of what developers could create.

Crowdsourcing Is No Way to Design a Phone (Or Anything Else for That Matter) 

Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:

ZTE’s crowdsourced phone has already had quite a journey. After the phone’s concept — an eye-tracking, self-adhesive device — was voted on by ZTE users, the phone was put on Kickstarter. Now ZTE is giving us a clearer idea of what to expect specs-wise. […]

Although it has the hardware specs down, ZTE told me at CES that they haven’t totally figured out the phone’s software, like how to get it to eye track. The company also didn’t divulge any details around the self-adhesive case, so we have no idea how the phone will stick to different surfaces. Still, Hawkeye costs $199 on Kickstarter if you feel like preordering and waiting for more details to trickle out. ZTE could use the help too; it has only raised $32,000 out of its $500,000 goal.

Good luck with that.

Samsung Heir Faces Arrest on Charges of Bribing South Korea’s President 

Choe Sang-Hun, reporting for the NYT:

The sprawling investigation into President Park Geun-hye of South Korea took a dramatic turn on Monday with word that prosecutors were seeking the arrest of the de facto head of Samsung, one of the world’s largest conglomerates, on charges that he bribed the president and her secretive confidante. […]

Mr. Lee is accused of instructing Samsung subsidiaries to make payments totaling 43 billion won ($36 million) to the family of Ms. Park’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and to two foundations that Ms. Choi controlled, in exchange for help from Ms. Park in facilitating a father-to-son transfer of ownership control of Samsung.

Shocking that something like this would happen to a company as morally scrupulous as Samsung. Shocking.

Apple Insider: ‘Safari Not Able to Play New 4K Videos From YouTube Homepage, Likely Due to VP9 Shift’ 

Mike Wuerthele, reporting for Apple Insider:

What appears to be Google’s shift to the VP9 codec for delivering 4K video on the YouTube homepage is preventing Safari users from watching videos uploaded to the service since early December in full 4K resolution, but not from viewing webpage-embedded videos in the same resolution.

The shift appears to have taken place on Dec. 6, according to a Reddit thread delving into the issue. Google has been pushing the open and royalty-free VP9 codec as an alternative to the paid H.265 spec since 2014, but has never said that it would stop offering 4K video on the YouTube site in other formats, like the Apple-preferred H.264.

I’m curious what Google’s thinking is here. My guess: a subtle nudge to get more Mac users to switch from Safari to Chrome. 4K playback is going to require H.264 support if they want it to work on iOS, though.

Android’s Emoji Problem 

One practical side-effect of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Android phones are running old versions of the OS: they don’t have the latest emoji.

The Unsung iPhone Sine Qua Non 

Jean-Louis Gassée:

In retrospect, the ascendency of Smartphone 2.0 and the way it has shaped our culture seems obvious and natural. But the celebration and contemplation overlooks a crucial Sine Qua Non, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition: Unlocking the carriers’ grip on handset specifications, marketing, and content distribution.

More specifically, we owe Steve Jobs an enormous debt of gratitude for breaking the carriers’ backs (to avoid a more colorful phrase).

It wasn’t enough that it was revolutionary in both hardware and software. Apple needed something no major handset maker had ever gotten before, or has gotten since: total control.

A Russian Journalist on What to Expect Under Trump 

Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev, in the wake of Trump’s farcical press conference last week:

Given that Putin is probably a role model for Trump, it’s no surprise that he’s apparently taking a page from Putin’s playbook. I have some observations to share with my American colleagues. You’re in this for at least another four years, and you’ll be dealing with things Russian journalists have endured for almost two decades now. I’m talking about Putin here, but see if you can apply any of the below to your own leader.

Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him. He always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in dull, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false moral equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him. So he can throw whatever he wants at you in response, and you’ll just have to swallow it. Some journalists will try to preempt this by asking two questions at once, against the protests of their colleagues also vying for attention, but that also won’t work: he’ll answer the one he thinks is easier, and ignore the other.

Josh Marshall responds:

Trump wants to bully the press and profit off the presidency. He’s told us this clearly in his own words. We need to accept the reality of both. The press should cover him on that basis, as a coward and a crook. The big corporate media organizations may not be able to use those words, I understand, but they should employ that prism. The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won’t obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don’t surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.

Apple in 2016: The Six Colors Report Card 

Jason Snell:

As we close the door on 2016, I thought it would be useful to look back at the year gone by and ask a panel of my peers who pay attention to Apple and related markets to take a moment and reflect on Apple’s performance in the past year.

This survey is such a valuable service. The consensus scores feel like a very accurate assessment of Apple’s year.

Q1 DF RSS Feed Sponsorships 

The Q1 sponsorship schedule is pretty open, including a last-minute opening for this coming week. If you’ve got a product or service to promote to DF’s discerning audience, get in touch.

Bloomberg on Andy Rubin’s New Company, Essential 

Mark Gurman and Mark Bergen, reporting for Bloomberg:

Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, is planning to marry his background in software with artificial intelligence in a risky business: consumer hardware. Armed with about a 40-person team, filled with recruits from Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Rubin is preparing to announce a new company called Essential and serve as its Chief Executive Officer, according to people familiar with the matter. […]

While still in the prototyping stage, Rubin’s phone is aimed at the top of the market where Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Alphabet Inc.’s new Pixel reside. It’s expected to include high-end materials and the ability to gain new hardware features over time, the people said. Representatives for Rubin and Sprint declined to comment.

The problem with any sort of modular design where the goal is to “gain new hardware features over time” is that the most important hardware components in a phone are the display, camera, CPU, and GPU, and Apple updates the iPhone with industry-leading displays, cameras, CPUs, and GPUs every year.

At least one prototype of Rubin’s phone boasts a screen larger than the iPhone 7 Plus’s (5.5-inches) but has a smaller overall footprint because of the lack of bezels, one of the people said. The startup is experimenting with enabling the phone’s screen to sense different levels of pressure, similar to an iPhone, the person said. Rubin’s team is testing an industrial design with metal edges and a back made of ceramic, which is more difficult to manufacture than typical smartphone materials, two of the people said. […]

Rubin is aiming to put the phone on sale around the middle of this year for a price close to that of an iPhone 7 ($649), a person familiar with the matter said, adding that all of the plans are still in flux.

If it’s in the prototyping stage right now, in January, and they don’t know what materials they’re going to use or what size the display will be, what chance do they possibly have of putting a phone on sale in the “middle of this year”?

Also, no word on what OS they’re using. I’m guessing Android with customizations, but it’s curious the story doesn’t say.

Speedtest Desktop Apps for Mac and Windows 

My thanks to Ookla for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their new native apps for Mac and Windows. I’ve been using their speedtest.net web service since forever to diagnose network problems and measure performance. They’ve had a native app for iOS for years, and it’s great too.

Now they have native desktop apps. Very simple, very obvious, and beautifully designed. Try them out today by downloading the Speedtest app from the Windows or Mac App Stores — free of charge. That’s it — excellent new native apps for network speed testing, totally free.

U.S. Appeals Court Allows Group to Sue Apple Over App Store ‘Monopoly’ 

Stephen Nellis and Dan Levine, reporting for Reuters:

iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple Inc over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday.

That sound you hear is thousands of indie iOS developers laughing at the notion of the App Store leading to “higher prices”.

Apple had argued that users did not have standing to sue it because they purchased apps from developers, with Apple simply renting out space to those developers. Developers pay a cut of their revenues to Apple in exchange for the right to sell in the App Store.

A lower court sided with Apple, but Judge William A. Fletcher ruled that iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, which gives iPhone users the right to bring a legal challenge against Apple. […]

The courts have yet to address the substance of the iPhone users’ allegations; up this point, the wrangling has been over whether they have the right to sue Apple in the first place.

I think it’s fair to say that users buy apps from Apple, not from the developers, so the fact that they can sue Apple strikes me as the correct ruling. But I don’t see how Apple can be ruled to have a “monopoly” — everyone knows Android phones comprise a majority of the market. It’s fair to object to Apple’s tight control over iOS, but you can’t fairly call it a “monopoly”.

PodSearch 

David Smith:

I have a knack for remembering audio. I’m awful at remembering names and faces, but if I hear something I can often recall it later. This has manifested itself as a bit of a party trick for the podcasts I listen to, where I can quickly find the section of a show where a topic was discussed even years after I heard it. Fun, but not particularly useful.

This situation gave me the idea for a little side project, PodSearch, empowering the same quick podcast recall for anyone. The concept was simple. Take a few of my favorite podcasts and run them through automated speech-to-text and make the result searchable.

This is really amazing. I really ought to pay to get true transcripts for The Talk Show (including the back catalog of episodes), but this is a pretty good way to search my show for keywords.

Chris Lattner on Ted Kremenek 

Chris Lattner on Ted Kremenek, his replacement as project lead on Apple’s Swift team:

One thing that I don’t think is fully appreciated by the community: Ted has been one of the quiet but incredible masterminds behind Swift (and Clang, and the Clang Static Analyzer) for many years. His approach and modesty has led many to misunderstand the fact that he has actually been running the Swift team for quite some time (misattributing it to me). While I’m super happy to continue to participate in the ongoing evolution and design of Swift, I’m clearly outmatched by the members of the Apple Swift team, and by Ted’s leadership of the team. This is the time for me to graciously hand things over to folks who are far more qualified than me. Swift has an incredible future ahead of it, and I’m really thrilled to be small part of the force that helps guide its direction going forward.

Consumer Reports Now Recommends MacBook Pros 

Consumer Reports:

New Apple software fixes a battery issue found in CR tests. The software, now in beta, will be part of a broad update soon.

This makes it sound like CR found a problem with the batteries. They didn’t. They found a bug in a Safari developer mode. It’s a real bug, but it’s clear now that it didn’t justify the initial sensational “Wow, first ever Apple laptop not recommended by Consumer Reports!” report. There’s no way they would’ve published that rushed initial report for a laptop from any brand other than Apple. Clickbait, pure and simple.

‘This Is Why You Don’t Kiss the Ring’ 

Good piece by Hamilton Nolan, writing for The Concourse, on Trump’s press conference yesterday, which had the tone and substance of a professional wrestling promotion:

These things are not normal. These things are not okay. These are actions that flout well-established ethical and civil norms. Admittedly, there is something thrilling about watching him do this. What will he do next? It always keeps us tuning in, in the same way that a violent alcoholic father will always keep his children on his toes. But we should not fool ourselves about what is happening in front of our eyes. We are all coming to realize that our civil society institutions may not be strong enough to protect the flawed but fundamentally solid democracy that we thought we had. We are witnessing the rise to power of a leader who does not care about norms. Since these norms were created to prevent political, social, economic, and cultural disasters, we do not need to wonder how this will end. It will end poorly.

Matthew Yglesias: ‘Beyond Wild Allegations, What’s Clearly True About Trump and Russia Is Disturbing’ 

Matthew Yglesias, writing for Vox:

Allegations now floating around range from the salacious (Russia has Trump sex tapes made at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow) to the serious (using intermediaries, Trump and Russia agreed to an explicit quid pro quo in which Russia would give him electoral help and in exchange he would shift US foreign policy). None of this is proven, and much of it is unprovable (if the FSB has a secret sex tape, how are we going to find it?) but the truth is that these kind of allegations, though difficult to resist, simply shouldn’t matter much compared to what’s in the public record.

Maureen Dowd Interviews Peter Thiel 

Maureen Dowd:

He recalls a story from his and Mr. Musk’s PayPal days, when Mr. Musk joined the engineering team’s poker game and bet everything on every hand, admitting only afterward that it was his first time playing poker. Then there was the time they were driving in Mr. Musk’s McLaren F1 car, “the fastest car in the world.” It hit an embankment, achieved liftoff, made a 360-degree horizontal turn, crashed and was destroyed.

“It was a miracle neither of us were hurt,” Mr. Thiel says. “I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, which is not advisable. Elon’s first comment was, ‘Wow, Peter, that was really intense.’ And then it was: ‘You know, I had read all these stories about people who made money and bought sports cars and crashed them. But I knew it would never happen to me, so I didn’t get any insurance.’ And then we hitchhiked the rest of the way to the meeting.”

Peter Thiel may well be smart, but he’s also dangerously foolish and solipsistic. You have to be a reckless fool to be that smart and get into any car without wearing a seatbelt, let alone a McLaren being driven by a daredevil like Musk.

On whether Thiel is concerned about Trump’s upcoming nominee (singular, I hope) for the Supreme Court:

“I don’t think these things will particularly change. It’s like, even if you appointed a whole series of conservative Supreme Court justices, I’m not sure that Roe v. Wade would get overturned, ever. I don’t know if people even care about the Supreme Court.”

Like I said: Peter Thiel may well be smart, but he’s also dangerously foolish and solipsistic.

The Math Behind a Theoretical 10.5-inch iPad 

Dan Provost:

The math works out perfectly. This new 10.5” iPad would have the exact same resolution as the 12.9” iPad Pro (2732 × 2048), but the same pixel density of the iPad mini (326 ppi instead of 264 ppi). Crunch the numbers, do a little Pythagorean Theorem, and you end up with a screen 10.5” diagonal (10.47” to be precise, but none of Apple’s stated screen sizes are exact). In terms of physcial dimensions, the width of this 10.5” screen would be exactly the same as the height of the iPad mini screen.

Can’t believe I didn’t think to do this again regarding this rumor. The math works out.

WSJ: ‘Apple Sets Its Sights on Hollywood With Plans for Original Content’ 

Ben Fritz, Tripp Mickle, and Hannah Karp, reporting for the WSJ:

Apple Inc. is planning to build a significant new business in original television shows and movies, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could make it a bigger player in Hollywood and offset slowing sales of iPhones and iPads.

These people said the programming would be available to subscribers of Apple’s $10-a-month streaming-music service, which has struggled to catch up to the larger Spotify AB. Apple Music already includes a limited number of documentary-style segments on musicians, but nothing like the premium programming it is now seeking.

Interesting, but I don’t get why they’re framing this in the context of “offset[ting] slowing sales of iPhones and iPads”. I think Apple would be pursuing the exact same original content course regardless of whether iPhone and iPad sales were booming, stagnant, or falling. It’s just the obvious thing to do.

App Extensions Are Not a Replacement for User Automation 

Sal Soghoian, writing for MacStories (there’s a byline I never expected to write — it’s going to take a while to get used to Sal as a civilian):

Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that Apple decided to combine their engineering resources to form app teams that delivered both iOS and macOS versions of applications.

In such a scenario it may seem logical to retain application features common to both platforms and to remove those that were perceived to require extra resources. Certainly Automation would be something examined in that regard, and the idea might be posited that: “App Extensions are equivalent to, or could be a replacement for, User Automation in macOS.” And by User Automation, I’m referring to Apple Event scripting, Automator, Services, the UNIX command line utilities, etc.

Let’s examine the validity of that conjecture, beginning with overviews of App Extensions and User Automation.

It’s a great article, and I think Sal’s case is very strong. App extensions are great, but they’re no replacement for automation. His conclusion:

But let’s take a step back, and think about this topic differently. Why not have both?

Perhaps it is time for Apple and all of us to think of User Automation and App Extensions in terms of “AND” instead of “OR.” To embrace the development of a new cross-platform automation architecture, maybe called “AutomationKit,” that would incorporate the “everyman openness” of User Automation with the focused abilities of developer-created plugins. App Extensions could become the new macOS System Services, and Automator could save workflows as Extensions with access to the Share Menu and new “non-selection” extension points. And AutomationKit could even include an Apple Event bridge so that it would work with the existing macOS automation tools.

Must-read piece for anyone who cares about the Mac as a power user platform. I’m OK with the current situation, where the Mac has these automation capabilities and iOS does not. I’d prefer to see iOS gain serious automation capabilities — even if it’s an altogether new technology. But I’m dreadfully afraid of a future where MacOS is devolved to iOS’s state, with no supported automation technologies.


The Right Way to Pop Your AirPods Out of the Case

Hey, I made a YouTube video:

 


Chris Lattner Lands at Tesla 

Tesla:

We would like to welcome Chris Lattner, who will join Tesla as our Vice President of Autopilot Software. Chris’ reputation for engineering excellence is well known. He comes to Tesla after 11 years at Apple where he was primarily responsible for creating Swift, the programming language for building apps on Apple platforms and one of the fastest growing languages for doing so on Linux.

This is a “holy shit!” hiring by Tesla. A year or two ago it felt like Apple was gunning for Tesla’s lead in electric cars. Now, it feels like Apple is out of the car game, and Tesla is gunning for Apple’s lead in computing. You can’t overstate what a star Chris Lattner is.

Update: Lattner’s only public comment to date is retweeting this observation by Daniel Jalkut:

I hope folks will not overlook that amid all the drama of @clattner_llvm leaving Apple, @tkremenek remains a huge asset for them.

Apple Statement on Consumer Reports’ MacBook Pro Battery Testing 

From a statement Apple sent to TechCrunch:

We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results. We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test.

So there’s a bug in Safari when you disable the cache (Develop: Disable Caches — and the entire Develop menu is off by default). Disabling the cache should decrease battery life in a test like CR’s. And if there’s a bug, I can see why it might dramatically decrease battery life. But that still doesn’t explain how Consumer Reports’s testing showed results ranging from 3.75 hours (poor) to 19.5 hours (seemingly too good to be true).

I still think something was/is wrong with Consumer Reports’s testing (19.5 hours?) but I don’t think it’s fair to say that disabling the caches is unfair or a flawed method. And while the preference setting is obscure, I wouldn’t call it “hidden”. To me, hidden preferences are the ones you can only enable from calls to defaults in Terminal. You can turn the Develop menu on by clicking a visible checkbox in the “Advanced” tab of Safari’s preferences.

Chris Lattner Is Leaving Apple 

Chris Lattner, in an email on the Swift Evolution mailing list:

I’m happy to announce that Ted Kremenek will be taking over for me as “Project Lead” for the Swift project, managing the administrative and leadership responsibility for Swift.org. This recognizes the incredible effort he has already been putting into the project, and reflects a decision I’ve made to leave Apple later this month to pursue an opportunity in another space. This decision wasn’t made lightly, and I want you all to know that I’m still completely committed to Swift. I plan to remain an active member of the Swift Core Team, as well as a contributor to the swift-evolution mailing list.

Sounds like an orderly, no-drama (and perhaps long-planned?) transition. Sure am curious what his “opportunity in another space” is, though.

Lattner is a really smart, very well-liked, and deeply respected guy. His leaving is a loss for Apple.

Swift really is Lattner’s baby — he developed the earliest versions of it by himself starting in 2010, before work expanded to a larger group in Apple’s Developer Tools group. (Swift wasn’t announced publicly until June 2014.) The Apple developer community is still in the middle of the transition to Swift. I’m a little surprised he’d leave in the midst of the upheaval. It’s a thriving language, but it is far from a completed project — neither the language itself nor the OS frameworks.

The Talk Show: ‘Now Banned in China’ 

Jim Dalrymple returns to the show for the first episode of 2017. Topics include New Year’s Eve, Siri/Alexa/Google Assistant, Apple’s aging AirPort and Mac Pro lineups, the future of desktop Macs, Apple Watch battery life, and rumors of upcoming new iPads.

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Yahoo Leftovers Will Be Called Altaba, Marissa Mayer Will Not Be on Board 

10 years ago, Yahoo was important enough to get its own on-stage segment during the iPhone announcement.

Merlin Mann Interviewing Jason Snell and Yours Truly From Macworld Expo 2007 

Five minute interview wherein Jason Snell very closely predicts the App Store. That whole Expo was so damn exciting. It’s an overused phrase, but that iPhone debut was an instance where it really did feel like we’d been given a very clear glimpse of the future.

Merlin’s audio for the file was hosted at Odeo (remember them?), but Jason has a copy hosted at The Incomparable.

The Thing About Trucks 

Rob Rhyne:

While Brooks and others are arguing that iPad will eventually replace the Mac, Gruber is arguing there will always be a need for macOS — specifically a desktop operating system. Despite what my aforementioned dalliance with iPad might suggest, I’m firmly in Gruber’s camp.

Here’s the thought experiment, which I used to inform my opinion: If you could take only one device with you, which one would you take? Ben Brooks or Federico Viticci would almost certainly choose an iPad.

However, I’d take a Mac. Exactly the 11-inch MacBook Air, which I’m using to write this article.

If I could only use one device, it’d be a 13-inch MacBook Pro. I bet a lot of people would pick an iPhone, though.

The Ten Year Anniversary of the Apple TV 

Ben Thompson:

There is, though, one more lesson, and that comes from the Apple TV: none of us ultimately know anything, including the late Steve Jobs. There’s no question that Jobs knew that Apple was on to something — he said so in the keynote, when he analogized the iPhone to the Mac and iPod. And yet, had he truly known that the iPhone would be exponentially more consequential than either, the Apple TV would have not made an appearance.

The truth is that dents in the universe are only observable after they have occurred; this is why their continued creation is best induced by the establishment of conditions in which risk-taking and experimentation are rewarded. The temptation is to adopt the mistaken mindset that all there is to be invented — and, more pertinently, to be adopted — already exists.

I like Apple TV a lot, and use it for just about all my TV watching other than sports, but it’s been a very different 10 years for Apple TV than it’s been for the iPhone.

Daring Fireball Live at Macworld Expo 2007 

Here’s a fun bit of history. Macworld magazine used to have a stage on the Macworld Expo show floor, and in 2007 I hosted a “Daring Fireball Live” show, with Panic cofounder Cabel Sasser as my guest. We went on stage at the end of the day on Tuesday, the day of the iPhone keynote. We weren’t even sure yet whether or not there was going to be an SDK for native apps.

This was so long ago, it was six months before the first run of The Talk Show started.

Update: Photo, courtesy Patrick Gibson.

How the World Reacted to the First iPhone 10 Years Ago 

The Telegraph has assembled a fine collection of vintage original iPhone claim chowder, including this gem from John Dvorak:

Now compare that effort and overlay the mobile handset business. This is not an emerging business. In fact it’s gone so far that it’s in the process of consolidation with probably two players dominating everything, Nokia and Motorola. […]

The problem here is that while Apple can play the fashion game as well as any company, there is no evidence that it can play it fast enough. These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within 3 months.

There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in a business this competitive.

Phil Schiller on the Original iPhone’s Launch 

Steven Levy, interviewing Phil Schiller on the tenth anniversary of the iPhone’s introduction:

Schiller also cast light on why the iPhone shipped as a closed system. During the gestation period of the iPhone, Apple hosted a spirited internal debate. Some advocated that the device be an open system, like the Macintosh, and others advised a more closed system, like the iPod. The argument was put on hold when the engineers realized that even if the open-system adherents won the debate, it would be impossible to implement in time for the launch. Steve Jobs shut down the discussion, Schiller recalls. “He said ‘We don’t have to keep debating this because we can’t have [an open system] right now. Maybe we’ll change our mind afterwards, or maybe we won’t, but for now there isn’t one so let’s envision this world where we solve the problem with great built-in apps and a way for developers to make web apps.”

A few thoughts:

  • iOS is now older than Mac OS X was at the time the iPhone was unveiled.
  • This was the cell phone in my pocket as I sat in Moscone West, watching the keynote.
  • I just took my original iPhone out of the closet and charged it up. It’s thick and heavy, but overall feels tiny. It’s sized like a cell phone, not a pocket computer.
  • Interesting that Apple is choosing to mark the tenth anniversary now, on the occasion of its unveiling. Perhaps they’ll do something again on June 29, the day we all stood in line outside Apple and AT&T stores, waiting to buy one.
Ten Years Ago Today Steve Jobs Introduced the iPhone 

It was the Apple keynote we had always wanted: the announcement of a game-changing product that Apple had successfully kept secret until Steve Jobs took it out of his pocket. Rumors were rampant that Apple was making “a phone”, but no one outside the company had any idea what kind of phone.

Here’s video of the announcement. See you in an hour.

Aaptiv: On-Demand Audio Fitness 

My thanks to Aaptiv for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Aaptiv fuses the motivation and guidance of a personal trainer with real, exciting music playlists to create an on-demand audio fitness experience like no other. Aaptiv is the perfect way to give your gym membership a boost, take that hotel gym visit up a notch, or experience a boutique indoor cycling class wherever you are. From running to yoga to strength training, Aaptiv delivers on-demand audio fitness motivation and training straight to your ear — anywhere, anytime. Music and motivation — everything you need.

Even better: Daring Fireball readers can get a 30 day free trial using code “DARING” at signup. Free app, free trial.

Apple’s Annual SEC Filing Reveals Missed Revenue and Profit Targets 

Tripp Mickle, reporting for the WSJ:

On Friday, Apple said in a regulatory filing that annual sales of $215.6 billion were 3.7% below target, and its operating income of $60 billion came up 0.5% short for the fiscal year ended Sept. 24.

Mr. Cook’s total 2016 compensation dropped to $8.75 million for the year, down 15% from $10.3 million in the year earlier. The decline was tied to his cash bonus, which hinged on exceeding revenue and profit targets set by the board. His base salary rose 50% to $3 million.

Mr. Cook’s total compensation doesn’t reflect the mega-stock grant he received in 2011 when he took over as CEO, an award valued at the time at about $376 million.

Bullet vs. Glass 

I’d never heard of a Prince Rupert’s Drop before. Fascinating materials science.


On Chuq Von Rospach’s ‘Apple’s 2016 in Review’, and the AirPort and Mac Pro Lineups in Particular

Chuq Von Rospach has a thoughtful look at the state of Apple. The whole piece is worth reading, but his comments on two particular products stood out to me. First, the AirPort lineup:

Apple has products it has let languish without any significant update for long periods of time. If you look at how Apple’s treated their AirPort line, you’d think Wi-Fi was a mature technology where nothing was really changing. In fact, a lot is happening including a big shift to mesh networks, and Apple has seemingly ignored all of that. It used to be you bought Airports because they were some of the best Wi-FI devices out there. Today, the only reason to buy them is you want easy, and because it has the Apple brand. They’re woefully out of date (and in fact, I just replaced mine with a set of Eero devices, which are Apple easy to use, and blow Apple’s products away in terms of performance). Rumors have come out that Apple has cancelled future development of these, but they’re still for sale. Why?

Something is clearly wrong with the AirPort line. Either it should have been updated long ago to remain state-of-the-art, or it should have been discontinued. Whether or not Apple should still be in the Wi-Fi router game is a reasonable argument. I think they should, but I can see the other side of the argument (that other companies do it well, and Apple should focus on areas where they stand alone). But there’s no reasonable argument for the current AirPort state of affairs.

And on the Mac Pro:

To put the Mac pro in context: This was the “Can’t Innovate my Ass” product that Apple produced to counter criticism that it wasn’t innovative any more and that it was letting the Mac product line languish (hey, this isn’t a new complaint…). They came out with something that was visually distinctive and they build a really interesting set of guts inside the trash can.

But here’s the problem: in retrospect, what they built was a device based around their own ego needs of proving their critics wrong, not a device that served the purposes of their power users. It’s not configurable, it’s not upgradeable, it’s not expandable: It’s pretty, and full of (for 2013) innovative hardware design, but is that really what Apple’s power users needed?

“What the hell happened with the Mac Pro?” is the most interesting question about Apple today. Because something clearly went way wrong with this product. I’m not convinced the basic idea for the design is unsound — the idea is that expansion would come in the form of external peripherals, rather than things you install inside the box. I still think that’s probably the future of “expandable” computing.

If Apple had updated the Mac Pro on a roughly annual basis, we wouldn’t be calling this a disaster. I’m sure there would still be people who would wish that Apple had stuck with the traditional tower form factor, but we wouldn’t all be saying “What the fuck?”

If Apple were going to update this Mac Pro, we should have seen it two years ago. If Apple were going to scrap this design and replace it with something else (like they did with the short-lived “sunflower” iMac G4 design in 2002), we should have seen the replacement a year ago. And if they were planning to abolish the Mac Pro, that should have happened this past year — or at least we should have seen prices drop significantly on these three-year-old workstations.1

Updates to the same basic design would make sense. An all-new design would make sense. Getting out of the Mac Pro game would make sense. Selling 1000-day-old pro workstations at the same prices as in 2013 makes no sense. Whatever the explanation is, this situation is an unmitigated disaster. 


  1. Other computer makers raise and lower prices as component prices change. Apple comes out with a price and sticks with it. One reason for that is branding. Stable prices at “round” numbers — $1499 instead of $1427 or whatever — are a sign of a premium quality brand. And they don’t lower prices on older products unless they keep them in the product lineup after their replacements have been introduced. What they almost never do is lower the price of a product just because it’s old, without a replacement. Thus, if Apple were to announce price drops on the Mac Pro lineup, without releasing updated models, I would take that as a very strong sign that they’re getting out of the standalone pro desktop market. But they haven’t done that — they’re still selling these Mac Pros at the same prices as when they were announced over three years ago. I take that as a sign that they plan to replace them, or at least hope to replace them, but have failed for whatever reason(s). ↩︎


Craig Hockenberry’s ‘Making Sense of Color Management’

When I was an incoming freshman at Drexel University in 1991, the school had a program, in collaboration with Apple, that allowed students to buy Macintosh computers at a significant discount. I had narrowed my choices to two: a Mac LC and a Mac SE/30. The SE/30 was significantly faster. But I wound up choosing the LC for one reason: the LC came with a color display, and the SE/30’s display was black and white. Even today, I love the original Mac’s 9-inch black and white display, but even then, just seven years after the Mac debuted, that love was nostalgic.

A color display was, for me, an irresistible draw.

The display on that Mac LC now sounds quaint. It measured only 12 inches diagonally (common for notebooks today, but the LC was a desktop), with 512 × 384 pixel resolution. A retina display it was not. And it could only display 256 colors at a time. Today that sounds ludicrous. In 1991 it sounded luxurious — most Macs were black-and-white and many PCs with color support could only show 16 colors at a time. Macs that could display “thousands” of colors cost thousands of dollars more.1

For a while, I was obsessed with a Mac golfing game. (Exciting, right?) As a computer nerd and budding designer, I noticed immediately that the game’s graphics seemed too good to be true — the scenery on the golf courses was clearly better looking than what was possible with the system’s 256 color palette. I delved into it and learned that while my LC indeed could not display more than 256 colors at a time, the OS provided APIs that allowed an app to specify which 256 colors to display.2 The golf game, for obvious reasons, used a custom palette with way more greens than the system’s standard palette. “That’s clever”, I remember thinking. I also remember thinking that 256 colors no longer seemed like “a lot”.

A few years later, after I’d immersed myself in the online indie Mac developer/power user community, I became aware of a design studio that specialized in a delightfully specific niche: software icons. Their name said it all: The Iconfactory. Soon, The Iconfactory started making their own apps, too, the user interfaces for which were just as exquisitely pixel-perfect as their icons. The Iconfactory’s developer was a very tall fellow named Craig Hockenberry.


Craig’s long been a good friend. So, when he asked me last year if I’d consider writing the foreword to a book he was writing about color management, I was honored.

Making Sense of Color Management came out last month. It is an excellent book — useful for both designers and developers who are trying to, well, make sense of the state of the art in color management. Here’s an example. You specify a certain exact RGB color in your CSS for a web page. Then you make a graphic for that web page, with the exact same RGB value for the background color. But when you put the graphic on the web page, the background colors don’t match up. But only in some browsers, on some platforms. What the hell is going on?

In this book, Craig tells us not just what to do, but why. It’s not merely a checklist of steps to follow blindly, but rather a foundation of knowledge. The famed physicist Richard Feynman believed that if he couldn’t explain a complex subject to an audience of first-year students, that meant he himself didn’t truly understand the subject. This book is proof that Craig now truly understands how modern color management works.

A few salient facts:

  • It’s an e-book, and it costs only $8.
  • You can read it in iBooks, Kindle, and as a PDF. You only have to buy it once.
  • It’s only 91 pages long. It contains everything you need to know, and nothing you don’t.
  • It’s published by A Book Apart, so unsurprisingly it’s well-edited and exquisitely-designed.

Color graphics have never been easy. As our technical capabilities have expanded (e.g. wide color gamut displays), so has the complexity involved in understanding how it all works. If you work in design or graphics, you should read this book.

See also: Craig’s blog post announcing the publication of the book, and the mini-site he created to accompany it. Last but not least, Craig and I discussed the book a few weeks ago on my podcast


  1. Back in the System 7 era of the 1990s, you could change the number of colors used by your display in the Monitors control panel. There were options like “Black and White” and numbers like 4, 16, and 256. After that, though, the system’s actual labels for how many colors to display were “Thousands” and “Millions”. It’s one of those little details that made me love the Mac. 256 is a manageable number. 65,536 is not.

    This preference for humane descriptions over technical descriptions lives on today in MacOS 10.12 Sierra’s Displays System Preferences panel. You can’t change the number of colors, but you can change the scale of the interface. If you have a retina display, rather than a list of pixel resolutions (e.g. 2560 × 1440), you simply see five side-by-side example icons, with “Larger Text” on the left, “More Space” on the right, and “Default” somewhere in between↩︎︎

  2. I even remember the 4-character code for the resource type that specified the custom color palettes: “clut”, for “color look up table”. I don’t think there’s any classic Mac app that I have stronger nostalgia for than ResEdit. I probably haven’t used ResEdit in 15 years, but I feel like I could sit down in front of it and be right at home. ↩︎


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