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Daring Fireball



By John Gruber



Updated: 2017-08-16T18:29:08Z

 



Chris Lattner Joins Google Brain

2017-08-16T18:29:08Z

Darrell Etherington, reporting for TechCrunch:

Chris Lattner, one of the key creators behind the Apple programming language Swift, is on the move again. After a short six-month stay at Tesla, which he joined last year from Apple to act as VP of Autopilot Software, Lattner announced on Twitter today that his next stop is Google Brain. […]

Google Brain is the search giant’s team focused on deep learning and artificial intelligence. It focused on helping to use AI across a range of products, tackling both research and product integration, working together with teams across Alphabet, including at DeepMind. Its ultimate stated motivation is to advance the field with open source projects, academic collaboration and publication.

A team that emphasizes open source projects sounds like a good fit for Lattner.




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2017-08-14T18:03:18-04:00

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Blanche Blackwell, Ian Fleming’s Mistress and the Inspiration for Pussy Galore, Dies at 104

2017-08-13T15:21:57Z

Matt Schudel, reporting for The Washington Post:

Blanche Blackwell’s romantic life inspired one of Noël Coward’s plays about an upper-crust love triangle, and swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn wanted to marry her. She was a member of one of Jamaica’s richest families but was best known as the mistress and muse of Ian Fleming, the rakish author who was the creator of James Bond.

Mrs. Blackwell died Aug. 8 in London at 104. Her death was confirmed by Andrew Lycett, Fleming’s biographer.

What a life.




Squarespace

2017-08-12T21:40:09Z

My thanks to Squarespace once again for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Create a website with Squarespace, and feel confident knowing your site is covered by the best. Think of Squarespace as your very own IT department, with free, unlimited hosting, top-of-the-line security, an enterprise-grade infrastructure, and around-the-clock support.

Try Squarespace for free. When you’re ready to subscribe, get 10 percent off at squarespace.com with offer code DARING17.




Pinned Tabs Are No Solution to the Lack of Favicons in Regular Safari Tabs

2017-08-12T01:26:34Z

Re: yesterday’s piece arguing that Safari should display favicons in its browser tabs, I’ve gotten dozens of emails and tweets pointing out that Safari does show favicons, albeit in monochrome, for pinned tabs.

First, so what? That’s great for pinned tabs but it’s not a solution in any way, shape, or form for regular tabs.

Second, they’re not even really favicons. They’re SVG files, not PNGs like real favicons. Even though SVG is an open format and Safari introduced this feature in 2015, no other browser in the world supports these images, so many websites don’t even have these graphics. Almost every website has a real favicon.




Miami Marlins Reportedly Sold to Derek Jeter Group

2017-08-11T21:09:45Z

Jack Baer, reporting for MLB.com:

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported — as did the Miami Herald earlier — that the Sherman-Jeter group won the bidding, with Sherman holding the controlling interest and plans for Jeter to be the team’s CEO.

Serious question for Yankees fans: does this preclude Jeter from playing on Old Timer’s Day? And can you even imagine what another Yankees-Marlins World Series would be like?




Google CEO Sundar Pichai Canceled an All-Hands Meeting About Gender Controversy Due to Employee Worries of Online Harassment

2017-08-11T19:04:51Z

Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode:

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has canceled the company’s much-anticipated meeting to talk about gender issues today. The move came after some of its employees expressed concern over online harassment they had begun to receive after their questions and names have been published outside the company on a variety of largely alt-right sites.

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” wrote Pichai to employees. “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”

This controversy strikes me as the biggest challenge Google has faced under Pichai’s leadership. And the fact that the Page/Brin/Schmidt Alphabet triumvirate has remained silent makes me think Pichai truly is the leader of Google, not just in title but in terms of where the buck actually stops.




Medium’s Dickbar Gets the Clap

2017-08-11T18:19:36Z

Whether you think this feature is a good idea or not, why the fuck would they put this button on top of the text of the article you’re trying to read?

I’m starting to think Medium is just fucking with me at this point.




★ Safari Should Display Favicons in Its Tabs

2017-08-11T18:32:22Z

It might sound silly if you’re not a heavy user of browser tabs, but I am convinced that the lack of favicons is holding back Safari’s market share. Back in May I wrote a piece titled “Safari vs. Chrome on the Mac”. From my conclusion: In short, Safari closely reflects Apple’s institutional priorities (privacy, energy efficiency, the niceness of the native UI, support for MacOS and iCloud technologies) and Chrome closely reflects Google’s priorities (speed, convenience, a web-centric rather than native-app-centric concept of desktop computing, integration with Google web properties). Safari is Apple’s browser for Apple devices. Chrome is Google’s browser for all devices. I personally prefer Safari, but I can totally see why others — especially those who work on desktop machines or MacBooks that are usually plugged into power — prefer Chrome. DF readers agree. Looking at my web stats, over the last 30 days, 69 percent of Mac users visiting DF used Safari, but a sizable 28 percent used Chrome. (Firefox came in at 3 percent, and everything else was under 1 percent.) As someone who’s been a Mac user long enough to remember when there were no good web browsers for the Mac, having both Safari and Chrome feels downright bountiful, and the competition is making both of them better. I got a ton of feedback on this piece — way more than typical for an article. One bit I heard from a few readers is that I gave Safari/WebKit short shrift on performance — the WebKit team cares deeply about performance and with regard to JavaScript in particular, WebKit is kicking ass. But really, taken as a whole, the response to my piece was about one thing and one thing only: the fact that Safari does not show favicons on tabs and Chrome does. There are a huge number of Daring Fireball readers who use Chrome because it shows favicons on tabs and would switch to Safari if it did. The reaction was so overwhelming I almost couldn’t believe it. The gist of it is two-fold: (1) there are some people who strongly prefer to see favicons in tabs even when they don’t have a ton of tabs open, simply because they prefer identifying tabs graphically rather than by the text of the page title; and (2) for people who do have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs. With many tabs open, there’s really nothing subjective about it: Chrome’s tabs are more usable because they show favicons. Here are two screenshot comparisons between Safari and Chrome from my 13-inch MacBook Pro. The first set shows 11 tabs: the TechMeme home page plus the first 10 stories linked today. The second set shows 17 tabs: the Daring Fireball homepage and the 16 items I’ve linked to so far this week. Safari showing 11 tabs from TechMeme Chrome showing 11 tabs from TechMeme Safari showing 17 tabs from Daring Fireball Chrome showing 17 tabs from Daring Fireball This is not even close. Once Safari gets to a dozen or so tabs in a window, the left-most tabs are literally unidentifiable because they don’t even show a single character of the tab title. They’re just blank. I, as a decade-plus-long dedicated Safari user, am jealous of the usability and visual clarity of Chrome with a dozen or more tabs open. And I can see why dedicated Chrome users would consider Safari’s tab design a non-starter to switching. I don’t know what the argument is against showing favicons in Safari’s tabs, but I can only presume that it’s because some contingent within Apple thinks it would spoil the monochromatic aesthetic of Safari’s toolbar area. I really can’t imagine what else it could be. I’m personally sympathetic to placing a high value on aesthetics even when it might come at a small cost to usability. But in this case, I think[...]



Original Post From Consumer Reports Revoking Recommendations for Microsoft Surface Laptops and Tablets

2017-08-10T19:20:33Z

Here’s the actual post from Consumer Reports regarding Surface hardware reliability:

A number of survey respondents said they experienced problems with their devices during startup. A few commented that their machines froze or shut down unexpectedly, and several others told CR that the touch screens weren’t responsive enough.

The new studies of laptop and tablet reliability leverage data on 90,741 tablets and laptops that subscribers bought new between 2014 and the beginning of 2017. Predicted reliability is a projection of how new models from each brand will fare, based on data from models already in users’ hands.

Worth noting that I’m deeply skeptical of anything computer- or tech-related that comes out of Consumer Reports’s lab testing. I think they shamelessly sensationalized the iPhone 4 antennagate story (which they later backtracked from), and I think they embarrassed themselves with last year’s bizarre (and rushed) report claiming wildly erratic battery life on the new TouchBar-equipped MacBook Pros. (See footnote 2 here for my results trying to replicate CR’s test. Quite possibly my favorite footnote in DF history.)

I’m certainly not saying we should take it as gospel, but I don’t see anything fishy about this laptop reliability report. It does not smell like clickbait.




Inside Facebook’s Institutional Policy of Copying Competitors

2017-08-10T18:35:48Z

Betsy Morris and Deepa Seetharaman, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook uses an internal database to track rivals, including young startups performing unusually well, people familiar with the system say. The database stems from Facebook’s 2013 acquisition of a Tel Aviv-based startup, Onavo, which had built an app that secures users’ privacy by routing their traffic through private servers. The app gives Facebook an unusually detailed look at what users collectively do on their phones, these people say.

The tool shaped Facebook’s decision to buy WhatsApp and informed its live-video strategy, they say. Facebook used Onavo to build its early-bird tool that tips it off to promising services and that helped Facebook home in on Houseparty.

So Facebook is using a VPN app that is supposed to protect users’ privacy to violate their privacy by analyzing which apps they use.

Also worth noting: in the iOS App Store, Onavo’s owner is still listed as “Onavo, Inc.”, not “Facebook”. I suspect a large number of Onavo users have no idea the app is owned by Facebook (I for one had never heard of it before this Journal story), and might think differently about entrusting their privacy to it if they knew.




Ulysses Is Switching to Subscription Pricing

2017-08-10T18:36:22Z

Max Seelemann, development lead for Ulysses:

Before getting into details, though, you should know that this switch was neither a quick decision, nor did we take it easily. We have been talking about it for over 2 years now. We’ve had uncountable discussions, and the topic came up at least once every month — yet we always postponed a decision. The sheer complexity and far reach of this change were too intimidating. I am not exaggerating in saying that this was the hardest decision in our whole time as professional software developers. After all, we have a system which currently works — after 14 years we are still around, Ulysses is still “a thing”, it’s even going better than ever before, and there are no immediate signs which hint at a change coming soon.

So why bother at all then? Well, we need a good way forward before we run into trouble. We want to make sure the app will be around for years and years to come. We want to heavily invest in its development, and this requires the right setting for our team, our families and our users. Writers want to rely on a professional tool that is constantly evolving, and we want to keep delivering just that.

This is a really thoughtful article, and I fully support their decision. I think subscription pricing is an excellent option for truly professional apps like Ulysses, particularly ones that are cross platform (Mac and iOS).




Consumer Reports: Microsoft Surface Is Dead Last for Reliability in Tablets and Laptops

2017-08-11T20:33:32Z

Paul Thurrott:

According to a Consumer Reports survey of over 90,000 tablet and laptop owners, an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices will experience “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.” This failure rate is the worst in the industry by far among mainstream PC makers, the publication says, and as a result, it is pulling its “recommended” designation for all Surface products.

Apple led the industry by a long shot. But that’s as it should be. Apple products tend to cost significantly more because they’re made better. Or put another way, Apple benefits greatly in a survey like this because they don’t make any low-end laptops. I’d love to see the results of a similar survey that only looked at laptops that cost $1000 or more. I think Apple would still come out on top, but I would also bet that the reliability of PCs in that price range is way higher than these results that include all machines sold.

But that’s why these results look particularly bad for Microsoft: the Surface lineup is priced and specced more like Apple’s lineup: $800 starting price for the tablet, $999 for Surface Laptop, and $1499 for Surface Book. My first thought when I looked at these reliability numbers is that it didn’t seem fair for Consumer Reports to single out Microsoft when they were just 1 point behind Toshiba and 3 behind Dell, but Toshiba and Dell sell millions of astoundingly low-priced craptops. Dell’s lineup starts at just $179.

Thurrott:

Microsoft had benefited from a curiously skewed series of positive editorial stories in mainstream publications because of its perceived innovation with PCs compared to Apple. I dispute that view, actually, and have wondered aloud how any PC maker could be called an innovator when they just released their first laptop in 2017.

The Verge, last week: “The Best Laptop You Can Buy Right Now (2017)”. Bonus points for the sub-head: “Get a laptop that’ll last.”




Unobstruct: The Anti-Dickbar Content Blocker for Safari on iOS

2017-08-10T17:11:14Z

Troy Gaul:

As had happened in the past, I became annoyed by the bar and floating button at the bottom of the Medium page, which on such a small screen used up a not-insignificant amount of the vertical space. John Gruber had recently written about this in his post Medium and the Scourge of Persistent Sharing Dickbars on Daring Fireball.

However, this time, something occurred to me: this was a Safari view, so what if I had a Safari Content Blocker app that removed these bars the same way ad-blocking apps remove ads from web pages?

I went to my computer, started a new Xcode project, and a little while later, I had a way to remove these from Medium’s pages on my iPhone and iPad for good.

So good, so simple. This is the best dollar you’ll spend this month. Just $1 and poof, dozens and dozens of dickbars will just disappear from your reading experience.




The Yankees Will Have Names on the Back of Their Jerseys for the First Time, as Part of a Dumb-Ass MLB Stunt

2017-08-09T22:32:29Z

This is a goddamn disgrace.

The Boss would not have stood for this.




‘I’m a Google Manufacturing Robot and I Believe Humans Are Biologically Unfit to Have Jobs in Tech’

2017-08-10T17:45:07Z

Ben Kronengold, writing for McSweeney’s:

I, a manufacturing robot at Google Factory C4.7, value diversity and inclusion. I also do not deny that machines are sometimes given preference to humans in the workplace. All I’m suggesting in this document is that humans’ underrepresentation in tech is not due to discrimination. Rather, it is a result of biological differences. Specifically, humans have a biology.




Geraldine DeRuiter Tried Soylent

2017-08-09T21:48:03Z

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Last week, I decided to try Soylent.

For those unfamiliar with this “food” product, Soylent is a high-protein drink designed to appeal to lifehackers, dieters, and doomsday cult members who are maybe a little shy and don’t want to come out of their bunker for communal meals. It has an incredibly long shelf-life, and provides you nutrition without all the pesky side-effects that food usually has, like chewing, tasting like something, and being an excuse for human interaction.

As a bonus, it also apparently gives you raging diarrhea, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Yeah, no thanks.




On the Numero

2017-08-11T19:45:15Z

Jonathan Hoefler:

Nº was the number sign before # became a number sign, and it refreshingly serves this one and only purpose. Compare the #, which when preceding a number is read as “number” (“#1 in my class”), but when following a number means “pound” or “pounds”. If you’re curious what the # symbol has to do with the abbreviation lbs., here’s one possible missing link. (“70# uncoated paper”), leading to printshop pile-ups like “#10 envelope, 24# bond.” To programmers, a # can mean either “ignore what follows” (as in a Python comment) or “use what follows” (when referencing a page fragment, or a Unicode value in HTML.) To a proofreader, a # means “insert space,” so in the middle of a numbered list, the notation “line #” does not mean “line number,” but rather “add a line space.” Because of #’s resemblance to the musical symbol for “sharp” (♯), it’s a frequent stand-in for the word “sharp,” and often the correct way of rendering a trademarked term such as The C# Programming Language. The # is rapidly assuming musical duties as well, especially in online databases, leading to catalog collisions like “Prelude & Fugue #13 in F#.” How fortunate a designer would be to have a numero symbol, with which to write “Prelude & Fugue Nº 13 in F#,” or “Nº 10 Envelope, 24# bond.”




Jason Snell on Editorial

2017-08-09T16:47:25Z

Jason Snell:

When I mention that I write a lot on the iPad these days, I’m often asked what iOS apps I’m using to write. The truth is, the story keeps shifting — I’ve never really settled on a single app, because none of them give me everything that I want.

These days I’m using Editorial most of the time. It’s got full Markdown support and syncs with Dropbox, but those features have basically become table stakes for iOS text editors. What has put Editorial over the top for me, at least for the moment, is its powerful set of user-creatable and shareable workflows. These powerful features can be assigned to keyboard shortcuts, which is huge for me since I write articles on my iPad Pro while attached to an external keyboard.




Amazon and Tencent Back Andy Rubin’s Essential

2017-08-09T16:33:15Z

Rolfe Winkler, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Essential Products Inc., the smartphone maker founded by the creator of Google’s Android mobile software, confirmed it has a new $300 million war chest as it prepares for the seemingly insurmountable task of taking on Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Inc.

The startup on Wednesday unveiled the large roster of investors taking a chance on it, including Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Amazon Inc.’s Alexa Fund. Essential also disclosed that Best Buy Co. stores and Amazon.com Inc. will be its retail launch partners in the U.S.

Curious if this explains the shipping delay on the first phone. Probably not.




I Don’t Think There’s Going to Be an ‘iPhone 7S’

2017-08-09T00:04:55Z

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

We’ve received a couple of photos from Apple tipster Sonny Dickson this morning that depict a dummy model for the ‘iPhone 7s Plus’, one of three new phones Apple is said to be launching this year. Although marketing branding is unknown, the ‘7s’ devices are expected to iterate on the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus chassis.

One distinction will be the introduction of glass backs (rather than aluminium), which this dummy model incorporates. It is believed that the phones will support inductive charging.

If these are legit, there’s no way Apple is going to call these devices “7S”. The S models have had minor cosmetic differences from the preceding year’s non-S iPhones, but these phones are sporting entire new designs.

I also think that the “7S” name would contribute to the notion that Apple’s “S” phones are only modest updates, when the truth is that the S phones tend to get the bigger technical improvements. I suspect Apple will use one of these sets of names:

  • iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8 Pro; or
  • iPhone, iPhone Plus, iPhone Pro

Either of these naming schemes would make all three new iPhones sound new.




Daring Fireball Display Ads for August and September

2017-08-08T21:21:23Z

This summer I started selling my own display ads on Daring Fireball. If you’re reading this on the website, you can see one of them right now over on the left. For now I’m limiting them to five spots per month, and I’ve still got one open for the remainder of August.

September is wide open, and is generally the highest-traffic month of the year on DF, because that’s the month when new iPhones tend to be announced. If you’ve got a product or service you want to promote to DF’s smart and curious audience, get in touch.




Disney Is Pulling Its Movies From Netflix and Starting Its Own Streaming Service

2017-08-08T21:13:07Z

Michelle Castillo, reporting for CNBC:

CEO Bob Iger told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin Disney had a “good relationship” with Netflix, but decided to exercise an option to move its content off the platform. Movies to be removed include Disney as well as Pixar’s titles, according to Iger. Netflix said Disney movies will be available through the end of 2018 on its platform. Marvel TV shows will remain.

The new platform will be the home for all Disney movies going forward, starting with the 2019 theatrical slate which includes Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, and the upcoming live-action The Lion King. It will also be making a “significant investment” in exclusive movies and television series for the new platform.

Part of me says “I’m surprised it took them this long”, and the other part says “How many different streaming services am I going to wind up paying for every month?”




David Letterman to Host Netflix Interview Series

2017-08-08T19:45:35Z

Cynthia Littleton, reporting for Variety:

“I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix,” Letterman said. “Here’s what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely.”

This is the best news I’ve seen all year.




[Sponsor] Squarespace

2017-08-08T15:32:17-04:00

Create a website with Squarespace, and feel confident knowing your site’s covered by the best. Think of Squarespace as your very own IT department, with free, unlimited hosting, top-of-the-line security, an enterprise-grade infrastructure, and around-the-clock support. Try Squarespace for free. When you’re ready to subscribe, get 10% off at squarespace.com with offer code DARING17.




The Talk Show: ‘Nancy Reagan Was Right’

2017-08-06T22:17:49Z

Special guest Glenn Fleishman returns to the show. Topics include China forcing Apple to remove VPN apps from the Chinese App Store, Wi-Fi vs. LTE networking, the open workspaces in Apple Park, Glenn’s new letterpress project, the HomePod OS leak and iPhone D22, and more.

Sponsored by:

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Vic Gundotra Is Now an iPhone Proponent

2017-08-06T20:36:43Z

Vic Gundotra (yes, that Vic Gundotra):

Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don’t mind being a few years behind, buy an Android.

The cognitive dissonance of the Android fans in the comments on this post is something to behold.




DuckDuckGo

2017-08-06T00:33:12Z

My thanks to DuckDuckGo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. DuckDuckGo is the search engine that doesn’t track you. DuckDuckGo and Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention together solve the top three private browsing misconceptions:

  • 41% of users believe private browsing prevents websites tracking them.
  • 39% of users believe private browsing prevents ads from tracking them.
  • 35% of users believe private browsing prevents a search engine from knowing their searches.

None of those things are true. I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as my primary web search engine since 2015, and I haven’t looked back.




★ Conjecture Regarding the Precise Details of the iPhone D22 Display Resolution

2017-08-05T06:32:52Z

I have a highly-educated guess as to the dimensions of the display in D22: 5.8 inches, 2436 x 1125, 462 PPI, true @3x retina with no scaling. Thanks to last week’s inadvertent release of an unredacted build of HomePod’s version of iOS, we know some things that we didn’t know before. One of those things is that the new edge-to-edge iPhone is codenamed D22, and that the OS explicitly supports an iPhone display with hardware resolution of 2436 × 1125 pixels. For reference, all 4.7-inch iPhones to date (6, 6S, and 7) have a display resolution of 1334 × 750, at 326 PPI. All Plus models to date have a display resolution of 1920 × 1080, at 401 PPI. Apple publishes these numbers on the iPhone tech specs comparison page. Back in 2014, in the lead-up prior to the announcement of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, I tried to guess the pixel dimensions of both phones: But after giving it much thought, and a lot of tinkering in a spreadsheet, here is what I think Apple is going to do: 4.7-inch display: 1334 × 750, 326 PPI @2x 5.5-inch display: 2208 × 1242, 461 PPI @3x @2x means the same “double” retina resolution that we’ve seen on all iOS devices with retina displays to date, where each virtual point in the user interface is represented by two physical pixels on the display in each dimension, horizontal and vertical. @3x means a new “triple” retina resolution, where each user interface point is represented by three display pixels. A single @2x point is a 2 × 2 square of 4 pixels; an @3x point is a 3 × 3 square of 9 pixels. I could be wrong on either or both of these conjectured new iPhones. I derived these figures on my own, and I’ll explain my thought process below. No one who is truly “familiar with the situation” has told me a damn thing about either device. I have heard second- and third-hand stories, though, that lead me to think I’m right. My guess about the 4.7-inch display was exactly correct. My guess about the 5.5-inch display was wrong, but my logic was right. All 5.5-inch iPhone Plus models have hardware 1920 × 1080 displays at 401 PPI, but at their default scaling (“Standard” as opposed to “Zoomed” in the Display section of Settings) they pretend to be 2208 × 1242 displays at 461 PPI, exactly as I predicted. (Actually, it’s better to think of it as 462 pixels per inch, because 462 is evenly divisible by 3, which is what you need to do convert pixels into points on an @3x retina display. So let’s use 462 henceforth. I should have thought of this back in 2014.) iOS scales the user interface on the Plus models from the virtual resolution of 2208 × 1242 to the actual hardware resolution of 1920 × 1080 on the fly. The upside of this is that the display is less expensive and consumes less power. The downside is that the UI is not rendered pixel perfectly — the scaling uses anti-aliasing to fake it. But because the pixels are so very small, almost no one has sharp enough eyes to notice it, and because the physical resolution is so high (401 PPI), it looks sharper than the 4.7-inch displays which are running at their “true” resolution, with no scaling. But pixel-perfect “true” @3x would look eve[...]



Pilots Share Photos Between Planes via AirDrop at 35,000 Feet?

2017-08-05T06:29:25Z

If this is legit, this is amazing.

Update: Looks like it’s a hoax.




Bloomberg: Apple Plans to Release a Cellular-Capable Watch

2017-08-05T06:50:09Z

Mark Gurman, Scott Moritz, and Ian King, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is planning to release a version of its smartwatch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device’s reliance on the iPhone, people familiar with the matter said.

Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home.

Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation.

It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal this could be. No mention in Businessweek’s report, though, of the all-new form factor that I’ve heard is coming for this year’s new watches. That tidbit came from an unconfirmed little birdie, though, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it.




Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch User Interface

2017-08-05T06:01:46Z

Charlie Deets:

I’ve been using the Switch for a few months and I can’t stop thinking about its user interface. Nintendo’s newest console is in the golden era of its UI. The base features you would expect out of a game system are covered, but cruft has not yet been added to the experience. I’ve heard a lot of people say they long for more from the Switch’s UI, but I love the bare bones simplicity.

Nintendo was dealt a somewhat unique interface problem for a gaming console: design an interface for a single device that can be used mobile or at home with a large variety of input and output.

We got a Switch a few weeks ago, and I agree with just about everything Deets writes. It’s a great interface and experience, both in concept and in execution. And Nintendo solved some very hard problems to make it seem so easy and obvious.

The Nintendo Switch is a triumph.




Obama 3

2017-08-04T18:39:44Z

Today is Barack Obama’s birthday. Perhaps you’d like to celebrate by buying one of these sweet new t-shirts from my pal Brian Jaramillo. (Brian has handled the printing and shipping of all DF t-shirts for the last 10 years or so — he’s the best screen-printer I know.)

$5 for each T-shirt ordered will go to ProPublica, supporting great journalism in the public interest.




Marques Brownlee Goes Hands-On With Red Hydrogen Prototypes

2017-08-04T18:33:00Z

Marques Brownlee has a great video showing what Red intends their upcoming Hydrogen phone to look like. Some thoughts:

  • It’s big. That’s a 5.7-inch display, and side-by-side it dwarfs an iPhone 7 Plus.
  • It’s clearly designed not to be used in case. The Kevlar frame, with finger-sized ridges for gripping, looks like it is a protective case. Camera makers know how to make expensive gear that can take a beating in use.
  • Brownlee wasn’t allowed to show the “holographic” display mode, but he seems impressed by it.

Red is taking pre-orders for two models: aluminum for $1195, and titanium for $1595.




Apple Expands TestFlight Tester Limit to 10,000 Users

2017-08-04T17:39:29Z

Chance Miller, writing for 9to5Mac earlier this week:

Apple today has announced that it is expanding the tester limits in its TestFlight program. Whereas developers were previously limited to inviting 2,000 users to beta test an application, they can now invite up to 10,000 external testers.

This might be purely coincidental timing with regard to the controversy over VPN apps being removed from the App Store in China, but TestFlight is a path around the App Store.




The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe

2017-08-04T16:58:20Z

Lovely profile of the engineering team still working to control Voyager I and II:

Fortunately, the malfunctioning backup receiver was still drawing current. They guessed that its oscillator, which allows it to accept a wide range of frequencies, had quit, essentially shrinking the target for transmissions from Earth. Assuming a much narrower bandwidth, and manually subtracting the Doppler effect, they recalibrated their signal. It worked — but to this day, the same calculation must precede every command. The original receiver remains useless: one engineer’s simple oversight nearly doomed humankind’s lone visit to Uranus and Neptune. ‘‘You like to think you have checks and balances,’’ Chris Jones, JPL’s chief engineer, who designed Voyager’s fault protection, told me. ‘‘In reality, we all worry about being that person.’’

Today the Voyagers are 10 billion and 13 billion miles away, the farthest man-made objects from Earth. The 40th anniversary of their launch will be celebrated next month.

I wasn’t aware of just how narrow the window of opportunity was that made it possible for these probes to visit all four of the outer planets:

One of the greatest obstacles to planetary science has always been the human life span: Typically, for instance, a direct flight to Neptune would take about 30 years. But in the spring of 1965, Gary Flandro, a doctoral student at Caltech, noticed that all four outer planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — would align on the same side of the sun in the 1980s. If a spacecraft were launched in the mid- to late 1970s, it could use the gravity of the first body to slingshot to the second, and so on. Such a trajectory would add enough speed to shorten the total journey by almost two-thirds. What’s more, this orbital configuration would not appear again for 175 years.




The Right Way to Pop Your AirPods Out of the Case, One More Time

2017-08-02T23:25:12Z

Back in January I made a YouTube video showing how best to remove AirPods from their case:

width="500" height="281" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/S3RNqcc0xWw?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

As of a few weeks ago that video had over 100,000 views, and while I hadn’t posted any other videos since then, I had a bunch of subscribers to my channel.

Yesterday I spent a few hours tightening the security of my various Google accounts (adding two-step security). As part of this, I deleted an account using an @daringfireball.net address that (I thought) I only used for viewing shared Google Docs, and added that same address as an alternate sign-in address for an existing Google account. Turns out, that was the account I’d used to create my YouTube account back in January. There doesn’t seem to be any way to restore that deleted account because I had already reassigned the email address it used to another account. Oops.

I just created a new channel and re-uploaded the same video. That’s what you see embedded above. If you subscribed before, please do again — this is the sort of mistake you only make once.

I don’t really care about the lost views or subscribers. I don’t have plans to get deeply into YouTube, and if I do, I ought to reclaim those subscribers quickly. I hate breaking links though — I mean I really hate breaking links — and now I’ve inadvertently broken the link to my video for anyone who embedded it or tweeted it. Sorry about that.




Steven Levy: ‘How Apple Is Putting Voices in Users’ Heads — Literally’

2017-08-02T22:04:38Z

Steven Levy:

My conversation with Mathias Bahnmueller started as pretty much all my phone interviews do. “Can you hear me?” he asked, and I replied affirmatively. Then I asked him the same question. His answer was yes — he could hear me very clearly. And this was a tiny miracle.

That’s because Bahnmueller suffers from hearing loss so severe that a year ago he underwent surgery to install a cochlear implant — an electronic device in the inner ear that replaces the usual hearing mechanism. Around a million patients have undergone this increasingly mainstream form of treatment, and that’s just a fraction of those who could benefit from it. (Of the 360 million people worldwide with hearing loss, about 10 percent would qualify for the surgery.) “For those who reach a point where hearing aids no longer help, this is the only solution,” says Allison Biever, an audiologist in Englewood, CO who works with implant patients. “It’s like restoring a signal in a radio station.”

With this new integration, the iPhone transmits directly to the cochlear implant. It’s like a bionic ear:

Merging medical technology like Apple’s is a clear benefit to those needing hearing help. But I’m intrigued by some observations that Dr. Biever, the audiologist who’s worked with hearing loss patients for two decades, shared with me. She says that with this system, patients have the ability to control their sound environment in a way that those with good hearing do not — so much so that she is sometimes envious. How cool would it be to listen to a song without anyone in the room hearing it? “When I’m in the noisiest of rooms and take a call on my iPhone, I can’t hold my phone to ear and do a call,” she says. “But my recipient can do this.”

I’m a sucker for a good accessibility story.




Support Steven Troughton-Smith’s Work

2017-08-02T15:53:07Z

Steven Troughton-Smith has been at the forefront of iOS spelunking for the last decade. He pokes and prods at iOS and has an uncanny ability to find and identify interesting stuff (including a bunch of things just this week in Apple’s prematurely released image of the HomePod version of iOS). We, outside Apple, know far more about how iOS works thanks to him. He’s both extraordinarily clever and extraordinarily generous about sharing what he learns with the world.

Steven has a Patreon campaign to generate recurring funds to allow him to spend more time on this stuff. And he doesn’t just take things apart — he makes cool things, like this Mac-style tiling window system demo project for iOS, which he provides to anyone who backs his work for just $10/month. I am happy to back his work, and I hope a lot of you are too. Even just $1/month could make a huge difference if enough of you join in.




iPhone D22’s Nickname May Have Been ‘Ferrari’

2017-08-02T03:49:47Z

AppleInsider, back in December 2016:

Surfaced by a Sina Weibo user known for leaking information from Apple’s East Asian supply chain, the supposed documentation suggests Apple plans to market three iPhone models designated D20, D21 and D22 in 2017, reports Chinese blog cnBeta. Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were codenamed D10 and — confusingly — D20 during development, the report said.

A three-model lineup jibes with rumors that Apple intends to launch two upgraded iPhone 7 models, likely branded “iPhone 7s” and “iPhone 7s Plus,” alongside a high-end version stuffed with exotic technology. This top-tier model, expected to boast a glass sandwich design, borderless OLED display, “invisible” home button, wireless charging and more, carries the internal codename “Ferrari,” according to today’s leaks.

This is the first reference to D22 that I’ve been able to find, and thanks to Apple’s premature release of an iOS 11.0.2 image, we now know D22 is the code name for the upcoming new high-end iPhone I’ve been referring to as “iPhone Pro”.

I’m nearly certain cnBeta was wrong about D20. Apple would never re-use a code name. It defeats the whole point of a code name. The iPhone 7 was D10 and iPhone 7 Plus was D11. You can find those code names in the shipping versions of iOS 10.

I’m pretty sure D20 is the new 4.7-inch iPhone, and D21 the Plus-sized 5.5-inch model. The obvious product names for these devices would be 7S and 7S Plus, respectively. D10/D11 last year, D20/D21 this year — with D22 as the new cherry on top. That’s how Apple code names products.

More interesting to me is the nickname “Ferrari”. Sounds like a good nickname for a sleek device that costs more, doesn’t it?




Botched Release of Beta HomePod OS Reveals Details of New 2017 iPhones and HomePod

2017-08-02T22:05:04Z

Jason Snell, collecting a story revealed in a series of tweets over the weekend:

Nobody digs into Apple software releases like Steve Troughton-Smith. And this is a big one. Apparently Apple released a firmware download for the HomePod (not due until the end of the year!) on its servers, and inside that firmware there’s information about future iPhone hardware and support for an infrared face unlock feature code-named Pearl ID.

Among the details revealed:

How in the world does something like this happen? My understanding is that Apple is (or at least was) on the cusp of a widespread deployment of prototype HomePods to employees. Someone prepared an over-the-air software update and because it was intended to be distributed only to Apple employees, the OS was compiled without all the usual flags set to omit code that pertains to unreleased hardware. (Kind of makes sense, insofar as HomePod itself is unreleased hardware.) Building the OS without those flags set may not have been a mistake. But distributing it via a world-readable server was.




Apple’s Third Quarter Results

2017-08-01T21:37:46Z

Apple:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2017 third quarter ended July 1, 2017. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $45.4 billion and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $1.67. These results compare to revenue of $42.4 billion and earnings per diluted share of $1.42 in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 61 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

When you look at the data, the most striking number is that iPad sales were up 15 percent year-over-year. That’s the first time that’s happened in a few years. But iPad revenue was only up about 2 percent. That suggests to me, strongly, that this sales bump was driven strongly by the new 9.7-inch iPad that starts at $329.

See also: Jason Snell’s cornucopia of graphs visualizing Apple’s results.




Businessweek Profiles Stripe Co-Founders Patrick and John Collison

2017-08-03T03:19:18Z

Ashlee Vance, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek:

One way to justify the number: Stripe’s new partnership with Amazon.com Inc., the largest and most sought-after customer on the internet. Over the past couple of weeks, Stripe began handling a large, though undisclosed, portion of Amazon’s transactions. Neither company will address the scope of the deal — which was only revealed by Stripe’s addition of Amazon’s logo to its website — but it could help Stripe greatly increase its transaction volume. (Amazon had no comment.)

Seven years in, however, Stripe’s mission is less to send more books, vacuums, and grooming kits into the world than to “increase the GDP of the internet,” Patrick says. To do this, the company is beginning to move beyond payments by writing software that helps companies retool the way they incorporate, pay workers, and detect fraud. It’s part of an ambitious bid to revamp how online business has been conducted for 20 years and to give anyone with a bright idea a chance to compete. “We think giving two people in a garage the same infrastructure as a 100,000-person corporation — the aggregate effects of that will be really good,” Patrick says.

The key to Stripe’s success was their laser-like focus on developers. They made Stripe the easiest way to add payments to any system, and they have a great reputation for security and reliability.




Senator Jeff Flake: ‘My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump’

2017-08-01T21:03:52Z

Senator Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona:

Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote, four months into the new presidency, “The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,” and conservative institutions “with the blessings of a president … have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion.”

For a conservative, that’s an awfully bitter pill to swallow. So as I layered in my defense mechanisms, I even found myself saying things like, “If I took the time to respond to every presidential tweet, there would be little time for anything else.” Given the volume and velocity of tweets from both the Trump campaign and then the White House, this was certainly true. But it was also a monumental dodge. It would be like Noah saying, “If I spent all my time obsessing about the coming flood, there would be little time for anything else.” At a certain point, if one is being honest, the flood becomes the thing that is most worthy of attention. At a certain point, it might be time to build an ark.

Under our Constitution, there simply are not that many people who are in a position to do something about an executive branch in chaos. As the first branch of government (Article I), the Congress was designed expressly to assert itself at just such moments.

Flake is a sitting senator in Trump’s own party.




★ On Apple Removing VPN Apps From the App Store in China

2017-08-01T00:52:27Z

The real issues are two-fold: Should Apple being doing business in China at all? Should the App Store remain the only way to install apps on iOS devices? From the company blog of ExpressVPN, a major VPN provider serving users in China: We received notification from Apple today, July 29, 2017, at roughly 04:00 GMT, that the ExpressVPN iOS app was removed from the China App Store. Our preliminary research indicates that all major VPN apps for iOS have been removed. Users in China accessing a different territory’s App Store (i.e. they have indicated their billing address to be outside of China) are not impacted; they can download the iOS app and continue to receive updates as before. […] Users in China can continue to stay connected to the open internet with ExpressVPN’s apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and other platforms. From Paul Mozur’s report for The New York Times: Sunday Yokubaitis, president of Golden Frog, a company that makes privacy and security software including VyprVPN, said its software, too, had been taken down from the app store. “We gladly filed an amicus brief in support of Apple in their backdoor encryption battle with the F.B.I.,” he said, “so we are extremely disappointed that Apple has bowed to pressure from China to remove VPN apps without citing any Chinese law or regulation that makes VPN illegal.” He added, “We view access to internet in China as a human rights issue, and I would expect Apple to value human rights over profits.” That’s a popular sentiment — that Apple should have stood up to China’s demands and accepted the consequences, even if it meant losing sales in China. But it’s disingenuous to pretend that this situation is not fraught with complications. It’s also disingenuous to claim Apple has “bowed to pressure from China to remove VPN apps without citing any Chinese law or regulation that makes VPN illegal”. The very next paragraph in the Times story says: In a statement, Apple noted that the Chinese government announced this year that all developers offering VPNs needed to obtain a government license. “We have been required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations,” the company said. “These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.” Here’s a story from The South China Morning Post in January about this crackdown: Beijing has launched a 14-month nationwide campaign against unauthorised internet connections, including virtual private network (VPN) services, which allow users to bypass the country’s infamous “Great Firewall”. A notice released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Sunday said that all special cable and VPN services on the mainland needed to obtain prior government approval — a move making most VP[...]



★ Unordered Lists in Markdown

2017-07-26T18:02:03Z

I’ve always been curious which punctuation character people prefer for unordered lists in Markdown, so I asked on Twitter.

In Markdown, you can create unordered lists using any of three characters as the “bullets”: asterisk (*), hyphen (-), or plus (+). Why all three? More or less: why not? Better to let people choose the character that feels most natural to them. I know a lot of Markdown users choose different characters for different levels of hierarchical lists, and that went into the original thinking as well.

I’ve always been curious which list markers people actually use, so I did a poll on Twitter. The results:

  • 42% Asterisk (*)
  • 54% Hyphen (-)
  • 04% Plus (+)

You can only respond to Twitter polls using Twitter’s official clients, and because a lot of my followers have the good taste to use third-party clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific, I wound up getting a lot of “responses” by way of replies to my tweet. They don’t show up in the results above, but eyeballing them, they’re right in line: lots of fans of asterisks and hyphens, crickets chirping for plus.

I’m most surprised by how unpopular plus is. I use it a lot myself. The funny thing is, I’m not even sure how I’d answer the poll personally — I use all three, depending on my mood. Part of the reason Markdown supports all three characters is that I couldn’t decide on just one back in 2003, and I still can’t.

The glaring omission in supported characters, of course, is an actual bullet (). If Markdown had only been something I’d meant to use myself, or among friends, I would have made use of punctuation characters outside the 7-bit ASCII range, and literal bullets would have been first on the list. But at the time, character-encoding mismatches were still a daily problem. Today, UTF-8 is sufficiently universal that using such characters in an update to Markdown would probably work out fine.




★ Public Service Announcement: You Should Not Force Quit Apps on iOS

2017-07-21T17:05:23Z

The single biggest misconception about iOS is that it’s good digital hygiene to force quit apps that you aren’t using. The single biggest misconception about iOS is that it’s good digital hygiene to force quit apps that you aren’t using. The idea is that apps in the background are locking up unnecessary RAM and consuming unnecessary CPU cycles, thus hurting performance and wasting battery life. That’s not how iOS works. The iOS system is designed so that none of the above justifications for force quitting are true. Apps in the background are effectively “frozen”, severely limiting what they can do in the background and freeing up the RAM they were using. iOS is really, really good at this. It is so good at this that unfreezing a frozen app takes up way less CPU (and energy) than relaunching an app that had been force quit. Not only does force quitting your apps not help, it actually hurts. Your battery life will be worse and it will take much longer to switch apps if you force quit apps in the background. Here’s a short and sweet answer from Craig Federighi, in response to an email from a customer asking if he force quits apps and whether doing so preserves battery life: “No and no.” Here, from the official support document on forcing applications to close, is Apple’s own advice on when to use this feature: When you double-click the Home button, your recently used apps appear. The apps aren’t open, but they’re in standby mode to help you navigate and multitask. You should force an app to close only when it’s unresponsive. Update: MacDailyNews quotes a 2010 email from Steve Jobs: Just use [iOS multitasking] as designed, and you’ll be happy. No need to ever quit apps. Just in case you don’t believe Apple’s senior vice president for software, Apple’s own official support documentation, or Steve Jobs, here are some other articles pointing out how this habit is actually detrimental to iPhone battery life: Fraser Speirs (back in 2012!): “Misconceptions About iOS Multitasking” Thorin Klosowski: “Quitting All Your Apps in iOS Can Actually Worsen Battery Life” Kendall Baker: “Stop Force Quitting Your iPhone Apps” The Wirecutter: “What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do to Extend Your Phone’s Battery Life” Kyle Richter: “The Force Quit Fallacy” This thing about force quitting apps in the background is such a pernicious myth that I’ve heard numerous stories from DF readers about Apple Store Genius Bar staff recommending it to customers. Those “geniuses” are anything but geniuses. It occurs to me that some of the best examples proving that this notion is wrong (at least in terms of performance) are YouTube R[...]



★ iPhone Prelude

2017-07-19T00:09:05Z

In a broad sense, that’s my idea for the iPhone Pro — a premium-priced product that offers us early access to technologies and components that will be (or even just might be) in all iPhones in another year or two.

Rene Ritchie, “iPhones of Future Past: Understanding iPhone 8”:

iPhone 8 will simply let Apple impress in a different way — by including technologies that don’t yet reach iPhone scale. In other words, by bringing tomorrow’s iPhone to market today.

In terms of the business, it’s really no different than getting an iPhone onto Verizon, onto China Mobile, with bigger and bigger displays, or with smaller displays again — it’s about annexing adjacent markets and maximizing the revenue potential for iPhone.

As it becomes harder to sell more iPhones — the population of earth is now a limiting factor — selling more of an iPhone becomes beneficial. It’s the same benefit Apple gets from selling services revenue on top of iPhone, but in atoms, not bits.

Ritchie is using the name “iPhone 8” to refer to what I’ve called the “iPhone Pro” — the high-end OLED-display model that I think might start at over $1000. Name aside, I think he’s got exactly the right idea on how Apple can position this: a future iPhone today.

Honda used to sell a car in the U.S. called the Prelude. Edmunds’s description:

Honda established itself in America with the Civic and Accord — both good, solid but basic cars. But big profits in the automotive world don’t come from basic cars that sell for commodity prices. Those profits come from cars that get consumers so excited that they’ll pay a premium price just to have one. The Prelude was Honda’s first attempt at an exciting car.

The Prelude was Honda’s technological leading edge. Features that are now expected from Honda, like the double-wishbone suspension under the Accord, fuel injection, and VTEC electronic variable valve timing system showed up first on the Prelude before migrating across the Honda line (though VTEC first showed up on the 1990 Acura NSX). The Prelude was also a test bed for some technologies that went nowhere, like four-wheel steering.

In a broad sense, that’s my idea for the iPhone Pro — a premium-priced product that offers us early access to technologies and components that will be (or even just might be) in all iPhones in another year or two.