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By John Gruber



Updated: 2016-12-10T02:17:38Z

 



Washington Post: ‘Secret CIA Assessment Says Russia Was Trying to Help Trump Win White House’

2016-12-10T02:17:38Z

Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, reporting for The Washington Post:

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

No surprise to anyone who’s had their eyes open, but chilling nonetheless.

Good thread from Marc Ambinder on what this means:

I’m in favor of doing everything to get to the bottom of what they did. But can’t say more than their actions “may have helped” Trump win.

Also related: Trump’s purported leading candidate for Secretary of State, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, has close ties to Vladimir Putin:

Friends and associates said few U.S. citizens are closer to Mr. Putin than Mr. Tillerson, who has known Mr. Putin since he represented Exxon’s interests in Russia during the regime of Boris Yeltsin.

“He has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger,” said John Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary during the Clinton administration and president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank where Mr. Tillerson is a board member.

In 2011, Mr. Tillerson struck a deal giving Exxon access to prized Arctic resources in Russia as well as allowing Russia’s state oil company, OAO Rosneft, to invest in Exxon concessions all over the world. The following year, the Kremlin bestowed the country’s Order of Friendship decoration on Mr. Tillerson.

I’m so old I remember when the Republicans were the hardline party against Russia.




Only One Candidate in Louisiana’s Senate Runoff Embraces Climate Change Facts

2016-12-10T01:32:09Z

Megan Geuss, writing for Ars Technica:

On Saturday December 10, Louisiana residents will cast their final ballots for the last unclaimed Senate seat of the 2016 elections. […] Foster Campbell, the top remaining Democratic candidate, has been vocal about the fact that climate change could cause “irreversible damage” to Louisiana’s ample coastline. John Kennedy, the Republican candidate and current polling favorite, has largely avoided the subject. Kennedy told Louisiana-based paper The Advocate this fall that although he accepts the fact that global temperatures are rising, he does not think there is evidence to explain why this is happening.

As Ars has noted before, this is false. There is more than sufficient evidence to show that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming.

What’s surprising about Kennedy’s statement is that he’s running for a Senate position in Louisiana, one of the states most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Looks like a long shot for Campbell in the polls, but as we saw a month ago, long shots in the polls sometimes win. If you’re in Louisiana, vote. If you know someone in Louisiana, send them a reminder to vote.




Super Mario Run Needs a Constant Internet Connection to Run

2016-12-10T00:43:59Z

Brian Heater, writing for TechCrunch:

It a bit of news that will surely shift the value proposition of Mario’s long-awaited iPhone debut for legions of underground commuters, Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed this week that Super Mario Run will only work on a device with a constant internet connection.

The legendary game creator chalked up the decision to security concerns, fears that an offline mode would make the game unstable and open it up to piracy. Those worries are likely due in no small part to the fact that Nintendo simply isn’t accustomed to developing games for platforms it doesn’t have on lock-down.

“Unlike our dedicated game devices, the game is not releasing in a limited number of countries,” Miyamoto explained. “We’re launching in 150 countries and each of those countries has different network environments and things like that. So it was important for us to be able to have it secure for all users.”

Other than when I’m on a plane or riding a subway, my phone does have network access most of the time. But people on planes and subways do play games on their phone.

Update: Another big problem: kids with iPod Touches and old SIM-less iPhones. They’re often not on Wi-Fi.




WSJ Report on Apple’s Mysterious AirPods Delay

2016-12-09T23:01:12Z

Tripp Mickle, reporting for the WSJ:

The AirPod delay marks the first time Apple has postponed release of a product since its white iPhone 4 in 2010, Mr. Moorhead said. Then, Apple cited manufacturing challenges.

In the case of AirPods, the cause remains unclear. The earbuds contain a new chip that Apple developed. But the same chip is included in two models of headphones, which are available for sale, from Apple’s Beats unit.

A person familiar with the development of the AirPod said the trouble appears to stem from Apple’s effort to chart a new path for wireless headphones. In most other wireless headphones, only one earpiece receives a signal from the phone via wireless Bluetooth technology; it then transmits the signal to the other earpiece.

Apple has said AirPod earpieces each receive independent signals from an iPhone, Mac or other Apple device. But Apple must ensure that both earpieces receive audio at the same time to avoid distortion, the person familiar with their development said. That person said Apple also must resolve what happens when a user loses one of the earpieces or the battery dies.

The rest of the article is useless speculation. I’m not even sure that this one source — the “person familiar with the development of the AirPod” — is correct. My prototype AirPods have no trouble staying in sync. They’ve never once been out of sync, in fact. There have been a small handful of times when one of the two buds turns off, and audio only plays through one of them. But I’ve only seen that three or four times, tops, and in each case it was fixed by putting the AirPods back in the case for a second or two.

If Apple could mass produce AirPods that worked exactly like my review unit pair does, it would be great. Not perfect, but totally great. These AirPods are my favorite new Apple product in years — exactly as they are. It makes more sense to me that Apple has run into a manufacturing problem, not that they discovered a design defect after they were announced.

More difficult to manufacture at scale than expected” is also what I’ve heard through the grapevine, from a little birdie who knows someone on the AirPods engineering team. Things like what happens when you lose one or the battery dies — Apple solved those problems during development.

Update: After publishing this, I’ve heard from another little birdie who heard the same thing: unexpected manufacturing problem at scale.




John Markoff Retires From The New York Times

2016-12-09T21:35:55Z

John Markoff:

Yes, I’m retiring from the New York Times. This is obviously bittersweet, but it’s also very weird. Whenever I tell someone I’m leaving the paper they immediately say “congratulations.”

What the hell? Congratulate me for bailing on one of the best jobs in the world?

The simple fact is that I lasted longer than a lot of my friends. But until I changed my mind last summer and took the buyout, I was sure I was going to go out like those guys at the Examiner — the copy editors who worked at night in their t-shirts. And then keeled over on their CRTs and were taken out feet first.

But what the heck.

Nice introduction from Steven Levy, too.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve linked to Markoff quite a few times over the years.




Samsung Will Render the Note 7 Useless With Imminent Update

2016-12-09T21:11:33Z

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:

Samsung will render remaining Galaxy Note 7s in the United States useless and inoperable with its next and final update for the recalled smartphone. Today the company confirmed that it plans to release an update on December 19th — to be distributed across all major carriers within 30 days — that will “prevent US Galaxy Note 7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices.”

Verizon, however, doesn’t agree with the timing:

Today, Samsung announced an update to the Galaxy Note7 that would stop the smartphone from charging, rendering it useless unless attached to a power charger. Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation.

Why didn’t Verizon push Samsung to do this sooner?




Apple Analyst Gene Munster Leaving Piper to Start VC Firm

2016-12-09T18:00:08Z

Mark Gurman and Arie Shapira, reporting for Bloomberg;

Gene Munster, a 21-year veteran analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos., is leaving the firm to co-found a venture capital firm focusing on virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Perfect time for Apple to release a TV set.




A Chat With Shigeru Miyamoto on the Eve of Super Mario Run

2016-12-09T17:58:22Z

Andrew Webster, writing for The Verge:

The experience of creating Super Mario Run hasn’t been exactly like the old days, however. As games have progressed from the NES to modern devices, the teams required to make them have similarly grown larger and more complex. Mobile, on the other hand, offers the potential for a small team to make a modest-sized game — though that wasn’t the case with Super Mario Run. In addition to its main “tour” mode, which closely resembles a typical Mario title, the game also features a competitive “toad rush” mode and a city-building mode that lets you build your own version of the Mushroom Kingdom. Each of these modes was developed by a separate team. “I was hoping that by developing for mobile things would get simpler,” Miyamoto says, “but they actually didn’t.”

Nintendo made a great commercial for Super Mario Run, too.




Trump’s Pick for Labor Secretary: Pro-Immigration Fast Food CEO Andrew Puzder

2016-12-10T00:05:46Z

Noam Scheiber and Maggie Haberman, reporting for the NYT:

President-elect Donald J. Trump is expected to name Andrew F. Puzder, chief executive of the company that operates the fast food outlets Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. and an outspoken critic of the worker protections enacted by the Obama administration, to be secretary of labor, people close to the transition said on Thursday.

Mr. Puzder has spent his career in the private sector and has opposed efforts to expand eligibility for overtime pay, while arguing that large minimum wage increases hurt small businesses and lead to job loss among low-skilled workers.

The Times report focuses on the obvious stuff: his opposition to increasing the minimum wage, regulations that protect workers, etc. No surprise.

But here’s the fun part, as noted on Twitter by David Frum:

Let’s absorb the magnitude of the Puzder appointment. Trump’s signature issue was immigration restriction. Number 1.

He slammed hard the Bush family in general and Jeb Bush in particular as weak and low energy on immigration.

The Labor Department enforces immigration law in the workplace — the key way that immigration laws are enforced.

And the person Trump names to head Labor? Perhaps the most outspoken advocate of Bush-style immigration policy in US business community!

Trump’s biggest issue throughout the entire campaign was anti-immigration. Keeping immigrants out, and throwing the millions of undocumented immigrants currently here out of the country. His labor secretary is pro-immigration and views undocumented immigrants as future employees for his fast food restaurants and deserving of sympathy, not scorn. He supported President Obama’s 2013 immigration reform bill — and the only part of it he didn’t like was the increase in border security.

Try to wrap your head around just how much disdain Trump has for his own supporters — the “build the wall” crowd.




‘If the Pope’s Talking Poop, You Know We’re in Deep Doo-Doo’

2016-12-08T20:02:11Z

Great segment from Stephen Colbert on conspiracy theorists and fake news.




Really Bad Chess

2016-12-08T19:20:34Z

I seldom play video games of any sort, but every once in a while, I find one that I can really get into. Really Bad Chess is one of those games. The basic premise sounds so simple, but in practice it is brilliant: it’s just like regular chess, but you start with random pieces. Except the pieces aren’t totally random — when you win, you start getting worse pieces to start; when you lose, you start getting better pieces. It’s a handicap system.

It’s engaging and a lot of fun. It’s a free download, and a one-time purchase of $3 to unlock the full game. You can also buy packs of 100 undos for $1 each.

See also: Jason Snell’s review, which prompted me to give it a try.




Daring Fireball T-Shirts Now Available

2016-12-08T20:49:12Z

(image)

On sale now through next week. U.S. orders will ship in time for Christmas.

Comfy and stylish.




Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A.

2016-12-08T04:22:22Z

Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton, reporting for the NYT:

Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, vowed to “cancel” the Paris accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, and attacked Mr. Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a “war on coal.”

Mr. Pruitt has been in lock step with those views.

Here’s a story from just two years ago, on how Pruitt served as a lackey for the fossil fuel industry while serving as attorney general of Oklahoma:

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House.”

Mr. Whitsitt then added, “Please pass along Devon’s thanks to Attorney General Pruitt.”




Inside Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Brutal Antidrug Campaign

2016-12-07T23:07:09Z

New York Times photojournalist Daniel Berehulak, who photographed 57 homicides in 35 days in the Philippines:

I have worked in 60 countries, covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and spent much of 2014 living inside West Africa’s Ebola zone, a place gripped by fear and death. What I experienced in the Philippines felt like a new level of ruthlessness: police officers’ summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs, vigilantes’ taking seriously Mr. Duterte’s call to “slaughter them all.”

He said in October, “You can expect 20,000 or 30,000 more.”

On Saturday, Mr. Duterte said that, in a telephone call the day before, President-elect Donald J. Trump had endorsed the brutal antidrug campaign and invited him to visit New York and Washington. “He said that, well, we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way,” Mr. Duterte said in a summary of the call released by his office.

Beyond those killed in official drug operations, the Philippine National Police have counted more than 3,500 unsolved homicides since July 1, turning much of the country into a macabre house of mourning.

Gruesome images, but worth looking at to see just what Donald Trump endorses.




Pebble Is Shutting Down After Fitbit Acquisition

2016-12-07T22:47:58Z

Pebble:

  • Pebble is no longer promoting, manufacturing, or selling any devices.
  • Pebble devices will continue to work as normal. No immediate changes to the Pebble user experience will happen at this time.
  • Pebble functionality or service quality may be reduced in the future.

Rough ending.

I love the idea of a plucky startup creating their own hardware platform, but Pebble was a dud. The first model was, perhaps, a decent proof of concept. I couldn’t stand it, personally, but I know a few people who wore it. The best feature was getting notifications on your wrist, but I found the way it vibrated to be unpleasant. Their e-ink displays were great for battery life, but terrible in every other regard.

But their follow-up models just weren’t big enough improvements. The Pebble Steel was a complete waste of the company’s time — their problem was that their technology wasn’t good enough, not that they didn’t look enough like traditional watches.




Bluetooth 5 Spec Approved

2016-12-07T22:12:50Z

Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget:

Bluetooth is about to become a lot less hassle-prone. The wireless standard’s Special Interest Group has officially adopted the Bluetooth 5 spec, clearing the way for device makers to use the much-improved technology in everything from phones to wearables to smart home equipment. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see it right away, of course. The group expects Bluetooth 5-equipped products to hit the market in the next 2 to 6 months, or right around when the next wave of smartphones is likely to arrive.

Yours truly, one year ago:

“Next year it will work great” should be the motto of Bluetooth.




That Viral Graph About Young People’s Declining Support for Democracy Is Very Misleading

2016-12-07T03:14:23Z

Remember the story last week in The New York Times, showing an alarming drop in support for democracy by young people around the world? I described the accompanying chart as “terrifying”. There’s good news — the Times’s chart was deliberately misleading, to greatly exaggerate the survey result. Erik Voeten, writing for The Washington Post, explains:

The data for the graph are from the fifth wave of the World Values Survey (WVS), which asked people to place themselves on a 10-point scale where 1 meant that living in a democracy is “not at all important” and 10 “absolutely important.”

So where does this graph go wrong? It plots the percentage of people who answer 10, and it treats everyone else the same. The graph treats the people who place themselves at 1 as having the same commitment to democracy as those who answer 9. In reality, almost no one (less than 1 percent) said that democracy is “not at all important.”

The graph below uses the exact same data, but it plots the average scores rather than the percentages who place themselves at the top end of the scale.

Voeten’s accurate chart does show a decline in the average support for democracy by age, but it’s subtle, not dramatic, and shows that young people still believe democracy is important. The New York Times should be ashamed of itself for its original chart.




‘Let’s Make the Facts Louder Than the Opinions’

2016-12-07T00:35:56Z

Weather.com meteorologist Kait Parker has a message for Breitbart.




Google: ‘We’re Set to Reach 100% Renewable Energy’

2016-12-07T00:45:15Z

Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure:

I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations — including both our data centers and offices. […]

Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option. Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy.

Interesting: Google’s renewable purchasing is overwhelmingly wind, not solar. Same for Microsoft. Amazon looks like about one-third solar, two-thirds wind. Apple is almost entirely solar.

Update: Interesting email from a longtime DF reader:

I work in renewable energy with corporations who are seeking to do exactly what Google is about to achieve.

The best reason to explain “Apple is almost entirely solar” has to do with renewable production — solar produces during the day and U.S. wind sites mostly at night. Since daytime hours align with higher power prices, Apple seems to have strategically gone for value with many, smaller solar projects, while Google and others have gone after fewer and larger wind deals.




SamMobile: ‘Galaxy S8 Is Not Going to Feature a 3.5mm Headphone Jack’

2016-12-06T21:04:44Z

I love how the headline says that the phone “is not going to feature” a headphone jack, rather than saying that Samsung is going to remove it.

Anyway, this was utterly predictable by anyone who had their head out of their ass. As I wrote back in September, iPhone 7 reviews that obsessed over the removal of the headphone jack are “going to age about as well as a 2007 review of the original iPhone that devoted the same amount of attention to the lack of a hardware keyboard.”

Samsung won’t face anywhere near the amount of criticism Apple did, because Apple went first and took most of the arrows. Which, yes, took courage.




Gomix

2016-12-06T20:37:15Z

New build-your-own-web-app service from Fog Creek Software, debuting alongside the announcement of Anil Dash as CEO. Here’s how Anil describes it:

Many geeks of my cohort came of age building things on the desktop using HyperCard or Visual Basic, or by using View Source in their browser to tweak HTML pages that they uploaded to Geocities. The web’s gotten a lot more mature and a lot more powerful, but the immediacy of that kind of creation has been lost. Today, even if you’re a skilled developer, the starting point you’re working from is usually a pile of unassembled parts.

Gomix lets you start from a working app (or bot, or site, or whatever) and then remix it into exactly the app of your dreams. If you just want to change a button from blue to green, or add your logo, you can be running instantly. See a fun or smart Alexa skill or Slack bot? You can jump in, edit the responses to be the text you want, and have your own version running in just a few minutes.




Anil Dash Is the New CEO of Fog Creek Software

2016-12-06T20:35:28Z

Joel Spolsky:

Fog Creek is a weird company here, with unique values that you don’t find in a lot of other companies. That’s why we’re so successful, and that’s why we love working here. Some of the weird stuff we do is non-negotiable. We would never dream of having just any competent person from outside the company come in, let alone give them the CEO role, if we weren’t convinced that they were 100% fanatical and excited about Fog Creek Software’s unique operating system. We’ve been friends with Anil for so long that we’re confident that the combination of his talents and worldview with our quirky operating system will be a stellar combination. […]

What are you doing, Joel?

I’m the full-time CEO of Stack Overflow, which just hit 300 employees and really takes all my time now.




Tim Cook: Apple Watch Sales Set Record in Holiday Week

2016-12-06T21:24:51Z

Julia Love, reporting for Reuters:

Responding to an email from Reuters, Cook said the gadget’s sell-through — a measure of how many units are sold to consumers, rather than simply stocked on retailers’ shelves - reached a new high. […]

“Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be one of the most popular holiday gifts this year,” Cook wrote.

“Sales growth is off the charts. In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch,” he said.

This is in response to a widely-circulated report from IDC yesterday, claiming Apple Watch sales fell 71 percent in the third calendar quarter. IDC often pulls numbers out of its collective ass — they’re the outfit that claimed back in 2011 that Windows Phone would overtake the iPhone by 2015 — but these things could both be true. (Although it does look like IDC’s estimate is far short.)

Comparing Apple Watch sales in the third calendar quarter this year to last year is not meaningful. Last year the Apple Watch was still a brand-new product in July–September, drawing sales from early adopters. And remember that Apple Watch was extremely supply-constrained when it hit the market in May 2015. Many models were back-ordered for 6–8 weeks. This year, Apple Watch was a year-old product in those months, with many would-be purchasers correctly predicting that Apple would introduce new models in September.

Common sense suggests that the Apple Watch sales cycle is going to look a lot like the iPod’s — with truly humongous spikes in the holiday quarter. That’s when the new models come out, and it’s a natural gift.

Smartwatches in general might be suffering, but it’s looking more and more like Apple Watch is a hit.




[Sponsor] eero Wi-Fi System

2016-12-06T16:06:58-05:00

Give your family (and your family’s devices) the gift of hyper-fast, whole-home Wi-Fi with the eero Wi-Fi System. The world’s first — and best-selling — Wi-Fi system has just been updated with the next generation of mesh technology, Alexa Skills, and an app overhaul to help better optimize your network.




The Wirecutter Lists Their Favorite USB-C Adapters, Cables, and Hubs

2016-12-06T01:31:40Z

Nick Guy:

After 10 hours of preliminary research, we tested more than 25 USB-C accessories to put together this guide to the best ways to connect peripherals and devices to a USB-C–equipped computer. It’s by no means exhaustive. USB-C can, in theory, replace every other port, and there are a seemingly infinite number of port combinations you might encounter. We focused on the most important tasks you’ll likely face, such as connecting older peripherals like hard drives and hooking up an external display.




Amazon Go — Retail Stores With No Checkouts

2016-12-06T00:27:42Z

Amazon:

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.)

I would love to shop in a store like this. Reminds me (and others) a lot of what makes Uber so appealing: a reduction in friction.




The Outline

2016-12-05T22:40:45Z

Joshua Topolsky, announcing the launch of The Outline, the new website for which he’s editor-in-chief:

Welcome to The Outline, a new kind of publication for a new kind of human.

OK.

I could have linked to all of these stories, but instead they’re bundled into this handy thing below. We call it a stack. Enjoy.

No.




‘It’s the Equivalent of Going Into a Library and Asking a Librarian About Judaism and Being Handed 10 Books of Hate’

2016-12-05T22:23:55Z

Carole Cadwalladr, in an eye-opening piece for The Guardian, “Google, Democracy, and the Truth About Internet Search”: Here’s what you don’t want to do late on a Sunday night. You do not want to type seven letters into Google. That’s all I did. I typed: “a-r-e”. And then “j-e-w-s”. Since 2008, Google has attempted to predict what question you might be asking and offers you a choice. And this is what it did. It offered me a choice of potential questions it thought I might want to ask: “are jews a race?”, “are jews white?”, “are jews christians?”, and finally, “are jews evil?” Are Jews evil? It’s not a question I’ve ever thought of asking. I hadn’t gone looking for it. But there it was. I press enter. A page of results appears. This was Google’s question. And this was Google’s answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which “confirm” this. The top result, from a site called Listovative, has the headline: “Top 10 Major Reasons Why People Hate Jews.” I click on it: “Jews today have taken over marketing, militia, medicinal, technological, media, industrial, cinema challenges etc and continue to face the worlds [sic] envy through unexplained success stories given their inglorious past and vermin like repression all over Europe.” The top suggestion for a query starting with “are women” was “are women evil”, and the top suggested result displayed with a preview on the results page, beginning with “Every woman has some degree of prostitute in her. Every woman has a little evil in her.” A few days later, I talk to Danny Sullivan, the founding editor of SearchEngineLand.com. He’s been recommended to me by several academics as one of the most knowledgeable experts on search. Am I just being naive, I ask him? Should I have known this was out there? “No, you’re not being naive,” he says. “This is awful. It’s horrible. It’s the equivalent of going into a library and asking a librarian about Judaism and being handed 10 books of hate. Google is doing a horrible, horrible job of delivering answers here. It can and should do better.” He’s surprised too. “I thought they stopped offering autocomplete suggestions for religions in 2011.” And then he types “are women” into his own computer. “Good lord! That answer at the top. It’s a featured result. It’s called a “direct answer”. This is supposed to be indisputable. It’s Google’s highest endorsement.” That every women has some degree of prostitute in her? “Yes. This is Google’s algorithm going terribly wrong.” Faruk Ateş, on Twitter: Turns out, being a passive hands-off player in the world’s information means that people who put bigotry out there win simply for playing. In other words, in the knowledge that bigoted, motivated people exist, inaction or indifference is an immoral and unethical decision. I truly believe Google is staffed by great people who are not bigoted. But as a company, they treat bigotry as mere “opinion”, not as harm.  ★  [...]



Prop ’n Go Tote

2016-12-03T22:49:49Z

My thanks to Padded Spaces for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. They’ve just released the new Prop ’n Go Tote, a convertible multi-angle lap desk and messenger bag. Made for every lap, it’s perfect for keeping gadgets at just the right angle. When it’s time to go, the hidable handle and shoulder strap transform Prop ’n Go Tote into a stylish, versatile messenger bag.

iBedside is an elegant bedside caddy for storing and charging iPad and iPhone. A magnetic shelf flips down with a flick, and three full-sized pockets store gadgets or gizmos. Clever cable management keeps everything tidy and charged. These are great holiday gifts.

Prop ’n Go and iBedside ship for free with Amazon Prime in the US, CA, and EU. Padded Spaces products are made in Seattle by crafters making honest wages.




Political Moneyball: America’s Unfair Elections and the Republicans’ Art of Winning Them

2016-12-03T20:56:29Z

Jason Kottke:

Nothing in politics gets my blood boiling faster than gerrymandering… it is so grossly and obviously unfair. I bet you don’t even need to guess which of the two US political parties has pushed unfair redistricting in recent years.

More than anything for me, this is the story of politics in America right now: a shrinking and increasingly extremist underdog party has punched above its weight over the past few election cycles by methodically exploiting the weaknesses in our current political system. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, the passing of voter ID laws, and spreading propaganda via conservative and social media channels has led to disproportionate Republican representation in many areas of the country which they then use to gerrymander and pass more restrictive voter ID laws. They’ve limited potential conservative third party candidates (like Trump!) by incorporating them and their views into the main party. I would not be surprised if Republican donors strategically support left-of-center third-party candidates as spoilers — it’s a good tactic, underhanded but effective. They increasingly ignore political norms and practices to stymie Democratic efforts, like the general inaction of the Republican-led Congress over the past few years and the Senate’s refusal to consider Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Don’t skip the two videos from CGP Grey — they’re excellent.




‘Designed by Apple in California’ Book Alongside Actual Products

2016-12-02T23:40:05Z

There aren’t many people other than Stephen Hackett who could have made this video.




Lenovo Moto Getting Out of the Smartwatch Game

2016-12-02T21:39:43Z

Dan Seifert, writing for The Verge:

Lenovo Moto today confirmed that it will not be releasing a new smartwatch for the launch of Android Wear 2.0, due early next year. The company had earlier said it would not be releasing a new smartwatch in 2016, but it is now saying that it doesn’t plan to put out a new device timed to the arrival of Google’s newest wearable platform, either.

Shakil Barkat, head of global product development at Moto, said the company doesn’t “see enough pull in the market to put [a new smartwatch] out at this time,” though it may revisit the market in the future should technologies for the wrist improve. “Wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year,” Barkat said, and indicated that smartwatches and other wearable devices will not be in Moto’s annual device roadmap.

I don’t think it’s what sunk their watches, but the flat-tire displays on their round faces were one of the worst designs in recent memory.




Chuck Wendig on White Resentment

2016-12-02T21:20:26Z

Loved this Twitter essay from Chuck Wendig. It starts with a bang, but turns into a thoughtful examination of white working class resentment:

It is ironic to tell entertainers to shut up about politics when we just elected a greasy reality show host to the highest fucking office.

“Apes shouldn’t have guns,” you bellow, as you load a revolver and hand it to a bigoted orangutan.

“Entertainers shouldn’t talk politics,” you bellow as you vote for a carnival barker con-man to wield the nuclear codes.




TechCrunch: ‘Fitbit Is Buying Troubled Smartwatch Maker Pebble for Around $40 Million’

2016-12-02T18:41:48Z

Jon Russell, reporting for TechCrunch:

A source close to the company told TechCrunch that watch maker Citizen was interested in purchasing Pebble for $740 million in 2015. This deal failed and before the launch of the Pebble 2 Intel made an offer for $70 million. The CEO, Eric Migicovsky refused both offers. Our source said that Fitbit is now paying between $34 and $40 million for the company and is “barely covering their debts.”

If Citizen was really willing to pay $740 million for Pebble, that’s incredible. They really dodged a bullet on that one.




The Talk Show: ‘Election Escape Key’

2016-12-03T21:11:42Z

Joanna Stern returns to the show to talk about the new MacBook Pros (and their keyboards), stockpiling old MacBook Airs, dongles, Touch ID, SnapChat Spectacles, and more.

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Netflix Finally Allows Downloads

2016-12-01T00:54:53Z

You know I don’t like the overuse of “finally” in a headline, but here’s a case where it’s justified.




Nintendo World Coming to Universal Theme Parks

2016-11-30T19:53:27Z

Nintendo press release:

Imagine the fun of stepping into a larger-than-life Nintendo adventure. Gigantic Piranha Plants spring to life. Question blocks, power-ups and more surround you. And Mario and all his friends are there to pull you into a brand-new world.

You will enter an entire realm filled with iconic Nintendo excitement, gameplay, heroes and villains. And it is coming to three Universal theme parks around the globe.

The creative visionaries behind Nintendo’s legendary worlds and characters are working together with the creative teams behind Universal’s blockbuster theme park attractions. Their goal: to bring the characters, action and adventure of Nintendo video games to life within Universal theme parks. And to do so in new and innovative ways that capture what makes them so special. All of the adventure, fun and whimsy you experience through a screen will now be all around you — in breathtakingly authentic ways.

Universal did a good job with the Harry Potter franchise — the Hogsmeade land at Islands of Adventure is kind of meh, but Diagon Alley at Universal Studios is amazing. If they can do something as good as Diagon Alley for Nintendo, it’ll be great. (Universal Studios did a good job with their area for The Simpsons, too.)




Penn and Teller Burn a Flag in the White House

2016-11-30T05:52:20Z

“You go to law school?”

“No, clown school.”




How Stable Are Democracies? ‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red’

2016-11-30T19:36:45Z

Amanda Taub, in an eye-opening piece for the NYT:

Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations.

The graph showing the results for this question is terrifying.

Support for autocratic alternatives is rising, too. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, the researchers found that the share of Americans who say that army rule would be a “good” or “very good” thing had risen to 1 in 6 in 2014, compared with 1 in 16 in 1995.

That trend is particularly strong among young people. For instance, in a previously published paper, the researchers calculated that 43 percent of older Americans believed it was illegitimate for the military to take over if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, but only 19 percent of millennials agreed. The same generational divide showed up in Europe, where 53 percent of older people thought a military takeover would be illegitimate, while only 36 percent of millennials agreed.

Militaries that answer to democratic civilian authority are the bedrock of Western civilization.




Mark Gurman: Amazon Planning Alexa Speaker With 7-Inch Display

2016-11-30T03:39:32Z

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Amazon.com Inc. is developing a premium Echo-like speaker with a screen, a sign the world’s largest online retailer is trying to capitalize on the surprise success of its voice-controlled home gadgets and fend off competition from Google and Apple Inc.

The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon’s existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company’s voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. They asked not to be identified speaking about a product that has yet to be announced.

The latest Amazon speaker will be larger and tilt upwards so the screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is standing, one of the people said.

Interesting — but unsurprising — to see Gurman getting scoops about companies other than Apple.




Andy Baio on the Decline of Independent Blogging

2016-11-29T21:35:11Z

Andy Baio, earlier this month:

More people than ever before are able to express themselves on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Medium, YouTube, Pinterest, and countless other social platforms. All of that is great.

But there a few reasons why I’m sad about the decline of independent blogging, and why I think they’re still worth fighting for.

Ultimately, it comes down to two things: ownership and control.

Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine a post-Verizon Yahoo selling off Tumblr. Medium keeps pivoting, trying to find a successful revenue model. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.

Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to a phone company. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed. Nobody except me can change the URL structure, breaking 14 years of links to content on the web.

Couldn’t say it better myself.




★ On Jony Ive’s Role at Apple

2016-11-24T15:58:50Z

I see why some people think Designed by Apple in California could be Ive’s goodbye to Apple. But it feels to me like Ive’s heartfelt goodbye to his best friend and colleague, five years gone. I don’t think Jony Ive is going anywhere. Abdel Ibrahim, writing for AppAdvice: In the latest episode of The Talk Show, John Gruber discusses with Six Colors founder, Jason Snell, about Jony Ive’s role in the company and how it’s changed in the years since Steve Jobs’ passing. He specifically makes mention that he’s heard that Ive’s role has changed in a way where he’s not as much involved in the design of physical hardware as he used to be. I’ve heard that he has lately been checked out or not as directly involved with product design and that he’s been largely focused on architecture, meaning the spaceship campus and the new stores. And that maybe the other top-level executive who’s been working the most with Ive is Angela Arhendts. The comment comes on the back of Apple releasing a photo book called “Designed by Apple in California” in which the company looks back the last 20 years of products made under Ive and his design team. Many Apple fans see the book as part of Ive’s slow retirement from Apple, some who believe that Ive has been on his way out for a while now. This is what I dislike most about podcasting. With everything I write here at DF, I aim for painstaking precision in my choice of words and phrasing. I try not only to make it easy for my meaning to be understood, but also difficult to be misconstrued. On a podcast, that’s not possible. I have no doubt Ibrahim transcribed my words accurately, but the above excerpt is not an accurate representation of what I tried to convey. I think if you listen to that part of the show, the surrounding context makes that clear. There are definitely people who think Ive might be on his way out. There’s been speculation to that effect ever since his promotion last year to chief design officer and the coinciding promotions of Alan Dye and Richard Howarth to vice presidents of user interface design and industrial design, respectively. The company line is that this new arrangement allows Ive to spend less time on management, and more time directly on, well, design. The skeptic’s take is that this new arrangement allows Ive to be less involved, period, and that the chief design officer title is almost ceremonial. Ive has also always been a bit of a mystery man at Apple. There aren’t many people who work with him directly, and those few who do, don’t talk about it. Almost everything I’ve heard about Ive’s current role is second or third-hand. Nobody has said to me “Jony Ive has checked out of day-to-day product design.” What I have heard is from people who’ve said “I think Jony Ive has checked out of day-to-day product design.” There is a big difference between tho[...]



★ The New Touch-Bar-Equipped MacBook Pros and the State of the Mac

2016-11-16T03:47:00Z

Thoughts and observations after a few weeks testing the new MacBook Pro lineup. I think there’s been a lot of confusion over the nomenclatural transition Apple is going through in its MacBook lineup. Back in 1998, Steve Jobs presented a simple four-quadrant lineup for Apple’s entire Mac line: a consumer notebook (iBook), pro notebook (PowerBook), consumer desktop (iMac), and pro desktop (Power Mac). No one could be confused by the difference between an iBook and a PowerBook. The PowerBook was more expensive, faster, had a better display, and even used more “serious” design language — iBooks were candy-colored and the PowerBooks were matte black. Much has changed since then, including all those product names (except for the iMac). About midway between then and now, Apple introduced what I believe to be the best-selling Mac notebook in history: the MacBook Air. At the time the Air was introduced in 2008, Apple’s other notebooks were the “regular” MacBook and the MacBook Pro. Sound familiar? The MacBook and MacBook Pro played the exact same roles as the iBook and the PowerBook. One was significantly less expensive, and accordingly, not as nice. Plastic vs. aluminum, slower vs. faster. I used a white iBook for several years. My wife used a white MacBook for several years about a decade ago. These were good notebooks and I remember them both fondly. But the only reason we bought those machines was that we couldn’t or didn’t want to spend the money for a PowerBook or MacBook Pro. The PowerBook “pro” alternative to my old white iBook was one of the most ahead-of-its-time designs Apple has ever made: the 12-inch PowerBook G4. Just look at it. It’s thick and heavy by today’s standards, but it foretold much of Apple’s aluminum-era design language. I wanted one badly, but couldn’t justify the price difference compared to the iBook, especially for what was going to be a secondary machine. One notebook that was slower but cheaper. One notebook that was faster and more expensive. The MacBook Air didn’t fit into this matrix at all. It was slower than the regular MacBook but as expensive as a MacBook Pro. What you were paying for wasn’t “power” but instead right there in the (then utterly perfect, today somewhat confusing) name “Air”: remarkable thinness and lightness. Apple moved from the names PowerBook and Power Mac to MacBook Pro and Mac Pro when they shifted from PowerPC to Intel processors. At the time, I chalked this up entirely to wanting to distinguish the Intel-based machines from the “Power” in “PowerPC”. In hindsight, though, I think it also signified a subtle shift in Apple’s design priorities for its very best computers. For decades, computers were starved for raw performance. CPUs were slow, RAM was scarce, disks were slow (and unreliable), graphics were slow. Printing was slow. Networking was slow. Everything was slow. And t[...]



★ On Hiding vs. Encapsulating Complexity, in the Context of Twitter’s Experimental Reply Interface

2016-10-29T06:31:11Z

If users are confused with a design, the problem is with the design, not with the users. Matthew Panzarino hits today’s DF trifecta with this piece railing against a confusing new reply interface Twitter is testing with some users: The solution for this mess should probably start with removing the user names from the character count but leaving the actual user names themselves. Much in the way that a link (eventually, still not implemented, lol) or photo is added and appears in the tweet but does not count towards the character count. The argument against this is that ‘normals are confused by ‘@ names’. I disagree. I think that this may have been an issue early on but enormous swaths of people have been familiarized with usernames by the huge audience for tweets on mainstream media, TV and the web, as well as in pop culture like Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets segments and on and on. Twitter reply chains are confusing to some/many users. Is the problem with Twitter, or with the users? The fundamental problem with most designers of complex systems intended for mass market use is that they decide to hide complexity. They won’t admit it — they’ll deny it even — but it’s because they’re disdainful of their users. They think their users are stupid, so they need to present them with a design for stupid people. If they weren’t stupid they wouldn’t be confused, right? That’s fundamentally wrong. If people are confused with a design, the problem is with the design, not with the users. It’s Twitter’s designers who aren’t smart enough, not Twitter’s users, because if Twitter’s designers were smart enough, they’d come up with a design that wasn’t confusing by encapsulating rather than merely hiding complexity. It’s the difference between actually cleaning up a mess versus just sweeping the mess under a rug. This new Twitter reply interface is a “sweep it under the rug” design. A good “simple” design will help users to understand what is actually going on, how a thing actually works. A bad “simple” design will leave users just as confused as ever with even less chance of figuring it out, because what they need to see to understand it is hidden.1 Apple has always been very good at this — designing software and hardware where complexity is encapsulated rather than hidden. The genius of the original Mac wasn’t that it was suitable for dummies but that it was the first system that wasn’t confusing. Smart people flocked to the Mac. But an example where Apple got this wrong is the way Mac OS X (to use the old name) defaults to hiding file name extensions. This is a pet topic of mine from the earliest days of Daring Fireball. If you’re going to require file name extensions in your system, then show them.[...]



★ On iMessage’s Stickiness

2016-10-25T07:26:50Z

As an iOS/MacOS exclusive, iMessage is a glue that “keeps people stuck to their iPhones and Macs”, not the glue. Lauren Goode, writing for The Verge a few weeks ago, “iMessage Is the Glue That Keeps Me Stuck to the iPhone”: As someone who vacillates between iOS and Android fairly often, but who considers a lightly cracked iPhone 6S her daily driver, I’m also considering whether the Pixel phone is the next phone to buy. All of the software I use now is available on Android: all of my top email, calendar, music, fitness, photography, task-based, work collaboration, and social networking apps are there. But one app is not, and that’s iMessage. There is a lot of truth here, especially for people who are largely in the Google ecosystem for email, calendaring, photos, etc. A lot of them use iPhones with Google apps, not Android phones. I know several people who think iPhones are better client devices for Google’s ecosystem than Android devices running Google’s own operating system. In particular, I think this is very common in Silicon Valley. I notice it frequently when I see the homescreens on iPhones used by members of the press who cover the wider industry (as opposed to those who focus more on Apple). That’s who I think Google’s Pixel phones are aimed at: not the mass market, per se, but the technical elite who are currently using a lot of Google services on iPhones. Another way to put it: if the Pixels don’t get Google employees who use iPhones to switch, nothing will. See, for example, this year-old BuzzFeed column by Charlie Warzel, “Apple’s Junk Drawer Problem”: There’s a folder on the homescreen of my iPhone affectionately labeled “Apple Crap.” Inside, a colony of flattened, painstakingly designed app icons gather dust. With the exception of the Health and Podcast apps, I’ve become accustomed to relegating Apple’s (undeletable) native apps to the junk drawer. The containment strategy started back in 2012, when Apple Maps suggested I head to a work meeting in the middle of the Hudson River, and I’ve never looked back. An informal office poll also concluded that I’m not alone. We’ll wait hours in line in the cold/heat/rain/snow for a shiny new piece of Apple hardware — but once we get it, the first thing we do is fill it with third-party services, leaving Apple’s proprietary apps tucked away in lonely folders on third or fourth screens. That doesn’t sound like a typical iPhone user, who is likely to use all or most of Apple’s built-in apps. Apple Maps, for example, is far more popular on iOS than Google Maps. But Warzel’s description sounds exactly like the sort of iPhone users who might be tempted by the Pixel. There’s a split between iPhone users who are primarily part of the Apple ecosystem (iCloud, Sa[...]



★ Don’t Hold Your Breath for an iPhone Edition

2016-10-21T02:41:01Z

Why I don’t think Apple would make a special edition iPhone. And a bonus interpolation on why Apple won’t make a big deal out of the iPhone’s 10th anniversary next year. After my link today to Greg Koenig’s excellent explanation for why the new ceramic Apple Watch Edition does not presage the use of a similar material in next year’s iPhone (in short: Apple needs to produce up to one million iPhones per day, and the ceramic process Apple is using for the watch would take way too long to meet that demand), several readers asked if Apple might go the Apple Watch Edition route: make a special ceramic iPhone Edition that sells at a much higher price. Apple certainly could do this. But I don’t think they would. I’ve often said that the iPhone reminds me of Andy Warhol’s great quote about Coca-Cola and America: What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it. A significantly more expensive limited edition ceramic iPhone would break from this, and in my opinion it would take away from the iPhone’s brand. iPhones aren’t cheap, but they are affordable for many, and everyone who gets one knows they’re getting the best phone in the world. An expensive limited edition iPhone would mean most iPhone buyers would know they’re only getting second best. Apple has done this with the watch — in spades last year, with the $10–20,000 gold models — but watches are different animals. Watches, in general, have never been like Coke. There have always been low-cost watches and luxury watches. Enough With the 10-Year Anniversary Stuff Let me add here a note about something that’s been bothering me for months: the notion that Apple is going to do something “special” next year to commemorate the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. I would wager heavily that they won’t. Apple under Tim Cook is a little bit more prone to retrospection than it was under Steve Jobs, who was almost obsessively forward-thinking, but only slightly. They made a 40-years-in-40-seconds video to commemorate the company’s 40th anniversary this year, for example, but it was only 40 seconds long. Blink and you missed it. Apple is not going to make a special edition of any product — let alone the iPhone, their most important product — just to mark an a[...]



★ Walt Mossberg: ‘Why Does Siri Seem So Dumb?’

2016-10-13T00:35:31Z

In addition to the engineering hurdles to actually make Siri much better, Apple also has to overcome a “boy who cried wolf” credibility problem. Walt Mossberg: So why does Siri seem so dumb? Why are its talents so limited? Why does it stumble so often? When was the last time Siri delighted you with a satisfying and surprising answer or action? I have an answer for this: when I discovered during the NBA playoffs that Siri can tell you the Vegas betting odds for sporting events. In recent weeks, on multiple Apple devices, Siri has been unable to tell me the names of the major-party candidates for president and vice president of the United States. Or when they were debating. Or when the Emmy awards show was due to be on. Or the date of the World Series. […] Google Now, on the same Apple devices, using the same voice input, answered every one of these questions clearly and correctly. And that isn’t even Google’s latest digital helper, the new Google Assistant. If you try most of these broken examples right now, they’ll work properly, because Apple fixed them after I tweeted screenshots of most of them in exasperation, and asked the company about them. Indeed, Siri now knows the date and time of the next U.S. presidential debate, but where Siri fundamentally falls apart is its inability to maintain context and chain together multiple commands. Here was my interaction trying this just now, transcribed exactly as Siri heard me: Me: When is the next presidential debate?1 Siri: The third 2016 presidential debate will take place from 9:00pm to 10:30pm ET on Wednesday, October 19 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada. Me: OK add it to my calendar. Siri: OK, tell me the date and time of your event. Me: Add the next presidential debate to my calendar. Siri: I didn’t find any appointments about ‘presidential debate’ in the next three months. Another attempt: Me: When is the next presidential debate? Siri: The third 2016 presidential debate will take place from 9:00pm to 10:30pm ET on Wednesday, October 19 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada. Me: Remind me about it one hour before it starts. Siri: OK, I’ll remind you to ‘It starts’. When would you like to be reminded? Five years in, this seems like a reasonable (and useful) thing to expect Siri to be able to do.2 Mossberg: For instance, when I asked Siri on my Mac how long it would take me to get to work, it said it didn’t have my work address — even though the “me” contact card contains a work address and the same synced contact card on my iPhone allowed Siri to give me an answer. Similarly, on my iPad, when I asked what my next appointment was, it said “Sorry, Walt, something’s wrong” — repeatedly, with slightly [...]