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Daring Fireball



By John Gruber



Updated: 2018-02-25T21:25:33Z

 



Jamf Now

2018-02-25T21:25:33Z

My thanks to Jamf for once again sponsoring the DF RSS feed. For many people, IT is a task and not a career. Now you can support your users without help from IT.

Jamf Now is a simple, cloud-based solution designed to help anyone set up, manage, and protect Apple devices at work. Easily configure company email and Wi-Fi networks, distribute apps to your team, and protect sensitive data without locking down devices.

Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. Forever. Each additional device is just $2 per month. Two bucks.







Frank Bruni: ‘Am I Going Blind?’

2018-02-23T21:51:12Z

Frank Bruni:

They say that death comes like a thief in the night. Lesser vandals have the same M.O. The affliction that stole my vision, or at least a big chunk of it, did so as I slept. I went to bed seeing the world one way. I woke up seeing it another.

This was about four months ago, though it feels like an eternity. So much has happened since. I don’t mean all the tests and procedures: the vials upon vials of blood; the mapping of major arteries in my neck; the imaging of tiny vessels in my brain; the first injection of an experimental treatment (or, maybe, a placebo) into my right, dominant eye, where the damage occurred; then the second injection; and then, last week, the third.

I mean the rest of it. I went to bed believing that I was more or less in control — that the unfinished business, unrealized dreams and other disappointments in my life were essentially failures of industry and imagination, and could probably be redeemed with a fierce enough effort. I woke up to the realization of how ludicrous that was.

Bruni’s issues are far worse than I what I’ve been through, but this really hit home for me.




Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News but the Tech Companies?

2018-02-23T21:09:46Z

Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed:

The companies ask that we take them at their word: We’re trying, but this is hard — we can’t fix this overnight. OK, we get it. But if the tech giants aren’t finding the same misinformation that observers armed with nothing more sophisticated than access to a search bar are in the aftermath of these events, there’s really only one explanation for it: If they can’t see it, they aren’t truly looking.

How hard would it be, for example, to have a team in place reserved exclusively for large-scale breaking news events to do what outside observers have been doing: scan and monitor for clearly misleading conspiratorial content inside its top searches and trending modules?

It’s not a foolproof solution. But it’s something.

It’s the same reason why Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are overrun with state-backed troll accounts from Russia. Engagement leads to growth, growth is all that matters, and if the trolls and fake news are engaging, better not to look for them. The oft-quoted Upton Sinclair quote fits perfectly: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”




Aura

2018-02-23T03:13:17Z

Alastair Houghton on the story behind Aura, a new utility he’s just released that allows any Mac to output 5.1 surround sound. Long story short, he spent a year working on it but was on the cusp of shelving it, unreleased, due to licensing problems. It was saved only through serendipity. I don’t want to say any more — it’s a great story.




The Children Who Mine Cobalt

2018-02-23T02:46:20Z

Alex Crawford, reporting for Sky News:

At one cobalt mine, children toiled in the drenching rain carrying huge sacks of the mineral.

Dorsen, eight, had no shoes and told us he hadn’t made enough money to eat for the past two days - despite working for about 12 hours a day. His friend Richard, 11, talked about how his whole body ached every day from the tough physical work. […]

The mine tunnels are dug by hand by miners who have no protective equipment. The tunnels have no supports and are prone to collapse, especially in the rain.

There are thousands of unofficial, unregulated, unmonitored mines where men, women and children work in what can only be described as slave conditions. In one group, we found a circle of children with a four-year-old girl picking out cobalt stones.

Perhaps Apple’s rumored decision to begin buying cobalt directly is less about operational strategy and more about humanitarian concerns.




‘Unsane’ — New Steven Soderbergh Film Shot Entirely on iPhone

2018-02-23T02:38:37Z

Reuters:

Soderbergh said the overall experience of making a film on an iPhone was good, although there were some drawbacks such as the phone being very sensitive to vibrations.

“I have to say the positives for me really were significant and it’s going to be tricky to go back to a more conventional way of shooting,” he said.

Not having to make a hole in a wall or secure a camera to the ceiling are big advantages, as is being able to go straight from watching a rehearsal to shooting, Soderbergh said.

Putting this in a bit of context: the original iPhone didn’t even shoot video.




Why Facebook Won’t Ever Change

2018-02-23T02:34:22Z

Om Malik:

Google’s core DNA is search and engineering, though some would say engineering that is driven by the economics of search, which makes it hard for the company to see the world through any other lens. Apple’s lens is that of product, design, and experience. This allows it to make great phones and to put emphasis on privacy, but makes it hard for them to build data-informed services.

Facebook’s DNA is that of a social platform addicted to growth and engagement. At its very core, every policy, every decision, every strategy is based on growth (at any cost) and engagement (at any cost). More growth and more engagement means more data — which means the company can make more advertising dollars, which gives it a nosebleed valuation on the stock market, which in turn allows it to remain competitive and stay ahead of its rivals.




‘Gun Rights, “Positive Good”, and the Evolution of Mutually Assured Massacre’

2018-02-23T01:32:23Z

Must-read column by Josh Marshall on how the false notion that more guns make us safer — which has now come to the absurd point where the president of the United States is endorsing the notion of arming schoolteachers — came to be.




Things’s New Custom URL Scheme for Automation

2018-02-23T00:35:20Z

Cultured Code:

Things now supports a special kind of link (or URL) that starts with “things:”. These links are just like the ones you use every day on the web, except they allow you to send a variety of commands to Things.

Here’s an example: . Tapping this link will open Things and tell it to show your Today list. Try it now if you already have Things 3.4 installed.

This is pretty neat, and they’ve gone out of their way to make these URLs easy to create and understand, with a nifty helper tool and ample documentation.

And this is in addition to solid AppleScript support on the Mac, which I think Things has had for years. But there is no AppleScript on iOS, so for cross-platform automation, these URLs are an interesting alternative.

The Omni Group has gone even further, creating their own JavaScript-based automation system that works on both Mac and iOS.




The AR-15 Is Different

2018-02-23T00:43:00Z

Radiologist Heather Sher, writing for The Atlantic:

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

Update: Asha Rangappa:

This is a must-read. It illustrates why the NRA is so reluctant to allow the CDC to research gun violence as a public health issue: The facts would be devastating.

In the same way that it is lunacy that the U.S. doesn’t allow the ATF’s gun-tracing division to use computers for searching gun records, it is sheer lunacy that the Center for Disease Control is forbidden to research gun violence. Lunacy.




Picking the Latter

2018-02-22T20:19:38Z

Alexandra Petri, in an op-ed for The Washington Post:

There are certain sorts of people whom we once thought we should give respect and space to. Gold Star mothers. Gold Star fathers. The victims of unthinkable tragedies, in the few days after those tragedies. But that was when they had the grace to be silent and let us determine, for ourselves, the moral of what they had lived through. That was when they did not demand that we take responsibility.

Now, if you don’t want to hear from any more high schoolers traumatized by gun violence, then you either decide to try to create a world where high schoolers are not traumatized by gun violence, or decide to create a world where you do not have to listen to the high schoolers. It looks like we’re picking the latter!




The Life and Death of Twitter for Mac

2018-02-22T18:33:33Z

Rene Ritchie had me and a few special guests on his show to talk about the late great Twitter for Mac. Forget about the fact that I’m on it — I’m really intrigued by what Rene is doing with this show and the video format.




Bloomberg: ‘Apple in Talks to Buy Cobalt Directly From Miners’

2018-02-21T21:10:27Z

Jack Farchy and Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners for the first time, according to people familiar with the matter, seeking to ensure it will have enough of the key battery ingredient amid industry fears of a shortage driven by the electric vehicle boom.

The iPhone maker is one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets, but until now it has left the business of buying the metal to the companies that make its batteries.

I am assuming this just means Apple is buying out/taking over an existing cobalt brokerage or two, just to have total control over the whole process, as opposed to sending Jeff Williams out to the mines with suitcases full of cash.

But this idea feels very Apple-y: one of the keys of the Cook/Williams operational success has been staying a few years ahead of the curve for in-demand resources, like the deal they made to secure ample supply of flash storage back in 2005, which they announced just weeks after Apple unveiled the first iPod that used flash storage instead of a hard drive.




Inside the Federal Bureau of Way Too Many Guns

2018-02-21T19:59:43Z

Jeanne Marie Laskas, writing for GQ in 2016:

“It’s a shoestring budget,” says Charlie, who runs the center. “It’s not 10,000 agents and a big sophisticated place. It’s a bunch of friggin’ boxes. All half-ass records. We have about 50 ATF employees. And all the rest are basically the ladies. The ladies that live in West Virginia — and they got a job. There’s a huge amount of labor being put into looking through microfilm.”

I want to ask about the microfilm — microfilm? — but it’s hard to get a word in. He’s already gone three rounds on the whiteboard, scribbling, erasing, illustrating some of the finer points of gun tracing, of which there are many, in large part due to the limitations imposed upon this place. For example, no computer. The National Tracing Center is not allowed to have centralized computer data.

“That’s the big no-no,” says Charlie.

That’s been a federal law, thanks to the NRA, since 1986: No searchable database of America’s gun owners. So people here have to use paper, sort through enormous stacks of forms and record books that gun stores are required to keep and to eventually turn over to the feds when requested. It’s kind of like a library in the old days — but without the card catalog. They can use pictures of paper, like microfilm (they recently got the go-ahead to convert the microfilm to PDFs), as long as the pictures of paper are not searchable. You have to flip through and read. No searching by gun owner. No searching by name.

The legislation that keeps the ATF from computerizing these records is lunacy, based entirely on the fever dream that such a database would lead to mass confiscation.

See also: Guns Found Here, a bracing, compelling 10-minute short from MEL Films that really hammers home how insane the constraints on the ATF National Trace Center are. All they’re trying to do is help law enforcement solve gun crimes and they’re forced to do it in the most inefficient way possible.




Why the Second Amendment Does Not Stymie Gun Control

2018-02-21T19:03:40Z

The Economist:

It is impossible to say whether erasing the Second Amendment would bring down gun deaths in America. But this is an academic query: changes to the constitution require the unlikely assent of two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate and three-quarters of the states. The better question is whether repealing the amendment is a must for pursuing gun control. It is not. The Heller majority opinion did not, in the words of its author, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, secure an “unlimited” right to buy or carry weapons. The Second Amendment would not, for example, scuttle bans on concealed weapons or machine guns. And Justice Scalia emphasised that nothing in Heller “should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings”. Nearly every gun regulation under discussion today — from expanded background checks to bans on military-style weapons — would seem to pass constitutional muster.

It’s remarkable how effective the NRA has been at convincing people that the 2nd Amendment means something that it does not. We almost certainly cannot repeal the 2nd Amendment in the foreseeable future, but we absolutely can pass meaningful new gun regulations with the 2nd Amendment in place.




‘I’ve only had good years.’

2018-02-23T02:57:51Z

Robert Safian, interviewing Tim Cook for Fast Company after the magazine named Apple the world’s most innovative company:

Fast Company: What makes a good year for Apple? Is it the new hit products? The stock price?

Tim Cook: Stock price is a result, not an achievement by itself. For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things — and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other — then you have a good year.

FC: Do you look back at some years and say, Oh, that was a good year, that year wasn’t as good?

TC: I’ve only had good years. No, seriously. Even when we were idling from a revenue point of view — it was like $6 billion every year — those were some incredibly good years because you could begin to feel the pipeline getting better, and you could see it internally. Externally, people couldn’t see that.




Apple Maps vs. Google Maps vs. Waze (in the Bay Area)

2018-02-21T17:45:17Z

Artur Grabowski (no relation, presumably, to Steve):

In early 2017, a conversation with yet another Waze fanboy finally nudged me to start a navigation app experiment. I was skeptical that the Alphabet owned company could meaningfully best its parent’s home grown Google Maps. I was also curious whether Apple Maps had discovered competence since its iOS 6 release.

I thus set out to answer three questions:

  1. Which navigation app estimates the shortest travel time?
  2. How does each app over/underestimate travel times?
  3. Which navigation app actually gets you to your destination most quickly?

This whole comparison was interesting, but particularly interesting to me was that Apple Maps was the only one of the three to under-promise and over-deliver on estimated time.




Switzerland Considers the Lobster

2018-02-21T03:12:19Z

Jason Kottke:

Come March 1, it will be illegal to throw a lobster into a pot of boiling water. Chefs and home cooks alike will need to quickly kill the lobster first and then cook it. […]

But really, this is just an excuse to revisit a sublime piece of journalism that David Foster Wallace wrote in 2004 for Gourmet magazine called Consider the Lobster (later collected in a book of the same name). In it, Wallace travels to the Maine Lobster Festival and comes away asking similar questions that the Swiss had in formulating their law.




The Hill: ‘Newt Gingrich Says Arming Teachers Only Long-Term Solution to School Shootings’

2018-02-21T04:16:16Z

This is fucking insane:

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on Tuesday argued that the only long-term solution to school shootings is to train teachers and administrators in the use of guns.

Gingrich offered the remarks in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”

“I think the only long-term solution, depending on the size of the school, is a minimum of six to eight teachers and administrators who are trained in the use of firearms and have conceal carry permits and are prepared to defend the kids,” said Gingrich, a Fox News contributor and former CNN “Crossfire” co-host.

It’s funny when an Onion story on five-blade razor cartridges becomes a real product just a few years later. It’s fucking insane when an Onion story on arming schoolteachers becomes a Republican talking point just a few years later.




★ iOS Messages and Smart Punctuation

2018-02-21T00:46:58Z

Apple, please, give us back our smart punctuation for iMessages. iOS 11 finally added a long-awaited feature for those of us who care about typographic details: smart punctuation. You can turn this on in Settings → General → Keyboards. When enabled, quotes and apostrophes (like "this" and 'this') are automatically turned into their proper counterparts (like “this” and ‘this’), two hyphens in a row (--) are turned into a proper em-dash (—), etc. I say “finally” because MacOS has had the feature in the standard text editing system for many years, and I can’t think of a good reason why it wasn’t in iOS years ago. I can say it’s not a difficult programming job to solve because I’ve solved it in the more difficult context of smartening punctuation in prose without messing up the necessary dumb quotes inside HTML tags. In some recent update to iOS (I think 11.2.5, but it might have been an earlier 11.2.x update), smart punctuation stopped working in Messages — and as far as I can tell, only Messages. Why? My best guess: unintended consequences when sending SMS messages. Here’s a thread on Apple’s help forum addressing the issue. SMS is such an old standard that it was designed with the ASCII character set in mind. An SMS message containing only ASCII characters can contain up to 160 characters. Include even just a single non-ASCII character, though — such as a curly quote or apostrophe, or an emoji — and the entire message must be encoded using a 16-bit alphabet, limiting the message to just 70 characters because the length of the message in bytes remains fixed by the protocol.1 In short: if you stick to dumb quotes, you can put 160 characters in an SMS message. Include just one smart/curly quote, and you only get 70 characters. I don’t know for sure that this is why iOS 11’s smart punctuation feature no longer works in Messages, but it’s the only explanation that I can think of. (I’ve seen some speculation that this might be a machine learning bug, but machine learning bugs, like the infamous “I → weird-looking A” fiasco from a few months ago, aren’t limited to one app like Messages. And “Smart Punctuation” is a separate setting from “Predictive Text” in the Settings app — you can use either without the other.) But if I’m right about why, then why does it apply to iMessage messages — a.k.a. blue-bubble messages — too? iMessage messages aren’t limited by the antiquated constraints of SMS in any other way, so why limit them typographically? This is a story with a happy ending, because it looks like iOS 11.3 will fix this. After installing today’s new 11.3 developer beta on both an iPad and iPhone, smart punctuation is back when writing a (blue) iMessage, and is disabled only when writing a (green) SMS.2 Smart. Technically, SMS messages use the GSM-7 text encoding, not ASCII. But like ASCII, GSM-7 is a 7-bit encoding limited to just 128 characters. ↩︎ It still isn’t as smart as it could be. Consider the case of people who write in a language that requires 16-bit encoding, and thus are limited to 70 characters in all their SMS messages. Why disable smart punctuation for them? ↩︎︎ [...]



Microsoft’s Azure Services in China Are Contracted to a Chinese Company, Too

2018-02-20T19:37:14Z

Microsoft:

Microsoft Azure operated by 21Vianet (Azure China 21Vianet) is a physically separated instance of cloud services located in mainland China, independently operated and transacted by Shanghai Blue Cloud Technology Co., Ltd. (“21Vianet”), a wholly owned subsidiary of Beijing 21Vianet Broadband Data Center Co., Ltd.

The services are based on the same Azure, Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Power BI technologies that make up the Microsoft global cloud service with comparable service levels. Agreements and contracts for Microsoft Azure in China, where applicable, are signed between customers and 21Vianet.




Nikkei Asian Review’s Irresistible Verb

2018-02-20T19:24:24Z

Philip Elmer‑DeWitt:

But I know a dog whistle when I hear it, and in the Nikkei stories below the verb “to slash” — to cut with a violent sweeping motion — is code for Apple is doomed.

  • Jan. 29: Apple will slash its production target for the iPhone X
  • Feb. 16: OLED panel glut looms as Apple slashes iPhone X production
  • Feb. 20: Samsung to slash OLED panel output as iPhone X slumps

Here’s the thing about a verb like that: It’s almost irresistible. Here are a few reporters who couldn’t resist.

As Elmer-DeWitt points out, kudos to Jack Purcher at Patently Apple for pushing back on this.




[Sponsor] Jamf Now

2018-02-21T14:04:48-05:00

For many people, IT is a task and not a career. Now you can support your users without help from IT.

Jamf Now is a simple, cloud-based solution designed to help anyone set up, manage, and protect Apple devices at work. Easily configure company email and Wi-Fi networks, distribute apps to your team, and protect sensitive data without locking down devices.

Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. Forever. Each additional device is just $2 per month. Create your free account today!




Apple’s Upcoming Handover of Chinese iCloud Data to a State-Owned Company

2018-02-20T19:10:28Z

Lo Shih-hung, writing for The Hong Kong Free Press:

The US-based global tech giant Apple Inc. is set to hand over the operation of its iCloud data center in mainland China to a local corporation called Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD) by February 28, 2018. When this transition happens, the local company will become responsible for handling the legal and financial relationship between Apple and China’s iCloud users. After the transition takes place, the role of Apple will restricted to an investment of US one billion dollars, for the construction of a data center in Guiyang, and for providing technical support to the center, in the interest of preserving data security. […]

Apple Inc. has not explained the real issue, which is that a state-owned big data company controlled by the Chinese government will have access to all the data of its iCloud service users in China. This will allow the capricious state apparatus to jump into the cloud and look into the data of Apple’s Chinese users.

I wish that Apple would provide a definitive list of all types of data that goes through iCloud, showing what is end-to-end encrypted (iMessage and FaceTime?) and what is not. This whole situation reeks to high hell, but I don’t know what Apple could do other than pull out of the Chinese market entirely.

Update: This Apple support document comes pretty close to what I’m asking for.




Meh.com: ‘Selling Shit You Don’t Want for So Cheap That You Buy It Anyway’

2018-02-19T19:21:17Z

My thanks to Meh for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Here’s what they had to say in their promoted RSS feed entry earlier this week:

People ask what kinds of things we sell, and it’s hard to categorize — headphones, knives, pearl necklaces, pliers (just from the last few weeks) — but you know what it’s got in common? It’s dirt cheap. Cheaper than anywhere else, cheaper than it’s ever been, possibly cheaper than it’ll ever be. We hate hype and we hate marketing pitches, but that’s just literally the easiest way to explain what we sell.

I can’t say it any better than that.




The Talk Show: ‘The “Press Real Hard” Era’

2018-02-18T23:22:42Z

Special guest Marco Arment returns to the show for a brief discussion. Topics include Apple’s OS development strategy, HomePod and Siri, the sad state of Apple TV apps, where to get a good cheesesteak, and more.

Brought to you by these fine sponsors:

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Twitter Abolishes Native Mac Client

2018-02-16T23:19:52Z

Twitter:

We’re focusing our efforts on a great Twitter experience that’s consistent across platforms. So, starting today the Twitter for Mac app will no longer be available for download, and in 30 days will no longer be supported.

For the full Twitter experience on Mac, visit Twitter on web.

It’s hard to overstate just how great a native Mac experience Twitter owned when they acqui-hired Tweetie and Loren Brichter. It was pure Twitter and pure forward-thinking Mac UI. Now, Mac users get the same first-party experience that everyone gets on any other platform.

Twitter dumped Tweetie’s codebase years ago, of course, and their Mac app has been garbage ever since they did. It’s all fine, really, so long as they continue to allow third-party clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific to exist. But this “Mac users should just use the website” attitude is exactly what I was talking about here as an existential threat to the future of the Mac.

People choose the Mac because they want the best experience — not the same experience they can get on a $200 Chromebook.




DFW: ‘Roger Federer as Religious Experience’

2018-02-16T22:52:45Z

Worth a re-link. David Foster Wallace in 2006 on then-25-year-old Roger Federer:

The Moments are more intense if you’ve played enough tennis to understand the impossibility of what you just saw him do. We’ve all got our examples. Here is one. It’s the finals of the 2005 U.S. Open, Federer serving to Andre Agassi early in the fourth set. There’s a medium-long exchange of groundstrokes, one with the distinctive butterfly shape of today’s power-baseline game, Federer and Agassi yanking each other from side to side, each trying to set up the baseline winner…until suddenly Agassi hits a hard heavy cross-court backhand that pulls Federer way out wide to his ad (=left) side, and Federer gets to it but slices the stretch backhand short, a couple feet past the service line, which of course is the sort of thing Agassi dines out on, and as Federer’s scrambling to reverse and get back to center, Agassi’s moving in to take the short ball on the rise, and he smacks it hard right back into the same ad corner, trying to wrong-foot Federer, which in fact he does — Federer’s still near the corner but running toward the centerline, and the ball’s heading to a point behind him now, where he just was, and there’s no time to turn his body around, and Agassi’s following the shot in to the net at an angle from the backhand side…and what Federer now does is somehow instantly reverse thrust and sort of skip backward three or four steps, impossibly fast, to hit a forehand out of his backhand corner, all his weight moving backward, and the forehand is a topspin screamer down the line past Agassi at net, who lunges for it but the ball’s past him, and it flies straight down the sideline and lands exactly in the deuce corner of Agassi’s side, a winner — Federer’s still dancing backward as it lands. And there’s that familiar little second of shocked silence from the New York crowd before it erupts, and John McEnroe with his color man’s headset on TV says (mostly to himself, it sounds like), “How do you hit a winner from that position?” And he’s right: given Agassi’s position and world-class quickness, Federer had to send that ball down a two-inch pipe of space in order to pass him, which he did, moving backwards, with no setup time and none of his weight behind the shot. It was impossible. It was like something out of “The Matrix.” I don’t know what-all sounds were involved, but my spouse says she hurried in and there was popcorn all over the couch and I was down on one knee and my eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs.

Anyway, that’s one example of a Federer Moment, and that was merely on TV — and the truth is that TV tennis is to live tennis pretty much as video porn is to the felt reality of human love.

Oh how I wish Wallace were still alive to see Federer reclaim the world’s number one ranking at the heretofore unheard of age of 36.




Lauren Goode vs. Lauren Goode: iPhone X vs. Pixel 2

2018-02-16T23:38:23Z

Such a gimmicky gimmick, yes, but Lauren Goode does this so fucking well. I just love it. Technically it’s pretty darn good, but substantially it’s downright amazing: she makes wonderfully accurate cases for both phones.




How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment

2018-02-16T21:50:33Z

Michael Waldman, writing for Politico in 2014:

From 1888, when law review articles first were indexed, through 1959, every single one on the Second Amendment concluded it did not guarantee an individual right to a gun. The first to argue otherwise, written by a William and Mary law student named Stuart R. Hays, appeared in 1960. He began by citing an article in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine and argued that the amendment enforced a “right of revolution,” of which the Southern states availed themselves during what the author called “The War Between the States.”

At first, only a few articles echoed that view. Then, starting in the late 1970s, a squad of attorneys and professors began to churn out law review submissions, dozens of them, at a prodigious rate. Funds — much of them from the NRA — flowed freely. An essay contest, grants to write book reviews, the creation of “Academics for the Second Amendment,” all followed. In 2003, the NRA Foundation provided $1 million to endow the Patrick Henry professorship in constitutional law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University Law School.

This fusillade of scholarship and pseudo-scholarship insisted that the traditional view — shared by courts and historians — was wrong. There had been a colossal constitutional mistake. Two centuries of legal consensus, they argued, must be overturned.

We don’t need to repeal the 2nd Amendment — although I think we should, insofar as it is inexplicably ambiguously written and punctuated — we just need to flip the Supreme Court to interpret it as it had been from 1789 through 2008.




‘Paul Ryan: No “Knee Jerk” Reactions on Guns. Ever.’

2018-02-16T21:24:27Z

These mass shootings in the U.S. are like a perverse version of Groundhog Day. Republicans say the exact same things in response, every time, as though it’s the first time.

Democrats need to stop playing nice and start pounding home over and over that the Republicans are a party that is committed to accepting regular school shootings in the name of gun rights.




[Sponsor] Meh.com: Selling Shit You Don’t Want for So Cheap That You Buy It Anyway

2018-02-18T18:44:53-05:00

People ask what kinds of things we sell, and it’s hard to categorize — headphones, knives, pearl necklaces, pliers (just from the last few weeks) — but you know what it’s got in common? It’s dirt cheap. Cheaper than anywhere else, cheaper than it’s ever been, possibly cheaper than it’ll ever be. We hate hype and we hate marketing pitches, but that’s just literally the easiest way to explain what we sell.




Every Member of Congress Who Took Money From the NRA and Tweeted ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ to Parkland

2018-02-16T01:59:01Z

103 Republicans, 1 Democrat.

It’s not “Congress” as a whole that refuses to take action.

(Also, it’s not a complete list. My own Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) has taken boatloads of money from pro-gun groups and tweeted this in response to yesterday’s massacre, which I think clearly counts as a “thoughts and prayers” tweet.)




Et Tu, Sonos?

2018-02-15T19:59:57Z

Mike Prospero, writing for Tom’s Guide:

When I got home, I saw a large white ring, a telltale indication that the HomePod’s silicone base had messed up the finish. But, as I was inspecting the damage, I noticed a series of smaller white marks near where the HomePod was sitting.

A closer inspection revealed that the Sonos One speaker, which also has small silicone feet, had made these marks on my cabinet. Looking around the top of the cabinet, I noticed a bunch of little white marks, all left from the Sonos Ones as I moved them around. So, they will damage your wood furniture, too.




Strategy Analytics Claims Apple Took Over Half of Worldwide Phone Revenue Last Quarter

2018-02-15T20:53:40Z

Evan Niu, The Motley Fool:

Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston points out that “Apple now accounts for more revenue than the rest of the entire global smartphone industry combined.” iPhone ASP is flirting with $800, while the broader industry’s ASP is approximately $300. This latter metric was up 18% year over year, as both Apple and Samsung saw success with their respective premium flagships. Samsung’s Note 8 and Galaxy S8 remain popular, but Samsung is also a large player in terms of unit volumes at the lower ends of the market. However, the South Korean conglomerate has seen its position in low-cost smartphones slip in large markets like China, leading to its ASP jumping 21% to $254.

Their numbers put iPhone revenue at 51 percent of the market, Samsung’s at 16, and Huawei’s at 7. You don’t hear much these days from the folks who thought the higher price of the iPhone X was a bad idea.




We’ve Reached the Point Where People Are Giving Up on Schools

2018-02-16T15:18:40Z

Actual headline in an op-ed from the Miami Herald today: “In the Wake of the Douglas High Massacre, Is Home Schooling a Better Option?” That’s how ridiculous our situation has become. People are starting to question whether the problem is with sending kids to school, not with pervasive access to military weapons.




‘No Way to Prevent This’, Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

2018-02-15T19:24:14Z

The Onion posts the same headline after every mass shooting in the U.S., and every time they do it, it’s more apt than ever.

That’s the shot. Here’s the chaser: “Gorilla Sales Skyrocket After Latest Gorilla Attack”.




‘The Gun Is Our Moloch’

2018-02-15T18:29:34Z

Garry Wills, writing for The New York Review five years ago, after the Sandy Hook grade school massacre:

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Its power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.

Our gun laws are insane. We, collectively, have agreed that regular mass shootings, often at schools — schools! — are a reasonable price to pay as a nation for unfettered access to military-grade killing machines for anyone and everyone who wants one.

It’s sick. Everyone outside the U.S. knows this. A majority of Americans knows this and supports stricter gun control.

There are new gun laws being drafted. But you know what most of them are for? For making guns even easier to purchase legally, without background checks.




Facebook Now Spamming Users With Texts if They’ve Enabled Two-Factor Security

2018-02-15T01:46:40Z

Kate Conger, writing for Gizmodo:

I’ve been getting these text-spam messages since last summer, when I set up a new Facebook account and turned on two-factor authentication. I created the new profile with somewhat vague intentions of using it for professional purposes — I didn’t like the idea of messaging sources from my primary Facebook account, where they could flip through pictures of my high school prom or my young nephews. But I didn’t end up using the profile often, and I let it sit mostly abandoned for months at a time.

At first, I only got one or two texts from Facebook per month. But as my profile stagnated, I got more and more messages. In January, Facebook texted me six times — mostly with updates about what my ex was posting. This month, I’ve already gotten four texts from Facebook. One is about a post from a former intern; I don’t recognize the name of one of the other “friends” Facebook messaged me about.

This is nuts — how scummy does Facebook have to be to punish people who do the right thing by setting up two-factor security?




★ Sponsoring Daring Fireball, Early 2018 Edition

2018-02-15T14:05:25Z

There’s a part of me that hates posting self-promotional stuff here on Daring Fireball. There’s another part of me that wants to sell ads and keep this thing afloat, and knows that I sell more ads when I, you know, mention that there are ads for sale. There’s a part of me that loathes posting self-promotional stuff here on Daring Fireball. There’s another part of me that wants to sell ads and keep this thing afloat, and knows that I sell more ads when I periodically mention that there are ads for sale. Right now there are three ways to sponsor my work: Weekly sponsorships. I just updated the public-facing schedule, and there are a few openings in the coming weeks. And, this very week remains open (long story short: last-minute cancellation). Given that it’s already Wednesday, the remainder of this week could be yours for a substantial discount. Get in touch. These weekly sponsorships have been the number one source of revenue for Daring Fireball ever since I started selling them back in 2007. They’ve succeeded, I think, because they make everyone happy. They generate good money. There’s only one sponsor per week and the sponsors are always relevant to at least some sizable portion of the DF audience, so you, the reader, are never annoyed and hopefully often intrigued by them. And, from the sponsors’ perspective, they work. My favorite thing about them is how many sponsors return for subsequent weeks after seeing the results. Display ads. These are new — my little homegrown replacement for The Deck (R.I.P.). I’ve been selling these since last summer, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned them enough here. Right now I’m selling spots for March for $3,500. I don’t have a landing page to promote them, but if you’re interested, get in touch. (You can also buy both a weekly sponsorship and a display ad and get a discount.) Sponsoring The Talk Show. This is something I seldom mention here on Daring Fireball, but I think sponsoring The Talk Show would be a great opportunity for a lot of the same services and products that sponsor the website. I love the regular sponsors of the show — and the fact that so many of them return repeatedly speaks well to the results they see. But I would love to get some more variety into the list of sponsors for the show. I don’t sell these myself, but if you have a product or service you think would be of interest to The Talk Show’s audience, get in touch with Jessie Char at Neat.fm. We still have a few openings for the remainder of Q1, and first-time sponsors are eligible for a rate below the listed price of $4,000 per spot. [...]



Nick Heer: ‘Reports of Google’s Newfound Design Prowess Have Been Greatly Exaggerated’

2018-02-14T23:18:57Z

Nick Heer on the new YouTube app for Apple TV:

None of these elements behaves as you might expect, primarily because the YouTube app doesn’t interpret swipes and scrolls like any other app. There’s no audible blip whenever you select something, and swiping around manages to be both sluggish and jerky.

The frustratingly slow scrolling is especially pronounced on the aforementioned horizontal navigation element because swiping just a little too far to the left will open the modal main menu panel that covers a third of the screen.

The slow scrolling is also apparent in the main menu panel. The scrolling “friction”, for lack of a better term, is such that swiping down just a little is unlikely to have any effect, and swiping down just a little bit more will move the selector down two menu items. It can be very difficult to get it to move one menu item at a time.

It’s a terrible, terrible Apple TV app. Much like Amazon’s new Prime Video app, it looks and feels like it was designed and implemented by people who’ve never even used an Apple TV.




Facebook Is Pushing Its Data-Tracking Onavo VPN Within Its Main Mobile App

2018-02-14T20:47:08Z

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:

Onavo Protect, the VPN client from the data-security app maker acquired by Facebook back in 2013, has now popped up in the Facebook iOS app itself, under the banner “Protect” in the navigation menu. Clicking through on “Protect” will redirect Facebook users to the “Onavo Protect — VPN Security” app’s listing on the App Store.

This is spyware. If you use Onavo, Facebook can and will track you everywhere you go on the Internet.




Kottke on the State of Blogging

2018-02-14T18:20:48Z

Jason Kottke, in a fascinating interview with Laura Hazard Owen for the Nieman Journalism Lab:

Melancholy, I think, is the exact right word. Personally, I think I felt a lot worse about it maybe three, four years ago. I was like, crap, what am I going to do here? I can see where this is going, I can see that more and more people are going to go to Facebook, and to mobile, and to all of these social apps and stuff like that, and there’s going to be less and less of a space in there for blogs like mine. I can’t churn out 60 things a day and play that social game where you use the shotgun approach to spit stuff out there and see what sticks. I’ve got to do four, five, six things that are good, really good. Since then, though, I’ve sort of come to terms with that. I’m like: Okay, if I can just keep going it, just keep doing it, it will work itself out somehow. I don’t know why I think that, but I kind of do.

The membership thing was actually really helpful in that regard, because within a pretty short amount of time, there was a lot of signal that people really appreciate what it is I do, enough that they’re willing to pay for it. It was kind of like, holy shit, we’re all in this together. I knew before that there were people who really into the site and who really like it, and that’s always been great to know and to get that feedback in the inbox and via Twitter and stuff like that. But to actually have those people pony up some dough changed my whole mindset about how I feel about the site.

I have many thoughts on the rise and decline of blogging — many of them stirred up recently, with Dean Allen’s death. Dean’s passing felt like the punctuation mark ending an era. There are a lot of great blogs still going, but as old ones drop off, there aren’t many new ones taking their places. It ain’t like it used to be.




★ The Threat to the Mac: The Growing Popularity of Non-Native Apps

2018-02-12T23:16:36Z

The real problem facing the Mac are the number of developers creating non-native “Mac” apps and the number of users who don’t have a problem with them. Peter Ammon, former AppKit engineer at Apple, in a comment in a Hacker News thread regarding a report positing that the ability of Mac apps — even sandboxed ones — to capture screenshots of the entire screen is a security problem: IMO the app sandbox was a grievous strategic mistake for the Mac. Cocoa-based Mac apps are rapidly being eaten by web apps and Electron pseudo-desktop apps. For Mac apps to survive, they must capitalize on their strengths: superior performance, better system integration, better dev experience, more features, and higher general quality. But the app sandbox strikes at all of those. In return it offers security inferior to a web app, as this post illustrates. The price is far too high and the benefits too little. IMO Apple should drop the Mac app sandbox altogether (though continue to sandbox system services, which is totally sensible, and maybe retain something geared towards browsers.) The code signing requirements and dev cert revocation, which has been successfully used to remotely disable malware, will be sufficient security: the Mac community is good at sussing out bad actors. But force Mac devs to castrate their apps even more, and there won’t be anything left to protect. In a follow-up comment, Ammon enumerates why truly native Cocoa apps are both worth creating and better to use. I’m with Ammon: I think the Mac’s (relatively) recent move to cryptographically signed applications — with certificates that can be revoked by Apple — has been a win all around for security. But I don’t think the Mac sandbox has. The sandboxed nature of all iOS apps works because that’s how iOS was designed from the ground up. That’s why iOS is a better platform than the Mac for non-expert users in most ways. But the Mac was not designed with sandboxing in mind, and in many ways sandboxing works against what keeps the Mac relevant alongside iOS. As I wrote seven years ago: “It’s the heaviness of the Mac that allows iOS to remain light.” The whole point of the Mac is to be a great platform for native Mac apps. Sandboxing doesn’t help Mac apps do more. If the Mac devolves into a platform where people just use web browsers and cross-platform Electron apps, it might as well not exist, because the only remaining thing that would distinguish it from other desktop OSes is iCloud integration. Mac apps have been able to “see” the entire display ever since the Mac debuted. The Mac needs the power to allow the user to shoot themselves in the foot. Or perhaps better said, the Mac needs the power for apps to shoot the user in the foot. On the Mac, you need to trust any software you install, [...]



★ HomePod

2018-02-13T03:04:33Z

I’ve been testing Apple’s new HomePod for the last week or so, and this is the first product review I’ve written that could be accurately summarized in the length of a tweet, and an old-school 140-character tweet at that: HomePod does exactly what Apple says it does, doesn’t do anything more than what Apple says it does, and costs $349. There. I’ve been testing Apple’s new HomePod for the last week or so, and this is the first product review I’ve written that could be accurately summarized in the length of a tweet, and an old-school 140-character tweet at that: HomePod does exactly what Apple says it does, doesn’t do anything more than what Apple says it does, and costs $349. There. To wit, Apple says HomePod: Has great audio quality. Is easy to set up. Makes it easy to play audio content from Apple (Apple Music, iTunes Store, iCloud Music Library, podcasts from iTunes’s directory). Has primary interaction via Siri. You just talk to HomePod. Allows secondary interaction using HomePod as an AirPlay speaker. All of this is true. Apple’s product names are sometimes inscrutable, but other times are perfectly sensible. AirPods and HomePod are such a case. The two products are very much siblings: they play audio wirelessly and are controlled via Siri and a few simple touch controls. What AirPods are for your own ears, HomePod is for your home. Even the setup process for each device is similar. In the same way that you begin the pairing process for AirPods by opening their case a few inches from your iPhone, you set up HomePod just by plugging it in and then bringing your iPhone (running iOS 11.2.5 or later) near the HomePod. If you have a room in your home or workspace where you would like to listen to music from Apple and/or podcasts, and you care about audio quality, you should absolutely consider HomePod. If you’re looking for something else, you probably shouldn’t. What’s missing: Siri-driven content from non-Apple sources. Spotify is the service most people seem to be talking about, but for now at least, nothing works through “Hey Siri” with HomePod other than content from Apple. HomePod works fine as an AirPlay speaker, but in loose terms, I would say playing audio via AirPlay is to native “Hey Siri, play …” support on HomePod as web apps are to native apps on iOS or Mac: better than nothing but clunky compared to the real deal. (I should add here: when playing content on HomePod via AirPlay, you can, as you’d expect, say things like “Hey Siri, pause” or “Hey Siri, set the volume to 65”.) It is unclear at this point whether third-party “Hey Siri” playback support is the way Apple wants HomePod to be, simply something they haven’t gotten around to yet, or still up in t[...]



★ HomePod’s Priorities

2018-01-28T22:28:25Z

A lot of the knee-jerk “*Apple has finally lost its goddamn collective mind if they think people are going to spend $350 on a HomePod that costs three times as much as and has far fewer features than an Amazon Echo and they’re only banging the drum about sound quality because Siri has so many problems*” reaction is entirely from the perspective of people who agree with Amazon’s priorities regarding Alexa products. More hour-long hands-on experiences with HomePod are rolling out. Here’s Brian Heater, writing at TechCrunch: As advertised, the thing sounds great. There’s little question here that the HomePod is a speaker first, smart second, bucking the trend of the earliest Echo and Google Home devices. Apple’s engineers were able to get a lot of rich and full sound out of that little footprint. The speaker is particularly adept as isolating vocals and maintaining often muddled aural aspects, like background singers and audience sounds in live recordings. The difference between HomePod and Amazon Echo isn’t that they’re in different product categories. They’re in the same category. No one other than a gadget reviewer is going to put both a HomePod and Echo in their kitchen. They’re going to have one. It is, most certainly, a competition. The difference is in the priorities behind the devices. All of them are meant to be audio players and useful voice-driven assistants for information, communication, and smart home control. They’re intended to be adopted fairly widely. But it makes a huge difference what order those priorities are in. HomePod’s first priority is clearly audio quality. That’s why it costs $350. Amazon has placed a higher priority on price, which is one reason why Echo doesn’t sound great. A lot of the knee-jerk “Apple has finally lost its goddamn collective mind if they think people are going to spend $350 on a HomePod that costs three times as much as and has far fewer features than an Amazon Echo and they’re only banging the drum about sound quality because Siri has so many problems” reaction is entirely from the perspective of people who agree with Amazon’s priorities regarding Alexa products. Google seems to be in more of a middle ground, offering both an Echo-ish-priced Google Home at $130 and a HomePod-ish-priced $400 Home Max (which, judging from initial reports, clearly does not sound as good as HomePod). Writing at Medium, I think Lance Ulanoff’s headline starts the piece off on the wrong foot: “Up Close With Apple HomePod, Siri’s Expensive New Home”. If the HomePod’s primary purpose is to serve as a home for Siri, then yes, it’s expensive. I imagine that is how Amazon’s Echo devices came to be: Amazon wanted a way to get Alexa into[...]



★ Apple Previews iOS 11.3

2018-01-26T18:06:53Z

It’s almost like Apple held a little mini-WWDC over the last two days via Newsroom posts. Apple Newsroom on what’s new in the upcoming iOS 11.3: Business Chat is a new way for users to communicate directly with businesses right within Messages. This feature will launch in Beta with the public availability of iOS 11.3 this spring, with the support of select businesses including Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo. With Business Chat, it’s easy to have a conversation with a service representative, schedule an appointment or make purchases using Apple Pay in the Messages app. Business Chat doesn’t share the user’s contact information with businesses and gives users the ability to stop chatting at any time. iMessage is one of Apple’s most underestimated assets. If iMessage were a startup, with exactly the same users, usage (a.k.a. “engagement”), and features, it could be worth tens of billions of dollars. But because it’s not a startup, Apple is under no pressure to monetize the service in ways that annoy users. On the battery front: Additionally, users can now see if the power management feature that dynamically manages maximum performance to prevent unexpected shutdowns, first introduced in iOS 10.2.1, is on and can choose to turn it off. This feature can be found in Settings → Battery and is available for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Being able to disable dynamic performance throttling is new — if I recall correctly, all Apple had promised last month was that iOS would soon show more information about your battery. [Update: The first mention of a switch to control this behavior was in this interview Tim Cook gave to ABC News last week.] Health: The new Health Records feature brings together hospitals, clinics and the existing Health app to make it easy for consumers to see their available medical data from multiple providers, whenever they choose. Patients from participating medical institutions will have information from various institutions organized into one view and receive regular notifications for their lab results, medications, conditions and more. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with a passcode. This could be pretty awesome if it’s adopted widely by medical professionals. Apple has more information about the program in a separate announcement. Music: Apple Music will soon be the home for music videos. Users can stream all the music videos they want without being interrupted by ads. Gee, I wonder what video platform that’s a reference to? This whole 11.3 announcement is interesting. Some of these features — like Business Chat — are things I might have expected they̵[...]