iOS 9, El Capitan, Safari Content Blockers, and Shit-Ass Websites

Developer Dean Murphy spent an hour tossing together a quick content blocking extension for Safari on iOS 9, testing it against iMore:

With no content blocked, there are 38 3rd party scripts (scripts not hosted on the host domain) running when the homepage is opened, which takes a total of 11 seconds. Some of these scripts are hosted by companies I know, Google, Amazon, Twitter and lots from companies I don’t know. Most of which I assume are used to display adverts or track my activity, as the network activity was still active after a minute of leaving the page dormant. I decided to turn them all off all 3rd party scripts and see what would happen.

After turning off all 3rd party scripts, the homepage took 2 seconds to load, down from 11 seconds. Also, the network activity stopped as soon as the page loaded so it should be less strain on the battery.

That’s a big difference, which means only one thing: iMore is another one of those shit-ass websites. John Gruber in 2011:

One article at TheNextWeb weighed in at over 6 MB and required 342 HTTP requests. 73 different JavaScript scripts alone. Absurd. I did a reload on the same page a few minutes later and it was up to 368 HTTP requests but weighed “only” 1.99 MB.

So how are we doing now, four years later? That same article is now 11.0 MB requiring 236 HTTP requests. (I turned off all of my desktop Safari extensions before running these tests.)

For their part, iMore didn’t ignore Murphy’s article. Rene Ritchie:

To answer the obvious questions, yes. Everyone here and at our network, Mobile Nations, saw it. Everyone here and at our network were also well aware of it, and have been working for months already to improve it. That we haven’t made it further, faster is an indication of how hard it is when you’re talking about websites visited by tens of millions of people, and companies that employ more than a dozen writers. Of course, everyone here is going to continue working to find better, smarter ways of solving the problem, because that’s our jobs. I’m sure other large websites are doing likewise.

His “response” article — which, I should point out, is entirely text-based, unlike a media-heavy review — weighs in at a whopping 14 MB with 330 requests. That’s one shit-ass website, largely because it’s bogged down by unnecessary tools.

As someone who operates a website with an advertisement served by JavaScript, you may see me as a hypocrite: on the one hand, I’m looking forward to a faster web via content blockers; on the other, I directly profit by a lack of script blocking. But the Carbon ad on the right doesn’t seem to have noticeably degraded performance on this site, and it’s a tiny static image in the sidebar.1

By contrast, a glance through the changelog of my blacklist clearly shows certain ad networks and utilities that are disrespectful to performance and, consequently, readers. With increasing amounts of web browsing being done on mobile devices — and with iOS devices occupying a significant chunk of the mobile web market share — the pressure is going to be on for the makers of inefficient scripts and utilities. With any luck, the web will be better for it.


  1. And, unlike most web tools, it doesn’t track you site-to-site, or even within this site. There’s a referral code on the end of the link so Carbon knows if someone clicks it, but that’s it. There’s no targeting, and no other funny business. ↩︎

Facebook Hired Seven Black People in 2013

Rupert Neite, of the Guardian:

The most recent EEO filing available shows Facebook hired an additional seven black people out of an overall headcount increase of 1,231 in 2013. At that time Facebook employed just 45 black staff out of a total US workforce of 4,263. Facebook’s black female headcount increased by just one person over 2013 to 11, and the number of black men increased by six to 34. There were no black people in any executive or senior management positions.

The United States is 12% black; California is 5% so.

Over the same period the company’s white employee headcount increased by 695. There were 125 white people holding executive and senior management positions at the firm.

That’s not even close to proportionate.

Update: Angelica Coleman adds her experience from Dropbox, ironically, on Facebook:

I left Dropbox because as a black woman working on bettering myself, the tech industry doesn’t give a shit. Even with the skills to do more, if I had stayed at Dropbox, I would have always had the submissive role of serving others and never calling the shots. Why? Because a white manager didn’t want to see me do more.

There is a long way to go.

The Apple Watch Will Never Have a Killer App

And that’s okay. Ken Segall (via Federico Viticci):

If you need any proof, just look at the iPhone. We can all agree it started one of the biggest technology revolutions of our time. So … what’s the killer app?

Music? Banking? Fitness? Games? Email? Messaging? Camera?

That depends on who you are. Any one of those things, or a combination thereof, might be worth the price of admission. But what’s killer to one person is boringly insignificant to another.

Further, what you consider to be killer probably existed previously on your laptop or camera. Which means that the killer part of iPhone really isn’t an app — it’s the concept of the phone itself. One device that does all that stuff, and fits neatly into your pocket.

I’ve long thought that how the product is going to be used — its context — is a vastly more important part of software development than it has been given credit for. As the timespan of the product’s use decreases and the number of situations in which the product will be used increases, the impact of minor poor decisions becomes amplified.

Or, to put that another way, desktop software can be a little rougher around the edges than tablet software because you’re spending more time with it in more limited circumstances: usually on a desk, or on your lap. Smartphone software needed to be designed with more awareness of the context in which it would be used because it would be used for minutes, not hours, in vastly more varied situations. The Apple Watch is a distillation of software and hardware. It is strapped to you, so it goes pretty much wherever you go. It’s also physically smaller and used for significantly less time, so apps built for it need to be laser focused.

Consequently, it’s harder to determine its killer app. It’s stripped-down, and apps on the Watch are typically less feature-rich than their iOS or OS X siblings. But don’t mistake a lack of features for a reduction in usability; they are usable in far more places because of a reduction in features.

Ever since I’ve been using an Apple Watch, I’ve had people stop me in the streets, at the grocery store, and in elevators asking about it. What I’ve realized is that it is a difficult product to demo, which is odd because I use it all the time. I should know what to demo, but I find myself at a loss every time because it’s a product that can only really be demonstrated in the context of life. I usually resort to demonstrating the wrist raising gesture, though, because it is — in the words of my mother — “kind of freaky”.

We Need Detailed App Release Notes

Every time I open the App Store, I see a sea of updates with the generic “bug fixes and performance improvements” note, or some variation thereof. David Chartier has noticed the same, but for him, it isn’t merely irritating:

Developers, I know you have an internal list of these changes for each release. Withholding them from customers is wrong, lazy, and misleading, and it erodes trust with your users.

Please give us an accurate list of what’s new in each update so we can make an informed decision about whether to update.

What Chartier says is logical, but I doubt that most people look at app release notes before updating. In fact, I doubt most people look at them at all, because automatic updates are on by default. That’s a great convenience for most people, but a really crappy way to avoid being stuck with an update you don’t want.

I’d like to think most developers would be considerate to users and any escalation of permissions or the use of that information would be better documented than, say, a patch for a small feature not behaving correctly. But I want to know exactly what’s being changed with every update; I want to know what bugs are being fixed, so I can test my bug reports against updates with more knowledge. Far too many apps have joined the Facebook school of vague change logs.

Thanks to Ben Zigterman for surfacing this link for me after I forgot who wrote it.

It’s About Time

We did it in Canada about ten years ago, and it’s about time that the momentum of forty US states manifested itself in federal law. There is no straight or gay marriage in the United States — just marriage. There are a lot of new rights that come with this decision, but the right for two people to express their love in a binding way is beautiful. A true leap forward for humanity.

See Also: The full ruling (PDF), and Bloomberg’s timelines of other historic changes of mind.

A Significant AppleCare+ Improvement for Mobile Devices

Joe Rossignol for MacRumors:

Apple has updated the terms of its AppleCare+ Protection Plan for iPhone, iPad, iPod and Apple Watch to cover batteries that retain less than 80% of their original capacity within the extended warranty period, whereas it previously covered batteries that retained less than 50% of their original capacity. The change applies to AppleCare+ purchased for iPhone, iPad, iPod and all Apple Watch models on April 10, 2015 or later.

If AppleCare+ wasn’t a good deal before, it is now. While a drop below 80% capacity shouldn’t happen before two years of standard use, it’s not a rare occurrence either, as far as I can figure out. It happened to my MacBook Air after a year of standard usage, and I’ve seen very poor capacity on friends’ iPhones, too. This coverage now matches the Mac AppleCare rules, aside from covering only two years instead of three.1 Good stuff.


  1. Unless you have a Watch Edition. ↩︎

Our Half-a-Week Long National Nightmare Is Over

Taylor Swift has confirmed that all of her albums, including “1989”, will be available for streaming on Apple Music in a kind of implicit exclusive — other streaming services still offer the same library to free and paid subscribers. I have a hunch that Spotify and Rdio are working on a way to split their libraries between their tiers.

Microsoft Has a New Vapid Mission Statement to Replace Its Old Vapid Mission Statement

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in an internal email to employees:

Mission. Every great company has an enduring mission. Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. I’m proud to share that this is our new official mission statement. This mission is ambitious and at the core of what our customers deeply care about. We have unique capability in harmonizing the needs of both individuals and organizations. This is in our DNA. We also deeply care about taking things global and making a difference in lives and organizations in all corners of the planet.

Read that mission statement again:

Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

“Every person”? “Every organization”? Sounds like the Microsoft of yore. “Achieve more”? Isn’t that kind of obvious for pretty much any company that makes tools or utilities? I can’t think of a company that would openly and unironically brag about making people achieve less. This statement means nothing. That’s par for the course for Microsoft, but it’s disappointing because Nadella is a very different CEO from his predecessor.

Update: Smart response from Tze-Ho Tan on Twitter:

Compare to Jobs’ for Apple in 1980: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”

I still think it’s pretty hollow, as any corporate mission statement seems to be, but there is a subtle difference. Jobs’ statement clearly specifies how Apple plans to make a contribution: “by making tools for the mind”. That qualifies the statement, and it becomes meaningful as a result. It’s not much, but it’s something.

A Disaster Foretold and Ignored

Patrick Barker:

On my home forum Sysnative, a user (wavly) was being assisted with a WU [Windows Update] issue, which was going well, aside from the fact that wavly’s WU kept getting disabled randomly. It was figured out eventually after using auditpol.exe and registry security auditing that the program that was responsible for disabling WU was Disable_Windowsupdate.exe, which is part of Samsung’s SW Update software.

SW Update is your typical OEM updating software that will update your Samsung drivers, the bloatware that came on your Samsung machine, etc. The only difference between other OEM updating software is, Samsung’s disables WU.

The BBC:

Adobe has released an emergency software patch for Flash after it found a serious vulnerability being exploited by hackers.

The company said it had evidence of “limited, targeted attacks” and urged people to update their software immediately. […]

This vulnerability – which enables hackers to take control of a computer – affects Windows, Mac and Linux systems.

Craig Timberg, in the Washington Post:

Your computers, [hacker collective LOpht] told the panel of senators in May 1998, are not safe — not the software, not the hardware, not the networks that link them together. The companies that build these things don’t care, the hackers continued, and they have no reason to care because failure costs them nothing. And the federal government has neither the skill nor the will to do anything about it.

[…]

The result was a culture within the tech industry often derided as “patch and pray.” In other words, keep building, keep selling and send out fixes as necessary. If a system failed — causing lost data, stolen credit card numbers or time-consuming computer crashes — the burden fell not on giant, rich tech companies but on their customers.

It isn’t working.

“Bravely Default”

Seth Clifford:

For years, I’ve eschewed using the default iOS apps in favor of third-party offerings, because maaaan, I always knew better. Apple’s apps are for regular people, and I’m a PowerUser™, maaaan. I’d configure all kinds of workarounds and extra steps because I wanted to wring every last bit of functionality out of my devices, and the basic starter apps just weren’t ever enough.

Something’s changed though–well, two things–in the past few years. I’ve lost my taste for fiddling a little bit, and the default apps Apple ships with its devices have gotten, well, better. Better than other things I could use? Not in all cases. But better… enough.

But:

Certainly I have specific pieces of my workflows that must remain more complex; OmniFocus is a great example. The complexity-to-ability balance is tilted way in favor of the amazing productivity gains it offers when life throws a lot of stuff at me. But that new Notes app looks hot. Dark Sky is cool, but I just end up opening Weather way more often. I’m rediscovering that using Reminders for very simple nudges can be highly effective outside of OmniFocus. Most shockingly for some nerds, I’m just using the built-in Podcasts app. Why? Because my use case is having a podcast show up, and me listening to it.

It’s interesting that Clifford called his decision to switch to mostly default apps “brave”. He’s kind of right — using the default anything amongst a tech-savvy audience is practically begging for an onslaught of confused @ replies and backlash.

Every so often, as with most nerds, I think about my workflow and reconsider my assumptions of The Way Things Ought To Be. Am I using the best Twitter client for me? Am I using the best calendar replacement, or is there a better one out there for my specific use case? And then I realize that I haven’t really changed much in my workflow in about five years because I’m largely doing similar stuff as I was then, albeit in different proportions. And that realization raises all sorts of other questions, but that’s an internal crisis for another time — first, I have different email clients to try.

What I’ve realized is that you should limit your exploration outside of default apps if:

  1. there’s an aspect of the app that you use all the time that is either not present, is woefully buggy, or is inadequate; and

  2. the app or its function is something you use constantly.

If it’s an infrequently-used app or you can live with its features, keep using the default. It’s probably fine, plus you get all of the benefits of the app being integrated with the rest of the system in some way. But if it’s an app that you use all the time and it’s driving you crazy, you may want to look into something else.

Take Clifford’s example of using the default Reminders app over OmniFocus for simple reminders. I don’t use OmniFocus at all — I only need simple reminder capabilities — but Reminders is woefully inadequate even for me, because it is my only todo list. I create reminders for specific dates and times a lot, and doing it in the Reminders app is a huge pain in the ass for something that should be such a lightweight function. It requires:

  • tapping in the blank cell to create a new reminder,

  • typing the reminder title,

  • tapping the little info icon to bring up the details view,

  • switching the date reminder to “on”,

  • using iOS’ still-a-little-clumsy date picker to assign a date and time, and

  • tapping “Done” to save it.

That’s too complicated. In Fantastical, I just tap the “new” button, type “remind”, then the title and time details in natural language, then tap “Done”. As this is something I do a lot, it saves me enough time and stress that I find the $5 I dropped on Fantastical a no-brainer. But I wouldn’t try anything else now because my grievances with Fantastical aren’t worth it. That’s really the tradeoff. Find one app that does what you need it to well enough that you can live with it, and stick with it. And, for a lot of people, that’s going to be the default.

Instagram Has a New ‘Explore’ Tab

Jessi Hempel, Wired:

First, Instagram will highlight trending places in a box across the top of the screen. The software will show you both the most attention-getting events (Houston flood; Bonnaroo concert) and also things that are close to you (Central Park concert; new restaurant opening). Second, users can scroll sideways to see curated collections of photographs that members of Instagram’s community team cull from the most popular Instagrammers’ feeds. This is where you’ll stumble across your kid skateboarders, say, or remote islands you’ll dream of visiting. Last, Instagram will highlight trending hashtags in the center of the screen, promoting the most popular tags. The bottom third of the screen will look much like it has, surfacing compelling posts, but Instagram’s new design will allow users to move seamlessly from one photo to the next, rather than returning to the Explore page between photos.

This is a huge shift for Instagram’s strategy. What once was Twitter, but for photos, is now — uh, *checks Twitter* — never mind, it’s still Twitter, but for photos. As Twitter has added features for trying to make billions of tweets topical, Instagram has done the same for its photos. Only one catch:

While Explore will initially be available only to US users, Instagram will introduce a more powerful search engine globally.

Yet again, an interesting new feature or product is only available to Americans. Nothing wrong with Americans, mind you, but as a Canadian, this is infinitely frustrating.

But you can now, at long last, search by location, so that’s good.

Google Launches Play Music

Elias Roman of Google:

At any moment in your day, Google Play Music has whatever you need music for—from working, to working out, to working it on the dance floor—and gives you curated radio stations to make whatever you’re doing better. Our team of music experts, including the folks who created Songza, crafts each station song by song so you don’t have to. If you’re looking for something specific, you can browse our curated stations by genre, mood, decade or activity, or you can search for your favorite artist, album or song to instantly create a station of similar music.

[…]

The new free, ad-supported version of Google Play Music is launching first in the U.S. It’s available on the web today, and is rolling out this week to Android and iOS.

I’m Canadian, so this doesn’t impact me in the least. It does, however, explain why I’m very excited for the launch of Apple Music. Unlike Google Play Music, Pandora, or iTunes Radio, Apple Music looks like it’s launching here, amongst something like 100 other countries. That’s unheard of in a contract-encumbered industry. It’s not the entire iTunes library available anywhere, but it’s going to be an impressive launch regardless.

I Knew You Were Trouble

Musicians may have won a victory against Apple’s onerous terms for their forthcoming Music service, but the floodgates of discontent have now opened. Kirk McElhearn clarifies who is (not) getting paid:

Apple, like most other people in this discussion, are a bit confused about their terminology; they don’t pay “artist[s],” they pay rightsholders. They make two payments: one for publishing, and one for performances. Clearinghouses for publishing rights then divvy up their share to songwriters, and record labels let some of their income trickle down to the actual artists. (Except, of course, with the smallest indie bands who actually contract directly with Apple, or any other streaming music service. Most indies go through aggregators, who distribute their music on streaming and download services, and who collect the income and pay it to individual labels.)

Charles Perry wants to know why app developers have been ignored for so long (via Michael Tsai):

So no one – not even Taylor Swift – is saying that Apple is breaking any laws. What Swift is saying, and what I agree with, is that it’s a bad deal for artists. Creators should be compensated for the use of their creations.

This debate is important to app developers because, whether we like it or not, digital music has been devalued – just as our digital creations have been. In just a few short years people have gone from paying tens of dollars for an album, to paying 99 cents for a single track, to paying pennies or even nothing to stream an entire library of music. This parallels in a rather frightening way the history of the App Store where, in an even shorter amount of time, mobile software that once sold for tens of dollars now is lucky to sell for 99 cents. Just as the music industry, now including Apple, has moved to an “all-you-can-eat” subscription model to bring down the per title cost of music below that 99 cent threshold, it now doesn’t seem unreasonable that a similar all-you-can-eat subscription model might be used to allow per title pricing of apps to fall below 99 cents as well.

Not only that, many developers feel obligated to provide free updates in perpetuity for that $0.99, or they risk the wrath of angering their users. Apple hasn’t made it easy for them: there’s no official way to offer upgrade pricing, nor is there a way to offer a free demo of iOS apps.

Esteemed photographer of many artists and bands Jason Sheldon points out that many of his contracts — including the one for shooting a Taylor Swift show — are just as anti-artist [sic]:

How are you any different to Apple? If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great.. make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support. But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?

Photographers need to earn a living as well. Like Apple, you can afford to pay for photographs so please stop forcing us to hand them over to you while you prevent us from publishing them more than once, ever.

It isn’t news that art gets shafted at its intersection with business, and I’m glad that we’re talking about it.1 As it has become easier for artists to make their work known, however, it seems as though we haven’t gained additional leverage over these contracts. It’s good that the Andy Warhol of music is able to influence change for the better, but it’s yet another reminder that a thousand indie artists won’t have the impact that Swift does. It is, quite simply, exploitative, and all parties involved know that.


  1. If you’re in Calgary between June 24 and July 27, come see my work. Reception is June 27 from 8 PM until whenever UAS decides to kick everyone out. ↩︎

iCloud Photo Library Can Consume a Lot of Data Over a Cellular Connection

Adam C. Engst at TidBits:

Luckily, unlike many people, I don’t have a data cap for my Time Warner Internet connection, so at least that wasn’t a problem for me, as it might be for you. Where I did run into trouble is with my iPhone, on which I’m using the Optimize iPhone Storage option to reduce the amount of data transferred and stored. Tonya, Tristan, and I now share 2 GB of data on our family plan, and before last month, we had never come close to using that much, since we’re still accustomed to having only 250 MB each. So you can imagine my surprise shortly after I enabled iCloud Photo Library when AT&T texted me to say that I was approaching my 2 GB limit. […]

There are no settings to prevent iCloud Photo Library from working over cellular, and while I disabled cellular data for the Photos app, that made no difference. I could turn off cellular data in general (and I did once or twice, but that’s a hard thing to remember every time you leave the house), but by the end of the billing period, AT&T had hit me with $30 of overage charges for two $15 blocks of 1 GB of additional data.

It doesn’t appear as though full photos are being uploaded — that should only happen over WiFi, or at least that’s what happens for me. But there should be more stringent limitations baked into iOS for how much cellular data any app may transfer. Even though LTE has the bandwidth to support broadband-level services, its users often don’t have broadband-level data caps.

To Apple, Love Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift:

I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music. I feel this deserves an explanation because Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans. I respect the company and the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

Swift is right — there’s no three month free trial where (almost) nobody gets paid in any other industry. During that trial, Apple should pay the artists. It’s as simple as that, and I don’t see how the company could view it any differently.

It is odd that Swift is only including “1989” in her boycott, though. I think it would be way more powerful if she and other artists were able to excise all of their works from Music until this is resolved. After all, the service is nothing without their work.

Update: Good news, everyone:

I [Peter Kafka] just got off the phone with Eddy Cue. I’m going to dump some notes in here, and then turn them into something more coherent in real time. Internet!

[…]

Cue says Apple will pay rights holders for the entire three months of the trial period. It can’t be at the same rate that Apple is paying them after free users become subscribers, since Apple is paying out a percentage of revenues once subscribers start paying. Instead, he says, Apple will pay rights holders on a per-stream basis, which he won’t disclose.

When Google’s Legal Team Becomes Your Legal Team

Jacob Appelbaum is one of the most prominent security researchers in the world, and one of the most outspoken defendants of a person’s right to privacy. So, naturally, he’s under some fairly extraordinary surveillance, with the government requesting access to everything, including his Google account, as collected by Bethany Horne in this Storify.

If you’re a regular reader,1 you know my stance on Google collecting all your information in a gigantic silo. But there’s one advantage to that: when they receive a wiretap or records request, their legal team scrutinizes it first. That probably goes for pretty much all companies; Apple’s legal department probably does the same thing. Having a multinational company’s legal team front-ending interactions with the justice department is pretty powerful.


  1. Thank you. ↩︎

Mike Ash Does Not Agree to Apple’s Terms

Mike Ash got an email from Apple about them automatically including his site’s RSS feed — among probably many, many others — as part of their new News app. His site’s feed is publicly available, so that’s cool with him, but there are some terms attached:

  • You agree to let us use, display, store, and reproduce the content in your RSS feeds including placing advertising next to or near your content without compensation to you. Don’t worry, we will not put advertising inside your content without your permission.

Apple didn’t get to be such a wealthy company by leaving money on the table, but automatically appending RSS feeds with ads seems gross to me. Aside from the philosophical objections one may have, it cheapens the experience a little. It feels like a product where some middle manager needed to justify the “bloody ROI”.

  • You confirm that you have all necessary rights to publish your RSS content, and allow Apple to use it for News as we set forth here. You will be responsible for any payments that might be due to any contributors or other third parties for the creation and use of your RSS content.

Fair enough.

  • If we receive a legal claim about your RSS content, we will tell you so that you can resolve the issue, including indemnifying Apple if Apple is included in the claim.

This is probably to protect Apple when a lawsuit is brought against third-party content, like if someone sued a writer on defamation grounds and named Apple because that story was available in News. And that makes sense; Apple should not be liable for stuff like that.

  • You can remove your RSS feed whenever you want by opting out or changing your settings in News Publisher.

And this is the brunt of it, because the email continues:

If you do not want Apple to include your RSS feeds in News, reply NO to this email and we will remove your RSS feeds.

As far as I can tell, these terms are broadly acceptable, with the exception of Apple selling ads against third-party content. But it also sounds like Ash is understandably upset that he’s being opted into these legally-binding terms unless he opts out. It probably wouldn’t hold up in court, but that question being raised should ring some alarm bells.

Update: Kevin Ballard in the comments:

[U]pon re-reading it, it seems like the Terms they’re saying applies doesn’t actually really legally bind you to anything. It’s not like a normal EULA where you’re being granted a license. They’re saying that these are the terms under which they (Apple) will operate, and if you aren’t comfortable with them, you can opt-out.

On Euphemistic Press Release Titles

I like to picture the offices of PR and marketing teams when there’s a giant corporate shakeup. There must be a fairly lengthy process of whittling the press release title down to the most anemic combination of words possible. Remember when Apple did that big executive reshuffle back in 2012? Here’s the title of that press release — one of the biggest executive and strategy decisions in the company’s history:

Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services

It’s not wrong, but it’s also redefining the phrase “burying the lede”.

Here’s Microsoft’s equivalent, from today:

Microsoft Aligns Engineering Teams to Strategy

As if Microsoft were not strategic with their engineering teams before.

Anyway, here’s the seventh paragraph, after much preamble:

As a result of the organizational moves, Stephen Elop, Kirill Tatarinov and Eric Rudder will leave Microsoft after a designated transition period. Unrelated to the engineering restructuring changes, Chief Insights Officer Mark Penn has decided to pursue another venture outside Microsoft and will be leaving the company in September.

That’s a lot of high-ranking executives that are leaving. You may remember Stephen Elop from helming various companies and engineering their acquisitions, or his weird memo exactly eleven months ago following another intra-Microsoft reshuffling.

FCC Reminds AT&T It Was Insane to Offer Unlimited Data

Julia Greenberg, Wired:

I use a lot of data—and you probably do, too. American smartphone users, on average, consume 1.2GB of cellular data each month, according to a Mobidia Technology analysis last year. (Even more data is consumed over Wi-Fi.)

So it should come as no surprise then that AT&T and Verizon no longer offer the unlimited cellular data plans they once sold to new customers. Even so, AT&T promised those early customers who came to be thrilled at the luck of their unlimited data that they could keep their plans under certain conditions. But today, the Federal Communications Commission said AT&T didn’t keep its promise. Now the agency wants to fine AT&T $100 million for allegedly misleading consumers about what it actually means to have an unlimited wireless data.

There’s no way that AT&T could have predicted back in 2007 just how much data people would use in the future; that much is understandable. To keep offering plans marked “unlimited” but with a big fucking asterisk beside them is misleading, pure and simple. You know it, the FCC knows it, and — deep in whatever they have instead of hearts — AT&T knows it.

“On a Long Enough Time Scale, Everything Is a Fad”

Daniel Jalkut wrote what is probably the best counterpoint to Christopher Mims’ silly Mac-killing op-ed:

Why have people been so convinced, for years, that mobile is the future, while desktop computers are on the way out? What if mobile devices only fill the variety of temporary needs that arise from how we live today?

[…]

Years from now, I suppose it’s possible desktop computers will become obsolete, supplanted by mobile devices. But given the unpredictability of progress, I suspect we’ll look back at both classes of computing devices and chuckle about how silly it all seemed, before the advent of ______.

Guessing the future of a marketplace is brilliantly paradoxical. The amount of effort required for a company like Apple to bring to market a brand new product is so great that they need to begin planning it well in advance of when the market could be ready for it. But they don’t get to define the future; if everything goes okay, the market decides that. We are, in effect, in control of the future of technology, but only after being shown what it could potentially be. We can’t predict the future because we only have the present as a state of reference, but we do control the future.

Bug Writing Season

Rene Ritchie implores you to file your radars early this year:

With profound respect to everyone who ships pixels and bits, here’s what I’ve learned: When the first betas of OS X, iOS, or watchOS hit, there are still months to go before release. That means engineers have more time to work on fixes, so there’s a higher chance your particular bug will get fixed.

[…]

As later betas are seeded, and release draws near, Apple is forced to triage. Eventually, there’s only time to work on show-stoppers. The chance of a bug reported at that stage getting fixed, no matter how annoying, trends towards zero.

Ritchie has a good point. But filing bugs can range from a mild inconvenience to an enormous pain in the ass.1 Craig Hockenberry has a way to make it a little bit easier:

Now’s the perfect time to start using QuickRadar. As its name suggests, this project run by Amy Worrall, makes creating or duplicating bug reports much quicker. You’ll also find that a native Mac user interface is much easier to deal with than some web form pretending to be iOS 6.

QuickRadar is super nice. It runs nearly invisibly in the menubar, you can set up a keyboard shortcut to bring up a new radar window, and you can configure it to automatically duplicate the bug to the OpenRadar project.


  1. The number of times I’ve been asked to recreate data loss bugs in production operating systems is decidedly in the latter category. ↩︎

Ignoring Apple’s Fundamental Thinking

Christopher Mims wrote a widely-derided op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, arguing that Apple needs to drop the Mac line:

In the quarter ending in January of this year, a funny thing happened at Apple. The company took in the highest revenue for its Mac line ever, yet the Mac accounted for the lowest-ever proportion of overall revenue. Apple raked in $6.9 billion on 5.5 million Macs, just 9% of overall revenue. This would be a crazy thing to say for any other company, but Apple doesn’t need this revenue.

What the company does need, and like all ambitious companies occasionally strays from, is focus. If the iPhone is just coming into its prime, the iPad is an immature platform and the Watch is in its infancy. Yet Apple continues to invest in one-of-a-kind feats of engineering like the Mac Pro, which ships in volumes that are a rounding error on pretty much everything else Apple makes.

Even ignoring the Mac user story, Glenn Fleishman makes a compelling case for the Mac simply as a developer platform.

Apple will never again cede its future to other firms’ control. It’s why Apple makes its own chips, buys industrial-manufacturing firms that create special tools which it puts into its assembly partners’ factories, and even blows a wad of cash on a failed attempt to generate more sapphire screens.

And it’s why it has its own computer platform: 100 percent of software development for the iPhone, iPad, and Watch (and Mac apps) occurs on Macs. There’s no other way to assemble software for those devices. Even with the highest-end Mac hardware currently available, developers strain against the amount of time it can take to compile and test builds, whether in Mac-based emulators or when cross-loaded onto a developers’ test devices.

Meanwhile, the Macalope is typically direct:

Everyone is so concerned about Apple and its future. And for some reason that concern drives them to write this terrible anti-fan fiction. In effect, Apple’s power has driven them mad.

So Mims wrote a followup piece claiming that he was shocked — shocked! — that the tech press responded this way:

If we collected all the blistering heat generated by this week’s column on why Apple should phase out the Mac, I’m pretty sure it would be enough to power Apple’s headquarters for a month. Which is amazing to me, since I thought what I was saying was only a little bit controversial, and a natural extension of so many others’ reactions to last week’s Apple developer confab.

“There’s no way I could have known that suggesting the retirement of the original personal computer brand would make waves. Oh, please, don’t call it clickbait!”

Yeah, right.

Now, on the matter of the future: If Apple phased out the Mac, how would those who use it to get work done carry on? That’s the question filling up my inbox, and it’s one I wish I hadn’t cut answers to from the original piece.

I recognize this is probably an editor’s doing in order to fit the piece in the paper, but the web has no character limit. Mims could have extended the column on the web to include solutions to the obvious counterpoints; not doing so weakened an already weak piece.

Mims’ point is one that has been made countless times before, though with few titles as clickbaity as his WSJ article: that the computer is evolving, and that tablets will one day replace what we think of today as personal computers. That is, they may have similar form factors, but be using the same hardware as their mobile device counterparts:

It’s been clear since the debut of the iPad that Apple believes it will be the future of the PC. And countless PC makers have realized that, especially if people are going to use a tablet as their primary device, it needs to be able to snap into or easily connect to a keyboard and other input peripherals. Touch interfaces are great for certain tasks, but they’re just not enough on their own. If the iPad Pro isn’t a reasonable laptop replacement, suitable for the needs of 90% of the notebook-buying public, I’ll eat my hat.

Someone butter Mims’ hat and ready a sauté pan.

Indeed, sleuthing by one developer suggests that Apple is already laying the groundwork for developers to run OS X apps on the very same chips that are already in iPhones and iPads. Maybe we’ll get an iPad family that runs OS X apps without running OS X? Or “Macs” that only run iOS? Or, yes, I could be wrong about all this, and what this points to is OS X (i.e. Macs) that run on iPhone/iPad chips.

Mims hasn’t provided a timeframe prediction, only that “one day” we’ll be using laptops and desktops powered by ARM chips, running a hybrid of iOS and OS X. That much has been argued before, enthusiastically, and frequently. But what Mims has failed to articulate clearly is why the Mac brand needs to die for this to happen, instead of simply evolving to meet a new role.

Yet I still disagree. I doubt we’ll be using a hybrid version of iOS and OS X any time soon, with touch controls for when you’re using it on an iPad, and desktop controls on a laptop. I also doubt we’ll see Apple’s professional lineup move to ARM processors in the near future, though I could imagine something like the MacBook potentially using a high-end ARM CPU. But the MacBook Pro is still one of — if not the — best-selling lines of Macs Apple makes. They may have commoditized the Air, but the Pro still gets features first, it still sells extremely well, and it has a very distinctive core customer base. Yes, there are plenty of college students who buy a 13-inch MacBook Pro to browse the web on, but there are lots and lots of recording artists, drafters, designers, architects, movie editors, photographers, mathematicians, and physicists who require the kind of mobile power that the MacBook Pro provides in spades.

Spotify Rewind

Spotify is rolling out a sweet new feature called Rewind. Fletcher Babb, VentureBeat [sic]:

A man who appears to be a Spotify engineer posted the feature to Facebook post last night, revealing a public link to a mostly functioning new service.

Spotify did not immediately return a request for comment on the matter, but the Facebook post explains it best: “Ever wondered which artists you would be listening to if you were born in another time? Spotify can help you turn your music back in time (smile emoji), try it out!”

Apart from Babb’s awkward phrasing, and his inability to correctly link to the Facebook permalink, or to Spotify’s service itself, this is pretty cool. I took it for a spin with a few of my favourite artists — Refused, Deftones, and a third artist I can’t remember — and it returned some absolute jewels. The ’90s playlist was unfortunately obvious, with some Rage Against the Machine, Germs, and Incubus, but the ’80s playlist had stuff like Accepted’s “Monsterman”. It’s kind of fun, albeit limited.

Apple’s Increasing Localization for China

Mark D. Miller:

Most people in China get transportation by public transit. Having a mapping service in China without transit directions would be like having one in the US without driving directions. Apple hit this hard:

  • Apple developed transit directions for just 10 cities in the non-China world, but over 300 cities in China.

  • The non-China cities for which Apple has transit directions have a combined population of about 38M. Just the 9 listed cities in China have a combined population of over 130M.

In ways both explicit and implicit, Apple made enormous strides in their offerings to China. Having recognized the significance of China’s emerging middle class early, they’re farther ahead there than probably any of their Western competitors.