Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

iFixit Found a New Silicone Membrane in the Mid-2018 Macbook Pro’s Keyboard

Sam Lionheart of iFixit:

Here’s an inflammatory take for you: Apple’s new quieter keyboard is actually a silent scheme to fix their keyboard reliability issues. We’re in the middle of tearing down the newest MacBook Pro, but we’re too excited to hold this particular bit of news back:

Apple has cocooned their butterfly switches in a thin, silicone barrier.

This is a promising discovery.

The biggest lingering question for me is whether this keyboard is being swapped into repaired 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pros. If you get your MacBook Pro keyboard repaired over the next couple of months and notice any changes, let me know.

Update: Joe Rossingol, MacRumors:

When asked if Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers will be permitted to replace second-generation keyboards on 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models with the new third-generation keyboards, if necessary, Apple said, no, the third-generation keyboards are exclusive to the 2018 MacBook Pro.

I hope there’s a purely technical reason for this decision.

Apple Discontinues Photo Printing Service

In the giveth corner today are the new MacBook Pro models; in the taketh away corner is this news from Benjamin Mayo at 9to5Mac:

Apple is discontinuing its Photo Print Products service, which has been integrated into iPhoto since its launch in 2002. The service expanded from simple prints, to albums, photo books, and calendars. It stayed around on the Mac when iPhoto was replaced with the Photos app a couple of years ago, but the service never made the leap to iOS.

Later this year, Apple will stop offering the service altogether. A new message in macOS 10.13.6 Photos app says that final orders for Apple’s built-in service must be placed by September 30, 2018.

Via Michael Tsai, who linked to the Wirecutter’s roundup of the best photo book printing services:

If you have a Mac, don’t bother with Shutterfly. Apple’s own Photo Books service makes a better photo book with brighter images and more handsome layouts. If you’ve ever used the Photos app before, you’ll find the software familiar and easy to use — Apple also offers a detailed tutorial if you need help. Plus, unlike any of the other services, the colors will print on the page how they looked on your screen, including the cover. A master printer and Wirecutter’s photo and design editors all fawned over the Apple photo book for its spot-on colors, gorgeous layouts, and small design elements, such as page numbers, panoramic spreads, and a dust jacket that matches the cover.

Damn; this sucks.

For the past several years, I’ve created a book of photos for my parents to show them where I’ve travelled and what I’ve been up to. The books I’ve received have always been perfect and of the highest quality. I’ve ordered from other services in the past, and I’ve never found anything that was quite as good as Apple’s.

Updated MacBook Pros With Performance Improvements, True Tone Displays, and ‘Hey, Siri’ Support

Apple PR:

Apple today updated MacBook Pro with faster performance and new pro features, making it the most advanced Mac notebook ever. The new MacBook Pro models with Touch Bar feature 8th-generation Intel Core processors, with 6-core on the 15-inch model for up to 70 percent faster performance and quad-core on the 13-inch model for up to two times faster performance — ideal for manipulating large data sets, performing complex simulations, creating multi-track audio projects or doing advanced image processing or film editing.

Already the most popular notebook for developers around the world, the new MacBook Pro can compile code faster and run multiple virtual machines and test environments easier than before. Additional updates include support for up to 32GB of memory, a True Tone display and an improved third-generation keyboard for quieter typing. And with its powerful Radeon Pro graphics, large Force Touch trackpad, revolutionary Touch Bar and Touch ID, dynamic stereo speakers, quiet Apple-designed cooling system and Thunderbolt 3 for data transfer, charging and connecting up to two 5K displays or four external GPUs, it’s the ultimate pro notebook.

I like surprises and I like spec bumps, so this update is very much up my alley.

Dieter Bohn of the Verge was among a handful of journalists invited to a small demo event:

We got only minutes (and no more) to interact with the new hardware. So at best, I can tell you that the keyboard does seem quite a bit less clacky than current MacBooks, though key travel is the same.

[…]

When we asked Apple representatives at the event exactly how the keyboard was changed to make it quieter, they declined to specify.

I’m conflicted about this. There is evidence to suggest that Apple has been improving the durability of the keyboard in the MacBook Pro, and I would be surprised if that trend has not continued given the cost of repairs to them. Nothing has been mentioned to that regard, though; Apple’s statements about the keyboard have been fairly substance-free.

But would Apple mention reliability improvements if they had indeed made any? They’ve maintained that the reported problems with the keyboard are not widespread, and I’m sure Apple would rather not have press coverage around these updates be specifically about the keyboard, thereby refocusing the issue on its susceptibility to defeat by dust. But, also, given the coverage so far about the unreliability of the butterfly keyboards, wouldn’t they want users to know that they’ve heard the complaints and can trust the revised version?

Tenth Anniversary of MobileMe’s Launch

Overshadowed by the tenth anniversary of the App Store came another milestone this week: ten years since the launch of MobileMe. Stephen Hackett:

When MobileMe launched in 2008, Microsoft Exchange really was its most direct competitor, in terms of features. However, Google was steadily improving Gmail, Google Contacts and Google Calendar.

Starting in 2009 or so, it was possible to leave MobileMe behind with a handful of now-defunct applications. By 2010, syncing data from Google directly with iOS and OS X was trivially easy.

In October 2011, just over three years after announcing MobileMe, Apple replaced with a free service: iCloud.

When Steve Jobs introduced iCloud at WWDC 2011, he pointed out that MobileMe was “not [Apple’s] finest hour”, and he’s certainly right about that. I would argue that not seeing earlier that Google could usurp MobileMe’s position for many iPhone users was also a poor showing.

But, while imperfect — a free tier that hasn’t changed in seven years, for example — iCloud has proved that Apple can absolutely do a fantastic job in online services. I use nearly all of iCloud’s features, with the exception of iCloud Music Library, and it has been, for years, increasingly reliable, fast, and dependable.

The Power of Tech Giants

John Herrman, in an editorial for the New York Times:

The companies most vulnerable to easy questions tend to be the ones that can no longer be understood in terms of former competitors or current peers — because they don’t really have any. Google doesn’t have to worry about losing its users; it simply wants them to use Google more and to use more Google products. Vindicated by growth, these businesses take the liberty to redesign more of our online lives than any of us have asked for. As with Facebook, and to some extent now Amazon, there is no overarching pitch to its users beyond: Where else could you possibly go?

Are tech companies now too big to fail? It sure seems like it: Amazon and Google are now part of the infrastructure of the web; Facebook owns WhatsApp, which is an essential communications product for much of the world.

Univision Says It’s Exploring Sale of Former Gawker Sites and the Onion

Todd Spangler:

Univision Communications is officially looking to unload the Gizmodo Media Group — which mostly comprises the sites it acquired in the bankruptcy auction of Gawker Media — and its stake in comedy and entertainment publisher The Onion.

[…]

The GMG digital portfolio includes Gizmodo, Jezebel, Deadspin, Lifehacker, Splinter, The Root, Kotaku, Earther and Jalopnik and The Onion portfolio includes, The Onion, Clickhole, The A.V. Club and The Takeout.

Max Tani posted the email Univision CEO Vince Sadusky sent to all staff:

[Gizmodo Media Group] and The Onion are great assets. I read The Onion regularly in college and the many Gizmodo brands have become key sources for content to tens of millions of consumers.

Who writes like that? Also, a 53 year-old CEO referencing his long-past college years is not the first time that a Univision executive was kind of a dick about the Onion. Apparently, the company’s “head of digital” couldn’t remember a single article from the site that he liked.

Worth reading is this piece from May, by Kate Conger, David Uberti, and Laura Wagner, and published at the Univision-owned Special Projects Desk:

From routine human resources fuckups to vastly overselling the prospects of an IPO whose ultimate doom this March precipitated the company’s current cost-cutting spree, Univision has been deeply mismanaged and is in the midst of making huge cuts that have, among other things, already claimed vast swaths of Univision Noticias—the most vital newsgathering operation serving the Spanish-speaking community in the U.S.—and Fusion Media Group. Consultants from Boston Consulting Group, who have reportedly recommended budget cuts of up to 35 percent in some parts of the company, have been combing through the books for months, and more than 150 people have been laid off so far. Plenty more cuts are pending (Univision president of news Daniel Coronell reportedly described them as “catastrophic” to his newsroom), including at GMG, the staff of which fears the newsroom may be cut by up to a third by the end of June, perhaps as part of a broader pivot toward video and branded content. What is happening to the company is not ultimately a failure of editorial or even executive management, though: If Univision was a mammoth whose failure to adapt slowed it down, it was private equity investors, consumed by the thought of turning their riches into more riches, who brought it down and bled it dry.

Gizmodo, the Onion, the AV Club, Deadspin, the Root, Jezebel, Splinter — these publications are good, and the (semi-)indie media landscape would be worse if they did not exist. The predicament they face now is due in part to an excessively-aggressive settlement for publishing a Hulk Hogan sex tape, and now because of vulture capitalists of the type that also decimated Toys R Us.

Maintaining the Narrative

Andrew Orlowski, the Register:

One day Apple may look back on its great iPhone X adventure and view it as an embarrassing midlife crisis, like running off with the au pair.

The iPhone 8, based on a four-year-old design, was the best-selling phone in the world in May, according to Counterpoint Research. Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Plus took second place. The X still sold well, but in third place.

Counterpoint Research attributes the success of the iPhone 8 to new advertising, but it’s also worth noting that the 8 and 8 Plus got the Product Red treatment this spring. Even so, May marks the first month since its launch, the iPhone X was not the best-selling iPhone model in the lineup, and the Register is treating this as confirmation that the iPhone X is a mistaken experiment. Even in this two-paragraph excerpt, Orlowski transitions from calling the iPhone X an “embarrassing midlife crisis” to acknowledging that it sold well.

Orlowski, later in this article:

The X is far from a flop, but Cook acknowledged it wasn’t the runaway success Apple wanted. Apple faced many questions about inventory on its most recent earnings, claiming that the lower-than-hoped demand had resulted in component glut (mostly someone else’s problem) rather than an iPhone X glut (definitely Apple’s problem).

No, you don’t have a giant gap in your memory: I looked for any indication that Tim Cook had ever stated that the iPhone X didn’t sell as well as expected — which would be quite the story — and can’t find anything matching that. The link on “acknowledged” goes to another story Orlowski wrote summarizing an anaylist’s research note issued ahead of Apple’s Q2 2018 conference call, where Cook confirmed that the iPhone X’s sales were strong every week since it launched. That linked article does not contain a single mention of Tim Cook.

I know that the Register is just a tabloid, but it’s also widely-read, and this is a clear example where the story is being driven by the narrative that the iPhone X is a flop. Orlowski so desperately wants that to be true, apparently, but I don’t understand why. What difference does it make to him which iPhone model is selling better?

Smart TVs in Millions of U.S. Homes Track Everything Users Watch

Sapna Maheshwari, New York Times:

Still, David Kitchen, a software engineer in London, said he was startled to learn how Samba TV worked after encountering its opt-in screen during a software update on his Sony Bravia set.

The opt-in read: “Interact with your favorite shows. Get recommendations based on the content you love. Connect your devices for exclusive content and special offers. By cleverly recognizing onscreen content, Samba Interactive TV lets you engage with your TV in a whole new way.”

[…]

“The thing that really struck me was this seems like quite an enormous ask for what seems like a silly, trivial feature,” Mr. Kitchen said. “You appear to opt into a discovery-recommendation service, but what you’re really opting into is pervasive monitoring on your TV.”

[…]

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said few people review the fine print in their zeal to set up new televisions. He said the notice should also describe Samba TV’s “device map,” which matches TV content to mobile gadgets, according to a document on its website, and can help the company track users “in their office, in line at the food truck and on the road as they travel.”

Do people truly want to be tracked for advertising purposes by nearly every device that they interact with? Survey after survey for years has indicated that they do not, yet we seem to have shrinking opportunities to object to it. Nearly every TV you’ll find at an electronics store today is a smart TV, and many of them have some form of this kind of tracking built in. The number of ways we’re being tracked on the web has exploded, and the number of companies that trade and collect that information in bulk keeps going up.

This is all buried in multi-thousand-word privacy policies that are not reasonable for the average user to read and interpret correctly. This is one reason I’m so supportive of GDPR — even though it doesn’t adequately regulate behavioural data collection, it does at least require full disclosure of privacy-intrusive practices to allow users more control the sharing of their data.

Technology companies are increasingly not operating in users’ best interests because users have few options besides disconnecting entirely.

Maheshwari, continued:

The Times is among the websites that allow advertisers to use data from Samba to track if people who see their ads visit their websites, but a Times spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy, said that the company did that “simply as a matter of convenience for our clients” and that it was not an endorsement of Samba TV’s technology.

As I wrote in April, website administrators have a responsibility to their users — and, in the Times’ case especially, their paying subscribers — to be careful with their website’s third-party data collection and sharing practices. Their agreement with Samba is an implicit endorsement that advertisers can target their users with data collected in an ethically-dubious manner.

‘Stylish’ Browser Extension Shares Browsing History With SimilarWeb

Robert Heaton:

Unfortunately, since January 2017, Stylish has been augmented with bonus spyware that records every single website that I and its 2 million other users visit. Stylish sends our complete browsing activity back to its servers, together with a unique identifier. This allows it’s new owner, SimilarWeb, to connect all of an individual’s actions into a single profile. And for users like me who have created a Stylish account on userstyles.org, this unique identifier can easily be linked to a login cookie. This means that not only does SimilarWeb own a copy of our complete browsing histories, they also own enough other data to theoretically tie these histories to email addresses and real-world identities.

I bet the vast majority of Stylish users have no idea that this simple browser extension would not be scraping their browsing history and selling it to a scummy marketing technology company. I bet that most of them would not have explicitly agreed to such an obvious privacy intrusion. This is deeply unethical.

Facebook’s Political Rule Blocks Ads for Bush’s Beans, Singers Named Clinton

Sarah Frier, Bloomberg:

The three ads have in common the use of the word “bush.” Facebook Inc.’s system automatically associated the word with the former presidents of that family name, flagging them as political and blocking them, pending verification of the advertiser’s identity. They now appear in Facebook’s searchable archive of political advertising – the company’s newly launched initiative to increase transparency around who is paying to promote certain political ideas. The archive is home to dozens of ads that don’t belong there, from various schools, towns, brands and people that happen to share names with presidents.

[…]

“Clinton” is one of the most popular names for cities in the U.S., not just the surname of the political family. In Clinton, Indiana, a vacation bible school was blocked from advertising a free lunch event for kids aged 3 to 12. “Come learn how COOL Jesus’s love is!” it said, including a picture of a flier featuring animated penguins. In Clinton, Iowa, an insurance company was blocked from advertising its annual family baseball night for customers and friends, featuring a backpack drive for needy children. And in Clinton, Tennessee, Facebook’s system took down an ad for performances of Twelfth Night and the Jungle Book, featuring actors from local high schools.

This is an indication to me that Facebook simply isn’t taking this problem seriously. Instead of employing more humans to verify automatically detected ads, they’ve apparently added a basic string matching filter. Consider, for a start, all of the public buildings in the United States named after former presidents and other officials. Text matching without context isn’t good enough to serve as a filter.

Re-Emphasizing the Decentralized Feed

Luc Lewitanski has a pretty good theory on why Google killed Reader five years ago Sunday:

@Google killed its Reader in 2013 because RSS as a format gives readers agency, doesn’t track browsing to sell ads, and lets the user chose what they want to read. As opposed to algorithmic personalisation which siloes [sic] us into increasingly homogenous demographics for advertisers

Aral Balkan:

Time was, you couldn’t browse the web without seeing RSS icons of all persuasions gracing the façades of Web 1.0’s finest. This was before they were mercilessly devoured by the tracking devices … ahem … “social sharing buttons” of people farmers like Google and Facebook.

[…]

[…] You can start making RSS more visible again today by finding the URL for your own RSS feed and exposing it visibly on your site.

It’s not complicated: just a link in the head of your page and a link in the body with an RSS icon and Bob’s your decentralised Uncle.

Badges, buttons, and links to RSS feeds used to be all over the web; now, they’re almost like a nerd calling card — it’s an indication that a website is cool with an audience reading new material on their terms. I’d like to think there’s a certain confidence in a website indicating to its readers that it doesn’t need a precise count of how many people visited the website, nor does it need all the tracking and surveillance nonsense that comes with that.

RSS and JSON Feed are both terrific formats for reading — not just on the web, but reading generally. They work with a lot of different client applications that can be set up to your liking, and you can subscribe to as many or as few websites as you like. You can be a completionist with your subscriptions, or you can let new posts flow by and only focus on a handful. You can even have a combination of the two, using something like Lire and its excellent Discover section — you can see that, even with an obnoxious amount of unread items overall, it’s possible to prioritize what to look at first. Best of all, you are in control of RSS and JSON Feeds, not a mysterious algorithm that you don’t fully understand.

Personal Data in 340 Million Records Leaked From Exactis Databases

Abrar Al-Heeti, CNet:

If you’re a US citizen, your personal information — your phone number, home address, email address, even how many children you have — may have just become easily available to hackers in an alleged massive data leak.

Florida-based marketing and data aggregation firm Exactis exposed a database containing nearly 340 million individual records on a publicly accessible server, Wired reported. Earlier this month, security researcher Vinny Troia found that nearly 2 terabytes of data was exposed, which seems to include personal information on hundreds of millions of US adults and millions of businesses, the report said.

“It seems like this is a database with pretty much every US citizen in it,” Troia told Wired.

It’s remarkable and deeply troubling how a private marketing company in Florida that most people haven’t heard of could conceivably have a database containing every American citizen. I doubt Exactis is the only company in possession of a database like this, too.

Some Third-Party Email Apps Let Employees Read User Emails

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Return Path, a service for email marketers that has 163 app partners, two years ago allowed its employees to read approximately 8,000 full customer emails to train the company’s software.

Similarly, Edison Software, a company that makes the Edison Mail app for iOS, had employees read the emails of hundreds of users to craft a new “smart replies” feature.

According to The Wall Street Journal, neither company asked users for specific permission to read their emails, but have said the practice is covered in their user agreements. Employees who read the emails were governed by “strict protocols,” and in Edison’s case, user information was redacted.

I’m still uncertain why anyone would pass their email through any third party like these, nor why either of these companies would think that this is a good idea even if it’s theoretically covered by their privacy policy.

500px Nukes Over One Million Creative Commons Photos

Michael Zhang, PetaPixel:

500px just shut down its Marketplace stock photo platform in favor of selling photos directly through Getty Images and VCG, as the company announced a month ago. And as part of the major change, 500px has wiped out over 1 million of the Creative Commons photos photographers had uploaded to the service.

Creative Commons licensing allows photographers to make their works freely available for others to build upon and share while following certain guidelines. 500px introduced the licensing option back in 2012, following in Flickr’s footsteps.

But overnight, all of the CC photos that have been uploaded since 2012 have been nuked from 500px. Users can no longer choose a CC license during uploading, search for CC photos, or download them.

And prior to the wipeout, 500px provided no migration path for 500px users wishing to keep their CC photos on the service alive.

This sucks for anyone who wants to share their photography while maintaining control over its use or licensing it to third parties.

Flickr, meanwhile, has been shuttled around from owner to owner before landing with SmugMug earlier this year. Aside from Instagram, there really aren’t any successful photo-centric sharing websites or services — at least, not in North America. Why is that? Is it simply because Instagram consumes the entire market in much the same way that YouTube is the video sharing platform?

Apple Is Rebuilding Maps From the Ground Up

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:

Maps needs fixing.

Apple, it turns out, is aware of this, so it’s re-building the maps part of Maps.

It’s doing this by using first-party data gathered by iPhones with a privacy-first methodology and its own fleet of cars packed with sensors and cameras. The new product will launch in San Francisco and the Bay Area with the next iOS 12 beta and will cover Northern California by fall.

Every version of iOS will get the updated maps eventually, and they will be more responsive to changes in roadways and construction, more visually rich depending on the specific context they’re viewed in and feature more detailed ground cover, foliage, pools, pedestrian pathways and more.

This is nothing less than a full re-set of Maps and it’s been four years in the making, which is when Apple began to develop its new data-gathering systems. Eventually, Apple will no longer rely on third-party data to provide the basis for its maps, which has been one of its major pitfalls from the beginning.

This is huge news. As Panzarino points out, only one other company owns a data set like this, and that’s Google. Mark Gurman first reported on this project for 9to5Mac in 2015.

It’s also a gigantic undertaking — obviously. It combines truly anonymized and minimized data gathered from iPhones — which can be turned off — with data gathered from those Apple Maps vehicles that have been driving around nearly a dozen countries over the past few years. Those vehicles are gathering more than just images and information about the roads; they’re also helping model cities in 3D.

It really does seem like Apple is committed to radically improving the most painful parts of their mapping data. They trusted that the information they were getting from third-party sources was accurate; but, in my experience, the majority of errors I’ve reported have been for places that were permanently shut long before Apple Maps launched. There simply wasn’t a mechanism in place at launch to verify that this third-party information was correct. Five years ago, they started hiring people as their “ground truth” team, but that doesn’t seem to have had the effect they wanted. So, they’re starting from scratch with the source data and, as Panzarino reports, have made it easier for their staff to keep everything up to date. Whether they actually can do so, at worldwide scale, is another matter; I have my doubts.

Apple says that they will be rolling this out across the United States next year, after launching initially in the Bay Area, of course. They’ve been driving extensively throughout the U.K. for about the same amount of time as in the U.S., so I would imagine that its revised cartography won’t be far behind.

Apple hasn’t even begun to drive Canada yet, though — not even Toronto. However, I’ve been watching their vehicle schedule page for a while and there are some smaller communities in the U.S. that they seem to have driven through over and over. My guess is that they’ve been perfecting the vehicle rig, and will rapidly scale their use of those rigs worldwide. The biggest question now is: when can we expect Maps to be entirely powered by Apple’s own data? It has already been six years since Apple launched their own Maps app with iOS 6, and it seems like there’s still a long way to go before they are no longer dependent on third parties like Tom Tom and Yelp.

Apple Is Building a Media Platform Like Never Before

Ryan Christoffel, MacStories:

[…] Once not long ago, Apple’s primary media platform was iTunes. Now, hundreds of millions of users consume media every day through Apple’s suite of spiritual successors to iTunes:

  • Apple Music

  • Apple TV (the app)

  • Apple Podcasts

  • Apple Books

  • Apple News

  • And the App Store

Apple has one unified goal, I believe, driving all its media efforts: it aspires to utilize hardware, software, and services to provide the entirety of a user’s media experience. If you consume media, Apple wants to provide the full stack of that consumption, from media delivery to media discovery. My aim in this story is to share an overview of how that goal is being fulfilled today.

This is big — the kind of thing that, in hindsight, was indicated when they dropped “Computer” from the “Apple Computer, Inc.” name.

Apple Rumoured to Be Considering a Combined Media Subscription

Anna Washenko, Radio and Internet News:

Apple may be planning a new type of multimedia content subscription. The Information (paywall) reports that Apple is considering a single package that would combine Apple Music with the company’s original TV and video projects and its overhauled news app. Each of the services would still be available individually, but a single access point would position Apple as a single-stop purveyor of entertainment.

Several of the other leading tech companies have pursued similar paths. Amazon Prime combines several perks for repeat customers of the ecommerce giant and Google’s YouTube Premium is making another effort to blend subscription music and video on the platform. The potential for Apple to incorporate its recent acquisition of Texture, frequently billed as “the Netflix of magazines,” is a new wrinkle for this type of joint package.

This makes complete sense to me: let people subscribe to individual services that they’re most interested in, but incentivize them to get everything. But will the Apple TV subscription be closer to a true Netflix competitor? I hope so.

The Butterfly Keyboard and Expensive Repairs

Kyle Wiens of iFixIt:

Which brings us back to the point. Why did it take so long, and so many complaints, for the repair program to be put in place? Why do you need to send your MacBook Pro away for upwards of a week for a repair? That’s easy: because Apple made their product hard for them to repair, too. Apple’s new warranty program is going to cost them a lot of money.

Apple’s profit on every machine that they warranty under this new program has been decimated. There is a real business impact caused by unrepairable product design. Samsung recently had a similar experience with the Note7. Yes, the battery problem was a manufacturing defect. But if the battery had been easy to replace, they could have recalled just the batteries instead of the entire phone. It was a $5 billion design mistake.

But this isn’t just about warranty cost—there is a loud outcry for reliable, long-lasting, upgradeable machines. Just look at the market demand for the six-year-old 2012 MacBook Pro — the last fully upgradeable notebook Apple made. I use one myself, and I love it.

Notebooks have long been less modular than desktops. When the Nvidia GPU failed in my mid-2007 MacBook Pro about ten years ago, Apple had to replace the entire logic board. Since then, their notebooks have become increasingly sealed — first, by placing the battery behind the screwed-on bottom plate, then soldering the RAM to the board, and finally by making the SSD also part of the board.

A couple of friends were mentioning in a small Slack room that they had some warranty-covered service done recently — one with a MacBook Pro, and one with a MacBook Air. In both cases, Apple replaced nearly all of the parts of the computer without doing a whole-machine swap.

Stories like these, and especially this new keyboard replacement program, make me wonder if this trend is being reconsidered. Of course, there haven’t been widespread complaints similar to the MacBook Pro’s keyboard about the SSD or RAM failing, or about the battery not being removable. Perhaps these failures are a relatively small, somewhat expensive step back after years of moving forward. If anything about the design of Apple’s portables is being reconsidered, though, I hope that it isn’t just the financials that would be the primary factor; likewise, if no such discussions are happening.

Jack Dorsey Met With American Conservative Leaders and Media Personalities to Hear Their Complaints About Alleged Bias

Tony Romm, Washington Post:

In response, the Twitter executive heard an earful from conservatives gathered at the table, who scoffed at the fact that Dorsey runs a platform that’s supposed to be neutral even though he’s tweeted about issues like immigration, gay rights and national politics. They also told Dorsey that the tech industry’s efforts to improve diversity — after years of criticism for maintaining a largely white, male workforce — should focus on hiring engineers with more diverse political viewpoints as well, according to those who dined with him in D.C.

Hadas Gold:

What I find fascinating about the several meet-ups social media has had w/ conservatives, is the feeling that there’s an inherent need for these platforms to be unbiased and run by unbiased folks… as though they’re a public utility

Ashley Feinberg:

Meanwhile I’ve talked to like a dozen people over the past week who have tried to get tweets with their addresses and phone numbers removed as Twitter keeps telling them it’s not a violation […]

Are the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook not supposed to have their own viewpoint? That’s a bizarre notion.

Let’s look at this from a free market perspective. If Twitter truly were censoring conservatives — they’re not, but let’s pretend that there’s a movement at Twitter targeting conservative voices for a moment — this should just sort itself out, right? Dorsey has heard the complaints of Grover Norquist, Sean Hannity, and Ted Cruz, and will likely make no changes: the company has been growing steadily for a couple of years, so this (completely fictional) conservative censorship project seems to be paying off. Conservatives could continue to suffer on Twitter, or they could build a competitor that is either conservative-focused or truly neutral. Maybe that competitor will be a rousing success amongst conservatives, or the public at large; maybe it won’t. Either way, that’s the free market making the decision, right?

In the real world, though, Dorsey and other Twitter executives have repeatedly insisted that they are not banning or silencing users for expressing conservative viewpoints. They have been trying to combat harassment and that has resulted in the moderation of users of different political orientations — including those who tweeted a news story purportedly containing Stephen Miller’s cellphone number.

This is an entirely silly, bad faith line of argument. If Dorsey needs to meet with American conservatives and take seriously their complaints about being the victims of silencing — the Republican President has used Twitter to threaten a congressperson, while conservatives also control Congress and, soon, the Supreme Court — then that’s his game to play. But it isn’t worth pretending it isn’t horseshit.

Update: Max Read, New York:

That either Dorsey or Zuckerberg might be taking these complaints seriously is troubling. What’s galling is not the staleness of the charges — reporters are too liberal to neutrally cover politics! Editors suppress conservative stories! Newspaper coverage is biased against conservatives! — but the context in which they arrive. The conservative movement has found itself with complete control of the federal government and in power in a majority of states across the country — and it’s taken that power thanks in a large part to social media like Twitter and Facebook.

iTunes Remote Updated

Benjamin Mayo:

Looking slighter wider, what is the point of this app existing? Remote controlling your Mac’s iTunes app makes little sense in an era of AirPlay 2 and HomePod speakers. Also, Apple now has three separate places to find ‘media remotes’. There’s the iTunes Remote app, Apple TV Remote app, and the Apple TV Remote platter in Control Centre. Each of these tread on each other’s toes in different ways, but there’s not one app for everything either. It is messy. Before today, I was assuming iTunes Remote had run its course and was heading towards extinction. With this update, I just don’t know what the roadmap is here. Apple isn’t normally prone to carrying around legacy baggage.

I completely agree that having two different remote apps — plus a Control Centre widget — is confusing, but I hope that being able to control iTunes playback from an iPhone doesn’t disappear. Because my music library and bookshelf speakers are still connected to my Mac, I use the iTunes Remote app all the time. It’s nice to see this app updated.

Apple News Says Its Midterm Elections Section Is More Trustworthy Because It’s Run by Humans

Mathew Ingram, Columbia Journalism Review:

Apple launched a special section of its News app on Monday dedicated to the upcoming midterm elections, a section it said will be filled with stories and features curated by Apple News editors from “trusted publishers.” And while the name Facebook didn’t appear anywhere in the company’s press release, the description of the new section seemed like one long subtweet of the social network.

While Facebook continues to try to overcome a reputation for misinformation—especially the kind distributed by Russian trolls—and fights with publishers about lumping their news stories in with political advertising, Apple makes a point of noting that its stories are curated by human beings, and that it has solid relationships with leading news publishers. […]

The skeptical and cynical counterpoint that I’ve seen repeated on Twitter today is that humans are fallible and have their own biases. No shit. But I don’t think Apple’s promotion of this is entirely marketing bluster. There’s a reason human editors still work in newsrooms and decide what’s most worthy to appear on the front page, no matter whether that’s the homepage of their website or A1 — what is most popular can be important, but it’s their job to decide what is most newsworthy, and that’s often not the same thing.

Maybe Apple’s human editors will accidentally place something of little value in the midterm section; they may even promote a story that is later revealed to have critical mistakes. But they are less likely to surface something simply because of its virality without accounting for its news value.

MacOS Mojave Preview

Jason Snell:

With macOS Mojave, available today to the general public as a part of a public beta, the story is different. macOS Mojave feels like a macOS update that’s truly about the Mac, extending features that are at the core of the Mac’s identity. At the same time, macOS Mojave represents the end of a long era (of stability or, less charitably, stagnation) and the beginning of a period that could completely redefine what it means to use a Mac.

Is macOS Mojave the latest chapter of an ongoing story, the beginning of a new one, or the end of an old one? It feels very much like the answer is yes and yes and yes.

Given the somewhat frustrating Mac hardware situation, I’d be deeply concerned for the future of the platform if this year’s MacOS release was a boring one. It isn’t — Mojave shows that there’s lots of life left in the Mac. Even simple things, like Desktop Stacks, make a difference in real-world everyday usability.

Last year’s migration to APFS pays off in a big way for those of you thinking about trying the public beta of Mojave on a separate partition. I don’t know how many of you had to run fsck in single-user mode to get previous beta partitions working, but I did — every year. Not this time, though. It took a minute flat to create a Mojave “container” and begin installing. Nice.

AT&T Reportedly Has a Special Working Relationship With the NSA Because of Its Deep Ties to Communications Infrastructure

Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke, the Intercept:

Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In each of these cities, The Intercept has identified an AT&T facility containing networking equipment that transports large quantities of internet traffic across the United States and the world. A body of evidence – including classified NSA documents, public records, and interviews with several former AT&T employees – indicates that the buildings are central to an NSA spying initiative that has for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats passing across U.S. territory.

The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it “has access to information that transits the nation,” but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.

This article is fairly American-centric, because it is unconstitutional for the NSA to be monitoring the contents of Americans’ communications. But it also raises questions about the extent to which the American government is monitoring the world’s communications.

To the best of my understanding, the NSA is legally able to gather intelligence from any non-U.S. communications. The main reason they didn’t do so historically was because it’s not as efficient as a more targeted collection sttategy. But, after building a massive data centre in Utah and creating software to automatically sift through all they collect, it has become reasonable for them to broaden their scope. This article from the Intercept reinforces that: AT&T is a valuable NSA partner because they have access to, effectively, much of the world’s communications through their peering agreements. Legally, this is apparently fine by the NSA’s mandate; ethically, it’s outrageous. My communications and yours, probably, have been scooped up and could be sitting on a hard drive somewhere in the United States, without a warrant or any suspicion of wrongdoing, in a repugnant dismissal of common-sense morals.