Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for December, 2016

The Mac

Of the frustrations I’ve had with Apple’s products and services this year, perhaps the most galling is the state of the Mac. From a software standpoint, many of the consumer-facing changes in MacOS Sierra are so modest as to be perfunctory. Sierra’s most obvious new feature, Siri, is ported from iOS, albeit with a few Mac-specific tweaks.

The hardware side tells a similar story. Of the six Mac lines that Apple sells, just one — the MacBook Pro — saw a major revision this year. The MacBook received a minor spec bump update. The other four Macs Apple makes were untouched in 2016, including all three desktop models.

What’s more, the updates to the MacBook Pro have proved to be — as with any major change in product direction — controversial, with reviewers questioning its performance, lack of upgradability, battery life, and price.1

I would not blame you for being a tiny bit worried about that.

Apple employees are clearly concerned as well, with one asking yesterday about the state of the desktop Mac, in particular, on the company’s internal messaging system. Tim Cook replied:

The desktop is very strategic for us. It’s unique compared to the notebook because you can pack a lot more performance in a desktop — the largest screens, the most memory and storage, a greater variety of I/O, and fastest performance. So there are many different reasons why desktops are really important, and in some cases critical, to people.

The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world.

Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.

Cook’s answer here is cagey, as is usual for Apple executives, with Marco Arment pointing to the singling-out of the iMac as evidence for the Mac Pro’s departure. I think Stephen Hackett’s impression is more correct: as the Mac Mini and Mac Pro haven’t been updated since 2014 and 2013, respectively, calling them the best of anything would be dishonest.

Then, today, a big report from Mark Gurman of Bloomberg:

Interviews with people familiar with Apple’s inner workings reveal that the Mac is getting far less attention than it once did. They say the Mac team has lost clout with the famed industrial design group led by Jony Ive and the company’s software team. They also describe a lack of clear direction from senior management, departures of key people working on Mac hardware and technical challenges that have delayed the roll-out of new computers.

As usual for one of Gurman’s pieces, it’s packed with scoops and intriguing asides. But even if you read it with a heavy dose of skepticism, the impression it gives is dire. In short, the Mac is, reportedly, not seen as an important product at Apple today. If you doubt that, just look at the state of the Mac for the past year.

Frankly, I don’t care if the Mac doesn’t interest the industrial design team any more. While I’d love to see a smaller Mac Mini, a radical new Mac Pro design, or an even thinner MacBook, what I — and, I’m sure, so many others — would prefer are regular internal upgrades for improved performance and longer battery life.

This is never as simple as it sounds. Apple is dependent on third-party suppliers for new components, and those components may require different thermal envelopes, a different chip configuration, or new drivers. Updating these products isn’t as simple as we want to believe. And, yet, the company has previously managed to update their Mac lineup on an annual basis without changing the enclosure. Why can’t they do so now?

I have quibbles with Gurman’s article. For example:

Apple prioritizes features, like thinness and minimal ports, that sell its iPhones and iPads, which generated about 75 percent of revenue this year. Those are contrary to professional needs, like maximum computing power.

I don’t necessarily agree that prioritizing thinness and lightness is inherently contradictory to performance — or, at least, not in a way that cannot be solved. Earlier in the piece, Gurman says that Apple was working on a “stepped” battery for the MacBook Pro, similar to the one fitted to the MacBook, that would improve its capacity while keeping the product light. Apple has also excelled at designing high-performance processors for the iPhone and iPad that minimize power consumption.

Nitpicks aside, Gurman’s closing paragraph does little to assuage concerns:

Mac fans shouldn’t hold their breath for radical new designs in 2017 though. Instead, the company is preparing modest updates: USB-C ports and a new Advanced Micro Devices Inc. graphics processor for the iMac, and minor bumps in processing power for the 12-inch MacBook and MacBook Pro. Cue the outrage.

Gurman says little about the Mac Pro in the article, aside from noting how difficult it was to build in the United States, and says nothing about the Mac Mini. That doesn’t necessarily mean that updates to those products aren’t coming, of course, but there’s clearly a lack of enthusiasm for them.

Something that’s increasingly clear is that not all of today’s Macs may be important to Apple’s strategy. The MacBook Air only exists today to serve its price point; once the MacBook can be the same price as the Air, you can bet that it will be. Perhaps the Mac lineup goes back to the “grid of four” from the late-’90s, with the MacBook and MacBook Pro filling the consumer and professional portable roles, respectively, and the iMac and a revised Mac Pro doing the same on the desktop.

All I really want, though, is some confidence again in the Mac as a product line and a platform.


  1. Michael Tsai’s roundups continue to be my favourite way to see the zeitgeist of responses to major tech news items. ↩︎

750,000 L.A. County Residents’ Personal Information Compromised by Phishing Attack

Ryan Carter, Los Angeles Daily News:

The attack occurred May 13, 2016, when 108 county employees were deceived by an email they believed to be legitimate into providing their usernames and passwords, according to officials.

Some of those employees, according to officials at the county, had “confidential client/patient information” in their email accounts through their county responsibilities.

[…]

That information may have included first and last names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, driver’s license or state identification numbers, payment card information, bank account information, home addresses, phone numbers, and/or medical information, such as Medi-Cal or insurance carrier identification numbers, diagnosis, treatment history or medical record numbers.

It’s worth noting that a small typo — “legitimate” instead of “illegitimate” — and a similar phishing email likely changed the course and result of the 2016 election. Both of these attacks could have been prevented by using two-factor authentication and being more aware of what a phishing email looks like.

Sadly, as electronic communications and data storage are increasingly consolidated around a handful of popular providers — Google, Apple, Oracle, Salesforce, and a handful of others — it is easy enough for enterprising hackers to slap together a fake login page and send it to thousands of users. If only a fraction of them take the bait, that may still represent hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of records.

And another thing: why did it take officials seven months to notify those affected? Given the kind of data at stake here, that’s egregiously irresponsible.

Nine Inch Nails Announce New EP, Vinyl Reissues

Samantha Maine, NME:

Nine Inch Nails have announced a new EP ‘Not the Actual Events’, set to be self-released on December 23.

[…]

The band are also releasing a limited edition 4xLP vinyl version of the 1999 NIN album ‘The Fragile’, containing 37 bonus tracks. “The Fragile occupies a very interesting and intimate place in my heart,” Reznor said in a press release.

I wouldn’t say this news is “saving” 2016, but it’s pretty close to being The Thing that averts an entirely tragic year. I’ve ordered both the four-LP set and the “digital + physical component” copy of the EP, the latter of which features this curious note:

The intention of this record is for it to exist in the physical world, just like you. Choosing this package gets you the digital files and we will ship the proper physical component to your house for you to deal with, while very limited supplies last.

I don’t know what I will be “dealing” with when whatever “it” is arrives in the mail, but I’m intrigued.

Funny enough, Reznor — an Apple employee, via their acquisition of Beats Music — announced this news on Instagram and Twitter, but there’s still no word of it on Apple Music Connect.

Google and Apple Say They Would Not Help Build a Muslim Registry

Nitasha Tiku, Buzzfeed:

In response to questions from BuzzFeed News, Google, Apple, and Uber clarified their position on President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim registry. “In relation to the hypothetical of whether we would ever help build a ‘muslim registry’ – we haven’t been asked, of course we wouldn’t do this and we are glad – from all that we’ve read – that the proposal doesn’t seem to be on the table,” a spokesperson for Google told BuzzFeed News in an email.

BuzzFeed News asked whether they would help build or provide data for a Muslim registry. An Apple spokesperson said: “We think people should be treated the same no matter how they worship, what they look like, who they love. We haven’t been asked and we would oppose such an effort.”

While it’s admirable that both of these companies would object to helping create such a registry — one of Donald Trump’s campaign promises — the bulk collection of user data is, in effect, creating that registry for them. Between the two, only Apple has demonstrated that they oppose the collection and utilization of user data. I think it’s great that tech companies are taking a stance on this issue, but they ought to act on it as well by reducing user data collection and enabling strong encryption on any data they possess.

Evernote Decides Not to Let Employees Read Users’ Notes

Greg Chiemingo of Evernote responds to an outrageous privacy policy update that would allow their employees to peruse users’ notes unless they opted out (emphasis his):

After receiving a lot of customer feedback expressing concerns about our upcoming Privacy Policy changes over the past few days, Evernote is reaffirming its commitment to keep privacy at the center of what we do. As a result, we will not implement the previously announced Privacy Policy changes that were scheduled to go into effect January 23, 2017.

Instead, in the coming months we will be revising our existing Privacy Policy to address our customers’ concerns, reinforce that their data remains private by default, and confirm the trust they have placed in Evernote is well founded. In addition, we will make machine learning technologies available to our users, but no employees will be reading note content as part of this process unless users opt in. We will invite Evernote customers to help us build a better product by joining the program.

I don’t know why Evernote thought they’d get away with the proposed change. Perhaps they think none of their users would bother to read the privacy policy.

Still, if you haven’t switched away from Evernote, now isn’t a bad time to do so. Depending on what features you use, consider Bear — Apple’s pick for App of the Year — or the always-reliable Notational Velocity. I primarily use the latter, with nvAlt on the Mac and nvNotes on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I’ve synced them via Dropbox; I’d like to switch to a more encrypted sync system — iCloud, for instance — but it doesn’t appear to be supported yet in nvNotes.

‘It’s Almost Like Recode Was in the Air Duct at Trump Tower’

Kara Swisher, Recode:

Thank goodness, you have Recode to tell you who said what in the room immediately after Trump did a decidedly odd little handshake with investor Peter Thiel (who rounded up the Silicon Valley potentates for Trump), talked about a stock market “bounce,” and noted how smart those gathered were. (It was def a collection of smarties, all wearing their fancy clothes!)

But after the press left and the doors were closed, the visitors from the digital world actually did try to bring up a number of substantive major issues with Trump and those gathered there. Trump’s three eldest kids were present, which most sources close to the execs (no, I am not saying which ones) thought was inappropriate on a number of levels.

Nearly all of the questions asked by those who attended seem fairly expected. I don’t think there’s much here — aside from Larry Page’s apparent questioning of delivering AC vs. DC over power lines — that surprised me. Still, it’s worth a read.

I think the part that is most astonishing, to me, of all of these meetings is how much of it is being done behind closed doors and away from the press. The president-elect hasn’t held a press conference since July. His meetings with high-powered executives in off-the-record exchanges where he’s promised that “anything we can do to help […] you’ll call my people, you’ll call me” are in the public interest.

One of the most interesting exchanges was with Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt, who briefly noted that he pondered what he would do if he were president […]

Please, no.

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler to Step Down January 20

Margaret Harding Mcgill and Alex Byers, Politico:

Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Thursday he will leave the agency Jan. 20, ending months of will-he or won’t-he speculation about his plans.

[…]

With Wheeler departing next month, chief among the GOP targets are Wheeler’s net neutrality rules, passed last year, which require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. The rules reclassify broadband akin to a utility making it subject to stricter oversight. Republicans called the regulations burdensome on companies, and the telecom industry has sued — so far unsuccessfully — to overturn them.

The partisan response to an issue as essential as net neutrality is baffling to me. It will have dire long-term consequences, with telecom companies exerting far greater influence over what passes through their infrastructure, and consumers receiving the brunt of the effect in terms of cost and experience.

Quitting the News

David Cain (via Jason Kottke):

The news isn’t interested in creating an accurate sample. They select for what’s 1) unusual, 2) awful, and 3) probably going to be popular. So the idea that you can get a meaningful sense of the “state of the world” by watching the news is absurd.

[…]

There is an extraordinary gulf between having a functional understanding of an issue, and the cursory glance you get from the news. If you ever come across a water-cooler conversation on a topic you happen to know a lot about, you see right through the emperor’s clothes. It’s kind of hilarious how willing people are to speak boldly on issues they’ve known about for all of three hours.

It feels good to make cutting remarks and take hard stands, even when we’re wrong, and the news gives us perfect fodder for that. The less you know about an issue, the easier it is to make bold proclamations about it, because at newscast-distance it still looks black and white enough that you can feel certain about what needs to happen next.

This isn’t a condemnation of journalism; it’s a succinct explanation of why watching most television news is ultimately meaningless. That’s not to say that all of it is, or that newspapers are inherently better, or that we should always only be reading multithousand-word investigations. But it isn’t helpful — for your knowledge and your mental health — to be watching the news obsessively.

Facebook Is Going to Try Tackling Fake News With Fact-Checkers

Mark Bergen, Bloomberg:

Two of the incoming changes are very visible. Facebook users will be able to flag content on the site as a “fake news story.” Articles deemed false by Facebook’s partner, Poynter Institute’s International Fact Checking Network, will have a new tag attached: “Disputed by 3rd Party Fact-Checkers.” Publishers behind these articles will no longer be able to promote these articles as Facebook paid ads. The social network also will be working with fact-checking organizations Politfact, Snopes and FactCheck.org, as well as ABC News and the Associated Press to identify articles as fake.

These are reputable, non-partisan news organizations that, while not perfect 100% of the time, have good track track records for sorting out the fact from the bullshit.

Unfortunately, I doubt Facebook’s initiative will have a significant effect on the spread of fake news — “fake” news, of course, being stories and posts that range from oversimplified rumours and satire, to made-up, fact-free articles, conspiracy theories, and websites that look legitimate but aren’t.

While Fox News is reporting Facebook’s decision through a neutral lens, major right-wing blogs are already decrying this as a liberally-biased move. This is predictable — both Breitbart and the Daily Caller tend to dabble in fake news themselves. Meanwhile, perennial libertarian garbage peddler Natural News posted an “urgent action alert” across their site, and are calling Facebook’s decision “Orwellian”.

I agree with Will Alden:

Prediction: “disputed” will be similar to “deplorables.” People will embrace it and flaunt it.

For those who already believe in these stories, “disputed” is a badge of honour. It says to them that the “mainstream” is, for whatever reason, trying to suppress the article. I hope this isn’t the case, but I fear that this will backfire.

Trump’s Tech Summit

David Streitfeld, New York Times:

One by one, the leaders of the world’s most elite and successful technology companies trooped up to the 25th floor to meet President-elect Donald J. Trump, who had criticized them and who they, in turn, had criticized. The executives did not acknowledge or speak to the press on the way in.

[…]

The technology world had been in turmoil as the meeting drew near. Some argued the chief executives should boycott the event to show their disdain for Mr. Trump’s values. Others maintained they should go and forthrightly make their values clear. And still others thought they should attend and make their accommodations with the new reality.

According to a source for Emily Chang of Bloomberg, the topics of this meeting were infrastructure, education, and cash repatriation policy. Also attending the largely white, largely male meeting were Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Trump Jr., because untangling Trump’s conflicts of interest is so hard that it’s easier to define his entire presidency through nepotism and profiteering.

I’m trying to remain optimistic that the executives in attendance today made known their disagreements and objections to many of Trump’s campaign promises. Despite their faces, I’m worried that they didn’t, and are accepting what is unfolding as though it were normal. It isn’t.

Over One Billion Yahoo Accounts Compromised

In a post on Tumblr that is not a repeat from 2012 or 2014, yet feels entirely familiar, Yahoo is admitting to an enormous security breach — this time, from 2013.

Bob Lord of Yahoo:

As we previously disclosed in November, law enforcement provided us with data files that a third party claimed was Yahoo user data. We analyzed this data with the assistance of outside forensic experts and found that it appears to be Yahoo user data. Based on further analysis of this data by the forensic experts, we believe an unauthorized third party, in August 2013, stole data associated with more than one billion user accounts. We have not been able to identify the intrusion associated with this theft. We believe this incident is likely distinct from the incident we disclosed on September 22, 2016.

For potentially affected accounts, the stolen user account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (using MD5) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. The investigation indicates that the stolen information did not include passwords in clear text, payment card data, or bank account information. Payment card data and bank account information are not stored in the system the company believes was affected.

In September 2013, Yahoo said that they had 800 million monthly active users, which means that a breach of over a billion accounts likely comprises the vast majority — if not the entirety — of Yahoo’s user base.

I wonder how the transition to Verizon ownership is going.

Tech Companies and a Muslim Registry

Two weeks ago, Sam Biddle of the Intercept asked large tech companies whether they would help build the hypothetical Muslim registry proposed by Donald Trump while campaigning. Just two responded to Biddle, and only Twitter specifically said “no”; Microsoft refused to “talk about hypotheticals at this point”. One would think that IBM would have a clear and immediate “no” response as well, given their history, but they didn’t.

Of course, when this article was reposted elsewhere, it was dutifully given much clickbait-ier headlines. My favourite topped off David Z. Morris’ article in Fortune:

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Apple Don’t Rule Out Helping Track Muslims

Typical Fortune bullshit, right? Not responding to an inquiry is not the same as maybe being okay with tracking Muslims. That said, I wish all of these companies were more assertive with their replies.

Anyway, Buzzfeed decided to keep going after this story in light of tomorrow’s big tech summit at Trump Tower, to which Facebook has been invited. A PR rep for the company replied to Nitasha Tiku’s emailed questions — accidentally:

Happy to talk to her off record about why this is attacking a straw man. Also I heard back from her that she may or may not write an additional piece depending on what response she gets from companies. So sounds like not making any stmt on record is the way to go.

This was pretty clearly intended to be included in a forward to another member of their PR team, not as a reply to Tiku. Embarrassing, especially considering the flippant tone of the email. No word on why Facebook considers a Muslim registry to be a “straw man”.

Other companies that will be sending representatives to meet with Trump tomorrow include Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, and others. Curiously, the CEO of Trump’s favourite social network — Twitter — hasn’t been invited. I doubt it’s related to their disinclination to assist with building a Muslim registry. Besides, even if Twitter itself opts out, there are plenty of companies with access to their so-called “firehose”.

Regardless of any tech company’s response to the Intercept’s questions, to what Trump might ask tomorrow, or what individual workers may pledge, many employees are going to wake up tomorrow and go to work to build software that could facilitate a Muslim registry. That’s not what the software is for, nor is it the intent of these employees, but it’s what they will do.

Allen Tan:

It’s nice that tech ppl are pledging to never explicitly build a Muslim registry but…you’ve already made things that will be bent to serve

“I will never make a racial profiling database!”

*continues working on social networks, analytics, ad tech*

The most effective way to combat the utilization of data in unsavoury, unethical, and immoral ways is to not collect data in the first place.

Update: Twitter reportedly wasn’t invited not because they pledged to not cooperate with a Muslim registry, but for a reason much, much pettier. Nancy Scola, Politico:

Twitter was told it was “bounced” from Wednesday’s meeting between tech executives and President-elect Donald Trump in retribution for refusing during the campaign to allow an emoji version of the hashtag #CrookedHillary, according to a source close to the situation.

Unreal, and I’m using that word literally. I cannot believe this is reality. Alex Kantrowitz of Buzzfeed disputes Scola’s report.

The Hampered Web

I don’t get why publishers are so eager to get on board with Google’s AMP project. Its biggest promise is that it provides a reliably fast, clutter-free experience for mobile users, but that’s full of crap. It’s a custom fork of HTML that provides all of the limitations of a proprietary platform with very few upsides. AMP is ruining URLs — the most fundamental foundation of the web — and, now, it seems like the supposed speed improvements from Google’s cache aren’t all they seem to be. Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land:

One of the biggest disadvantages for publishers in using AMP — the accelerated mobile pages format — is that Google will not show a publisher’s actual URL when displaying AMP pages. Google says this is so AMP pages load quickly. However, using a publisher’s URL might hardly slow a page down. In fact, using Google’s URL might actually cause AMP pages to load more slowly.

When using Google’s mobile page speed tool, Google’s cached AMP pages were rated as significantly better than non-cached AMP pages. When using other page speed checkers, Google’s cache loaded far slower than the non-cached versions.

I ask again: what do publishers see in AMP? Is it just because Google is prioritizing it in their search rankings? Why are publishers so eager to hand control of their web presence to a company that clearly doesn’t have their best interests at heart?

Apple Releases More OS Updates

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s iOS and tvOS updates come updates for Apple’s other operating systems, WatchOS and MacOS.1

The WatchOS update contains a bevy of bug fixes and performance improvements, as usual, but some users are reporting that it’s bricking their Apple Watches and it has — for now at least — been pulled.

It’s particularly troublesome for a Watch update because, unlike any other Apple product, the Watch isn’t serviced in-store. If Apple’s standard troubleshooting instructions don’t work, each one must be shipped off for assessment and repair with an estimated two-week turnaround.2

The MacOS update includes some great new wallpapers and a new set of emoji, but it also removes the battery life estimator from the menu bar.

Jim Dalrymple:

However, to help users better determine the battery life, Apple has removed the “time remaining” indicator from the battery icon in the menu bar with the latest update. You can still see the image on the top of the screen, and you can see the percentage, but you will no longer be able to see how much time is remaining before your battery dies.

The reason for removing it is very simple: it wasn’t accurate.

Removing a primary indicator of battery life and saying that it’s a means to “help users better determine the battery life” is, frankly, hilarious.

Michael Tsai:

I tend to think that an inaccurate (but constantly updating) estimate is better than none. Otherwise, people will have to make their own estimates, which takes attention and is likely to be even less accurate. I never liked how the estimate claimed to be accurate down to the minute. I would like to see an estimate with fewer significant digits, both to hide the erratic changes and to avoid over-representing the accuracy.

Agreed. I’ve never been one of those people who enables the percentage battery meter, but having an indicator of how much time I have left on my Mac is very helpful. I’d be much happier if the estimator rounded to the nearest quarter-hour, downwards, and indicated that it was an approximation.

Update: Marco Arment:

Having used Apple laptops for over a decade, I’ve always found the time-remaining estimate to also be a good indicator of how much power I’m burning with my current activities so I can “budget” my battery usage when I’m going to need it.

At the start of a long flight, for instance, I can check the time estimate, and if it only says I have 2 hours left at 90%, I know something’s burning a ton of power and I can go do something about that. A percentage only tells you the current state, not the rate of change — it would take much longer to notice an unexpected power drain from the percentage alone.

Apple tried this once already, in Mountain Lion, but reinstated the “time remaining” display because it’s the single most useful metric to users running on battery power. It should be brought back.


  1. For those wondering, the capitalization of these is, in my head, dictated by whether the prefix is pronounced as individual letters, or as a word. ↩︎

  2. My nine-year run of never damaging a mobile Apple product came to an end recently when I dropped my first-generation Watch on the tiled floor in my kitchen, shattering its screen. The cost to repair it was nearly the same as buying a Series 1 model and I wouldn’t have to wait, so that’s what I got. A shame, really. ↩︎

AirPods Are Now Available

Apple PR:

[AirPods are] available today from Apple.com and will start delivering to customers and arriving at Apple Stores, Apple Authorized Resellers and select carriers next week.

AirPods will be shipping in limited quantities at launch and customers are encouraged to check online for updates on availability and estimated delivery dates. Stores will receive regular AirPod shipments.

“Limited quantities” shouldn’t be underestimated: I just tried adding a set to my cart and its estimated delivery date has slipped to January 5.

That’s okay for me, though. All early reports suggest that they fit nearly identically to Apple’s EarPods, which I can’t wear. The in-ear model that’s more likely to work for the shape of my ears is the new BeatsX. Unfortunately, its availability has been adjusted to February.

This launch has been a case study in why it’s often a risky bet to announce a product well in advance of its estimated shipping date. This time, Apple bet wrong.

Lawsuit: Uber Retains Location Data, Staff Have Spied on Public Figures

Will Evans, in a blockbuster story for Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting:

For anyone who’s snagged a ride with Uber, Ward Spangenberg has a warning: Your personal information is not safe.

Internal Uber employees helped ex-boyfriends stalk their ex-girlfriends and searched for the trip information of celebrities such as Beyoncé, the company’s former forensic investigator said.

“Uber’s lack of security regarding its customer data was resulting in Uber employees being able to track high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses,” Spangenberg wrote in a court declaration, signed in October under penalty of perjury.

In separate news, Uber recently updated their privacy policy to allow tracking users’ location data for up to five minutes after exiting the vehicle.

Apple Releases OS Updates, New TV App

Ryan Christoffel reviewed the TV app for MacStories, and it sounds really terrific:

In its October keynote that announced the TV app, Apple highlighted one new Siri feature for iOS. In a demo, Apple’s presenter used Siri to play a video on an iPad, saying, “Play Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Siri knew exactly which episode was located in TV’s Up Next queue and played it immediately. When you know exactly what you want to watch, Siri can be very useful in bypassing the TV app interface altogether.

A Siri feature the company didn’t demo in October was the digital assistant’s ability to perform complex video searches on iOS. Now any type of search you could make with Siri on the Apple TV can also be done on the iPhone and iPad. So you can say things like, “Show me some great comedies,” or, “Let’s see some Jennifer Lawrence films,” and Siri will get the job done. And just like on the Apple TV, Siri on iOS can also handle follow-up commands to refine searches, such as, “Only the best ones,” “Only the new ones,” or, “Only the ones from the last two years.”

The TV app is debuting only in the U.S.,1 but Siri’s complex video knowledge is available on the Apple TV in plenty more countries. I find it a little odd that this information couldn’t be provided more widely through an update on Apple’s end.

Apple has made the interesting decision to remap the Home button on the Apple TV’s Siri Remote. In previous versions of tvOS, the button with the picture of a television would take you back to the Home screen. That has changed. Now the same button instead takes you directly to Watch Now in the TV app.

The way Christoffel has described the home screen and remote interactions half-answers my questions from when the app was announced: due to its default mapping on the remote, TV effectively becomes the new home screen. Because of that, though, it might be confusing to anyone who watches Netflix, as they’re not yet participating in the TV app.

The TV app and single sign-on capabilities are included with today’s iOS 10.2 update, which also contains a host of additional changes to emoji, new wallpaper for iPhone 7 users — still no new Dynamic wallpapers or Live Photos, though — and lots of bug fixes.


  1. Countries where the TV app isn’t available will continue to see the lowly Videos app on iOS. ↩︎

When Trump Tweets

Jenna Johnson, Washington Post:

About a year ago, 18-year-old college student Lauren Batchelder stood up at a political forum in New Hampshire and told Donald Trump that she didn’t think he was “a friend to women.”

The next morning, Trump fired back on Twitter — calling Batchelder an “arrogant young woman” and accusing her of being a “plant” from a rival campaign. Her phone began ringing with callers leaving threatening messages that were often sexual in nature. Her Facebook and email inboxes filled with similar messages. As her addresses circulated on social media and her photo flashed on the news, she fled home to hide.

Charlie Warzel, Buzzfeed:

It’s tricky and unprecedented territory for Twitter. Trump is obviously free to mention individuals by name on Twitter, especially as they relate to policy and governing. However, Trump’s new role as the most powerful leader in the free world as well as, his extreme visibility, and the history of his followers targeting and harassing his enemies create potential fallout that stands to affect real people, regardless of the intent with which they are made. Simply put: as President, the potential consequences of Trump’s speech make his case — and Twitter’s potential enforcement — somewhat unique.

I don’t think this is just unprecedented for Twitter; this is unprecedented for a civilized democracy. In no comparable country does someone operating at the national governance level publicly denounce private citizens or individual companies.

Philip Bump, Washington Post:

Shares of stock in aircraft manufacturer Boeing fell nearly $2 a share before markets opened on Tuesday.

The reason? A tweet from the president-elect.

In an extraordinary display of capitulation, lobbying, and — arguably — a flirtation with outright bribery, Boeing has now pledged $1 million to support Trump’s inaugural events.

Facebook Begins a Series of Press Releases Admitting to Inaccurate Metrics

Facebook:

We know how important it is to be open about meaningful updates we make to our metrics, so we’ve created this channel for regular information on metrics enhancements. This series will be similar to our News Feed FYI series.

Translation: We have been reporting inaccurate metrics to advertisers for years and now we’re correcting them. Join us as we put a positive spin on this utterly discrediting news.