Month: October 2022

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Apple Inc.’s head of hardware design, Evans Hankey, is leaving the iPhone maker three years after taking the job, creating a significant hole at the top of a company famous for its slick-looking products, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Hankey was named to the post in 2019 to replace Jony Ive, the company’s iconic design chief for two decades. Before taking her current role as vice president of industrial design, Hankey spent several years at Apple reporting to Ive. Since then, she has reported to Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams.

Only insiders know the full extent of the role Hankey played in driving the design direction of Apple’s hardware over the past several years; the company’s designers are careful to emphasize the collaborative nature of their work. But if every new device released since 2019 has been designed by her or with her direction, that is a hell of a run. Any one of the iPhone 12 and its successors, the Apple Watch Ultra, and the Apple Silicon Macs would be an impressive entry in someone’s portfolio. To be ultimately responsible for the way all of those products look and feel is a high achievement.

I do not wish to speculate on Hankey’s motivations for leaving. It is worth pointing out, however, that Apple never truly named a successor to Ive’s role at Apple. Even before Ive was responsible for all design at the company, he was a Senior Vice President, and his portrait and bio were part of the Executive Profiles page on Apple’s website. Perhaps there are other reasons for why neither Hankey nor Dye are considered part of Apple’s current leadership. But I am going to quibble with Gurman’s description of Hankey’s role as one to “replace” Ive. As far as Apple is concerned, Ive did not have a direct successor — and I do not think that is a fair reflection of the excellent work produced by Apple’s industrial design team since his departure.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro with which I am publishing these words is arguably the nicest laptop ever made. From this outsider’s perspective, I wish Apple still gave its hardware designers the credit they deserve. On the other hand, perhaps a lack of a specific figurehead, as in the Ive era, has helped emphasize a more collective responsibility and appreciation.

Unread screenshot

Thank you to Golden Hill Software and Unread for this week’s sponsorship.

Unread is an RSS reader for iPhone and iPad with beautiful typography, comfortable gesture-based navigation, and a variety of color themes.

While great websites like Pixel Envy provide RSS feeds with full article content, some websites have feeds that contain only article summaries. When displaying articles from summary-only feeds, Unread retrieves full article content from the website. You get the full article in Unread’s native article view without needing to open the website.

Pixel Envy readers will appreciate Unread’s handling of link articles. A link article is an article that links to and comments on an article from another website. Unread displays both the link article and the full text of the other article in its native article view. No need to open a web browser.

Unread provides a share sheet extension making it easy to subscribe to feeds offered by the website you are visiting from Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or just about any other web browser.

Unread has great syncing. Create a free Unread Cloud account to keep multiple devices in sync. Unread also syncs with services such as Feedbin, Feedly, Inoreader, and NewsBlur.

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Elizabeth Dwoskin, Faiz Siddiqui, Gerrit De Vynck, and Jeremy B. Merrill, Washington Post:

Elon Musk told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.

Even if Musk’s Twitter deal falls through — and there’s little indication now that it will — big cuts are expected: Twitter’s current management planned to pare the company’s payroll by about $800 million by the end of next year, a number that would mean the departure of nearly a quarter of the workforce, according to corporate documents and interviews with people familiar with the company’s deliberations. The company also planned to make major cuts to its infrastructure, including data centers that keep the site functioning for more than 200 million users that log on each day.

My thoughts are primarily with the thousands of people whose employment will be terminated without fault or specific cause, but because Twitter has not become a financially viable company after sixteen years of management crises. Twitter apparently plans to use stack ranking to remove relatively low-ranked staff. No matter whether these layoffs will appease Wall Street investors or that one jackass buyer, it all sounds particularly cruel.

Nandini Jammi and Claire Atkin, in the Check My Ads Branded newsletter:

Without seller crucial information, advertisers can’t meet the standards they’ve set for themselves, putting them at near constant business and legal risk.


The only tool Google gives advertisers today to manage these incredibly significant liabilities is… blocklists (or exclusion lists). But blocklists only enable you to block domains — not seller accounts. And the bad guys learned how to evade domain blocklists a long time ago.

The seller account-level is where the real abuse is taking place — with Google looking the other way.

A damning report, especially considering Google’s visibility and reach. Advertisers should clearly be allowed to say who they want to sell ads to, not just which domains they appear on. And, as Jammi and Atkin report, there are resellers and exchanges all down the chain. All of them should be compliant as well to be permitted to be a part of Google’s ad network. This is a basic level of ethical diligence anyone should expect.

In addition to the aforementioned Apple TV, Apple today announced new versions of the iPad and iPad Pro. Alex Guyot of MacStories rightly describes the resulting product selection as “strange”:

As you’ve probably noticed from the many caveats throughout this article, this iPad lineup has some issues. I’m not sure how this happened, but somehow these product lines just seem all mixed up. The lowest-end iPad (not counting the previous 9th generation iPad, which is currently still for sale) has features that the iPad Pro does not. It also has the same design as all of the other iPads, yet lacks the Apple Pencil 2 support which can be found in the rest of them. The brand-new iPad Pro models do not work with the most feature-rich iPad keyboard that Apple sells. That keyboard costs a full half of the base price of the only iPad that supports it.

Apple probably has the best parts bin of any computer company. Its range of A-series SoCs are powerful and efficient, it has years of great camera modules to pull from, and its bucket of display and materials technologies is second to none. Just about any combination will produce a product its competitors could envy.

So it is bizarre when it appears the teams digging through this bin are not on speaking terms. The flat-sided iPad hardware design feels like it was made to go hand-in-glove with the second-generation Apple Pencil. But the tenth-generation iPad does not support that four year old accessory. The iPad Air is within millimetres of the same size as the tenth-generation iPad, but does not support the new Magic Keyboard Folio accessory because the keyboard relies on a smart connector along the edge instead of on the back.

The iPad product lineup even looks and feels confusing. If you look at pictures of them side-by-side, only the 9th generation sticks out as it retains a home button on the front. The others are all flat-sided slabs of metal and glass and lack consistency in colour choices. And here is a list of current iPads, as of today, as Apple describes them:

  • iPad (9th generation)

  • iPad (10th generation)

  • iPad Mini (6th generation)

  • iPad Air (5th generation)

  • iPad Pro 11-in. (4th generation)

  • iPad Pro 12.9-in. (6th generation)

Are we sure these are the latest generation? The descriptions make the two iPad Pro sizes look like they are not comparable. The iPad Air looks like it could be newer than the 11-inch model, but older than the Mini or either suffix-less model. Or perhaps not. Who can say?

The best differentiator is cost. The list above is arranged from least to most expensive. The two lower-cost models support only the first-generation Apple Pencil, have lower-quality displays that only support an sRGB colour gamut, and have older and slower A-series chips. You have to run all the way up to the biggest iPad Pro if you want the best display. If budget is your sole guidance, you will likely understand this product line better than any names, pictures, descriptions, or blizzard of technical specifications can communicate.

I do not understand this lineup. However, I do understand the appeal of both new iPad models announced today. The new iPad Pros permit users to hover a second-generation Apple Pencil about a centimetre away from the display for pre-touch functionality. It is not the first device to support something like this, but I am looking forward to hearing how it works in practice. The tenth-generation iPad, meanwhile, comes in some of the best colours of any iPad ever, and it does look like great value for many iPad users. It helps bridge the chasm between the lowest-end model and the iPad Air, but I wonder if it also adds confusion by being so similar to both.

I am looking forward to reading the reviews of these that will presumably be published early next week.

It seems too poetic for a major journalism scandal to unfold in one corner while a high-profile effort to save the future of media — and, if you believe its marketing, the democratic world itself — is launching in another. This new effort is called Semafor, and its co-founder Ben Smith, formerly of the New York Times and Buzzfeed News, introduced the aims of its coverage:

Our approach is more literal, and it’s built from the core principles of journalism. We take people seriously when they say they know that reporters are human beings — and experts in their beats — who have views of their own. But they’d also like us to separate the facts from our views. They’d like us to be humble about the possibility of disagreement. And they’d like us to distill differing views, and gather global perspective.

A brand new place for journalism on the web means a brand new gimmick: Semafor writes its stories in the “semaform” format. Here is executive editor Gina Chua to explain:

We’re redesigning the atomic unit of written news, the article.

We’re breaking articles into:

  • The News

  • The Reporter’s View (or analysis)

  • Room For Disagreement (or counterargument)

  • The View From (or different perspectives on the topic)

  • Notable (or some of the best other writing on the subject)

Chua says the goal of separating factual information from analysis and differing opinions is to rebuild trust. Smith, in that introductory article, explicitly tied the format to instilling confidence among readers.

This misdiagnoses the problem. A habitually contrarian and cynical reader will likely not find renewed belief in the media from alumni of the New York Times, Bloomberg, NBC News, and Wall Street Journal. We have jumped well beyond skepticism of views; there is now open rejection of facts. Over one-sixth of registered American voters — and over one-third of registered Republicans — are “very” comfortable with voting for a candidate who believes the 2020 U.S. presidential election was fraudulent. Tens of millions of people are apparently totally fine with throwing their weight behind those who lie about the fundamental facts of democracy.

As Gallup explains, the decline of trust in media in the U.S. correlates with reduced faith in government and institutions. There is a striking partisan split of trust in doctors, pharmacists, teachers, and reporters. I find it hard to believe the needle will be moved by changing the organization of an article when representatives of so many major media institutions are behind it.

Semafor’s head of video Joe Posner — formerly of Vox — preemptively responded to criticisms like the one I am making in an appropriately marimba-backed series of interviews with prominent journalists and pundits. They all say they are hopeful for what Semafor is trying to do — nearly all of them use the word “try”. Posner himself admits it “all feels a little far-fetched”.

I, too, appreciate the attempt. Why would I not? I like nuance, I like — to borrow Posner’s phrase — “messy stories”, and I like testing views and analyses. Even though its team of journalists remains primarily U.S.-based, it does appear to be making an effort to offer a more worldly perspective.

But I am also someone who still believes in institutions. I trust regulators, elections, and journalists. That does not mean I do not have criticisms — I obviously do — and it does not mean I do not try to verify what I am hearing. But we do not need articles in a slightly different layout to tell us lobbyists have undue influence in their clients’ governance, elected officials often lack meaningful oversight, and corporations do all they can to dodge regulation. Democracy is being degraded in plain sight by people who undermine institutions and then point to their subsequent failures as evidence they are ineffective. Rich people are bankrolling this hostility.

Our public institutions are in a death spiral. I am skeptical that reporting about it in a different way is an effective counterbalance. Will the permanently pessimist find a new perspective when it is presented by people they enthusiastically loathe? Semafor appears to be written for me — and that is its first big problem.

Randy Gorbman, WXXI News of Rochester, New York:

Film is obviously a legacy product in a digital world, but Nagraj Bokinkere, Vice President of Industrial Films and Chemicals at Kodak, said it has seen a resurgence in the last few years.


“A few short years ago in the film finishing operation, that was a 40 hours-a-week type operation, that was the capacity we had that was adequate to meet the demand,” said Bokinkere. “But now we’re at 24/7. That’s a (four times) increase in that capacity in that step, which is still not enough to catch up with the demand.”

Curious news in the shadow of falling digital camera sales comes this apparent resurgence, however modest overall, of interest in film cameras. Unfortunately, as with vinyl records, longtime fans of the format must weather significant price increases as demand outstrips supply. At my local camera store, the price of Ilford has gone up by two dollars per roll in the last two years; a roll of Tmax 100 is four dollars more.

I am tempted to pick one of these up to replace my 2015 HD model which — you will be surprised to learn, reader — is feeling a little old. Apple dropped the price by about $50, too, while doubling the storage in the base model. Sounds pretty good, right?

Alas, it is a little more complicated than that. First, you need to upgrade to the 128 GB model if you want Thread and its better integration with smart home accessories. To be fair, it is just a $20 upgrade and you get double the storage, but even the base model of the previous generation supported Thread. Second, Apple has changed the charging port on the remote to USB-C, but chose this year to exclude a charging cable from the box. Apple now sells a one-metre long USB-C charging cable in addition to the existing two-metre version.1 It is not a big deal; it just feels a bit like a nickel-and-dime move, especially when combined with the feature reductions on the base model. So, while the price may have dropped by $50 in Canada, if you want to use an Apple TV for a smart home base station and you want to match the in-box contents of the now-discontinued 32 GB model, you are spending the same amount as before but getting four times the storage.

Which brings me back to the first sentence: I am tempted to buy one, if only because there is so much interface lag in my present model connected to an HD television that I am surprised its A8 processor could power the iPad Mini 4.

  1. It is not visible anywhere on that store page, but the meta description in the markup confirms it also supports USB 2 speeds for data transfers. $25 Canadian is pretty steep for a crappy USB-C cable that is primarily intended for power, but at least it is braided.

    Also, the remote still does not have an ultra wideband chip in it to make it easier to find. Bizarre. ↥︎

L’affaire the Wire sure has taken a turn since yesterday. First, Kanishk Karan, one of the security researchers ostensibly contacted by reporters, has denied ever doing so:

It has come to my attention that I’ve been listed as one of the “independent security researchers” who supposedly “verified” the Wire’s report on FB ‘Xcheck’ in India. I would like to confirm that I did NOT DO the DKIM verification for them.

Aditi Agrawal, of Newslaundry, confirmed the non-participation of both researchers cited by the Wire:

The first expert was initially cited in the Wire’s Saturday report to have verified the DKIM signature of a contested internal email. He is a Microsoft employee. Although his name was redacted from the initial story, his employer and his positions in the company were mentioned.

This expert – who was later identified by [Wire founding editor Siddharth] Varadarajan in a tweet – told Newslaundry he “did not participate in any such thing”.

Those factors plus lingering doubts about its reporting have led to this un-bylined note from the Wire:

In the light of doubts and concerns from experts about some of this material, and about the verification processes we used — including messages to us by two experts denying making assessments of that process directly and indirectly attributed to them in our third story — we are undertaking an internal review of the materials at our disposal. This will include a review of all documents, source material and sources used for our stories on Meta. Based on our sources’ consent, we are also exploring the option of sharing original files with trusted and reputed domain experts as part of this process.

An internal review is a good start, but the Wire damaged its credibility when it stood by its reporting for a week as outside observers raised questions. This was a serious process failure that stemmed from a real issue — a post was removed for erroneous reasons, though it has been silently reinstated. In trying to report it out, the best case scenario is that this publication relied on sources who appear to have fabricated evidence. This kind of scandal is rare but harmful to the press at large. An internal review may not be enough to overcome this breach of trust.

Simon Owens:

The rise of the podcast streaming wars threatened to upend all that. As large tech and media conglomerates — companies like Spotify, SiriusXM, iHeart, and Amazon — invested in podcasting, many assumed they’d take a page out of Netflix’s playbook and pull all their shows off competing apps. Indeed, Spotify pursued this strategy aggressively, shutting off the RSS feeds for many of its acquired and licensed podcasts. You could even argue that the strategy has paid off, given that last year Spotify overtook Apple Podcasts as the most widely-used podcast player.

But there are also signs that the exclusivity strategy generates limited returns. Not only did some Gimlet shows experience a 75% drop in audience once they were locked down, but multiple other podcast companies — including Last Podcast on the Left and the Obamas’ Higher Ground — cited it as one of the reasons they chose not to renew their contracts with Spotify. Back in 2021, The Verge compiled publicly-available data indicating that The Joe Rogan Experience saw a sizable drop off in influence once it went exclusive. And Luminary, a podcast startup built on the idea of locking down exclusive IP on its premium app, also struggled to gain traction and recently began distributing its content on other platforms.

Pairs well with the June 24 episode of Dithering, in which Ben Thompson argues the benefits for Spotify of controlling its audience. To summarize, Spotify has the same base library as everyone else, but it can attract and retain users with the extras. (Thompson also argues for how Spotify can use that as an advantage for record labels, but that is irrelevant here.) The question for me is whether podcasts that became Spotify exclusives retained their core fanbase and perhaps gained existing Spotify subscribers — even if they lost subscribers overall. But there is no reason why a podcast needs to be exclusive to a platform like Spotify if their objective is to keep only a committed audience. Dithering is one such example: it is paywalled but remains independent.

Last week, New Delhi-based the Wire published what seemed like a blockbuster story, claiming that posts reported by high-profile users protected by Meta’s XCheck program would be removed from Meta properties with almost no oversight — in India, at least, but perhaps elsewhere. As public officials’ accounts are often covered by XCheck, this would provide an effective way for them to minimize criticism. But Meta leadership disputed the story, pointing to inaccuracies in the supposed internal documentation obtained by the Wire.

The Wire stood by its reporting. On Saturday, Devesh Kumar, Jahnavi Sen and Siddharth Varadarajan published a response with more apparent evidence. It showed that email addresses were still in use at Meta, in addition to newer addresses, but that merely indicated the company is forwarding messages; the Wire did not show any very recent emails from Meta leadership using addresses. The Wire also disputed Meta’s claim that is not an actively used domain:

The Wire’s sources at Meta have said that the ‘’ link exists as an internal subdomain and that it remains accessible to a restricted group of staff members when they log in through a specific email address and VPN. At The Wire’s request, one of the sources made and shared a recording of them navigating the portal and showing other case files uploaded there to demonstrate the existence and ongoing use of the URL.


The account was set up externally as a free trial account on Meta’s enterprise Workplace product under the name “Instagram” and using the Instagram brand as its profile picture. It is not an internal account. Based on the timing of this account’s creation on October 13, it appears to have been set up specifically in order to manufacture evidence to support the Wire’s inaccurate reporting. We have locked the account because it’s in violation of our policies and is being used to perpetuate fraud and mislead journalists.

The screen recording produced for the Wire shows the source navigating to to log in. That is a real domain registered to Meta and with Facebook-specific domain name records. Whoever is behind this apparent hoax is working hard to make it believable. It is trivial for a technically sophisticated person to recreate that login page and point the domain on their computer to a modified local version instead of Meta’s hosted copy. I do not know if that is the case here, but it is plausible.

The Wire also produced a video showing an apparent verification of the DKIM signature in the email Andy Stone ostensibly sent to the “Internal” and “Team” mailing lists.1 However, the signature shown in the screen recording appears to have some problems. For one, the timestamp appears to be incorrect; for another, the signature is missing the “to” field which is part of an authentic DKIM signature for emails from, according to emails I have received from that domain.

The Wire issued a statement acknowledging a personal relationship between one of its sources and a reporter. The statement was later edited to remove that declaration; the Wire appended a note to its statement saying it was changed to be “clearer about our relationships with our sources”. I think it became less clear as a result. The Wire also says Meta’s purpose in asking for more information is to expose its sources. I doubt that is true. When the Wall Street Journal published internal documents leaked by Frances Haugen, Meta did not claim they were faked or forged. For what it is worth, I believe Meta when it says the documentation obtained by the Wire is not real.

But this murky case still has one shred of validity: when posts get flagged, how does Meta decide whether the report is valid and what actions are taken? The post in question is an image that had no nudity or sexual content, yet was reported and removed for that reason. Regardless of the validity of this specific story, Meta ought to be more accountable, particularly when it comes to moderating satire and commentary outside the United States. At the very least, it does not look good for political interference under the banner of an American company.

Update: Alex Stamos tweeted about another fishy edit made by the Wire — a wrong timestamp on screenshots of emails from the experts who verified the DKIM signatures, silently changed after publishing.

Update: Pranesh Prakash has been tweeting through his discoveries. The plot thickens.

  1. There is, according to one reporter, no list at Meta called “Internal”. It also does not pass a smell check of what function an email list would have. This is wholly subjective, for sure, but think about what purpose an organization’s email lists serve, and then consider why a big organization like Meta would need one with a vague name like “Internal”. ↥︎

Unread screenshot

Unread is an RSS reader for iPhone and iPad with beautiful typography, comfortable gesture-based navigation, and a variety of color themes.

While great websites like Pixel Envy provide RSS feeds with full article content, some websites have feeds that contain only article summaries. When displaying articles from summary-only feeds, Unread retrieves full article content from the website. You get the full article in Unread’s native article view without needing to open the website.

Pixel Envy readers will appreciate Unread’s handling of link articles. A link article is an article that links to and comments on an article from another website. Unread displays both the link article and the full text of the other article in its native article view. No need to open a web browser.

Unread provides a share sheet extension making it easy to subscribe to feeds offered by the website you are visiting from Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or just about any other web browser.

Unread has great syncing. Create a free Unread Cloud account to keep multiple devices in sync. Unread also syncs with services such as Feedbin, Feedly, Inoreader, and NewsBlur.

Additional capabilities include great hardware keyboard navigation on iPad, search functionality, widgets, and VoiceOver support. Most functionality is free. Premium features are available with a subscription. Learn more at Unread’s website or download Unread from the App Store.

Sara Fischer, of Axios, is reporting today that Meta’s proprietary Instant Articles format will go away in April. This should not be a surprise — Instant Articles does nothing for Meta’s virtual reality efforts, Meta is cutting costs, and Google has been phasing out its commitment to its similar AMP format.

What I find more curious is Fischer’s summary paragraph:

The big picture: Products that debuted years ago to make it easier and faster to load news articles on mobile have been discontinued in the past few months in response to improvements in the mobile web experience that make such platform-specific products obsolete.

I have been thinking about this for hours and looking around for any clue as to what this might be referring to, and I cannot come up with any new technology from the last couple years which would satisfy this claim. 5G? Give me a break; nobody seriously believes the news reading experience on their phone was broken because it was loaded over an LTE connection. I am truly curious. Do you know of anything that fits this description? Let me know.

In reality, both of these products were unnecessary augmentations to the bullshit web. Advertising does not, in of itself, result in slow pages or poor experiences. But there is so much money in the collection and retention of user information that every company wants its slice. The more that is disincentivized, the less perceived need there is for false solutions.

Parmy Olson of Bloomberg was not impressed with Meta’s announcements at Connect 2022:

While Zuckerberg spent most of the hour-and-a-half long presentation as his regular self on camera, the Facebook co-founder had one brief moment walking around a virtual stage as an avatar that for once, had legs. With face shading and smoother gestures, it was an improvement on the cartoonish version Zuckerberg was mocked for posting in August.

But it also underscored how Zuckerberg’s obsessive and superficial formula for human connection is founded on things like realistic renderings of faces that can raise eyebrows, and duplicating office motifs like sticky notes and white boards in digital form.

It is plausible that Meta’s virtual reality efforts do not demo well and must be experienced for them to make sense. It would be utterly foolish of me to proclaim any of these efforts dead on arrival, and I do not think it is helpful to dump on things I do not understand.

But I am going to do a little bit of that because I watched Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote in full and found myself unconvinced and uncompelled by much of anything I saw. The company triumphantly said that legs were coming to in-world avatars, but it later admitted the appendages shown were motion capture animations. The best moments were in the last moments of the presentation when Meta showed off products that would help people with disabilities. But the company admitted those were still research prototypes, nowhere near finished. Whether these products ever will be released — and whether we should be offloading home health supports to private businesses prone to moving fast and breaking things — is another matter.

This is clearly an area Zuckerberg is passionate about to a truly painful degree. So far, though, the best use case — the best use case — for even the more credulous believers is meetings. I cannot imagine buying dedicated expensive hardware for meetings, but I am probably not in the right market; two-and-a-half years into working from home and I still have not bought a ring light. Regardless, that sounds pretty dull. Are businesses champing at the bit to have staff sit in a virtual board room instead of just on a call? Is this solving a meaningful problem for them?

Zuckerberg preemptively responded to criticisms like these by reminding everyone that this category is just getting started. But that is a bit of misdirection. Oculus, the virtual reality hardware company Meta bought, was founded in 2012; Meta bought it in 2014. On a technical level, Meta can point to plenty of improvements. But it is much more difficult for anyone to point to clarifications in the concept and purpose of virtual reality. Again, I would be an idiot to argue there are none at all, but this week’s keynote would have been a great time for Meta to illustrate something new and enrich the story. So far, it does not have legs.


Over the last couple years, Microsoft 365 has evolved into our flagship productivity suite, so we are creating an experience to help you get the most out of Microsoft 365. In the coming months,, the Office mobile app, and the Office app for Windows will become the Microsoft 365 app, with a new icon, a new look, and even more features.

Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica:

[…] The company also points out that the Office brand will continue to exist, at least for a while. Existing Office 365 accounts aren’t being renamed (yet), and Microsoft will still sell perpetually licensed versions of Word, Excel, and the other Office apps as Office 2021. The company has previously pledged to offer at least one more of these perpetually licensed Office suites, but at this point, we don’t know whether it will continue to be known as “Office” or if it, too, will pick up “Microsoft 365” branding in some way.

Some reporters, including Cunningham, are writing that Microsoft is dropping its longtime Office branding entirely, but I do not think that is the case. Reading between the lines, it sounds like Microsoft — and nobody else — thinks of the subscription-based versions of its Office applications as entirely separate from the concept of “Microsoft Office”. If you buy Office, you just get the desktop versions of Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word, just like the good old days. But if you subscribe to Microsoft 365, you get those plus all of the online collaborative stuff. I do not know what the “365” implies, but I do not like it.

Perhaps Microsoft will one day drop its Office brand entirely as it, like seemingly every software product, increasingly relies on monthly shakedowns. Not today, though.

Adi Robertson, the Verge:

So far, huge parts of Meta’s “openness” happen on its terms and can evaporate the moment they become inconvenient. If you’re Satya Nadella, then sure, you’re in a strong bargaining position. But if you’re a small developer pushing the Quest’s technical limits, you might find yourself censured for risking a bad user experience — or in a less generous interpretation, competing with a Meta app. If you’re a user who wants a Quest headset but not a Horizon social profile, then with rare exceptions, you won’t get past the setup screen. Successful VR studios have a habit of getting absorbed by Meta, mirroring how the company fights competition in the non-VR web.

Remember when one of Google’s main marketing messages for Android was its openness? It was true, except for all the ways it was not.

Chloe Xiang, Vice:

On Tuesday, the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) shared a computer generated image of a suspect they created with DNA phenotyping, which it used for the first time in hopes of identifying a suspect from a 2019 sexual assault case. Using DNA evidence from the case, a company called Parabon NanoLabs created the image of a young Black man. The composite image did not factor in the suspect’s age, BMI, or environmental factors, such as facial hair, tattoos, and scars. The EPS then released this image to the public, both on its website and on social media platforms including its Twitter, claiming it to be “a last resort after all investigative avenues have been exhausted.”

This is not the first time police in Canada have turned to Parabon to create DNA-based predictive composites of suspects.

Sarah Rieger produced some terrific reporting on the use of this tool and its murky ethics while she was at CBC News. Here is Rieger in 2018 after a Parabon portrait was used to try to find the mother of a baby abandoned in Calgary:

Benedikt Hallgrímsson, a biological anthropologist and evolutionary biologist who studies the significance of phenotypic variation and variability at the University of Calgary, said he wouldn’t recommend phenotyping be used as a regular technique by law enforcement.


Hallgrímsson said the risk of these composite images is “twofold.” First, the image might lead to someone being falsely accused of a crime. Second, the actual suspect might not look anything like the picture and could be overlooked.

And here is a 2018 followup story from Rieger, answering the question of why they are used at all in Canada instead of family matches from the national databank of DNA from convicted criminals, missing persons, and volunteered samples:

A public affairs spokesperson told CBC that Canada is one of the only western countries not to allow familial DNA typing, even though it has been used to solve dozens of cases in the United States and around the globe.

“Jurisdictions that currently do use familial searching do so either on the basis of explicit legislative permission, or in some cases, more disturbingly, in the absence of any legislation explicitly prohibiting it,” Patricia Kosseim, the senior general counsel at the office of Canada’s privacy commissioner, said during a 2015 speech at the Canadian Institute on the Administration of Justice.

Rieger says consumer DNA databases like those used to crack cold cases in the U.S. would still be permissible for police to search. All of these options make me uncomfortable, but permitting exploratory use of the national database of criminals’ DNA seems like it could incentivize its expansion. When it was launched in 1998, only serious crimes required the collection of a convicted offender’s DNA. In 2008, amidst Stephen Harper’s crime-and-punishment tenure, law enforcement was permitted to collect offenders’ DNA for less violent criminal convictions. It would be worrisome if there were more reasons for more Canadians’ DNA to be in that databank. The whole point of the DNA Identification Act was to ensure the database does not become a means to collect a biological identity marker for everyone.

At the end of the second story, Rieger points out that the mother of the abandoned baby would not be identified using familial DNA matching unless one of her relatives was a convicted criminal. Rieger also notes that, at the time of writing, many of the cases involving Parabon’s predictive portraits remained open.

One of those cases was the 1998 murder of Renee Sweeney in Sudbury. In January 2017, police used Parabon’s software to update a sketch of the suspect. The suspect was arrested in December 2018, but police said they only received a tip that November. Even in favourable coverage, police do not seem like they want to draw a straight line between Parabon’s generated portrait and an arrest nearly two years after its release.

Jahnavi Sen of the Wire, based in New Delhi, reported that she had received internal Instagram documents showing that posts flagged by high profile users will be removed with little oversight:

Days after reporting on this confusing takedown, The Wire has learnt from a well-placed source at Meta that it was not, in fact, due to an algorithmic glitch. The post was taken down – and that too just minutes after it was posted – only because it was reported by Instagram user @amitmalviya. That’s the handle belonging to Amit Malviya, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s infamous IT Cell.

Apparently, Malviya’s status permitted the removal of hundreds of posts in September alone. In a follow-up report, Sen and Wire founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan said they obtained a furious internal email from Meta’s policy communications director Andy Stone. Stone apparently lashed out at the “Team” and “Internal” aliases:

How the hell 599584411/Instagram-report got leaked? Who is the reporter, not on our watchlist, and why didn’t anyone of you bother to link me up?

This story is not passing my sniff test, and it seems possible the Wire was duped by someone forging internal documentation. Shoshana Wodinsky of Marketwatch said in a tweet that, according to a source, there is no “Internal” list for Stone to send an email to. There are also no reporting-related categories in X-Check’s exemptions.

Meta’s CISO Guy Rosen tweeted a more comprehensive thread:

In its October 10 story, @thewire_in links to a supposed internal report about the incident in question. It appears to be a fabrication. The URL on that “report” is one that’s not in use. The naming convention is one we don’t use. There is no such report.

In its October 11 story, @thewire_in cites a supposed email from @andymstone. It is a fake. The supposed email address from which it was sent isn’t even Stone’s current email address, and the “to” address isn’t one we use here either. There is no such email.

Andy Stone:

Where to even begin with this story?! X-check has nothing to do with the ability to report posts. The posts in question were surfaced for review by automated systems, not humans. And the underlying documentation appears to be fabricated.

There is another thing, too: the email purportedly sent by Stone does not match the tone and style of other samples of Stone’s writing. This is pretty subjective, for sure, but even Stone’s casual tweets do not fit the way that email was written. It does not sound like American English to me, which is odd for an email from an American communications professional.

It looks a lot like someone pulled a fast one on the Wire but Varadarajan is standing by the story. Now seems like the best time to retract it if it this documentation is, indeed, fake.

Update: The Wire has replied to skepticism about the authenticity of these documents in a lengthy article. One of its sources even created a screen recording showing them signing into an account at, with dozens of reports following the naming convention used in the original story. The email allegedly from Stone still does not sound correct to me, and there are questions about the validity of its DKIM signature.

Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal:

During the ride, Apple’s new car-crash detection triggered and automatically dialed 911. The call to the Warren County Communications Center, which you can listen to here, featured an automated voice message from Ms. White’s iPhone:

“The owner of this iPhone was in a severe car crash and is not responding to their phone.”

The message is repeated seven times during the call. As the phone made the call and played the automated message, it also picked up background audio from the scene — in this case cheers, music and other amusement-park sounds.

If I were someone’s emergency contact, I would certainly worry if I received that message. Stern reports several instances of this at different roller coasters across the U.S., while Douglas Sonders at Jalopnik wrote about crash detection activating after his phone fell off his motorcycle. Stern also says some people say their iPhone detected a crash after it was dropped while they were in a car.

This is somewhat off-topic, but please do not use your phone while you are behind the wheel. Also avoid using touch screen controls, like CarPlay, unless you are parked. I try not to be preachy, but I recently dodged a red light runner who was distracted by their phone and I can imagine few more selfish yet commonplace acts than shirking one’s responsibility when controlling a multi-tonne vehicle.

Anyway. It is possible false automatic car crash reports are not a new problem — Google recently reminded people that it added crash detection to its Pixel phones three years ago. But Google does not sell nearly as many Pixels as Apple does iPhones, so perhaps this has not exactly been a problem until recently.

Brian Heater, TechCrunch:

Last week, TechCrunch sat down with a pair of Apple executives for a conversation about the feature’s [car crash detection’s] ins and outs. Vice president, Sensing & Connectivity, Ron Huang, and vice president, Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing, Kaiann Drance, answered some of our burning questions about Crash Detection, to give us a better picture of what Apple’s latest safety brings to the table for iPhone and Apple Watch users.


Apple worked with a number of crash labs to gather the necessary data and perform real-world testing, in order to assure an acceptable level of efficacy for the feature. It’s intentionally difficult to trigger outside the intended scenario, so you don’t accidentally call emergency services. That also goes for if your phone accidentally falls from the mount while driving, or even a less severe crash.

It sounds like crash detection is not quite as refined as Apple would hope, but if these are algorithm changes, it seems like something which can be fine tuned through software updates. Users should not need to remember to turn off this feature before spending the day at an amusement park, and it definitely should not trigger when someone drops their phone.

What could be done to prevent an issue like the one Sonders faced? It makes sense for the iPhone to believe it was in a crash if it fell off a moving motorcycle, but calling emergency services and automatically texting friends and loved ones about an apparent serious crash is unhelpful and alarming.