Mapbox Mobile 

My thanks to Mapbox for again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Mapbox Mobile for iOS, their newest open source SDK for adding maps and location to any app. Mapbox comes with beautiful, pixel-perfect vector maps in a variety of styles: detailed streets for navigating cities, terrain for adventuring, and satellite imagery for seeing the world up close.

Mapbox’s analytics dashboard provides a continuously updated view of the map usage in your app, from places where your app is popular to average daily users. Mapbox’s Cocoa API works just like Apple’s MapKit — just swap out MKMapView for MGLMapView. Their “First Steps With the Mapbox iOS SDK” guide shows just how easy it is to switch. Start developing with Mapbox Mobile for free today.

The Talk Show: ‘90 Minutes or Bust’ 

Special guest Ben Thompson returns to the show. Topics include: our top complaints about Apple Watch, Apple making a car, Amazon’s profile of the work culture inside Amazon, and more.

Brought to you by these great sponsors:

  • Harry’s: High-quality shaving products. Use the promo code “talkshow” to save $5 off your first purchase.
  • Casper: An obsessively engineered mattress at a shockingly fair price. Save $50 off any mattress with promo code “thetalkshow”.
  • Warby Parker: Boutique-quality, classically crafted eyewear at a revolutionary price point.
  • Hover: The best way to buy and manage domain names. Save 10 percent off first purchase with code “ThreeStarPodcast”.
Reading the Apple Event Tea Leaves With Actual Witches 

Katie Notopoulos, writing for BuzzFeed:

When Apple sends out invitations to its events, like the one coming up on Sept. 9, the tech press loves to try to “read the tea leaves” in a search for clues as to what will be announced. But what the hell do a bunch of tech bloggers know about divination? In order to find out what’s really going to happen at the Sept. 9 Apple event, you need someone who can actually read tea leaves. Professional journalists are useless at this. So I asked professional psychics.

Probably more accurate.

Apple Is About to Lay Down Its TV Cards 

Matthew Panzarino:

Some very smart people I’ve been talking to suggest that, by building a platform, Apple is generating leverage that it can use to great effect in these negotiations. A mid-market breakout box offering is one thing, but a huge, rumbling platform with an upward trajectory of living-room dominating apps and third-party content is another beast. If, obviously if, Apple is successful with the Apple TV, it could be in a position to dominate content in a way that no other “smart” TV platform has before it.

If Apple did indeed “delay” the Apple TV from being released at WWDC, then it probably had a reason. And, if my sources are correct, that reason could well be polish, polish, polish. The experience of using it is said to blow away the types of junky smart TV interfaces we’ve had to deal with so far. This is the first real Apple TV product.

This, my friends, is the most-informed, best-written piece on Apple TV that you will find before September 9.

Apple Sends Invitations for Wednesday, 9 September Special Event 

Jim Dalrymple:

Apple on Thursday sent out invitations for a special event to be held on September 9, 2015. The event will be held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco at 10:00 am.

That’s a big venue. Kudos to Andrew Dudley at Hoodline for deducing the venue earlier this week.

Swift as a First Language 

Aaron Block wants to (eventually — perhaps soon) use Swift to teach introductory computer science:

For those who haven’t used Java or Python before, those two languages are at one end of the “memory management continuum.” In these languages, you never explicitly delete a memory reference. Java and Python run “garbage collection” routines that remove memory when they are no longer necessary. On the other end, C and C++ require developers to explicitly destroy memory allocations. Swift uses a technique called Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) that lives in the middle. Under ARC, developers do not explicitly destroy objects but instead must correctly organize their memory references and classify them as “strong”, “weak”, or “unowned” so that they can be automatically destroyed without needing to run an additional memory management process. While ARC doesn’t require developers to directly manage memory, it helps students learn how to organize memory and think about how objects are stored in memory without harassing them about the details. (Students should still learn explicit memory management, just not in their first year.)

My beef with Java as a learning language is that it’s so verbose and ungainly. Python is a much better choice. Why not use a language that can be fun and elegant?

(I’m glad I went through college before Java became entrenched as a teaching language. Drexel’s introductory computer science courses in the early ’90s taught Pascal — a language that, now that it’s fallen out of favor, no longer gets the credit it deserves.)

Harvard Business Review vs. Charmin 

The headline of this Harvard Business Review article sure caught my eye: “How Samsung Became a Design Powerhouse”. You can save a lot of time and angst by just scrolling to the bottom and reading the bios of the piece’s authors:

Youngjin Yoo is the Harry A. Cochran Professor in Management Information Systems and the founding director of the Center for Design+Innovation at Temple University. He is also an overseas advisory fellow of the Samsung Economic Research Institute and consults for Samsung Electronics.

Kyungmook Kim is a principal designer at Samsung Electronics’ Corporate Design Center.

In next month’s issue: “How Comcast Became a Paragon of Friendly, Responsive Customer Service and Fair Competitive Practices”, by Comcast chief lobbyist David Cohen.

Prepaying for Gogo In-Flight Wi-Fi 

Brian X. Chen has a piece on Gogo, too:

Another way to get a cheaper rate for Gogo is ordering the service before boarding the plane. People can buy an all-day pass to use Wi-Fi on any Gogo-equipped flight for $16, while frequent travelers can purchase a monthly subscription for $50.

These solutions are small comfort to Ms. Lu. “How am I going to remember for a 6 a.m. flight, of all the things I have to do, to log on at 4 a.m. and prepay for my Wi-Fi?” she said. “Are you kidding me?”

That makes for a compelling conclusion to his column, but it’s terrible advice and a gross disservice to his readers. I have a lot of problems with Gogo’s pricing and service quality, but this isn’t one. You don’t have to prepay for a $16 day pass on the same day as your flight. You can do it today, and redeem it a month from now. It’s like a voucher in your Gogo account.

IDC Estimates Apple Shipped 3.6 Million Watches Last Quarter 

James Vincent, writing for The Verge (my apologies to those of you on mobile devices):

With only a single product to its name, Apple has already taken the number two spot in the global wearables market, according to market analysts IDC. The agency’s quarterly wearable report claims that Apple shipped a total of 3.6 million units in the second quarter of 2015, putting it just behind market leader Fitbit, shipping 4.4 million devices. These figures are only estimates of course, but if they’re close to the truth then it’s a sizable achievement for Apple. Not only is the Apple Watch the company’s debut product in the market, but it’s also so much more expensive than the competition.

Imagine how much better Apple Watch would be doing if it weren’t flopping.

Alongside Apple and Fitbit, the other big players in the market are Xiaomi (which launched its aggressively priced $13 fitness tracker last July), Garmin (which has focused on sophisticated fitness-trackers), and Samsung (which is set to unveil its redesigned Gear S2 soon). IDC’s analysts, though, say that the industry’s focus is mainly on Apple to see where the company will go next.

According to IDC, Samsung’s unit sale numbers dropped from the same quarter in 2014, from 800,000 to 600,000.

Businessweek: ‘Why Gogo’s Infuriatingly Expensive, Slow Internet Still Owns the Skies’ 

Sam Grobart, writing for Businessweek:

Gogo differs from Uber in another way. While the taxi app’s surge prices tamp down demand, thus preventing the service from becoming overloaded, they also encourage idle drivers to hit the streets and increase capacity. When Gogo charges more, capacity doesn’t improve. “They’re participating in something we like to call ‘incremental value capture’ without also offering a better service,” says Frances Frei, a professor at Harvard Business School. “If I’m going to raise your rates, I also have to give you a better value proposition.”

I was on an American flight recently (SFO-PHL, flying home from WWDC) where the only Gogo option for a flight pass was to sign up for a $50 monthly subscription. The only other option was an exorbitant hourly rate. The solution, I learned, is to purchase a day pass from Gogo before you’re on the plane.

Swatch CEO: ‘Apple Watch Is an Interesting Toy’ 

Samuel Gibbs, reporting for The Guardian:

Nick Hayek Jr. said that later this year Swatch will sell smartwatches that last nine months per battery. The company launched its first smartwatch in 2003 in partnership with Microsoft, and have sold connected watches since 1996.

In an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, Hayek Jr. said: “The Apple watch is an interesting toy, but not a revolution.”

Sounds familiar.

How Many Women Actually Used Ashley Madison? 

Interesting analysis of the Ashley Madison data dump by Annalee Newitz, writing for Gizmodo:

What I discovered was that the world of Ashley Madison was a far more dystopian place than anyone had realized. This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.

Those millions of Ashley Madison men were paying to hook up with women who appeared to have created profiles and then simply disappeared. Were they cobbled together by bots and bored admins, or just user debris? Whatever the answer, the more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.

Sounds about right.

Acorn 5.0 

We’re blessed these days with a plethora of outstanding image editing Mac apps from indie developers. The one I depend on most, and have for years, is Flying Meat’s Acorn. (Flying Meat is a two-person company: Gus and Kirstin Mueller.) Version 5 is a great upgrade with all sorts of new features, but my favorite thing from the release notes is this:

We fixed hundreds of minor bugs and annoyances. Little things that built up over the years that very few people ever encountered, like “the shortcut key for zooming in doesn’t work when the keyboard layout is set to Dvorak - Qwerty ⌘”. So we fixed pretty much all of those. It took months and months of work, it was super boring and mind numbing and it was really hard to justify, and it made Acorn 5 super late. But we did it anyway, because something in us felt that software quality has been going downhill in general, and we sure as heck weren’t going to let that happen to Acorn. So we took a long break from adding features and just fixed stuff.

That sense of craftsmanship truly shows in the app. For a limited time, Acorn 5 is available for just $25, an absolute steal. Just buy it.

AT&T Says Injecting Ads Into Airport Wi-Fi Was a Now-Ended Test 

Ina Fried, reporting for Recode:

AT&T said on Wednesday it has ended an experiment that had the company serving ads to those using its free Wi-Fi at two Washington, D.C.-area airports.

“We trialed an advertising program for a limited time in two airports (Dulles and Reagan National) and the trial has ended,” AT&T told Re/code in a statement. “The trial was part of an ongoing effort to explore alternate ways to deliver a free Wi-Fi service that is safe, secure and fast.”

AT&T came under fire this week after computer scientist Jonathan Mayer blogged about his experience encountering the ads while browsing the Web at Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C.

JavaScript injection in all HTTP traffic is unsafe, insecure, by definition slows down page loading. The only thing they were testing is whether they could get away with it without a public outcry.

Google Identifies Hiring Prospects Via Search Queries 

Max Rosett:

I was in the midst of a career transition. I had spent three years working as a management consultant and then at a startup, but I wanted to become a computer engineer. I was earning a Master’s in computer science through Georgia Tech’s online program. I knew that I was slowly developing the skills that I would need in an engineering role, but I still lacked the confidence to apply for a full-time software role.

One morning, while working on a project, I Googled “python lambda function list comprehension.” The familiar blue links appeared, and I started to look for the most relevant one.

But then something unusual happened.

The search results split and folded back to reveal a box that said “You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?”

Like much of what Google does, this is both incredibly clever and incredibly creepy.

It makes me wonder how much Google knows and tracks about queries from programmers at competing companies. Do companies like Apple have policies or recommended practices regarding what employees do with Google services?

AT&T Hotspots: Now With Advertising Injection 

Jonathan Mayer, investigating how AT&T’s “free” Wi-Fi at Dulles International Airport injects ads into all non-HTTPS web pages:

AT&T has an (understandable) incentive to seek consumer-side income from its free wifi service, but this model of advertising injection is particularly unsavory. Among other drawbacks: It exposes much of the user’s browsing activity to an undisclosed and untrusted business. It clutters the user’s web browsing experience. It tarnishes carefully crafted online brands and content, especially because the ads are not clearly marked as part of the hotspot service. And it introduces security and breakage risks, since website developers generally don’t plan for extra scripts and layout elements.

It’s dishonest and dangerous.

Felix Salmon on How Well UberX Pays 

Spoiler: nowhere near as well as Uber would have you believe.

In Conversation With Quentin Tarantino 

Great Lane Brown interview with Quentin Tarantino for New York Magazine:

Q: Who do you see as your competition right now? Are you competitive with someone like Paul Thomas Anderson?

A: No. It’s a friendly thing. This might come across as egotistical, but I don’t really feel in competition with anybody anymore. I’m in competition with myself. David O. Russell can have the biggest hit of the year, and that doesn’t take anything away from me. I couldn’t have been happier that Rick Linklater was at the Oscars this year.

The last time that I felt competitive was when I was doing Kill Bill and my competition was The Matrix Reloaded. That was the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. I saw Matrix Reloaded at the Chinese Theatre the day it opened, and I walked out of the cinema singing that Jay Z song: “S-dot-Carter / Y’all must try harder / Competition is nada.” I was like, Bring it the fuck on. I was worried about that? Ho-ly shit.

‘All Websites Look the Same’ 

Have you noticed a certain sameness to website design in recent years? Dave Ellis captures it brilliantly.

How Lobbying Works 

Dylan Matthews, writing for Vox on a Senate bill passed at the behest of H&R Block lobbyists, that significantly increases the complexity of the tax forms for lower income Americans:

Think about what tax breaks are being targeted here. These are all refundable credits, which, with the exception of the college credit, overwhelmingly help low-income and working-class people. H&R Block is not pushing to make the mortgage interest deduction more complicated, or to make the charitable deduction more confusing. Tax breaks that mostly help rich people go untouched. H&R Block knows that rich people already use TurboTax or hire accountants; because it wants new business, it has decided to prey upon the poor.

In a better world, companies like H&R Block wouldn’t exist, because the IRS would fill out returns itself. But if H&R Block must exist, the least it can do is not try to actively harm poor people. Sadly, even that appears to be asking too much.

Virginia TV Reporter and Photographer Shot to Death by Madman During Seemingly Innocuous Live Broadcast 

Another fine day for America’s “well regulated militia”.

On Comparing Samsung’s S-Pen Design Flaw to the iPhone 4 Antenna 

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge on the growing controversy over the new Galaxy Note S-Pen slot:

It’s a big problem that can result from a very small mistake. Samsung has now issued a response, and well, the answer is that you should read and adhere to the manual.

“We highly recommend our Galaxy Note 5 users follow the instructions in the user guide to ensure they do not experience such an unexpected scenario caused by reinserting the S pen in the other way around.”

With the iPhone 4, the joke was “You’re holding it wrong.” With the Note 5, it’s apparently “You’re sliding it in wrong.” Either way, it’s not very funny.

I’ve seen a lot of people make this comparison, but it’s specious. If you held your GSM iPhone 4 “wrong”, it didn’t break your phone. If you put the stylus in the Note 5 wrong, it breaks the phone.

Banksy’s Dismaland 

Banksy goes big: an actual theme park built on the grounds of an abandoned public swimming pool. Brilliant. See the “commercial” here.

Janice Min Interviews Donald Trump 

Telling that the most interesting interview with any 2016 presidential candidate I’ve seen this year is this interview with Trump for The Hollywood Reporter. Say what you want about his policies (off the top of my head: asinine, buffoonish, racist, misogynous), he is remarkably media-savvy.

iOS 9 and Content Blockers: Safari Can Reload Any Page With Blockers Disabled 

Good tip from David Chartier:

One of the nice perks of Safari in iOS 9 is that, even if you have blockers installed, you can long-press the reload button to reload the site with nothing blocked.

Windows 10 ‘Family Accounts’ Feature Emails Parents a Dossier of Children’s Activity 

Email from a BoingBoing reader:

This weekend we upgraded my 14-year-old son’s laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Today I got a creepy-ass email from Microsoft titled “Weekly activity report for [my kid]”, including which websites he’s visited, how many hours per day he’s used it, and how many minutes he used each of his favorite apps.

I don’t want this. I have no desire to spy on my boy. I fixed it by going into my Microsoft account’s website, hitting the “Family” section, then turning off “Email weekly reports to me” and “Activity reporting”.

Seems really wrong that this is opt-out rather than opt-in. Even as an opt-in feature it feels creepy to me. And if you turn these features off, is it only disabling the reports, but still collecting the data? Via MetaFilter.

Galaxy Note 5 Design Flaw: A Backwards S-Pen Can Permanently Damage the Device 

The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war.

iSight vs. FaceTime Cameras 

Regarding my confusion over the weekend over which camera, front or rear, is the “iSight” camera on an iPhone 6, Wikipedia explains:

Apple introduced iSight at the 2003 Worldwide Developers Conference, intended to be used with iChat AV, Apple’s video-conferencing client. iMovie (version 4 and later) could also be used to capture video from the device. In April 2005, Apple released a firmware update for the iSight to improve audio performance. As of December 16, 2006, the external iSight was no longer for sale in the Apple online store or in retail locations.

Meanwhile, Apple began using the term to refer to the camera built into Apple’s iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro computers, and Cinema Display. In November 2010, Apple began calling them “FaceTime cameras”. However, the term was not retired, as the third-generation iPad, the fifth-generation iPod Touch, the iPhone 5S, the iPhone 5C, iPhone 5, the iPhone 4S, and the iPhone 4 all incorporate an “iSight” rear camera in addition to a front-facing “FaceTime” or “FaceTime HD” camera.

So “iSight” used to be Apple’s name for front-facing video chat cameras. Then they started calling the front-facing cameras “FaceTime”. Then they brought back the “iSight” name for rear-facing cameras.

Speaking of ‘Glory Days’ 

Speaking of “Glory Days”, here’s my favorite live performance of the song, from the 1993 series finale of Late Night With David Letterman. Springsteen’s appearance was a true surprise, and served as a perfect ending.

Time Slips Away, and Leaves You With Nothing, Mister 

Microsoft, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of Windows 95:

On Aug. 24, 1995, Windows 95 arrived. And if you were around then, you may remember the song that accompanied the commercial introducing it: “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this release, download the classic song for free until 11:59 p.m. PST from the Windows Store.

I humbly suggest a more apt song to mark the occasion.

Pac-Man 256 

Jason Kottke:

From the developer of Crossy Road (aka Infinite Frogger) comes Pac-Man 256, a Pac-Man game with an infinite board that gets eaten from below by the kill screen glitch from the 256th level of the original game. I love riffs on old school video games like this, and the infinite board is a particularly clever one.

Curse you, Kottke. Curse you. I play very few games, but Pac-Man 256 gives me joy.

(Unlike Kottke, I think the option to buy unlimited “credits” with a one-time $7.99 in-app purchase is a fair deal. Think of it as an $8 game that you can optionally play for free if you’re willing to watch ads. That’s a good price for a great game.)

Real-World Results of iOS 9 Safari Content Blocking 

Owen Williams, writing for The Next Web:

The effect of using a content blocker on iOS is, to be honest, something publishers should be deeply afraid of. I don’t really care about advertising actually appearing on sites, I just care about how fast the site itself loads over a constrained connection.

Bloomberg and iMore are some of the worst offenders — both sites have almost finished loading entirely with Crystal enabled, before the page with advertising even shows on the screen.

Like I wrote last month, a reckoning is coming. iOS 9 Safari content blockers will dramatically speed up web page loading times, and they will remove unwanted cruft junking up the page. Everyone who finds out about them will install and use one.

Alan Adler, Inventor of the AeroPress Coffee Maker and Aerobie Flying Disc 

Great short film profile of inventor Alan Adler by David Friedman.

Tim Cook to CNBC’s Jim Cramer: Still Bullish on China 

Tim Cook, in a statement given to CNBC:

As you know, we don’t give mid-quarter updates and we rarely comment on moves in Apple stock. But I know your question is on the minds of many investors.”

A large part of the current market sell-off is driven by fears about China’s economy, and a significant factor in Apple’s valuation is the company’s extraordinary growth in China. So this is a rare case where Apple’s recent stock price drop is arguably rational: investors see problems in China’s economy, and it is a fact that China is Apple’s second-most important market. And in the long-term, it’s quite possible — inevitable, perhaps — that China will one day be Apple’s most important market.

I get updates on our performance in China every day, including this morning, and I can tell you that we have continued to experience strong growth for our business in China through July and August. Growth in iPhone activations has actually accelerated over the past few weeks, and we have had the best performance of the year for the App Store in China during the last 2 weeks.

Obviously I can’t predict the future, but our performance so far this quarter is reassuring. Additionally, I continue to believe that China represents an unprecedented opportunity over the long term as LTE penetration is very low and most importantly the growth of the middle class over the next several years will be huge.

Translation: Apple is still doing great in China, right now, but the real prize remains the long-term opportunities.

The trading day isn’t over, but as I type this, Cook’s email seems to have resonated.

Advice After Stock Market Drop: Take Some Deep Breaths, and Don’t Do a Thing 

NYT investing columnist Ron Lieber:

Nobody knows for sure whether we’re in for a decline in the stock market of 25 percent or more. But if such a decline does happen and you are a regular investor, you’ll be buying more when prices are lower.

Which brings us to point No. 4: Long-term investors have time to recover. I know too many 70-year-olds who sold all of their stocks in 2009 and are healthy enough to live to 100. They’d be going on a lot more vacations now and be worrying less about long-term care if they had held firm.

Buy low, sell high.

Mapbox Mobile 

My thanks to Mapbox for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Mapbox Mobile for iOS, their newest open source SDK for adding maps and location to any app. Mapbox comes with beautiful, pixel-perfect vector maps in a variety of styles: detailed streets for navigating cities, terrain for adventuring, and satellite imagery for seeing the world up close.

Mapbox’s analytics dashboard provides a continuously updated view of the map usage in your app, from places where your app is popular to average daily users. Mapbox’s Cocoa API works just like Apple’s MapKit — just swap out MKMapView for MGLMapView. Their “First Steps With the Mapbox iOS SDK” guide shows just how easy it is to switch. Start developing with Mapbox Mobile for free today.

iSight Camera Replacement Program for iPhone 6 Plus 

Apple:

Apple has determined that, in a small percentage of iPhone 6 Plus devices, the iSight camera has a component that may fail causing your photos to look blurry. The affected units fall into a limited serial number range and were sold primarily between September 2014 and January 2015.

I wonder how many people know which camera, front or rear, the “iSight” camera is? Apple clarifies in the third paragraph, but I guessed wrong.


‘It May Seem Silly’

Jon Evans, in a piece for AOL/TechCrunch headlined “Don’t Be Apple”:

There is so much to admire about Apple. They make superb, beautiful products. Their amazing comeback story is unparalleled in corporate history. […] So why do I think they represent so much of what’s wrong with the tech world? It’s because they have, I think, an almost Shakespearean tragic flaw: their obsession with centralized corporate control of the devices they sell. […]

What could go wrong? Well, let’s get dystopically speculative for a moment. Can you remember some of the most hyperbolic overreactions to the fall of the World Trade Center, and how they were welcomed by large swathes of the American public? Can you imagine a future in which, following a similar tragedy, Apple rolls over and becomes a de facto arm of surveillance states? I sure can — and Apple’s centralized-command-and-control ecosystem would make it worryingly easy to turn every iOS device into an eye and ear of the panopticon, more or less overnight.

At which point we’d be forced to continue using these spyware Apple products because… ? And engineers at Apple would continue working for the company rather than resigning en masse because… ? And Apple would suffer no bad publicity for its cowardice because… ? Because: Tim Cook could surely flip a switch that would enable this surveillance without anyone noticing.

This advice is madness. Evans is recommending against using a platform that is secure and private today, from a company with a consistent decades-long track record in this regard, because in the future they might turn coat and become an accomplice of government mass surveillance, even though, if that came to pass, we could and would all just abandon the use of Apple products.

You can aim similar criticisms at Android, too, but they would miss the mark. Love it or hate it, Android is not near [sic] as centralized as iOS, and Google is not nearly as controlling as Apple. It’s open-source, and major organizations can — and do — fork it to create their own independent versions.

Parts of Android are indeed open source — “except for all the good parts”.

Apple fights an ongoing war with iOS jailbreakers, claiming that their work is “potentially catastrophic”; Google makes it especially easy to root Nexus devices. […]

Glenn Fleishman, writing for Macworld last month, “Hacking Team Hack Reveals Why You Shouldn’t Jailbreak Your iPhone”:

A massive breach in the private data of a firm that sells software to governments to spy on communications shows that jailbroken iPhones are vulnerable. […]

Two security outfits — the commercial Kaspersky Lab in Russia and academic Citizen Lab in Canada — first revealed in June 2014 that they had discovered and decoded Hacking Team’s smartphone-cracking software. The reports at that time indicated that only jailbroken iOS devices could be hijacked, but that malware could be installed on an iOS device when connected to a computer that was confirmed as trusted, and which had been compromised.

That external analysis has now been complemented by the Hacking Team’s internal documents. One price list shows a €50,000 ($56,000) price tag on an iOS snooping module with the note, “Prerequisite: the iOS device must be jailbroken.”

Apple works to close jailbreaking exploits because they are potentially catastrophic.

Back to Evans:

It may seem silly to criticize a fantastic company that makes superb products and delights its users on the basis of an abstract philosophical dispute.

Even the most jacktastic article usually has one true sentence.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that over the next year this dispute will grow more and more concrete. Maybe, as this contrast heightens, Apple will see the light; maybe instead of fighting jailbreakers, they will offer jailbreaking and sideloading as an option for power users out of the box, just as Android does. That alone would be a huge seismic shift.

But I’m not holding my breath. And until and unless that happens, I find it hard to recommend the iOS ecosystem in good conscience, despite its power and beauty, because Apple refuses to return any of the trust it demands from its users.

So let’s get this straight: Jon Evans is deeply concerned about a hypothetical dystopic fantasy scenario where Apple turns a 180, abandons all of the privacy principles the company has adhered to for decades and has prominently promoted as a competitive advantage, and begins cooperating with the U.S. government to surveil iOS users. To alleviate his concerns, Evans wants Apple to stop its efforts to close jailbreaking exploits, and in the meantime, he can’t “recommend the iOS ecosystem in good conscience”. This, despite the fact that in the actual world, today, we know for a fact from the Hacking Team data breach that various governments around the world — including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey — have been sold software that allows them to snoop on iOS devices, but only if the devices have been jailbroken.

I’m sure iOS users want Apple to get right on this. 


Headline of the Day: MarketWatch: ‘Don’t Expect iPhone 6S to Save Apple’ 

Nothing can save Apple at this point. Time to pack it in.

Research on the Predictability of Android Lock Patterns 

Dan Goodin, writing for Ars Technica:

Marte Løge, a 2015 graduate of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, recently collected and analyzed almost 4,000 ALPs as part of her master’s thesis. She found that a large percentage of them — 44 percent — started in the top left-most node of the screen. A full 77 percent of them started in one of the four corners. The average number of nodes was about five, meaning there were fewer than 9,000 possible pattern combinations. A significant percentage of patterns had just four nodes, shrinking the pool of available combinations to 1,624. More often than not, patterns moved from left to right and top to bottom, another factor that makes guessing easier. […]

Data breaches over the years have repeatedly shown some of the most common passwords are “1234567”, “password”, and “letmein”. Løge said many ALPs suffer a similar form of weakness. More than 10 percent of the ones she collected were fashioned after an alphabetic letter, which often corresponded to the first initial of the subject or of a spouse, child, or other person close to the subject. The discovery is significant, because it means attackers may have a one-in-ten chance of guessing an ALP with no more than about 100 guesses. The number of guesses could be reduced further if the attacker knows the names of the target or of people close to the target.

Interesting research. It’s human psychology — our natural tendency toward laziness — that makes something like Touch ID so much more secure than a passcode in actual practice.

When Will New iPads Launch? 

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

This morning, analytics company AppSee found an “iPad6,8” with a resolution of 2,732 × 2,048 in its logs. We asked AppSee to check what version of iOS the iPad had installed on it, and as it turns out, it’s running iOS 9.1, suggesting Apple’s work on iOS 9.1 coincides with the development of the iPad Pro.

Rumors this morning have also suggested the iPad Pro will be entering mass production in September or October, pointing towards a late October or November launch date. It’s possible Apple plans to stick to the same October iPad unveiling timeline it’s used for the past several years, introducing the iPad Pro in mid-October and shipping it at the end of the month.

More than “possible”, I’d say it’s probable that Apple will introduce new iPads at a second event in October.

First, Apple is a company of patterns. Sometimes they change those patterns, and sometimes (but rarely) they make exceptions to those patterns, but all things being equal, they stick to them. And for the past three years, Apple has held two product introduction events each fall: an iPhone event in September, and an iPad event in October.

It’s certainly possible that Apple could introduce new iPads alongside new iPhones in a single event, but that seems unlikely. My guess is that the September event will be: new iPhones, iOS 9, Watch OS 2.0, and the new Apple TV. Maybe throw in some new bands for the watch, in time for the holidays? That’s a lot to cover in one event, especially if the new Apple TV platform is as ambitious as rumored, with a new UI, new input device(s), and an App Store.

If a brand-new 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” is indeed imminent, there is no way Apple would rush through the introduction in a brief segment in an already crowded September event. They’d hold it for October, just like they did in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and use the second event as an opportunity to show off the release version of OS X El Capitan (10.11).


‘Which Is the Most Important Device You Use to Connect to the Internet?’

On Twitter, Benedict Evans points to fascinating polling data indicating that the answers to this question1 are changing dramatically. In 2013, just two years ago, the results were:

  1. Laptop 46%
  2. Desktop 28%
  3. Smartphone 15%
  4. Tablet 8%

In 2015, the results were:

  1. Smartphone 33%
  2. Laptop 30%
  3. Tablet 19%
  4. Desktop 14%

Assuming the polling is valid, this suggests we’ve already passed the inflection point where most people consider their mobile devices (phone and tablet) central to their use of the internet.

I don’t think the chart in Evans’s tweet indicates these trends well. (The chart wasn’t his creation.) I would prefer something like (spends 15 minutes dicking around in Numbers…) this:

Line chart showing the perceived importance of phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops from 2013-2015.

Also interesting is to compare “mobile” (phone and tablet) versus “PC” (laptop and desktop):

Line chart showing the perceived importance of mobile devices versus PCs from 2013-2015.

My “mobile” and “PC” groupings aren’t entirely rigorous, because I’m conflating physical form factors with operating systems. For Apple products, that distinction is clear — their phones and tablets run iOS; their laptops and desktops run Mac OS X. And Android, as a consumer platform, runs almost solely on phones and tablets. But Microsoft’s Surface devices are tablets that run Windows, and Chromebooks are laptops that run what I would consider a mobile OS.2 But the overwhelming popularity of iOS and Android compared to Surface and Chromebooks is such that I think it’s a useful and fair comparison.

The bottom line: the post-PC world is here. 


  1. It occurs to me that, personally, I honestly don’t know how to answer this question. A Mac and an iPhone both feel indispensable to me. If I really had to make do with just one, I suppose I’d pick a MacBook, but that’s not the question that was asked. In terms of my actual usage, my iPhone might be “the most important device I use to connect to the internet”. ↩︎

  2. It’s probably wrong to say Chrome is a “mobile” OS, but it certainly isn’t a traditional PC platform. What I’m interested in is the post-PC disruption of the industry, and Chromebooks are clearly a part of that, even if they’re instantiated in a very traditional laptop form factor. ↩︎︎


Safari Content Blocker, Before and After

Dean Murphy wrote an iOS 9 Safari Content Blocker, and tested it against iMore:

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

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

I love iMore. I think they’re the best staff covering Apple today, and their content is great. But count me in with Nick Heer — their website is shit-ass. Rene Ritchie’s response acknowledges the problem, but a web page like that — Rene’s 537-word all-text response — should not weigh 14 MB.1

It’s not just the download size, long initial page load time, and the ads that cover valuable screen real estate as fixed elements. The fact that these JavaScript trackers hit the network for a full-minute after the page has completely loaded is downright criminal. Advertising should have minimal effect on page load times and device battery life. Advertising should be respectful of the user’s time, attention, and battery life. The industry has gluttonously gone the other way. iMore is not the exception — they’re the norm. 10+ MB page sizes, minute-long network access, third-party networks tracking you across unrelated websites — those things are all par for the course today, even when serving pages to mobile devices. Even on a site like iMore, staffed by good people who truly have deep respect for their readers.

With Safari Content Blockers, Apple is poised to allow users to fight back. Apple has zeroed in on what we need: not a way to block ads per se, but a way to block obnoxious JavaScript code. A reckoning is coming. 


  1. This very article on Daring Fireball, the one whose footnote you’re reading right now, weighs between 125–175 KB — *kilobytes* — depending on the random ad from The Deck being served. ↩︎


Ads via The Deck Ads via The Deck