Yogi Berra (1925–2015)

The Daring Fireball Linked List

The Families Funding the 2016 Presidential Election 

Interesting New York Times investigation and visualization on the 158 families who’ve donated about half the money so far for 2016’s presidential election. Most interesting to me: the overwhelming majority of them made their own fortunes (as opposed to inheriting them).

‘We Knew We Were Snowing Them the Entire Time!’ 

Steven Levy tells the tale of the HP-Apple iPod “alliance”:

In short, Fiorina’s “good friend” Steve Jobs blithely mugged her and HP’s shareholders. By getting Fiorina to adopt the iPod as HP’s music player, Jobs had effectively gotten his software installed on millions of computers for free, stifled his main competitor, and gotten a company that prided itself on invention to declare that Apple was a superior inventor. And he lost nothing, except the few minutes it took him to call Carly Fiorina and say he was sorry she got canned.


My thanks to meh.com — the deal-a-day site that’s still just one deal a day — for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Meh.com is very funny, and they really do offer amazing deals.

Donald Trump and Twitter 

Michael Barbaro, reporting for the NYT:

His online dominance is striking: Over the past two months, on Twitter alone, he has been mentioned in 6.3 million conversations, eight times as many as Republican rivals like Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson — not to mention more than three times as many as Hillary Rodham Clinton and nearly four times as many as Bernie Sanders. He is retweeted more than twice as often as Mrs. Clinton and about 13 times more frequently than Jeb Bush, according to data compiled as of Friday by Edelman Berland, a market research firm that studies social media. His Twitter following (4.36 million) dwarfs that of the rest of the Republican field, and in the coming weeks, he is expected to surpass Mrs. Clinton (4.39 million).

In an interview at his office — interrupted repeatedly by Mr. Trump’s picking up his Samsung Galaxy cellphone, loading new tweets with his index finger and marveling at his nonstop mentions (“Watch this!” he implored) — the candidate compared his Twitter feed to a newspaper with a single, glorious voice: his own.

“The Ernest Hemingway of a hundred and forty characters,” he said, quoting a fan.

He has no computer or tablet in his office. Just his phone.

Fixing Safari View Controller 

Dan Provost:

With iOS 9, Apple introduced something called the Safari View Controller. It is, essentially, a plug-and-play web view that developers can use in lieu of building their own web viewer. The benefits of this are numerous: much less coding and maintenance for developers, a unified experience across apps for users, and the Safari View Controller can take advantage of the same privileges of Safari proper, such as saved passwords and content blockers.

The UI, however, has one serious flaw. It is a pain in the ass to dismiss.

I’m not sure I agree with his suggestion that all the browser chrome remain on screen while you scroll. Apple could fix this just by keeping the top chrome visible, with the “Done” button. But he’s right that it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

Rick Tetzeli: ‘The Steve Jobs in Aaron Sorkin’s Movie Could Never Have Saved Apple’ 

Rick Tetzeli:

Biopics should never have to adhere to a stringent re-enactment of the facts. But this is a movie about a man who’s been dead just four years, whose legacy is still being defined. Most moviegoers will look at the movie as biography — which is a pity, since the character portrait Sorkin hopes to create by distorting the truth is so much less interesting and nuanced than Jobs really was. […]

The Steve Jobs portrayed in Steve Jobs could never have saved Apple. In the perpetually changing technology industry, simple stubbornness is the kiss of death. Sorkin has created a caricature, an entertaining and modern take on the archetypal tortured business genius. It’s kind of fun, especially for people who don’t know much about how business gets done. But characters like the “Steve Jobs” of this movie don’t last long in business — they burn out, or they get thrown out.

Medium’s New API 

MarsEdit developer Daniel Jalkut on Medium’s new API, and its support for Markdown:

Unfortunately, the Markdown support through the API seems to be a one-time conversion from Markdown to HTML, at the time of submission. This means users can write in Markdown for the initial composition of a post, but any further edits (through the web interface only, see above) will need to be done using Medium’s default rich WYSIWYG editor.

A more attractive long-term solution for Markdown fans would be to support storing Markdown text literally in Medium’s database, and converting it to HTML only for presentation on the web. This leaves the pristine Markdown available for perpetual edits either moments or years after the post is first published. This would require updating the web interface to support editing content as plain text, but would be a welcome change for anybody who favors editing in Markdown.

Overcast 2 

Lots of new features, headlined by a new streaming engine (you can start listening to un-downloaded episodes as soon as you hit Play). But more interesting to me is the new business model. Marco Arment:

Overcast 1.0 locked the best features behind an in-app purchase, which about 20% of customers bought. This made enough money, but it had a huge downside:

80% of my customers were using an inferior app. The limited, locked version of Overcast without the purchase sure wasn’t the version I used, it wasn’t a great experience, and it wasn’t my best work.

With Overcast 2.0, I’ve changed that by unlocking everything, for everyone, for free. I’d rather have you using Overcast for free than not using it at all, and I want everyone to be using the good version of Overcast.

If you can pay, I’m trying to make up the revenue difference by offering a simple $1 monthly patronage. It’s completely optional, it doesn’t get you any additional features, and it doesn’t even auto-renew — it’s just a direct way to support Overcast’s ongoing development and hosting without having to make the app terrible for 80% of its users.

Really curious to see how this works. $1/month for a great app that I use almost every day seems like a great deal.

Apple Says Battery Performance of New iPhones’ A9 Chips Vary Only 2-3 Percent 

Apple, in a statement to TechCrunch on the allegations that Samsung-made A9s get worse battery life than TSMC-made ones:

Certain manufactured lab tests which run the processors with a continuous heavy workload until the battery depletes are not representative of real-world usage, since they spend an unrealistic amount of time at the highest CPU performance state. It’s a misleading way to measure real-world battery life. Our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other.

Real-world testing seems to bear that out.

Matthew Panzarino:

The 2-3% difference Apple is saying it sees between the battery life of the two processors is well within its manufacturing tolerances for any device, even two iPhones with the same exact processor. In other words, your iPhone and someone else’s iPhone with the same guts likely vary as much as 3%, regardless of who made them.

Basically, if you can tell the difference in real-world usage between the two processors, you should take a Voight-Kampff test.

Bloomberg on Apple’s Utter Dominance of Phone Market 

Ashlee Vance, writing for Bloomberg:

Apple’s utter dominance of the money-making end of the industry stems from its business model and unique brand. Since stumbling in 2013 with the slightly down-market iPhone 5C, the company has redoubled its focus on an annual, highly desired flagship phone at a high price, turning its back on cheaper models for the masses. With the iPhone as its main profit center, the world’s biggest company has been able to invest in developing its own speedy, power-efficient chips and sturdy, lightweight materials, as well as continuing to refine its software.

The 5C wasn’t a stumble. It’s fair to say it wasn’t a hit, but it didn’t hurt their overall business at all. The alternative would have been for Apple to keep selling the then-year-old iPhone 5 for another year at the same price points the 5C debuted at — and margins on the 5S were lower. Apple’s 2013 “stumble” was that they still didn’t have larger displays in the then-new top-of-the-line 5S. Which in turn means the real stumble was back in 2010, when they began planning for the form factors for the iPhone 5/5S form factor.

Other large companies, including China’s Lenovo, have a tougher time rationalizing their phone businesses. Lenovo bought Motorola from Google last year for $2.9 billion, hoping to boost its fortunes by expanding beyond PCs. No such luck: In its last quarter, Lenovo’s mobility unit posted a $292 million loss that just about wiped out its PC business profits. The company says it can fix things by paring back the number of devices it sells, combined with a “faster, leaner business model.”

Remember when Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion back in 2011? Good times.

Important Domain Name Registration 

Elliot Silver:

Whois records show that Google is now the owner of abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.com. Prior to the acquisition, the domain name was privately owned and appears to have been parked. At the time of publication, abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.com does not resolve, although it would seem wise for the company to forward it to the Alphabet website.

Enhanced Editions of Harry Potter Series Now Available Exclusively on iBooks 


Apple today announced that enhanced editions of all seven books in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series are now available exclusively on the iBooks Store for readers around the world to enjoy on their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac. Customers can download individual books featuring full original text, interactive animations and elaborate artwork bringing these beloved stories to life in a unique way. Harry Potter fans will also find annotations throughout their literary journey, written by the author herself.

“I’m thrilled to see the Harry Potter books so beautifully realised on iBooks for the digital world; the artwork and animations in these enhanced editions bring the stories alive in a delightful new way,” said J.K. Rowling. […]

Until now, the Harry Potter digital books have only been available for readers to purchase through the Pottermore Shop. Starting today, iBooks users can experience the books with all new exclusive custom covers for each title, and typography including the custom Harry Potter typefaces and new section headers and drop caps.

I’m intrigued about the strategic implications of an exclusive like this. But as a book reader, somehow it feels wrong for books to be “exclusive” to a proprietary software platform.

Microsoft Lumia 950 

Why put that glaring, obnoxious “Microsoft” on the front face? Nobody wants to see that. Nobody. This is one of the things Apple does that everyone should copy but few do.

How Will Twitter Break the 140-Character Limit? 

Dave Winer:

I had a few minutes to spare this morning and decided it would be worth it to see what a Fat Tweet might look like, one that has room for more than 140 chars, that doesn’t force you to click a link to see the rest.

Dave’s idea is that you could type as much text as you want for the tweet, but your timeline would only show the first 140 characters (preserving the scrollability of your timeline), and you’d click or tap “See More” to expand the whole thing.

I think Twitter will do something different. I think they’ll preserve the 140-character limit for the tweet itself, but add “text” or maybe something richer, like “story”, as an attachment type. So in the same way that you can now attach an image to a tweet, you could attach a chunk of text. You’d see a preview/thumbnail of the text attachment in the timeline, and you’d click/tap on it to see the whole thing.

It’d be pretty cool if they used Markdown for formatting, but that might be too nerdy for mass market use.

iPulse 3 

Iconfactory’s iPulse epitomizes the indie Mac developer ethos. It’s such a nerdy utility — it displays system stats and status for your Mac — but it’s absolutely gorgeous. And really, really tweakable. It warms my heart to see something like this near the top of the Mac App Store chart.

NYT: ‘Chinese Hackers Breached LoopPay, Whose Tech Is Central to Samsung Pay’ 

Nicole Perlroth and Mike Isaac, reporting for the NYT:

“Samsung Pay was not impacted and at no point was any personal payment information at risk,” Darlene Cedres, Samsung’s chief privacy officer, said in a statement. “This was an isolated incident that targeted the LoopPay corporate network, which is a physically separate network. The LoopPay corporate network issue was resolved immediately and had nothing to do with Samsung Pay.”

But two people briefed on the investigation, as well as security experts who have been tracking the Codoso hackers as they have targeted hundreds of victims around the world, said it would be premature to say what the hackers did and did not accomplish since they were discovered in August.

Federico Viticci’s Tweetbot 4 Review 

Comprehensive, astute, and well-illustrated review of Tweetbot 4 — and really, what it means to design a great modern iPad Twitter client. It is a long article, but it has to be, given how much is new in Tweetbot 4, and the ways that iOS 9 has raised the bar for iPad app design.

Tweetbot 4 

Speaking of indie developers doing great work, Tapbots is on fire. The new Tweetbot 4 for iOS is now a universal app for both iPhone and iPad, and has a slew of great new features. Long story short, Tweetbot for iOS is my single favorite and most-used iOS app. It is remarkably well-designed and well-crafted. The only other app that comes close to it — both in terms of the amount of time I spend using it and my affection for its design and usability — is Mobile Safari.

The regular price will be $10, but for now, Tweetbot 4 is available for just $5 — including for users of Tweetbot 3 or the old non-universal Tweetbot for iPad. This is the closest Tapbots can get to charging for an upgrade on the App Store, and paid upgrades are the only way developers can afford to keep working on existing apps.

$5 for the fruits of all of this talent, hard work, and craftsmanship. If you don’t see that as an absolute bargain, there is no hope for you.

Fantastical Updates 

One of my favorite indie apps in recent years has been Fantastical. I use it on my Mac and iPhone. I prefer it over Apple’s system Calendar apps in just about every regard. And they’re moving really fast: today they released free updates for the iPad and iPhone versions (including split-screen multitasking support on iPad, and a new Apple Watch companion app for iPhone). Last month they released a solid update to the Mac app.

Snowball: New Rugged Storage Appliance From Amazon for Importing Data to AWS Via Fedex 

Frederic Lardinois, writing for TechCrunch:

Amazon surprised developers today with the launch of Snowball, a new physical appliance that will allow AWS users to ship huge amounts of data for import into AWS by shipping the device back and forth between their offices and the AWS data centers.

The appliance is a bit larger than an old-school desktop case and it can hold up to 50 terabytes of data. It has a Kindle on the side, which functions as an automatic shipping label.

Reminds me of the old Andrew Tanenbaum quote: “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.”

Universal Search on Apple TV Will Be an API for Developers 

John Paczkowski, writing for Buzzfeed last week:

In a recent interview with BuzzFeed News, Apple CEO Tim Cook said universal search in Apple TV is not something that the company plans to reserve for key content partners. “At launch we’ll have iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, and HBO — so we’ll have five major inputs into universal search initially,” Cook said. “But we’re also opening an API, so that others can join in.”

I figured this would be open to all third-party apps, but it’s good to hear confirmation. (Sounds like it’s similar to Spotlight’s open search APIs on OS X.)

(Another Apple TV-related thought: even though Amazon won’t sell Apple TV hardware, that doesn’t necessarily preclude them from making a Prime app for Apple TV. And if the universal search API is open, Prime video could be included in that, too.)

Waterstones Is Removing Kindles From Stores 

Lisa Campbell, writing for The Bookseller:

Waterstones is removing Amazon’s Kindle devices from many of it stores as sales “continue to be pitiful”.

The company’s m.d James Daunt said there had been no sign of a “bounce” in Kindle sales, so the company was “taking the display space back” to use for physical books instead.

He told The Bookseller: “Sales of Kindles continue to be pitiful so we are taking the display space back in more and more shops. It feels very much like the life of one of those inexplicable bestsellers; one day piles and piles, selling like fury; the next you count your blessings with every sale because it brings you closer to getting it off your shelves forever to make way for something new. Sometimes, of course, they ‘bounce’ but no sign yet of this being the case with Kindles.”

Easiest explanation for this is that Kindle users are Amazon users, and Amazon users buy their Kindles direct from Amazon. I’ve owned a few Kindles over the years, and it never even occurred to me to buy one anywhere else.

Porsche Refuses Android Auto Privacy Terms 

Number 5 on Jonny Lieberman’s list of “13 Cool Facts About the 2017 Porsche 911” for Motortrend:

So much for “Do No Evil.” There’s no technological reason the 991/2 doesn’t have Android Auto playing through its massively upgraded PCM system. But there is an ethical one. As part of the agreement an automaker would have to enter with Google, certain pieces of data must be collected and mailed back to Mountain View, California. Stuff like vehicle speed, throttle position, coolant and oil temp, engine revs — basically Google wants a complete OBD2 dump whenever someone activates Android Auto. Not kosher, says Porsche. Obviously, this is “off the record,” but Porsche feels info like that is the secret sauce that makes its cars special. Moreover, giving such data to a multi-billion dollar corporation that’s actively building a car, well, that ain’t good, either. Apple, by way of stark contrast, only wants to know if the car is moving while Apple Play is in use. Makes you wonder about all the other OEMs who have agreed to Google’s requests/demands, no?

Yes, it does.

Update: Google responds. I would call it a non-denial denial, but you be the judge.

Sony and Verizon Cancel Launch of Xperia Z4V Phone 

Chris Welch, reporting for The Verge:

After failing to deliver it on time for a summer release target, Verizon and Sony today announced that they’ve decided to completely cancel plans to launch the Xperia Z4v in the United States. The move represents a significant blow to Sony’s already-weak presence in the US smartphone market. Neither side is giving an explanation for the cancellation, though Verizon unveiled the Z4v way back in June and has remained silent on the device ever since.


Swiss TV Station Replaces Cameras With iPhones 

Imagine how crazy this story would have sounded just five years ago.

Microsoft’s Surface Book: Detachable Professional Laptop 

Innovative, attractive design, great performance — I even like the name. Kudos to Microsoft.

Tim Cook Marks the Fourth Anniversary of Steve Jobs’s Death in Memo to Employees 

Tim Cook:

What is his legacy? I see it all around us: An incredible team that embodies his spirit of innovation and creativity. The greatest products on earth, beloved by customers and empowering hundreds of millions of people around the world. Soaring achievements in technology and architecture. Experiences of surprise and delight. A company that only he could have built. A company with an intense determination to change the world for the better.

And, of course, the joy he brought his loved ones.

WSJ: Laurene Powell Jobs ‘Tried to Kill’ Upcoming Hollywood Biopic 

Ben Fritz and Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for the WSJ:

Mr. Jobs’s allies, led by his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, say the film “Steve Jobs,” and other recent depictions, play down his accomplishments and paint Mr. Jobs as cruel and inhumane. Ms. Jobs repeatedly tried to kill the film, according to people familiar with the conversations. She lobbied, among others, Sony Pictures Entertainment, which developed the script but passed on the movie for financial reasons, and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, which is releasing the $33.5 million production on Friday. […]

People behind “Steve Jobs” say they offered to include Ms. Jobs in the film’s development, but she declined.

“She refused to discuss anything in Aaron’s script that bothered her despite my repeated entreaties,” producer Scott Rudin said in an emailed response to questions from The Wall Street Journal. He said Ms. Jobs “continued to say how much she disliked the book, and that any movie based on the book could not possibly be accurate.”

I’ll keep an open mind until I’ve seen the movie, but given my thoughts on Isaacson’s book, I tend to agree. What a terrible decision Jobs made when he picked Isaacson to be his authorized biographer.

Google’s Cute Cars and the Ugly End of Driving 

Mat Honan, writing for Buzzfeed after getting to ride in a Google self-driving car:

Cars are giant, inefficient, planet-and-people-killing death machines. Self-driving cars — especially if they are operated as fleets and you only use one when you need it, summoning it Uber-style — would mean we could have fewer vehicles per person, less traffic congestion, less pollution, far fewer vehicles produced per year (thus lowering the environmental impact of production), and, best of all, safer streets. The blind, people with epilepsy, quadriplegics, and all manner of others who today have difficulty ferrying themselves around as they go through the mundanities of an average day will be liberated. Eliminating the automobile’s need for a human pilot will be a positive thing for society.

Business Insider: ‘Evernote Is in Deep Trouble’ 

Eugene Kim, writing for Business Insider:

Evernote has laid off roughly 18% of its workforce in the past nine months, and said it will shut down three of its 10 global offices last week. Earlier this year, it replaced its long-time CEO Phil Libin with former Google exec Chris O’Neill.

“It’s going to be a tough road ahead,” one source familiar with the matter told us. “They want to go public, and, to do that, the focus on revenue now has to be a ruthless prioritization on things that make money.”

Depending on where you stand, Evernote is either a sinking ship or a maturing company going through a normal transition cycle. But most people we spoke to seem to agree that the company has failed to take advantage of its red-hot growth and make enough money from much of its huge user base — and is starting to show early signs of being an ailing unicorn.

Evernote has some very cool features — most impressive to me is that when you attach a photo to a note, they do OCR on any signage or text in the image so you can search for it. But the interface has always seemed so convoluted, I could never get into it. It looks like the result of a company that is focused on adding features, not focused on creating something well-designed.

CNet’s Amazon Fire Review: ‘Not Good, but Good for the Price if You’re a Prime Member’ 

Translation: “The food here is terrible, and the portions are so small.”

Charting Episode Lengths of The Talk Show 

Interesting (to me, at least) chart from friend of the show Todd Vaziri.

Many listeners definitely prefer longer episodes, but I know others feel the opposite. My take is that if you prefer shorter episodes, you can just listen to the long ones across multiple hour-long listening sessions. It’s also somewhat cyclical — at different times of the year, there is more to talk about.

Update: Todd has posted an updated version.

American Apparel Files for Bankruptcy 

Hiroko Tabuchi, reporting for the NYT:

American Apparel, the one-time arbiter of edgy made-in-America cool, filed for bankruptcy protection early Monday, its business crippled by huge debts, a precipitous fall in sales, employee strife and a drawn-out legal battle with the retailer’s ousted founder, Dov Charney.

The Chapter 11 petition, approved by the board, was filed in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware. The filing followed a deal struck with most of American Apparel’s secured lenders to reduce the retailer’s debt through a process known as a debt-for-equity conversion, where bondholders swap their debt for shares in the company.

The deal, which also includes extra financing from the participating bondholders, would enable American Apparel to keep its manufacturing operations in Los Angeles and its 130 stores in the United States open, the company said.

I like their T-shirts (DF shirts have been printed on AA tees for many years), and I like that their products are proudly made in America, so I’m really hoping they recover from this. But I hope they recover with their brand intact.

Mapbox iOS SDK 

My thanks to Mapbox for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. The Mapbox iOS SDK is the new open source framework for making your app location-aware. It comes with beautiful vector maps for any scenario: detailed streets for navigating cities, terrain for adventuring, and satellite imagery for seeing the world up close. The maps are truly beautiful, and they zoom with the speed and smoothness of a video game. Check out their website for comparisons to Google and Apple Maps.

Start developing with the Mapbox iOS SDK for free today. 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.

The Talk Show: ‘Peace, Porn, and Privacy’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show. This week’s very special guest: Marco Arment. We spend the entire episode arguing about “El Scorcho”.

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Patreon Hacked; Gigabytes of Source Code and User Data Dumped Online 

Dan Goodin, Ars Technica:

Hunt said the release appears to include the entire database taken in the hack, including a fair number of private messages sent and received by users. “Obviously all the campaigns, supporters and pledges are there too,” he wrote in one tweet. “You can determine how much those using Patreon are making.” In a separate tweet, he wrote: “The dollar figure for the Patreon campaigns isn’t the issue, it’s supporters identities, messages, etc. Everything private now public.”

Given that they stole the site’s source code, if you have a Patreon account, you should presume your password is compromised.

Apple Buys UK-Based Speech Technology Start-Up VocalIQ 

The Financial Times:

Apple has acquired a UK-based start-up whose artificial-intelligence software helps computers and people speak to each other in a more natural dialogue, according to people familiar with the deal.

VocalIQ uses machine learning to build virtual assistants that try to recreate the type of talking computers that appear in science-fiction films such as Samantha in Her or Jarvis in Iron Man. The deal marks Apple’s third acquisition of a UK company this year.

The VocalIQ company blog, back in March:

All major technology companies are pouring billions into building up of services like Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa. Each was launched with a huge bang, promising great things but fell well short of consumer expectations. Some ended being used only as toys, like Siri. The rest, forgotten. Unsurprisingly.

Recode on Jack Dorsey 

Jason Del Ray and Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode:

He seems to be a completely different man than the one who returned to Twitter in March 2011 as executive chairman and product czar. Former colleagues recall a man looking for payback for his 2008 ouster; loyalty was key, and many who were loyal to Twitter’s other co-founder, Ev Williams, were booted from the company. Back then, Dorsey would routinely sit in on meetings without saying a word. When he did speak, his contributions were so abstract that few understood what he was talking about. In some cases, he’d simply write a single word or two up on the whiteboard.

He no longer sits silently in meetings — current colleagues say he provides the kind of direct, constructive feedback you’d expect from someone with Dorsey’s reputation as a product guru. There’s still some fear that Dorsey will send people packing, but the chip on his shoulder appears to be gone. Even Twitter co-founder and good friend Biz Stone said something has changed with his friend in the last few years at Square.

“I feel like he went into a time chamber and studied for 40 years and came out after one,” Stone said. “It’s like, what happened? Where did you get all this confidence and great answers and specificity? He seems to be much deeper now. It’s like talking to a much older person.”

The Normalization of Gun Massacres in America 

The Economist, back in June:

The regularity of mass killings breeds familiarity. The rhythms of grief and outrage that accompany them become — for those not directly affected by tragedy — ritualised and then blend into the background noise. That normalisation makes it ever less likely that America’s political system will groan into action to take steps to reduce their frequency or deadliness. Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard them the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing. This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.

As Toynbee Tiles Dwindle, Philadelphia Streets Department Surfaces as Unlikely Hope for Preservation 

Jim Saksa:

Streets employees may be the least likely city workers to be found spending Sunday at the Barnes or catching a gallery opening on First Friday. And yet it’s probably the only city department that’s baked an art-preservation clause into its standard, bid-out contracts.

The city’s paving agreements stipulate that paving contractors must halt resurfacing and notify a Streets engineer if they come across a Toynbee Tile, those strange mosaic messages embedded into the pavement across Philadelphia.

The tiles are at once part of our local lore and art known the world over, the purported product of a South Philly man with a tenuous grip on reality and a tremendous amount of creativity. The tiles have inspired imitators and thieves alike, not to mention numerous news pieces and one award-winning documentary. And with all signs suggesting the mysterious tiler has left the city for good, the tiles are becoming ever more rare and in danger of extinction in their native habitat, Philadelphia.

As a Philadelphian whose favorite film is 2001, I’ve always loved these tiles. They’re everywhere in Center City. It’s crazy that there are even a few on I-676, I-95, and the Schuylkill Expressway.

The Decline of ‘Big Soda’ 

Margot Sanger-Katz, writing for the NYT’s The Upshot:

Over the last 20 years, sales of full-calorie soda in the United States have plummeted by more than 25 percent. Soda consumption, which rocketed from the 1960s through 1990s, is now experiencing a serious and sustained decline.

Sales are stagnating as a growing number of Americans say they are actively trying to avoid the drinks that have been a mainstay of American culture. Sales of bottled water have shot up, and bottled water is now on track to overtake soda as the largest beverage category in two years, according to at least one industry projection.

The drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade and is responsible for a substantial reduction in the number of daily calories consumed by the average American child.

Millions of Facebook Users Have No Idea They’re Using the Internet 

Leo Mirani, writing for Quartz:

Indonesians surveyed by Galpaya told her that they didn’t use the internet. But in focus groups, they would talk enthusiastically about how much time they spent on Facebook. Galpaya, a researcher (and now CEO) with LIRNEasia, a think tank, called Rohan Samarajiva, her boss at the time, to tell him what she had discovered. “It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook,” he concluded.

You should not be surprised by this.

Vlad Savov: ‘Google’s Nexus Phones Are Just Ads’ 

Vlad Savov, writing at The Verge:

Unlike predecessors such as the Nexus One and Nexus 5, these phones don’t have a clear reason for being, and are not in themselves terribly unique. That’s led me (and others) to question Google’s overall aim with the Nexus line of pure Android smartphones, and I think I’ve finally arrived at an answer. The Nexus program is not so much about carrier independence or purity of Android design as it is about presenting Google in an overwhelmingly positive light. In other words, Google, the ultimate ad seller, sells Nexus phones as ads for itself. […]

It almost seems innocuous, except that it’s not. There isn’t a single Android device manufacturer that is happy with the Nexus program, and I’ve spoken with them all. Those who build Nexuses for Google often do so reluctantly — with the possible exception of Huawei this year, whose US reputation stands to improve dramatically from the halo effect of being associated with Google by manufacturing the Nexus 6P.

In other words, a vanity project.

Looks Like It’s Time for the U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate Apple Again 

Spencer Soper, reporting for Bloomberg, “Amazon to Ban Sale of Apple, Google Video-Streaming Devices”:

Amazon.com Inc. is flexing its e-commerce muscles to gain an edge on competitors in the video-streaming market by ending the sale of devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc. that aren’t easily compatible with Amazon’s video service.

The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast. No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said. Amazon’s streaming service, called Prime Video, doesn’t run easily on its rival’s hardware.

“Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime,” Amazon said. “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.”

Given that they have Amazon Prime apps for iPhone and iPad, why not just make an Amazon Prime app for Apple TV? When they say “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion”, do they mean that they’ll only sell media players that include Amazon Prime by default?

The Cost of Mobile Ads on 50 News Websites 

The New York Times:

Ad blockers, which Apple first allowed on the iPhone in September, promise to conserve data and make websites load faster. But how much of your mobile data comes from advertising? We measured the mix of advertising and editorial on the mobile home pages of the top 50 news websites — including ours — and found that more than half of all data came from ads and other content filtered by ad blockers. Not all of the news websites were equal.

What is wrong with the people running Boston.com? What they’re doing is shameful.

Upgrade Episode 56: The Migration Experience 

Great episode of one of my favorite podcasts: Jason Snell and Myke Hurley’s Upgrade. They cover, in depth, something I’ve been meaning to write about: the lousy, painstaking, and at times downright confusing experience of migrating to a new iOS device. If Apple wants people to upgrade to new iPhones annually, they really need to take a long hard look at reducing the friction.

(I enjoy that this episode of Upgrade was literally about upgrading.)

Google’s New ‘Customer Match’ for Ads 

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president for ads and commerce:

Customer Match is a new product designed to help you reach your highest-value customers on Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail — when it matters most. Customer Match allows you to upload a list of email addresses, which can be matched to signed-in users on Google in a secure and privacy-safe way. From there, you can build campaigns and ads specifically designed to reach your audience. Users can control the ads they see, including Customer Match ads, by opting out of personalized ads or by muting or blocking ads from individual advertisers through Google Ads Settings.

Here’s Peter Gothard’s take on what this means, writing for Computing:

Google is close to rolling out a tool named “Customer Match” which, it appears, will combine a logged-in Google account with any email address handed by a customer to a retailer to create lists of addresses to target specific users with marketing material.

The search giant can sit comfortably with this arrangement, as the lists of emails are anonymised through the service, meaning Google keeps hold of the specific details and the retailer doesn’t get them, but can use them to blind dump advertising into Google-based sessions in services such as YouTube, Gmail or basic search functions on the Google homepage.

The bottom line: ever-more-personally-targeted ads, and a growing divide between Google’s and Apple’s approach to privacy.

Recode: Jack Dorsey to Be Named Permanent Twitter CEO 

Kara Swisher and Kurt Wagner, reporting for Recode:

Jack is back — for good this time.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who has been serving as interim CEO for the past three months, is expected be named the company’s new permanent CEO as early as tomorrow, although that timeframe may change, according to sources. Dorsey will apparently continue to run Square, the payments company he founded where he’s also CEO.

I feel good about this — Dorsey values product design, and he understands what makes Twitter what it is.

How-To Geek: ‘Apple Maps vs. Google Maps’ 

Chris Stobing, writing for How-To-Geek:

Going into this article, I thought we were going to have a clear winner with Google Maps sitting comfortably out front. However, it was a pleasant surprise to find that with Apple Maps updated and all the kinks finally worked out, the debate between Google or Apple Maps eventually just comes down to your own personal preference.

I know that Apple Maps still has terrible data for certain parts of the world. But I’ve been saying for a while now that for a lot of us, it’s gotten pretty good. I do still have Google Maps installed on my phone, but I haven’t used it in months.

Apple Actually Wants You to Read and Understand Its Privacy Policies 

Matthew Panzarino on Apple’s new Privacy Policy:

This is the template for all other tech companies when it comes to informing users about their privacy. Not a page of dense jargon, and not a page of cutesy simplified language that doesn’t actually communicate the nuance of the thing. Instead, it’s a true product. A product whose aims are to inform and educate, just as Apple says its other products do.

An example:

Here’s a tidbit with regards to Apple Maps. When you query Maps for a trip, Apple generates a generic device identifier and pulls the info using that, rather than an Apple ID. Halfway through your trip, it generates another random ID and associates the second half with that. Then, for good measure, it truncates the trip data so the information about exact origin and destination are not kept. That data is retained for 2 years to improve Maps and then deleted.

Pretty sure Google Maps doesn’t work that way.

About the Linked List

The Daring Fireball Linked List is a daily list of interesting links and brief commentary, updated frequently but not frenetically. Call it a “link log”, or “linkblog”, or just “a good way to dick around on the Internet for a few minutes a day”.

Linked List Archive

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