I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Speculation on the iPhone 5 and iPad HD rumors

I’ve read a bunch of rumors about upcoming iPhone and iPad releases. The most credible and sensible rumors indicate:

These are both so plausible and backed up by so many writers’ anonymous sources that they’re not really worth arguing about. I’ll assume for the rest of this post that these are true.

Recently, we’ve also heard:

(As usual, we’ve also heard other crazy rumors that I think are too far-fetched to discuss.)

Usually, the credible-sounding rumors (especially when published by major publications such as Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal) are based in truth, but have often been distorted or misinterpreted along the way.

We also know:

I’ve heard nothing first-hand, but based on the rumors, past behaviors, and a healthy dose of baseless imagination, here’s my own speculation:

We’ll see what happens. I’m wrong a lot with Apple predictions.

Internet personas are a wacky thing: Some of my favorite people IRL also happen to be among some of the most disliked people online — and I totally hated them before meeting them, too. I’ve learned over the past two years that you absolutely cannot judge a person’s personality, motives, or intelligence based on what they do on the internet.

We’re all playing parts here.


Own your identity

This paragraph in Marshall Kirkpatrick’s Why I’ll Never Redirect my Personal Blog to Google Plus scared me a bit:

Google Plus doesn’t have RSS feeds, or email subscription options. Both are important to me; I want to speak to my readers however they want to be spoken to. Some day, we’ll be able to write to and read from any platform in any other platform, just like we can call one phone network from inside another phone network now.

I hope he’s being clever here, because we had that. (And I think we still have it.)

It’s interesting that so much online publishing is moving into a small handful of massive, closed, proprietary networks after being so distributed and diverse during the big boom of blogs and RSS almost a decade ago.

In many ways, we’re better off now: publishing online is far easier, less time-consuming, and more accessible than it has ever been, which has brought content, voices, and consumers online that wouldn’t have been otherwise.

But all of these proprietary networks that want to own and hold in your content are reversing much of the web’s progress in some other areas, such as the durability and quality of online identity.

If you care about your online presence, you must own it. I do, and that’s why my email address has always been at my own domain, not the domain of any employer or webmail service.

You might think your address will be fine indefinitely, but if I used a webmail address from the best webmail provider at the time I broke away from my university address and formed my own identity, it would have ended in And that wasn’t very long ago.

I’ve always built my personal blog’s content and reputation at its own domain, completely under my control, despite being hosted on many different platforms and serving different roles over the years. It has never been a subdomain of any particular publishing platform or host.

Tumblr respects this. From day one, David and I gave it free custom-domain support, full HTML control, and no forced branding or advertising. But Tumblr is a hybrid of a blog-publishing platform and a social network that seems truly unique — the “pure” social networks aren’t nearly as willing to allow you to own your identity there.

Locking your identity in won’t prevent a major social service from succeeding. Sadly, most people don’t care about giving control of their online identity to current or future advertising companies.

But there will always be the open web for the geeks, the misfits, the eccentrics, the control freaks, and any other term we can think of to proudly express our healthy skepticism of giving up too much control over what really should be ours.

Google’s patent problems

Google’s getting slammed by patents recently. They’re especially a threat to Android’s success, which Google seems to care about.

Google has very few patents relative to other large technology companies, and their dismissive behavior at the Nortel patent auction implies that they don’t think much of them.

And it’s starting to cause them a lot of trouble.

Google also has some U.S. legislative lobbying power, and a history of moderate lobbying for issues that matter to them. But most of their previously lobbied issues haven’t been as potentially disruptive to their business as a barrage of patent-infringement lawsuits.

Google is also run by geeks, and geeks generally find software patents extremely offensive.

The best thing to happen to software-patent-disliking geeks might be for Google to get their ass kicked a bit by patent litigation so they’re motivated to challenge the patent system more seriously than any of us ever could.

The Smart Cover, a few months in

I was optimistic about the iPad 2’s Smart Cover and got the red leather one with my iPad 2 on launch day.

It mostly works as described, but I’ve been disappointed in a few areas.

The leather doesn’t have a high-quality look or feel. In retrospect, I feel like an idiot for paying $69 for this. Part of the lack of perceived quality might be the design: leather’s best visual and tactile qualities are lost if it’s bonded to a hard, flat surface like the Smart Cover’s rigid plates.

I knew going into it that the back of the iPad 2 would be unprotected by the Smart Cover. In practice, I find that I’m overly paranoid about it getting scratched by grit on flat surfaces, such as a grain of sand on a table, so I don’t feel comfortable setting it down on most such surfaces. (And I can’t put it face-down, because then I’d scratch the Smart Cover much more easily and noticeably.) And not having the back covered means that the iPad 2 can’t share a bag pocket with anything else without a risk of being scratched.

I can’t think of many situations in which a Smart Cover provides enough protection to be worth carrying and using for people who care about the aesthetic condition of their iPad. I thought I’d be able to ignore my gadget-preservation instincts in this regard, since it’s “only the back”, but I can’t. (There are other reasons to use it, like the prop-up features, but general protection isn’t one.)

The bigger issue, though, is the practicality of actually using the iPad with the Smart Cover.

The auto-unlock is nice, and I love the minimal bulk, but it seems like it wasn’t designed to stay attached while you’re holding the iPad, because there’s no great way to hold it.

Lex Friedman’s Macworld review was on point here:

But my chief complaints with the Smart Cover relate to elements of its use that Apple doesn’t cover in the promotional video at all. My biggest grievance is that there’s just no perfect way to fold back the Smart Cover when you actually want to use your iPad in hand. The video shows iPads waking up, going to sleep, and being used on a tabletop. What about when I want to hold the dang thing?

I can’t find a comfortable way to hold and use the iPad with the Smart Cover attached. It flops and slides around far too much.

Maybe Apple intended for us to detach it from the iPad while we’re using it, since the magnets make it so easy, and re-attach it when we’re done. But that’s a bit tedious.

If that’s the intention, though, it’s subtly genius: holding the iPad 2 “naked”, without a case at all, is great. You truly appreciate the lightweight, thin form factor, and it’s less fatiguing to hold for long periods (such as when reading in bed). So it’s plausible that Apple wants to encourage naked use.

Once I decided that folio-style cases were too bulky for my taste and the Smart Cover didn’t provide the right kind of protection, I bought WaterField Designs’ iPad Smart Case (in the “pine” color).1

It’s a very nicely made, semi-rigid slipcase. The rigidity makes it easy to slide the iPad in (since you don’t need to hold it open or stretch it out, like a floppy case), and it fits very snugly and securely. The snug fit makes the soft inner felt surfaces clean the iPad’s glass exceptionally (and uniformly): much better than the Smart Cover’s leftover lines.

The iPad needs to be removed to be used, you need to put the Smart Case somewhere during use, and it doesn’t auto-unlock. But it’s a far better solution than the Smart Cover for me, and I can put it in a shared bag pocket, rest it on any surface, or even carry it by itself comfortably.

It cost $10 less than the leather Smart Cover and feels like a much higher quality item. And WaterField is a well-respected company with excellent customer service. Recommended.

Since getting the WaterField iPad Smart Case, I haven’t used my Smart Cover at all, except to give it another chance for this review. (Nope, still don’t like it.) It’ll go back to collecting dust in a nice red triangle on the back of my desk.

  1. The Smart Case’s name isn’t a cheap attempt to capitalize on Apple’s Smart Cover name. WaterField has been selling the Smart Case under that name since the original iPad’s release. ↩︎

Twitter spam and motivation to report it

I don’t know how Twitter handles spam internally. They’re probably devoting a lot of time to fighting it.

But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to observe so much repetition in the still-visible spam techniques and conclude that Twitter is being extremely conservative about deploying automated heuristics, relying heavily on the “Report Spam” feature instead.

Spam-fighting is always a tricky balance: if it’s too aggressive and automated, it’ll prevent some legitimate messages from reaching their recipients. But if it’s too conservative or manually triggered by user reports, a lot of spam will get through.

The operators of spammable services need to decide where their priorities are on that spectrum: severely annoy a small number of your users by not delivering some legitimate messages, or moderately annoy a large number of your users by showing them too much spam.

Twitter seems to have chosen the latter. At this point, given their resources, it’s almost certainly a philosophical choice — e.g. “every message must be delivered” — and not because of a lack of spam-fighting abilities.

There are three big problems with this approach:

Fundamentally, I believe Twitter’s priorities here are wrong. Twitter needs a far more aggressive, automated, proactive, heuristic-based anti-spam system. And if someone has trouble legitimately tweeting a link with no text to 100 people in a row who don’t follow them at precise 1-minute intervals, that’s just the price we’ll have to pay.

In the meantime, I’m never using the “Report Spam” feature again, because it just seems like I’m wasting my time.

Saving John Siracusa’s massive Lion review to Instapaper

Tomorrow, Mac OS X Lion will be released. And therefore, tomorrow, John Siracusa’s massive Lion review will likely be published on Ars Technica. Since it’s a long web article, a lot of people are going to save it for reading later with Instapaper.

It’s going to be split into a lot of pages. His previous Snow Leopard review was 23 pages.

Nearly all of Instapaper’s competitors, even including Safari’s built-in Reader feature, offer automatic multi-page fetching and stitching into one long page. To date, I’ve intentionally not offered this feature on Instapaper. I’ll seek out publicly available “single page” links and automatically fetch those instead, but I don’t create a single-page view that doesn’t otherwise exist publicly on a publisher’s site.

I’ve been torn about this for a while, since I’m losing business to competitors because of it. It’s a risky move for me to even talk about it like this. But I feel like multi-page stitching is a tricky line to cross, and for the time being, I don’t feel comfortable crossing it.

Ars Technica sells Premier memberships for $5 per month that include single-page views of articles (among other benefits).

I signed up for a Premier subscription and tested saving the single-page version of the Snow Leopard review with the Instapaper bookmarklet, and it worked great. And if anything unforeseen prevents the single-page Lion review from saving properly, I’ll do my best to tweak it and fix the problem as quickly as possible.

I respect Ars Technica’s choice to keep single-page versions of long articles as a subscriber-only feature. If you want to save John Siracusa’s huge Lion review to Instapaper as one long page tomorrow, please support their business and buy an Ars Premier subscription.

Making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

Paul Krugman