Greg Knauss after a family medical scare coinciding with the Republican National Convention:
The [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] is important. It’s vital. When a bug can bring down your family, when there are people who are willing to take away the shield that could prevent that, when we as a country have become so small and stingy and mean that we cheer the idea of ripping medical care away from fellow citizens, offering nothing in its place but sanctimony and self-rightenousness… What are we? We’re not a country. We’re not a community.
The Affordable Care Act isn’t even close to perfect, but it’s a major improvement to our national healthcare disaster, and Congress would never have passed anything better anytime soon. (It’s remarkable that they even passed that.)
At some point, the United States will offer a public option. And at some point after that, we will effectively get federally funded universal health care. We’re getting bits and pieces, starting with children and the elderly, but it’s slowly spreading.
Like racial, gender, and sexual-orientation discrimination, the direction we’re going over time is obvious, although we’re moving too slowly for many people (or too quickly, if you’re on the “conservative” side of these issues).
And like those other cultural progressions, it’s going to be a messy transition, and a lot of people continue to get hurt in the meantime. When the progession is mostly complete (because they’re rarely truly complete), our society will look back on this time in disbelief that we could be so callous and vicious toward one another regarding such a basic human need. I just hope we can be among those looking back, not just our grandchildren.
Greg Knauss’ family dodged a financial bullet this time. But a lot of people haven’t been, and won’t be, so lucky. And it could happen to any of us. Even if you think you have good insurance.
On today’s show: TextMate again (of course), business developer account migrations and DUNS numbers, the immense value of Apple’s retail stores, creating a brand before its apps, healthcare and taxes, and Instapaper browser extensions.
The guy selling this coffee mug on Kickstarter emailed me and wanted me to blog about it. I’ve inadvertently gotten myself on a lot of Kickstarter spam-I-mean-“PR” email lists. But I can be brutally honest when a product underwhelms.
I haven’t tried a Mo Mug, but I think porcelain was the wrong choice. The seller is correct that plastic alters the taste of hot drinks (as does the stainless steel in most travel mugs), but porcelain needs to be so thick that it acts as a giant heatsink, causing the tea or coffee to lose heat far too quickly. That’s why travel mugs aren’t made of porcelain. The Mo Mug’s double-walled design will probably help with another big issue — that porcelain mugs are too hot to handle directly — but it won’t be enough insulation to keep the drink hot meaningfully longer than an average porcelain mug.
If you want to make a reusable coffee mug from a breakable but flavor-inert material, borosilicate glass is a far better choice: it can be much thinner, and a double-walled design will insulate far better with much less material.
And Grosche has already made exactly that, with a silicone lid and collar available in four different colors, for about 12 bucks. I bought one a year ago and it’s great. It doesn’t keep drinks as hot as my Contigo, but it has no noticeable effect on flavor, so I use it for bringing coffee in the car on shorter trips.
But it doesn’t have a moustache painted on it. So the Mo Mug still has a market, I guess.
I initially thought that Apple may owe us an explanation, but the last part of this description from the hackers is interesting:
…[a file] with the name of “NCFTA_iOS_devices_intel.csv” turned to be a list of 12,367,232 Apple iOS devices including Unique Device Identifiers (UDID), user names, name of device, type of device, Apple Push Notification Service tokens, zipcodes, cellphone numbers, addresses, etc. the personal details fields referring to people appears many times empty leaving the whole list incompleted on many parts.
UDIDs, APNS tokens, and some contact info?
All of this information could have been collected from an app transmitting data to a server. For instance, this is exactly the information that an ad network would want to collect. And in order to get stats from 12 million devices, it would probably need to be from a set of popular, free apps… where you’d probably see ads.
Apple and the carriers probably weren’t involved at all. And with iOS 6’s removal of UDIDs and prompting for contacts access, this data will become much harder to collect in the near future.
(By the way, checking for your UDID in the released list and not finding it really doesn’t tell you anything, since this is only 8% of the complete list. None of my devices were in it, but they might be among the other 11 million entries that we don’t have.)
Update:The popular and free AllClear ID app, related to NCFTA, is a likely culprit, especially given the filename. AllClear ID sent a statement saying they do not collect UDIDs and are not affiliated with the NCFTA, for whatever it’s worth.
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People keep asking me what someone could do or find out about you with your iOS device’s UDID. I keep saying, “Not much, if anything.”
But if you’ve ever used OpenFeint — that green promo screen that appears the first time you launch many games promising high-score tracking, etc. — that may not be true, depending on what other information or social connections you’ve given them.
Multiple sources have confirmed to The Verge that Amazon is working on a smartphone that runs a variant of the Kindle Fire’s Android-based operating system, and we’re now hearing that the device will be shown to the press tomorrow.
The Kindle Fire’s software is slow, buggy, confusing, frustrating, and unreliable.
Bojan Gajic of Flux Ads sent me an interesting email, and gave me permission to share this here.
His UDID was among those in the “FBI leak” the other day, and he observed Glitter Draw Free, an app he had installed, sending the associated push notification (APNS) token to a third-party service that could have been a source of the leaked data.
The publisher apparently uses their own back end for APNS as opposed to using Urban Airship or Xtify. The app posts UDID, push token and few other basic details to apns.spankapps.com on launch. Glitter Draw alone cannot have 12 million users, but its publisher has another 76 novelty apps (some were ranked high in the App Store in the past, like Finger Drums and Love Finger Scan), and there could easily be 12 million users between all those apps.
I’m guessing the database at spankapps.com was compromised and the dump came from there.
It’s more likely that this was just a file on somebody’s laptop, and not an FBI file on an FBI-issued laptop. (The file-acquisition story might not be entirely true, either.)
Bojan’s theory about a compromised push-notification database is far more plausible, and is a much better fit to the actual data.2
Update: As many have pointed out (thank you), APNS tokens are, or were until recently, all the same on a device regardless of which app generated them. So we can’t know whether the Spankapps service specifically was the source of the leaked data, but I think this is the most likely sort of explanation rather than the FBI-laptop story.
Granted, you can’t trust any statements from any police organization in the U.S., but it’s something. ↩︎
For instance, I can’t figure out how and why the FBI would have collected APNS tokens. What are they going to do, steal the SpankApps SSL certificates somehow and send a fake push notification from Glitter Draw Free to a terrorist’s phone? ↩︎
(That’s an affiliate link that will support this site. Thanks.)
Amazon announced a whole range of new Kindles today, mostly Fires. The Paperwhite is the only one I’m interested in for now, it’s the only one I’ve preordered, and it’s probably the only one I’ll review. (See my big Kindle review from the previous generation.)
The new $69 Kindle looks like a “Kindle 4.5”: it appears to have almost the same hardware as the Kindle 4 (my review), but with “15% faster page turns”. It’s probably the same relatively old E-Ink Pearl screen as before: Amazon says it has “darker, hand-tuned fonts”, but that probably just means antialiasing tweaks, not a higher-contrast screen.
The Kindle Fire was a terrible product with abysmal hardware and software. The new Kindle Fires might have fixed one or both of those, but I’m not willing to spend any money or time to be among the first to find out.
Why not 3G? You can’t do much with it. You can’t browse the web with it or use any real “apps” to speak of — you can only download new books and periodicals. So only get the 3G model if you frequently need to download new books and periodicals away from Wi-Fi, which for most people is probably not the case.
Why with ads? With all previous models, you can remove the ads after purchase from the Kindle control panel on Amazon’s site by just paying the difference. So get the ads, see if you care about getting rid of them, and if so, pay the difference then.
I’m just hoping that the Paperwhite has solved many of the Kindle Touch’s original software sluggishness. Some of it was fixed in a software update a few months ago, so I think there’s a good chance that the Paperwhite won’t have that issue.
And if it does, Amazon’s really great at accepting returns.
Like last year’s cheapest Kindle e-reader, all three new models — that’s the Fire, the HD 7, and the HD 8.9 — will display Amazon’s “Special Offers” promotions and advertisements on their lock screens. Unlike the low-end Kindle, however, Amazon isn’t offering the devices in more expensive, ad-free models, nor is it making mention of any way to opt out for a fee.
At the $200 price point, the “Special Offers” (ad-displaying) Kindle discount is about $30–40. So the new Kindle Fire is effectively the same price as the old, ad-free one: the new feature, among the other improvements, is ads.
The Fire has a very clear goal, much like the other Kindles: to sell as much Amazon content as possible. It’s like those magazines that people buy for the ads. Who’s going to care if a vending machine shows ads?
It’s a smart strategy, especially when one of your only selling points over the iPad is “It’s a lot cheaper.”
Word is that Twitter made the call today: Twitter for Mac is done. They won’t kill it outright, but no further updates. Goodbye, old friend.
They effectively killed Tweetie for Mac, my favorite Twitter client, when they bought it from Loren Brichter.
They clearly didn’t want it, and bought it almost reluctantly along with the iPad and especially iPhone clients: the ones they really wanted. From that point, I suspect that the only Twitter employee who cared about the Mac client and had any power to work on it was Loren Brichter himself.
The last official update — and the last few were minor — came in June 2011, and Loren left Twitter later that year.
Of course it’s dead. The difference now is that Twitter won’t let anyone else replace it, probably because they can make far more money by making people use their website.
Next: how will they ruin the also-long-neglected iPad app?
Alex Arena on the potential of making apps for the “Alpha” App.net service:
So for now, a Twitter app has the ability to be 5.7x more lucrative than one built for App.net.
Don’t write off Twitter just yet.
App.net’s userbase, while small, exclusively comprises early adopters who were willing and able to spend $50 for an account on a service with a huge, free, and generally better competitor. They’ll pay good money for what they want: a great Alpha client could probably fetch $10 on iOS and $20 on Mac.
There’s a lot more competition in the Twitter-client market than the Alpha-client market, and Twitter’s own free apps are good enough for most people. But those big-spending Alpha early adopters are starving for great clients.
With today’s 100,000-token cap and restrictions probably increasing in the future, the long-term potential for a Twitter client has a hard limit. The long-term potential for an Alpha client is more likely to be greater, even though it might take a little while to surpass 100,000 potential customers.
See also: why developers tend to make so much more money on iOS than on Android, despite the Android installed base being significantly larger.
Mark Milian (a friend) and Adam Satariano for Businessweek, profiling John Gruber:
His bare-bones site consists mainly of links to other articles with a few sentences of commentary, along with the occasional lengthier analysis on topics such as screen resolution.
I love how that probably sounds horrible to “normal” people,1 but sounds right up my alley (and yours, in all likelihood).
I’m also amused at the “Bottom Line”, which makes it sound like the purpose of the article is to speculate on Daring Fireball’s revenue, presumably because this is Businessweek and that’s what they think they’re supposed to do.
My wife listens to my podcast. And when I was going to be on Mac Power Users, she asked what kind of show it was and what we might be talking about. I explained it to her, but that didn’t go well.
“So… you’re going to talk about your scanner?”
“Maybe. Or how I organize the files from my scanner. They talk about that kind of thing a lot, and I’d like to compare my strategy to theirs and see if I can improve my filing system.”
Which is why I think that this Verge video of a hands-on with a Windows RT tablet is a bit peculiar. It spends a lot of time in the Explorer; that’s a bit like demonstrating Windows 95 by opening the DOS shell.
I had a similar thought on this video: why did they show almost none of The Artist Formerly Known As Metro?
Well, there’s one big reason: the Office apps require the “DOS” environment, which will be a very big problem for Metro adoption.
It’s a bit odd when something so obvious isn’t even mentioned in passing.
Like The Verge, Engadget naturally made no mention of the HP Spectre One’s many obvious similarities to the iMac.
Big “gadget” blogs depend on maintaining very friendly relationships with the companies whose products they cover so they can continue to get exclusives, interviews, press badges to events, and early access to products. Maintaining these relationships while retaining credibility isn’t always an easy choice for many sites, and many choose poorly.
The company, BlueToad, which works with thousands of publishers to translate printed content into digital and mobile formats, said hackers had breached its systems more than a week ago and stolen the file.
Case closed: this is a far more likely explanation than the FBI-laptop story.
On this week’s podcast: Amazon’s new Kindles, the differing goals of Apple and Amazon, why the tablet market is so different from the PC market and who stands to win and lose, a not-so-fond look back at the Enlight 7237, and the longevity of open APIs.
To be as succinct as possible, recently both Gruber and Marco have accused (yes Marco, you made an accusation about us, no matter how dumb you play it in your Tweets) The Verge of covering products which resemble or outright boost the industrial design of an Apple product then purposefully withholding mention of this fact for some kind of gain. To be crystal clear, they are suggesting that we are covering products which look like an Apple product, but avoid mentioning that they look like an Apple product on purpose. They’re suggesting we have ulterior and possibly nefarious motives.
Marco outright claims that we are doing it to win favor with the company we’re covering. […]
Gruber and Marco are plainly and simply wrong. […]
My point is this: when someone accuses this team of lacking in integrity, or being on the take for a company, or somehow perverting their work for the sake of some other party (readers or otherwise), I take it pretty seriously. I think it’s bullshit, and I won’t stand for it.
If you don’t like what we do, or that we don’t cover your favorite company the way you want us to, I’m sorry. When you find some proof of your grand conspiracy, let me know. In the meantime, we’ll continue to keep doing our work, which I am very proud of — and you guys can keep on acting like bullies at best, or trolls at worst, taking potshots from a remove. It does seem to be what you’re best at these days.
Here’s what I wrote that ignited an inferno of defensiveness, insults, and personal attacks against me from Josh and Nilay Patel at The Verge.
After updating the Tumblr application for iOS (and coming across Peter Vidani’sDribbble shot), I decided to take a stab at seeing how it worked.
Tumblr has many of the same iOS challenges that Facebook does: rendering a timeline of richly formatted posts, with many different layouts and media types, requiring lots of media downloads, and tons of little features in use by enough people that they need to be available in the iPhone app. Then it needs to to be able to create posts in many different formats. It’s much more complex than, say, a Twitter client, so it’s interesting to see how they approach some of the challenges.
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[Gruber and Arment] thrive on this kind of manufactured controversy because the technology industry doesn’t really breed “heavy” controversy. […]
Getting to the point: I’m sure they and their advertisers love it. By keeping the controversy in the family, so to speak, the eyeballs stay on their ads and they make more money.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I don’t care about “eyeballs”. The Deck doesn’t pay for raw pageviews — sites are paid a flat rate per month, and that rate is occasionally recalculated if average traffic changes for a long time. Deck publishers, including Marco.org and Daring Fireball, are therefore incentivized to build up loyal, long-term audiences. If we just get a bunch of one-time clicks over a few days, we don’t make a dime extra. (Bandwidth may even cost us more.)
And the idea that I thrive on controversy couldn’t be further from the truth. I hate that Josh and Nilay took my offhand comment about Engadget and PR relationships so severely and personally. I hate that these two people, who I’ve met and have gotten along with quite well, now think that I’m a complete asshole because they inferred something far more severe than what I really meant.
We will be designing and making a bolt-in swappable mount for the new cord as soon as we can get our hands on a sample.
If I’m understanding this correctly, is their plan to just take an Apple Lightning-to-USB cable and find a way to mount it upright in the base?
That could end up being a pretty bad hack, but it might work. And how much will it cost? Apple charges $20 for the cable, and Elevation Labs presumably can’t give away the mounts for free, so is it going to end up costing $40 or more to upgrade this $60 dock?
The alternative — licensing Lightning from Apple and making a complete “native” mount — would probably cost more and take much longer.
Regardless of which approach they take, we don’t know when we’ll actually have working iPhone 5 mounts, or whether they’ll run out of money or motivation and abandon the upgrade. After all, Elevation Labs still hasn’t sent out all of the Elevation Docks to Kickstarter backers from February, and they really don’t know — they can’t know yet — how difficult or feasible a conversion kit will be.
My wife and I like our Elevation Docks, and I’m glad I got to use mine for about two months before the iPhone 5 arrives. But I wouldn’t have paid $60 each for them had I known that they’d arrive so late. I just hope they become useful to iPhone 5 early adopters, exactly the kind of people who’d buy a $60 dock on Kickstarter, very soon.
We reached out to a few active iOS developers to get their thoughts on whether the larger screen would mean delays or a more difficult development process.
There are going to be a lot of apps letterboxed for a while after the iPhone 5’s launch. Most apps are going to be fairly easy to adapt, but the biggest delay is going to be app review.
Developers were only able to submit apps for the larger screen (and any iOS 6 updates) as of yesterday afternoon, and I bet many of them (myself included) are trying to submit their updates to Apple as quickly as possible. App review times are usually about 6–8 days, and this huge influx of app updates is likely to lengthen that significantly.
Well, iOS 6 comes out in 6 days and the iPhone 5 comes out in 8 days. Unless app review is somehow multiplying their throughput by an order of magnitude or two this week, I suspect there’s going to be a very big backlog for at least few weeks, and very angry iPhone 5 customers leaving 1-star reviews on our letterboxed apps in the meantime.
Not only have they raised more than twice their $900,000 goal, but they’ve reached nearly all of their bonus milestones. Within the hour, they’ll almost certainly reach the last one, a $2.1 million milestone that they’re currently only $4,749 away from.
There are more Total Annihilation fans than I thought. I really hope this becomes a great game.
It turns out I was wrong. But pleasantly surprised.
Fair warning: if you don’t know, for instance, that the Apple A5 contains a pair of Cortex A9 cores, you may not find this article interesting (or even intelligible). But if that’s the sort of geekery you’re into, this is very interesting, and it’s starting to sound like Apple’s acquisitions of P.A. Semi and Intrinsity weren’t just to glue off-the-shelf GPUs and CPUs together, paint an Audi’s name on top, and call it a day.
Before I detail my reasoning, a quick poll: please be honest with me now. How many of you cruise AppShopper’s price drops page for bargains when looking for a new game to while away a boring commute? Or how many of you, when someone recommends an iOS app to you, find the first thing you do is load the AppShopper app to check the “price history” section… and if the app routinely goes on sale for less than it costs now, add it to your wishlist to buy the next time it’s cheap? I’ve done both of these things. I suspect many of you have too.
This is an interesting article, although I’m not sure I agree with a lot of it, but this part caught me off-guard: do a nontrivial number of people really go through all of this trouble to save an occasional dollar on apps for their hundreds-of-dollars iOS devices?
I’d assume that most people who are that price-sensitive wouldn’t be in the market for paid apps at all. But I think the numbers prove that theory wrong.
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Thanks to Rogue Amoeba for sponsoring the Marco.org RSS feed this week. I’ve used almost all of their software for many years, and not only is it incredibly useful for both casual and professional audio work, but it’s made to high-quality standards by high-quality people.
DPReview’s hands-on preview of the new Canon 6D, a new, “compact”, full-frame camera for just $2100:
Whereas Nikon seems to have taken the approach of taking away as little as possible from D800 when creating the D600, Canon appears almost to have gone the other way, removing as much as it thinks it can get away with at the price. The result is the kind of conservative, slightly unimaginative design that’s become the company’s hallmark. It’s still bound to be a very good camera, of course; just perhaps not quite as good as it could be.
This does seem like a very odd model, although it will probably be extremely popular. Full-frame is awesome, as long as you don’t mind replacing any EF-S lenses you have. (If you’re serious about your photography and can afford the replacements, it’s a worthy transition.)
The somewhat sad part for me, though, is that this is the first Canon SLR to have built-in GPS and Wi-Fi. Those are killer features for many, but why weren’t they included in the relatively recent 5D Mark III? If they were, I’d probably have upgraded from my 5D Mark II without hesitation. But going from the 5D Mark II to the 6D for those features looks like more of a sidestep, not an upgrade, in many ways.
And why aren’t GPS and Wi-Fi included in the about-to-be-released EOS M, which targets almost the same high-end-prosumer market as the 6D?
That’s really the title of Twitter’s blog post. Expand your experience.
We’ve rebuilt the app from the ground up to make it fast, beautiful and easy to use.
Before today, the Twitter iPad app was still Loren Brichter’s Tweetie for iPad, with an innovative sliding-panes design. It was one of the first iPad apps to explore new interface paradigms rather than just blow up an iPhone app.
After about a year of neglect and many unfixed and embarrassing bugs (introduced after Twitter’s acquisition), Twitter has replaced it with… a blown-up version of their iPhone app. And not even a good one.
This is how a web-product company addresses the demand for an iPad app if they don’t respect the iPad.
The saddest part, though, is that they had a truly iPad-native app until today, and they killed it to make room for this. It’s hard not to see this as a microcosm of Twitter’s entire product direction.
I’ve never noticed any image-retention or burn-in issues on my Retina MacBook Pro. But mine has the LG screen, and after I ran this test for just 10 minutes, I saw the image-retention artifacts clearly.
I’m mildly annoyed, but as John Siracusa recently discussed in Hypercritical (starting at 16:49), getting it repaired or replaced always carries the risk that the likely-refurbished replacement might be a lemon in other ways. And I may need to get multiple replacements before finding one without image retention.
So I haven’t decided whether to get mine fixed. Since I’m outside of the return window, I’d probably only qualify for a repair, which carries less refurb-lemon risk but would still be a pain in the ass and still might require multiple replacements.
Mine won’t display the grid for more than 10 minutes, in case there’s a chance of permanent burn-in. I haven’t heard of any cases of that, but I don’t want to take chances. ↩︎
The “Design” page for iPhone 5 includes an auto-playing video of the device being unlocked. But there’s no <video> element, just a <canvas>. And if you check the “Network” tab of the inspector, you won’t find any video there either.
This iPhone 5 review unit is the single nicest object in my possession. I own things that cost and remain worth more (e.g. my car). But I own nothing this nice. It sounds hyperbolic to put it that way, but I offer this observation with no exaggeration.
Around these parts, every major Apple release is greeted by extensive reviews from just about everyone. Since I’m a human being, I can’t read all of them (especially since they tend to be very long, have a lot of overlap, and come out at roughly the same time), so I usually read one or two from my favorite authorities and skip the rest.
For instance, when a new version of OS X is released, I only read John Siracusa’s review, with an occasional Macworld supplement. When a new version of iOS is released, I usually read only Federico Viticci and Matthew Panzarino.
After reading this iPhone 5 review by John Gruber, I don’t need to read any others.
Your jaw would drop if you saw how often quotes are literally manufactured by writers to make a point. Some of it is accidental because reporters try to listen and take notes at the same time. But much of it is obviously intentional. So much so that when I see quotes in any news report I discount them entirely. In the best case, quotes are out of context. In the worst case, the quotes are totally manufactured.
I’ve been a victim of this, too.
David Carr’s argument — roughly, that quote approval is bad for journalism, and therefore bad for society — is based on the assumption that most quotes are accurate and being presented fairly. But as Carr even says, journalists aren’t perfect.
Not every publication is The New York Times, and not every reporter is as responsible and principled as David Carr.
The incentives and pressures pushed on journalists often implicitly encourage them to make their subjects look bad for their own gain. From Carr’s article:
Of course, quotations often serve as furniture in a house that a reporter is free to build as she or he (or their editor) wishes, so it’s not as if sources can control the narrative by controlling what appears between quotation marks. But a great quotation, the kind that P.R. folks love to rub out, in my experience, can make an article sing or the truth resonate.
“I hate that we find ourselves at this pass,” said David Von Drehle, a writer for Time who has covered politics for a long time. “But we are not blameless. Sound-bite journalism that is more interested in reporting isolated ‘gaffes’ than conveying the actual substance of a person’s ideas will naturally cause story subjects to behave defensively.”
Reporters and their bosses aren’t always interested solely in telling the truth, per se. Just as corporations’ core responsibility is to deliver value to their shareholders, most media outlets’ core responsibility is to attract attention to make their ads deliver value to their shareholders. For most, the value of journalism to society is merely a side effect of this goal.
And times eventually get tough. Ad rates go down, the audience shrinks, competition steals pageviews. It’s easy to fall back to what gets attention easily — sensational headlines and tabloid journalism — often combined with reducing expenses by hiring inexperienced, unprofessional writers.
As these pressures filter down in many media outlets, I’ve found it to be the case, more often than not, that the writer (or the writer’s boss) has already decided the angle of the story before consulting any sources. Quotes are then mined from known-talkative sources and shoved into the predetermined narrative, even if they don’t quite fit. And since a sensational narrative is more likely to get attention, this might not be in the sources’ best interest.
By giving quotes here and there, I’ve gotten on a lot of those talkative-sources lists. I try to only respond to high-quality publications, and it usually goes well.
But I’ve certainly been misquoted. It’s usually my own fault for inadvertently giving the writer something that can be used against me if taken out of context, or more often, something I said that the writer plays up into a bigger weapon against someone else. (Apple’s a popular target in recent years.) I make a lot of nuanced arguments, but that doesn’t come across well without a lot of surrounding context. (Sometimes not even then.)
So I’ve learned the hard way, over and over again, that it’s most wise to talk to journalists the way you’d talk to the police: ideally, don’t. You have everything to lose and almost nothing to gain.
And if I’m going to comment publicly about an issue, I’m much better off doing it here, on my site, where I can control what I say. People can (and do) misquote what I write here, but at least responsible readers can look back here for what I actually wrote in those cases.1
Yet I never learn this lesson completely, because I want to be friendly and helpful. As Scott Adams says:
It’s a dangerous situation because humans are wired to want to please, and once you pick up on what a writer wants you to say, it’s hard to resist delivering it.
But a lot of people have more willpower than Scott and me, and they refuse to talk to journalists because they know better than to give arbitrary weapons to be used against them without any say in the matter. It’s certainly not good for journalists if good sources won’t talk to them.
If quote approval results in higher accuracy of what’s published and gets more sources to willingly talk to journalists, that’s probably a net improvement. Journalists can and should mention in their articles that the quotes have been approved, and readers can use that information to evaluate the subjects’ credibility themselves.
Unless it’s a publication that doesn’t link prominently to sources. Sure, your CMS is too old or your editorial flow doesn’t support blah blah blah or you bury the link in the footer where nobody will see it. There are simply no excuses for anyone publishing online in 2012 not to link prominently, inline at the first mention, to all web sources. ↩︎
This week’s podcast: iOS 6 for users and developers, adding iPhone 5 compatibility, the iPhone 5’s name, unreasonable press reactions, Google’s J2ObjC compiler, how embarrassingly easy it is to support VoiceOver (yet so many apps still mess it up), and why paid app-review priority upgrades would backfire.
Ask Patents is a new Stack Exchange site launching today that allows anyone to participate in the patent examination process. It’s a collaborative effort, supported by Stack Exchange, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and the Google Patent Search team. It’s very exciting, because it is opening up a process that has been conducted behind closed doors for over 200 years.
Our hope is that Ask Patents will reduce the number of patents mistakenly granted for obvious, unoriginal non-inventions, especially around software, a field that is near and dear to us.
Here, then, lies the answer to how to tell whether some developer you’ve just met (or are interviewing) is serious about their craft in five seconds flat: borrow their device, and triple-click the home button. If you don’t hear “VoiceOver on”, or get prompted about VoiceOver, consider that −3 points on the Steve Test.
After spending the last third of this week’s podcast yelling about this, it’s good to know that I’m not the first to suggest that all iOS developers map triple-tap-home to toggling VoiceOver.
Since I made that change on my primary iPhone and iPad, I don’t think I’ve shipped a single major VoiceOver problem in my apps. It became so much easier to test that I ended up testing with VoiceOver frequently throughout development, not just at the end of each version if I’d happen to remember.
If you need a quick intro to supporting VoiceOver, watch the “Accessibility for iOS” WWDC session video. It’s quite easy.
This week’s podcast: our initial impressions of the iPhone 5 and its Lightning connector, rapid iOS 6 adoption and when it may be safe to require it, Feedburner’s apparent demise, B.S. in Computer Science degrees versus related degrees with lower math and theory requirements, and the economics of limited-edition apps.
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Thanks to Harvest for sponsoring the Marco.org RSS feed this week.
By many accounts, including my own experience, it looks like Feedburner is on its way out. (It may have quietly left already. We could just be looking at a cardboard cutout of Feedburner at its domain.)
I was only using it for the subscriber count,1 since the number of hits to your RSS feed doesn’t accurately represent that, but that functionality has been returning 0 for about a week. So this morning, I removed the Feedburner 302 redirect, started serving my RSS feed directly, and wrote a shell script to scan the Apache log and give a reasonably accurate subscriber-count estimate. It’s returning almost identical counts (within 1%) to what Feedburner reported before it stopped working.
Here’s the script. I scheduled it with cron to run shortly after midnight each day, and it emails me the subscriber count.
The scariest part: over 90% of my feed’s subscribers use Google Reader. What happens when Google Reader dies?
If you’ve been using Feedburner’s click-tracking, which turns all of your post URLs into feedproxy redirects and shits those utm_ tracking variables all over your destination URLs, maybe this is a good excuse to cut that out. ↩︎
Last year, I bought my 87-year-old grandfather an iPad 2 to replace the who-knows-what PC that was frustrating him constantly. He only used the PC for email and playing music, so it was a no-brainer.
Since my grandparents live in Arizona and I usually only see them a few times each year, I can hardly ever provide in-person help. And telephone support is difficult: they’re not tech experts, they have trouble recognizing and describing interface elements, and they feel bad asking me for help because they know it’ll take a while. So usually, they just tolerate whatever problems are plaguing their technology and they don’t even tell me when something’s broken until months later.1
Here’s what my grandfather can do on the iPad:
Check and send email
Play music, mostly from the 1940s, with Pandora and the built-in Music app
Accept (but not place) FaceTime calls
Use Maps with Street View (well, not anymore) to see what has become of the Brooklyn buildings and houses he lived in 60 years ago (surprisingly, most of them are still there)
And here’s what my grandmother can do on it:
Quit whatever my grandfather was doing, launch whatever version of Solitaire I installed on it last year, and play exceptionally well for hours
Here are some things they can’t do on the iPad:
Sync and back it up regularly to iTunes on their who-knows-what PC
Plug it into iTunes and update iOS (it shipped with iOS 4)
Dive into Settings, even with phone guidance, and tell me which iOS version it’s running
Join new Wi-Fi networks reliably
They’re not stupid — far from it. My grandmother beats us all in card games, figures people out spookily accurately within seconds, and can tell you everything that has happened to every character in every soap opera since the beginning of time. My grandfather is still a licensed and practicing civil engineer in two states, a high-school math and physics tutor and substitute teacher, and a recently retired competitive swimmer with quite a few gold medals.
They just didn’t have computers for the first 80 years of their lives, and they’d rather not spend their current years dicking around with Windows malware or Apple IDs.
The other day, my grandfather asked me if he could get rid of the who-knows-what PC for good, but he wanted to make sure that he could transfer his stuff to a new iPad in the future if this one ever broke. (Good question.) I told him to bring it to the nearby Apple Store and have them set up “ICLOUD BACKUP” for him. (He wrote that down.)
I figured that a “Genius” would quickly figure out whether it still had iOS 4, and if so, would just update it to iOS 5 or 6 and then set up iCloud backup.
But instead of doing what I assumed would be a non-destructive update, the Genius did a restore. And, apparently, didn’t explain what that was going to mean. My grandfather left me this voicemail:
It’s easy for most of us around these parts to forget how badly technology still works for so many people. This is supposed to be the best we have today: an iPad, a routine OS update, an Apple Store, an automatic backup feature.
But even the iPad, while easy to use for routine tasks, still shows its computer heritage in clunky, ugly, techie ways like software updates and restores. And while Apple Stores have a reputation for great service, there are enough counterexamples happening every day that I’m not sure how much longer that reputation will last.
This seemingly simple procedure failed the customer miserably, yet I doubt the Genius thinks it was anything but a success. Here you go, all restored and set to back up your data! (After you put some data back on here!)
The Genius probably thought, Of course he syncs it with his computer regularly.
Or There doesn’t appear to be much here. It shouldn’t take him long to set it back up again.
It wouldn’t be the first time a technology expert lacked empathy for a customer, or made bad assumptions about what would be fast and easy for the customer to do on his own — especially when deciding to perform an easy, predictable, cure-all “restore”.2
And the iPad wasn’t the first personal computer, nor will it be the last, that we all proclaimed to be finally easy enough for everyone to use. Sure, it’s easy to use when everything’s working and time stands still, but that’s about as useful as when a developer says, “It worked on my machine.”
We, all of us in technology, can do better than this. And we have a long way to go.
To avoid the hassle of home connectivity, even though they already had DSL for the aforementioned PC, I got them the Verizon iPad and quietly set it up to auto-bill my credit card. It just worked, anywhere… for a month, then it stopped for some unknown reason and they didn’t mention it to me until two months later.
I had them get the cable company to come to their house and set up Wi-Fi (there was no way I’d put them through a router self-installation), and the problem was solved… for a while, until that stopped working for some reason, and they didn’t tell me for six months that their iPad had no connectivity and the only thing they could do on it was play music and Solitaire. ↩︎
In the first version of this, I said the restore was unnecessary. I’ve now been told that it’s impossible to go from iOS 4 to 5 without all synced data being deleted as part of the upgrade. My apologies to the responsible Genius for questioning their technical abilities, but I stand by my callout of their communication. ↩︎
I’m honored to be the guest on this week’s episode of The Talk Show. John Gruber and I discussed the iPhone 5, accessibility features in Instapaper, Instagram filters, the future of photography, and more. This was a lot of fun.
iOS 6 dropped support for the first-generation iPad (“iPad 1”), which was sold from spring 2010 through spring 2011. In other words, everyone who bought an iPad at least 19 months ago has an iPad 1, and their unsubsidized, non-contract, $500+ tablet is going to grow much less useful over the next year as apps start to require iOS 6. This has naturally angered a lot of iPad 1 owners.
It’s frustrating to have such a large purchase become obsolete so quickly. And this is even fast by iOS standards — after all, iOS 6 runs (with many features disabled) on the iPhone 3GS, which was released 9 months before the iPad 1. Many of us have speculated that Apple crammed iOS 6 into the iPhone 3GS because they were still selling it until two weeks ago, while they haven’t sold the iPad 1 for 19 months. It’s a reasonable theory that’s probably partially responsible for iOS 6’s device support, but I think there’s more to the story.
The iPad 1, despite its many great qualities, had a noticeable shortcoming: it only had 256 MB of RAM. This was most apparent in Safari, which could rarely keep background pages in memory and needed to reload them frequently. Reviewers and owners noticed this from day one, and we wondered why Apple didn’t include more RAM.
But when the iPad 1 was released with iOS 3.2 in early 2010, iOS was very different and needed far less RAM. There was no iCloud. No Notification Center or Game Center. No Personal Hotspot, iTunes Match, AirPlay, iMessage, or over-the-air updates. No Newsstand background downloads. And, critically, no multitasking, so no need to keep Skype or Pandora running in the background while playing Fieldrunners or reading Instapaper in the foreground. With the exception of Safari page-reloading, the limited RAM was rarely noticeable.
The hardware market was very different, too. The iPad 1 was the first modern “tablet”, and as we saw (eventually) from its competitors, its $499 price point and excellent battery life were difficult to achieve in 2010 (and even in 2011). More RAM would have added to the component costs and decreased the battery life, potentially making it less appealing and jeopardizing its success, so Apple chose to keep it at only 256 MB.
Whether that was a good decision or not, it significantly shortened the iPad 1’s useful software life. There was enough headroom for iOS 4 (although not until 4.2), but it was noticeably slower. And iOS 5 does run on the iPad 1, but poorly — many iPad 1 owners have downgraded or stayed on iOS 4 because of iOS 5’s performance on their devices.
Apple was able to stuff iOS 6 into the same 256 MB RAM limit on the iPhone 3GS, but the 3GS’ screen is much smaller than the iPad’s. Apps on the 3GS therefore need much less RAM for screen images, textures, and buffers, so if iOS 6 barely fit into the 3GS, it’s extremely plausible that Apple just couldn’t make enough feature cuts to run it on the iPad 1 and leave enough free RAM for apps to run without crashing.
Knowing Apple, that sounds like a far more plausible explanation than the most popular theory I’ve heard: that Apple just wants to force iPad 1 owners to buy new iPads. That’s not Apple’s style — they typically convince people to upgrade by releasing compelling new product improvements — and the technical explanation for the lack of iOS 6 on the iPad 1 is far more plausible.
Regardless of the reason, this doesn’t leave a lot of good options for iPad 1 owners. It sucks, but it sucks because of a tradeoff Apple made in 2010, not because of greed today.
Assuming Apple releases a relatively inexpensive iPad with at least iPad 2-class components in the near future, the best solution for iPad 1 owners is probably to sell it soon and upgrade.
An interesting idea: App.net will be paying “at least $20,000 per month” cumulatively to app developers, divided according to each app’s popularity and user satisfaction ratings. So a reasonably popular app might get a few thousand bucks a month.
It’s a strange move, though. It doesn’t look confident. This reminds me a bit of RIM’s strange $10,000-guarantee-if-you-make-at-least-$1,000 deal. (Apple and Google never needed to pay developers to make apps for iOS or Android.)
But it might solve the awkward question of how developers should price App.net clients, given its small userbase.
Merlin Mann’s great guide on how to price yourself for speaking engagements:
Things cost money. People either pay for them, or they don’t.
We are gentlemen, and we can disagree on value, but it’s unseemly to tell another gentleman what he’s worth. Learn this fast fast fast.
I only did a speaking gig for the money once, and I regretted it. I’m not sure I’ll ever do that again — even though they paid what was probably a reasonable rate for my value as a conference speaker, it wasn’t worth two weeks of stress and preparation, then four days away from home. Merlin’s right on.
After a few years of scattered conference gigs, I’ve learned that I don’t enjoy conference speaking enough, and I’m not good enough at it, to do it for the money. Getting good at it almost requires making a career of it — of the great conference speakers I’ve seen, almost all of them do it frequently or full-time, and that probably wasn’t the first time they’ve given that talk. It takes a huge amount of work and a lot of traveling, and I don’t have that in me.
So I’ve decided to conference-speak only for fun, only on my terms, and rarely. In two weeks, I’m speaking at Çingleton, which is exactly what I’m looking for (and Guy is letting me do my crazy idea). That’s it for the rest of this year, and possibly next.