by Brandon Butler
Facebook doesn’t struggle to balance civility and growth because they don’t care about civility 11/24/2020

Kevin Roose, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel for The New York Times:

Typically, N.E.Q. scores play a minor role in determining what appears on users’ feeds. But several days after the election, Mr. Zuckerberg agreed to increase the weight that Facebook’s algorithm gave to N.E.Q. scores to make sure authoritative news appeared more prominently, said three people with knowledge of the decision, who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

The change was part of the “break glass” plans Facebook had spent months developing for the aftermath of a contested election. It resulted in a spike in visibility for big, mainstream publishers like CNN, The New York Times and NPR, while posts from highly engaged hyperpartisan pages, such as Breitbart and Occupy Democrats, became less visible, the employees said.

It was a vision of what a calmer, less divisive Facebook might look like. Some employees argued the change should become permanent, even if it was unclear how that might affect the amount of time people spent on Facebook. In an employee meeting the week after the election, workers asked whether the “nicer news feed” could stay, said two people who attended.

Of course Facebook wouldn’t want to keep a change like this. As their own studies have shown, keeping people angry keeps Facebook profitable.

I don’t think, as the Times’ headline states, Facebook is struggling to “balance civility and growth”. I don’t think Facebook — and specifically Mark Zuckerberg — cares about the destruction and harm he’s causing, not just to democracy but to society as a whole. When you have the amount of money that Zuckerberg does, it’s hard to be concerned with the person elected president or a trade war with China or promises for healthcare and tax cuts or racial injustice. It also helps to have a total lack of conscience.

“There are tensions in virtually every product decision we make and we’ve developed a companywide framework called ‘Better Decisions’ to ensure we make our decisions accurately, and that our goals are directly connected to delivering the best possible experiences for people,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman.

Explain how a news feed that promotes conspiracy theories and terrorist groups is delivering the “best possible experience”. The only thing it’s delivering is massive profits to Mark Zuckerberg and investors. If Facebook was morally interested in delivering better experiences they’d start by shutting down the whole fucking company.

The Last of Us series at HBO takes another step forward 11/23/2020

Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge:

HBO’s upcoming TV adaptation of The Last of Us just took a big step forward in actually happening: the network has given the show a series order, with series creator Neil Druckmann working as both a writer and executive producer alongside Craig Mazin (Chernobyl). HBO’s Carolyn Strauss, who executive produced both Game of Thrones and Chernobyl, will also serve as an executive producer on The Last of Us.

This is a big step forward to becoming a real TV show; next up, casting news? Here’s hoping the series can wash the bitter taste from my mouth that was the sequel.

Atypical? Try desperate. 11/19/2020

With the news of Wonder Woman 1984 releasing simultaneously to theaters and HBO Max on Christmas day, I found this quote in Variety from AMC CEO Adam Aron pretty amusing:

“Given that atypical circumstances call for atypical economic relationships between studios and theaters, and atypical windows and releasing strategies, AMC is fully onboard for Warner Brothers’ announcement,” Aron said.

Translation: “Please, we’re desperate, we’ll take anything, we’ll even play a Universal film again, just give us something.”

I mean, what else can he say? Aron had his fun playing the big tough guy when Universal released Trolls via Premium VOD back in April, but the world is not recovering from COVID and AMC is out of cash. You know, I’d feel bad for him if he hadn’t been such a short-sighted crybaby when this whole thing started.

I’ll be proudly watching WW84 safe at home. You know, 2021 is sounding like it could be the year of the home theater — maybe you’ll want to get ready and pick yourself up a nice new HDR TV or soundbar on Black Friday. Shop online, watch online, and stay safe.

Nintendo doesn’t want your politics in Animal Crossing 11/19/2020

Andrew Webster for The Verge:

Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched back in March, and since then, brands have jumped into the cozy virtual world to do everything from releasing streetwear to organizing voters. Now, however, Nintendo has decided to implement some rules that restrict some of what companies can do in the game. That includes keeping things family-friendly, not using Animal Crossing as a marketing tool, and, most notably, keeping politics out of the game. […]

The most surprising restriction, though, is when Nintendo says to “please also refrain from bringing politics into the game.” This would presumably include things like the elaborate virtual headquarters made by the Joe Biden campaign ahead of this year’s US presidential election. Nintendo says that the only way to get around these rules is “with the separate and express, written permission of Nintendo.”

On the one hand, I can see Nintendo wanting to keep Animal Crossing as a kind of escape from the real world. I don’t want to see angry orange presidents popping up in my games. On the other hand, Animal Crossing is this weird gray area between social and gaming, and maybe that needs to allow for a little real world commentary now and again.

Wonder Woman 1984 will be streaming on Christmas 11/19/2020

Julia Alexander for The Verge, with some huge streaming news:

One of 2020’s last big blockbusters, Wonder Woman 1984, will simultaneously be released in theaters and on HBO Max on December 25th.

A press release from Warner Bros. confirms the film will be available for one month, and premiere in theaters in international markets on December 16th. […]

Unlike Mulan, Wonder Woman 1984 won’t cost anything extra beyond the monthly subscription fee.

The Verge says after that one month of free streaming, WW84 will be a theater exclusive, then go through the usual release period of digital and disc sales before likely returning to HBO Max.

When Hamilton released on Disney+, the service saw a huge boost in subscribers; will WW84 have the same effect on HBO Max? If WarnerMedia and HBO can get the advertising right, this could be a very big Christmas them. But regardless of streaming subscribers or box office returns, this is the right way to release a film during a pandemic. And at no additional cost than the price of an HBO Max subscription.

Rethinking RAM 11/18/2020

Jason Snell for MacWorld:

The biggest difference is that in the M1, the memory is a part of the M1 architecture itself. There’s no memory slot or slots on the motherboard of an M1 Mac, nor is there an area where a memory chip has been permanently soldered on. Instead, the memory is integrated into the same package that contains the M1 itself.

Think of the M1 as a mini-Mac inside your Mac, with all of the major internal components, minus the battery, built into this mini-Mac. That’s the M1 — the System on a Chip. And because it’s all housed in the same small space, it’s faster and more energy efficient than the “traditional” way of spreading it all out across a motherboard.

The M1 processor’s memory is a single pool that’s accessible by any portion of the processor. If the system needs more memory for graphics, it can allocate that. If it needs more memory for the Neural Engine, likewise. Even better, because all the aspects of the processor can access all of the system memory, there’s no performance hit when the graphics cores need to access something that was previously being accessed by a processor core. On other systems, the data has to be copied from one portion of memory to another—but on the M1, it’s just instantly accessible.

This is why I have no reservations on buying an M1 MacBook with 16 GB of RAM — Apple’s been doing this for years on the iPhone and iPad. Flagship Android phones ship with expensive amounts of RAM — 12 GB or more — because they genuinely need this much spare memory for swapping between apps and tasks. Apple’s been selling iPhones with 3 GB of RAM that have been outperforming these Android phones for years, and that is due in no small part to the A-series chips in those devices. And this is the same technology now being used in the M1 (and soon to be M-series) chips.

Snell says, “The old way of thinking of RAM is dead.” And he’s right. RAM used to be something we just kept throwing into computers to get them to do more, but Apple’s way of integrating the CPU, RAM, GPU, and everything else is going to mean faster, cooler, and probably someday cheaper systems.

Investor group pushes Twitter to “innovate” by coping crummy features from Facebook 11/18/2020

Sarah Perez for TechCrunch:

Twitter this morning is launching its own version of Stories — aka “Fleets” — to its global user base. The product, which allows users to post ephemeral content that disappears in 24 hours, had already rolled out to select markets […].

Things have been changing in recent months, following activities by activist investor Elliott Management Group, which took a sizable stake in Twitter earlier this year, along with Silver Lake. The firms did so with a plan to push the company for more innovation and new executive leadership. (The companies later struck a deal to spare Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s ousting, gain board seats, and put someone on the board with expertise in technology and artificial intelligence.) […]

At the time of Elliott’s campaign, Twitter’s lack of Stories had been referenced by some reports as an area where the company had fallen behind social media rivals in terms of innovation.

I haven’t seen a “Fleet” yet as I use Tweetbot for Twitter on the Mac and iPhone; if I am opening the Twitter website train-wreck it is by mistake or a direct link. But I did purposefully check the website and couldn’t find them, so maybe they haven’t rolled out to me, yet. Or are they only available on the mobile app? It doesn’t matter to me, Fleets doesn’t interest me.

It sounds like Twitter is being run by committee or being heavily influenced by this investor group, which is the worst way to run a company. If this investor group thinks “innovation” is poorly coping disliked features other social platforms created five years ago, then I guess they must be thrilled with the results.

Today is Mickey Mouse’s Birthday! 11/18/2020

Happy birthday, pal.

Obama: Social media is “making editorial choices” 11/16/2020

Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic, ‘Why Obama Fears for Our Democracy‘:

He traces the populist shift inside the Republican Party to the election that made him president. It was Sarah Palin, John McCain’s 2008 running mate, he said, who helped unleash the populist wave: “The power of Palin’s rallies compared with McCain’s rallies—just contrast the excitement you would see in the Republican base. I think this hinted at the degree to which appeals around identity politics, around nativism, conspiracies, were gaining traction.”

The populist wave was abetted by Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, he said, and encouraged to spread by social-media companies uninterested in exploring their impact on democracy. “I don’t hold the tech companies entirely responsible,” he said, “because this predates social media. It was already there. But social media has turbocharged it. I know most of these folks. I’ve talked to them about it. The degree to which these companies are insisting that they are more like a phone company than they are like The Atlantic, I do not think is tenable. They are making editorial choices, whether they’ve buried them in algorithms or not. The First Amendment doesn’t require private companies to provide a platform for any view that is out there.”

He went on to say, “If we do not have the capacity to distinguish what’s true from what’s false, then by definition the marketplace of ideas doesn’t work. And by definition our democracy doesn’t work. We are entering into an epistemological crisis.”

President Obama is right: It doesn’t matter if you hire an editor for your newspaper or write an algorithm for your social media site, you are making biased decisions about what your audience is seeing. You’re not neutral and you need to take responsibility for either hiring a bad editor or writing a bad algorithm.

Related: On the first episode of Decoder with Nilay Patel, he and Mark Cuban have a very similar conversation about social media’s role and Section 230 protections. It’s worth listening to. (I meant to write about it earlier but I guess now I have.)

Back to President Obama: He’s been giving a lot of interviews this week, mostly promoting his new book, A Promised Land. (I’ve got it pre-ordered.) Apparently this is just a part one, which I didn’t know until I read the Atlantic story. He has a lot to say concerning his life and presidency, as you’d expect from someone as thoughtful and intelligent as he is. President Obama is one of my favorite public speakers, and I’m looking forward to spending a few weeks reading this. The Atlantic story is really good, too.

DoorDash IPO will make executives rich, while drivers get zip 11/13/2020

Alex Wilhelm for TechCrunch

After filing earlier this year, DoorDash dropped its public S-1 filing this morning, bringing clarity to its numbers and moving it closer to a public debut that should happen before the end of the year. […]

DoorDash is a heavily-backed company, with Crunchbase reporting that the food-delivery giant has accessed around $2.5 billion in capital during its life, most recently in a $400 million round this June. At the time, DoorDash was valued at a towering $16 billion, post-money, giving the company big valuation shoes to fill when it prices its IPO and begins to trade.

Congrats to all of the hard working drivers of DoorDash, who are the literal backbone of this company and who will get nothing from the IPO because you aren’t valued as employees; meanwhile DoorDash executives are gonna have a very, very good Christmas.

Over 100 Secret Service under coronavirus quarantine 11/13/2020

The Washington Post:

More than 130 Secret Service officers who help protect the White House and the president when he travels have recently been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with infected co-workers, according to three people familiar with agency staffing.

The spread of the coronavirus — which has sidelined roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — is believed to be partly linked to campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election, according to the people, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the situation.

It’s sickening that Trump cares so little for the men and women of the Secret Service who have sworn to protect him with their lives.

Big Sur has a rocky launch 11/13/2020

Samuel Axon and Lee Hutchinson for Ars Technica:

Mac users today began experiencing unexpected issues that included apps taking minutes to launch, stuttering and non-responsiveness throughout macOS, and other problems. The issues seemed to begin close to the time when Apple began rolling out the new version of macOS, Big Sur—but it affected users of other versions of macOS, like Catalina and Mojave. […]

It didn’t take long for some Mac users to note that trustd—a macOS process responsible for checking with Apple’s servers to confirm that an app is notarized—was attempting to contact a host named but failing repeatedly. This resulted in systemwide slowdowns as apps attempted to launch, among other things.

Apple didn’t have the smoothest launch of Big Sur, but I think this is possibly due to the anticipation and excitement of Big Sur. This is a whole new version number and a huge visual overhaul of macOS — and don’t forget Apple sold more Macs last quarter than ever before, so the install base has increased significantly.

Of course, it could also be due to a single point of failure on Apple’s end and the fact that we don’t technically own our computers and Apple could theoretically send a kill switch to disable your Mac whenever they chose (and Microsoft and Google can do just the same).

But probably the new version number.

Federighi downplays future touchscreen Macs 11/12/2020

Andrew Griffin for The Independent, discussing new Macs and Big Sur with Apple’s Craig Federighi:

But it’s still the case that fans repeatedly speculated that Apple was going to do something more profound to the Mac: turn it into something like the iPad, for instance, or use the transition to radically alter how its laptops work. Apple has repeatedly insisted that it thinks the laptop form factor is valuable and distinct from touchscreens like the iPad, but people haven’t always believed them.

This has led to ideas including the theory that Apple had redesigned its new macOS to make way for touch screen Macs. The Big Sur aesthetic borrows from the iPhone and iPad – buttons are bigger, with more space, which numerous commentators pointed out would make them perfect for manipulating with your fingers – but not because of some secret plan to change the way the Mac works, Federighi says.

“I gotta tell you when we released Big Sur, and these articles started coming out saying, ‘Oh my God, look, Apple is preparing for touch’. I was thinking like, ‘Whoa, why?’

“We had designed and evolved the look for macOS in a way that felt most comfortable and natural to us, not remotely considering something about touch.”

I have one question for Federighi: After a long day of using your iPad and Magic Keyboard, have you ever sat down at your MacBook and tried to tap a browser link or swipe to switch apps? Because I have, repeatedly.

Here’s what I want to say to the nay-sayers of touchscreens on MacBooks:

If you don’t want a touchscreen, that’s fine, you can choose not to use it. But for those of us who want a touchscreen, if there isn’t one we can’t choose to use it! Telling someone to “go buy an iPad” is a dick reply — I already have an iPad! I want a touchscreen on my Mac, and wanting a feature that provides greater usability and accessibility shouldn’t be disparaged by other Mac users.

While Federighi never says “absolutely never going to happen” he does play the “shocked and surprised” card really well. But despite what Federighi said in the interview, I can’t believe that Apple isn’t actively sourcing and experimenting with Mac touchscreens. They have the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard, so their “ergonomics” argument is lost. And Big Sur is another nail in that coffin, as they’ve introduced the oversized control center, larger menus, and bigger buttons. And now we’re supposed to believe we’ll be using iOS apps on our Macs with a trackpad? C’mon.

But if Federighi isn’t playing a classic Apple bluff here, and they really have no plans for touchscreen Macs? Well, what’s that line that John Gruber likes to use? Oh right, then I’d say Apple is “skating to where the puck was“.

The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse 11/11/2020

There’s a new Mickey Mouse animated series coming to Disney+:

>Six friends, endless adventures. The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, an Original Series, starts streaming on Mickey’s birthday, Nov. 18, only on Disney Plus.

Looks like a continuation of the new Mickey Mouse shorts from YouTube, simply rebranded and moved behind the Disney+ paywall. The Mickey shorts have been really fun, so I’m looking forward to these new ones.

First Apple M1 scores are huge, and thoughts on the other guys 11/11/2020

MacRumors has found the Geekbench scores for the new MacBooks, and they are huge.

So, there are three entities one might be prone to compare or relate the release of Apple’s new M1 chips to:

AMD: AMD has never had a CPU in a Mac (outside of Apple’s secret underground bunker) and they don’t have a lot to lose here. AMD is a powerhouse in the PC gaming word and their CPUs/GPUs pair well together for little performance boosts. They have powerful server processors as well, and Windows Server won’t run on an ARM based Mac mini, so they’re probably impressed but unfazed by this. And while Intel is struggling to get their 7nm CPUs into production, AMD is expecting their Zen 4 5nm CPU to drop in 2022.

Microsoft/Qualcomm: Microsoft and Qualcomm, recall, made an early attempt at sticking ARM CPUs made for phones into Surface tablets running a bastardized version of Windows (Windows RT). The tablets were slow and the software compatibility between the x86 and ARM systems was confusing, with very little Windows software being able to run on Windows RT. It was a disaster that some are comparing to Apple’s ARM Macs before having used one. (The big difference between MS and Apple is Apple has built-in emulators in macOS that will allow x86 programs to run on the ARM hardware, with Apple going so far as to say that some x86 software runs better on the M1 chip than it does on Intel CPUs!) Qualcomm probably looks at the M1 as either “Apple is lying” or they’re seeing “what could have been” if they’d been just a lot more competent at making processors. Keep in mind, Qualcomm’s name and identity branding are never directly tied to the devices in which their Snapdragon and other CPUs are inside of, so when a phone is “slow” or a tablet is “laggy,” that’s on the device manufacturer, like Microsoft. For Apple, if the MacBook Air with the M1 chip inside was perceived as slow or laggy, that’s entirely on Apple. Apple has a lot more to lose when they stick an M1 chip into a MacBook than Qualcomm does when they stick a Snapdragon into a laptop.

Intel: Intel’s 7nm processor has been delayed again and again — I don’t know if we’ll ever see it in a PC, but definitely not a Mac. I don’t know what’s been happening at Intel for the past five years, but they are falling apart over there. Hopefully with new leadership they can get their act together, but Intel has completely missed the smartphone and tablet markets and they’re getting stomped by AMD on the desktop. They’re the only company that supplies Apple with CPUs for their laptops and desktops, and last quarter Apple reported $9 billion in revenue for the Mac, and a good chunk of that went to Intel (Intel predicts $17 billion revenue for Q4, less than double what Apple makes on the Mac alone). And in less than two years Apple will be canceling all CPU orders from Intel. Yeah, it’s not great to be Intel right now.

I’m surprised to be reading commentary from major publications that are treating what Apple’s saying about M1 performance as either speculative or highly suspect, or comparing the M1 to the failures of Microsoft’s attempts at ARM. Look back at the original iPhone, and recall how much of a leap in computing that was compared to the Palms and Blackberrys of the day. If Apple’s Silicon team has a budget — and that’s a big if — I bet that budget is larger than all of Intel’s Q4 revenue. The M1 isn’t some huge bet from Apple — every game in a casino is designed with the odds in the house’s favor, and in the case of the M1, Apple is the house: they wouldn’t let you sit down at the table if they didn’t already know they were going to win.

Voter fraud is a myth 11/11/2020

Nick Corasaniti, Reid J. Epstein, and Jim Rutenberg for The New York Times, ‘The Times Called Officials in Every State: No Evidence of Voter Fraud‘:

The New York Times contacted the offices of the top election officials in every state on Monday and Tuesday to ask whether they suspected or had evidence of illegal voting. Officials in 45 states responded directly to The Times. For four of the remaining states, The Times spoke to other statewide officials or found public comments from secretaries of state; none reported any major voting issues.

Statewide officials in Texas did not respond to repeated inquiries. But a spokeswoman for the top elections official in Harris County, the largest county in Texas with a population greater than many states, said that there were only a few minor issues and that “we had a very seamless election.” On Tuesday, the Republican lieutenant governor in Texas, Dan Patrick, announced a $1 million fund to reward reports of voter fraud.

Prediction: Not a cent of that $1 million is ever paid out to anyone.

Inside the final days of Quibi 11/11/2020

Julia Alexander and Zoe Schiffer for The Verge, with excellent reporting on the final days of Quibi:

For many employees, Quibi’s demise came as a shock. Sure, the company had been struggling to attract and retain customers since it first launched in April. The streaming app was designed to be watched on phones, with episodes that were 10 minutes or less. It wasn’t built for a world where people had time to binge-watch The Sopranos. Quibi’s Barkitecture, a show about architecture for dogs, or Dishmantled, a cooking competition where chefs were blasted in the face with full meals and asked to recreate them from scratch, were no match for an endless quarantine. Co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg told The New York Times in May that everything that had gone wrong was because of the pandemic. Everything!

Yet Katzenberg remained optimistic. In May, he told employees “he was confident life would return to normal and people would be back standing in line at the dry cleaners, where they could watch Quibi,” according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Speaking from personal experience, nobody standing in line at the dry cleaners is interested in watching content less interesting than the spinning clothes carousel.

While employees were trying to figure out how to get people to sign up and actually watch a series, creatives working on the shows were wondering why anyone would voluntarily spend $5 a month to watch anything on Quibi at all.

That is the best summary of Quibi I’ve read.

So much for TikTok being a national security threat 11/10/2020

CNBC with the latest on the TikTok ban (oh yeah, that!):

Remember TikTok? That wildly popular user-generated video application that dominated headlines for months as a potential national security threat because of its Chinese ownership?

It seems like President Donald Trump’s administration may have forgotten.

TikTok hasn’t had meaningful dialogue with the Trump administration’s committee on foreign investment in the United States (CFIUS) for weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.

To be fair to President Trump, he’s been a little busy golfing and losing an election, so, you know, cut him some slack, CNBC.

Fighting COVID together and with science 11/10/2020

The Biden-Harris Transition Team have released their seven point plan for beating COVID:

Ensure all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing.

Fix personal protective equipment (PPE) problems for good.

Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic – and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through.

Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines — because development isn’t enough if they aren’t effectively distributed.

Protect older Americans and others at high risk.

Rebuild and expand defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.

Implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors and by asking the American people to do what they do best: step up in a time of crisis.

Here’s the details for the last point, mandating masks:

Experts agree that tens of thousands of lives can be saved if Americans wear masks. President-elect Biden will continue to call on:

Every American to wear a mask when they are around people outside their household.
Every Governor to make that mandatory in their state.
Local authorities to also make it mandatory to buttress their state orders.

Once we succeed in getting beyond this pandemic, we must ensure that the millions of Americans who suffer long-term side effects from COVID don’t face higher premiums or denial of health insurance because of this new pre-existing condition. The Biden-Harris Administration will work to ensure that the protections for those with pre-existing conditions that were won with Obamacare are protected. And, they will work to lower health care costs and expand access to quality, affordable health care through a Medicare-like public option.

I’m looking forward to having the adults be in charge again.

Four Seasons Total Landscaping 11/10/2020

Justin Davidson at Curbed

Maybe the choice of venue was a not-at-all understandable mix-up. Perhaps it was sabotage on the part of a minion who had had enough. There’s speculation on Twitter that Trump announced an event at the Four Seasons (hotel) before it had been booked, and aides had to scramble to find any venue that made his words true. None of these explanations makes sense, because the site was simultaneously too perfect to be accidental and too elaborate to be intentional. The end of an administration marked by episodes of sordid sex, wishful thinking, and mass death took place next door to a dildo-and-porn store named Fantasy Island and across the street from a crematorium. If you were hunting for such a symbolically rich stage, how would you even Google it?

Perception of a smooth transition 11/10/2020

Nick Heer at Pixel Envy:

Next Friday, the first Macs powered by processors of Apple’s own design will go on sale. That is a pretty big deal. But what isn’t — at least, not from a user’s perspective — is the transition from one architecture to another. Apple last did this about fifteen years ago when it moved from PowerPC to Intel processors, and it is effectively copying its own playbook from that time. There are even sequels of the same transitional technologies: Rosetta 2 and Universal 2.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Macs announced today use enclosures that are either identical or nearly so to the Intel model equivalents, and at similar prices. The perception of a smooth transition would be marred if there were a clear line between Intel Macs and Apple Silicon Macs, so it is best to keep everything pretty samey.

Heer makes a really good point: by keeping the products familiar, average users see a normal, every day Mac for sale, and everyone seems a seemless transition from one architecture to the next. If it’s Apple’s game plan, it’s so far, so good.

“Nothing to see here, move along” however, feels like the wrong approach to selling a computer. Don’t you want, from a sales perspective, to get people excited about a new Mac? “Look here, this Mac has a new CPU” is gibberish to most people, but “Look here, this Mac has an all new design and a touchscreen display and an RGB glowing Apple logo and a 4k webcam and comes in 18 colors” gives me a clear message: it’s upgrade time.

Apple announces the same old new Macs, powered by the new M1 chip 11/10/2020

From the Apple Newsroom:

On a momentous day for the Mac, Apple today introduced a new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini powered by the revolutionary M1, the first in a family of chips designed by Apple specifically for the Mac. By far the most powerful chip Apple has ever made, M1 transforms the Mac experience. With its industry-leading performance per watt, together with macOS Big Sur, M1 delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU, up to 6x faster GPU, up to 15x faster machine learning (ML) capabilities, and battery life up to 2x longer than before. And with M1 and Big Sur, users get access to the biggest collection of apps ever for Mac. With amazing performance and remarkable new features, the new lineup of M1-powered Macs are an incredible value, and all are available to order today.

The three Macs announced today, the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air, and the Mac mini, all have a variation of the new M1 SoC from Apple, but everything else remains unchanged, from the wedge design of the Air to the Touch Bar on the Pro. Disappointingly, the webcams remain at 720p, and there are no touchscreens. I love being able to poke and swipe on my iPad Pro while also using the Magic Keyboard’s trackpad and keyboard shortcuts to navigate iPadOS, and I am surprised to see this functionality omitted from the new Macs. Your color options are gray or silver and all three new systems look just like the ones with Intel chips inside. But also lacking from today’s presentation: numbers.

Apple, as you can see above, loves to tout the performance increases, like 5x faster or longer, but they’re comparing these n-times to “than before”. Than before what? Yesterday’s Intel Macs? Last year’s Windows laptops? The Macintosh Performa 600 series? They don’t say. So the n-times numbers are meaningless.

So we just need to click over to the Tech Specs, right? Wrong: all Apple says about the M1 chip for the MacBook Pro is “8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores”. That’s not neither technical nor specific, Apple!

With all new ARM-based SoCs, GHz to GHz comparisons aren’t going to tell much of a story here, but having some sort of hard baseline would be useful. My guess would be clock speeds that are equal to or even less than today’s Intel chips, but with designs that don’t carry the legacy baggage of decades of processor design, so you’ll see better n-times performance from a slower clock speed.

But Apple is also staying with the familiar external designs of their laptops and Mac mini computer that consumers have been accustomed to for years. If Apple is renovating the Mac house they’ve started with the kitchen, but if they’re planning a full renovation, external changes like touchscreens or new colors are not coming with the M1 lineup. Does that mean the M2 refresh will bring us these big external changes? I don’t know. All I can say is that the feature set of the MacBook line has not excited me in many years, and that lack of excitement has persisted through this morning.

Apple announced today three very familiar products that they claim are significantly faster and more battery efficient than the competition. The M1 SoC is a huge announcement and a major change to the Mac, and I’m not implying anything less. But the SoC is just one small piece of the Mac, and there’s so much more Apple could do with the Mac to make it as fun and exciting as the iPhone and AirPods. Ultimately it will be up to the reviewers and early adaptors of these new Macs to run the geekbench scores and pull clock speeds from Xcode, test the battery life, and put the M1 SoC through its paces. I’m steadfastly optimistic for the Mac but today’s announcements are hopefully just the beginning of this “momentous day” for my favorite computer.

A Story About Password Managers 11/9/2020

About a decade ago I received an alarming email from Google. A suspicious login attempt from somewhere in Ohio had attempted logging into my Google Account. Being in California, I was certain that wasn’t me trying to login.

Thankfully, Google’s systems realized the same and blocked the login attempt. After they alerted me to the breach I spent the rest of the day changing passwords. Back then I used a password system that was terrible and time consuming to manage. I created the passwords myself and kept nothing written down, either digitally or physically. It was all in my head. And it was a mess.

In those days I spent a good deal of time thinking of, changing, and remembering new passwords that I believed were complex and impossible to guess, yet somehow, someone had guessed or phished it out of me. And to this day I have no idea how they got my password.

This hack attempt was a serious wake up call to my own personal password security. I knew what I was doing wasn’t working, and I hated typing and forgetting password after password. The entire ordeal finally pushed me to what I’d been putting off for years: I installed a password manager.

“Passwords are a terrible system. I mean, passwords are awful,” said 1Password’s Jeffrey Goldberg, in Ars Technica’s The secret to online safety: Lies, random characters, and a password manager. It’s true: I talk to people everyday who are frustrated and annoyed and sometimes downright angry at being forced to remember a variety of (let’s be honest) weak passwords for their computers, websites, and programs. And this is where a password manager can really make a difference.

The most simplistic way a password manager works is by storing your passwords in an encrypted database. But a good password manager can do so much more. The best password managers will generate ridiculously strong passwords, warn you when an account has potentially been compromised, and give you the ability to share passwords with family or co-workers. Some also include 2FA, and the best will give you the option of working from a local database you maintain or storing data in the cloud. The best sign of a good password manager to me, though, is a well-written white paper explaining how your data is stored and secured, and a sustainable business model (yes, that means you pay for the software, but I’ll get to that in a minute).

Throughout my work day, I see many people using a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet to store their passwords. This is a bad system. Encryption on these documents is not strong (and rarely enabled), and many people leave the documents open on their computer screens all day. The documents also display everything in plaintext to anyone watching, either remotely logged in or simply standing behind them. The documents also can’t generate a password, so the user creates a new, weak password to replace a previous weak password. But these people are so close to using a password manager — they just need to take one last step. (And if this is you, keep reading!)

The other option is to use your browser to save and store passwords, although this is also less than ideal. The obvious downside is it locks you to a single browser. Your passwords are usually encrypted and synced across devices, but the browsers often lack the features that make password managers more than just a database, like scanning your accounts for compromised logins and storing additional information like IDs or bank accounts. And if you need to sign-in to an app like the Snapchat or TikTok you have to awkwardly launch the browser, go into the settings, and copy and paste the password out (which exposes the password to clipboard snooping by nosy apps). Plus, anyone who has access to your device or browser now has access to all of your online accounts, including banking, shopping, and social media. A password manager requires you to login (either with a password or biometrics) before being able to access the stored passwords. Saving passwords with a web browser is an all around bad idea.

When I decided to finally install a password manager, I don’t recall spending too much time agonizing over the choices. At the time, AgileBit’s 1Password was one of the few password managers available for Mac, Windows, and iPhone. Today, there are many password managers to choose from, but I’ve stayed with 1Password. I’ve also recommended 1Password to friends, co-workers, and family, and I rarely need to provide any family tech support for 1Password. The service just works.

I remember, back when I first signed up for 1Password, it was scary to trust everything to this one encrypted database. I added passwords slowly over the first year and as time progressed I “forgot” more and more passwords. It was actually very, very freeing to forget so many ridiculous passwords, and before I knew it, I had just one password: the password for 1Password.

The prophecy was fulfilled.

I also became a big user of Command+\ on my Mac, the shortcut key to invoke 1Password’s browser extension and auto-fill a username and password into a website. A few iOS versions ago, auto-fill came to the iOS keyboard, and my days of copying and pasting passwords came to en end. That’s right, you read that correctly: I don’t type passwords, and I don’t copy and paste passwords, either. Everything is auto-filled with a keystroke or a tap. It’s easy, but it’s also the most secure way to login to a website (short of memorizing dozens of 40-character alphanumeric passwords and typing each in by hand). Like most popular password managers, 1Password has support for a number of browsers and operating systems: you’d be hard pressed to find your passwords unavailable on your system of choice.

I use 1Password for much more than passwords, too: I store credit cards, personal history information, software serial numbers (like the Alfred Powerpack license), emergency info like my healthcare card, and secret recipes. Anything that I feel needs an extra layer of protection that the old Notes app can’t provide.

This might feel like a marketing pitch for 1Password, but the truth is 1Password is the best password manager I’ve used. In fact, the original draft of this article started out by not naming any password managers. Draft two included a long section comparing the different services, like LastPass, Dashlane, and Keeper; I even went so far as to install the apps on my iPhone and MacBook and use the trial modes for a few days to better understand how they work. But I honestly didn’t like any of them. Keeper tried suing Ars Technica over a story ( and the app’s design looks dated. Dashlane includes an unnecessary VPN service which makes the whole thing way too expensive. And while LastPass is a very popular password manager, as I was writing draft two a co-worker messaged me to say — completely on his own — that he didn’t like LastPass on Android and wanted to know if I had any suggestions for another password manager. I told him to try 1Password, and now he’s a paying user. I still like LastPass’s design and features, and LastPass has something 1Password doesn’t: a free tier. 1Password has a great, full featured 30-day trial, and regardless of which password manager you go with, you should be paying for it.

Paying for your password manager means you are very unlikely to ever lose access to your passwords. Apps and programs, and especially cloud services, can come and go in a blink, but the ones that persist are the ones that make a profit and continue to pay their server bills. If you find the password manager useful and necessary — and I believe you will — pay for it.

We all use passwords. And we all hate passwords. But if you have a password manager like 1Password you won’t need to worry about memorizing passwords, forgetting passwords, or typing passwords ever again. You’ll know if one of your accounts has been compromised, and you’ll have additional features like secure notes and a strong password generator. For as much as I like 1Password, I still want the take-away for this article to be a simple one: use a password manager. Make it a goal to pay for a password manager before the end of the year — you’ll be glad you did! Passwords are a fact of life for anyone with an Internet connection, and a password manager turns a terrible system into something slightly less terrible.

Joe Biden Defeats Donald Trump 11/7/2020

With five million more votes than the incumbent, Joe Biden wins the 2020 presidential election. What an absolute relief. It feels like an obese, angry man has been sitting on my chest for the past four years and has finally stood up. It feels like I can breathe again. All of us can breathe again.

Kamala Harris has also become Vice President, and as such becomes the first woman and woman of color to fill the role.

President-elect Biden has a lot of work to do. This country is badly broken, and let’s be honest with ourselves, it can’t be healed in just the next four years. The damage Trump and his lackeys in the GOP has done will last for a generation, but now we can start the process of fixing this country. But tonight, let’s just celebrate this first victory in a safe and socially distanced manner.

We are going to be okay.

Privacy nutrition labels from Apple 11/6/2020

Ian Carlos Campbell for The Verge:

Like a normal nutrition label that lists ingredients and caloric content, these privacy “labels” should give you a better idea of what’s going on inside an app before you download it from the iOS App Store or Mac App Store. The labels will list what information an app collects, and present that visually on the app page, much like looking at the backs of labels in a grocery store.

I like this. The labels look easy to read, and while I’m sure many won’t care what or how an app is tracking, it’s a good start to bringing awareness to average and curious consumers. It’ll be very interesting to see the differences between, say, the Duck Duck Go app and the Facebook app.

‘Tenet’ comes home, finally 11/6/2020

After grossing just $53 million at the box office, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is heading home on December 15th, reports The Verge:

Now, after months of struggling to turn the film from a flop into a financial success, Warner Bros. has decided to take the video-on-demand and home release route, a smart move critics have been arguing in favor of for months now. Both digital and physical versions can be preordered starting November 10th, with the digital version costing $19.99.

The DVD costs a ridiculous $29 — who the hell pays $29 for a DVD in 2020? I guess Warner is desperately trying to make up for that $200 million budget.

Biden leads in the popular vote by over 4 million while the Electoral College awaits the results of a few thousand 11/6/2020

Multiple news outlets (NYT, CNN, Fox, AP) are reporting that former Vice President Joe Biden has taken the lead in Pennsylvania and is projected to win the state, claiming the 20 electoral votes to put him over the 270 needed to win the election.

Of course, while we’re watching this election be decided by a few thousand votes in a few states, Biden won the popular vote days ago: as of Friday morning, Biden has received 73,912,247 votes to Trump’s 69,797,449 votes — a difference of 4,114,798 votes! (NYT data as of 9:00 am PST.) (Update: On Friday night, Biden became the first presidential candidate in US history to receive 75 million votes.)

I’m not the first to say it (and those who know me have heard me say it before) but America needs to eliminate the Electoral College. When we do, elections will be far easier to understand, and states will be incentivized to have everyone vote. As it stands today in many states, when someone says “my vote doesn’t matter,” it’s hard to refute that! It makes it difficult to tell someone in Wyoming that their vote for Biden was important if these four million voters are essentially being “ignored” while we wait for a few hundred more votes to be counted in another state.

The failures of the Electoral College have allowed presidents who lost the popular vote to put five of the nine currently serving Supreme Court Justicies on the bench: Barrett, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Roberts, and Alito. This means that most laws and legal decisions, such as marriage equality, gun control, abortion, healthcare, and potentially any attempts to abolish the College, in the hands of the minority vote. And so of course there are strong attempts by these aging and increasingly less popular parties to maintain their grip on the Electoral College, as it’s the minority’s best chance to maintain control of the majority.

Public opinion is for abolishing the Electoral College, but as we’ve seen with public opinion being in support of gun control, healthcare, and a woman’s right to choose, the Electoral College is very good at suppressing majority public opinion. The majority are very close to actually being in power again, and with another chance to take the Senate in 2022, there’s some glimmer of hope that the majority could actually make the decisions in this country again. Let’s make the right ones.

Stephen Colbert: ‘Republicans have to speak up. All of them.’ 11/6/2020

The Hollywood Reporter:

After President Donald Trump made a speech Thursday in which he repeated claims that there were fraudulent votes in the 2020 presidential contest and that the election was rigged, The Late Show host Stephen Colbert blasted the president for trying to “poison American democracy.”

Visibly upset over Trump’s speech, Colbert said at the top of his show that he was “dressed for a funeral” because Trump “tried really hard to kill something” in his speech. Colbert explained that for over 15 minutes, Trump stated “nonsensical stuff” and “lied” to the American people. […]

“What I didn’t know is that it would hurt so much,” Colbert said. “I didn’t expect this to break my heart. For him to cast a dark shadow on our most sacred right from the briefing room in the White House, our house. Not his. That is devastating.”

Colbert cares deeply for this nation and democracy; his heartbreak is real. Mitch McConnell is a coward and an embarrassment, but that’s expected of him. The remaining Republicans, however, have an opportunity to step onto the right side of history, if only briefly, and speak up. This is a Late Night monologue you don’t want to miss.

iPhone 12 Pro Pacific Blue Review 11/5/2020

A few hours after I finished setting up my new iPhone 12 Pro, the fingerprints were everywhere. This is — of course — an Apple device, and like with my iPad Pro fingerprints are part of the aesthetic.

But unlike fingerprints on a screen, which can distract and annoy, the fingerprints on the side of the iPhone aren’t easily noticed on the dark — yet shiny — Pacific Blue stainless steel when using it.

I’m not sure if it’s the color, the new design, or if I’m just running into Apple fans, but I got the “Is that the new iPhone” question a lot last week. This is arguably one of Apple’s most striking visual changes in years, and people are noticing.

I think the iPhone 12 Pro is one of the nicest looking and nicest feeling phones I’ve ever used. The Pacific Blue color was a little different from my usual Space Gray or Jet Black color picks, but I quickly became a big fan. I really hope the positive reviews on the Pacific Blue color embolden Apple to be a little more daring with future iPhone colors.

I prefer the shiny stainless steel sides of the iPhone 12 Pro to the dull matte finish of the aluminum sides on the iPhone 12, but this isn’t my only reason for choosing the iPhone 12 Pro. I needed more than 64 GB of storage, and I wanted the extra RAM, the telephoto camera, and, yeah, the shiny sides. As many reviewers have pointed out already, if you need to upgrade the internal storage of the iPhone 12 from the 64 GB base, the price difference between the two suddenly decreases by quite a lot. At that point, if you’re like me with disposable income to waste on a new iPhone every year, you might as well get the Pro.

And while the improved camera systems and larger battery of the Pro Max are important to me, the Max size is just too big. Before the pandemic I spent a lot of time in Apple Stores playing with all the different sized phones — Android included — and while I like the idea of a 6.7 inch display, I find it’s a bit awkward for my hand.

The physical design is really the marquee new feature of the iPhone 12 line this year, and that design, as I’ve said, is great. The Touch ID, multi-camera system, and OLED screen are all slightly refined from previous iPhones, but the technological leaps are mostly in the new A14 SoC processor, which most people will never see or think about. According to Geekbench, in the single core test, the iPhone 12 Pro scores 1587 while the three year old iPhone X scores 921. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S20, Samsung’s newest flagship phone with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, scores 878 — trailing even the iPhone X. Apple’s SoC team is ridiculously good at their job, and I think Tuesday’s November event is going to put the current line of Intel CPUs to shame, but I digress. The point is, the iPhone X remains a powerhouse, and the long lifespan of the A series SoC’s ought to continue for the iPhone 12 line.

Let’s get into the rest of the phone now:

Face ID is still terrible when trying to use Apple Pay or even check a text message while in public. It’s not Apple or the phone’s fault, it’s just the world we’re unfortunately living in, and upgrading from a X, XS, or 11 doesn’t make the situation any better or worse. I am hopeful the 2021 iPhone has some sort of Touch ID in addition to Face ID — having Touch ID is nice even outside of a pandemic, like when the phone is laying on the table and you want to glance at a text. I think Touch ID or a built-in Flux Capacitor (it’s what makes time travel possible) are the only new features that will get me to upgrade again next year.

The three cameras are all improved, and night mode is great, but of course Apple is doing sneaky things with the cameras. If you are in a low light situation and tap the 2x zoom, the iPhone doesn’t switch to the telephoto camera. In low light, it digitally zooms the 1x wide camera to 2x zoom. The digital and low light smoothing is so good (algorithms!) you don’t even notice the digital zoom happening. Don’t believe me? Go outside tonight and open the Camera app. Tap the 1x zoom, then cover the bottom-most lens on the back of the iPhone 12 Pro with your finger (that’s the telephoto lens). Then tap the 2x zoom on the Camera app. Assuming it’s dark enough, the wide camera zooms in. If you tap and hold the 2x zoom to bring up the digital zoom wheel, you can keep zooming, and the iPhone will keep using the wide camera. Go inside, turn on all the lights, and repeat. When you tap the 2x zoom now, you get a black box cause your finger is on the lens.

Night mode, regardless of Apple’s trickery, just keeps getting better. This time around the larger sensor is a major contributing factor to the improved night mode photography, but I’m certain the photo team has been refining the software over the past twelve months as well. Apple’s hardware-software one-two combo is what makes the iPhone camera system so incredibly good (along with the rest of their products!).

One of the big reasons I found it difficult to choose between the two 6.1-inch iPhones this year was because of the screens: they’re nearly identical. Both are 6.1-inches and both are OLED, with the only difference being 200 nits of brightness (600 vs 800 for the Pro). Are you going to notice 200 nites of brightness unless you’re holding the screens side-by-side in direct sunlight? Probably not. And this made choo-choo-choosing the Pro a slightly more difficult choice.

And because Pizza Emoji is committed to fully testing and reviewing the iPhone 12 Pro, I also did a few drop tests with the new phone to test the ceramic shield. I can confirm that an iPhone dropped from about a height of six feet onto a pillow will not result in any noticeable damage to the screen. Your results may vary!

Battery life is about as good at the iPhone 11 Pro, although I don’t have the ability (or desire) to do strenuous, scientific testing on my battery. I rarely drain the battery on my phones to zero over the course of a day, so I don’t know if I’m the best person to listen to when it comes to battery life. I will say that after a year with the iPhone 11 Pro, the battery’s max capacity was still at 100% — specifically due to, I think, the Optimized Battery Charging setting. I don’t see any reason my iPhone 12 Pro won’t have the same result in a year, and I think this is a really underrated aspect of Apple’s battery and charging technology. The iPhone’s are designed to last for years — a lot of people still have iPhone 7 and 8’s, and some are even older — but a battery powered device is no good if it can’t hold a charge throughout the day. Apple’s ability to smartly and slowly charge the battery and learn your sleeping/charging patterns means these phones really can last for years, and that same smart battery technology is built into every iPhone at every price point. Of course, the iPhone 12 Pro Max will have the absolute biggest battery, so if that’s your number one need, get a Max and disable 5G.

Ah, 5G. Let’s talk 5G. 5G is one of the most disappointing new features, if we’re being honest, on the new iPhone 12 Pro. How much bandwidth do you really need to refresh a Twitter feed or watch a YouTube video? Verizon and the carriers are 1 Gbps or faster speeds on 5G Ultra Wideband, and it’s true, but those insane speeds only apply to 5G UW — the short range, outdoor only signal that you can only get in a handful of downtown cities. The vast majority of us won’t ever get to use 5G UW. This is slightly more than a marketing gimmick. But even so, with only 20 or 30 gigs of monthly bandwith on most cellular plans, why would you burn through all of your data just to download a few movies while standing on a street corner in downtown? Give us data plans to match the 5G UW bandwidth and we’ll talk. For us non-street corner loitering folks, the “regular” 5G is even more disappointing. Around town, I’m getting an asynchronous 50 to 60 Mbps with Verizon 5G; if I switch to LTE, I get 70 to 80 Mbps. (And, supposedly, better battery, but I’d wait for some serious battery tests for a definitive answer on that). Last week I spent a good deal of time driving around SoCal, streaming music and podcasts and doomscrolling on Twitter, and I never noticed the phone’s network connection behaving any better compared to the iPhone 11 Pro. Everyone has already said this, but if you’re upgrading your phone for 5G, you’re upgrading for the wrong reason.

I don’t have an iPhone 12, so I can’t compare and contrast from a first person perspective, and I can’t even go to an Apple Store to test it out, but I spent a good deal of time debating internally between which to pre-order a few weeks ago. I’m very happy with my choice, but I think Apple’s in a tough spot these days making both the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro. On paper and from a visual, stock photography perspective, there’s just not enough to differentiate between the two to justify producing two models. Even the price difference is barely notable. I like the Max and the Mini being at the opposite ends of the product line, as they serve two clear and distinct markets, but iPhone-in-the-middle and iPhone-in-the-middle-Pro are just too similar. I’m also not a fan of the Pro moniker at all, except for the Mac Pro, which is the only device that truly deserves professional status. Pro wireless earbuds? Pro iPads? What’s next, a pro Watch? Or a pro Lightning cable? How about a pro iPhone case? I’d like to see the iPhone Mini, iPhone, and iPhone Max, and drop the Pro naming. I’d even be okay with the middle iPhone having difference editions, like the Apple Watch. Sell the aluminum model with three cameras for $799, and then a shiny model to us suckers $999, but keep everything identical aside from shiny aesthetics.

However, as the product line sits now, I’m really happy with the iPhone 12 Pro. If you want the shiny edges, the telephoto camera, or, um, LiDAR?, then the Pro is the right choice. For what you get from the Pro, the price difference is almost a rounding error compared to the aluminum 12, especially if you’re upgrading the internal storage. And while you definitely shouldn’t be upgrading for 5G, you can’t be wrong for upgrading to that stylish Pacific Blue.

Prop 22 Passes in California, app-based drivers will not have employee benefits 11/4/2020

While the presidential race is still being decided across the United States, California has resoundingly passed Prop 22, which allows companies like Uber, Lyft, and Doordash to keep drivers as contractors and overrides the employee mandate of AB5, which was signed into law over the summer. App-based drivers in California will not receive the sick pay, health insurance, or worker’s compensation benefits that other employees in the state enjoy.

Uber and Lyft declared this a win for drivers while their stocks soared early Wednesday, up over 12%. The companies spent over $200 million on their ad campaign in California, more than any other ballot measure in state history.

The passing of Prop 22 sets a dangerous precedent, not just in California but for other states as well. This will undoubtably embolden companies looking to take advantage of workers, denying them the right to basic employee benefits like minimum wages and health benefits while keeping their profit margins high.

AB5 remains a law in California, however, and makes it more difficult for employers to classify workers as contractors. Prop 22 only targets “app-based rideshare and delivery platform” workers.

I’m disappointed in California voters for letting Uber and Lyft buy this win. Any private companies spending this kind of cash on a vote is undoubtably in it for their own gain. These companies’ greed in being allowed to continue to take advantage of California workers without providing them fair compensation and benefits is disgusting, but I’d expect nothing less from these types of companies.

However, I’m especially disappointed in California voters for not seeing the wolf in sheep’s clothing and not wanting to protect the drivers that so many of us rely on everyday. Uber, Lyft, and Doordash tried to claim they couldn’t afford to provide their drivers with sick leave and benefits, but they can afford $200 million dollars on a marketing campaign? C’mon.

This won’t be the last time a ballot measure aimed at gig workers appears before voters in California — I just hope we do better next time.

Voyager 2 Answers NASA’s call from deep space 11/3/2020

Eric Berger for Ars Technica:

The Voyager 2 spacecraft has been gone from Earth for more than 43 years, and it now lies 125 astronomical units from our planet. That is 125 times the distance between the Earth and Sun.

Understandably, this distance makes it rather difficult for NASA to communicate with its far-flung spacecraft—there is a time delay of more than 17 hours. However, with Voyager 2, there is another complication in talking to the spacecraft.

Kind of wish I was in deep space tonight.

Today’s the day… 11/3/2020

It’s time to vote, America. We got this. 👍

Take a journey through a mask 11/2/2020

The New York Times:

The public health debate on masks is settled, said Joseph G. Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard. When you wear a mask, “you protect yourself, you protect others, you prevent yourself from touching your face,” he said. And you signal that wearing a mask is the right thing to do.

With coronavirus cases still rising, wearing a mask is more important than ever. In this animation, you will see just how effective a swath of fabric can be at fighting the pandemic.

For something so easy and simple, I’m amazed people still flat out refuse to wear a mask. And don’t forget to vote!

The Raspberry Pi 400 Keyboard Computer 11/2/2020

In what will probably be the most talked about news all week, Raspberry Pi has launched a keyboard with a Pi computer built inside and a bunch of ports on the back. You just plug in a display and you have a working, ARM-based computer.

It’s called the Raspberry Pi 400 and it’s built around the newest Raspberry Pi 4. It’s a 60%, mostly white keyboard with hot pink accents around the sides and bottom that sells for $70. There’s a kit that includes a similarly colored mouse, a beginners guide, HDMI cable, and memory card for just $30 more.

I really love everything about this, except maybe the color. (I don’t dislike the Raspberry Pink color, I just think I like the idea of having a choice of color.) The biggest annoyance to having a computer like the Mac mini or the regular Raspberry Pi is having to plug in a bunch of peripherals to use it. All this keyboard needs is a built in trackpad to eliminate the mouse and you have three-quarters of a laptop for less than a hundred dollars. I’m amazed no one has thought of this before.

Well, except they have. According to Jon Porter at The Verge, the Raspberry Pi 400 is actually based on the idea of early computers like the Acorn Atom (although a more popular reference might be the Apple II). These systems just needed a display and you were all set to start computing. Of course, on those old systems you couldn’t just swap out the keyboard if you didn’t like the keyboard.

And that’s the biggest criticism I’ve seen of the Pi 400 so far: the actual keyboard. Jim Salter at Ars Technica writes:

The integrated keyboard is functional but noticeably narrower than a standard keyboard. […] I was plagued with constant mistyping problems the entire time I tested the Pi 400.

That’s disappointing, as you definitely don’t want to be making typos while learning to program. You can always attach a larger keyboard to the Pi 400, or simply get yourself a Pi 4 for about $35 and attach your own preferred ‘board and mouse, but then you lose out a little on the sorta-all-in-one Pi design.

However you choose to have your Pi, this is so much cooler than an iPad. Yeah, I said it, and I really believe it. The Pi 400 is so much more than a computer in a keyboard. The Pi is built on open technology, with a GPIO built onto every Pi, including the keyboard. (GPIO circuits are undefined and used however the user decides.) Pi’s run the full desktop Linix experience, which gives the user full control over the software, right down to the kernel. Nothing is locked or restricted on the Pi. The system is yours to do with as you please. No walled gardens here.

Every kid on the planet should get a Raspberry Pi 400. If you read this site, you were probably the kind of kid who would have gone crazy if a Raspberry Pi 400 had shown up under your Christmass tree, and then spent the remainder of your Christmas vacation learning to program with it. If technology like this had been easily available to me in the 80’s for less than a hundred dollars, I’d be a very different person today.

AMC clings to the drain 11/2/2020

[AMC] posted a revenue of $119.5 million in its third quarter, down 91 percent year over year. The same quarter last year brought in more than $1 billion. AMC noted in its earnings that it’s “operating approximately 539 of its 600 domestic locations,” as of October 2020, but cities like New York City and Los Angeles remain big obstacles. The issue is getting people into those theaters on a consistent basis without any big movies to encourage attendance.

No big movies? I seem to recall the recent — and ill-advised — release of Tenet in theaters. And it bombed. The issue isn’t a lack of “big movies,” it’s the deadly and rampaging pandemic that’s keeping people out of the theater. If you couldn’t fill a theater with a Christopher Nolan summer blockbuster, you aren’t going to fill one, period. But I will say this about AMC: When CEO Adam Aron said AMC would never show another Universal film in their theaters, he may have been more prescient than I gave him credit for. (Also, another Disney film, another Paramount film, another Legendary film…)



David Pierce on the history and future of Discord 10/31/2020

David Pierce for Protocol, ‘How Discord (somewhat accidentally) invented the future of the internet‘:

And then that extremely Silicon Valley thing happened: Citron and his team realized that the best thing about their game was the chat feature. (Not a great sign for the game, but you get the point.) This was circa 2014, when everyone was still using TeamSpeak or Skype and everyone still hated TeamSpeak or Skype. Citron and the Hammer & Chisel team knew they could do better and decided they wanted to try.

It was a painful transition. Hammer & Chisel shut down its game development team, laid off a third of the company, shifted a lot of people to new roles and spent about six months reorienting the company and its culture. It wasn’t obvious its new idea was going to work, either. “When we decided to go all in on Discord, we had maybe 10 users,” Citron said. There was one group playing League of Legends, one WoW guild and not much else. “We would show it to our friends, and they’d be like, ‘This is cool!’ and then they’d never use it.”

After talking to users and seeing the data, the team realized its problem: Discord was better than Skype, certainly, but it still wasn’t very good. Calls would fail; quality would waver. Why would people drop a tool they hated for another tool they’d learn to hate? The Discord team ended up completely rebuilding its voice technology three times in the first few months of the app’s life. Around the same time, it also launched a feature that let users moderate, ban and give roles and permissions to others in their server. That was when people who tested Discord started to immediately notice it was better. And tell their friends about it.

It’s funny how history kind of repeats itself. Thirty years ago I was on IRC; today it’s Discord. The difference is going from an open and fairly anonymous protocol to a data collecting, self contained app. Of course, IRC is still out there as an open protocol; I wonder if we’ll be able to say the same of Discord in thirty years?

Backbone One 10/29/2020

Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch:

I get to play with a lot of new hardware from startups and it runs the gamut from super polished to barely working, neither of which is a value judgement! But every once in a while I get to mess with a new piece of kit that is just so fully realized that I am literally shocked.

The Backbone One controller is one of those situations. It’s a game controller for iPhones that has slick ergonomics, solid button feel, sensitive analog triggers and great build quality. But what makes Backbone One special is the companion app and service that ships with it and enables a truly clever software layer enabling cross-app multiplayer, game recording, highlight editing and quick swap. […]

I’ve had Apple Arcade since it was released but I haven’t played it in months.

On Twitter, Panzarino quipped:

Backbone One on iPhone 11 Pro Max vs. Nintendo Switch Lite. Better screen, better battery life, better trigger feel, no Mario.

And that feels about right to me. iOS doesn’t have a killer, must have game, which is probably why Arcade has languished. You can make great controllers and buttons, but if there aren’t any fun games, what are you playing?

Panzarino at TechCrunch again:

Sometimes a list of investors can tell you a lot about how serious a company is about getting the right kind of money. For a company building a gaming service and peripheral hardware, Backbone couldn’t have a more solid column. Backbone is backed by MrBeast, Preston, Kwebbelkop, Typical Gamer, Night Media, Nadeshot, and Ludlow Ventures, as well as Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures. Pretty much exactly the profile I would want to see for a company serious about social and mobile gaming.

That is a great list of backers: if anyone can crack iOS gaming, these guys can. Sounds like they have the hardware, now we just need the games.


MagSafe charger needs PD 3.0 10/29/2020

Over the week as the new MagSafe magnetic iPhone chargers have been distributed, there’s been some troubling news that the chargers only provide the full 15W output with Apple’s 20W power adaptor (brick) — which is sold separately, of course. But it appears this may not be the whole story. Here’s Juli Clover at MacRumors:

Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 ‌MagSafe‌ charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple does sell a new 20W power adapter alongside the ‌MagSafe‌ Charger, and as it turns out, that seems to be one of the the only charging options able to provide a full 15W of power to the new ‌MagSafe‌ charger at this time.

However, that article has since been updated with the following:

With further testing, Zollo now says that some third-party chargers may work, but those chargers need to be PD 3.0 compatible with specific voltage and amperage output.

USB PD, or Power Delivery, is the specification for how USB distributes power. The 3.0 spec was released just last year, so it’s not surprising that many USB-C chargers in use today don’t support it. It’s also not surprising that Apple doesn’t specify the need for 3.0 — it looks bad that they’ve switched from USB-A to USB-C while saying “everyone already has a brick,” when, in fact, they likely do not.

If it seems that only Apple gets themselves into these situations, well, it is. And it’s entirely self-inflicted from the lack of open communication they insist upon.

McBroken 10/24/2020

Monica Chin at The Verge interviews the McBroken website creator, which orders a McFlurry every thirty minutes at every McDonald’s in the country to track broken ice cream machines:

Rashiq Zahid came up with McBroken over the summer. In July, he visited a McDonald’s in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin and attempted to order a McSundae from a touchscreen kiosk — but no ice cream was available. He attempted to order from the mobile app, but was similarly thwarted. His trip had been for naught.

“I was like, there must be something that can be done about this,” Zahid said. […]

It turned out to be harder than he’d thought. Initially, he created an API that attempted to add a McSundae from every McDonald’s location to its cart once every minute. The app figured out what he was up to and blocked him — “It was like, you can’t do this, you look like a bot,” he recalled.

After a night of trial and error, Zahid figured out the magic time frame. Now, his bot attempts to add a McSundae every 30 minutes. If the bot successfully adds the item, it lets McBroken know that the location’s machine is working. If it can’t, the location gets a red dot.

Simple, genius, bookmarked.

USA is again #1 in coronavirus daily cases 10/24/2020

Zeeshan Aleem for Vox:

The United States broke its record for the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported in a single day on Friday, an alarming sign that what some epidemiologists are calling a “third wave” of infections is spreading at breakneck speed as winter approaches.

According to the New York Times, by the end of the day on Friday, at least 85,085 cases were reported across the country — about 10,000 cases more than the previous same-day high on July 16.

Public health experts have long warned that uneven compliance with social distancing guidelines, inadequate contact tracing programs, and premature reopenings of indoor venues were creating conditions for a resurgence of virus transmission after its summer peak, and that is what appears to be happening now.

Meanwhile, corporations are fighting to reopen theme parks and states are fighting to block mask mandates. I am seriously wondering what happened to our collective common sense.

Clear wants to know all, sell all 10/21/2020

OneZero has a terrifying fluff piece on Clear, the identity verification company that gives members quick access to airports and sports stadiums at the expense of their personal and biometric data:

But more than 3,500 documents and emails obtained by OneZero through public records requests shed light on how the company used the pandemic to pivot and help expand its business model beyond getting fliers to the front of the line. Clear’s vision for its fingerprint, iris-scanning, and facial recognition business goes beyond kiosks in airports or sports areas — it wants to be a holistic identity verification platform, covering more intimate moments in our everyday lives. The company has already amassed troves of personal data on its customers, especially for Clear customers who use the service to buy concessions and enter sports stadiums. The company has even explored sharing that data with partners for marketing purposes. In return for cutting to the front of the line unimpeded, customers handing over vast swaths of biometric and travel data.

At its core, Clear monetizes trust. When the company verifies a person’s identity, whether that be to enter an airport, a stadium, or buy a beer at a concession stand, Clear is affirming that they are who they say they are. Right now, this verification process means priority access to an airport or stadium security line as a trusted Clear member. But in the future, documents and slideshows reviewed by OneZero suggest Clear plans to be the company that verifies your identity every time you would have swiped a credit card, shown your ID at a door, or handed over a health insurance card.

So Clear wants to know every time I visit a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, and get on a plane, and they want to sell my comings-and-goings to other shady companies?

Clear members already pay $179 a year and all Clear has to do is match their fingerprint with a credit card — something my iPhone already does, and I don’t pay $179 a year for the privilege. And my iPhone isn’t selling my personal data to some shady marketing company with weak security that leaks it all over the dark web. So wait, why are people paying $179 for this bullshit again?

Also, as OneZero points out, Clear has no competition in this identity verification game. The TSA only has a contract with Clear.

According to documents reviewed by OneZero, the company has previously considered monetizing this customer data that it obtained from its free and paid users. In a 2015 presentation to LAX, Clear showed off all the data that it collected on customers who enter stadiums, with the title “Identity Dashboard — Valuable Marketing Data.” That data includes favorite foods and beverages at sports stadiums, when they arrive at games, what kind of credit card they have, whom they attend games with, and how often they fly first class.

“Valuable Marketing Data” like “favorite foods” and the times people “arrive at games,” and coming soon, members’ “mental illnesses,” “ailments,” and “valuable lists of medication members are currently taking”. Thanks, but I’ll spend an extra ten minutes in line watching Quibi. (Too soon?)

Clear is also launching Health Pass, which is being used to track COVID symptoms and test results in employees, and can even connect to and report test results directly from labs to the employer. According to OneZero, employees at the Seattle Mariners’ stadium must signup (by submitting their personal and biometric data to Clear) and answer health questions each day, then show the results to security to be allowed to enter the stadium to work. This sounds like a horrible, big brother future where your privacy and biometric data is treated like a commodity by whatever fly-by-night app wants it. Like with 9/11, Clear is using fear, uncertainty, and doubt to turn a profit and weaken American’s expectations of how companies can use their personal data. If Congress wants to fight a monopoly, Clear is the one to go after — and now, before it’s too late.

Bob Iger joins a milk startup 10/21/2020

Jonathan Shieber for TechCrunch:

Bob Iger, the chairman and former chief executive at Walt Disney, is trading his mouse ears for milk substitutes as the new director of massively funded dairy replacement startup Perfect Day.

Milk substitutes are a $1 trillion category and Perfect Day  is angling to be the leader in the market. Iger’s ascension to a director position at the company just affirms that Perfect Day is a big business in the big business of making milk replacements.

From Wikipedia:

To produce whey and casein proteins from non-animal sources, Perfect Day bioengineered microflora to include DNA sequences that instruct the cells to produce proteins that are conventionally found in cow’s milk. The microflora are then grown in fermentation tanks where they convert a carbohydrate source such as corn sugar into flora-based dairy protein.

I’ll be honest, I don’t follow the dairy replacement industry as closely as I follow, say, Spider-Man, but if Bob Iger is involved I think it’s worth a cursory glance.

Quibi quick bites the dust 10/21/2020

The Wall Street Journal:

Quibi Holdings LLC is shutting down, according to people familiar with the matter, a crash landing for a once-highflying entertainment startup that attracted some of the biggest names in Hollywood and had looked to revolutionize how people consume entertainment.

In a letter posted to Medium, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman write:

And yet, Quibi is not succeeding. Likely for one of two reasons: because the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing.

Unfortunately, we will never know but we suspect it’s been a combination of the two. The circumstances of launching during a pandemic is something we could have never imagined but other businesses have faced these unprecedented challenges and have found their way through it. We were not able to do so.

$2 billion. Flussshhh.

Quibi was always a bad idea. It’s sad that Katzenberg and Whitman either don’t know why or are pretending not to know why Quibi failed. All you had to do was spend an hour in the app to realize just how unappealing it was to use.

This wasn’t the result of poor timing. This was a monumental misjudgment of people’s attention spans on tiny screens. Squinting at a phone for thirty seconds is fine, but for several minutes? That’s an eternity and it’s just not going to happen. And it’s the way the videos were shot — like a feature film, where a TikTok is filmed, well, like a TikTok. Widescreen vs portrait. Sure, you could rotate the screen, but then you’re watching this cropped weird video that isn’t framed in an appealing way — it’s however the Quibi editor or algorithm (and I honestly don’t know which) decided to re-frame the shot.

The show I watched was filmed like a movie, with over the shoulder close ups and wide angles. There was dialogue and a full orchestra coming out of tiny speakers. It had an interesting premise, but I didn’t want to watch it standing in line (who stands in a ten minute line?) or wherever you’re supposed to watch short form video on a phone these days. This was clearly filmed in the mold of a feature film — it expected you to find a comfy seat, grab some pizza or snacks, and plan to stay awhile.

Also, the gimmick of turning the phone sideways to see something different just didn’t work. I don’t want to be your video editor or cinematographer while watching the film, but that’s what watching a Quibi video felt like. The decision to show me a wide angle or a close-up shouldn’t be made by the viewer.

And then the episode was over before I was hooked and I was thrust back to reality. Distracted by the intrusion of conscious thought, I went on to see what else the service had to offer. I never found anything else to watch but never went back to the show I’d started just a few minutes before. And once I closed the app, I never used it again.

Quibi felt like it was made by someone who didn’t quite understand the appeal of apps like TikTok and Snapchat and Instagram: it’s not just about consuming quick bites, it’s about creating and sharing your own quick bites, but Quibi wouldn’t let you do that, either (no clip sharing?!).

Quibi was old money, old Hollywood, old copyright: building old platforms that, on paper (tiny attention spans + tiny videos = huge profit!) seems exactly right to everybody but the audience.

An iPhone review from Glacier NP 10/20/2020

Speaking of iPhone reviews, photographer Austin Mann reviews the new iPhone 12 Pro camera system in Glacier National Park this year.

Dolby Vision on the new 12’s 10/20/2020

The Verge team has a great review of the two new iPhones shipping this Friday: The iPhone 12, and the iPhone 12 Pro. I love Verge video reviews, but Nilay Patel’s written review is also superb. I’m always impressed with how quickly they’re able to turn around these massive reviews, getting text and video out the same day. What a combo. That said, I was especially intrigued by Patel’s explanation of how the iPhone’s Dolby Vision works here, and I gotta say, it’s damn clever:

I’ve been saying “HDR” this whole time, not “Dolby Vision.” That’s because Dolby Vision is one kind of HDR — a format — and there are lots of HDR formats. With lots of formats come compatibility problems. And, yep, Dolby Vision on the iPhone 12 has some compatibility problems — but not as many problems as I feared. Apple and Dolby have done something very smart to ensure long-term compatibility at the cost of some short-term incompatibility.

Dolby Vision and the rival HDR10 format are what’s called perceptual quantizer (PQ) HDR systems. And PQ systems are not backwards compatible with SDR displays, meaning Dolby Vision video has only been compatible with Dolby Vision displays. (Playing a Dolby Vision video on a non-Dolby Vision display would look completely wrong.) If you wanted to watch a Dolby Vision video on a regular display, you would have to re-encode it into SDR — basically, make an entirely new video file.

But the iPhone 12 shoots video in a newer version of Dolby Vision called Profile 8.4 that’s built on a standard called HLG, or hybrid log-gamma. HLG works differently than PQ systems; it was developed by broadcasters like the BBC and NHK to be backwards compatible with SDR displays so they would only have to broadcast one video stream.

All this means that an iPhone 12 HDR video is a 10-bit HLG file with additional Dolby Vision metadata on top, and it will happily play back as SDR on SDR displays, HLG on HLG displays, and Dolby Vision on Dolby Vision displays that support Profile 8.4. And iOS 14 is smart enough to know when the apps and devices you’re sharing video to don’t support this new format, and it’ll make sure you send something that works. It is all very clever, even though, in practice, what it means is you’re mostly sharing SDR video.

Or, in practice, what it means is most people aren’t using phones with HDR/HLG displays. Apple isn’t afraid of pushing to market a new tech that is grossly incompatible with everyone else, because they know everyone else will eventually catch up.

This is a great explainer of what Dolby Vision on the iPhone is and how it will work with existing screens, all tucked inside a great review of the new iPhone 12 Pro.

This might also be the first iPhone review from Patel not to lament the loss of the headphone jack.

State of California releases theme park reopening guidelines, Disneyland is not reopening anytime soon 10/20/2020


California’s state government announced reopening guidelines for the theme park industry Tuesday following a major pressure campaign from Disney, theme park operators and local officials to let major theme parks reopen—though the restrictive guidelines ensure that Disneyland and other major theme parks will not reopen for potentially weeks or months until the Covid-19 pandemic improves.

Some background: California has a four tiered county risk level for COVID-19 based on how many are sick and how many new cases are reported: Widespread, Substantial, Moderate, and Minimal. Today, Orange County is in the Substantial red tier, and the state has said Disneyland can’t reopen until Orange County is in the Minimal — or lowest — yellow tier. The Minimal tier is reached when counties report daily new cases at less than 1 per 100,000 people and tests that are positive is under 2%.

Official guidance from the state on theme park reopening is here.

But there is some good news: San Francisco made it to the Minimal yellow tier today by strictly following public health guidance, allowing them to re-open significantly more places in the city. So it’s very possible for Orange County to get to that Minimal tier before the end of the year — but that being said, Orange County (and nearby Los Angeles County) have struggled to keep COVID cases low, and both are seeing surges in cases.

Even when allowed to reopen, Disneyland will require guests to wear face masks, following social distancing, reserve tickets in advance, reduce overall park capacity, and nix the meet-and-greets and parades and fireworks.

There’s also lots of criticism from Disney and Anaheim, including Mayor Harry Sidhu, who said the restrictions “fail working families and local businesses.”

In fairness to Disney, their Florida resort reopened in July and has had no serious outbreaks reported since that time and very few Cast Members reporting sick, according to The New York Times, although Disney won’t release specific numbers.

Also: Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain are both located in Los Angeles County, which is currently deep in the Widespread tier.

For me, lives come first, so I’m in support of California’s guidance for theme park reopening. But, damn, when I wish upon a star these days I’m wishing this pandemic was over, Hilary was president, and Disneyland was open.

Facebook onionphilia 10/20/2020


If you look at a photo of onions, you’ll most likely just see onions. But Facebook apparently sees them differently, and has told a St. John’s business its onions are too risqué for advertising on the site.

Jackson McLean, a manager at Gaze Seed Company, said the business was unable to advertise its walla walla onions on Facebook after the company told them the picture on the seed’s packaging went against Facebook’s advertising guidelines.

“We got notified the other day that it’s an ‘overtly sexual image’ that they had to ban from the site,” McLean said Monday. “I guess something about the two round shapes there could be misconstrued as boobs or something, nude in some way.”

The article has a photo of these “overtly sexual onions” that is making some reviewer at Facebook all hot and bothered. I’m personally not turned on by a bowl of onions, but Facebook, don’t let anyone tell you that onionphilia is wrong. Except for me. I’m telling you, it’s wrong.

I only wake up before 5 am for Disneyland and new iPhones 10/16/2020

My day today started at 4:30 am — about four hours earlier than usual — for the annual iPhone pre-order event. I haven’t put myself through the stress of pre-ordering a new iPhone in a couple of years; I usually decide I don’t want a new iPhone this year, then see the new phones are on sale, then decide I want one. This year I just cut out all the middle will-I/won’t-I nonsense and bought a Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro.

I gotta say, the pre-order process this year didn’t suck.

I used the iPhone Apple Store app to setup my PacBlu pre-order a day ago. I opted for the SIMless model (see “And Verizon”, below) and 128 gigerbytes. I put it on my Apple Card with the new 24 month, 0% financing, which I’m told I can pay off early at anytime. With my pre-order saved, I got into bed early. About 4:59 am I opened the app and was greeted with a little note that I was early and to get some sleep. Hm.

At almost exactly five the app refreshed and showed me it was getting a few things finalized.

About a minute later, the app showed me my pre-order, ready to pay for. I made sure my shipping and billing was right and slammed that Pay button. I got a confirmation my iPhone will arrive Friday, October 23rd, and then I went back to the store and picked up a few MagSafe accessories. Now we wait.

I never got back to sleep after that, and instead about twenty minutes later was playing Mario Galaxy (I’m just a few purple comets from 120 Stars).

And Verizon: I saw on Twitter that the no-SIM option allows you to swap the SIM from your old iPhone into your new iPhone and avoid the “activation fee” from the carriers. Last year I called Verizon and very nicely asked them to refund me that activation. The rep had no problem crediting my account. It’s an especially ballsy $40 for Verizon to tack onto their customer’s bills, as they don’t do anything to earn that quad-Hamilton. I’m hoping the SIM swap works and I don’t have to deal with Verizon customer service this year. Emoji fingers crossed.

I’m really liking that e-commerce has grown up enough so a bunch of nerds can buy something all at the same time and a server somewhere doesn’t burst into flames.

WeChat users claim violation of First Amendment rights in WeChat ban 10/16/2020

Kim Lyons for The Verge:

A judge in San Francisco said Thursday she’s not likely to lift a temporary block on the US government’s attempts to ban WeChat. […]

[A] group of users calling themselves the WeChat Users Alliance — not officially connected to WeChat or parent company Tencent — says banning the app in the US would violate users’ free speech rights, and such a ban specifically targets Chinese Americans.

Considering how central WeChat is to Chinese Americans (from purchases and news to phones calls, and even used by police for information about the pandemic and medical information) banning it is a targeted attack against a single demographic. If the government has actual security concerns against Tencent, they should ban WeChat and League of Legends and Fortnite and reddit and Snapchat and Spotify… the list goes on, as Tencent is involved with a lot of American companies in a lot of ways, including full ownership, partial ownership, and investments.

Prime Day protests and lousy Prime Day deals 10/16/2020

Yahoo! Finance:

The protests over working conditions and air pollution at the tech giant’s vast warehouse network come as a global pandemic has boosted Amazon’s e-commerce business but also heightened the safety risks faced by its employees.

Workers will voice coronavirus fears less than two weeks after the company announcedthat nearly 20,000 of its frontline workers had been infected with or were presumed to have COVID-19 during a six-month period.

One worker says it’s “life and death” but putting card games and pants into boxes shouldn’t be a a life-risking day job. If shipping my shoes, tomato slicer, and USB-C cable 3-day ground or 5-day it’ll-arrive-eventually saves someone’s life, please ship it as slow as possible, Amazon. I don’t want to be responsible for hurting someone, but I also don’t want to drive all the way to Target.

I didn’t buy anything on Prime Day. It was all junk. Prime Day is quickly becoming a way for Amazon to unload garbage. And, according to The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the deals on Amazon’s Prime Day weren’t even that good.