Linkbait Title of the Month: “This Samsung Galaxy S9 Concept Makes the iPhone X Look Rubbish” 

In his piece at Trusted Reviews, Sean Keach fails to back his title’s claim. He even fails to mention the iPhone at all, except for this sound bite:

It’s a very similar design to the one we’ve already seen from Apple’s new iPhone X, although the notch here is a little smaller.

Are we to conclude that this Samsung prototype from a third party makes the iPhone X look like rubbish because of how “very similar” it is? There isn’t even a method to this madness. It’s nonsensical. It’s clickbait, pure and simple.

I wasn’t even going to give this piece the time of day except to point this one thing out: when have you ever seen a headline from an Apple aficionado that resembled this headline’s reversal? This iPhone Concept Makes the Samsung Galaxy S8 Look Rubbish. We just don’t see those kinds of headlines. That should tell you something. People who have to resort to an artist’s prototype to demolish a product that’s actually shipped are defeated and they know it.

The Red Dot 

Matthew Achariam:

We got an unknowing first glimpse at the latest design of the Apple Watch more than two years ago. No less, adorned on the wrist of Tim Cook was a stainless steel watch with a bright red crown cap1. Shortly after, I wholly forgot about this seemingly insignificant revelation—chalking it up to the whimsy of a CEO with unlimited resources at his disposal.

Matthew goes on to talk about the symbolism of this red dot in the world of fashion design. What he doesn’t muse further on is the first thing that popped into my head: what was Tim’s watch capable of? Was its only differentiator the fact that it had this red cap, or did it have features like GPS or even LTE that wouldn’t be announced until much later?

(Via The Loop.)

Marco Exercises 

Marco Arment, explaining why Overcast’s iOS 11 release isn’t yet here:

This summer, I decided I finally needed to devote significant time to health, and since my family always comes first, that mostly came at the expense of reduced work time.

In his footnote:

I’m fine. I just finally realized that the correct amount of exercise for a 35-year-old was probably not zero.

I’m on track to cycle well over 3,000 miles this year and to run 400 miles. Exercising is super important, especially when we spend all day every day in front of our computers. We need to be more open with each other about this as developers. If you’re a developer and you’re not exercising, you should be consciously aware that something’s wrong, that everyone else is doing this thing and you’re not. As a general rule, I recommend planning on spending a minimum of 200 hours per year exercising. That comes out to 4 hours, i.e. 3-6 solid sessions, per week. Sure, that’s 200 hours you won’t be able to write code, but when the year’s over, I promise that you’ll look back and be glad that you exercised.

Facebook Relicenses React Under MIT 

Adam Wolff, writing at Facebook:

Next week, we are going to relicense our open source projects React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js under the MIT license. We’re relicensing these projects because React is the foundation of a broad ecosystem of open source software for the web, and we don’t want to hold back forward progress for nontechnical reasons.

Translation: Facebook doesn’t want React to get canned from 28% of the Internet (i.e. WordPress) simply because of its license.

It’s pretty clear to me that in making this change, Facebook’s hoping for Matt to change his mind.1 Assuming the Gutenberg team at Automattic has spent the past week choosing and migrating towards a new framework, Matt’s got a tough decision to make, amplified by his stubbornness. I could see him continuing in his resolve to boycott React simply because of an over-adherence to the adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” I’d expect no less from someone who made his company pay $100,000 for a domain whose trademark someone else owned, simply because he disagreed about that person’s approach to licensing. Of course, I hope Matt proves me wrong; I hope he makes a decision that shows he’s grown up some since then.

  1. Even if Matt doesn’t change his mind, at least he’ll look like a poor leader for not changing his mind, and anyone outside the Gutenberg team will no longer have this as a valid reason for boycotting React. Facebook’s relicensing is a win-win for React. No matter what Matt decides at this point, React has the high moral ground. ↩︎

Stack Overflow’s Salary Calculator 

Julia Silge, writing at Stack Overflow:

Today, we launched the Stack Overflow Salary Calculator, a tool that allows developers and employers to find typical salaries based on experience level, location, specific technologies, and education.

This tool is fantastic. If you’re overpaid, be thankful. If you’re underpaid, well, it’s time to make steps to change that.

No More Twitter

Yesterday I canned my Twitter account. If we are going to be serious about the indie web, we need to go all the way, and not be mired between two ideas. If you want to talk to someone, email them. If you want to have an open discussion, blog it on your own web. Keep calm, and embrace your inner curmudgeon. Life is quieter, calmer, better this way.

I understand that you probably can’t do this if you write for a living and Twitter is a huge part of what you do. Depending on your situation, it could be a very drastic change. But that doesn’t describe most people who are on Twitter.

Get out.

Trading in a Cracked iPhone Screen in the iPhone Upgrade Program 

This morning I got an email from Apple, giving me instructions for the Trade-in Kit that’s arriving shortly. This caught my eye.

The iPhone you’re trading in should be in good working condition. That means it should:

  • Power on and hold a charge.
  • Be free of any breaks or cracks.
  • Have an intact and functioning display.

If your iPhone doesn’t meet these criteria, you can use AppleCare+ to have it repaired. If the iPhone you’re trading in is beyond repair, it won’t be covered by AppleCare+ and we’ll send it back to you. Your monthly payments for that iPhone will continue, in addition to the monthly payments for your new iPhone.

In other words, if your screen has a break or crack in it, they’re wanting you to take it to an Apple Store, have it repaired, and then ship it off. Does anybody actually do that?

15 “Hidden” Features in iOS 11 

This TechCrunch piece is total linkbait but there are a few nuggets in it. I hadn’t known of the ability to screen record.

I spent an entire year on iOS 10 not knowing that you could Force Touch on the flashlight in Control Center to adjust the brightness. It’s really worth spending a half hour when a new version of iOS comes out and getting a grip on what all it can do. I’m convinced of that now.

The Pixel Envy Review of iOS 11 

Nick Heer’s review of iOS 11 is meticulous and exhaustive. I can’t recommend it too highly. Also, is it just me, or is iOS’ intricacies starting to equal or even exceed those of macOS?

This part made my day:

I quite like the new Contacts icon and the higher-contrast icon for Settings, but I have no idea what Apple’s designers were thinking with the new Calculator icon. It’s grey; it has a glyph of a calculator on it in black and orange. And I reiterate: it is grey.

When I upgraded my iPhone 7 to iOS 11 last night, there were several redesigns I didn’t like (like the reversed color scheme in Control Center) but with nearly all of them, I had to admit that they were good decisions in some universe, and that I would probably learn to love them. This calculator icon though—there’s no conceivable universe where that one is ok.

Find My Friends with Apple Watch Series 3 

Dan Howarth, writing at Dezeen:

The Find My Friends feature will automatically switch to the watch when moved away from the iPhone, and the Siri voice-command tool will speak from the watch, rather than simply displaying text and images.

Assuming this is true, what happens if you take your iPhone with you and leave your watch at home? Your friends won’t know where you actually are. Apple’s clearly assuming that people are more likely to leave their iPhone at home and take their Apple Watch with them than to leave their Apple Watch at home and take their iPhone with them.

No LTE Ability with Apple Watch Series 3 without an iPhone 

Mike Tanasychuk, writing for iMore:

You won’t be able to use any of the calling features, nor will you be able to use any of the LTE functionality, since the setup and pairing process must occur with an iPhone. So if you’re really set on an Apple Watch, even though you’re an Android user, then go with an older, cheaper model.

I wonder if this will change in the future, or if you’ll always be required to own an iPhone in order to use the LTE functionality of the Apple Watch.

From “Covered in Urine” to “Gross and Blue” 

As usual, John Gruber’s review of the iPhone 8 is the gold standard. This part stood out to me though:

When I took my iPhone 7 out of my pocket, my first thought was “What’s wrong with the display, why is everything gross and blue?” Then I remembered: True Tone.

In January of this year, John had this to say about Night Shift, the precursor to True Tone:

It sickens me because it just looks like the phone is, you know, covered in urine or something.

Here’s the thing. Without True Tone or Night Shift, in certain situations the screen is going to look too blue. With Night Shift, in certain situations the screen is going to look too yellow. True Tone solves that problem, so that the screen always looks correct in any environment.

I’ve had Night Shift enabled 24 hours per day on my iPhone and MacBook Pro for quite some time. Yes, sometimes the screen has had a decisively yellow hue to it, but it saves my eyes, especially if I’m working a long 10-hour day on my computer. I can’t wait for my iPhone 8 to arrive on Friday and start using True Tone for the first time. I’m also hopeful that all future Macs will have this, too.

Rebuilding Slack’s Emoji Picker in React 

Chris Montrois, frontend engineer at Slack, writing at Medium:

Slack is transitioning its web client to React. When Slack was first built, our frontend consisted of established technologies like jQuery and Handlebars. Since then, the community has developed better ways to create scalable, data-driven interfaces. jQuery’s “render and modify” approach is straightforward, but it’s prone to falling out of sync with the underlying model. In contrast, React’s “render and re-render” pattern makes consistency the default. Slack is evolving alongside the industry to improve performance and reliability.

Slack was launched in August 2013, when React had barely been out 5 months. The JavaScript landscape has changed so much since then. If you’re starting a new project nowadays and you’re using it in jQuery, it’s fair to say you’re unequivocally making a mistake. Great to see Slack rebuilding this in a standard framework instead of building a custom solution. I’m hopeful that

This part cracked me up:

We expected that checking in locally compiled code would be painful, but we underestimated just how exasperating the ensuing merge conflicts and dependency management would be.

Checking in locally compiled code is almost never the answer to how to get local code to a production environment. This is half the reason why services like CodeShip, CircleCI, and Travis exist. I’m sympathetic to the Slack team on this though; having spent many, many hours working through getting all of this to work, I can attest that it’s hard to do right and handle all the edge cases, especially on a very large project.


We have a lot of work left to do, and we’re excited for the positive impact the transition will have on the everyday experience of our customers.

Slack seems to have gotten slower and slower lately as the team’s built more and more features into it. Looking forward to seeing these perf improvements!

Google’s Power Over the New America Foundation 

Kenneth P. Vogel, writing for the New York Times:

In the hours after European antitrust regulators levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google in late June, an influential Washington think tank learned what can happen when a wealthy tech giant is criticized.

The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates.

But not long after one of New America’s scholars posted a statement on the think tank’s website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google, Mr. Schmidt, who had been chairman of New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar.

A few thoughts:

  1. Never assume that research instituations are unbiased. Chances are, they’ve got biases that are built atop financial incentives. A jest variation of the Golden Rule is that “he who has the gold makes the rules.” It’s so true.
  2. I’m surprised I’m only seeing this weeks later. Why is this not a bigger story covered by more people in the tech space?

iPhone X From an Android User’s Perspective 

Vlad Savov wrote a piece at The Verge that isn’t going to age well:

Face ID will probably work well, but I don’t see the value in it. Something peculiar has happened in 2017, a year that’s seen both Samsung and Apple abandon their perfectly functional fingerprint sensors embedded in the home button at the front of their flagship phones and replacing it with arcane alternatives.

Vlad doesn’t “see the value” in Face ID’s “arcane” alternative to Touch ID. Sounds like he’s applying Samsung’s lousy implementation to Apple’s device. Is this a plague that affects anyone who’s moved from iOS to Android and has to desperately convince themselves every day that their transition was the right move?

Then we move onto the next bullet:

Do I get frustrated when silly augmented-reality apps don’t perfectly map their silliness onto my face? Sure, I do, for about 0.5 seconds. Then I move on to doing something more important like watching cat GIFs on the internet.

Craig’s demo did make it look like a perfect map. Vlad’s cat GIF watching days are numbered once he returns to the fold.

The Final Word on the “iPhone Pro”

I don’t like raking people over the coals, so I’ll keep this as brief as possible.

After my piece questioning whether Apple’s edge-to-edge iPhone would be named the “iPhone Pro,” I showed it to Gruber, who replied with this:

A better camera system would make it a better professional tool. So would longer battery life. So would a better display.

Subsequent to this speculation, the D22 has been announced, and it’s called the iPhone X. Let’s look at the three things that would have made “iPhone Pro” a valid name according to the tweet above.

  1. The camera didn’t pass the test. To quote The Verge, “You get the same primary camera as what’s in both the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X.”
  2. The battery didn’t pass the test. To quote the aforelinked article, the iPhone Plus “has the best battery life of all three new models.”
  3. The display did pass the test. This is indisputable. However, I stand by my contention that screen quality does not actually help you do your job better. This third point is consequently mute.

If the iPhone that has the best camera and the best battery life deserves to be called the iPhone Pro, then the iPhone Plus should be called the iPhone Pro. Here’s where it gets fascinating. On a recent episode of The Talk Show, Gruber contended that “Pro” as used by Apple is equivalent to “Luxurious.” I don’t buy this. It’s not true for Apple Watch, and it’s not true for iPhone. Arguably, the iPhone that’s most suited to solve professional needs is the iPhone Plus, not the iPhone X, because of the Plus’ superior battery life. But how many business people who need an iPhone for work are going to buy an iPhone Plus versus an iPhone X? I bet the majority of them are going to get the iPhone X. If they don’t, they’re going to at least wish that they could.

Medium’s 50 Clap Limit 

It’s been out for a while now, but today was my first time to use Medium’s clap feature. I found this little tidbit from Medium’s help entry for it to be amusing:

Claps on a post are limited to 50 per user.

If you click and hold down on the clap button, a continuous stream of claps will ensue, apparently up to 50. This ability to perform the same action fifty times is silly and I hope it doesn’t catch on elsewhere. Sitting there until you’ve maxed out your claps is a ridiculous waste of time, but at the same time, the ability to do multiple claps cheapens the action of one clap.

On React and Wordpress 

Matt Mullwenweg:

We had a many-thousand word announcement talking about how great React is and how we’re officially adopting it for WordPress, and encouraging plugins to do the same. I’ve been sitting on that post, hoping that the patent issue would be resolved in a way we were comfortable passing down to our users.

That post won’t be published, and instead I’m here to say that the Gutenberg team is going to take a step back and rewrite Gutenberg using a different library. It will likely delay Gutenberg at least a few weeks, and may push the release into next year.

This is an interesting state of affairs, especially coming from the guy who spent $100,000 on a domain that arguably infringed on someone else’s trademark. Matt takes this stuff very seriously. It’ll be interesting to see if the company ends up going with Mithril or Angular 2 or Vue or something else.

If you take this announcement at face value, the Gutenberg team isn’t leaving React because it actually thinks React’s license would be harmful, but because the company is worried that the vast ecocystem of users would incorrectly think that it is harmful. If that were all there was to it though, it seems like it wouldn’t take that much energy to allay such fears. Certainly less energy than it’d take to rewrite the whole project in a different framework. To quote Automattic’s Paul Sieminski from a linked GitHub issue in Matt’s post:

FB’s intentions in including this additional license are admirable.

React’s license was built to help people, not hurt them. This part from Paul was revealing though:

The termination risk is probably of greatest concern to companies that have large patent portfolios, and engage in offensive patent litigation (esp against FB). Automattic isn’t in that boat, and has no plans to be, so we’re comfortable using React under its current license.

Automattic isn’t in that boat? Would Chris Pearson agree to that assertion? With the history of Automattic’s litigation, it’s hard to take Matt’s very diplomatic post at face value here that “Automattic still has no issue with the patents clause.” Instead, I sense an undercurrent of “don’t tread on me” here. Purchasing a $100,000 domain out of pure spite and rewriting an entire project in a new framework because of a technicality that few would quibble over do not seem to be the sort of decisions that are becoming of the leader of Automattic. I’m probably not seeing the full picture but with the data I’ve got to go off, it’s hard to not make up my mind on this one.

Airbnb’s Migration From Mocha to Jest 

Gary Borton:

Overview: Airbnb migrated from Mocha to Jest. Running our test suite with Mocha took 12+ minutes. In CI with our beefy build machines (32 cores) we’re able to run the entire Jest suite in 4 minutes 30 seconds.

It’s always interesting to start down a certain path and then realize you have to pivot for performance reasons. Tools like Jekyll and Mocha work great if you don’t have a lot of files. As you get more and more of them, you need Hugo and Jest.

At work we recently moved from Mocha to Jest for all the reasons that Gary describes. The fact that Jest runs each test in an isloated environment but also has superior performance solves an entire category of problems you run into with Mocha-based unit tests. And the fact that the syntax is so similar between the two means that pivoting to Jest doesn’t take weeks of development time.

Gruber’s out to Lunch on This One 

Everyone in my community loves and responsibly uses firearms. At the same time, some of the closest people in my personal life have Jewish lineage.

It’s sad that there are people out there who actually hate Jews as a people group, but is it a surprise that they also like firearms? I would expect 100% of them to be Second Amendment fans. I also expect a lot of them enjoy a good whisky, too. Is Gruber going to give that up? Where does the virtue signaling stop — what’s the limit?

This is what out of touch looks like. This sort of false equivalence, guilt by association, and correlation-implies-causation fallacy is what cost Gruber’s party the election last time around. That’s going to happen again if he’s not careful.

The iPhone X’s Notch Is a Weird Design 

Tom Warren, writing at The Verge:

Apple’s design choice looks ugly thanks to the permanent notch at the top.

The iPhone X’s notch is not what we were hoping for. John Gruber, speculating on August 9 about the yet-to-be-announced device, echoed what I think most of us were anticipating:

Top notch will be hidden by OLED black at corners.

Why couldn’t Apple have done that? Sure, it’d make the top of the OS look more like an Android, but who cares? It’s a vastly superior design choice. Since the iPhone X has an AMOLED display, a black background would look really good.

This is a software problem, not a hardware one, which means there’s time to repent. It’s not a done deal. The company could change this in a software update if it wanted to. I think if enough people were to ask for it, Apple would consider doing so. This notch is easily the worst design decision Apple made with the iPhone X.

Google’s Bias 

James Damore:

Google’s autocomplete is automatically generated from popular queries of its users. Maybe Google should listen to them.

In a followup tweet:

As some have pointed out, Google has since changed this. The screenshot was from 2 days ago.

It’s Google’s perogative to skew data. But skewing data is exactly what it’s doing here. The company deliberately went out of its way to suppress the most common search terms following Damore’s name. That’s power.

The Apple TV 4K’s Remote 

The design of the new Apple TV 4K remote is only slight changed from its predecesor. The problem with it has always been this: in the dark, you can’t easily tell whether you’re holding it correctly or backwards. The net result is that when you want to hit the pause button, you end up hitting the TV icon instead. This hurdles you away from what you’re playing, and you have to gingerly find your way back. It’s quite irksome.

Stephen Hackett had this to say about it:

The Siri Remote has gotten a small update as well. There is now a white ring printed around the MENU button to make it stand out a bit more. The button itself appears to be a part of the touch surface, which would also help by providing some asymmetry.

It’s hard to call it for sure but looking more closely, I think he’s onto something. Will this change be enough to fix the problem?

Update: I’ve confirmed with John Gruber, who has a review unit, that the new remote’s menu button is not a part of the touch surface. That said, as he’s publicly stated, the white ring around the button is raised, but this change alone isn’t a satisfactory solution to the design problem.

So Much for the USB-C Prediction 

Yours truly in March:

Prediction: this year’s new industrial design iPhone will have a USB-C port.

I really did — I thought that the D22 would have this. I was wrong. Are we always going to be on Lightning, or is USB-C a year or two out?