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★ How We Shot The Talk Show Remote From WWDC 2020

7 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

If you missed it, here’s a re-link to last week’s special episode of The Talk Show, with special guests Craig Federighi and Greg “Joz” Joswiak.

By necessity, it was shot remotely — Federighi and Joz were at Apple Park, and I was at home in Philadelphia. Overall I think it turned out pretty well, and whatever is wrong with it is the result of my middling skills as an interviewer. Technically, I think it came out amazingly well — it looks great and sounds great. It doesn’t look or sound like a Zoom or FaceTime call that was simply recorded and played back.

A lot of folks noticed that, and have asked how we made it. I have good news and bad news. The good news is the answer is very simple and doesn’t require any expensive equipment. The bad news is it’s a lot of work.

For the actual video call, we used Webex. That’s Cisco’s platform that’s like Zoom. Webex is pretty good in terms of call quality, very good in terms of privacy and security, and pretty crappy in terms of user experience and user interface. Zoom is kicking their ass as the go-to app for remote meetings because Zoom makes easy what Webex makes confusing. But it doesn’t really matter what we used for the call. It could have been using FaceTime or Skype or Zoom and it wouldn’t have made a difference to what you see on the final video, because we didn’t record anything from the Webex call. (Well, we did record it, just in case, but we didn’t want to use that footage, and because Murphy’s Law thankfully did not strike, we didn’t need to.) The call was just for we three — me, Federighi, and Joz — to hear and see each other live.

Federighi and Joz were using iPad Pros for the call itself. I was using a MacBook Pro. We all wore AirPods. So the call itself was conducted using iPads on their side, a MacBook Pro on mine, using the built-in device cameras for video. One advantage of using iPads is that you guarantee there will be no fan noise. We wore AirPods for the call to avoid feedback.

But all that stuff was just for the conference call. We didn’t use any of that footage for the show.

For the show’s audio, we used real podcast/TV-quality microphones — desktop mics for Federighi and Joz; and a professional lav mic and boom mic for me, connected to a Sound Devices MixPre-6 digital audio recorder (all borrowed from local audio pro and Sandwich collaborator Zach Phillips). We didn’t need both microphones, but using two gave us more choices in post. I could have recorded my side with the microphone and USB preamp I usually use for my podcast, but it didn’t really work visually with the space where we set up to film in my office. The point is all you really need is any microphone good enough to record a podcast.

For video, we shot 4K 30 FPS using iPhone 11 Pros. That’s right, iPhones. Apple seems to have plenty of them so Federighi and Joz each had two — one positioned head-on, and one to the side for a wider-angle view. I just used one. The trick to getting that “looking right at the camera” angle is to position the iPhone camera just behind and above the device being used for the conference call. We weren’t using the iPhones as webcams for the call, but we positioned the main ones as though we were. That’s key to the setup.

I had mine mounted on a GorillaPod and Glif. From behind the camera it looked like this:

A photo of the camera setup in my office, showing an iPhone mounted on a tripod behind and slightly above an open MacBook Pro.

So we wound up with three audio recordings (one of each of us) and five video recordings (one for me, two each for Federighi and Joz). We also had an “if all else fails” recording of the Webex call. I’m lucky to have nice natural light in my office (we shot at 10am PT / 1pm ET), and we set up a few additional low-cost LED lights, that, to be honest, I don’t think accomplished much.1 After that, it was just a matter of editing.

Which, of course, is a huge matter. So, a few weeks before the show, I called upon my friends at Sandwich, and they were keen to help. They know me, they know The Talk Show, and they know how to make good videos. They nailed it. They were so easy to work with and the end result is exactly how I imagined the show turning out. Really, the biggest problem was just getting them my footage. I get somewhere between 250-300Mbps downstream, but my upstream connection maxes out around 10 Mbps. With 17 GB of footage, that wound up taking around 7-8 hours. (Because they used four cameras, Apple’s footage was close to 100 GB in total — they, however, apparently have faster upstream internet service than I do.)

So to recap:

  • Webex call: used so we could see and hear each other while recording, but none of the video or audio from the call was used to produce the actual show.
  • Audio: recorded on its own using good microphones.
  • Video: 4K footage shot using the 1× lenses on iPhone 11 Pros.

None of this is magic or particularly expensive. Calling in Sandwich for post-production and editing was, let’s face it, a cheat code, but the raw video footage from the iPhones was really good. Recent iPhones are amazingly good video cameras.

Basically, the secret to shooting a remote interview that doesn’t look like a recorded internet call is simply not to use the internet call video. Instead, shoot each participant like you would if there were no internet call involved, recording video and audio locally for everyone, using decent cameras and microphones. In audio podcasting we call this technique “double-ending” — recording the audio locally for each participant. We used the same principle for my show, just with both video and audio.

  1. I checked the forecast days in advance, and expected and got good weather. A severely overcast day here in Philadelphia would have necessitated a Plan B for lighting on my side. ↩︎

Uber Buys Postmates for $2.65 Billion

7 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

Really, it makes a ton of sense. If you take one money-losing company in a low-margin business and combine it with another money-losing company in a low-margin business, it’s like multiplying two negative numbers: you get a big positive number. Total sense.

★ A Bit of Self-Served Claim Chowder Regarding iMessage and Phone Numbers as Identifiers

7 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

One last bit of behind-the-scenes follow-up regarding the production of The Talk Show Remote From WWDC 2020. For help with my audio setup, I worked with Zach Phillips. Phillips is local to Philly, an audio engineering ace, has worked with Sandwich before — and, it turns out, I linked to his blog back in April 2012.

Even better, he was right and I was wrong. Although he was wrong too. It’s actually an interesting post worth revisiting.

Phillips argued for allowing Messages for Mac — which had just been announced, but not yet released, as part of the then-forthcoming Mac OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion”1 — to use your phone number for iMessages. I thought this was a terrible idea, on the grounds that I was stuck in the mindset that iMessage for my phone number was purely a replacement for SMS, and that iMessage for my Apple ID email address was a replacement for instant messaging like AIM, and the two use cases shouldn’t mix. Wrong!

Phillips, unfortunately, was wrong too:

iMessages, as an enhancement to SMS, should never use email addresses.

So I thought iMessages addressed to a phone number should only go to your iPhone (and not your iPad or Mac, let alone your Apple Watch (which was years away from being released) or glasses (which remain years away now)), and Phillips thought iMessages should go to every device, but should only use phone numbers as identifiers. I’ll score this as me being very wrong, and Phillips being a little wrong.

What we both missed is that messages aren’t between phone numbers or email addresses or specific devices — they’re between people. Phone numbers and email addresses are just identifiers used to address those people. One person can have multiple addresses — easy. (Sort of.)

Just about everyone today acknowledges that iMessage’s usurpation of text messaging from the carrier-controlled SMS was a stroke of genius on Apple’s part, but I think few appreciate just how deft their strategy and execution were. What we initially saw as “free SMS for iPhone-to-iPhone text messages” was really the bootstrapping of an altogether new (and secure) worldwide messaging platform — a platform that today is an immeasurably valuable asset for Apple.

  1. Mountain Lion had a rather unusual rollout. Apple announced it out of the blue in February 2012, via private press briefings. Such briefings were new, for Apple, at the time. Apple then revealed more details and released a developer beta at WWDC 2012 in June, and the release version shipped to everyone just six weeks later on July 25. My piece on my February briefing is one of my favorites at Daring Fireball, but wouldn’t be possible today — Apple’s agreements for such briefings now typically preclude discussing the circumstances and trappings of the briefings themselves. It’s like agreeing to write about a movie, but not the experience of the movie theater in which you saw it. ↩︎

How to Look and Sound Better in Video Meetings

7 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

Speaking of Adam Lisagor and making video calls look and sound better, Patrick Lucas Austin talked to him about just that for Time:

If you really want to go all out, adding a backlight can illuminate your hair and shoulders, separating you from your background in a pleasing way.

“It’s a matter of preference,” says Adam Lisagor, founder of video production company Sandwich, which makes commercials and other videos for companies like Slack, Starbucks, and Etsy, among others. “Some people would really prefer that every shadow is filled in … but I think, personally, I find a portrait more interesting if there’s some shadowing and shape to it.”

“There’s shadows in life, you know,” he adds.

That’s a reference, baby.

Lunchbox by Sandwich

7 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

While I’m directing your attention to my friends at Sandwich, do not miss their shot-in-quarantine spot for Slack and the fascinating behind-the-scenes video documenting how they did it and created a system around the process:

It’s not easy to produce new live-action work these days that’s full of authentic character, on-message and on-brand, without sacrificing quality or relying on stock clips. But we’ve built new methods for doing just that, tastefully, repeatably and safely. With real lights, sound and cameras (not just iPhones).

(I will also add that all of our collaboration for the production and editing of The Talk Show Remote was done over Slack, and it was frictionless. I give Slack grief over the interface details of their client apps (especially Mac), but I complain because I care. You know the oft-cited adage that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”? That’s what Slack is for remote collaboration.)

Garry Kasparov on the Farce of Russian Democracy

6 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

Garry Kasparov, in an op-ed for CNN:

It’s fair to ask, why bother with the pretense of democracy? Dictatorships are obsessed with the superficial trappings of legitimacy and democracy, both as distraction and to sully the meaning of these terms. And after decades of liquidating the opposition and crushing all dissent, a despot might even enjoy thinking that he’s as popular as the worthless polls, elections and state media say he is.

These sham votes aren’t only to provide Putin with cover in Russia, where civil society barely exists, but to give foreign leaders the pretext of treating Putin like an equal instead of confronting him like the autocrat he is. It also allows foreign media to continue calling him “president,” putting him on par with the leaders of free countries. As with every tyrant before him, Putin thrives partly due to the cowardice of those who could deter him but choose not to.

These aren’t just semantics. It would be awkward, even outrageous, to make deals with dictator Putin, to trust him, or to speak fondly of him the way President Donald Trump does. The title feeds the hypocrisy, and so the myth of Putin the elected, Putin the popular, must be perpetuated.

Part of the de-Trumping of America should be to stop treating Putin as an elected official.

★ Working the Refs Worked: ‘How Facebook Wrote Its Rules to Accommodate Trump’

6 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg, and Tony Romm, reporting for The Washington Post in a remarkable story that takes a while to get to the juicy parts:

The document, which is previously unreported and obtained by The Post, weighed four options. They included removing the post for hate speech violations, making a one-time exception for it, creating a broad exemption for political discourse and even weakening the company’s community guidelines for everyone, allowing comments such as “No blacks allowed” and “Get the gays out of San Francisco.”

Facebook spokesman Tucker Bounds said the latter option was never seriously considered.

The document also listed possible “PR Risks” for each. For example, lowering the standards overall would raise questions such as, “Would Facebook have provided a platform for Hitler?” Bickert wrote. A carveout for political speech across the board, on the other hand, risked opening the floodgates for even more hateful “copycat” comments.

Ultimately, Zuckerberg was talked out of his desire to remove the post in part by Kaplan, according to the people. Instead, the executives created an allowance that newsworthy political discourse would be taken into account when making decisions about whether posts violated community guidelines.

I don’t get the “on the other hand” here regarding whether Facebook’s rules would have provided a platform for Adolf Hitler. A blanket “carveout” for “political speech” and “newsworthy political discourse” certainly would have meant that Adolf Hitler would have been able to use Facebook as a platform in the 1930s. That sounds histrionic to modern ears, but Hitler wasn’t universally seen as Hitler the unspeakably evil villain until it was too late. Infamously, as late as August 1939 — 1939! — The New York Times Magazine saw fit to run a profile under the headline “Herr Hitler at Home in the Clouds” (sub-head: “High up on his favorite mountain he finds time for politics, solitude and frequent official parties”).

An anything goes exception for political speech from world leaders is the exact same hand as serving as a platform for Hitler. It’s goddamn Nazis who are crawling out of the woodwork now.

Two months before Trump’s “looting, shooting” post, the Brazilian president [Jair Bolsonaro] posted about the country’s indigenous population, saying, “Indians are undoubtedly changing. They are increasingly becoming human beings just like us.”

Thiel, the security engineer, and other employees argued internally that it violated the company’s internal guidelines against “dehumanizing speech.” They were referring to Zuckerberg’s own words while testifying before Congress in October in which he said dehumanizing speech “is the first step toward inciting” violence. In internal correspondence, Thiel was told that it didn’t qualify as racism — and may have even been a positive reference to integration.

Thiel quit in disgust.

If that post is not dehumanizing, what is? If that post is acceptable on Facebook, what isn’t?

Facebook’s security engineers in December 2016 presented findings from a broad internal investigation, known as Project P, to senior leadership on how false and misleading news reports spread so virally during the election. When Facebook’s security team highlighted dozens of pages that had peddled false news reports, senior leaders in Washington, including Kaplan, opposed shutting them down immediately, arguing that doing so would disproportionately impact conservatives, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking. Ultimately, the company shut down far fewer pages than were originally proposed while it began developing a policy to handle these issues.

A year later, Facebook considered how to overhaul its scrolling news feed, the homepage screen most users see when they open the site. As part of the change to help limit misinformation, it changed its news feed algorithm to focus more on posts by friends and family versus publishers.

In meetings about the change, Kaplan questioned whether the revamped algorithm would hurt right-leaning publishers more than others, according to three people familiar with the company’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. When the data showed it would — conservative leaning outlets were pushing more content that violated its policies, the company had found — he successfully pushed for changes to make the new algorithm to be what he considered more evenhanded in its impact, the people said.

Complaints about bias are only legitimate if the underlying allegations of unfairness are credible. Let’s say there’s a basketball game where the referees whistle 10 fouls against one team and only 1 against the other. Are the refs biased? We don’t know from those facts alone. What matters is how many fouls each team actually committed. If one team actually did commit 10 fouls and the other 1, then the refs are fair and the results are fair. If both teams actually committed, say, 5 fouls apiece, but the refs called 10 violations against one team and only 1 against the other, then the refs are either crooked or just plain bad and the results are, indeed, unjust.

Joel Kaplan wanted Facebook to call the same number of fouls against both sides no matter what fouls were actually committed. And that’s exactly how Facebook has run its platform. If you don’t punish cheaters and liars you’re rewarding them. Far from being biased against Republicans in the U.S. and right-wing nationalists and authoritarians around the globe, Facebook has been biased for them.

On iOS Apps Peeking at Your Clipboard Contents

4 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

Catalin Cimpanu reporting for ZDNet’s Zero Day:

In a video shared on Twitter, the Urspace developer showed how LinkedIn’s app was reading the clipboard content after every user key press, even accessing the shared clipboard feature that allows iOS apps to read content from a user’s macOS clipboard.

Erran Berger, VP of engineering at LinkedIn:

Appreciate you raising this. We’ve traced this to a code path that only does an equality check between the clipboard contents and the currently typed content in a text box. We don’t store or transmit the clipboard contents.

I know a lot of people are so cynical — justifiably — from never-ending news of privacy disasters that they just assume the worst about all these apps being revealed for looking at the clipboard contents. But I think almost all of this is just sloppy programming, not data collection. Even if you really did want to make an app that steals people’s clipboard contents, there’s absolutely no reason you’d check the clipboard contents this frequently. It’s just sloppy programming. But once revealed, a sloppy implementation like LinkedIn’s looks sketchy as hell.

It’s also the case that there are plenty of good reasons why an app might look at the clipboard without your having performed a manual Paste action. Think about image editors: for as long as I can remember, if you have an image on the clipboard, you can use File → New in MacOS’s built-in Preview app to make a new image with the contents of the clipboard. This does more than just save you the step of manually pasting — the new image is sized exactly right for the clipboard contents. It saves you a bunch of steps, not just one ⌘V. Same thing for podcast clients and RSS readers — if it looks like you have a feed URL on the clipboard, they can save you a few steps when subscribing.

It’s like managing camera and microphone access. Most apps want to access these things for good, honest reasons, but because some don’t, we need OS features to defend against the bad actors. And it winds up adding a bit of unfortunately necessary friction.

Apple Card Now Has a Website and It Is Excellent

4 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

It’s quintessentially Apple-y that Apple Card didn’t have a website until now — but this is a very good website.

Update: I mean seriously this is an outstanding website. The more I think about it and click around, the more amazed I am. There’s no bullshit. Anything you want to do is easy and obvious to do: Payments, Statements, Settings, Support. That’s it and that’s all there should be. It’s so minimal that one might be tempted to think not much work went into it, but making something this simple and clear takes a ton of work.

On Ming-Chi Kuo’s Report of a 24-Inch ARM iMac

4 de juliol, per  John Gruber[ —]

Old pre-WWDC news I’m catching up on. From a note by Kuo on what he expects to be the first Macs to ship with Apple silicon chips:

(1) ARM 13.3-inch MacBook Pro:

The new model’s form factor design will be similar to that of the existing Intel 13.3-inch MacBook Pro . Apple will discontinue the Intel 13.3-inch MacBook Pro production after launching the ARM 13.3-inch MacBook Pro .

(2) ARM iMac:

ARM iMac will be equipped with the all-new form factor design and a 24- inch display. Apple will launch the refresh of existing Intel iMac in 3Q20 before launching the ARM iMac .

Something’s got to go first, so it might as well be the 13-inch (14-inch?) MacBook Pro. But it’d be a little weird for the smaller, cheaper MacBook Pro to move to Apple silicon before the 16-inch MacBook Pro, because Apple’s laptop chips are going to blow Intel’s away in performance. We can safely bet the house on this based solely on the performance developers are seeing from the A12Z-based dev kit hardware. If the smaller MacBook Pro moves to Apple silicon before the 16-inch model does, we’ll have a gap where the highest-performing model, by far, is the cheaper smaller one.

As for a 24-inch iMac, that size only makes sense if it’s a replacement for the 21-inch iMac, in which case there should be a new 30-inch iMac to take the place of the current 27-inch models. Going from 27 to 24 inches would be a huge downgrade in display size. It makes no sense at all that this would be the only iMac Apple would make, and makes almost no sense that it would be the first iMac they’d release with Apple silicon.

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