R S S : Daring Fireball
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Choe Sang-Hun, reporting for the NYT:
The sprawling investigation into President Park Geun-hye of South Korea took a dramatic turn on Monday with word that prosecutors were seeking the arrest of the de facto head of Samsung, one of the world’s largest conglomerates, on charges that he bribed the president and her secretive confidante. […]
Mr. Lee is accused of instructing Samsung subsidiaries to make payments totaling 43 billion won ($36 million) to the family of Ms. Park’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and to two foundations that Ms. Choi controlled, in exchange for help from Ms. Park in facilitating a father-to-son transfer of ownership control of Samsung.
Shocking that something like this would happen to a company as morally scrupulous as Samsung. Shocking.
In retrospect, the ascendency of Smartphone 2.0 and the way it has shaped our culture seems obvious and natural. But the celebration and contemplation overlooks a crucial Sine Qua Non, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition: Unlocking the carriers’ grip on handset specifications, marketing, and content distribution.
More specifically, we owe Steve Jobs an enormous debt of gratitude for breaking the carriers’ backs (to avoid a more colorful phrase).
It wasn’t enough that it was revolutionary in both hardware and software. Apple needed something no major handset maker had ever gotten before, or has gotten since: total control.
Apple Insider: ‘Safari Not Able to Play New 4K Videos From YouTube Homepage, Likely Due to VP9 Shift’16 January, by John Gruber[ —]
Mike Wuerthele, reporting for Apple Insider:
What appears to be Google’s shift to the VP9 codec for delivering 4K video on the YouTube homepage is preventing Safari users from watching videos uploaded to the service since early December in full 4K resolution, but not from viewing webpage-embedded videos in the same resolution.
The shift appears to have taken place on Dec. 6, according to a Reddit thread delving into the issue. Google has been pushing the open and royalty-free VP9 codec as an alternative to the paid H.265 spec since 2014, but has never said that it would stop offering 4K video on the YouTube site in other formats, like the Apple-preferred H.264.
I’m curious what Google’s thinking is here. My guess: a subtle nudge to get more Mac users to switch from Safari to Chrome. 4K playback is going to require H.264 support if they want it to work on iOS, though.
One practical side-effect of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Android phones are running old versions of the OS: they don’t have the latest emoji.
Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev, in the wake of Trump’s farcical press conference last week:
Given that Putin is probably a role model for Trump, it’s no surprise that he’s apparently taking a page from Putin’s playbook. I have some observations to share with my American colleagues. You’re in this for at least another four years, and you’ll be dealing with things Russian journalists have endured for almost two decades now. I’m talking about Putin here, but see if you can apply any of the below to your own leader.
Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him. He always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in dull, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false moral equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him. So he can throw whatever he wants at you in response, and you’ll just have to swallow it. Some journalists will try to preempt this by asking two questions at once, against the protests of their colleagues also vying for attention, but that also won’t work: he’ll answer the one he thinks is easier, and ignore the other.
Trump wants to bully the press and profit off the presidency. He’s told us this clearly in his own words. We need to accept the reality of both. The press should cover him on that basis, as a coward and a crook. The big corporate media organizations may not be able to use those words, I understand, but they should employ that prism. The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won’t obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don’t surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.
As we close the door on 2016, I thought it would be useful to look back at the year gone by and ask a panel of my peers who pay attention to Apple and related markets to take a moment and reflect on Apple’s performance in the past year.
This survey is such a valuable service. The consensus scores feel like a very accurate assessment of Apple’s year.
Mark Gurman and Mark Bergen, reporting for Bloomberg:
Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, is planning to marry his background in software with artificial intelligence in a risky business: consumer hardware. Armed with about a 40-person team, filled with recruits from Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Rubin is preparing to announce a new company called Essential and serve as its Chief Executive Officer, according to people familiar with the matter. […]
While still in the prototyping stage, Rubin’s phone is aimed at the top of the market where Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Alphabet Inc.’s new Pixel reside. It’s expected to include high-end materials and the ability to gain new hardware features over time, the people said. Representatives for Rubin and Sprint declined to comment.
The problem with any sort of modular design where the goal is to “gain new hardware features over time” is that the most important hardware components in a phone are the display, camera, CPU, and GPU, and Apple updates the iPhone with industry-leading displays, cameras, CPUs, and GPUs every year.
At least one prototype of Rubin’s phone boasts a screen larger than the iPhone 7 Plus’s (5.5-inches) but has a smaller overall footprint because of the lack of bezels, one of the people said. The startup is experimenting with enabling the phone’s screen to sense different levels of pressure, similar to an iPhone, the person said. Rubin’s team is testing an industrial design with metal edges and a back made of ceramic, which is more difficult to manufacture than typical smartphone materials, two of the people said. […]
Rubin is aiming to put the phone on sale around the middle of this year for a price close to that of an iPhone 7 ($649), a person familiar with the matter said, adding that all of the plans are still in flux.
If it’s in the prototyping stage right now, in January, and they don’t know what materials they’re going to use or what size the display will be, what chance do they possibly have of putting a phone on sale in the “middle of this year”?
Also, no word on what OS they’re using. I’m guessing Android with customizations, but it’s curious the story doesn’t say.
Stephen Nellis and Dan Levine, reporting for Reuters:
iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple Inc over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday.
That sound you hear is thousands of indie iOS developers laughing at the notion of the App Store leading to “higher prices”.
Apple had argued that users did not have standing to sue it because they purchased apps from developers, with Apple simply renting out space to those developers. Developers pay a cut of their revenues to Apple in exchange for the right to sell in the App Store.
A lower court sided with Apple, but Judge William A. Fletcher ruled that iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, which gives iPhone users the right to bring a legal challenge against Apple. […]
The courts have yet to address the substance of the iPhone users’ allegations; up this point, the wrangling has been over whether they have the right to sue Apple in the first place.
I think it’s fair to say that users buy apps from Apple, not from the developers, so the fact that they can sue Apple strikes me as the correct ruling. But I don’t see how Apple can be ruled to have a “monopoly” — everyone knows Android phones comprise a majority of the market. It’s fair to object to Apple’s tight control over iOS, but you can’t fairly call it a “monopoly”.
I have a knack for remembering audio. I’m awful at remembering names and faces, but if I hear something I can often recall it later. This has manifested itself as a bit of a party trick for the podcasts I listen to, where I can quickly find the section of a show where a topic was discussed even years after I heard it. Fun, but not particularly useful.
This situation gave me the idea for a little side project, PodSearch, empowering the same quick podcast recall for anyone. The concept was simple. Take a few of my favorite podcasts and run them through automated speech-to-text and make the result searchable.
This is really amazing. I really ought to pay to get true transcripts for The Talk Show (including the back catalog of episodes), but this is a pretty good way to search my show for keywords.
Chris Lattner on Ted Kremenek, his replacement as project lead on Apple’s Swift team:
One thing that I don’t think is fully appreciated by the community: Ted has been one of the quiet but incredible masterminds behind Swift (and Clang, and the Clang Static Analyzer) for many years. His approach and modesty has led many to misunderstand the fact that he has actually been running the Swift team for quite some time (misattributing it to me). While I’m super happy to continue to participate in the ongoing evolution and design of Swift, I’m clearly outmatched by the members of the Apple Swift team, and by Ted’s leadership of the team. This is the time for me to graciously hand things over to folks who are far more qualified than me. Swift has an incredible future ahead of it, and I’m really thrilled to be small part of the force that helps guide its direction going forward.