Spotify: “Mom! Apple isn’t playing fairrrrr”

Spotify: Apple is holding up app approval to squash competition:

Like other apps, Spotify had been getting customers to foot the bill for Apple’s App Store billing fees by charging an extra $3 a month. It recently launched a promotion for the second time that gave new users three months of service for a dollar, if they signed up on the web. As you can imagine, that didn’t make Apple too happy, and the company reportedly threatened to pull the app entirely unless Spotify stopped pushing the deal for iPhone owners. It complied with the request, but it also nixed the iTunes billing option in the iOS version which lead to the current dispute.

On one hand, I feel like this ends up hurting happy Spotify and Apple customers. Elizabeth Warren recently accused Apple, Amazon, and Google of anti-competitive practices. This issue with Spotify only adds fuel to the fire.

On the other hand, why should Apple make and exception for Spotify and wave the App Store fee? It seems as though the Google Play store also charges 30% fees like Apple.

Halt and Catch Fire, Season 3!

The Verge: Halt and Catch Fire’s third season will premiere on August 23rd:

Halt and Catch Fire, AMC’s consistently entertaining, detail-obsessive ’80s period drama, will return for its third season on August 23rd. The season’s first two episodes will air back-to-back beginning at 9PM ET.

Halt and Catch Fire’s third season will see the show moving from Texas to Silicon Valley for its 10-episode run. Last season, the series largely followed Cameron and Donna’s attempts to get their online games company, Mutiny, off the ground. Although the show sometimes seemed uncomfortable in the startup world, given the first season’s exploration of the slightly stodgier Cardiff Electric, it remained innovative and well-crafted.

This is great news for a great, and underrated show.

I grew up in the early 80s and can attest to how ‘detail-obsessed’ the show is. Many times in shows and movies, when they’re depicting computers, they use interfaces and sounds that don’t exist in real life. In Halt and Catch Fire they’re true to the real world (or pretty close anyway).

And as for where the title comes from:

In computer engineering, Halt and Catch Fire, known by the assembly mnemonic HCF, is an idiom referring to a computer machine code instruction that causes the computer’s central processing unit (CPU) to cease meaningful operation, typically requiring a restart of the computer. It originally referred to a fictitious instruction in IBM System/360 computers, but later computer developers who saw the joke created real versions of this instruction for some machines. In the case of real instructions the implication of this expression is that, whereas in most cases in which a CPU executes an unintended instruction (a bug in the code) the computer may still be able to recover, but in the case of an HCF instruction there is, by definition, no way for the system to recover without a restart.

The expression “catch fire” in this context is normally facetious, rather than literal, referring to a total loss of CPU functionality during the current session.

Not only is the show great, so is the intro:

Elastic is the studio behind the intro (via The Art of the Title).

Oh, and I have a crush on Kerry Bishé:

August 23rd, 9PM. I’m there.

Nate Silver: Clinton Has an Eighty Percent Chance of Winning

Nate Silver says Hilary Clinton has an 80.3% chance of winning the election.

Obviously, this is a forecast and things could change between now and November 8th, but let’s try and keep it this way.

FiveThirtyEight has some great data visualizations.

Here’s one showing, “…a map of the country, with each state sized by its number of electoral votes and shaded by the leading candidate’s chance of winning it.”:

You can agree or disagree with Silver’s predictions, but you can’t say he isn’t thorough.

Headphones, 1922

I want to follow up on the rumor that Apple is killing the headphone jack on the upcoming iPhone 7.

The image above is of a man wearing headphones with wires attached to his hat on May 6th 1922, in the United Kingdom (via Reddit). Now, it’s unclear from the photo if the headphones use either a 6.35 mm or 3.5 mm connector, but this is just to show you how long the headphone jack has been around for.

It’s time to sunset the headphone jack. It’s lived a long life.

[sidenote: I bet that braided cord is strong as shit]

Microsoft: “Our stuff is so valuable, we’re giving it away!”

Microsoft is giving students a free Xbox One with Surface Pro 4 purchases:

Microsoft is tempting students to buy a Surface Pro 4 this week with a new promotion running at its retail stores in the US. The software maker is taking $300 off when students buy a Surface Pro 4 and Xbox One. “So basically a free Xbox One with the purchase of a Surface Pro 4,” says Terry Myerson, head of Windows and devices at Microsoft, in an interview with The Verge. The deal goes live today and will run until August 14th.

Has Apple ever had to give away hundreds of dollars worth of tech to get kids to use it?

One of Those Wreckers

Her father was a fisherman, and it was rumored that he was one of the wreckers—those who would hang their lamps high on the dangerous cliffs when the storm winds raged, luring ships onto the rocks, for the goods on shipboard.

—Excerpt From: Gaiman, Neil. American Gods.

The Gear Shifter Was Working Perfectly, Thanks for Messing it Up

The Verge: The recalled Jeep shifter is just bad user interface design:

First things first: if you have a 2014 or 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee or a 2012-2014 Dodge Charger or Chrysler 300, you should call your dealer right now and set up an appointment for the recall. According to my local dealer, the update takes 3.5 hours, and it patches the car’s software to engage the emergency brake if the driver’s door is opened when the car is in neutral. That’s it. It’s a software update that was finally accelerated in the past few weeks after a death, even though problems with this shifter were so widespread that it made local TV news stories last year, the National Highway Transportation Administration issued a harsh report in February, and FCA recalled the shifter in April. The timeline is damning, but at least the update is here now. Go get it.

It’s frustrating to watch the video of Nilay Patel using the shifter. Car companies have essentially taken something that worked perfectly and replaced it with something that is confusing as shit. On the Jeep shifter, when you pull or push it into a gear, it returns to the center position, so there’s no way to tell by looking at it what gear you’re in.

If car companies want to experiment with new shifter configurations, they should remove the shifter entirely. Come up with something better, maybe something that saves space. If they’re offloading everything from an analog stick to software, then just use buttons. We’re already seeing this happen with cars where you don’t need to insert a key to them.

On a related note, car makers are already working on evolving the steering wheel:

Volvo’s Concept 26 vehicle, which debuted in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show, features a retractable steering wheel. Robin Page, Volvo chief of interior design, says Volvo chose to keep the familiar shape of the steering wheel.

“We wanted to keep that recognition of a round steering wheel,” he said. “People need to get used to autonomous drive, so being able to get back to that steering wheel and grab hold of it, that’s comforting. We decided to have it there as a recognizable icon.”

Kottke guest editor Tim Carmody makes a great point about this:

The steering wheel becomes a skeuomorph. It becomes a surveillance device, registering pressure to tell whether you have both hands firmly on the wheel, or if you’ve fallen asleep or are in distress. It becomes an entertainment console. It transforms and retracts into the dash to signal when you’ve shifted between user-controlled and autonomous modes. Its familiar presence soothes you through the transition. Eventually, you forget it was ever there at all.

A retactable steering wheel.

This reminds me of the retractable steering wheels in Demolition Man (video at 53 sec):

What else will evolve and go away. Rubber tires? Glass windshields?

Just think about just the word ‘car’. It originally was shorthand for ‘horseless carriage’ and the ‘glove compartment’ was the place you put your actual gloves.

The interfaces are changing. Will the labels?

iPhone 7 Headphones and Connectors

Erik Person thinks of some possible scenarios (via Daring Fireball) for how Apple can replace the headphone jack on the iPhone, as it has been rumored to be doing.

I think his ‘Wired, Option 1’ is the most likely:

It is possible the new headphones will be wired and will plug into the Lightning port on your iPhone. This will work great for your phone, but ideally you would still be able to plug into your Mac.

I don’t know the technical aspects of how thick the wire between the earpieces and the iPhone would need to be, but if it were as thick as the standard USB-Lightning charging cable, that would be pretty obnoxious. On the plus side, it would not tangle easily.

In none of his scenarios does he suggest wired headphones that plug into the Lightning jack on the iPhone and wirelessly charge/sync through induction with your Mac. I’m envisioning a base that plugs into your Mac/MacBook via USB, so technically it would be a ‘wirelessly-wired’ solution. I mentioned this last week.

I’m thinking something like the charging stone for the Palm Pre:

I’m thinking about magnets too. Apple loves magnets. They introduced the Magsafe connector on the MacBook Pro in 2006, magnets to hold MacBooks closed, magnets to hold smart covers to iPads, and magnets to hold induction chargers to Watches.

So, yeah. Maybe we get another magnet.

Bottom Gear USA

History Channel gives Top Gear USA the axe:

After six seasons, Top Gear USA is getting cancelled. The news comes from Rutledge Wood’s Instagram page where the host implies the History Channel was behind the decision. While that’s bad news, Wood claims that Top Gear USA may not be completely dead. “I’m not saying Top Gear USA is done, but it’s done for the immediate future on History,” states Wood.

That’s six seasons too many of that show.

If the BBC was smart they’d cancel the new Top Gear UK with Chris Evans. Oh, and who the fuck thought it was a good idea to have Matt Leblanc on the show? I watched him introduce the Stig last week and I almost puked. The good news is, LeBlanc is threatening to quit if Chris Evans isn’t fired.

When Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond left Top Gear — the show they helped build into the empire it is today — the show was over. It would be like swapping in completely new musicians into the Beatles after John, Paul, George, and Ringo left.

You’re just never going to recapture the lightning in a bottle.

‘We all get dressed for Bill.’

Over the weekend New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham died. As someone whose father bought the Sunday New York Times every weekend, Cunningham was a part of my life before I knew who he was.

When I moved to the East Village in 2000 I continued my father’s habit of buying the Times every Sunday. My girlfriend (now wife) loved fashion, so I’d always hand over the Fashion section to her which always had a grid of Cunningham’s fashion shots above the fold.

Jacob Bernstein did a great write-up on Cunningham:

Mr. Cunningham was such a singular presence in the city that, in 2009, he was designated a living landmark. And he was an easy one to spot, riding his bicycle through Midtown, where he did most of his field work: his bony-thin frame draped in his utilitarian blue French worker’s jacket, khaki pants and black sneakers (he himself was no one’s idea of a fashion plate), with his 35-millimeter camera slung around his neck, ever at the ready for the next fashion statement to come around the corner.

Nothing escaped his notice: not the fanny packs, not the Birkin bags, not the gingham shirts, not the fluorescent biker shorts.

In his nearly 40 years working for The Times, Mr. Cunningham snapped away at changing dress habits to chart the broader shift away from formality and toward something more diffuse and individualistic.

He was a unique man:

He didn’t go to the movies. He didn’t own a television. He ate breakfast nearly every day at the Stage Star Deli on West 55th Street, where a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese could be had, until very recently, for under $3. He lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall amid rows and rows of file cabinets, where he kept all of his negatives. He slept on a single-size cot, showered in a shared bathroom and, when he was asked why he spent years ripping up checks from magazines like Details (which he helped Annie Flanders launch in 1982), he said: “Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive.”

If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend the the documentary, Bill Cunningham New York. I watched it a few years ago and loved it.

If you have Amazon Prime, it’s included in your subscription (hat tip, Jason Kottke).

Dropbox Looking Instagram-y

I updated Dropbox earlier today and I noticed the UI is a little bit more Instagram-y:

Instagram UI for reference (current and previous):

More info on the new “productivity” features here.

I’m not sure I’ll ever use any of the features they listed, but as long file syncing remains rock solid, I’ll continue to be a paying Dropbox customer.

Podcasting is Process

Over at AIGA’s Eye on Design blog, Jude Stewart solicited advice from podcasters on everything you need to know before starting a podcast:

Perhaps the most pungent advice comes from The Poster Boys’ Schaefer: “Fail. Screw up. Fall on your face, and embarrass yourself… Only you can figure out what you want your thing to be.” Podcasting is process. At its best, it should resemble every creative act: messy, iterative, dogged. For game talkers, mistakes-enthusiasts, learning-junkies, media-pioneers or some combination of the above, podcasting may be the ideal pursuit.

This rings true to me.

When I started my Weekly Exhaust podcast last year I didn’t know what I was doing. Technically, sure, I knew how to get it up and running, but the actually talking-and-making-it-interesting-to-listeners part? No clue. When I go back and listen to the first handful of episodes I hear how rookie I was.

Editing episodes at the beginning was tough too because I couldn’t stand the sound of my own voice (most people can’t), but with time I’ve grown more tolerant of my voice. I attribute this to repetition and getting better at talking, although I still have to work on my “ums” and “you knows”.

At the end of the day I do it because I enjoy doing it and I’ve discovered how to make it a great compliment to this blog. Posts from this site, combined with talking points I capture throughout the week in my Simplenote app, give me fuel for each week’s episode.