Archive for January 15, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Agenda’s Feature Unlocking Business Model

Drew McCormack (tweet):

I’ll no doubt have more to tell about Agenda itself after the launch, but right now, I wanted to introduce the sales model we have settled on, because it is quite unique.


The app itself is free, with no time limits, but there are extra premium features that require an In App Purchase (IAP) to unlock. When an upgrade pack is purchased, all current features are permanently unlocked across all of the user’s Macs (…and iOS devices, when the iOS app becomes available). In addition, any features added to Agenda in the twelve months following the purchase are included, and permanently unlocked as well.

Only after the twelve month pack has expired can new premium features begin to appear that require a new purchase. The user can choose to buy a new pack, unlocking twelve more months of new features, or be content with what they already have until features are added which tempt them to purchase again.


Agenda’s sales model is inspired by Framer and Sketch, but there is a fundamental difference — we never leave a customer behind. We felt it was important to always be able to offer customers the latest build of Agenda, so that they get all of the bug fixes, even if they haven’t paid or their year of features is up. For this reason, cash cow is about unlocking features, rather than unlocking updates.



Also interesting is that you can pre-order the app (for $0) so you don’t forget to try it when it’s released.

Previously: App Subscriptions, New Sketch 4.0 Licensing Model, App Store Introductory Pricing.

The MacBook Air: A Decade’s Worth of Legacy

Stephen Hackett:

A decade ago, we entered the current era of notebook design when Steve Jobs pulled the future out of an envelope.


At just three pounds, it was a full two pounds lighter than the 13-inch MacBook, which was still wrapped in white or black plastic at the time.


The base model shipped with a 4,200-RPM hard drive straight out of an iPod. This led to the MacBook Air feeling slower than other Macs of the era. A 64 GB SSD option was available for a whopping $999.


In hindsight, it was clear that Apple was building toward a world without optical drives for some time. The media components of this plan were obvious, but the Time Capsule wasn't introduced until this very keynote.

Joe Rossignol:

A decade later, the MacBook Air remains a product in Apple's lineup, but likely only because it is a lower-cost option. Beyond a minor speed bump last June, the notebook hasn't been updated since March 2015[…]

David Sparks:

For early adopters, it was rough going with a very slow spinning disk (unless you paid a mint for the SSD) and a slow processor but even then it was clear Apple was rowing in the right direction. The original MacBook Air even had a hinged door for the USB port, making it feel more like a tiny spaceship than a computer.

What’s striking to me is the huge improvement in size and weight compared with the MacBook of the time. There were a lot of compromises, but you were also getting a lot in return. The weight dropped from 5 lbs. to 3 lbs. (67%). The 2016 MacBook Pro made similar compromises but for diminishing returns. It reduced the weight by less than half a pound (about 10%).

Tim Hardwick:

Apple currently has no plans to make any major upgrades to its MacBook Pro lineup in 2018, according to DigiTimes.

Update (2018-01-17): See also: Hacker News.

Hawaii Missile Alert

Amy B Wang (via Eric Umansky):

Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert.


Around 8:07 a.m., an errant alert went out to scores of Hawaii residents and tourists on their cellphones: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”


The false warning sparked a wave of panic as thousands of people, many assuming they had only minutes to live, scrambled to seek shelter and say their final goodbyes to loved ones. The situation was exacerbated by a 38-minute gap between the initial alert and a subsequent wireless alert stating the missile warning was a mistake.

John Gruber:

This is just terrible, terrible user interface design.


imagine if there was a real missile and he clicked Test missile alert without knowing it.

Bob Burrough:

The problem isn’t that someone fat-fingered the alert, or that the “test” and “real” alerts were near each other in a dropdown menu. The problem is that one person has ability to send an alert to millions.

Update (2018-01-16): Honolulu Civil Beat:

This is the screen that set off the ballistic missile alert on Saturday. The operator clicked the PACOM (CDW) State Only link. The drill link is the one that was supposed to be clicked.

Paul Kafasis:

The same selection screen contains both drill and real options, in extremely close proximity to one another. The naming of these options is inconsistent, and often opaque. Further, there’s no grouping to differentiate items. While there was a confirmation screen after this, it seems certain that it did not fully spell out what would occur. All of that led to literal panic in the streets.

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2018-01-17): See also: Nick Heer.

Update (2018-01-22): See also: Jason Kottke.

Update (2018-01-23): Kevin Dayton:

Gov. David Ige told reporters today that part of the delay in notifying the public that the Jan. 13 ballistic missile alert was a false alarm was that he did not know his Twitter account password.

Update (2018-01-24): See also: xkcd.

Update (2018-01-30): Associated Press:

US regulators: Hawaii employee who sent false ballistic missile alert thought actual attack was imminent.

Brian Fung and Mark Burman (Hacker News):

The Hawaii employee who sent out a false alarm earlier this month warning of an incoming missile attack said they misheard a message played during a drill and believed a ballistic missile was actually heading for the state, according to a federal investigation.

This directly contradicts the explanations previously offered by Hawaii officials, who have said the Jan. 13 alert was sent because the employee hit the wrong button on a drop-down menu.

Megan Geuss:

A preliminary report released on Tuesday from the Federal Communications Commission details the events leading up to a false missile alert sent to mobile phones and television and radio broadcast stations in the state of Hawaii earlier this month. The report (PDF) suggests that the employee who sent the alert did not hear a recording notifying staff that an announcement regarding an incoming missile was simply a test. Instead, the employee apparently thought it was the real thing, according to the FCC.

The Black Hole of App Review

Chris Eidhof:

I submitted the first version of a new app almost month ago, it got rejected within a few days (b/c copycat, which it isn’t). I immediately sent a reply, resubmitted, and still waiting. No feedback.

The responses seem to indicate that this happens a lot.

Chinese Firm to Operate China iCloud Accounts

BBC (Hacker News):

Apple’s iCloud services in mainland China will be operated by a Chinese company from next month, the tech giant has confirmed.


They include a clause that both Apple and the Chinese firm will have access to all data stored on iCloud.

Apple said it had made the move to comply with the country’s cloud computing regulations.

Jon Russell:

However, after talking to a number of users, we found that Apple has included iCloud accounts that were opened in the U.S., are paid for using U.S. dollars and/or are connected to U.S.-based App Store accounts in the data that will be handled by local partner Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD) from February 28.


One user did find an apparent opt-out. That requires the user switching their iCloud account back to China, then signing out of all devices. They then switch their phone and iCloud settings to the U.S. and then, upon signing back into iCloud, their account will (seemingly) not be part of the migration.


If you move to a new country or region, go to your Apple ID account page, Account Info, or Settings to change your Apple ID information.

Ben Lovejoy:

The company issued a reassuring-sounding statement that the same encryption standards would be applied, and that ‘no backdoors will be created into any of our systems.’ However, Apple’s revised iCloud terms and conditions for the country make it clear that GCBD will have full access to the data.

You understand and agree that Apple and GCBD will have access to all data that you store on this service, including the right to share, exchange and disclose all user data, including Content, to and between each other under applicable law.

The benign interpretation of this would be that GCBD only has access to the encrypted data, which it needs in order to operate the servers, and would have no more access to the data than the U.S. government. The more cynical one would be that the Chinese government will have free access to all your data, provided only that it comes up with a legal justification for this. And cynics would argue that this is the reason the government changed the law in the first place.

It’s also possible the government would be in a position to man-in-the-middle, without needing a backdoor.

See also: Lloyd Chambers.

Previously: Apple Pulls VPN Apps From China App Store.

Update (2018-01-17): Matthew Green:

If Apple needs to fundamentally rearchitect iCloud to comply with Chinese regulations, that’s certainly an option. But they should say explicitly and unambiguously what they’ve done. If they don’t make things explicit, then it raises the possibility that they could make the same changes for any other portion of the iCloud infrastructure without announcing it.

It seems like it would be a good idea for Apple just to clear this up a bit.

Update (2018-02-20): John Gruber:

This whole situation reeks to high hell, but I don’t know what Apple could do other than pull out of the Chinese market entirely.

Update (2018-02-22): Josh Centers:

Google pulled out of China rather than give information to the Communist regime. Apple is literally handing that info over. Who cares more about your privacy?

See also: Microsoft.

Dropbox Files Confidentially for IPO

Alex Barinka (Hacker News):

Dropbox Inc., the file-sharing private company valued at $10 billion, has filed confidentially for a U.S. initial public offering, people familiar with the matter said.


Unlike money-losing Snap, Dropbox will come to the table with annualized sales of more than $1 billion, Chief Executive Officer Drew Houston said in an interview last year. It’s also been profitable, excluding interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Those benchmarks are the product of more than two years of focusing the company, expanding its product suite for businesses and reining in expenses, Houston said at the time.


As of August, Dropbox had 500 million users, including 200,000 businesses, storing and sharing files online through its cloud service.

Previously: Dropbox Secures $600M Credit Line.