Archive for July 16, 2019

Tuesday, July 16, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple to Bankroll Original Podcasts

Lucas Shaw and Mark Gurman (MacRumors, Hacker News):

Apple Inc. plans to fund original podcasts that would be exclusive to its audio service, according to people familiar with the matter, increasing its investment in the industry to keep competitors Spotify and Stitcher at bay.

Executives at the company have reached out to media companies and their representatives to discuss buying exclusive rights to podcasts, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the conversations are preliminary. Apple has yet to outline a clear strategy, but has said it plans to pursue the kind of deals it didn’t make before.

The introduction of Apple Music made the Music app worse for everyone not using it. This will likely have a bigger negative effect for podcasts, both because it messes up Apple’s incentives (for their apps and directory) and because it will make it harder for customers to get content in the apps that they want.

Marco Arment:

Unfortunately, this is both very likely and a lot less awesome.


Update (2019-07-17): See also: Hacker News.

Marco Arment:

I expect Apple to have as much success with exclusive podcasts as everyone else has.


Hypothetically speaking, would you take their money for a show if offered?

Marco Arment:

No, for the same reason it’s unwise for most people to do “podcasts” exclusive to one platform:

Most of my audience isn’t there and won’t move for me, the paywall/appwall would halt most audience growth, and any new audience I build won’t follow me off the platform if necessary.

Manton Reece:

Not sure where Apple is going with exclusive podcasts, but it’s probably nowhere good. By default I’m against any “podcast” that can’t play in multiple podcast apps because it erodes the openness of the ecosystem.

Zac Cichy:

I’ve kind of been arguing for Apple to go hard on owning its podcast platform for a really long time. The thing is, things have changed and it doesn’t matter what anyone says a podcast is. Market is maturing, and Apple should have done more years ago to hedge the inevitable.

It’s not a popular position around here, and I personally have zero incentive to argue this, but Apple should be trying to create a centralized podcast platform.

Every time Apple waits on something like this, a market moves on without them.

Jason Snell:

Given Apple’s deep pockets and its focus on services, I can’t see how the company wouldn’t at least investigate the possibility of adding original audio content to its portfolio, both to strengthen the pull of the Podcasts app and increase the value of one of its existing services or a forthcoming services bundle.

Update (2019-07-23): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2019-07-26): See also: Upgrade.

How Many Kinds of USB-C to USB-C Cables Are There?

Benson Leung (via Hacker News):

We have a matrix of 2 x 3, with 2 current rating levels (3A max current, or 5A max current), and 3 data speeds (480mbps, 5gbps, 10gpbs).

Adding a bit more detail, cables 3-6, in fact, have 10 more wires that connect end-to-end compared to the USB 2.0 ones in order to handle SuperSpeed data rates. Cables 3-6 are called “Full-Featured Type-C Cables” in the spec, and the extra wires are actually required for more than just faster data speeds.

“Full-Featured Type-C Cables” are required for the most common USB-C Alternate Mode used on PCs and many phones today, VESA DisplayPort Alternate Mode. VESA DP Alt mode requires most of the 10 extra wires present in a Full-Featured USB-C cable.

Alexis Gallagher:

Inconvenient but not crazy. I’d say the design failure here is the absence of a system of clear graphic symbols to convey this.

Jonathan Wight:

Assuming no one has invented a USB-C hub yet? (USB-C <-> USB-C).

Still just a bunch of USB-3 hubs or overpriced “docking stations”…

See also: USB-C Charger Roundup.


Most “Free” VPN Apps Secretly Owned by China

Simon Migliano:

Unfortunately, the majority of apps appearing in the top results for “VPN” searches are free products from obscure and highly secretive companies that deliberately make it very difficult for consumers to find out anything about them.


Our investigation uncovered that over half of the top free VPN apps either had Chinese ownership or were actually based in China, which has aggressively clamped down on VPN services over the past year and maintains an iron grip on the internet within its borders.


Apple and Google have let down consumers by failing to properly vet these app publishers, many of whom lack any sort of credible web presence and whose app store listings are riddled with misinformation.

Via Josh Centers:

Additionally, the investigation revealed many have bad or nonexistent privacy policies, don’t even have legitimate Web sites, and share user activity with third parties. If you’re selecting a VPN in order to guard your privacy, be careful of which one you choose and do your research to find a trustworthy provider because a VPN service can monitor all of your Internet activity.

How can you even tell whether a paid VPN is trustworthy—not a honeypot and actually follows its privacy policy?

Update (2019-07-17): Adi Robertson (tweet):

An OO-certified app or site must meet three criteria. First, it needs to demonstrate “a basic level of transparency” by making its code and infrastructure — among other things — public and fully documented. Second, it needs to lay out its policy in the form of “claims with proof,” establishing what user data is collected, who can access it, and how it’s being protected. Third, those claims must be evaluated by an OO-certified auditor who then makes the audit results public.

The site, for example, is OO-certified. (It’s one of two OO-certified services right now, alongside Lin and Dewan’s Confirmed VPN.) Its audit report lists several easily readable and footnoted claims about the site, including the claim that your email address is kept totally private — even from the site’s operators. It then includes details about the encryption system that makes this possible, plus statements from cybersecurity consultants who corroborate the claims. While companies can already run privacy audits, Openly Operated’s branding is supposed to promise a certain level of depth, in addition to guaranteeing transparency.

Update (2019-08-19): Kenn White:

Myths about VPN providers

- they protect your identity
- they’re safe
- they don’t log
- they are competent
- they’ll shield you from the law
- NSA can’t…no, just stop. Really.

Update (2019-10-21): Kenn White:

A story of the entire VPN industry, in 4 acts. Starring NordVPN.

See also: Dan Goodin.

Google Photos Is Making Photos Semi-public

Robert Wiblin (via Hacker News):

Whenever you share a photo with a specific person or account on Google Photos, it creates a link that will allow anyone in the world to view those photos, forever, until you go and manually deactivate that link in an obscure part of the interface.


If that ‘secret’’ link is ever revealed, anyone anywhere will be able to see it until I go and delete that specific sharing instance. And I’d have no way to find out that they were viewing it!

This is perhaps not surprising if you’ve used Flickr, which works the same way, and even has a way to track visits to the link. But it is surprising from the perspective of Facebook or Google’s own Drive, where sharing with a particular user makes a link only for that user.

Update (2019-07-17): Russell Brandom (via sciwizam):

So why is that public URL more secure than it looks? The short answer is that the URL is working as a password. Photos URLs are typically around 40 characters long, so if you wanted to scan all the possible combinations, you’d have to work through 10^70 different combinations to get the right one, a problem on an astronomical scale. “There are enough combinations that it’s considered unguessable,” says Aravind Krishnaswamy, an engineering lead on Google Photos. “It’s much harder to guess than your password.” Because web traffic for Photos is encrypted with SSL, it’s also kept secret from anyone on the network who might be listening in.

However, it would be easy for people to listen in if you send the URL to anyone via an unencrypted service such as e-mail.

Why Did Moving the Mouse Cursor Cause Windows 95 to Run More Quickly?

Retrocomputing (via Devon Zuegel):

Windows 95 applications often use asynchronous I/O, that is they ask for some file operation like a copy to be performed and then tell the OS that they can be put to sleep until that operation finishes. By sleeping they allow other applications to run, rather than wasting CPU time endlessly asking if the file operation has completed yet.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, but probably due to performance problems on low end machines, Windows 95 tends to bundle up the messages about I/O completion and doesn’t immediately wake up the application to service them. However, it does wake the application for user input, presumably to keep it feeling responsive, and when the application is awake it will handle any pending I/O messages too.

Thus wiggling the mouse causes the application to process I/O messages faster, and install quicker. The effect was quite pronounced; large applications that could take an hour to install could be reduced to 15 minutes with suitable mouse input.

Whereas, on classic Mac OS, you could pause certain processing by depressing the mouse button.

Update (2019-07-17): Dimitri Bouniol:

Even today, the main run loop mode will change and stop typical timers from running if you open a menu in a modern Mac app.

Kevin Purcell:

This was true of 3270 terminals on IBM mainframes running CMS on VM/370.

If you hit the spacebar you’d get a little hit of CPU time.

I recall numbers of mech eng and elec eng grad students sitting at 3270 tapping the keyboard in the late 1980s when running their FORTRAN codes.