The Initial Charge Linked List

 
The Initial Charge Linked List is a frequently updated list of notable links and commentary. You can subscribe to the Linked List with its dedicated RSS feed or you can follow along on the main feed, which includes both Linked List items and feature articles from the site.
 

Amazon Wants to Sell an Echo-Only Music Service ➝

Peter Kafka, reporting for Recode:

Amazon wants to launch a music subscription service that would work the same way services from Apple, Spotify and many others work: $10 a month, for all the music you can stream, anywhere you want to stream it.

But Amazon is also working on a second service that would differ in two significant ways from industry rivals: It would cost half the price, and it would only work on Amazon’s Echo hardware.

Would anyone actually subscribe to this?

Daniel Jalkut on ‘the Apple’ ➝

Daniel Jalkut, on Apple’s decision to drop the word “Store” from their retail branding, in comparison to other retail stores like Tiffany and Gucci:

The difference between these brands and Apple is that Apple’s identity has long been independent from the notion of a store. Calling it the “Apple Store” was not only important because the stores were a novelty, but because Apple is a brand that transcends retail.

I suppose this is the biggest problem with Apple dropping the word “store” — it devalues the Apple brand. It doesn’t matter how high-end their retail presence is, no brick-and-mortar store could ever be as prestigious as Apple itself. And the retail branding should reflect this. The store is just a small part of the bigger whole not the entire focus of the company.

We Shouldn’t Want Twitter to Handle Harassment Like Olympics Takedowns ➝

Speaking of Twitter, Adi Robertson wrote a great piece discussing the comparison of Olympic takedowns to the handling of harassment on the social network:

Twitter could absolutely do more to mitigate harassment, but likening it to people posting Olympics GIFs won’t give us good solutions. And in the end, it makes the problem of abuse seem simpler than it is. “Is this video of the Olympics?” is a far easier question to answer than “is this harassment?” Likewise, no matter how stringent it is, takedowns wouldn’t actually stop people from seeing torrents of threats in the first place — copyright owners themselves hate the endless, whack-a-mole nature of the system. Twitter’s anti-harassment battle is a crisis of identity for the platform, and it’s fighting an enemy that’s far uglier and more insidious than some clever IOC-rules-flouting meme-crafters. We can point out its losses without legitimizing one bad system in the name of criticizing another.

Twitter Introduces Quality Filter to All Users ➝

Emil Leong, writing on Twitter’s weblog:

Last year we began testing a quality filter setting and we’re now rolling out a feature for everyone. When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior. Turning it on filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience.

I think this is a great change overall, but I still have concerns. My biggest fears are algorithmic false positives and employees of Twitter having the ability to flag accounts manually — potentially silencing users for dubious reasons. I have no indication that this will actually happen, but you can never be too sure about a feature like this.

Function Strip ➝

Dr. Drang, on the rumored touch-sensitive OLED strip on the next MacBook Pro:

But there is this nagging thought in the back of my head. Can Apple pull this off? Does it still have the UX chops to figure out the right way to implement what could be a very powerful addition to the Mac? So much of what’s good about Apple products, both hardware and software, seems to be based on wise, user-centric decisions made years ago. Can it still make those decisions? […]

On the other hand, the story of watchOS 3 is an indication that Apple still has the goods, that it can still make good decisions, even if it means reversing much-hyped earlier decisions. That’s the Apple I hope to see in the new MacBook Pro.

Auto-Expanding Email Address ➝

Great tip from Jason Snell:

We get asked for our email addresses a lot, most commonly in login windows on websites. I’ve saved a lot of time by attaching mine to an auto-expanding text shortcut on both iOS and macOS. No additional software is required, though if you have a text-expanding utility like TextExpander you could use that instead.

I set this up with Nick Heer’s suggested shortcut of “@@” because of its placement on iOS’s email address keyboard.

10K Apart ➝

A great contest from Microsoft and An Event Apart:

With so much of an emphasis on front-end frameworks and JavaScript runtimes, it’s time to get back to basics—back to optimizing every little byte like your life depends on it and ensuring your site can work, no matter what. The Challenge? Build a compelling web experience that can be delivered in 10kB and works without JavaScript.

I wouldn’t mind this sparking a trend in web design — the world needs smaller web pages.

(Via Matt Birchler.)

Apple Drops ‘Store’ From Apple Store Branding ➝

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

It’s a change that appears to have started rolling out with the launch of the newer Apple Stores, like the Union Square location in San Francisco. Apple has always referred to that store as just Apple Union Square, and over the course of the last few days, the company has updated all of its retail store webpages to remove the “Store” branding. What was once “Apple Store, Fifth Avenue,” for example, is now just “Apple Fifth Avenue.”

This seems to fall in line with Apple’s online store overhaul that took place around this time last year. I don’t think Apple wants to emphasize the shopping aspect in their branding anymore, instead focusing on helping customers learn about the products.

Intel Licenses ARM Technology ➝

Ian King, reporting for Bloomberg:

Intel Corp., the world’s biggest semiconductor maker, said it’s licensing technology from rival ARM Holdings Plc, a move to win more customers for its business that manufactures chips for other companies.

The two chipmakers, whose designs and technology dominate in computing and mobile, unveiled the agreement Tuesday at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. The accord will let Intel offer third-party semiconductor companies its most advanced 10-nanometer production lines for manufacturing the complex chips usually used in smartphones.

This piece doesn’t come right out and say it, but it sounds like Intel is planning to design their own ARM processors in addition to manufacturing other companies’ chip designs. If that’s the case, I could see Intel becoming the premier maker of ARM processors within just a few years.

Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple Planning 10.5-Inch iPad Pro ➝

Eric Slivka, writing for MacRumors:

According to Kuo, Apple is aiming to introduce a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro model next year to go along with a 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2 and a “low-cost” 9.7-inch iPad model. Kuo makes no mention about the fate of the current 7.9-inch iPad mini, although many have assumed that model may be phased out as the recent 5.5-inch iPhone “Plus” models have helped lessen demand for Apple’s smallest tablet.

John Gruber thinks we’ll see a new aspect ratio for the iPad — because of how close the 9.7-inch size is to this rumored 10.5-inch device. But I’m not so sure. Apple currently sells the 11.6-inch MacBook Air alongside the 12-inch MacBook. Both of them feature the same aspect ratio — why would the iPad be any different?

Update: Apologies for the oversight, Ravi Gupta points out, on Twitter, that the 11.6-inch Air and the 12-inch MacBook do have different aspect ratios. Sounds like Gruber might be right after all.

Apple’s New TV Plan Is a TV Guide ➝

Peter Kafka, reporting for Recode:

Apple has started talking to TV programmers and other video companies about creating a digital TV guide that would work on both Apple TV boxes and other Apple devices, like iPhones.

The idea is to let users see what kind of programming is available in video apps made by the likes of HBO, Netflix and ESPN, without having to open up each app individually, and to play shows and movies with a single click.

I would love an interface like this.

Adblock Plus Has Already Defeated Facebook’s Ad Blocking Restrictions ➝

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:

Facebook’s plan to stop ad blockers has already been foiled. Adblock Plus has found a way to strip ads from Facebook, even when they’re served up in Facebook’s new ad blocker-proof format. Anyone with a fully updated version of Adblock Plus should once again be able to avoid ads in Facebook’s sidebar and News Feed.

Let the game of cat and mouse begin.

Splatoon for Wii U ➝

I bought Splatoon last week in search of something fresh to play on the Wii U. It’s been on my wishlist since we got the console last winter and I regret waiting this long to buy. I’m only about four or five hours in, but I’m having a blast.

It’s essentially a cartoony paintball game in which you and your three teammates try to cover as much of the level in your color paint as possible. Along the way you can disrupt the other team by “splatting” their players and forcing them to respawn at their starting point.

There’s new weapons and clothing accessories that feature special abilities and increased power that you can unlock by leveling up. There’s other game modes to play as well, but I’ve been having too much fun with the normal “Turf Mode” to explore the other options. If you own a Wii U and have been looking for a new game to play, I highly suggest Splatoon.

On the Possibility of Apple Buying Netflix ➝

John Gruber:

I’m not saying it could never happen or would certainly be a bad idea, but Apple’s services are built to take advantage of its hardware. Netflix is the opposite — it’s a service designed to be available on any device with a screen. With iTunes, Apple already has a library of movies and TV shows. If Apple wants to produce original content, they could start their own production company for a tiny fraction of Netflix’s $42 billion market cap. A fraction.

I don’t think it would be a good idea for Apple to buy Netflix, and not just because of the bad cultural fit. Apple doesn’t typically acquire the biggest player in the market. They usually go after smaller companies with strong, lean teams and good technology. Companies that could benefit from the exposure of Apple’s marketing.

Netflix is already too large to acquire and retains the baggage of their legacy DVD-by-mail service. As Gruber points out, it would become a huge distraction for Apple — pulling executives attention away from existing product lines. But they’re one of the few options in the market — Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon Instant Video being the other three.

I think, if Apple was to buy their way into this business, they’d go after a smaller company that most of us haven’t even heard of. Some startup with great technology, but very few content deals. But if nothing like this exists, they’re far more likely to roll their own service than acquire a big name like Netflix.

Is Apple Getting Rid of Star Ratings for Music in iTunes? ➝

Kirk McElhearn:

Ratings are totally absent from the iOS 10 Music app, with no option to turn them on. Currently, on iOS 9, you can view a rating or rate a track by tapping its album artwork while it’s playing, but only for tracks in your library; you can’t apply star ratings to Apple Music tracks. Nothing happens in iOS 10 when you tap the artwork. When you tap the … for a playing track, you see a menu which offers Love and Dislike options, but no star ratings.

I hope to see star ratings return to iOS. I make extensive use of them in a few smart playlists and the new heart-based rating system doesn’t offer enough granularity for my needs.

‘You’re Only as Good as the Last Thing You Did’ ➝

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

In a new Fast Company interview alongside CEO Tim Cook, Apple services chief Eddy Cue acknowledged that technology companies are “only as good as the last thing” they did.

Meanwhile, for the Mac lineup, the average number of days since the last update is about 505.

On the NBC Olympics Streaming App ➝

Jason Snell, writing on Six Colors:

However, there are some rough spots, too. As Todd Vaziri noted, the top-level heading on the NBC Apple TV app for almost every item is “Olympic Sports.” This makes it nearly impossible to tell if you’re going to see tennis, or handball, or table tennis, or rugby, until you click and then sit through a 15- or 30-second preroll ad.

So close… and yet so far. It’s not as if the app doesn’t understand what all those sports are—there’s a Filter feature that will show you just the video for the sport you select—but it makes it impossible to browse through a menu of live streams and see which event strikes your fancy.

Snell doesn’t even mention the atrocious playback controls, which is the most infuriating part of the app. For whatever reason, NBC decided to roll their own media playback system and its a pain in the ass to use. Want to skip back a few seconds to rewatch a tumbling pass? Good luck. Before you know it, you’ve rewound 30 minutes and have no idea how to get back where you started.

‘Why I’m Finally Leaving Cable TV’ ➝

Chris Plante, writing for The Verge:

For years I figured that when I scrapped my cable plan, it would be because an even easier option appeared. But this week, I’ve considered finally cutting the cord for a different reason: subscriptions services better respect my time.

In fact, now I recognize all the ways cable is designed to waste my time.

The key point for me is the lack of advertising. I pay less for a Netflix and Hulu subscription than anyone I know pays for cable and I never have to sit through a single commercial. With cable, unless I take the time to setup DVR recordings before a show airs, I’m stuck watching it live. And even if I remember to record it, I still have to fast-forward through ads and hope that I hit play at just the right moment. That’s less “entertaining” and more “nerve-racking.”

Microsoft Leaks Its Golden Key ➝

This is a perfect example of why companies shouldn’t build backdoors into their software. Even if it’s only known by the developer, there’s always a risk that it could be made public — leaving everyone who uses that software vulnerable to attack.

Apple Planning to Update MacBook Pro Soon ➝

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

The updated notebooks will be thinner, include a touch screen strip for function keys, and will be offered with more powerful and efficient graphics processors for expert users such as video gamers, said the people, who asked not to be named.

Gurman’s sources also tell him that the new MacBook Pros are due later this year, but they will not be announced at the September event where Apple typically announces new iPhones.

Mac updates have been few and far between over the past couple of years and it’ll be nice to see a refresh in the lineup. And, although I don’t use OS X very often anymore, I hope this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ulysses 2.6 ➝

Mike Bates, on Ulysses 2.6:

I’ve been part of the TestFlight group that’s been using the beta throughout it’s development cycle, and it’s a terrific update to what I’d call my favorite app. […]

The app is what I consider to be the best writing environment for the most people. It’s well-designed, well-equipped with features, is customizable to fit your liking, is developed by an attentive & small(er) team, and all gets out of the way when you need to get down to writing.

I’ve been in the Ulysses beta group for several months, as well, and couldn’t have been happier with this update. I still use my own workflow for publishing to WordPress, but I’m excited about trying Ulysses’ native solution soon. From the sounds of things, it’s incredibly well thought out and offers all of the features I need for my own unique setup.

The iPad’s Dark Days Are Over ➝

Neil Cybart:

After a tumultuous multi-year stretch that included massive unit sales declines, declining average selling prices (ASPs), and deteriorating margin trends, the iPad business has turned a corner. The combination of improving upgrade fundamentals, less severe iPad mini sales declines, and a stronger iPad lineup with the iPad Pro and accompanying accessories have positioned the iPad category that much closer to stabilization. The worst is likely over.

Great analysis from Cybart on the iPad sales decline. And I agree with him — the iPad’s dark days are likely over.

Dropbox Paper ➝

A neat new collaboration tool from Dropbox. It supports embedded files, task lists, automatic code formatting, and more. This looks like a great product.

Making a Case for Letter Case ➝

John Saito, writing on Medium:

If you’re an Apple user, you’ll notice a lot of title case throughout their products. That’s because Apple’s design guidelines recommend title case for many UI elements, including alert titles, menu items, and buttons.

If you’re a Google user, you’ll see a lot more sentence case throughout their products. And that’s because Google’s design guidelines recommend sentence case for almost everything.

I prefer Apple’s approach.

Fully Functional Lightning EarPods Shown Off ➝

Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:

Today, MobileFun posted a video of a working pair of Lightning EarPods, and the overall look of the accessory appears more in line with Apple’s design than any of the previous leaks.

The housing around the lightning connector looks a bit longer than I would have expected from Apple. But I expect something that looks a lot like this to be in-box alongside the next iPhone in a month or two.

Why I Think Apple Watch 2 Will Be a Big Leap ➝

Abdel Ibrahim, writing for WatchAware:

With watchOS 3, Apple rethought much of the user interface to make what is slow hardware feel much faster. That’s a huge step for those of us who currently own the Apple Watch. But when I think about the next-generation Watch, I think Apple will address a lot of the issues that make the Watch feel so first-generation. In fact, I think the Apple Watch 2 will be as big of a leap if not bigger than the iPad 2 was to the original iPad.

In the next iteration of Apple Watch, I expect thinner hardware, new bands, and a new system-on-a-chip with more memory, a faster ARM processor, and more robust wireless features. I don’t think we’ll see any differences in battery life, though. Apple hit the nail on the head with the Watch’s battery life and I don’t expect an improvement on that front for at least two more years.

Homescreen.me Introduces Track, Follow, and Notifications ➝

Préshit Deorukhkar, writing on Medium:

Ever wondered how your Homescreen has evolved over time? What if you could go back in time and see which apps you were using a month ago? Well, now you can.

You can now browse all your Past Homescreens on the site. All the screenshots that you’ve uploaded since you signed up here are available for your perusal. So go ahead, take a trip down memory lane.

This is the feature I’ve been most excited about since Homescreen.me relaunched in June. I expect the service will become my default upload location when I want to share my home screen.

But the team didn’t stop there, you can now follow your favorite users (like me) and receive email notifications when someone you follow posts a new screenshot.

My Evolving Home Screen ➝

Stephen Hackett:

In addition to how hilariously small old iPhones seem compared to my 6S Plus, the thing that jumped out at me the most is how little turnover there is over time in apps and their placement.

I wrote about this last year and it continues to hold true — my iPhone home screen has seen infrequent changes and there are rarely new app categories added. And even today, my current layout’s roots are clearly planted in the iPhone’s original home screen from 2007.

Apple and the Gun Emoji ➝

Jeremy Burge, writing on Emojipedia:

🔫 Pistol emoji has changed from a realistic-looking gun in iOS 9.3 to a bright green toy water gun in the iOS 10 beta.

In the history of running Emojipedia, I have never seen an emoji change so poorly received.

I’m not much of an emoji user — I believe the one above is only the second I’ve ever published on the site. I find them difficult to interpret and often have to ask my wife whether someone’s being sarcastic or serious, that’s why I typically avoid using them. But changes like this aren’t helping matters.

There are too many instances where the water gun and the pistol could mean completely different things within the same context. I understand why Apple would want to do this, but I don’t think it’s the right move. Unfortunately, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Once you go with a realistic-looking gun, you can’t just change it to something with an entirely different tone. I suspect this move will result in a lot of uncomfortable situations when an iOS 10 user is communicating with someone on an older version of iOS.

’Start Working on Something‘ ➝

Matt Birchler:

The secret to making new, interesting things is really just to start working on something. For most projects this means starting with something that’s not that original, but in the course of making that thing, you may actually spark an original idea. Some of my best articles on this site have come from me just starting to write and then deleting the first 1,000 words because it wasn’t until that point that I realized what I really wanted to talk about.

I couldn’t even begin to count the times that I’ve had this exact same experience.

Recode Media With Peter Kafka and Guest, Brian Lam ➝

A great interview from late June, with Brian Lam, discussing The Wirecutter, Gizmodo, and the infamous iPhone 4 situation.

Today Weather, Beautiful Weather Forecasts ➝

A great new weather site from my buddy Matt Birchler. From the announcement on his weblog:

Today Weather is a unique weather site that I built to fill a niche that was not properly served before. Specifically, I wanted a weather site that was fast, easy to use, great at hyper-local forecasts, and looked good on all screens. Shockingly, this doesn’t seem to exist yet. Most weather sites you go to are full of useless information, clickbait articles, garrish ads, and most don’t even look that great. Today Weather is an attempt to address all those sins.

I’ve been using Today Weather over the past few weeks after Matt offered me beta access. The site’s lightweight, fast, well-designed, and reliable. It has quickly become my favorite weather forecasting website.

You Know What? Fuck Dropdowns ➝

An incredibly entertaining session from SXSW by Eric Campbell and Golden Krishna.

Bluetooth Headphones Are Annoying ➝

On the heels of my piece from yesterday on how Apple will transition to wireless headphones, here’s a great piece by Lauren Goode from early last month:

You have to charge them. And pair them. Late for a conference call you need to dial into? Hold on — you need to jam your Bluetooth buds in your ears and pair them to your phone if you’re not already paired. Got a sudden burst of motivation to work out? Sorry, no music — headphones are dead. (Substitute “work out” for “play video games”; same thing.) A plastic three-button remote is a poor substitute for an entire phone interface when it comes to controlling music, answering phone calls, or using Siri. Some Bluetooth headphones even have the remote-control functions built into the earbuds themselves — which means every time you try to adjust your earbuds, you inadvertently skip a song.

I can’t wait to see how many of these complaints Apple is able to tackle when they inevitably release their own, Apple branded, Bluetooth headphones.

Why Your Phone Dies When It Claims to Have Battery Left ➝

Tons of interesting information from Mark Smirniotis regarding the battery percentage indicators on our devices. He uses simple analogies and explains the process in plain English — it’s a great read.

Tumblr to Introduce Ad Platform ➝

From the Tumblr Staff weblog:

On Thursday, we’re going to introduce ads on Tumblrs, so that later this year people can start making money from their blogs.

Tumblr is a place where brilliant, creative, funny, impossible people shape culture. Some of you have even turned your passions into jobs: book deals, music careers, paid gigs with the Creatrs program. Now, (soon!) that opportunity will be available to any eligible Tumblr—poet, musician, fan artist, and misfit weirdo memelord alike.

It’s fascinating that a service as old as Tumblr has gone this long without an advertising platform. The service is nearly ten years old and features one of the most vibrant communities on the Internet. I would have expected something like this shortly after their acquisition by Yahoo in 2013. But here we are, three years later, and it’s just now launching.

iOS and Patience ➝

Ben Brooks:

Using iOS full time takes patience, but don’t misconstrue that as a statement that things are not as easy, or fast, as on a Mac. Patience because iOS requires you to retrain your natural instincts of how you should go about things on a traditional computer.

This perfectly encapsulates my thoughts on using an iPad, rather than a Mac, as a primary machine. The key point is that most tasks require a different set of tools and a new way of thinking in order to accomplish. Claiming that things are strictly easier or strictly better on iOS is a fallacy, they’re just different.

Perhaps you prefer to use OS X to get your work done because you’re more comfortable with the tools — that’s fine. But arguing that one platform or another is better suited is just foolish. I like iOS more because it fits my lifestyle and offers tools that I typically enjoy using more than their desktop counterparts. And that shouldn’t impede your enjoyment of OS X — there’s no reason we can’t both coexist harmoniously.

I do think most iPhone and OS X users should give the iPad an honest try, though. It might not work out for you, but at least you’ll know for sure rather than passing judgement based on hearsay. And who knows, maybe you’ll find a few tasks that you actually end up preferring to do on the iPad.

iPhone 7 Rumored to Come in New Space Black Option ➝

Chance Miller, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

Today’s report also again mentions that the iPhone 7 will come in a new black color option, similar to that of the 2013 Mac Pro. The report says that the release of a black iPhone 7 is “highly likely.” We reported last month on this possibility, likening the color to the Space Black Apple Watch.

Apple has expanded the iPhone color options over the past few years, but space gray is still the only variation that features a black front. I’m glad that this could be changing soon.

SwiftKey App Leaks Email Addresses and Phone Numbers ➝

Cara McGoogan, writing for The Telegraph:

A British keyboard app that uses artificial intelligence to predict the next word you want to write has suspended part of its service after users reported receiving predictions meant for other people, including email addresses and phone numbers.

After installing SwiftKey on a new device, one user was shocked when the app suggest she use a stranger’s email address. Another reported getting predictions in a language they’d never spoken.

Thankfully, the ability to sync the app on new devices has been temporarily disabled. But this certainly leaves me questioning whether it’s worth the risk to use third-party keyboards at all.

Design Doesn’t Scale ➝

Stanley Wood, Spotify design director, outlines how the company managed to get all of their designers on the same page to add consistency across platforms.