What I’ve been reading today: Firefox, Spotify sucks, spoken word recording and combat drones

The latest version of Firefox includes better support for ProMotion displays, for those lucky lucky people who have a new 14- or 16-in MacBook Pro.

You’ve probably heard about Amazon’s Ring handing over video doorbell footage to police without a warrant. Turns out that the terms of service for Google Nest allows them to do the same thing. Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video on the other hand is end-to-end encrypted so Apple can’t do this, even if it wanted to.

Spotify Car Thing, a product which should never have crawled out of a company brainstorming session, has been unceremoniously dumped after just five months on sale. I avoid Spotify like the plague because I don’t want a penny of my money to the odious Joe Rogan.

I asked the wonderful Mr Christopher Phin for some advice on an audio setup for recording books (not for me, I should add). Needless to say, he massively overdelivered and wrote the definitive post on what you need to record spoken word.

Remember the Bayraktar TB2 combat drone which Ukraine used to such good effect in the early stages of their war against Russia? Russia wants to buy them. It will be interesting to see if Turkey – a NATO country – sell them (or more likely, find a third party country to ship them to or manufacture them under license, which then sells them to Russia).

Boris Johnson is an evasive weasel. Nothing more needs to be said on that score.

Weeknotes: Sunday 16th August 2020

I missed last week’s note thanks to a huge bout of tiredness which left me pretty exhausted and sleepy all Sunday. Sorry about that. Still a bit knackered now, so this will be a pretty short one.

Antitrust is here again

Back in the mid-noughties I spent a while covering the Microsoft/European Commission antitrust investigate, the one which ultimately led to the “browser” choice” version of Windows (where everyone naturally chose Chrome, because at the time Chrome didn’t suck).

That meant I had to learn an awful lot of antitrust law, and – as I was writing for an American site – how European rules differ from US ones. The news that Apple is being sued by Epic Games means a whole new generation of technology journalists are about the learn a lot of the same stuff. It’s fun.

One thing to understand off the bat: in Europe, there’s an assumption that competition is good for consumers, and so things which restrict competition must have a VERY clear consumer benefit. No such assumption exists in the US, where immediate consumer harm is all that really matters.

This is going to make things pretty tough for Epic, because Apple can ask “where’s the harm?” and Epic needs to do the work to show it. Just a restraint on Epic’s freedom to do what they hell they want won’t be enough. And Apple has a strong case that a single app store with a fixed fee has benefited consumers by providing developers with a clear route to market, as well as something that’s much more secure than mobile app distribution used to be. Anyone who remembers the pre-App Store era will know what a shambles it was trying to get mobile software if you weren’t a nerd.


Stuff I’ve been reading

Ars Technica has a great interview with two of Apple’s leading AI experts. It’s worth remember that Apple believes machine learning is so core to what it does that it’s built in specialised ML hardware into its processors for years.


Meanwhile, Microsoft is all in on cutting its carbon emissions and making itself carbon negative. That’s both aggressive and admirable. Satya Nadella is some leader.


I’m incredibly proud of my former colleague Thomas McMullan, who has a book coming out. Tom is proper clever and you should read his stuff.