The Jolly Teapot About

The Jolly Teapot

The Macalope on the Washington Post’s article about Pegasus, iPhone, and security

The Macalope reacted to the Washington Post’s story Despite the hype, iPhone security no match for NSO spyware, and went after the newspaper’s apparent unfair take on iOS, following Amnesty’s Forensic Methodology Report: How to catch NSO Group’s Pegasus.

Amnesty also explicitly says its results do no necessarily reflect the relative security of iOS devices compared to Android devices.” The Post seems to have wizzed past that segment in its rush to downtown Gotchaville, population: Apple.

This seems to happen a lot. A researcher will find a problem with iOS and say You can’t draw broader conclusions from this!” and people will say OH, YEAH?! WELL, YOU’RE NOT MY DAD!”

The Macalope’s post perfectly summarises the issue I had when I read that Post’s article. My issue had a lot to do with the way they framed the idea that because the iPhone is not 100% secure and Pegasus-proof it means Apple cannot claim the fact that the iPhone is more secure than its competition. I found it a bit weird, and I’m glad for the Macalope’s take on this:

The Post does a bit of a disservice to its readers by implying there’s more of an equivalence in security between iOS and Android for most people than there is.

Exactly.

The essence of the Post’s story is a bit like saying Usain Bolt cannot claim to be the fastest man alive if there is another person that can go faster while riding a motorbike. Being the best doesn’t mean being perfect, and being the most secure phone doesn’t mean being immune to crazy sophisticated spyware like Pegasus. You would think it’s obvious, but that’s not the story the article tells.

Sure, maybe Apple can lower its voice a little when it comes to security. They can still brag about it, and for good reasons. But maybe a little less. And sure, Apple should continue to dedicate tons of money to work on security, and then spend a lot more, and then a lot more again, to do better, as they should, as Google should.

On the new Safari UI, again

Jeff Kirvin, on his post Safari 15 isn’t bad, just misunderstood:

On a recent Connected podcast, Federico Viticci commented that he hadn’t heard a single comment in favor of the new Safari design in this summer’s Apple betas. What he’s not factoring in here is the silent majority” who either like the new design but don’t feel compelled to hold forth online about it, or the even larger group of folks who just don’t have a strong opinion, who think it’s fine, whatever.

Admittedly, it can be hard to keep these folks in mind when the technorati gets so salty about something, but it’s important to remember that podcasters and bloggers aren’t UI designers, are paid to have strong opinions, and might be too invested in the way things are to see what Apple is really going for here.

I think Kirvin is right, and that’s the problem with getting feedback through beta software: the vast majority of your feedback will come from enthusiasts, power users, and a very specific set of professionals. Users testing the beta are not representative of all users, and since Apple products are so popular and are made for so many people, it may be even more the case for them than for other software companies. For refining features, ironing out bugs, beta users feedback is fantastic, but I’m guessing that for new UI paradigms, changes that break power users’ habits, not so much. Still valuable don’t get me wrong, but not ideal.

Like I’ve said in my previous post about the new Safari UI:

It’s hard to know if you like something because it’s new and different, or because it’s actually good. Just like it’s hard to know if something is really bad if the complaints mostly come from a change of habits.

Kirvin then mentions the recent updates made to the new Safari, which now shows a separate tab bar by default:

The first thing I did when I installed the new Monterey beta was turn that off and revert it all to one line. It’s not so much that I need the vertical space, but I think the new design makes more sense.

I did exactly the same: I think the new approach makes a lot of sense. I can’t say if it’s better, just new, or just different, but I like it. And having the new Safari display a separate tab bar by default kind of ruins the efforts and the logic of the new UI. I hope the option to have this tab bar displayed will stay, because some people might need this bar to be always available, some others may need it from time to time, but I believe the default should be the original one bar” for URL and tabs.

Speaking of the all-in-one URL/tab bar, I am still not decided on whether I should keep the show colour in tab bar” option on or off. Maybe it should only turn on when Safari is fullscreen, and/or when there is only one tab open in the window, and/or only for pinned tabs.

Jerry Saltz: “My only work is to write for the reader”

Renowned Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine Jerry Saltz, on his reasons to turn down a Substack offer:

I think it’s fishy to always be barking to your readers to subscribe. I think it is not my real work to write for subscribers.” My only work is to write for the reader. […] I want to reach strangers; be loved and hated by strangers; talk about art to anyone any where any how. I like being in my huge department store @Nymag where people find me who have no idea who I am or what I do or even thought about art before.

I love this so much. I strongly advise you to read the full post. The department store analogy seems especially great, and I cannot find a better one to express the idea of wanting to reach people unfamiliar with your work.

With Substack, the huge majority of your readers activily decide to subscribe, and therefore most of your audience knows you, expects something from you, already likes you.

With a column in a publication like New York Magazine, you’re reaching not only people who bought the magazine for your column, but also people who bought it for another column, for the feature pages, people who read it in a waiting room, people who read it months after buying it, people who subscribe to the magazine precisely for the reason that it contains many, many different things.

On that note, I’m confident that the next big move for Substack-like products is not only to bundle subscriptions, but to offer something more in the likes of a magazine. Much like what Medium tried to do: one subscription, access to a bunch of content/authors.

Back to Saltz’s analogy.

If you write a novel, you’ll want to have your book displayed in every book store. If you’re planning to sell it in a tiny members-only shop with no front window, your general audience will barely grow, you’ll always reach the same amount of fans, the same narrow, engaged readership. I may be more lucrative, but your work won’t be as easily discovered. Both options are good, they just have a different intent.

If you’re a teacher who truly loves teaching, a teacher who wants to touch as many souls as possible in their life, you’ll want to teach in a public school. In this analogy, Substack feels more like a private school.

PS — I cannot find the original source of Jerry Saltz’s post, so I’m linking to Craig Mod’s tweet, which, like most of his tweets, may soon be deleted. Here is a screenshot of the post, just in case.

On the new Safari (which I like very much)

MG Siegler, on 500ish, In Defense of the New Safari:

I get the critiques. Largely boiling down to the notion that design isn’t just how something looks, it’s how it works”. And I think it’s fair in a few aspects. But largely I read this critique (which itself is kicked off by linking to another critique, which itself is kicked off linking to more critiques still) as one that is just as much about not liking change at all as it is about the new changes.

Yes, it’s extremely jarring to use the new versions of Safari at first if you’ve used the previous versions. This is most pronounced on iOS because people are more likely to use Safari on iOS than on desktop and because even if they do use Safari on desktop, most people undoubtedly use Safari on iOS more than they do on desktop because of the time spent on our phones. Also the URL bar has been shifted from the top to the bottom of the screen. It’s not just a change, it’s the opposite of what it once was.

I agree with Siegler 100%. I like the new Safari, both on iOS and MacOS. And I get the critiques too.

Like I’ve said in my previous thoughts on the WWDC announcements, many times I’ve found myself swiping through recently opened apps when I really wanted to switch between tabs instead. So the new tab switching feature seems like a great new feature, because it feels natural. Same goes for the way you can swipe up to display all currently opened tabs.

I like the new position of the URL bar too: the bottom part of the screen is far more reachable, and I like the look of websites without the bar at the top of the window, in a smartphone without a case” way. Not sure about the previous/next buttons (I’d prefer something like a Share button instead for instance), but I don’t mind having all the controls under one …” button. And finally, finally, the Reload without content blockers” command is under the same button on iOS and MacOS. Before, it was under the Refresh arrow on the Mac and not under the Aa” button, like it was on iOS, which was extremely confusing.

Of course, it’s hard to know if you like something because it’s new and different, or because it’s actually good. Just like it’s hard to know if something is really bad if the complaints mostly come from a change of habits. It’s very difficult to tell the difference at first, and the new Safari would make a great case study on this question, according to the strong opinions I’ve read about it.

On the Mac, since I never was a big tab person (I like to keep a limited number of tabs opened, and keep things organised as much as I can, something I cannot say on my work Windows PC), I enjoy using the new tab interface. I get the complaints about the new tab management system though, and even for me, it will take some time to get used to. But so far, I like it very much.

My few complaints about the new Safari so far revolve mostly about some of the aesthetics mistakes or choices, like contrast issues or the way pinned tabs look, but I’m confident most of them with get fixed, improved, or changed by the time the final versions of the OSes are released.

Finally a folding phone review worth watching

Michael Fisher, on his YouTube channel MrMobile, introducing his long-term video review of one of the two categories of foldable phones:

Since I bought the first Samsung Galaxy Fold in January 2020, I have exclusively carried foldables as my personal phones. Today my daily carry includes a Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 for weekdays, stepping down to the smaller Galaxy Z Flip and Motorola Razr 5G on weekends. And over time I’ve noticed a funny thing: while I can get more work done on phones like the Fold 2, I find the flips so convenient, so … fun … that even during the week I sometimes slip one of these into my side pocket instead of the Fold.

So as we approach a second summer of Folds and Flips, I want to share my experience from the past year of actually using flip phones in our modern era: from nostalgic whimsy to screen-splitting heartbreak.

Concise, complete, honest review from Fisher. I really liked it because finally a review mentions the user experience of such flip-foldable phones. This is what I wrote last year, following the Guardian’s Samuel Gibbs second review” of the Galaxy Z Flip:

I think it is disappointing to not see Gibbs give more details on how it is to use the phone. […] What does it mean to have a folding device in terms of checking your messages and emails? Putting it in a pocket a million times a day? How often do you really need to open and close it? I am convinced that the answers to these questions are what people need to know about a folding phone, and something we don’t really learn from this review.

Maybe Fisher’s review is also a sign that the foldable phones are more mature now. Not only in their hardware, but in the way they are reviewed. It seems to me that most of the reviews of foldables I’ve read or watched were focusing too much on durability, and on how cool it is to have a foldable screen, neglecting the rest of what is usually reviewed.

Obviously having a modern OLED screen that can fold is pretty amazing and cool, and it is evident that durability — especially for such expensive devices — is a big concern for potential buyers and therefore must be thoroughly tested. But, as Michael Fisher says in his video, there were also lot of questions about the user experience, questions that have apparently remained without a satisfying answer for quite a while.

Is it annoying to open/close the phone all the time?

What are the perks of having a flip phone nowadays?

Is it useful without being opened?

Can it be used daily without losing too much compare to a regular slab phone?

MrMobile answers all these questions, and his answers are, like I said, honest, concise, and truly insightful.

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