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ExtraBITS for 13 February 2017

We have a slew of ExtraBITS for you this week! Apple pulls the LG UltraFine 5K Display from its stores, some app makers find that they make more money after leaving the Mac App Store, Verizon Wireless offers same-day screen repair in some cities, Apple prepares to launch its new “spaceship” campus, Backblaze shares the latest hard drive reliability statistics, and programming author Daniel Steinberg laments Apple’s seeming apathy toward iBooks.

Apple Pulls LG UltraFine 5K Display from Retail Stores -- In the wake of various problems with the LG UltraFine 5K Display, 9to5Mac reports that physical Apple Stores have stopped carrying the Apple-approved monitors. They’re still available to order online but with a wait time of 5 to 6 weeks and no option to ship to a store. Perhaps Apple should reconsider making its own displays.

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Some Apps Making More Outside the Mac App Store -- After Apple removed the code snippet manager Dash from the Mac App Store, its developers found that they actually made more money afterward, but that was likely due to the increased media coverage. In a less biased test, Rogue Amoeba also decided to stop selling its audio recording app Piezo on the Mac App Store due to Apple’s onerous restrictions. Even though the Mac App Store accounted for about half of Piezo’s sales before being removed, Rogue Amoeba found that nearly all customers shifted to direct sales — in other words, the Mac App Store wasn’t contributing much to product discovery. Plus, thanks to direct sale transaction fees of just a few percent, versus Apple’s 30 percent, Rogue Amoeba made almost $5 more per copy of Piezo and more overall revenues after pulling it from the Mac App Store. Although results would undoubtedly vary from case to case, Rogue Amoeba’s experience shows that the Mac App Store may not be worthwhile for many developers.

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Verizon Offering Same-Day Screen Repair in Some Cities -- Verizon Wireless is offering a new service for members of its $11-per-month Total Mobile Protection smartphone insurance: $79 same-day screen repair right in your home or office (or at one of 220+ repair locations). However, the on-site service is available only in certain cities — see Verizon’s Web site for a full list. And, oddly, it covers only the iPhone SE, 5c, 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus, but not the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. In our experience, AppleCare+ is a better deal, but Verizon’s option could be more convenient.

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Apple Preparing to Move into “Spaceship” Campus -- Reuters reports that, after years of delays and an estimated $5 billion price tag, Apple hopes to start moving into its new “spaceship” campus in a few months. One of Steve Jobs’s final initiatives, the round glass building was projected to be finished in 2015 but was held up by a lengthy city approval process and insane attention to detail. Although it looks (and sounds) impressive, some architects wonder if the building is an example of form over function. Louise Mozingo, chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at U.C. Berkeley, told Reuters that the building could be tough to navigate. Other sources have said that the building has been a tremendous drain on Apple; we can hope that completing it will help the company devote more time, attention, and resources to its core products and services.

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Backblaze Publishes 2016 Hard Drive Reliability Statistics -- Online backup service Backblaze has posted its hard drive reliability statistics for 2016, based on nearly 72,000 drives and almost 23 million drive-days. At the end of last year, overall failure rates were 1.95 percent, which is down 0.52 percent from last year. The most reliable drive maker was HGST, with a failure rate of just 0.60 percent, whereas HGST’s owner Western Digital brought up the rear, with 3.88 percent of its drives dying. Backblaze uses more drives from Seagate than any other manufacturer, and while Seagate’s new 8 TB drives proved quite reliable, the company’s 4 TB drives remain problematic. Backblaze’s most heavily used Seagate 4 TB model posted an above-average failure rate of 2.77 percent, and another model stumbled in with an abysmal 13.57 percent failure rate. The moral of the story: pay close attention to manufacturer and model when buying drives.

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Daniel Steinberg on Apple’s Lack of Passion for Books -- What happens when Apple isn’t passionate about a product line or service? Look no further than iBooks, iBooks Author, and the iBooks Store. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, both iBooks and iBooks Author have languished, iCloud Drive’s integration with iBooks is flaky, and the iBooks Store never recovered momentum after Apple was found guilty of ebook price fixing back in 2013. In a blog post, well-known programming author and speaker Daniel Steinberg emotes about Apple’s lack of passion for books and his frustrations with the iBooks Store, which we’ve experienced as well. “It’s a shame,” he concludes, “that there isn’t a nexus of passion about books and education at Apple like there is about health and music.”

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