ExtraBITS for 12 August 2013
This week, Adam made an appearance on the Tech Night Owl podcast to discuss the Apple ebook verdict. Blogger Shawn Blanc released an ebook of his own, called “Delight Is in the Details” — it’s worth a look for anyone who creates. President Obama wanted you to be delighted with NSA surveillance, and is promising to change the program to be more transparent. Ken Segall, a longtime Apple advisor, explains how Apple is changing the professional market to be more accessible. Meanwhile, leading ebook vendors are arguing against being forced to make their devices more accessible. A service long known for accessibility — Instapaper — now has a new beta Web app. Amazon has long been portrayed as the anti-Apple, but analyst Horace
Dediu shows why the two have more in common than you might think. The patent troll Lodsys has dismissed a lawsuit against a developer, the mystery of why Xerox copiers were switching up numbers has been solved, and we delve into how much your favorite tech companies are spending on Washington lobbying.
Adam Engst Updates the Ebook Price Fixing Suit on Tech Night Owl — The U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in with what “remedies” it wants to see applied to Apple after the company’s loss in the ebook price-fixing suit. In this segment of Tech Night Owl Live with Gene Steinberg, Adam Engst explains the case briefly and then analyzes why the proposed remedies don’t make any sense.
Shawn Blanc’s Delight Is in the Details — Blogger Shawn Blanc has released his first book, “Delight Is in the Details,” about how to create work that delights your audience, whether you’re a designer, developer, or writer. The $29 package includes an ebook in PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle) formats, an audiobook version, and individual interviews with creators such as Federico Viticci of MacStories, developer Marco Arment, and designer Jory Raphael. After reading it and listening to some of the interviews, I can say that it’s a great source of advice and inspiration for anyone who creates products. You can
also purchase the ebook alone for $20, but I recommend spending the extra $9 for the interviews.
President Obama Wants You to Feel Good About NSA Surveillance — On 9 August 2013, President Obama addressed concerns about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic spying programs, but stopped far short of promising to curtail them. The president announced that the NSA will be launching a new Web site to better explain the program. While Obama stated that, “it’s right to ask questions about surveillance,” he said that Edward Snowden, who revealed the programs to the world, was not a “patriot.” Meanwhile, Obama has reportedly been in secret talks with technology
executives, including Apple’s Tim Cook, to discuss the surveillance programs.
How Apple Is Changing the Professional Market — Are you a professional user who feels abandoned by Apple? Ken Segall, a long-time adviser to Apple, argues that Apple isn’t leaving pros behind, but is instead changing its professional tools to be accessible to more users. Segall reveals that, at one point, Steve Jobs considered killing Apple’s professional products due to them requiring a lot of resources for a small, niche market — as opposed to the consumer market, which is larger and less demanding. While Segall acknowledges that Apple will drive away some pros, he believes the company will
succeed in advancing the market and empowering more users.
Redesigned Instapaper Web App Hits Open Beta — We’re at last seeing the first fruits of Betaworks’ acquisition of Instapaper, the read-it-later service started by Marco Arment. Betaworks has unveiled a redesigned Web site for the service, sporting a new, more modern look. The company is encouraging users to give it a look and offer feedback. One feature that remains notably absent is the capability to sort saved articles into folders.
Ebook Reader Vendors Argue Against Accessibility Requirements — Three of the biggest vendors of ebook readers, Amazon, Kobo, and Sony, are petitioning the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a permanent exemption for ebook readers from federal accessibility laws. Federal law requires “advanced communication services” to be fully accessible to the disabled. However, the companies are arguing that ebook readers shouldn’t fall into that category, since they are limited devices specifically designed to display only text. If you’d like
to voice your opinion, the FCC is accepting comments on the petition through 3 September 2013.
Why Amazon Isn’t the Anti-Apple — Many analysts have tried to portray Amazon and Apple as polar opposites, but analyst Horace Dediu argues that they’re more alike than different. Dediu argues that they’re both sought out for similar reasons, including convenience, ease of use, and controlled environments. While Amazon’s business is mostly low-margin, with little to no profit, Apple’s iTunes also makes little profit. Where the perception differs is that Amazon is seen as having few competitors, while Apple is seen as having infinite competitors. However, Dediu says Amazon’s position is more
precarious than usually imagined.
Patent Troll Lodsys Dismisses One Patent Suit — Lodsys, who has made a business out of suing iOS app developers, has dismissed its lawsuit against TMSOFT, perhaps most famous for its White Noise apps for iOS and Mac. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that Lodsys can never again sue TMSOFT for patent violations. TMSOFT was assisted by the Public Patent Foundation (PPF), which represents small businesses from patent infringement litigation pro bono. Dan Ravicher of PPF said that he donated about $190,000 of his time to help TMSOFT defend
itself, whereas Lodsys had to spend only $450 to file the lawsuit. As part of the settlement, TMSOFT had to agree to never sue Lodsys over patents, dismiss all motions with prejudice — including its motion to recover attorney fees — and donate to a mutually agreeable charity, which Lodsys will match.
Why Xerox Copiers Were Mixing Up Their Numbers — Over at the Economist, our own Glenn Fleishman has discovered why certain Xerox copiers were mixing up numbers on copies. The culprit turns out to be the JBIG2 compression algorithm, which is not enabled by default, and copiers display a clear warning if it is enabled. JBIG2 is a form of ultra-high compression that duplicates similar-looking areas. It’s popular among businesses with extreme bandwidth requirements, such as remote oil rigs, but should not be enabled unless absolutely necessary. Xerox is working on a patch that will allow
system administrators to disable the feature entirely.
The High Price of Tech Lobbying — Ever wondered how much technology companies spend on government lobbying? The Washington Post has a graph of just that, and it’s fascinating. Google, once reticent to lobby Washington, now spends $16 million a year — more than any other tech firm. Microsoft, despite heavy cuts to lobbying in recent years, is still a distant second. Facebook, which entered the lobbying game only in 2009, has drastically increased its lobbying spending in recent years. Apple has slowly raised spending, but lags
far behind at about $2 million per year, just a bit less than Amazon.