Looking at Accessibility in iOS 8

In my latest for MacStories, I contribute to the site’s exhaustive coverage of iOS 8 by writing a piece wherein I share my impressions of some of iOS 8′s Accessibility features and little touches.

‘How ISIS Works’

The New York Times published an interesting breakdown of the terrorist organization:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has a detailed structure that encompasses many functions and jurisdictions, according to ISIS documents seized by Iraqi forces and seen by American officials and Hashim Alhashimi, an Iraqi researcher. Many of its leaders are former officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army who augmented their military training with terrorist techniques during years of fighting American troops.

(via @fmanjoo)

On Roger Goodell’s Job Security and the Ray Rice Investigation

Mark Maske, reporting for The Washington Post:

An official with another NFL team who had been briefed on the views of the owner of his franchise said of that owner: “He supports the commissioner.” Asked what it would take for that owner’s support of Goodell to be withdrawn, the official said: “If the investigation concludes that the commissioner saw more and knew more than he has said, and he was not truthful about that to the clubs, things would change.”

A top executive with a third franchise who had spoken to his team’s owner expressed similar sentiments, saying Goodell’s job would be at risk only if it is found that he personally orchestrated a cover-up.

“Certainly he would be [held] accountable for intentionally misleading people and taking actions to cover his tracks,” that executive said. “Certainly that would be grounds for anything from a reprimand to termination. [But] it would take a lot. No one expects it to come to that.”

I like football as a sport and the NFL, but I haven’t been excited for the start of the new season. I watched barely any preseason games, and through Week 2 (this week) of the regular season, I haven’t watched any action. That my interest in the league is waning is sad in ways, but that’s where I stand with professional football right now.

‘Letter of Recommendation’

Chris Breen delivers a eulogy of sorts for his laid-off Macworld comrades:

All the people I’ve mentioned are enthralled with technology—they wouldn’t do what they do otherwise. But I don’t think I’m going too far in saying that were you to ask them to describe their professional life in one word they’d reply “Writer.”

These people love language and using it to convey sometimes arcane ideas and procedures. Because they do, they are careful with the words they use and the way they’re arranged. These words and the ideas behind them are issued with intent—to help with understanding, to entertain, to instill insight.

In a world where it’s easy to get attention through raving, snark, and the overuse of punctuation, this is a rare skill. I hope those of you in the position to do so will honor that skill by allowing these voices to be heard.

As I mentioned in this post, I had the great fortune to be able to work with a few people on Breen’s list when contributing to Macworld. Of those mentioned, I worked closest (i.e., directly) with Dan Frakes and Scholle MacFarland, and both were really great to me. It’s my hope that everyone laid off (save for Serenity Caldwell) lands on their feet soon.

Jason Snell Leaving ‘Macworld’, Staff Laid Off

Jason Snell announced today that he’s leaving Macworld and comments on the lay-offs:

Last December, after several corporate leadership changes, and with budget cuts looming on the horizon, I decided I couldn’t go on. My newest set of bosses persuaded me to stay give them a chance. So I continued to work and ponder my next move.

Then another leadership shift occurred, the sixth in 24 months. The new bosses were actually my old bosses, and they knew exactly how I was feeling about my job and the prospect of going through more painful changes. To their great credit, they allowed us to end our relationship amicably. I thank them for their support and their generosity. They even asked me to write a final front-of-the-book column in the November issue of Macworld.

Unfortunately, many of my colleagues lost their jobs today. If there’s anything I can do to help them, I will. I have had time to plan for this day, but they haven’t. You probably know some of them. Please join with me in giving them sympathy and support.

Sad news. I’ve written a few things for Macworld, and the editors with whom I worked were great to me. My work for them has played a big role in propelling my career and my name to where it stands today. I sincerely hope those who were laid off find new jobs soon.

To be clear, Macworld.com won’t be going away; it’s just operating under the watch of a greatly reduced editorial staff. (The print edition has been axed, though.) Still, it won’t be the same without the bylines of Snell, Dan Frakes, Dan Moren, Serenity Caldwell, et al. Snell, in fact, is joining Relay FM as a co-host to two podcasts.

Dr. Drang, On the ‘Standard Common Markdown Clusterfuck’

The Good Doctor writes:

Fundamentally, Markdown was tolerant and inclusive. At the risk of some ambiguity, it let you write pretty much the way you’d write a nicely formatted plain text email and turned it into HTML for you. It was both easy to write and easy to read in source form. The readability of Markdown was key. If a normal person could read your Markdown source and understand its structure, chances are Markdown.pl could, too.

Gruber’s Markdown, as outlined here, is the canonical version for me. Like Drang, it’s never lead me astray and is the one I reference. Furthermore, I’m in complete agreement with Drang that the best parts of Markdown are (a) its cleanliness and (b) you’re able to drop in raw HTML code when needed. The simplicity and versatility of the syntax is really wonderful.

Related: my piece for TidBITS from last year on Markdown and accessibility.

On Rdio 3.0

Ben Sisario for The New York Times, on Rdio’s new update, including a move to the “freemium” model:

“What we’ve learned collectively over the last few years,” said Anthony Bay, Rdio’s chief executive, “is that the most successful models are freemium models.”

[...]

Rdio’s new design, which fills a user’s screen with readymade playlists based on their tastes, draws heavily on the Internet radio format, which was popularized by Pandora and has become an increasingly important as digital outlets try to figure out how people prefer to listen to music online. The radio giant Clear Channel has made an aggressive push for its online radio platform, iHeartRadio. Recently Rhapsody introduced unRadio, a music service that is free for T-Mobile customers, and Google bought Songza, an online playlist service.

I’m a big fan of Rdio, and yesterday’s update is great. Rdio’s gotten even better.

Be sure to check out The Sweet Setup’s rundown of all the new stuff in 3.0.

‘Apple Said to Negotiate Deep Payments Discounts From Big Banks’

Ian Kar for Bank Innovation, on Apple’s oft-rumored NFC-based payment system:

The first thing Apple has done is convince these four FIs to consider transactions from Apple’s upcoming payments venture — said to launch with its forthcoming iPhone 6 introduction — as “card present” transactions, which carry a lower discount rate than “card not present” transactions, because of lower fraud risk.

Beyond that, Apple has also managed to bump down the actual “card present” rate by 15 to 25 basis points, according to people with knowledge of the talks. Normal “card present” discount rates, which are shared by issuers and networks but determined by the network, are about 1.5%, which means that Apple appears as though it will get around a 10% discount on the processing rate it will pay. Last quarter, Apple generated $4.5 billion of iTunes revenue — this implies that Apple will save at least $27 million as a result of these deals with the banks. Of course, more revenue volume is expected upon launch of Apple’s payments venture.

[...]

According to Noyes, while banks control the card-present/not-present rates, the networks negotiate the rates with payments processors. The differences can be dramatic. Apple was apparently adamant about getting the card-present rates and told issuers that it would assume some of the fraud risk inherent in every transaction by providing a secure element via biometric authentication (its TouchID feature) and location data provided through an NFC chip. The Apple payments platform will work with all of their cards.

Reading this makes me really regret backing that Coin thing last year — especially now.

(via John Gruber)

Derek Jeter’s Goodbye

Roger Angell for The New Yorker, “S’Long, Jeet”:

Jeter has just about wound up his Mariano Tour—the all-points ceremonies around home plate in every away park on the Yankees’ schedule, where he accepts gifts, and perhaps a farewell check for his Turn 2 charity, and lifts his cap to the cheering, phone-flashing multitudes. He does this with style and grace—no one is better at it—and without the weepiness of some predecessors. His ease, his daily joy in his work, has lightened the sadness of this farewell, and the cheering everywhere has been sustained and genuine. Just the other day, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon groused about the rare sounds of cheering offered up to Derek by his customarily sleepy attendees.

Two years straight, the Yankees are on the brink of losing two of the franchise’s best and highly-revered players: Mariano Rivera last year and Jeter this year. Both made their major league debuts in 1995 and both helped the Yankees win the World Series in 1996 — my freshman year of high school. It’s been a long time.

(via Daring Fireball)

On ‘The Simpsons’ Marathon

Bill Carter, writing for the New York Times:

The 12-day, round-the-clock marathon, which also included the two-hour 2007 theatrical movie, produced ratings about three times as high as executives at the channel expected. It enabled FXX to finish as the highest-rated network in all of cable television among the audience most desired by advertisers — viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 — three nights out of 12. For its full run, the audience for the marathon had a median age of 28, one of the youngest in the television business.

[...]

The results of the marathon were not only huge, they were consistent. On its final night, the latest episodes reached well over one million viewers. Over the course of the 12 days, the episodes in prime time averaged 1.32 million total viewers, up over 500 percent from the channel’s previous average of 206,000. Among the 18-to-49-year-old range, it averaged 841,000 viewers, up more than 650 percent from the previous average of 111,000.

I loved the marathon — I don’t think I once changed the channel while it was on. I would turn on the TV and let it run while I worked.