On Apple’s Declining Software Quality

Marco Arment, “Apple Has Lost the Functional High Ground”:

Apple’s hardware today is amazing — it has never been better. But the software quality has taken such a nosedive in the last few years that I’m deeply concerned for its future. I’m typing this on a computer whose existence I didn’t even think would be possible yet, but it runs an OS riddled with embarrassing bugs and fundamental regressions. Just a few years ago, we would have relentlessly made fun of Windows users for these same bugs on their inferior OS, but we can’t talk anymore.

Marco’s piece has gotten a lot of attention, good and bad, but it’s my opinion that he makes many good points in his piece. As I tweeted last night, the crux of Marco’s argument seems to be this:

The problem seems to be quite simple: they’re doing too much, with unrealistic deadlines.

That’s a reasonable stance. Marco attributes marketing priorities as being perhaps too influential towards shipping schedules, but the bottom line is that maybe Apple should slow down and refocus. I’d say Apple’s ambitions are exceeding their ability to carefully and completely QA software.

‘Deaf Drivers Flocking to Lyft’

Carolyn Said, writing for SF Gate:

In San Francisco, dozens of deaf people drive for the app-based ride service Lyft — a phenomenon that started naturally and now is nurtured by the startup with outreach and support groups. Like other ride-service drivers, deaf people say they appreciate setting their own hours and being their own boss. But the work holds extra resonance for people who sometimes confront barriers to traditional employment and can experience social isolation from hearing people.

“Many deaf people are intimidated by careers that require a lot of interpersonal communication,” said Joel Barish, CEO and co-founder of DeafNation.com, which provides video content and special events for deaf and hard of hearing people. Barish, who is deaf, hosted an online video show about San Francisco’s deaf Lyft drivers in October that has had more than 200,000 views — and has helped attract more drivers.

“Lyft is good because technology makes the process really easy,” Barish said. “They accept the fare on the app, pick up the people and they go — there aren’t barriers to communication.”

Interesting piece — it touches a lot on deaf culture and the deaf community, both of which I was heavily immersed in growing up with deaf parents. Anecdotally speaking, I’ve long heard that people who are deaf or hard of hearing are better (i.e., safer) drivers because they don’t have auditory stimulation to distract them from the road (e.g., talking on the phone).

NYC Mandating Flu Shots for Preschoolers

Sharon Otterman, reporting for the NYT:

The new rule, which applies to some 150,000 children in city-licensed day care centers and preschools, was quietly adopted by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the waning days of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s administration. This is the first flu season during which it applies. New York City joins New Jersey and Connecticut in implementing a mandatory flu vaccine for children between 6 months and 5 years of age.

[…]

The early signs in New York are positive, said Dr. Jane R. Zucker, the city’s assistant commissioner for immunization administration. By early December, vaccination rates among young children in the city had increased to nearly 67 percent from 62.5 percent the prior season. Vaccination rates also went up among other age groups, in part because of other education efforts, she said.

“It’s about protecting these young children from what can be a very serious illness and a potentially fatal illness,” Dr. Zucker said.

He’s No Nostradomous, That’s for Sure

Matthew Lynn, in a 2007 op-ed for Bloomberg wherein he argues “the iPhone will fail”:

The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks. In terms of its impact on the industry, the iPhone is less relevant.

Somewhere, Lynn must be going, “Uh, oops?”.

(via @jyarow)

‘Inequality and the American Child’

Joseph E. Stiglitz, in a piece reprinted on BillMoyers.com:

Though an average American childhood may not be the worst in the world, the disparity between the country’s wealth and the condition of its children is unparalleled. About 14.5 percent of the American population as a whole is poor, but 19.9 percent of children – some 15 million individuals – live in poverty. Among developed countries, only Romania has a higher rate of child poverty. The US rate is two-thirds higher than that in the United Kingdom, and up to four times the rate in the Nordic countries. For some groups, the situation is much worse: more than 38 percent of black children and 30 percent of Hispanic children, are poor.

None of this is because Americans do not care about their children. It is because America has embraced a policy agenda in recent decades that has caused its economy to become wildly unequal, leaving the most vulnerable segments of society further and further behind. The growing concentration of wealth – and a significant reduction in taxes on it – has meant less money to spend on investments for the public good, like education and the protection of children.

As a result, America’s children have become worse off. Their fate is a painful example of how inequality not only undermines economic growth and stability – as economists and organizations like the International Monetary Fund are finally acknowledging – but also violates our most cherished notions of what a fair society should look like.

Thank You

On the heels of yesterday’s post, I wanted to use this, the first post of 2015, to thank everyone for supporting the site.

Steven’s Blog is truly a labor of love for me. It makes me zero money and has few RSS subscribers, yet my blog is an important part of my “brand” and online identity. Though the number of long-form posts here have dropped off as my freelancing career has continued to make big strides, I remain committed to posting here everyday — not only for my readership, but also for myself. Writing and keeping the lights on here is therapeutic for me, and helps keep my writing skills, technically speaking, sharp. Put another way, while Steven’s Blog will never reach Daring Fireball heights, it is nonetheless big and important in its own, unique way. And that’s OK.

It’s hard to believe the site will turn 5 at the end of February. I’m proud of what I’ve built here over that span, and I look forward to another terrific 5 years.

Thank you.

My Big-Ass 2014

Last year, in reflecting upon 2013, I wrote, in part:

As we inch ever closer to completing yet another full orbit around the sun, I excitedly look towards 2014 with great enthusiasm.

[..]

I hope to ride into the new year with the same momentum that’s carried me this far. My wish is to successfully continue doing what I’m doing, and for even better things happen this year than last.

I’m happy to report that 2014 was, indeed even better than the year prior. I feel like I grew exponentially over the last twelve months, both professionally and especially personally.

In professional terms, 2014 brought about many exciting opportunities. I feel that the work I did over the course of the year only solidified my place as the go-to person when it comes to accessibility on iOS. My work appeared in a few new places — MacStories, TechCrunch, iMore, and The Sweet Setup — which really helped to broaden my audience. Perhaps most impressive is that I was invited in June to attend the WWDC keynote as a member of the press. That was a huge step for me, and it’s something on which I continue to build upon.

Speaking of attending conferences, I attended my first XOXO Festival in September. It was a wonderful experience, and I got to meet so many wonderful people. Three months later, I still think back to those few days in Portland with great fondness; I hope that there’ll be a 2015 edition next fall.

As I said, 2014 was a great year for me professionally. In the new year, I hope to ramp up my output, make even more connections, and just keep building the foundation that I have underfoot. A new year with new opportunities is waiting to happen, and I can’t wait for it all.

* * *

If I distilled down what 2014 meant to me on a personal level, it would be a sentence long:

That eHarmony dating service really does work.

I’ll refrain from getting too sentimental here, but suffice it to say that meeting and growing the amazing relationship we share has been so good to me on so many levels. With her, I’ve traveled more and done more things than ever before. I’ve relocated across the Bay, to San Francisco, to be with her (and her mom). Being with my girlfriend has made me a better person — a happier person. We do have our moments, as all couples do, but she completes me, and I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store for us.

* * *

On the whole, 2014 definitely had more ups than downs. As the calendar approaches January 1st, I have never been more excited and optimistic for the year ahead. To reiterate what I said to close 2013’s retrospective, my goal is to just keep doing what I’m doing, building upon the successes of the year before.

Happy New Year!

‘The Oddness of Unboxing’

MG Siegler writes about his affinity for taking photos of things still in their retail packaging:

It seems insane. People “read” articles that only contain pictures of tech products in their packaging and are then subsequently taken out of that packaging while being documented. But when you think about it, it’s not really that insane. It’s similar to weather porn or food porn. It’s all about desire. You love to have what you don’t have.

In a similar vein, I always feel a sense of “loss” once I unbox a gadget — of course I want to use my shiny new iPhone 6, yet I know it’ll never again be as new and pristine as it was the first moment I saw it in its box. It’s irrational, but that’s how I feel. It’s a strange mix of euphoria and sadness.

Why Jim Harbaugh Returned to Michigan

Michael Rosenberg for Sports Illustrated, on why Jim Harbaugh went back to Michigan:

Harbaugh said the decision came down to “several reasons, but it’s a decision I made with my heart. I’m very humbled, very honored. And ready to work and do my part. I want to do a good job. I want to be good at it. I want to be good for Michigan. That’s really the things that I really feel …

“I can barely hold a thought, I find I’m so excited.”

Best of luck to him in Ann Arbor, but I’m betting Harbaugh will be back in the NFL to settle unfinished business sooner than later. To me, I think the way he "mutually parted" with the 49ers left a bad taste in his mouth.

On the Bitcoin Bowl

Anthony Ha, writing for TechCrunch:

When I first heard about the Bitcoin Bowl, I assumed it was a joke, or maybe a weird startup publicity stunt. It turns out that yes, the Bitcoin Bowl is promoting BitPay, a bitcoin-processing startup — but it’s also real college football game that’s underway as I write this on Friday evening.

[…]

This is the first bitcoin-related sponsorship of a televised U.S. sporting event, but as The Wall Street Journal noted when the four-year deal with ESPN Events was announced in June, Dogecoin sponsored a NASCAR event earlier this year.

The college bowls nowadays are utterly ridiculous. The sheer number of games and sponsors prove that these games mean little aside from the big money being pulled in by the NCAA and the sponsors. (Yes, the schools represented in the bowls get a slice of the pie too, but the lion’s share goes to the NCAA and the corporate sponsors.)