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Industrial Design Experts Say HomePod's White Ring Issue 'Shouldn't Be Too Hard to Fix' for Apple

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Last week, Apple confirmed that the HomePod can potentially leave white rings on the surface of wooden furniture with oil or wax finishes. In an effort to help users prevent seeing these rings appear on their own furniture, Apple shared a support document on "Where to place HomePod," detailing how the interaction between the HomePod's vibration-dampening silicone base and a wooden surface has the chance to result in a white ring.

Business Insider recently spoke with a few industrial design experts who believe that the problem "shouldn't be too hard to fix" for Apple." Gregor Berkowitz, a product development consultant for numerous consumer electronics brands, expects Apple to "re-tool" its HomePod manufacturing process to address the issue with the silicone base, which could take between two to six weeks. Although the fix could take several weeks, the experts said it's "likely not very costly" for Apple.

Image via Wirecutter

Senior industrial designer at Y Studios, Cesar Viramontes, referred to the white rings issue as something customers will "probably forget about" in the next few months.
Apple may need to "re-tool" the manufacturing process since silicone is manufactured using a different process than the other kinds of elastomer," said Berkowitz. If that's necessary, the process could take anywhere from two weeks to six weeks, he noted.

"It's an issue, but I think it's probably going to be one that'll be corrected in the next round of manufacturing," said Y Studios' Viramontes. "I think it will be a minor issue, and people will probably forget about it in the next couple of months when it goes away."
While the experts see a quick fix for the issue coming from Apple, all were surprised it happened in the first place. Product design expert Ignazio Moresco explained that more is expected from Apple's well-known attention to detail, and the company "should have caught the issue if they followed a rigorous QA process." The white marks aren't an Apple-specific problem, but have appeared with other speakers -- like Sonos One -- that have similar silicone bases.

Berkowitz believes the white rings could be a result of Apple's "inexperience" with making stationary speakers, in contrast to the company's familiarity with making mobile products like the iPhone and MacBook.
"This is sitting on a bookshelf. Is it going to work? Or are there going to be problems? A traditional consumer product company or a speaker company or a traditional Hi-Fi company is going to worry about that and think about those problems and have experience with it," Berkowitz said. "This shouldn't be new for Apple but it is."

"They didn't test the product enough and in the right variety of circumstances, especially considering that a wood surface is a very likely support for the product," said Ignazio Moresco, a product design expert who has worked at frog design, Microsoft and Ericsson.
For those who have discovered rings on their furniture, Apple said that these marks "will often go away after several days" once HomePod is removed from the wooden surface. Users can hasten this process by wiping the surface gently with a damp or dry cloth. Still, the company explained that if anyone is concerned about these marks, it recommends "placing your HomePod on a different surface."

Accessory makers are already creating products to act as a fix for the situation, including new leather coasters for HomePod from Pad & Quill. The $19.95 coasters are advertised as letting users place their HomePod on the wooden surfaces that have the potential to be marked by HomePod, without having to worry about the appearance of such marks.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)

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peelman
4 days ago
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i expected to see somebody claim that Steve would have went primal like he did with the iphone bumpers. “you want a doily, here have a doily”
Seymour, Indiana
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Twitter Abolishes Native Mac Client

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Twitter (Hacker News, MacRumors):

We’re focusing our efforts on a great Twitter experience that’s consistent across platforms. So, starting today the Twitter for Mac app will no longer be available for download, and in 30 days will no longer be supported.

For the full Twitter experience on Mac, visit Twitter on web. 👉 https://twitter.com

Jason Snell:

Masterclass in doublespeak. Please wait while we upgrade your Twitter experience. With a browser window.

Thomas Brand:

A really sweet solution!

Peter Bright:

that plan again:

1. Kill third party apps

2. Force everyone onto first party apps

3. Kill first party apps too, for good measure.

Anil Dash:

I can’t complain about them making official what’s already been obvious for ages, but I wonder what Twitter’s answer is for how those of us with multiple accounts are supposed to use Twitter. Just keep logging in and out?

Jack Dorsey:

Within the iOS app you should be able to switch easily.

John Gruber (tweet):

It’s all fine, really, so long as they continue to allow third-party clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific to exist. But this “Mac users should just use the website” attitude is exactly what I was talking about here as an existential threat to the future of the Mac.

People choose the Mac because they want the best experience — not the same experience they can get on a $200 Chromebook.

Kontra:

To want to be “consistent across platforms” is a UX self-own: there’s a reason why platforms (plural) continue to exist. And a very few apps manage to escape platforms’ gravity.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

The Mac losing an app as fundamental to today’s society as Twitter is exactly why macOS needs ‘Marzipan’; without a shared app platform, the app ecosystem is going to leave the Mac behind — get used to web apps

Jeff Johnson:

There are so many apps that have both Mac and iOS native versions. I’ve worked on some. With small teams. Even a team of one. It can be done, very reasonably. It’s not trivial, but the narrative about how big corporations can’t afford to do it is absurd.

Somehow MAGICALLY small third party dev shops can have native iOS and Mac Twitter clients. But Twitter can’t because IT’S TOO HARD.

Macs are empirically selling better than ever. This is a matter of public record. But everyone wants to say the Mac is dead. WTF is wrong with this world? We’ve lost all touch with objective reality.

Calum Hunter:

it just shows how bad everything else is. mac hardware is crazy outdated they are still selling a macpro from 2013 on their store or crying out loud! MacOS 10.13 is a dumpster fire. But even still, its still better to use than windows or linux

Craig Hockenberry:

To celebrate, we just lowered the price of Twitterrific for Mac from $19.99 to $7.99.

John Siracusa:

Third-party clients haven’t even been able to use all Twitter features (e.g., polls, group DMs, etc.) for years. Only the “sweet solution” of the web can fill in completely for a first-party native Mac app.

Rosyna Keller:

The API third party Twitter clients use is also free and doesn’t support Twitter ads or other revenue generating features.

This API is also severely limited (no group DMs, searches limited to 7 days, no polls) and may be entirely deprecated in June.

Brent Simmons:

That thing where indie developers have a Twitter-imposed limit of OAuth tokens is still a thing.

Twitter leadership are jerks in so many different ways.

Jeff Johnson:

You know, they didn’t even need native clients that badly, because they had RSS. Any RSS reader allowed you to follow Twitter. But then they killed RSS support.

Oluseyi Sonaiya:

The app ecosystem is going to leave the Mac behind regardless. The desktop is increasingly marginal for non-productivity software, so this hand-wringing over a mediocre app being shuttered is surprising.

Josh Centers:

And you know what? Apple is as much to blame as anyone. When is the last time Apple made a great case for a native interface? Apple News?

Which doesn’t even have a Mac version…

Previously: Twitter’s First Profit.

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peelman
5 days ago
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jesus. yeah apple has problems. but this is twitter, the company, sucking, pure and simple.

the number of people griping about Apple “causing” this are either myopic or stupid.

and for the love. Steven Smith saying that twitter is important to society...really? Twitter is a shitshow.
Seymour, Indiana
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How Apple Plans to Root Out Bugs

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Mark Gurman (tweet, MacRumors, Reddit, Hacker News, ArsTechnica):

Instead of keeping engineers on a relentless annual schedule and cramming features into a single update, Apple will start focusing on the next two years of updates for its iPhone and iPad operating system, according to people familiar with the change. The company will continue to update its software annually, but internally engineers will have more discretion to push back features that aren’t as polished to the following year.

[…]

The shift is an admission of what many customers have already come to notice: Some Apple software has become prone to bugs and underdeveloped features. […] Apple has also recently released features later than it expected, as the rush to meet the annual deadline overtaxed engineers and created last-minute delays.

John Gruber:

I’m not so sure the above is a new strategy so much as a tacit admission of what’s actually been going on the last few years.

Then why should we expect any improvement?

Jeff Johnson:

The idea of postponing features a year until they’re “ready” misses the whole point. It’s very difficult to find all the bugs in a major change until after you ship it. To get to a stable operating system, you need to spend at least a year just fixing bugs after a major release.

You can’t just consider the internal costs of annual updates. There are major external costs. Third party developers play an essential role in QA. If we never get the thing until June, and you ship every fall, never enough time to fix bugs.

A lot of people are pointing to Steven Sinofsky’s comments (Reddit). He makes some good points about the “broader context,” but I think he’s completely wrong about Apple’s software quality:

In any absolute sense the quality of Mac/iOS + h/w are at quality levels our industry has just not seen before. […] On any absolute scale number of bugs—non-working, data losing, hanging mistakes—in iOS/Mac is far far less today than ever before.

I don’t see how that can be taken seriously. He doesn’t have access to Apple’s bug database, so how would he know? I really doubt that the number of open bugs is lower than in the past, and even if it were there’s no reason to assume that Radar is representative of the actual number of bugs. He later says that the list of bugs is “infinitely long,” so this whole line of argument seems nonsensical. In what way is today’s Mac/iOS quality better in “any absolute sense” than in, say, 2010? He doesn’t say, except that more people are using it:

What is different is that at scale a bug that happens to 0.01% of people is a lot of people. A stadium full or more. […] No one ever anywhere has delivered a general purpose piece of S/W+H/W at scale of 1B delivering such a broad, robust, consistent experience. We don’t have a measure for what it means to be “high quality”.

Well, we can look at how many problems an individual user runs into. Is it higher or lower than before? This measure is independent of Apple’s scale. So is the circle of people I hear complaining. Apple’s customer base has doubled many times over, but the number of family members, friends, and customers that I communicate with has not. Now you could argue that maybe we have become exceptionally unlucky and are running into more than our share of issues, but I don’t find that very convincing.

He wants to discount the actual experiences of “many super smart/skilled people” because “the more a product is used the more hyper-sensitive people get to how it works.” What does that even mean? The number of hours in a day hasn’t increased; I don’t think my Mac/iPhone usage has increased much, if at all. Hardly anyone complains to me about the “slightest changes”; I hear about things that flat out don’t work. That’s not being hyper-sensitive.

Previously: Apple Delays Features to Focus on Reliability, Performance.

Update (2018-02-13): jarjoura:

As someone who used to work on iOS at Apple, what that company honestly needs is a culture not beholden to the whims of their EPMs (project managers). They used to help organize and work with engineering to schedule things across the company’s waterfall style development. However, by the time I left, they essentially took power over engineering. Radar became the driver for the entire company and instead of thinking about a holistic product, everything became a priority number. P0 meant, emergency fix immediately, P4 meant nice to have. You get the idea.

Nothing could be worked on if it wasn’t in Radar with a priority number attached and signed off by the teams’ EPM. No room for a side project or time away from your daily duties because there were always P1s to fix. If you didn’t personally have any left for the day, you’d take one from another engineer who was likely swamped with their own list of P1s.

[…]

This is how you get bugs in shipping software. EPMs driven to schedule things and over manage engineers would decide on a whim that something was a P2. That was basically always shelved to a follow-up .1 release.

Ultimately, engineers lost the freedom to decide when a feature was ready to ship.

This point about bug prioritization came up two years ago.

Bob Burrough:

This is absolutely, 100% true, and jibes with my experience.

There was (don’t know if there still is), another really whacky problem with iOS work prioritization back then. Radar has P1, P2, P3, etc priorities. Milestones were arranged such that “No P3’s” happened (the point at which P3’s were no longer allowed to be worked on)… followed by “No P2’s” then finally “No P1’s.” At first glance that arrangement makes sense because it means the only bugs getting fixed late in the game are the really high priority ones. However, what it meant in practice was, if there was a P2 bug an engineer wanted to fix… They would scramble to make sure it gets fixed before the “No P2’s” milestone occurs…in effect, causing P2 bugs to be worked on before P1’s.

throwaway7187:

I’m a former iOS EPM (not speaking for Apple, obviously, since I don’t work there anymore), and although the Reddit commenter got the atmosphere of constant crisis right, he/she is misplacing the blame and misunderstanding the power dynamic. EPMs at Apple essentially have zero power over engineers’ workload. They take the list of stuff the engineering managers said they want to get done this year and say “You guys are crazy, you’ll never be able to do this without 3x the hours/manpower.” Then they proceed to drive the team as hard as necessary to make sure that they actually deliver what they said they were going to deliver. That’s it. The idea that there is this cabal of mighty EPMs twirling their mustaches and loading developers down with work is pretty far from reality.

It’s true that you shouldn’t be working on anything not in Radar (the bug tracker) but this is true anywhere you’ll work. Project managers however do not sign developers up for all those radars--on the contrary--we’re usually trying desperately to help you get rid of scope and get the task list down to what’s actually do-able!

One of the great things that IMHO sets Apple apart is how engineering-driven they are. I’ve never worked anywhere else where engineers had so much freedom to decide what they’re working on. The fact that they always decide to work on 3x what they can actually achieve is kind of on them. But that drive to try to do so much is part of what keeps innovation strong at Apple.

Benjamin Mayo:

It sure looks like this is a case of the feedback loop working. The Apple community complains about software quality, the executive team reviews procedures and makes structural changes.

[…]

As an outsider, I think it’s hard to really assess whether these changes are meaningful rather than empty, ambitious, words. However, I’m glad the way it is portrayed in the Bloomberg report indicates it is a deeper shift of philosophy rather than a one-time focus for iOS 12 followed by a return to the status quo.

Nick Heer:

If the changes are as modest as this report makes them out to be, how much of an improvement can we realistically expect in software quality?

Tim Bradshaw:

First Apple shareholder question is about software quality, which he says is “very unsatisfactory”. “We are getting plenty of changes but not many improvements... My solution has been to stop upgrading because I no longer trust Apple.” Apple is “losing touch with working people”

Update (2018-02-14): Riccardo Mori:

While I’m certain there are still underlying issues left unsolved in both Tiger and Leopard, in day-to-day general use, nothing prominent shows up on my radar. I turn on this PowerBook, it boots into Mac OS X 10.5.8, I open whatever a

[…]

I’m just an outside observer, with perhaps the vantage point of having been using Apple hardware for almost 30 years. I can’t say with certainty that today both Mac OS and iOS have more bugs and issues than before. I’m also not saying that everything was 100% perfect before and now it’s all rubbish, because it’s not true. But from having extensively used (almost) each version of Mac OS and iOS, what I do notice is that behind the scenes there was a different approach to their development before a certain point in Mac OS X’s timeline, and that something changed (for the worse) after that point.

Update (2018-02-16): See also: Download.

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peelman
7 days ago
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nice to see some contrition here, but much like the still-a-fairy-tale Mac Pro (Early 2018), it remains to be seen what this actually means.

speaking of the Pro, anybody else getting worried about the lack of info in circulation about that? i fear we are going to get a TrashCanPro all over again. something that is over engineered, over priced, and doesn’t really solve the problem we Pro users face.
Seymour, Indiana
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Recently Heard on the Philadelphia Police Scanner

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Philadelphia sports fans do not have a great reputation. This collection of assorted quotes heard on the Philadelphia police scanner following the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl victory might help explain why.

Link: https://slate.com/culture/2018/02/terrifying-things-heard-on-the-philadelphia-police-scanner-after-the-eagles-won-the-super-bowl.html

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peelman
15 days ago
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black people riot when one of their youths is killed by law enforcement in cold blood without cause. white folks raise their noise.

white folks riot when their team wins the super bowl. everybody else thinks it’s funny.
Seymour, Indiana
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The Apple Music and HomePod Strategy

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Joe Rossignol (Hacker News):

Apple Music now has 36 million paying subscribers around the world, an increase from well over 30 million reported last September.

Apple confirmed the updated total to The Wall Street Journal, which today reported that Apple Music is growing at a faster pace than Spotify in the United States, and could soon eclipse the service in popularity in the country.

Kirk McElhearn:

Also note that Apple Music is available in many more countries than Spotify. Spotify has a presence in 62 countries, and Apple Music is present in 117 countries, notably including India and China, where Spotify is absent.

Ben Thompson:

What HomePod shows, though, is that Apple Music is part of the strategy story. Remember, strategically speaking, the point of services is to differentiate hardware. To that end, HomePod is not exclusive to Apple devices to prop up Apple Music; rather, Apple Music is exclusive to HomePod to sell speakers. Most commentary has assumed that:

  1. Customer wants HomePod
  2. Therefore, customer subscribe to Apple Music
  3. Apple profits

Again, this doesn’t make sense because Apple Music isn’t profitable!

Instead, I think the order goes like this:

  1. Customer owns an iPhone
  2. Customer subscribes to Apple Music because it is installed by default on their iPhone
  3. As an Apple Music subscriber, customer only has one choice in smart speakers: HomePod (and to make the decision to spend more money palatable, Apple pushes sound quality), from which Apple makes a profit

If the goal is to sell speakers, why does HomePod lack an aux input and support for Bluetooth audio? You can’t use it from Android even if you subscribe to Apple Music there. You can’t even reliably play audio from third-party iOS apps.

Previously: HomePod to Arrive February 9.

Update (2018-02-05): Nick Heer:

More than anything, I think Simon falls into the same trap many others do: Apple isn’t setting out to build the biggest user base, but a large paying user base. A free trial accomplished that goal; a free tier does not.

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peelman
18 days ago
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everybody treats apple like some weird startup. right now they are a largely rudderless oil tanker of a company, with no clear goal other than making shiny gadgets that kinda work together sometimes, riding the success of an entire generation of development and production geniuses, most of whom have either died, retired or moved on.

they are going to ride a giant wave of success like they did in the early 90s, with the shareholders cashing in their chips at the 11th hour and leaving Apple in need of a second renaissance.
Seymour, Indiana
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Synology Releases 3U RackStation RS2818RP+

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Today Synology Inc. launched its first 3U Plus series rackmount NAS with the release of RackStation RS2818RP+. This new NAS centers around large storage capacity for lower TCO for SMBs. Along with the new NAS, Synology is also announcing that its next business-day replacement service, Synology Replacement Service (SRS), is now available in North America.

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peelman
20 days ago
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why in the hell did Synology build this with an Atom CPU? where is the Xeon-D? QNAP has been eating Syno’s lunch from a hardware perspective for a long while now.
Seymour, Indiana
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