Amazon Prime signs Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May for upcoming show →

July 30, 2015 |

James Vincent, reporting for The Verge:

Former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have signed up for a new motoring show on Amazon Prime, set to air in 2016. The news ends months of speculation about the trio’s future on TV after the BBC refused to renew Clarkson’s contract following a “fracas” during filming this year. The deal is a major coup for Amazon’s streaming service, which lags behind rival Netflix, and although there are no details of how much the firm paid for the trio, a company insider told the London Evening Standard: “We have made a significant investment.”

I must say, I didn’t see this coming. A few years ago, I used to watch Top Gear every morning while having breakfast, but I kind of fell out of love with it some time ago, and the whole situation with Clarkson didn’t help. Still, I’ll be watching the first few episodes of their new show, because the potential for greatness is definitely there.

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The Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO review at Tools & Toys →

July 30, 2015 |

My friend Josh Ginter has written a fantastic review of what is perhaps the most polarizing lens in the entire Micro Four Thirds catalog: the massive 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO zoom by Olympus. This lens is everything a high-quality optical instrument should be: precise, durable, sharp, tough and reliable.

It’s also expensive. At $1,300 new, this is one of the pricier lenses for the system, up there with the Leica Nocticron. There’s clearly no shortage of excellent, first-class lenses for the MFT system these days, and things can only get better in the future.

But the 40-150mm PRO was designed and built with professionals in mind, which means this is not a lens for everyone. In fact, despite loving almost everything about the lens, Josh himself is not sure of where it fits in his arsenal:

Since returning from our trip, I’ve looked on my 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens with extreme ambivalence. On one hand, it’s my favourite lens ever. On the other, I rarely want to pull it out unless I’m ready for a dedicated shooting day. This lens isn’t your everyday carry, one handed street photography lens waiting to capture random passersby. But it is the best possible lens you can buy for controlled environments, sporting events, or for studio photography. Perhaps it’s fair to say the 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO is the first studio-type lens for the Micro 4/3 system. Within that definition, you may be able to understand where my questioning of this lens comes from.

If you don’t shoot in a studio, then this lens isn’t for you. Instead, take a good look at its close relative, the Olympus 12-40mm PRO zoom lens, which shares many of the same features — including its first-rate build quality — in a much more versatile focal range.

Having said that, if the 40-150mm PRO matches your shooting style, there’s probably no better lens out there. To get a better sense for what this lens is capable of, check out Josh’s stunning photography in his review.

An editorial side note: usually I would have saved this piece for the next issue of Morning Coffee, but I chose not to in this case for two reasons. First, I’m starting to believe tech reviews fit better as daily links, because I want to dedicate the Morning Coffee roundups for more timeless pieces of writing, and I don’t want to overfill each issue with too many links. And second, this may well be Josh’s best review yet, and it totally deserves to be enjoyed on its own.

In fact, I’ve enjoyed this review so much that I’m going to take a page from Josh’s playbook for my upcoming review of the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. Be sure to check out Tools & Toys next Tuesday to see how it turns out.

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Ars Technica reviews Windows 10 →

July 29, 2015 |

Windows 10 was released worldwide today, and Peter Bright has already penned a great review of it over at Ars Technica:

I’m more conflicted about Windows 10 than I have been about any previous version of Windows. In some ways, the operating system is extremely ambitious; in others, it represents a great loss of ambition. The new release tries to walk an unsteady path between being Microsoft’s most progressive, forward-looking release and simultaneously appealing to Windows’ most conservative users.

And it mostly succeeds, making this the best version of Windows yet—once everything’s working. In its current form, the operating system doesn’t feel quite finished, and I’d wait a few weeks before making the leap.

Despite the initial bugs, which are always to be expected, it seems like a solid update for Windows users. It also happens to be the first free version of Windows, so this is great news for consumers.

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Madrid’s oldest coffeehouse, Café Comercial, closes down after 128 years →

July 28, 2015 |

Heartbreaking news yesterday:

The doors of Madrid’s oldest coffeehouse and bar, Café Comercial, remained firmly shut on Monday, bringing an end to 128 years of activity. The surprise closure was announced via the establishment’s official Facebook page, but no reason was given for the move.

“We don’t know what happened,” said longtime employee Felipe Majano, 60. “They didn’t give us any reasons. All they said was that we’re closing, and that was it.”

I know Felipe very well, and consider him a friend. I’ve spent countless evenings writing in the Café, with Felipe’s calm and ever-welcoming presence a constant there for as long as I can remember.

Coincidentally, I ran into him on the street a couple weeks ago, and we talked for a few minutes about life in general and nothing in particular. He had just clocked out and was going home for lunch, nothing special. He’s one of those people who never seem to be in a rush, listen attentively and nod with their eyes.

In a rare moment of concern, I asked him how he was doing, and whether he feared for his job. The economic crisis that’s been strangling Spain since 2008 has taken many iconic businesses with it and in that time, many excellent professionals have lost their jobs. Their only sin? Being too old in an age where public-facing jobs are all about youth.

Felipe’s response was heartwarming, and telling: “I’ve worked here for 36 years and if I can help it, I’ll stay here until I retire”. Sadly, it was not to be.

Again, this was two weeks ago, and judging from what I saw, he clearly had no idea this was coming. Felipe didn’t deserve this after almost 40 years of service. Neither did Juan, or the rest of the staff. And neither did we, the life-long customers for whom the Comercial was more than a bar: it was part of the fabric of our lives, like an old friend or family member.

Today, the windows of the Café were covered by small heart-shaped notes written by the neighbors of Madrid. Messages like “I never thought you’d leave us”, or a crushingly well-drawn crying eye are clear evidence of a simple truth: the people of Madrid are mourning. We mourn for the loss of this historic place, and we mourn in the knowledge that whatever comes after it, our city will never be the same without the Comercial.

Yesterday we lost a place that celebrated literature, coffee, art and most of all, the human condition. Yesterday we lost a piece of ourselves. And so we mourn.

Una foto publicada por @muchabarba el

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Ben Brooks reviews the 10-liter Bullet Ruck by GORUCK →

July 28, 2015 |

The 10 and 15-liter Bullet Rucks are smaller than GORUCK’s Original Rucks, and do not have a padded laptop compartment. That makes them more suited for those times when you only want to carry your essential gear with you.

With that in mind, perhaps the most peculiar thing about the 10-liter Bullet Ruck is the fact that it can house the new MacBook in the hydration compartment, padded sleeve and all:

In the hydration area of the bag I slide in a Tom Bihn vertical Cache — this is super padded and sized for my MacBook. It fits into the hydration section very snug, and allows you to pull out just the MacBook without having to hold down the protective sleeve. This works great for moving from place to place.

I love my GR Echo and in my opinion it’s the perfect size for an everyday backpack. Since I need to carry a 13-inch MacBook Pro, the 10-liter Bullet Ruck is not really a viable everyday choice for me. The problem with the Echo is that there are times when it’s decidedly too big for my taste, like when traveling with a GR2 as my sole carry-on bag.

The GR2 works great as a travel bag, but it’s too big and heavy to use as a daypack during the trip. I usually I sneak in a smaller bag inside the GR2 for that, but since I don’t usually take my laptop with me on day walks when I’m on a trip, even the Echo is overkill on those occasions.

For my everyday life in the city, I’ll take the Echo over any other bag, hands down. That said, this 10-liter Bullet Ruck could very well be the perfect size for my traveling needs, and the perfect companion for my GR2 when I’m on the road. As ever, your mileage may vary.

For a more in-depth look at this little marvel of a bag, check out Ben’s excellent review.

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Musk, Hawking, Wozniak call for ban on autonomous weapons and military AI →

July 28, 2015 |

Sebastian Anthony, writing for Ars Technica:

A very large number of scientific and technological luminaries have signed an open letter calling for the world’s governments to ban the development of “offensive autonomous weapons” to prevent a “military AI arms race.”

The letter, which will be presented at the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) in Buenos Aires tomorrow, is signed by Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Noam Chomsky, the Woz, and dozens of other AI and robotics researchers.

When so many super-smart people agree on something, we probably should listen.

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July 25, 2015

I keep experimenting with the format of these Morning Coffee pieces in an attempt to make them more interesting and easier to read, and also more manageable for me to produce. In the past I’ve usually started them off with a bird’s eye view of some of the most newsworthy items of the week, followed by the linked pieces and a more personal afterword.

This week I’m trying a different approach. Since it was always a bit confusing to me which items should be included in the introductory section — is it based on political relevancy? Is it just a general purpose recap? — I’m doing away with that section entirely and getting right into the meat of it from the get go. I’m also expanding the afterword section and making it more significant. My hope is that this will be less confusing and also a bit more consistent across different weeks.

Of course, your feedback on Morning Coffee is very much encouraged and appreciated, so if you have any comments or suggestions, be sure to send them my way. Thanks!

Issue #7: Web pages that suck, how children see models, electric cars, devastating earthquakes and, of course, your weekly dosage of Donald Trump

Things have a way of calming down on the Internet during July and August, but that’s not to say there weren’t any quality pieces being shared all over the place.

In fact, since there wasn’t an issue of Morning Coffee last week — more on why later — this issue comes even more packed with interesting pieces of writing than usual. Whatever your interests, I’m pretty sure there’s something in this week’s roundup that will pique your curiosity.

Let’s get to it.

Storage for photographers (part 2) | Paul Stamatiou →

Every article in Stammy’s website is an instant bookmark. There’s always so much information, so many interesting tips and tricks for the technically inclined in his pieces that I often go back to them weeks and months later to re-read them. And every time I do so I find something new, something I hadn’t noticed on my previous readings.

This time around, he goes in painstaking detail over his new NAS setup, which he uses for local storage of his pictures, backups and other media-related uses. If you’re running short on storage space for your media collection — and who isn’t these days — this article could be a life saver.

Who’s actually buying iPods these days? | Matt Birchler →

This piece has been doing the rounds on the Internet for the past few days, so you may have seen it elsewhere. I found several things on this article to be very surprising, like the fact that the iPod nano is most popular among older people.

A former engineer says Intel has a ‘meritocracy’ problem | Selena Larson →

Great piece over at the Daily Dot:

“Intel is absolutely not a meritocracy and it is misguided at best to blame workers for the systemic problems the company has been facing for a long time,” this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Daily Dot via email.

During a period of several years, this engineer and fellow colleagues were denied promotions, received low-grade stock grants, and had managers admit that zero-percent “raises” were not at all related to performance, often instead due to Intel’s directional changes and planning.

Ouch. Considering Intel has been in trouble this week for their own admission that they can no longer keep up with their famous “tick-tock” release cycle, this article is all the more damning.

The mobile web sucks | Nilay Patel →

Incredibly tone-deaf article by Nilay Patel over at The Verge. Their own website is a sorry mess as far as mobile performance is concerned due to the myriad of privacy-invading, ad-targeting scripts that are running on every page of the site. Trying to blame browser vendors for not being able to keep up with such irresponsible use of resources is naive at best, and downright misleading at worst.

For more commentary on this topic, check out these two excellent pieces:

The Force Touch trackpad | Fraser Speirs →

Fraser Speirs has a really positive take on Apple’s new Force Touch trackpad. I still haven’t tried one in person, but I like what I’m reading so far.

A watch, water and workouts | Craig Hockenberry →

Impressively detailed piece on how water affects electronics in general, and the Apple Watch in particular, by Craig Hockenberry. Lots of interesting tidbits in this one.

How much do electric cars actually pollute? | Jonathan M. Gitlin →

More than we thought, apparently.

The earthquake that will devastate Seattle | Kathryn Schulz →

Absolutely terrifying piece on the earthquake that in all likelihood will destroy everything west of Interstate 5 in the Pacific Northwest a lot sooner than we think:

In the Pacific Northwest, the area of impact will cover some hundred and forty thousand square miles, including Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, Salem (the capital city of Oregon), Olympia (the capital of Washington), and some seven million people. When the next full-margin rupture happens, that region will suffer the worst natural disaster in the history of North America. Roughly three thousand people died in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. Almost two thousand died in Hurricane Katrina. Almost three hundred died in Hurricane Sandy. FEMA projects that nearly thirteen thousand people will die in the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. Another twenty-seven thousand will be injured, and the agency expects that it will need to provide shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million. “This is one time that I’m hoping all the science is wrong, and it won’t happen for another thousand years,” Murphy says.

The best country in the world for food | Ben Groundwater →

It’s Spain, of course, in case you were wondering.

When You Give a Tree an Email Address | Adrienne Lafrance →

I love these stories:

Officials assigned the trees ID numbers and email addresses in 2013 as part of a program designed to make it easier for citizens to report problems like dangerous branches. The “unintended but positive consequence,” as the chair of Melbourne’s Environment Portfolio, Councillor Arron Wood, put it to me in an email, was that people did more than just report issues. They also wrote directly to the trees, which have received thousands of messages—everything from banal greetings and questions about current events to love letters and existential dilemmas.

So great.

The best Micro 4/3 lenses (in my opinion) | Josh Ginter →

Solid list by Josh Ginter on the best possible glass you can buy today for your Micro Four Thirds camera, regardless of the cost. I pretty much agree with every choice on his list, and there’s no doubt these are all excellent pieces of glass.

If anything, I’d add the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro for those of you who need that sort of feature in a lens. The MFT system is notably short on good macro lenses: there’s only this Olympus and the Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8. The Leica has optical stabilization built in, but the Olympus is sharper and has a more usable focal length for a macro lens, so that would be the better choice in my opinion.

Other than that, if you’re on the lookout for your next lens for the MFT system, be sure to check out Josh’s excellent roundup.

What children think of models in fashion campaigns | Messy Nessy →

Children are experts in giving 100%-honest, no-bullshit opinions on anything. When they say female models look like they’re sick and male models look like superheroes, you know the entire fashion industry has a big problem.

Lisbon | Sam Burton →

Gorgeous travel photography. This piece had me wanting to purchase a Leica film camera and that awesome Voigtlander lens in no time.

Via Josh Ginter.

Tennis’s top women balance body image with ambition | Ben Rothenberg →

This article is probably one of the most blatant examples of ignorant, incendiary journalism I remember in a long time. The whole pretense is that many female top players are not playing to their full potential because they feel the physique they’d need to attain in order to be successful would not be deemed feminine enough. What the article implies, though, is that Serena Williams is special because she doesn’t care about that and is happy to be as muscular as it takes to win.

That’s a gigantic load of BS. It really is. For one, there’s no correlation between muscles and career success in tennis. Yes, Serena Williams is muscular and yes, she’s the most successful athlete of her generation, but that doesn’t mean being muscular is a requisite for being successful on a tennis court. Just take a look at Roger Federer, the most successful male player of all time, and you’ll see that muscle size and tennis prowess don’t necessarily go together.

You can certainly see it in the women’s game, too. Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova are two of the two most successful female players of all time, and they were both strong but slim in their prime, certainly much closer to Federer than to Serena in terms of physical blueprint. Justine Henin, one of the most talented players of her generation, was remarkably slender as well.

The fact that Serena has been able to translate her physical gifts into a super successful career doesn’t mean hers is the only viable approach today, and trying to imply otherwise does a huge disservice to the sport as a whole.

Dear Mr. Trump: I’m Worth $10 Billion, Too | Timothy L. O’Brien →

Hilarious piece by Timothy L. O’Brien for Bloomberg View. Next time you read that a media mogul or a successful entrepreneur is worth X billion dollars, keep this in mind.

The Kaweco Liliput Fountain Pen | Mike Bates →

I loved this piece by Mike Bates for Tools & Toys. I’ve always had a soft spot for fountain pens, and Mike’s beautiful photography and clear, precise writing in this piece made me incredibly curious to try the Kaweco Liliput.


It’s now been two weeks since the last issue of Morning Coffee. Last week I took a much-needed short vacation and visited the island of Menorca with my girlfriend and two of our closest friends. I had never visited Menorca before, but was soon mesmerized by its beautiful beaches, breathtaking landscapes and amazing sunsets.

Cala Mitjana, one of the most beautiful beaches in the island of Menorca. This panorama was made by stitching together 12 pictures taken with my Olympus E-M10 and the Panasonic 20mm pancake lens. You can see the high-resolution version here.

One of the absolute highlights of our trip was spending an afternoon on a sailboat, diving in one of the many natural coves and watching the sunset while we had a few drinks and snacks. It was pretty much a perfect way to finish a fantastic day.

It’s been an amazing vacation but, naturally, we also had our hiccups during the trip. On our second to last day, we had planned to walk to one of the island’s most secluded coves, Cala Escorxada.

In normal conditions the walk to Cala Escorxada should take about 75 minutes, and you’re advised to bring plenty of food and water to replenish your strength along the way, and also to plan carefully for the return trip. Unfortunately, we missed an intersection at some point and ended up taking an unexpected 5.2-mile, 3.5-hour cross-country detour under the mid-day sun with temperatures soaring past 40ºC. Not a very pleasant experience.

Una foto publicada por Miriam M Cabrera Carpio (@nenemiriam) el

In the end we somehow managed to power through the pain and got our reward in the form of a truly spectacular beach. But there was still the small matter of the return trip.

Luckily, we befriended a couple on the beach who were kind enough to give us a ride back on their boat, so at least we managed to avoid walking all the way back again. Considering we were short on food and water — not to mention exhausted — due to the longer than expected trip, I’m not entirely sure we would have managed to walk back safely on our own, to be honest. Anyway, all’s end that ends well, I suppose.

Lesson learned: Always check the map. Obsessively and compulsively so, if you must. Also: whatever the amount of beer you think you could possibly drink on the trip, bring more.

Looking ahead to what comes next, I’ve been working on two pieces on film photography that I hope to be able to finish and share with you soon.

One of them is a review of my Canon EOS 3 film camera, which I’ve been using now for over six months. I’m super happy with this camera and the pictures I’ve been able to get with it, and I can’t recommend it enough. Unfortunately it’s not being made anymore, so if you want one you’ll have to get a used one on eBay or even Amazon. For what it’s worth, I got mine on eBay and have had zero issues with it so far.

The other piece is an overview of my color film processing workflow, from scanning all the way to the final editing touches. This is a work in progress, mainly because I’m still fine-tuning the inversion process, but I have a feeling I’m getting closer to figuring it out. Stay tuned for more.

We are now reaching the end of this issue, I’m afraid. But first, I have a confession to make: I’m writing these words on Friday evening, so technically I’m cheating a little bit. You’ll have to forgive me for that. The reason for that is that tomorrow morning we’re taking an early train to Mérida, where the first son of one of my best friends is being baptized on Sunday. I’m so happy for him and I still can’t believe he’s already a dad. Life goes on and time keeps accelerating, it seems, so we better make the most of it while we can.

Other than that, Mérida is a gorgeous city and I definitely plan on enjoying this quick trip and making some time to visit its many wonderful historic sites, like the incredible Roman theater. It’s not every day you get to visit a 2,000-year-old theater that’s still being actively used.

Roman theater, Mérida. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

That’s it for this week’s Morning Coffee. After the much-needed rest and mental recharge, I’m very much looking forward to things returning to normal starting next week, and exploring the many exciting ideas I have in mind for the coming weeks.

Until then, have a fantastic weekend, and thank you for reading.

I must say, I could get used to this whole yacht thing.

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Matt Gemmell’s membership so far →

July 24, 2015 |

Matt Gemmell shares an interesting update on how his membership program is working so far:

In a nutshell, I’m hugely pleased with how it’s turned out. I was so thrilled at the response, and it’s energising for me each week to remember that I have a group of people who enjoy my work enough to not just keep coming back to read my words, but to actually support the creation of new articles and books.

You can’t put a price on that sort of encouragement and validation. On my worst days, I can always log in and look at the membership roster, and get a boost from it.

These updates are incredibly important and useful for those who, like me, hope to follow in Matt’s footsteps one day. Reading real stories from real people who have faced — and keep facing — your same fears and struggles is one of the best ways to stay motivated in your work.

The Internet usually shows a deeply skewed version of reality, where success stories are amplified several orders of magnitude, while failure stories are soon erased or, worse, never even shared to begin with. I’m incredibly happy for Matt and I’m glad to see he’s doing fine, but there’s no doubt in my mind he still would have written this piece even if the story had had a not-so-happy ending.

That’s what separates Matt from the vast majority of writers on the Web today: he’s not overly concerned with keeping up the pretense of perfection, because he respects his readers too much to not be 100% honest with them.

Matt is a rare breed of author, and I couldn’t be more proud to support his work. I’ve been a member since day one, and will continue being so for as long as he’ll keep the membership program alive. If you appreciate honesty and respect — not to mention first-class writing — I strongly encourage you to do the same.

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Flickr reintroduces Pro membership, including a 20% discount on 1-year Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions →

July 23, 2015 |

Flickr reintroduced their Pro membership today, with a special offer that includes a 20% discount during the first year of new Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions:

Save 20% on Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan in the first year

Get the photography tools you need to make the moment yours: Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC. Edit, enhance, and transform your photos on any device, anywhere.

To purchase Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan and learn about any changes to the expiration date visit:

This is a great offer, but it’s only valid for new Creative Cloud subscriptions, not existing ones. There’s also a shipping discount on photo books and wall art as part of the new Pro membership deal:

As a Pro member, you’ll receive free standard shipping in the US and 50% off international standard shipping. Minimum purchase of $25 required.

I’ve been a Flickr Pro member since 2010, back when the original Pro membership was available. The great thing about this is that long-standing Pro memberships like mine were automatically upgraded to the new features, but maintain their original pricing of $24.95/year, instead of the new pricing of $5.99/month or $49.99/year. This was a classy move from Yahoo.

The reason I maintained my Pro membership even when Flickr switched pricing tiers and gave everyone a free TB of storage is that I really enjoy the service and I’m happy to pay for it to remove ads from my timeline. Now that I got all the features of the new Pro membership at the same price I’ve always paid, I’m definitely not complaining for not being able to benefit from the Creative Cloud special offer.

Flickr keeps fighting to stay relevant in the age of Facebook and Instagram and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it.

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Jim Dalrymple on Apple Music →

July 22, 2015 |

Jim Dalrymple shares the reasons that moved him to deactivate Apple Music on all of his devices. It’s a frustrating story and, if these issues become widespread enough, he may not be the only one to do it. But there’s more:

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Apple Music gave me one more kick in the head. Over the weekend, I turned off Apple Music and it took large chunks of my purchased music with it. Sadly, many of the songs were added from CDs years ago that I no longer have access to. Looking at my old iTunes Match library, before Apple Music, I’m missing about 4,700 songs. At this point, I just don’t care anymore, I just want Apple Music off my devices.

I trusted my data to Apple and they failed. I also failed by not backing up my library before installing Apple Music. I will not make either of those mistakes again.

This is a disaster. Deleting actual files from a user’s device is such a sensitive task that it should never happen by accident.

My experience with Apple Music has been similarly underwhelming, especially the part about adding songs and playlists to my music library. It’s just a deeply unintuitive process and I don’t know how much longer I will put up with it.

So far I haven’t experienced any data loss, but I did make a full backup of my iTunes library before activating Apple Music, just in case. It was surprising to realize I just didn’t trust Apple to get this right on their first attempt. That’s telling.

Apple continues to enjoy a stellar reputation for services and devices that mostly “just work”, but screw-ups like this one certainly don’t help.

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