By Casey Liss
Clarkson Speaks

Jeremy Clarkson has made a formal statement about his future at The Sunday Times (mirrored here). The quote everyone is focusing on is this one:

Which is why I have made a decision. I have lost my baby but I shall create another. I don’t know who the other parent will be or what the baby will be like, but I cannot sit around any more organising my photograph albums.

On the surface, this is good news. But to get here, Jeremy seems to have taken some really awful turns:

I felt sick because after I’d lost my home and my mother, I’d thrown myself even more vigorously into my job and now, idiotically, I’d managed to lose that too. The sense of loss was enormous.

I had heard rumblings that, likely due to his own philandering, Clarkson’s marriage was on the rocks, if not failing. Naturally, the loss of one’s mother is devastating. But things got worse still just before the event that led to his firing:

Two days before the “fracas”, I’d been told, sternly, by my doctor that the lump on my tongue was probably cancer and that I must get it checked out immediately. But I couldn’t do that. We were in the middle of a Top Gear series. And Top Gear always came first.

For a man who is regarded as a chain smoker, this seems to be the logical conclusion stemming from a terrible habit. I have a feeling, though, that a cancer diagnosis is always a surprise. (Thankfully for Jeremy, it appears it was simply a cancer scare, and not a diagnosis after all.)

At 55, then, you’re in a limbo land where time is simultaneously with you and against you. You are too young to put your feet up but too old to start anything new.

Not a fun place to be, I imagine.


Since I started sharing the news about Clarkson and Top Gear, I’ve had a lot of people come out of the woodwork to explain to me all the ways Jeremy deserves what’s come to him, how he’s a terrible human, and, in some cases, should kindly show himself right off the planet. Furthermore, if I hold him in any regard other than contempt, I should follow in his footsteps.

All of that may very well be true. I don’t know. I do know that this is a man who has clearly been broken. Maybe he deserved it. Maybe he didn’t. But I feel bad, nevertheless. To wish ill upon any person, even one I don’t agree with, is not my style.


It’s interesting reading Clarkon’s piece as I read something else. When Steve Jobs was fired from the company he created — his baby — he floundered for a while. Eventually Steve seemed to have found some humility, and famously brought his baby back from the brink of death, and grew it to be a juggernaut.

That in mind, I can’t help but wonder what Clarkson’s future holds.


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ATP Shirt Sport
ATP Shirt Sport

Just like last year, we are selling ATP shirts again this year.

This year, we wanted to make the shirts our most personal shirts yet. Luckily, we (Marco) had a brilliant idea.

This year, we are offering ATP shirts in three collections:

  • ATP Shirt Sport — Men - Women
    The ATP Shirt Sport is printed on breathable, high-performance Hanes Cool Dri activewear. The Sport in blue for men and white for women.
  • ATP Shirt
    The ATP Shirt is printed on tri-blend shirts for men and women or cotton for women. The Shirt is available in black and gray.
  • ATP Shirt Edition
    The ATP Shirt Edition features print in gold-colored foil. Seriously. The Edition is available in black for men and red for women.

We have no idea how these will sell, and in what relative quantities, but we’re super-stoked to be trying this out. Credit to Marco for not only having the idea, but to him and John doing the lion’s share of the work to make this happen.

For more about the shirts, and for an introduction to the three collections, take a listen to this week’s ATP. The shirt discussion starts at 30:00.

Orders will close Wednesday, 6 May. If you do go ahead and place an order, thank you.

End of an Era

I haven’t been a Mac user for very long at all.

I came to the Mac in 2008, after a distro upgrade of Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon to Hardy Heron went colossally wrong. Despite Ubuntu’s alliterative codenames being so much more enjoyable than big cats, I knew it was time for a change. I decided to buy a polycarbonate MacBook.

At the time, Leopard was the big cat. Shortly after purchasing my shiny new MacBook, I yearned for more information about this new, amazing operating system. It didn’t take long for me to land on a truly epic review. This review was everything I could have hoped for and more – including details I never even thought to notice.

I was immediately addicted, and even as a brand-new Mac user, I knew the first thing I wanted to read when Snow Leopard was released: the John Siracusa review. I admired this nerd’s nerd from afar, as I knew his encyclopedic knowledge of OS X, competitors, and pop culture references knew no bounds. The moment a new Mac OS was released, I leapt to John’s reviews.


Last night, John announced he has already done his last review:

Though Apple will presumably announce the next major version of OS X at WWDC this coming June, I won’t be reviewing it for Ars Technica or any other publication, including [my website].

This marks the end of a long era. Between losing John’s reviews and Top Gear, it’s already been a rough start to 2015.


I mourn, in a way, for the loss of this incredible resource. While I know that John will be talking to Marco and me about the new OS X at length on our podcast, I will still deeply miss his reviews. The time and care that John put into his reviews is beyond measure. Marco and I know, perhaps better than most, how carefully considered every word in his reviews are. How much joy he gets from sprinkling in pop culture references, and how much pain he goes through taking the same batch of screenshots with each new beta.

Selfishly, and for the community, I’m really sad to know that we’ve reached the end. I am also deeply grateful for all the time and effort John has put in. These reviews are a tremendous resource, and are truly a gift to the community.

ATP Crew

At the talk I gave at CocoaConf last week, I had a slide that I used to describe who the hell I am to those that may not know me. I described John as “That OS X review guy”, because in many ways, that’s what he was to so many of us.

Thankfully for all of us, that’s not who John is. Between the show I’m lucky enough to co-host with him, his many appearances on The Incomparable, and the many other places he pops up around the internet, we will not be lacking John. That makes me happy.

Most importantly, for my friend, I’m extremely glad. John, you’ve put in more effort than you should have, and given us all more than we deserve. You deserve a break, you deserve to rest, and you deserve to have stress-free summers. Thanks for hanging on so long, for showing us what a deep understanding of a topic really looks like, and for spending 15 years churning out some of the most amazing technical writing I have ever read. We owe you.


Random Apple Watch Thoughts
42mm Apple Watch Black Sport

Let’s get the claim chowder out of the way. Remember how I said – not once, but twice – that I wasn’t going to preorder a watch?

I preordered a watch. The 42mm Space Gray Apple Watch Sport. I did so when I woke up at around seven Friday morning, and the watch is due to ship in June.

I’m a weak, weak man. Erin is both shaking her head in disgust and laughing at how predictable I am.


Today I had my try-on appointment. I had previously crashed Joel and Steff Housmans’ appointments, so I knew what I was in for. Though I got to see and touch the ones he tried on, I had never had an Apple Watch on my wrist before.

Today, I was in a bit of a rush – a friend was in from Florida and with us, so I didn’t want to bore him. I was able to try on a few combinations:

Additionally, I handled the:

First and foremost, Erin was quick to tell me that the 42mm was the right size for me. I’d say I have small wrists for a man, but I feel like every guy I know is saying that, so perhaps I’m wrong. Regardless, since I wear a 38mm watch every day, I was surprised that the 42mm felt and looked so at home on my wrist.

I liked the Link Bracelet, but it was noticeably heavy. Additionally, it was way too big on the sample watch. That’s really unfortunate, as with fewer links in it, the fit would have been much better and the weight may have been more comfortable. I tried to smartly nudge the Apple employee into taking out a link or two – “These links are easy to remove, right?” – but he didn’t bite. In the end, it struck me as a traditional link bracelet; I’m not sure from wearing nor seeing it what makes it as magical as Apple claims. Nor do I see how it justifies its $450 price tag.

All of you who say it’s a band for old men are crazy. Sure it may look traditional, but I don’t think it would look out of place on any man nor woman, of any age.

While I don’t dislike the Leather Loop as much as Marco did, I definitely agree that it did not feel like leather to me. I also didn’t care for the bumpiness of it. In fact, I think Stephen nailed it:

I was less impressed with the Leather Loop. It’s very clearly a thin wrapping around a bunch of magnets. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it wasn’t as soft as I was guessing it would be.

I really liked the Milanese Loop. I felt like it was easy to get on and off, and looked good. However, it felt natural to leave it just a touch loose, which probably isn’t the right idea for the purposes of heart rate monitoring. Despite that, money no object, I think the Milanese was my favorite.

For the Sport Band, I had heard some rumblings that not all colors felt the same. Since I was curious, I tried on my preorder, which, um, sports a black Sport band. I then asked to simply hold the white band. Erin and I both agreed that there was a clear difference in texture between them. I vastly preferred the feel of the black; in fact, it felt really awesome, just as Gruber said. I did not try any of the other Sport bands.

I echo Marco’s sentiments about it:

I also found it very annoying and cumbersome to attach — it seems designed for people with three hands.

I am sure that with a little practice I could get very adept at it, but it was nowhere near the ease of the Milanese Loop. Additionally, I’d say it was harder to clasp than my everyday watch’s classic buckle. However, I am confident with time it would be a non-issue. I didn’t have it on long enough to consider how sweaty it would make me. I’m actually more concerned about that than about the difficulty in putting it on.

The store didn’t have my beloved 42mm Space Black Link Bracelet available for try-on. I left the Housmans’ try-on really disappointed with the look of it. I was hoping for a really deep black, but it was more of a deep gray. Seeing it in the display case again, in different light, I liked the look more, but I remain surprisingly indifferent to it.


The most striking thing about my visit was that Erin seemed completely dissatisfied with any of the obviously feminine options. I agree with her. The Pink Sport Band is actually a salmon color. The Pink Modern Buckle was closer to cream than pink. All the others are either unisex or seemingly masculine.

This is a huge miss for Apple. For a device that they’ve marketed as their "most personal device ever", they’ve left disappointingly few options for women who like traditionally feminine colors, such as pink. I’m disappointed, in no small part because I suspect that if I had an Apple Watch and Erin didn’t, I’d miss out on a lot of the cool more intimate features.


I also played with the demo unit again, briefly. This one seemed far more responsive than the one I used with the Housmans. I don’t understand all the grumbling about the way the Apple Watch user interface works. It isn’t an iPhone, so it doesn’t work like an iPhone. That’s okay. I already feel reasonably adept at the basic operations, and am not confused by when to use the Digital Crown, when to use the side button, where to find glances and notifications. The user experience I found to be easy to master if not easy to grasp.

This time, expectations lowered, I left thinking to myself this thing is cool. I liked the look of it when I had my preorder on my wrist. I like the thought of being able to piddle with the complications on the watch face until I get them just right. I like the idea of being able to figure out if something asking for my attention is important by quickly glancing at my wrist.

The problem that remains is the second thought I’ve had since I’ve left. The thought that keeps niggling at the back of my mind, and is louder than "oooh shiny!":

What is this going to do for me that I can’t do already?

I haven’t found a good answer to that question.


The Apple Watch strikes me as the next great frontier. In much the same way putting a computer with a built-in GPS in our pocket opened whole new doors, I suspect the Apple Watch will eventually do the same. I see that this is the future. I don’t doubt it.

But is it worth spending, at a minimum, $400 today?

I’m unconvinced.

Sitting here now, I’m on the edge of canceling my preorder. The only thing that’s stopping me is Apple’s 14-day return policy – why not just keep it and try it for a week or two? Furthermore, one could argue I have an obligation to try it for the show, if only for a little while.

I can’t help but think one final thought though: If I’m justifying this purchase with "meh, I can always return it…", is it really worth buying in the first place?


On Nerd Elitism

Richard J. Anderson writes:

There’s nothing wrong with liking the crazy, fancy stuff us geeks like. We can’t control our obsessions, but we can control how we communicate them to others. Smug superiority gets us nowhere.

Richard is completely right. Why look down on someone because they use an Android phone, or because they don’t use a fountain pen, or because they don’t use amazing headphones, or don’t drink fussy coffee, or don’t have a clicky keyboard, or don’t drink fizzy water? No good comes of it, other than making yourself out to be a jerk.

I’m as guilty of this as the next nerd, though I am actively trying to stop doing that to people.

Back to Richard’s article, I was amused to see myself cited as an example of such behavior. Earlier in his article:

It’s not hard to extend this to other geeky obsessions with quality: fussy coffee prepared fussily, artisanal notebooks and fountain pens, perfectly clear ice cubes for your cocktails, high-end audio equipment, and fancy bags for carrying all your fancy [💩] around.

I can understand citing me as an example here. But it’s important to remember how I ended that post about the wonderful Neat Ice Kit:

At the end of the day, I’m unconvinced that making my drinks with this fussy ice makes them taste any better. But the ceremony of forming the ice in advance, then splitting it when I want my drink, is really enjoyable. It’s rather silly and a bit of a waste of time, and I love it.

This is me not being a jerk about it. I’m saying that while I enjoy the ceremony of the Neat Ice Kit, I acknowledge that really, it’s silly. And that’s okay.


I do, however, take umbrage at what Richard said about cameras:

When I read articles defending the purchase of fancy cameras, there’s a recurring mantra of “you’ll regret it when your kids grow up and all you have are cell phone pictures.” I don’t know about other people in my age group, but I remember growing up with albums of badly exposed 35mm prints from point-and-shoot film cameras. My parents didn’t mind, and I doubt the parents of most other people my age minded either.

Richard is completely missing the point here.

The reason that no one complained about “badly exposed 35mm prints” is because that was the best (or at the least, most approachable) option at the time, short of spending serious money on a camera body and lenses. Today, one can spend comparatively little money and get a camera setup that is, in my estimation, vastly superior to the iPhone camera.

As someone who just bought a semi-fancy camera for this very reason, I can tell you that I could not possibly be more happy that I did. While I absolutely can take acceptable shots using my iPhone, I much prefer the results from the Olympus. The shots are unequivocally better. I say that as someone who does not have a strong artistic eye.

I have not and will not regret spending the money on a nice camera to know that (within reason) I have the best possible photographs I can of our little boy. That is not only money well spent, but it’s an insurance policy against future regret.


Apple Pay Messaging
Apple Pay Declined Message
Declined.

I’ve been a happy, if occasional, Apple Pay user since I got my iPhone 6 shortly after launch. I don’t frequent many places that accept Apple Pay, and as such, have only been able to use it a couple times. Generally speaking, that’s been at Babies 'R Us, because baby.

A month or two ago Erin and I made a trip to Babies 'R Us in order to get some supplies. As usual, I was all excited with myself and anxious to use Apple Pay. At this point, I had only been able to use it a few times — including once or twice at that Babies 'R Us. When I attempted to pay with my phone this time, I was declined. This made an already-semi-awkward social encounter even more awkward, so I quickly grabbed for my physical credit card and swiped it.

Swiping my card worked no problem, which was slightly curious, since it was the same card that I had just attempted to use via Apple Pay. Yes, I know, the numbers are different and it isn’t exactly the same card, but at a glance they should either both work or not.

I thought it was a small hiccup and moved on, with an only marginally damaged customer sat.

This past weekend, Erin and I were trying to grab lunch at Whole Foods. Having not tried Apple Pay at Whole Foods, I was anxious to give it a shot. When I did, I was declined again. Passbook showed the message pictured above. I reached for my physical card again, disappointed.

The cashier then stepped in and provided a critical piece of information:

“Oh, it looks like your card is expired.”

ಠ_ಠ

Thinking back, I remember that my physical card had just been replaced in the last couple months. In fact, it was just before the failed Babies 'R Us experience. Suddenly everything makes sense.

However, were it not for the friendly Whole Foods cashier, I never would have known the card stored in Apple Pay had expired. There was no messaging to that effect. All I was told was that I was DECLINED.

To be clear, it’s on me to have forgotten to update Apple Pay when I got a new card. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some more informative messaging from Apple about why I was declined.

I’m assuming that such information is possible with contactless payment terminals. Perhaps not. Either way, this is a small, yet surprising, miss.

UPDATED 2015-04-01 9:45 AM: For Apple people, filed radar #20381783.


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“I donated my son’s eyes to your lab,” she said on the phone. “Can I come by for a tour?”

The receptionist said she had never had such a request. “I’m not sure who to transfer you to,” she said, “but don’t hang up!”

This is an absolutely wonderful story. For me, it was doubly heartwarming, as our family has also had to deal with anencephaly in the past.

(Link via Michael B. Johnson)


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Chris Harris, a popular automotive journalist in his own right, on how Top Gear’s evolution away from facts and toward entertainment paved the way for his show:

And I cannot say how thankful I am that it kind of became less about cars over time because in doing so it gave my little show the oxygen to survive. The only creative rule myself and Neil have ever consistently adhered to is to never try and be TG. Never try to be too funny. Don’t go on adventures. Don’t do anything that could usher you into direct comparison with TG because you will automatically look shit.

On the future of Top Gear:

What comes next? I have no idea. I’ve always struggled to understand how Jeremy could do his thing on a commercially-funded channel. I suppose therein lies the crazy paradox at the center of this whole episode. Jeremy and his pal Andy Wilman turned a car program into a mouthpiece for an entire tranche of middle England fed-up with the nanny state and in search of simple entertainment, but the only place it could flourish was within a quasi-state-funded broadcaster that didn’t have to answer to advertisers, but which is fundamentally left-leaning and against the type of personality Jeremy represents. It would be easy to conclude that they couldn’t live with each other, and that they won’t be able to live without each other.


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I joined Jessie Char, John Moltz, and Dan Moren on this week’s Clockwise. With Jason Snell gone in the UK, that gave us the opportunity to finally complete the coup we’ve been dreaming of.

We’re not very good opportunists, so instead of a coup, we did the usual. In my return to Clockwise, we discussed Apple TV, wearables and their potential health risks, and got nostalgic about old software and services.

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Today, the BBC has announced that they are not renewing Jeremy Clarkson's contract after he was involved with a “fracas” with a producer.

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General:

It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly.

Clarkson is one of three hosts of my favorite TV show, Top Gear. He and producer Andy Wilman are the majority of the creative force behind the show.

It is generally understood that Clarkson was furious that there wasn’t a hot meal waiting for him after a day of filming. He verbally, and then physically, assaulted a producer.

Regardless of his behavior before — which has been mired with issues — Clarkson absolutely deserves to be fired. He punched a coworker, and that is not acceptable.

I can’t help but feel sad devastated at what we’ve lost though.


When I wrote my eulogy to Final Gear — the site that facilitated me downloading Top Gear — late last year, little did I know that in just a few short months I’d be writing this post, eulogizing the show itself.

I wrote then:

Click/tap to enlarge. Photo courtesy Marco.

It’s become a staple in not only my life, but Erin’s as well. Our Sunday afternoons when the show is in season are scheduled around Top Gear. Moreover, when they were starting new seasons (in UK parlance, a “new series”) in the summertime, Erin and I threw a “Top Gear Party” every year. We would have all our friends over, grill hot dogs and hamburgers, and once the sun went down, watch the show projected onto the back of our house. Our summers were largely defined by when Top Gear was starting again.

It is impossible to overstate how much the show meant to me. In many ways, when Top Gear was airing new episodes, my life was scheduled around it. Crazy as that may be, it’s the truth. That’s how much enjoyment the show gave me. I wouldn’t say I lived for Top Gear, but you can absolutely say that in many ways my life was lived around Top Gear.

I’m devastated to see it go.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m teary-eyed as I write these words. Losing this silly show about three guys having fun with cars feels like losing a dear, dear friend.


There have been rumblings about a potential future for Clarkson, Hammond, and May. The Telegraph writes:

It is thought Clarkson may sign for American network Netflix, which is becoming increasingly popular with global TV audiences.

At a glance, that sounds amazing. Netflix has already provenmore than once — that they can facilitate great original programming. In the case of Top Gear, this may be even easier, as it’s possible that Clarkson holds some or all of the Top Gear intellectual property. (I’m skeptical, but time will tell.)[1]

I’m hopeful for the future. I’m hopeful I get to see similar work from Clarkson and crew, even if direct-to-video like before. I’m hopeful that whatever comes next may even be better than the Top Gear I know today.

I’m sad there will be no more Top Gear as I know it. But I’m glad that they’ve left behind such a tremendous back catalog that I can re-watch for years.

I know what I’ll be doing this evening.


  1. As pointed out by several people on Twitter, including Hannes Hauer, the rights were actually sold to the BBC in 2012. At the time, they signed 3-year contracts; the same ones that are expiring this year.