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Daring Fireball

A feed by John Gruber


How Jeff Bezos’s iPhone X Was Hacked

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-24 23:46

Good summary from The New York Times. Until this week’s news, I don’t believe we knew what type of phone Bezos was using when he was hacked. Now we know: an iPhone X.

Link: nytimes.com/2020/01/22/technology/jeff-bezos-hack-iphone…

‘An Embarrassment From Start to Finish’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-24 18:35, modified at 19:43

Ron Amadeo, reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Fold for Ars Technica:

And that brings us to today — the Ars review. This one is going to be a little different, since I don’t think the Galaxy Fold has any viability as a serious device anyone should consider purchasing. Should you buy a Galaxy Fold? NO! God no. Are you crazy? The sky-high price, durability issues, nascent form factor, and new screen technology should rule the phone out for just about everyone.

Worth reading and looking at the screenshots comparing it to normal top-tier Android phones. The Fold’s front screen is nearly worthless and the interior “big” screen displays significantly less content in most apps.


Link: arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/01/samsung-galaxy-fold-review…

You Might Like Front and Center Even If You Don’t Like Classic Switching

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-24 17:17, modified at 17:22

Dr. Drang, regarding my enthusiasm for John Siracusa’s new Front and Center utility for the Mac:

I would argue that just because Gruber misses the old behavior doesn’t make it right. When you switch to an app via the Dock, all its windows come forward because you have clicked on a icon for the app. Similarly, when you switch to an app via ⌘-Tab, all its windows come forward because you have selected the icon for that app. But when you click on a background window, you are not selecting an app, you’re selecting a window. So it’s the window that should come forward, not the app as a whole.

I completely agree with Drang. I’d never endorse changing today’s MacOS to use the classic-style “click a window to bring all that app’s windows to the front” behavior. Both for Drang’s reasons above, and simply because Mac OS X has been around too long for it to change. (The Mac was 17 years old when Mac OS X 10.0 shipped in March 2001; Mac OS X/OS X/MacOS will have been around for 19 years soon. Classic remained essential until at least 2004, though — Steve Jobs’s 2002 “funeral” for Mac OS 9 be damned, Mac OS X was way too slow and too incomplete until 10.4 Tiger or so for most serious Mac users. So let’s just call it 20 years of classic MacOS and 20 years and counting of Mac OS X.)

But I think classic-style window activation is worthwhile as an option. And more important is Front and Center’s Shift-click override. When using Front and Center in “Classic” mode, you can Shift-click a background window to bring just that window forward. And, if you prefer the “Modern” mode, where just-plain-clicking a window brings just that window forward, you can Shift-click a window to bring all of that app’s windows forward. That’s the killer feature, no matter which mode you prefer by default, and why I suggest trying it even if you don’t want Classic behavior by default.

Link: leancrew.com/all-this/2020/01/multitasking-windows-and-the…

Gorgeous Maps of the Streets of Any City in the World

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-24 16:31

Enter the name of any city, and Andrei Kashcha’s City Roads website will use OpenStreetMap data to draw all of its streets. Simple and beautiful monochromatic design. (Via Jason Kottke, travel photographer.)

Link: anvaka.github.io/city-roads/

Fast Company: ‘Apple and Google’s Location Privacy Controls Are Working’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-24 15:54

Jared Newman, writing for Fast Company:

Some recent data points to consider:

  • Since the launch of iOS 13 last fall, the amount of background location data that marketers collect has dropped by 68% according to Location Sciences, a firm that helps marketers analyze location data.

  • Location Sciences also found that foreground data sharing, which occurs only while an app is open, dropped by 24%.

  • A Google spokesman tells Fast Company that when Android users have the option to only share location data when they’re actively using an app, they choose that option about half the time.

  • As Digiday reported last week, apps are now seeing opt-in rates under 50% for collecting location data when they’re not in use, according to Benoit Grouchko, CEO of the ad tech business Teemo.

Good news for everyone except dirtbags.

Link: fastcompany.com/90454921/apple-and-googles-tough-new…

‘If Right Doesn’t Matter, We’re Lost. If the Truth Doesn’t Matter, We’re Lost.’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-24 06:03, modified at 15:14

Adam Schiff’s summary argument in the Senate trial of Donald Trump’s impeachment. “If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost” sums up more than the abject corruption of Trump’s presidency — it sums up the state of the world today.

Link: twitter.com/RepAdamSchiff/status/1220559375938609152

Interesting Stats on the U.S. Streaming Service Market

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-24 02:24, modified at 19:01

This links to a Wall Street Journal story about the fact that two-thirds of Amazon Prime’s content is user-uploaded, and a lot of it is (unsurprisingly) sketchy. Interesting.

But what caught my eye was this graphic halfway down the page, showing “Q4 2019 U.S. customer base by service”, sourced to Ampere Analysis. Their numbers, in millions:

  1. Netflix: 61.3
  2. Amazon Prime: 42.2
  3. Apple TV+: 33.6
  4. Hulu: 31.8
  5. Disney+: 23.2

If that’s even close to accurate I’d say Apple TV+ is a roaring success. Yes, of course, surely most of those customers are using it free of charge for the first year. But that’s the point of this “buy any Apple device, get a free year of TV+” promotion. Apple wants people to take advantage of it — it’s the answer to the question of how you launch a paid streaming service with no content other than 11 original shows. Make Apple TV+ a habit now, get paid later. Apple can afford to be patient.

I’ve been curious how many people who qualify for TV+ know about it, and realize just how easy Apple’s TV app makes it to start your year-long free subscription. Apparently, a lot.

It’s worth noting that Disney+ didn’t launch until November 12, halfway through the quarter; I expect Disney+ to eventually take the number one spot on this list.

(Apple News link for News+ subscribers.)

Link: wsj.com/articles/amazons-video-library-has-grown-big-on…

The Talk Show: ‘Fake Faces’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-24 00:55

Special guest Glenn Fleishman returns to the show. Topics include iPhone encryption, the privacy implications of widely-available reverse image search for faces, deep-learning-powered algorithmically-generated faces, and Jeopardy’s “Greatest of All Time” tournament. The show notes are an epic reading list.

Brought to you by these fine sponsors:

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Link: daringfireball.net/thetalkshow/2020/01/23/ep-275

George Soros to Start $1 Billion School to Fight Nationalists, Climate Change

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-24 00:53

Katherine Burton, writing for Bloomberg:

Soros also once again criticized Facebook for its failure to police the social media network.

“There’s nothing to stop them, and I think there is a kind of informal mutual assistance operation or agreement developing between Trump and Facebook,” Soros said. “Facebook will work together to re-elect Trump and Trump will work to protect Facebook.”


Link: bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-23/soros-starts-new…

98.6 Degrees Fahrenheit Isn’t the Average Anymore

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-23 20:52

Jo Craven McGinty, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Nearly 150 years ago, a German physician analyzed a million temperatures from 25,000 patients and concluded that normal human-body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That standard has been published in numerous medical texts and helped generations of parents judge the gravity of a child’s illness. But at least two dozen modern studies have concluded the number is too high.

The findings have prompted speculation that the pioneering analysis published in 1869 by Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich was flawed.

Or was it?

In a new study, researchers from Stanford University argue that Wunderlich’s number was correct at the time but is no longer accurate because the human body has changed. Today, they say, the average normal human-body temperature is closer to 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Link: wsj.com/articles/98-6-degrees-fahrenheit-isnt-the-average…

JetBrains Mono

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-23 20:33, modified on 2020-01-24 03:11

New free and open source typeface for developers. I’m not sure it’s for me, but I do appreciate it. It has a much higher than usual x-height, and an emphasis on rectangular oval shapes for round characters. One idea I haven’t seen before: it comes with ligatures for punctuation combinations frequent in code; for example, the ligature for -> (hyphen + greater-than) looks like a two-character-wide . Certainly worth a download if, like me, you’re a hoarder of monospaced fonts.

Via Gus Mueller, who correctly notes that the website JetBrains created for the font is perhaps more interesting than the font itself. Absolutely worth checking out even if you have no interest in the font itself.

Link: jetbrains.com/lp/mono/

Google Search Results Zip Up Leather Jacket, Strap On Water Skis

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-23 18:24, modified on 2020-01-24 01:02

Danny Sullivan — who for years wrote about search engines independently, but is now Google’s “Search Liaison”:

Last year, our search results on mobile gained a new look. That’s now rolling out to desktop results this week, presenting site domain names and brand icons prominently, along with a bolded “Ad” label for ads. Here’s a mockup.

To say that this design blurs the line between real search results and sponsored items is an understatement. They’ve been inching toward this for a decade, but I’d say this marks the line where they’ve gone too far. Yes, they still have an “Ad” label next to sponsored results, in the spot where legit results now show a small site logo, but to paraphrase a wise man, what’s wrong about this design isn’t the think of it but the feel of it. I haven’t seen anyone react well to it, and most think the problem is that it makes ads look more like search results.

That’s not quite right though. Craig Mod put his finger on it precisely:

There’s something strange about the recent design change to google search results, favicons and extra header text: they all look like ads, which is perhaps the point?

That’s it. It’s not that ads look like legit results but that results look like ads too. It’s genius, but perverse. Google is losing the soul of its crown jewel.

Link: twitter.com/searchliaison/status/1216782591463813126

Go Dragons

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-23 00:28, modified at 03:31

News from my alma mater, from Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jeremy Roebuck:

The former head of Drexel University’s electrical engineering department was charged with theft Tuesday, three months after he stuck the school with a $190,000 tab for research money he allegedly misspent at strip clubs and on personal expenses.

Philadelphia prosecutors accused Chikaodinaka Nwankpa, 57, of spending $96,000 in federal grant funds at adult entertainment venues and sports bars between 2010 and 2017. He allegedly squandered $89,000 — funding he had secured for science, energy, and naval research — on iTunes purchases and meals.

I’ll go out on a limb and guess it was mostly on meals, but perhaps in addition to his other hobbies, Nwankpa is quite the cinephile.

Update: I completely blanked on in-app purchases for games. Something on the order of $1,000/month in IAP over this seven-year stretch would only make Nwankpa a low-level “whale” in mobile gaming. He could have easily blown a bigger chunk of the $89K on iTunes than on expensive meals. It’s Vegas, and Apple owns the biggest casino.

(Kind of hard to believe there’s only one hit for “Nwankpa” at The Triangle. A college newspaper ought to live for a story like this. I’d have gotten a month’s worth of columns out of it in my day.)

Link: inquirer.com/news/drexel-professor-strip-club-charged…

Away Co-Founder Steph Korey Is Back as Co-CEO

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-23 00:13, modified on 2020-01-24 05:09

Lauren Thomas, reporting for CNBC a week ago:

Just weeks after stepping down as chief executive officer of luggage maker Away following a report about her leadership tactics, Steph Korey is back as co-CEO. […]

But she told Away employees in a companywide Slack message Monday, which was reviewed by CNBC: “The inaccurate reporting that was published in December about our company unleashed a social media mob — not just on me, but also on many of you.” She added that her move to executive chairman had caused “more confusion than clarity. … So, let me clear that up: I am not leaving the company.”

Korey went on to say the company will contemplate its “legal options” after The Verge responds to its “demands for retractions and corrections.” A representative from The Verge wasn’t immediately available to respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Away said it has hired Libby Locke, the lawyer who won a defamation case against Rolling Stone magazine for a retracted story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. Locke said in an email Monday that the Verge “published hit pieces filled with lies and distortions designed to damage Away’s reputation.”

Surprise twist, to say the least. This seemingly puts the kibosh on my theory that Korey was stabbed in the back by Away’s board.

(Disclaimer: Away has been a frequent sponsor of my podcast.)

Link: cnbc.com/2020/01/13/away-co-founder-steph-korey-back-as-co…

MacOS 10.15 Catalina Bug: LG 5K Display Resets to Maximum Brightness Every Reboot

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-22 22:56, modified on 2020-01-24 05:12

Lloyd Chambers:

There are so many bugs in Catalina that I could spend weeks writing them up. Here’s one that is not just eye-popping (literally), but of great annoyance to me as a photographer — I need the display to remain stable and predictable.

After every reboot, the LG 5K display goes to maximum brightness.

Chambers quotes from several others encountering the same issue. A DF reader — also a professional photographer — wrote to me about this bug last week. He (the DF reader) was using a $6,000 new 16-inch MacBook Pro. I say was, past tense, because after a few days he returned it because this brightness issue was no small thing for him, because he sets his display brightness precisely using a display calibrator. Doing this several times per day every day quickly drove him mad.

Is this the worst bug in the world? Not even close. It’s a paper-cut bug. No data loss, no crash, not some sort of thing where something doesn’t even work — just an annoyance. But no one wants to use a tool that gives you half a dozen paper cuts every day. And MacOS 10.15 is chockablock with paper-cut bugs. And it’s not like the LG 5K Display is some obscure unsupported display — it’s the one and only external 5K display sold by Apple itself.

Link: macperformanceguide.com/blog/2020/20200107_1436-2019MacPro…

2016 WSJ Story on Apple’s Plans for E2E Encryption for iCloud Data

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-22 19:54, modified at 23:01

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for The Wall Street Journal four years ago:

Apple Inc. has refused federal requests to help unlock the phone of San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. But the company turned over data from his phone that Mr. Farook had backed up on its iCloud service.

Soon, that may not be so simple. Apple is working to bolster its encryption so that it won’t be able to decode user information stored in iCloud, according to people familiar with the matter.

But Apple executives are wrestling with how to strengthen iCloud encryption without inconveniencing users. Apple prides itself on creating intuitive, easy-to-use software, and some in the company worry about adding complexity.

If a user forgets a password, for example, and Apple doesn’t have the keys, the user might lose access to photos and other important data. If Apple keeps a copy of the key, the copy “can be compromised or the service can be compelled to turn it over,” said Window Snyder, a former Apple security and privacy manager who is now chief security officer at Fastly, a content-delivery network.

If Apple were to implement E2E encryption for iCloud backups, there’s no “might” about it — if the customer forgets their password, they would lose access to the data. That’s the entire point of this debate.

Given that this was four years ago, something clearly interrupted this plan. I’ve heard from a few additional sources at Apple (or very recently at Apple), and all believe that Apple’s reluctance to use end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups is about the frequency of customers who don’t know their password but need to access their backup. My idea is to make it optional, but every additional option makes a feature more complicated. No one expects to forget their password — even if this were only an option, some number of iCloud users would turn it on because it’s more secure, forget their password, and be forever locked out of their backup. If it weren’t optional — if backups were E2E encrypted with the keys solely in the hands of users — thousands of iCloud users would be forever locked out of their data.

Also, let me emphasize that with the sole exception of email — which is expected — all iCloud data is encrypted both in transit and in storage on Apple’s servers. (Email is encrypted in transit, of course, just not in storage.) The difference is whether Apple also has a key to the data. End-to-end encryption is when only the user controls the keys. Just plain “encryption” is when Apple also has a key.

Link: wsj.com/articles/in-beefing-up-icloud-security-apple-weighs…

Tim Cook to Der Spiegel a Little Over a Year Ago: Apple Will Eventually No Longer Have a Key to iCloud Data

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-22 03:07, modified at 19:32

From a wide-ranging interview from October 2018 (filtered through Google Translate):

Spiegel Online: Is the data as secure on your iCloud online service as on the devices?

Cook: Our users have a key there, and we have one. We do this because some users lose or forget their key and then expect help from us to get their data back. It is difficult to estimate when we will change this practice. But I think that in the future it will be regulated like the devices. We will therefore no longer have a key for this in the future.

I believe “regulated” is an idiomatic glitch in the translation. In English we tend to reserve that word for rules and laws from the government; Cook I think clearly is talking about Apple’s own policies.

[Update: Via my friend Glenn Fleishman, who speaks German: “You are correct about the Spiegel story. The machine translation is quite good, but ‘regulated’ was translated from the verb ‘regeln’ which can be regulated, but also controlled/set/etc. So it would be better to say, ‘I believe that in the future, it will be handled like on devices.’ ”]

Joseph Menn’s blockbuster report for Reuters today claims Apple abandoned its plans for encrypting iCloud backups “about two years ago”. Something in the timeline doesn’t add up there. (It’s also very clear from the Der Spiegel interview that Cook is keenly aware of how encryption works with Apple’s devices and services.)

Link: spiegel.de/netzwelt/gadgets/apple-chef-tim-cook-interview…

Android 9 and Later Offers Encrypted Backups to Google

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-22 02:52, modified at 03:27

From the end of Joseph Menn’s report for Reuters today, claiming Apple dropped plans for encrypted iOS backups after the FBI objected:

In October 2018, Alphabet Inc’s Google announced a similar system to Apple’s dropped plan for secure backups. The maker of Android software, which runs on about three-quarters of the world’s mobile devices, said users could back up their data to its own cloud without trusting the company with the key.

Two people familiar with the project said Google gave no advance notice to governments, and picked a time to announce it when encryption was not in the news.

First, while Android runs on 75 percent of mobile devices worldwide, not all of those devices use Google services like backup. None of the Android phones in China, for example — which is a lot of phones. It’s lazy to conflate Android phones with Google Android phones.

Second, I wasn’t aware of this until today. And it makes iCloud’s lack of backup encryption look bad. From Google’s official announcement of the feature a little over a year ago:

Starting in Android Pie, devices can take advantage of a new capability where backed-up application data can only be decrypted by a key that is randomly generated at the client. This decryption key is encrypted using the user’s lockscreen PIN/pattern/passcode, which isn’t known by Google. Then, this passcode-protected key material is encrypted to a Titan security chip on our datacenter floor. The Titan chip is configured to only release the backup decryption key when presented with a correct claim derived from the user’s passcode. Because the Titan chip must authorize every access to the decryption key, it can permanently block access after too many incorrect attempts at guessing the user’s passcode, thus mitigating brute force attacks. The limited number of incorrect attempts is strictly enforced by a custom Titan firmware that cannot be updated without erasing the contents of the chip. By design, this means that no one (including Google) can access a user’s backed-up application data without specifically knowing their passcode.

I can’t find much additional information about this. For example, how many failed attempts trigger the permanent lockout to the backup? That would be useful to know, but I can’t find it.

It also doesn’t seem to be optional on (some?) devices that support it. My Pixel 4 running Android 10 (Android Pie was version 9) doesn’t say anything about backups being encrypted by my device passcode — I believe they just are.

Not sure why the Department of Justice isn’t publicly complaining about this.

(Keep in mind that anything with a web interface, like Google Photos and Google Docs and Google Drive, cannot be end-to-end encrypted. Same goes for iCloud Photos.)

Link: security.googleblog.com/2018/10/google-and-android-have…

★ Regarding Reuters’s Report That Apple Dropped Plan for Encrypting iCloud Backups

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-22 00:10, modified at 21:11

Blockbuster report by Joseph Menn for Reuters:

Apple Inc. dropped plans to let iPhone users fully encrypt backups of their devices in the company’s iCloud service after the FBI complained that the move would harm investigations, six sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The tech giant’s reversal, about two years ago, has not previously been reported. It shows how much Apple has been willing to help U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, despite taking a harder line in high-profile legal disputes with the government and casting itself as a defender of its customers’ information.

I want to go deep on this, because, if true, it’s staggering, heartbreaking news. Go read Menn’s entire report. I’ll wait.

OK. First, Reuters’ headline — “Apple Dropped Plan for Encrypting Backups After FBI Complained” — is missing one essential word: iCloud. For at least the last decade, Apple has offered truly secure encrypted local backups of iOS devices, using iTunes on a Mac or PC. (Starting with MacOS 10.15 Catalina, this feature is now in the Finder.) With encrypted local backups, if you don’t have the passphrase used to encrypt the backup, no one, including Apple, can access the backup data. (Local backups to your Mac or PC are not encrypted by default — more on this below — and non-encrypted local backups therefore omit sensitive data like your passwords.)

It’s essential that Apple still supports local backups, for many reasons, but for most iPhone and iPad users it’s irrelevant, because they never connect their devices to a Mac or PC, and the overwhelming majority of them surely have no idea that the feature even exists. iCloud backups are the only backups most iOS users ever use, and it is a fact that there is no option to truly encrypt them.

This fact has been, to me, a bit of a head-scratcher for the last few years — it’s the one gaping hole in Apple’s commitment to cryptographically-guaranteed privacy for its customers.1

In fact, it’s so contrary to Apple’s stance as The Privacy Company that I’ve already heard from several tech-savvy users today, in the wake of Reuters’s report, that they had assumed until now that their iCloud backups were encrypted.

The bottom line is that iCloud backups are not end-to-end encrypted, but should be, at least optionally. Menn’s report for Reuters suggests the reason they’re not is that Apple bowed to requests from the FBI. I do not believe his report is entirely correct. Menn writes:

More than two years ago, Apple told the FBI that it planned to offer users end-to-end encryption when storing their phone data on iCloud, according to one current and three former FBI officials and one current and one former Apple employee.

Under that plan, primarily designed to thwart hackers, Apple would no longer have a key to unlock the encrypted data, meaning it would not be able to turn material over to authorities in a readable form even under court order.

In private talks with Apple soon after, representatives of the FBI’s cyber crime agents and its operational technology division objected to the plan, arguing it would deny them the most effective means for gaining evidence against iPhone-using suspects, the government sources said.

When Apple spoke privately to the FBI about its work on phone security the following year, the end-to-end encryption plan had been dropped, according to the six sources. Reuters could not determine why exactly Apple dropped the plan.

Menn is a solid reporter and I have no reason to doubt what he is reporting. What I suspect though, based on (a) everything we all know about Apple, and (b) my own private conversations over the last several years, with rank-and-file Apple sources who’ve been directly involved with the company’s security engineering, is that Menn’s sources for the “Apple told the FBI that it planned to offer users end-to-end encryption when storing their phone data on iCloud” bit were the FBI sources, not the Apple sources, and that it is not accurate.

It simply is not in Apple’s nature to tell anyone outside the company about any of its future product plans. I’m not sure how I could make that more clear. It is not in Apple’s DNA to ask permission for anything. (Cf. the theory that a company’s culture is permanently shaped by the personality of its founders.)

Encrypting iCloud backups would be perfectly legal. There would be no legal requirement for Apple to brief the FBI ahead of time. Nor would there be any reason to brief the FBI ahead of time just to get the FBI’s opinion on the idea. We all know what the FBI thinks about strong encryption. How would this supposed conversation have gone down?

FBI Official: So, what brings you here?

Apple Representative: Well, we’re thinking about offering encrypted iCloud backups, such that only the user would hold the keys.

FBI Official: ——

Apple Representative: And, uh, we were wondering what you folks thought about that.

FBI Official: Is this a joke?

I would find it less surprising to know that Apple acquiesced to the FBI’s request not to allow encrypted iCloud backups than that Apple briefed the FBI about such a plan before it was put in place.

I’ll take as fact all of the following, based on Menn’s report and common sense:

  1. Apple had and perhaps still has a plan to encrypt iCloud backups in a way that only the user controls the keys. I.e. that without the backup passphrase, there would be no way for Apple to access the data contained in the backup.

  2. The FBI has requested that Apple not offer encrypted iCloud backups. I would be surprised if the FBI does not reiterate its stance on this issue whenever they meet with Apple regarding security matters. Apple might never have mentioned a plan to encrypt iCloud backups, but the FBI isn’t stupid. It has surely occurred to anyone who has followed Apple’s progress on security — which to date has only ever moved in the direction of providing customers with more cryptographically-guaranteed privacy — that encrypted iCloud backups are something the company has at the very least considered.

  3. Apple cancelled or postponed its plan to offer encrypted iCloud backups.

It does not necessarily follow that #3 is the result of #2.

It could be the reason, but there are several other logical explanations. It’s a subtle point, but the “due to” in VentureBeat’s headline on Reuter’s syndicated report — “Apple’s iCloud Backups Are Unencrypted Due to Law Enforcement Pressure” — is not justified by the reporting. (Reuters’s original headline uses “after”.)

I’ll repeat the last line of the previous quote from Menn’s report:

Reuters could not determine why exactly Apple dropped the plan.

Dueling sources follow:

“Legal killed it, for reasons you can imagine,” another former Apple employee said he was told, without any specific mention of why the plan was dropped or if the FBI was a factor in the decision.

That person told Reuters the company did not want to risk being attacked by public officials for protecting criminals, sued for moving previously accessible data out of reach of government agencies or used as an excuse for new legislation against encryption.

“They decided they weren’t going to poke the bear anymore,” the person said, referring to Apple’s court battle with the FBI in 2016 over access to an iPhone used by one of the suspects in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

If that is the case — that Apple’s legal department killed the project to avoid “poking the bear” — then it’s ultimately irrelevant whether Apple briefed the FBI in advance or not. It’s acquiescence, and users will be left unprotected. Not just in the U.S., where the FBI has jurisdiction, but everywhere in the world where encryption is legal.

Menn’s FBI sources clearly think that’s the case:

Two of the former FBI officials, who were not present in talks with Apple, told Reuters it appeared that the FBI’s arguments that the backups provided vital evidence in thousands of cases had prevailed.

“It’s because Apple was convinced,” said one. “Outside of that public spat over San Bernardino, Apple gets along with the federal government.”

What else could it be? This:

However, a former Apple employee said it was possible the encryption project was dropped for other reasons, such as concern that more customers would find themselves locked out of their data more often.

That’s a key point. Surely there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people every day who need to access their iCloud backups who do not remember their password. The fact that Apple can help them is a benefit to those users. That’s why I would endorse following the way local iTunes device backups work: make encryption an option, with a clear warning that if you lose your backup password, no one, including Apple, will be able to restore your data. I would be surprised if Apple’s plan for encrypted iCloud backups were not exactly that.

Buried deep in the article is, to me, the most alarming aspect of Menn’s report:

Once the decision was made, the 10 or so experts on the Apple encryption project — variously code-named Plesio and KeyDrop — were told to stop working on the effort, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating — let’s see what Apple actually does. Reuters’s report notwithstanding, I would not be surprised if end-to-end encrypted iCloud backups are forthcoming. This should be at the top of our list of hoped-for features at WWDC 2020.

This isn’t about Apple foiling law enforcement. It isn’t about Apple helping criminals. It’s about Apple enabling its customers to own and control their own data. As things stand, if you use iCloud backup, you do not own and control the data therein.

  1. Email is another gaping hole. But that’s how email works everywhere — it’s inherently insecure by design. Read this 2013 piece by Geoff Duncan for a cogent explanation. ↩︎

Derek Jeter, Hall of Famer

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-21 23:47, modified on 2020-01-22 00:56

James Wagner, reporting for The New York Times:

It was never a question that Derek Jeter, the longtime captain of the Yankees and one of the most celebrated players in baseball history, was going to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The intrigue instead centered on whether he would become the second unanimously elected player, following his former teammate and fellow five-time World Series champion Mariano Rivera.

On Tuesday, Jeter fell just short of Rivera’s historic mark from last season.

Jeter was named on all but one of the 397 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — more than enough to clear the 75 percent hurdle for election. He eclipsed the previous second-highest voting mark, 99.3 percent, for outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016. Jeter received 99.7 percent of the vote.

The surprise isn’t that some cowardly little man decided to hide behind the anonymity of his vote and deny Jeter unanimity. The surprise is that there wasn’t a single cowardly dope who did the same last year for Rivera. Every single player among the top 30 on this list should have been unanimous. For chrissake Babe Ruth and Willie Mays only got 95 percent of the vote.

Jeter and Rivera were teammates for 19 seasons — the most, by far, of any Hall of Fame teammates. What a privilege it was to watch them play and win five World Series, all while playing for the greatest team in the history of professional sports.

Link: nytimes.com/2020/01/21/sports/baseball/hall-of-fame-vote…

Instagram for Windows 95

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-21 01:07, modified at 20:58

Delightful work by Petrick Studio. I miss buttons that look like buttons and clear distinctions between app chrome and content.

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a classic Mac OS version of the same idea.

Link: behance.net/gallery/41023081/Instagram-for-Win95?utm_source…

How Modern iPhone Encryption Works

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-20 18:24

Great explanation from Jack Nicas, in his column for The New York Times:

Tools like those from Cellebrite and Grayshift don’t actually break iPhones’ encryption; they guess the password. To do so, they exploit flaws in the software, like Checkm8, to remove the limit of 10 password attempts. (After about 10 failed attempts, an iPhone erases its data.) The tools then use a so-called brute-force attack, which automatically tries thousands of passcodes until one works.

That approach means the wild card in the Pensacola case is the length of the suspect’s passcode. If it’s six numbers — the default on iPhones — authorities almost certainly can break it. If it’s longer, it might be impossible.

A four-number passcode, the previous default length, would take on average about seven minutes to guess. If it’s six digits, it would take on average about 11 hours. Eight digits: 46 days. Ten digits: 12.5 years.

If the passcode uses both numbers and letters, there are far more possible passcodes — and thus cracking it takes much longer. A six-character alphanumeric passcode would take on average 72 years to guess.

It takes 80 milliseconds for an iPhone to compute each guess. While that may seem small, consider that software can theoretically try thousands of passcodes a second. With the delay, it can try only about 12 a second.

The basic thing to understand is that there are effectively two systems on a modern iPhone: (1) the iPhone itself, running iOS; and (2) the Secure Enclave. iOS can be hacked. That’s how these tools remove the 10-passcode-guesses-and-you’re-out limit. But it’s the Secure Enclave that evaluates a passcode and controls encryption, and the 80 millisecond processing time for passcode evaluation isn’t an artificial limit that could be set to 0 by hackers. It’s a hardware limitation, not software.

So, if you’re worried about any of this, the answer is simple: use an alphanumeric passphrase to unlock your iOS device, not a 6-digit numeric passcode.

Link: nytimes.com/2020/01/17/technology/fbi-iphones.html

[Sponsor] SQLPro Studio -- Database Client for macOS & iOS

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-20 23:03

A powerful and fully native macOS and iOS database client for working with all sorts of SQL databases. Easily browse and edit records, either visually or using a truly great query editor. If you do any work using SQL including MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server and more, make sure to check out SQLPro Studio today.

Save 20% on any SQLPro Studio web store purchase using the promo code GRUBER, or download a free trial on the iOS App Store.

Students may receive one year free by visiting https://www.sqlprostudio.com/edu/.

Link: sqlprostudio.com/


Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-18 19:05

My thanks to MyNetDiary for sponsoring DF this week. MyNetDiary is a modern diet/food tracking app with a strong focus on design, quality, and usability.

Developed with a team of registered dietitians, MyNetDiary offers a huge and reliable database, lightning-fast food tracking, a totally configurable dashboard, and no ads or user tracking — even in the free version. Their UI design for food tracking is incredibly efficient, with features ranging from a huge database of food, smart parsing of your typed input, and bar code scanning. They even have an AR “grocery check” feature — point your camera at a barcode while shopping and you’ll see a heads-up display with information and recommendations.

A lot of apps like this are just thin wrappers around web apps. MyNetDiary offers excellent native apps — for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. They even have an iMessage app. They are really on top of Apple’s latest stuff, and very privacy-minded. You can use the app fully without signing up for a (free) MyNetDiary account. But if you do sign up for an account, your data will sync between devices and the MyNetDiary website seamlessly. They even support Sign In With Apple when you create an account. I’ve been using MyNetDiary all week, and this is the first service I’ve used with Sign In With Apple — and it was a terrific experience. Probably the best “sign up for a new account with a service” experience I’ve ever seen.

MyNetDiary is now the most comprehensive, accurate, and user-friendly diet app in the App Store, as well as on the web and Google Play, and users and reviewers love it. If you’re looking for an app to help you lose weight or just eat better, you should check out MyNetDiary.

Link: mynetdiary.com/?utm_campaign=df

The Talk Show: ‘Sport Mode’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-18 06:37, modified at 17:37

Special guest Merlin Mann returns to the show. Topics include the renewal of U.S. law enforcement officials’ disingenuous campaign against iPhone encryption, the Houston Astros cheating scandal, how that cheating scandal relates to the Trump impeachment saga, and Catalyst and the art of Mac software design. But mostly we talk about finding a good pair of slippers.

Brought to you by these fine sponsors:

  • Techmeme Ride Home: 20-minutes of today’s top tech news, every day around 5p ET. A terrific podcast that you should subscribe to.
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Link: daringfireball.net/thetalkshow/2020/01/18/ep-274

Which Emoji Scissors Close

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-18 00:11


Ah, scissors. They’re important enough that we have an emoji for them. On your device, it appears as ✂️. Unlike the real world tool it represents, the emoji’s job is to convey the idea, especially at small sizes. It doesn’t need to be able to swing or cut things. Nevertheless, let’s judge them on that irrelevant criterion.

Fun work. Turns out most emoji scissors wouldn’t actually close. I’m curious if the ones that would close somehow look worse at small sizes, or if this is something that most scissor emoji artists never bothered to consider. (Via Andy Baio.)

Link: wh0.github.io/2020/01/02/scissors.html

The FBI Used a GrayKey to Obtain Data From a Locked iPhone 11 Pro Max

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-17 23:54, modified on 2020-01-18 06:04

Thomas Brewster, reporting for Forbes:

Last year, FBI investigators in Ohio used a hacking device called a GrayKey to draw data from the latest Apple model, the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The phone belonged to Baris Ali Koch, who was accused of helping his convicted brother flee the country by providing him with his own ID documents and lying to the police. He has now entered a plea agreement and is awaiting sentencing.

Forbes confirmed with Koch’s lawyer, Ameer Mabjish, that the device was locked. Mabjish also said he was unaware of any way the investigators could’ve acquired the passcode; Koch had not given it to them nor did they force the defendant to use his face to unlock the phone via Face ID, as far as the lawyer was aware. The search warrant document obtained by Forbes, dated October 16, 2019, also showed the phone in a locked state, giving the strongest indication yet that the FBI has access to a device that can acquire data from the latest iPhone.

Nothing is confirmed by anyone involved — the FBI, Apple, or Grayshift (the company that makes the GrayKey) — but this sure sounds like the FBI accessed data on an iPhone 11 Pro Max using a GrayKey. Two things if this is true. First, this really puts the lie to the FBI’s claim of needing Apple’s help accessing the Pensacola shooter’s iPhones (which were older models, and thus presumably easier to crack). Second, this is the first suggestion I’ve seen that GrayKey can unlock, or somehow otherwise access the data of, Apple’s latest generation of iPhones.

More on how GrayKey works — or at least used to work — from an April 2018 link. At one point later in 2018, it was believed that bug fixes in iOS 12 stopped GrayKey from working. It’s a canonical cat-and-mouse game. Also worth noting: Grayshift co-founder Braden Thomas previously worked as a security engineer at Apple.

Link: forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2020/01/15/the-fbi-got-data…

WSJ: ‘Barr’s Encryption Push Is Decades in the Making, but Troubles Some at FBI’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-17 21:20, modified at 21:21

Sadie Gurman, Dustin Volz, and Tripp Mickle, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Some FBI officials were stunned by Mr. Barr’s rebuke of Apple, the people familiar with the matter said, and believe the Pensacola case is the wrong one to press in the encryption fight, in part because they believed Apple had already provided ample assistance to the probe.

Like I’ve been arguing, this has nothing to do with the Pensacola case in particular and everything to do with a push to make encryption illegal.

Link: wsj.com/articles/barrs-encryption-push-is-decades-in-the…

More on Tile’s Complaints About Apple in Congressional Testimony

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-17 21:11, modified at 23:42

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors, reports that Tile is complaining about Find My too:

The smaller companies are aiming to provide evidence that the tech giants have become too big and have practices in place that stifle competition and hurt sales. Tile in particular is gunning for Apple, claiming that Apple’s iOS 13 Bluetooth and location tracking devices have hurt its business, and that Find My resembles Tile’s own service.

Find My — originally Find My iPhone — has been around since 2010. And it seems like weak sauce to argue that it’s a feature Apple shouldn’t be able to provide on antitrust grounds. Putting aside Apple’s rumored dedicated location-tracking tile dinguses, if Tile’s business has been hurt by iOS 13 and Find My, their business was in bad shape to start.

It seems one of Tile’s specific complaints is related to the changes in iOS 13 that discourage third-party apps from having “Always Allow” access to location data. Apple has been pushing for apps to use “Only While Using the App”, and, when apps do use “Always Allow”, iOS will periodically remind you which apps are doing so in the background, and how often. And to turn on “Always Allow” access, the user must do so in the Privacy section of Settings — the app itself can’t prompt for it. Apple’s statement seems to suggest they’re reconsidering that.

Remember Apple’s priorities: Apple first, users second, developers third. Developers of location-tracking apps might be peeved by iOS 13’s changes, but users are much better off. A lot of apps that were asking for “Always Allow” location access were not doing so with the users’ interests at heart.

There’s just no way a third-party tile tracking product will be as integrated with iOS as an Apple product would be. It’s like rival smart watch makers complaining that Apple Watch’s integration with iPhone is unfair. Same with AirPods. At some level it is unfair, but what’s the alternative? You’re either asking for Apple (and other big platform vendors) to be severely hamstrung from innovating with integrated new products, or you’re asking for third-parties to be given low-level access to the OS on mobile platforms — a privacy and security nightmare.

There are definitely good antitrust arguments to be made against all of the tech giants, including Apple, but I don’t think Tile is a good example.

Link: macrumors.com/2020/01/17/tile-congress-testimony-ios-13…

Tile to Testify Before Congress About Unreleased, Unannounced Apple Product

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-17 20:40, modified at 21:06

Nandita Bose, writing for Reuters:

In April 2019, Tile.com, which helps users find lost or misplaced items, suddenly found itself competing with Apple Inc, after years of enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship with the iPhone maker.

Apple carried Tile on its app store and sold its products at its stores since 2015. It even showcased Tile’s technology at its biggest annual event in 2018 and the startup sent an engineer to Apple’s headquarters to develop a feature with the company’s voice assistant Siri.

Early the following year, Tile’s executives read news reports of Apple launching a hardware product along with a service that resembled what Tile sold. By June, Apple had stopped selling Tile’s products in stores and has since hired away one of its engineers.

It sucks to get Sherlocked. But is there anything vaguely illegal here? And it seems… premature to testify before Congress about a product Apple hasn’t even announced (and for all we know, never will). What exactly is Tile’s preferred remedy here?

Link: finance.yahoo.com/news/break-big-techs-monopoly-smaller…

The Case for a Low Power Mode for Mac Laptops — and iPads

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-17 19:10, modified at 21:36

Marco Arment:

In light of today’s rumor that a Pro Mode may be coming that seems to offer benefits in the opposite direction, I wanted to re-make the case for a Low Power Mode on macOS — and explain why now is the time.

Modern hardware constantly pushes thermal and power limits, trying to strike a balance that minimizes noise and heat while maximizing performance and battery life. […] Apple’s customers don’t usually have control over these balances, and they’re usually fixed at design time with little opportunity to adapt to changing circumstances or customer priorities.

The sole exception, Low Power Mode on iOS, seems to be a huge hit: by offering a single toggle that chooses a different balance, people are able to greatly extend their battery life when they know they’ll need it.

Arment has some interesting numbers showing the difference on a new 16-inch MacBook Pro while running a third-party kernel extension that disables Intel’s “Turbo Mode”. You lose about 50 percent of performance but gain maybe an additional 50 percent of battery life — and your MacBook stays very cool. A lot of people in a lot of situations would happily make that trade-off, especially if it were as easy to toggle and as noninvasive as it is on iOS. When I use Low Power Mode on my iPhone, I’m hard-pressed to notice any difference other than the yellow battery icon, even though benchmarks suggest the CPU is throttled to about half speed. Apple’s A-series CPUs are so fast that half-speed is plenty fast.

The elephant in the room is the Mac’s transition to Apple-designed ARM processors — a transition we’ve all expected to come any year now for, well, quite a few years. Apple’s plan for extending MacBook battery life might just be to switch processor architectures and nothing else. Note too that iOS’s Low Power Mode is for iPhones only — iPads don’t have it. That bodes poorly for the odds of a Low Power Mode for MacBooks — it feels like a feature Apple believes is needed only for phones.

Now that I think about it, why doesn’t the iPad have Lower Power Mode? This could be a huge game changer in a “forgot to charge my iPad before a long flight or car trip” scenario. I just spent 15 minutes searching the web to make sure the iPad really doesn’t offer this feature, because it seems so bananas that it doesn’t.

Link: marco.org/2020/01/13/macos-low-power-mode-redux

Study Claims YouTube Ads of 100 Top Brands Fund Climate Misinformation

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-17 17:51, modified at 23:39

Alex Hern, reporting for The Guardian:

Some of the biggest companies in the world are funding climate misinformation by advertising on YouTube, according to a study from activist group Avaaz.

The group found that more than 100 brands had adverts running on YouTube videos on the site that were actively promoting climate misinformation. The brands, including Samsung, L’Oreal and Decathlon, were unaware that their adverts were being played before and during the videos.

How do we know they were unaware? I highly doubt any of these brands specifically wanted their ads to run against climate change disinformation videos, but doesn’t the scattershot “just let the algorithm figure out where to run our ads” strategy many (most?) big YouTube advertisers take imply that some of the spots are going to run against unsavory content?

I really feel as a culture we are barely coming to grips with the power of YouTube, Facebook, and to some degree, Twitter, as means of spreading mass-market disinformation. The pre-internet era of TV, print, and radio was far from a panacea. But it just wasn’t feasible in those days for a disinformation campaign — whether from crackpots who believe the nonsense, corporate industry groups, or foreign governments — to get in front of the eyes of millions of people.

It feels like something out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel that this is not only the state we’re in today, but that big name mass market advertisers are running commercials on this stuff.

Link: theguardian.com/technology/2020/jan/16/youtube-ads-of-100…

Fun With Charts: A Decade of Apple Growth

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-16 22:12

Jason Snell:

I have been making charts based on Apple’s financials every three months for most of the last decade, and if there’s one thing that I think the charts don’t properly convey is just how explosive Apple’s growth has been. The iPhone’s growth in the middle of the decade changed the game. And while that growth has slowed or stopped, it leaves Apple as a company that is working at a scale that’s nothing like it was when Steve Jobs was in his final years as CEO.

That last chart is a real doozy.

Link: sixcolors.com/post/2020/01/fun-with-charts-a-decade-of…

Steve Bannon: ‘If I Were the Guys at Apple I Would Pay Attention to the President’s Tweets. I Would Treat His Tweets as a Papal Bull.’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-15 20:06, modified on 2020-01-16 00:08

The notion that anyone should treat any president’s tweets as “papal bulls” is one of the most un-American things I’ve heard.

Link: ped30.com/2020/01/15/apple-pensacola-steve-bannon/

Wireless Networks Pose No Known Health Risk

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-15 20:00, modified at 20:01

Glenn Fleishman, writing at TidBITS:

Can cell phones or Wi-Fi give you cancer? The answer is reasonably definitive: No. That’s equally true for new 5G cellular networks currently being rolled out worldwide, all previous cellular networks, and all versions of Wi-Fi.

Link: tidbits.com/2019/12/06/worried-about-5g-and-cancer-heres…

‘We Reject the Characterization That Apple Has Not Provided Substantive Assistance in the Pensacola Investigation’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-14 21:47, modified at 22:08

Scott Lucas, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

“We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation. Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing,” the company said in a statement. “We responded to each request promptly, often within hours, sharing information with FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York. The queries resulted in many gigabytes of information that we turned over to investigators. In every instance, we responded with all of the information that we had.”

But Apple said nothing about actually unlocking the gunman’s two iPhones. Instead, it reiterated its stance on privacy.

“We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys,” the company explained. “Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. … We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.”

The big question remains unclear in all this coverage: did Apple refuse the DOJ’s request, or are they unable — technically — to fulfill the request? The DOJ continues to talk as though this is something Apple could do but refuses to. I believe it’s something Apple is mathematically unable to do. News coverage should make this clear.

Link: buzzfeednews.com/article/scottlucas/william-barr-apple…

Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Setting Up Clash

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-14 21:10, modified at 22:12

Katie Benner, reporting for The New York Times:

“We’re not trying to weaken encryption, to be clear,” Mr. Bowdich said at a news conference, noting that the issue has come up with thousands of devices that investigators want to see in other cases.

That’s exactly what they are trying to do. There is no magic way to allow law enforcement to access encrypted contents without allowing everyone else the same path. Mathematics doesn’t discern between “good guys” and “bad guys”.

Link: nytimes.com/2020/01/13/us/politics/pensacola-shooting…

Disney+ Was the Most Downloaded App in the US in Q4 2019

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-14 20:09

Sarah Perez, reporting for TechCrunch:

U.S. consumers have shown strong interest in Disney’s new family-friendly streaming service, Disney+, according to new data from Sensor Tower, which focused on app trends in the final quarter of 2019. Following the app’s mid-November launch in the U.S., Disney+ was downloaded more than 30 million times in Q4 2019 — that’s more than double its next nearest competitor, TikTok, the firm said.

These total downloads were counted across both the Apple App Store and Google Play, with the App Store accounting for over 18 million of the Disney+ downloads and Google Play accounting for more than 12 million. This allowed the new streaming app to become the most downloaded app in the App Store and Google Play, individually, in addition to being the most downloaded app overall in the quarter.

Very impressive launch, both technically and marketing-wise.

Link: techcrunch.com/2020/01/14/disney-was-the-most-downloaded…

Astros Manager and G.M. Fired Over Cheating Scandal

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-14 19:39

James Wagner, reporting for The New York Times:

It is an enduring part of baseball strategy: As a batter is at the plate, his teammates carefully watch a catcher’s fingers to figure out what pitch is about to be thrown.

And it’s all fair play as long as teams do not enhance the abilities of the naked eye and clever minds with either cameras or electronic devices that allow teammates to signal the batter whether a fastball or a breaking ball is on the way.

But that is exactly what the Houston Astros did during their 2017 championship-winning season, clouding that World Series title and causing one of baseball’s biggest cheating scandals in years, Major League Baseball officials said on Monday in a scathing report detailing the team’s scheme.

By the end of the day, Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch — the two men who helped propel the Astros to the top of the sport — had been suspended and then fired, while their club was left with severe penalties for deploying a scheme involving cameras and monitors to decode the hand signals of catchers and tip off Houston batters. One of their favorite communication methods was banging on a trash can just outside the dugout.

Commissioner Manfred’s report (PDF) is a scathing read (with a crazy file name). My favorite part of this whole sad saga is the indignant way A.J. Hinch responded to allegations that the Astros were illegally signaling signs against the Yankees this postseason. My guess is it’s not “making him laugh” any more.

Put a big asterisk next to that 2017 World Series. What an embarrassing stain on the sport.

Link: nytimes.com/2020/01/13/sports/baseball/astros-cheating.html

[Sponsor] MyNetDiary

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-14 01:53

MyNetDiary is a modern diet app with a strong focus on design, quality, and usability.

Developed with a team of Registered Dietitians, MyNetDiary offers a huge and reliable database, lightning-fast food tracking, a totally configurable dashboard, no ads or user tracking, awesome apps for Apple Watch, iPad, and iMessage, and a few cool things such as AR Grocery Check.

MyNetDiary is now the most comprehensive, accurate, and user-friendly diet app in App Store, Google Play, as well as on the web, and users love it.

Check out MyNetDiary and see why users switch from MyFitnessPal and never look back.

Link: mynetdiary.com/?utm_campaign=df


Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-12 18:57, modified on 2020-01-14 18:58

My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring last week at DF. Kolide is a new Slack app that messages employees when their Mac, Windows, or Linux device is not compliant with security best-practices or policy.

With this app, Kolide will notify users or groups when a device is out of compliance along with clear instructions about what is wrong, and step by step instructions to remediate the issue themselves. They can even confirm in real-time that they resolved the problem with an interactive button inside the Slack message.

Unlike most endpoint security solutions, Kolide was designed with user privacy in mind. Your users will know what data is collected about their device, who can see that data, and can even view the full source code of the agent that is run on the device.

Kolide is already used by hundreds of fast growing companies who want to level-up their device security without locking down their devices. Try Kolide’s new product for free for 30 days for your entire fleet.

Link: kolide.com/?utm_source=df&utm_medium=talkshow&utm_campaign…

★ Quit Confirmation for Safari on MacOS

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-11 01:13, modified on 2020-01-18 00:34

Here’s a quick little AppleScript I wrote recently that I’ve found helpful.

Backstory: When you quit a web browser on MacOS, they just quit. Whatever windows and tabs are open, boom, they just go away. In the old days, quitting a browser closed all windows, so when you relaunched your browser, you were sitting there staring at a new empty browser window. This sucked if you needed to restart, and it really sucked if you quit your browser accidentally. How do you quit accidentally? Typically, by pressing ⌘Q by mistake when you meant to press Q’s neighbor W to close the current tab.

A few years ago all modern browsers added a feature that restores your previously-open windows and tabs automatically upon relaunching. This restoration of previously open windows and tabs is so useful that in the current version of Safari, there isn’t even an option not to do it. The only choices in Safari’s General preferences tab for “Safari opens with” are “All windows from last session” and “All non-private windows from last session”. Quitting Safari and closing tabs are completely discrete, and it’s clear to me that’s the correct design.

[Update: The above is not the whole story. I only see two options because in System Preferences: General, I have the “Close windows when quitting an app” checkbox turned off. If you have that checkbox turned on, you’ll see four options in Safari for “Safari opens with”: the two mentioned above, along with “A new window” and “A new private window”. If you have the system-wide “Close windows when quitting an app” turned off and choose “A new window” or “A new private window” in Safari, you will in fact start fresh with a single empty window upon relaunching Safari. (But even then, you can go to History → Reopen All Windows from Last Session to re-open all of your previous windows and tabs.)]

But, even with this automatic session restoration, it can still be disruptive if you quit your browser accidentally. When windows come back, sometimes you lose your place on a page, or you get logged out, or a dozen other potential hiccups.

Chrome addresses this by blocking ⌘Q by default. If you press and release ⌘Q in Chrome, with default settings, instead of quitting, Chrome displays a message in a temporary notification banner: “Hold ⌘Q to Quit”. With this setting enabled — and it’s on by default — you have to hold ⌘Q to quit Chrome. Other Chromium-derived browsers, like the excellent Brave (which I heartily recommend as an alternative to Chrome), do the same thing. This does solve the problem of having your entire browser quit when you just meant to close the current tab with ⌘W, but it’s a decidedly unidiomatic solution. Press-and-hold to invoke a menu key shortcut just isn’t a thing on the Mac. It’s weird.

If you want to disable this feature in Chrome, don’t bother looking in Chrome’s labyrinthian Preferences window. You control this setting with the “Warn Before Quitting (⌘Q)” menu item above the “Quit Chrome” command in the Chrome menu.

That’s not even a good description for the setting. You don’t get warned before quitting when it’s enabled — you’re instead required to press-and-hold the ⌘Q shortcut.

But a confirmation warning is exactly what you should get. This is how the Mac has protected against quitting when you might lose data or state since the dawn of time — like when you try to close a document window with unsaved changes.

I don’t accidentally quit Safari often, but it does happen. And it’s mildly annoying every time. The last time it happened, I resolved to fix it myself. That’s where my AppleScript comes in:

use AppleScript version “2.4” — Yosemite (10.10) or later use scripting additions

use AppleScript version “2.4” — Yosemite (10.10) or later use scripting additions

tell application "Safari"
    set _window_count to count windows
    set _tab_count to 0

    repeat with _w in every window
        set _tab_count to _tab_count + (count tabs of _w)
    end repeat

    -- Make a string like "1 window containing 3 tabs."
    if _window_count is 1 then
        set _msg to _window_count & " window containing " as string
        set _msg to _window_count & " windows containing " as string
    end if
    if _tab_count is 1 then
        set _msg to _msg & _tab_count & " tab." as string
        set _msg to _msg & _tab_count & " tabs." as string
    end if

    display alert ¬
        "Are you sure you want to quit Safari?" message _msg ¬
        buttons {"Cancel", "Quit"} ¬
        giving up after 60
    if button returned of result is "Quit" then quit
end tell

Run this script, and it shows an alert like this:

Screenshot of an alert dialog.

Last step: how do we get this script to run when we press ⌘Q in Safari? I use FastScripts, Red Sweater Software’s excellent alternative to Apple’s own system-wide scripts menu. Among numerous other features, FastScripts allows you to assign custom keyboard shortcuts to scripts — and FastScripts will “see” those shortcuts before the application you’re using does.

So I’ve saved this script as “Quit With Confirmation” and placed it in the “Safari” folder in the “Applications” folder inside my “Scripts” folder. See FastScripts’s excellent documentation for more information on where to place application-specific scripts. Then in FastScript’s preferences, I assigned it ⌘Q. When I press ⌘Q in Safari, the script runs instead of Safari’s menu command.

Now I can wildly stab at ⌘W to close tabs without a care in the world.1 Enjoy.

  1. If the only thing you want to do is disable ⌘Q in Safari (or any other shortcut, in any other app, for that matter), the easiest thing to do is use the Keyboards panel in System Prefs (then go to Shortcuts: App Shortcuts) to either set Safari’s shortcut for File → Quit to nothing at all, or to something you won’t hit accidentally, like, say, Control-Option-Shift-Command-Q. Almost no work at all, no third-party software required. This ability to fully customize every menu key shortcut in every single app on the system is one of the best power-user tips I know of. But that’s not what I want. I want to defend against hitting ⌘Q accidentally, but I also want to be able to use ⌘Q on purpose when I really do want to quit Safari. That means a confirmation alert. ↩︎

Apple’s One Remaining Use of the Word ‘Macintosh’

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-11 00:13, modified on 2020-01-14 17:43

Adam Engst, writing at TidBITS:

Some weeks ago, I was struck by the thought that Apple had almost entirely managed to scrub its corporate communications of the word “Macintosh.” It’s not surprising, of course, but I was curious if the company had slipped up anywhere. To find out, I put together a complex Google search that focused on just Apple sites, eliminating those which host third-party content like discussions.apple.com. It also eliminates pages pointing at technical specifications for old products, a page listing obsolete products, and a spurious link to the Wikipedia page on HyperCard that somehow got an apple.com URL.

My search confirmed my initial hunch that there is only one official remaining use of the word “Macintosh” by today’s Apple.

Be sure to read the comments — there’s more than just one instance.

Link: tidbits.com/2020/01/10/the-one-remaining-use-of-the-word…


Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-10 18:16

Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:

Katzenberg and Quibi CEO Meg Whitman, who is best known as the CEO of HP and eBay, are publicly announcing Quibi at CES — but not quite unveiling it — after having raised $1 billion on the promise of a roster of Hollywood stars and supposedly revolutionary video-streaming technology that delivers portrait and landscape video at the same time. Everything on Quibi is designed for viewing on a phone, on the go, in 10 minutes or less. These chunks of video are called “quick bites” — hence, “Quibi.”

When Quibi arrives on April 6th of this year, it’ll cost $5 a month for an ad-supported version or $8 a month for an ad-free experience. Katzenberg and Whitman formulated this idea nearly two years ago and have been relentlessly signing up the biggest names in Hollywood to be a part of it.

For me personally, the rotating thing sounds awful. Which orientation is canonical? It just sounds like a gimmick. And I know that Hulu has separate paid tiers, one with ads, one without, but man, $5/month with ads is a hard sell to me.

Link: theverge.com/2020/1/8/21056315/quibi-ces-2020-launch-meg…

★ Front and Center

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-10 04:38, modified at 05:27

John Siracusa, announcing Front and Center:

By the time Mac OS X was first released in 2001, I had been using what would eventually be known as “classic” Mac OS for seventeen years. These were seventeen formative years for me, from the ages of 9 to 26. The user interface of classic Mac OS was as ingrained in me as Star Wars or any other cultural institution.

My love for classic Mac OS is why I started researching and reviewing Mac OS X. Big changes were coming to the Mac, and I was going to feel them more than most. I needed to know what I was in for.

To deal with some of the changes in Mac OS X, I ran apps and system extensions that restored some behaviors from classic Mac OS. Over the years, I weaned myself off most of these, but a few stuck. In particular, I found I did not want to live without the window layering policy from classic Mac OS.

In classic, when you click on a window that belongs to an application that’s not currently active, all the windows that belong to that application come to the front. In Mac OS X (and macOS), only the window that you click comes to the front.

Front and Center is a new app — co-written by Siracusa and his friend Lee Fyock — that does one thing and does it well. It re-implements classic-style window ordering when you click on a background window. It offers two modes, Classic and Modern, that determine what happens when you just-plain-click on a window belonging to a non-frontmost app. In both modes, Shift-clicking does the other thing. So if you prefer the modern style, where clicking on a window simply brings that one window to the front, you can Shift-click on a window if you really do want to bring all of that app’s windows forward. Honestly, the Mac OS X system should have offered all of Front and Center’s functionality for the last 18 years.

Other things I love:

  • The app icon and menu bar icon are exquisite. I adore them. My pal Brent Simmons is running Front and Center just because he likes having the icon in his Dock.
  • The only visible interface in F+C is the preferences window (shown in a screenshot atop Siracusa’s announcement). It looks like five minutes of work, right? There’s one pop-up menu, two checkboxes, and a bit of explanatory text explaining what the options do. In a small Slack group where Siracusa shared his work in progress and took feedback, I watched both the copy and the UI layout go through dozens of revisions. It’s fun to work on something so small and contained, but the number of revisions even this super-simple prefs window went through shows just how much work goes into getting anything just right. (And the very first version of the window Siracusa showed us was easily “good enough”.)

I never liked Mac OS X’s change in this regard, but I haven’t used a third-party utility to restore the classic style in at least 10 years. But now that I have it back, I realize I’ve missed it. When you switch to an app via the Dock, all its windows come forward. When you switch to an app via ⌘-Tab, all its windows come forward. It feels right to me that when you switch to an app by clicking one of its visible background windows, the whole app comes forward. And when you do really just want that one window to come forward, Shift-click.1

Classic Mac OS was chockablock with little extensions and control panels that improved the standard system behavior in small ways. I love that Front and Center not only brings back behavior from the classic era, it does so in the spirit of classic-era simple utilities.

$3 (cheap!) in the App Store. Highly recommended.

  1. So why Shift-click? There really wasn’t any choice — the other single modifier keys are all spoken for by the system. These are some good shortcuts that I’ll bet a lot of you don’t know:

    • Control-click is a system-wide synonym for right-clicking, dating back to the days when Apple’s mice only had one button. You can Control-click/right-click on items in background windows to open contextual menus without activating the background window.
    • Option-click: Activate the background window and hide the current application.
    • Command-click: Click on background windows without activating them. Command-clicking lets you fully interact with background windows without bringing them forward. You can click on buttons, and you can even click-and-drag to move the background window around without moving the window forward.
    • Command-Option-click: Activate the background window and hide all other applications.

    Shift was the only modifier available. But it works for me, mnemonically — it’s like you’re shifting the way clicking in a background window works. ↩︎

★ The Concept Electronics Show

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-09 04:54, modified on 2020-01-10 05:48

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge from CES 2020, “Concept Cars and Concept Foldables Betray a Lack of Confidence”:

We knew that we’d see a lot of folding screens this year at CES, but what we didn’t fully expect is just how few of them would come with proposed ship dates.

Bohn is being generous here. We all fully expected it. This is what CES, at least during the big keynote presentations the night before the show officially starts, has become: a parade of concepts, not products.


Dell’s Concept Ori and Intel’s Horseshoe Bend concepts are just concepts, tech demos that prove that, yes, these companies are working on devices like this. But Intel wouldn’t let anybody fold its folding laptop, which seems problematic. TCL also made a folding screen prototype, but as with the above it didn’t say that what it was showing was even representative of a future product. […]

So why all the concept foldables instead of real products? I can think of a bunch of reasons, but they all boil down to one thing: a lack of confidence.

A bunch of cars were also unveiled at CES on Monday, and all of the ones that got any attention are concepts too. Even Sony had one, which looked fine but to my eyes didn’t look imbued with even an ounce of Sony design language — it could have just as easily been a new Honda or Toyota.1 Mercedes showed off the most concept-y of concepts — an Avatar-inspired fantasy car developed in conjunction with James Cameron.

Bohn’s main point here is spot-on — there’s something wrong with a show where none of the most exciting announcements are for actual products coming to market soon. But I disagree that it’s about “confidence”. It’s that all of these companies are bad at designing actual products. It is highly instructive that the one company best known for shipping genuinely exciting, groundbreaking products never shows concept designs.2 Concept designs (and worse, concept videos) are a sign of dysfunction and incompetence at a company. It’s playing make-believe while fooling yourself and your audience into thinking you’re doing something real. Concepts allow designers to ignore real-world constraints: engineering, pricing, manufacturing, legal regulations, sometimes even physics. But dealing with real-world constraints is the hard work of true design. Concepts don’t stem from a lack of confidence. They stem from a dereliction of the actual duties of design.

I’ve railed against concept designs many times over the years, but two items I originally linked to over a decade ago are instructive. First, this bit from Lev Grossman’s profile of Steve Jobs and Apple for Time magazine in October 2005, “How Apple Does It”:

Ask Apple CEO Steve Jobs about it, and he’ll tell you an instructive little story. Call it the Parable of the Concept Car. “Here’s what you find at a lot of companies,” he says, kicking back in a conference room at Apple’s gleaming white Silicon Valley headquarters, which looks something like a cross between an Ivy League university and an iPod. “You know how you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory!

“What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, ‘Nah, we can’t do that. That’s impossible.’ And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, ‘We can’t build that!’ And it gets a lot worse.”

When Jobs took up his present position at Apple in 1997, that’s the situation he found. He and Jonathan Ive, head of design, came up with the original iMac, a candy-colored computer merged with a cathode-ray tube that, at the time, looked like nothing anybody had seen outside of a Jetsons cartoon. “Sure enough,” Jobs recalls, “when we took it to the engineers, they said, ‘Oh.’ And they came up with 38 reasons. And I said, ‘No, no, we’re doing this.’ And they said, ‘Well, why?’ And I said, ‘Because I’m the CEO, and I think it can be done.’ And so they kind of begrudgingly did it. But then it was a big hit.”

Either it can be made, or it can’t. If it can, show it when it’s real. The iMac wasn’t designed at the conceptual stage as a fantasy — it was something Jobs, Ive, and their team thought Apple could really make. Designing at the limits of possibility is one thing; designing unbounded by reality is another.

Second, Kontra’s splendid 2008 essay from his (alas) now-defunct Counternotions, “Why Apple Doesn’t Do ‘Concept Products’”:

As a contrast, let’s take the outfit that has been voted as the “most innovative” company by BusinessWeek and Fortune many times, Apple. Hasn’t Apple produced in the late ’80s perhaps the canonical concept vision in technology, the Knowledge Navigator?

Yes. And that was the last such concept piece coming out of Cupertino, certainly since Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997. Why hasn’t Apple, the most innovative and visionary company in computing, produced a single concept product or vision in over a decade? Because, to paraphrase Jobs, real artists ship.

What a pile of pie-in-the-sky horseshit the Knowledge Navigator video was — and in most ways would remain so even if it were released today. And that was 1987, when the Macintosh was in its toddler years. The Mac had a lot of hard problems ahead of it, and Apple’s leadership was off making science fiction films. Am I arguing that the Knowledge Navigator concept directly led to the coagulated product stagnation that almost killed Apple eight years later? No. I’m arguing that the Knowledge Navigator was a warning — a dead canary in the coal mine — that Apple’s leadership wasn’t focused on the present, and probably not even focused on reality. Early ’90s Apple spent a lot of time touting future operating systems — first Taligent, then Copland and Gershwin3 — that never came close to shipping, while letting the crown jewel of the company, the Macintosh, starve technically.

Back to Kontra:

Why would a commercial entity like Apple produce a concept product? Apple is likely generating more concept products and visions than any other technology company for internal use. When Apple wanted to get into retail stores, for example, Jobs had Ron Johnson build a fully-functioning, real-size prototype and tore it down at the last minute to rebuild a new one. Why didn’t Apple release the “concept store” to the then-deeply-skeptical press in order to “demonstrate visionary leadership”? In a similar situation Microsoft likely would have.

Exactly. What’s harmful is presenting concept designs to the public as though they are products. And even if a publicly presented concept is something a company truly does intend to eventually ship in some form, why show it early? To give competitors a head start copying it? So that if the product actually does ship eventually, people will view it as old news?

Kontra’s entire essay is well-worth reading in full. And his closing rings as true today as it did in 2008:

Apple would gain nothing from telegraphing its intentions and capabilities by releasing public conceptual products. The company is being more than prudent by not displaying their unconstrained fantasies to competitors, media, investors or customers.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, this inexorably leads us to Kontra’s law:

A commercial company’s ability to innovate is inversely proportional to its proclivity to publicly release conceptual products.

  1. If you had told me in my youth that Sony would be unveiling an electric car in 2020, I’d have expected a design that dropped jaws and blew minds. Not something that looks like every other sedan on the road. Also, it’s a sign of Sony’s divisional organization structure that they publicly showed a car that they almost certainly have no intention of ever making, but did not show a preview of the thing tens of millions of people can’t wait to buy: the PS5. Sony’s Playstation division knows what it’s doing. ↩︎

  2. The AirPower debacle was, arguably, an inadvertent concept design announcement. Looked great, lots of appeal — but it turned out Apple couldn’t actually make it. ↩︎︎

  3. How lost was 1994 Apple? They weren’t just pre-hyping one OS that would never actually ship — Copland — they were already pre-hyping its successor, Gershwin. Bananas. ↩︎︎

★ David Ruddock on the State of Chrome OS

Permalink - Posted on 2020-01-04 19:31

David Ruddock, writing for Android Police, “Chrome OS Has Stalled Out”:

Those apps are also a crutch that Chrome leans on to this day. Chrome OS doesn’t have a robust photo editor? Don’t worry, you can download an app! Chrome doesn’t have native integration with cloud file services like Box, Dropbox, or OneDrive? Just download the app! Chrome doesn’t have Microsoft Office? App! But this “solution” has basically become an insult to Chrome’s users, forcing them to live inside a half-baked Android environment using apps that were almost exclusively designed for 6” touchscreens, and which exist in a containerized state that effectively firewalls them from much of the Chrome operating system. As a result, file handling is a nightmare, with only a very limited number of folders accessible to those applications, and the task of finding them from inside those apps a labyrinthine exercise no one should have to endure in 2019. This isn’t a tenable state of affairs — it’s computing barbarism as far as I’m concerned. And yet, I’ve seen zero evidence that the Chrome team intends to fix it. It’s just how it is. […]

I say this even as one of the few people who can do 95% of my job on a Chromebook: that 5%, when you really, really need it, is more than enough reason to avoid a platform entirely. And for many others, it’s much more than 5%: it’s their entire workflow.

Ruddock’s piece is that rare combination: both provocative and thoughtful. However much we Mac users are complaining about the early state of Catalyst apps, Android apps running on Chrome OS sound far, far worse. “Computing barbarism” is pretty harsh.

Remember the whole crackpot plan to merge Android and Chrome? That was the plan as stated by no less an authority than Sergey Brin — back in 2009. Made no sense then, makes no sense now. Or, I should say, it makes no sense if you consider what Chrome and Android really are. Brin was never a product person. It’s telling, to me, that as far as I can tell Andy Rubin — who is most certainly a product person — never talked up this proposed merger. It’s a bad idea for Android and a bad idea for Chrome OS.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the original Mac in 1984 is that it shipped without any sort of character-based/terminal mode. That meant not only that it wasn’t compatible with the then-wildly-popular Apple II, it wasn’t compatible with the fundamental way most developers and users thought about a “computer”. I firmly believe that in an alternate universe where the 1984 Mac shipped with an Apple II-compatible text mode — even just a single app akin to MacOS’s Terminal app today — the product would’ve failed. Developers are lazy — a compliment! — and they would’ve been drawn to that crutch. And users, familiar with the Apple II and other command-line PCs of the era, might’ve been more comfortable at first too. With no such crutch, developers and users alike had to get on board with proper GUI Mac apps.

That, to me, sounds like how the whole “Android apps on Chrome OS” thing has turned out. The existence of the “Chrome OS can run Android apps” crutch has stunted Google’s motivation to push the platform forward to solve the remaining tasks that the platform isn’t suited for in ways that are truly native to Chrome.

★ Catalyst, Two Months In

Permalink - Posted on 2019-12-20 04:32, modified at 04:39

Jack Wellborn, “Catalyst and Cohesion”:

The crux of the issue in my mind is that iOS and Mac OS are so fundamentally different that the whole notion of getting a cohesive experience through porting apps with minimal effort becomes absurd. The problem goes beyond touch vs pointer UX into how apps exist and interact within their wider OSes. While both Mac OS and iOS are easy to use, their ease stem from very different conventions.

The more complicated Mac builds ease almost entirely through cohesion. Wherever possible, Mac applications are expected to share the same shortcuts, controls, windowing behavior, etc… so users can immediately find their bearings regardless of the application. This also means that several applications existing in the same space largely share the same visual and UX language. Having Finder, Safari, BBEdit and Transmit open on the same desktop looks and feels natural.

By comparison, the bulk of iOS’s simplicity stems from a single app paradigm. Tap an icon on the home screen to enter an app that takes over the entire user experience until exited. Cohesion exists and is still important, but its surface area is much smaller because most iOS users only ever see and use a single app at a time. For better and worse, the single app paradigm allows for more diverse conventions within apps. Having different conventions for doing the same thing across multiple full screen apps is not an issue because users only have to ever deal with one of those conventions at a given time. That innocuous diversity becomes incongruous once those same apps have to live side-by-side.

I’m just not seeing it with Catalyst apps. They almost all look and feel and work wrong. I’ll pick on Twitter because they’re a big company. They’ve made a bunch of improvements to their Catalyst Mac app in the two months or so since it shipped. Some really preposterous shortcomings in the initial release have been fixed in a short amount of time, and I get the impression — both through their public comments and some private ones I’ve exchanged with developers on their team — that they’re trying to do the right thing and make Twitter for Mac a good Mac app, not just the iPad app running in a window on the Mac. But the release notes for the latest update this week include new features like support for scrolling with the Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End keys. It’s kind of crazy that support for those keys wasn’t there from the start. 15 years ago you’d almost never find a Mac app that didn’t support them.

I think part of the problem is Catalyst itself — it just doesn’t feel like nearly a full-fledged framework for creating proper Mac apps yet. But I think another problem is the culture of doing a lot of nonstandard custom UI on iOS. As Wellborn points out, that flies on iOS — we UI curmudgeons may not like it, but it flies — because you’re only ever using one app at a time on iOS. It cracks a bit with split-screen multitasking on iPadOS, but I’ve found that a lot of the iPad apps with the least-standard UIs don’t even support split-screen multitasking on iPadOS, so the incongruities — or incoherences, to borrow Wellborn’s well-chosen word — don’t matter as much. But try moving these apps to the Mac and the nonstandard UIs stick out like a sore thumb, and whatever work the Catalyst frameworks do to support Mac conventions automatically doesn’t kick in if the apps aren’t even using the standard UIKit controls to start with. E.g. scrolling a view with Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End.1 An iOS app using standard UIKit controls for scrollable views should, in theory, pick up support for those keys automatically. But a lot of apps don’t because they’re not using standard controls.

In short, I remain unconvinced that standard UIKit iPad apps are a good starting point for good Mac apps. But it’s pretty obvious — and should have been right from the start — that nonstandard not-really-using-UIKit iPad apps make for a terrible starting point for a good Mac app. Developers can make it work — as a programmer friend once told me, “It’s all just typing” — but it’s so much work it seems to defeat the entire “Just click a checkbox in Xcode” premise and promise of Catalyst.

  1. At some point a while back I wrote about Page Up/Down and Home/End keys and some wiseacre responded that almost no one has those keys on their keyboards, because most people use MacBooks and regular Magic Keyboards, which don’t have those keys. And Twitter’s aforementioned release notes describe these features as “extended keyboard support”. But every Apple keyboard does have the ability to invoke the same functions: Fn↑ = Page Up, Fn↓ = Page Down, Fn← = Home, and Fn→ = End. These are great shortcuts to know.

    On the Mac at least.

    On iOS, it seems only Fn↑ = Page Up and Fn↓ = Page Down are standard in UIKit — the Fn←/Fn→ shortcuts for Home/End seem to be supported nowhere. But even some of Apple’s own iPad apps — like Mail and Notes to name two — don’t support Fn↑ / Fn↓ either. In a read-only view you can get Home/End behavior (jumping to the very top/bottom of the view) with ⌘↑ and ⌘↓, but in an editing view those shortcuts will move the insertion point to the beginning/end, not just scroll the view port, as true Home/End behavior should.

    Neither Twitter nor Slack for iPad — two apps that frequently irritate me with their nonstandard non-native UIs — support any of the Fn-arrow key shortcuts for scrolling. ↩︎