September 24, 2018

Cryptography Engineering:

Today I wanted to write specifically about Google Chrome, how much I’ve loved it in the past, and why — due to Chrome’s new user-unfriendly forced login policy — I won’t be using it going forward.

This is justifiably worrying to security experts. I’ve been a Chrome user in the past but, with today’s release of Mojave, I’m likely going back to Safari.

James Thomson:

DragThing is written using the 32-bit Carbon APIs that Apple have announced they will remove in the next major update of macOS after 10.14 Mojave, most likely in September 2019.

64-bit support would require completely rewriting DragThing from the ground up, a process which would take us six months to a year to complete, with no guarantees we could re-implement all the existing functionality.

Unfortunately, we do not believe there is enough of a market out there for a new version, such that it would be financially viable for us to do so. Almost all of our income over the last ten years has come from PCalc, and time spent on a new version of DragThing would be time we couldn’t spend on improving PCalc.

I predict we’ll see more of these kinds of announcements from developers as Mojave end-of-lifes more and more 32-bit apps.

Review: macOS Mojave

I installed macOS Mojave shortly after it was introduced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. There are a few features in Mojave that made the upgrade really great for me, so I’d like to tell you a bit more about those.

As with most Apple operating system updates, Mojave has many great new features. I’m usually drawn to the ones that can help me in my everyday use of my Mac, but there is one feature that doesn’t really fit into that category that I love—Dark Mode.

When I first installed Mojave, I decided to give Dark Mode a try. I knew I wouldn’t like it, but I tried it anyway, just to say I did. That was in June, and I’ve never gone back.

There is something about working in Dark Mode is calming for me. I wish I could pinpoint what it is, but I just can’t. Perhaps it’s that I’m able to focus better on the work I’m doing, or maybe it’s as simple as the screen not feeling so bright. I’m not sure, but I really like it.

The only oddity I found in Dark Mode is in some colors, especially in my Calendar app. I have my work calendar set to orange, so it’s easy to pick out important events. However, with Dark Mode, the orange has turned into a yellowish color. It’s a small thing, for sure, and I’m used to it now, so it’s not a big problem.

Dark Mode is really helpful for looking at Photos because all of the colors seem to pop. There is no brightness from the app or desktop fighting for your attention, so you are focused on the image, which is lovely.

One of the other features that helped me quite a bit is Desktop Stacks. My desktop is typically a disaster. I have files and images all over the place, usually doubled or tripled up on the desktop because there are so many of them.

Stacks organizes all of those files into groups. This makes your desktop clean, but you can still find all of your files if you need them. You can scrub through the files by placing the mouse over a Stack and then use two fingers to move left or right. When you find the file you want, just double-click to open. You can also click on a Stack, and it will expand showing you all of the files it contains.

Apple has brought several of its iOS apps to the Mac in Mojave. Apple News, Stocks and Voice Memos are all part of Mojave. I like what Apple is doing here, but the real story is not that these apps are available on the Mac, it’s that Apple has developed a way to bring iOS apps to Mac.

This is going to be an exciting thing to watch in the coming months, as developers are able to bring their iOS apps to the Mac too. Some of these apps will make sense, and others won’t—it will be fun to watch as it unfolds.

The Mac App Store is being updated in Mojave, and I can’t wait to see how this goes. The update will include more editorial content, similar to what we’ve seen with the iOS App Store.

I am a big fan of what they did with the iOS App Store, featuring apps and developers in a way that’s interesting for the user. It’s actually content as opposed to a simple description written by the developer describing what the app does.

The Mac App Store has new tabs that are going to help you find the type of app you’re looking for right away. The categories on Discover, Create, Work, Play, and Develop—there’s also a Categories and Update tabs so you can dig a bit deeper into the store and keep your apps up-to-date.

Apple’s focus on privacy is something we all appreciate, and they are expanding those protections in Mojave.

We’ve all seen those social networking buttons embedded in websites. Those buttons can be used to track your web browsing, even if you don’t interact with them. Mojave blocks these buttons from being able to follow you across websites.

Mojave is also providing users against a tracking method known as fingerprinting. Essentially, when you visit a website, it gathers information about your machine. Advertising companies use this data to try to uniquely identify your machine, but Apple is doing something about that too.

Apple will provide those websites with general information about your computer, so it basically looks like every other computer. This will reduce a tracker’s ability to identify us.

Thanks for that, Apple.

There are a lot of other really great features in macOS Mojave from Home Automation to Machine Learning and password control, but the ones I talked about are the features that most impacted my look at Mojave.

Mojave is a very fast operating system with many features that will help you in your daily life. It is certainly a worthwhile upgrade for all Mac users.

Dr. Phil Metzger:

In 2010, I needed more information about something Alan had seen when he was on the Moon. I was researching how rocket exhaust blows soil and dust during lunar landings. The best information on this topic was from Apollo 12, when Pete Conrad and Alan Bean landed their Lunar Module 160 m away from the old Surveyor 3 (“S3”) spacecraft. S3 had sat on the Moon deactivated for about 2 and a half years exposed to the lunar environment.

The Ap12 mission was planned to land near S3 to (1) demonstrate precision landing and (2) to cut pieces off S3 and bring them back to Earth to see how the lunar environment degrades various types of materials and spacecraft parts.

They planned to land the Ap12 Lunar Module (“LM”) about 500 ft away from S3 to minimize the amount of sandblasting that would occur to the S3 as the LM’s big descent engine blew the lunar soil and dust. It turns out 500 ft wasn’t nearly enough!

Wow. Amazing story. Read for the science, stay for the surprising kicker at the end. Thanks to Jason Kottke for the link.

Better You – A new Apple Watch ad that hits all the right notes

I absolutely love this new Apple Watch ad, appearing in heavy rotation over the weekend. The ad cleverly tells a story, that of a person whose Apple Watch adds to their life, both in usefulness and in fitness.

Terrific work.

Follow the headline link for videos of both the robbery, as it took place, and of one of the alleged thieves being tackled and detained by mall security.

Will this be the start of the end of this long string of Apple Store hoodie robberies? It’s interesting to me, and certainly understandable, that Apple Store policy is to take no action to stop the robberies, at least not inside the Apple Store itself.

Be sure to read the comments (there are a lot). There is some interesting detail on what happens to display devices when they leave the store WiFi.

I actually found this teardown even more interesting than the iPhone XS teardown I posted earlier this morning. Mostly, I think, because I have seen so many iPhone teardowns, and relatively few for the Apple Watch.

From the conclusion:

  • Watch band replacements remain fast and simple, and are even backward-compatible with previous models.
  • Screen replacements are difficult but do-able—it’s the first thing to come off, and detaches via simple ZIF connectors.
  • Battery replacements are pretty straightforward, once you’re inside.
  • While not proprietary, incredibly tiny tri-point screws are a repair hinderance. And they are all over the place.
  • Several component flex cables are mounted directly to the S4 package, requiring skilled microsoldering to replace.
  • The resin-encased S4 system makes most board-level repairs impossible.

That third pic in Step 4 is the money shot. Click or tap the image, than click it again or pinch to zoom to really drink in all that detail. Gorgeous.

Follow the headline link, then click on an image to step to the next one.

I’d be interested in hearing about the equipment Tom White used to take these images. I know he used an iPhone 7, but which telescope, and how did he connect phone to telescope?

And I wonder if he would get significantly better results if he used an iPhone XS.

I am a sucker for a good moon shot.

[H/T Oliver Thomas]

Lots and lots of pictures. If nothing else, take a look at Step 6 (the SIM slot), and Step 12 (the L-shaped battery).

From the conclusions:

  • Critical display and battery repairs remain a priority in the iPhone’s design.
  • A broken display can be replaced without removing the biometric Face ID hardware.
  • Liberal use of screws is preferable to glue—but you’ll have to bring your Apple-specific drivers (Pentalobe and tri-point) in addition to a standard Phillips.
  • Waterproofing measures complicate some repairs, but make difficult water damage repairs less likely.
  • Glass on front and back doubles the likelihood of drop damage—and if the back glass breaks, you’ll be removing every component and replacing the entire chassis.

That last bit is an issue. Here’s a post from 9to5Mac that shows off a variety of drop tests. Check out that image at the top, which shows shattered back glass.

Bloomberg:

Apple rarely discusses succession planning, and when asked about it at the company’s most recent shareholder meeting, Cook said “passing the baton” wisely is one of his most crucial responsibilities. He also said succession planning for all key executive roles has been on the agenda at every Apple board meeting in recent years, though he didn’t identify any potential candidates.

Bloomberg walks through the leadership hierarchy at Apple, offering highlights for each person.

I think succession planning is absolutely critical, especially to ensure that Apple is not derailed or significantly changed if the day ever came where a change in leadership occurred. I found this walkthrough of top personnel fascinating and enlightening.

September 23, 2018

If you’ve entered your age when you set up your Apple Watch or in the Health app and you’re age 65 and over, this feature automatically turns on.

Nice find by a Redditor on Apple’s Watch Series 4 support pages. As a commenter said, it’s the likeliest explanation of why some reviewers couldn’t trigger it.

Apple’s guided tour of the iPhone XS iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR

Simple but well done as always.

Cult of Mac:

If you take a photo inside the Messages app in iOS 11 and earlier, that photo stays trapped in the message thread forever, unless you explicitly long-press and save it to your camera roll. In iOS 12, that’s changed. Now, when you take a photo using the messages app, any pictures you snap are saved to your Photos library. But that’s not quite the whole story.

This is one of those changes Apple often makes that they don’t tell the user about. It’s also something not everyone wants.

Business Standard:

Apple’s entertainment team must walk a line few in Hollywood would consider. Since Mr. Cook spiked “Vital Signs,” Apple has made clear, say producers and agents that it wants high-quality shows with stars and broad appeal, but it doesn’t want gratuitous sex, profanity or violence.

As a consumer-product company, Apple is especially exposed if content strikes a sour note, said Preston Beckman, a former NBC and Fox programming executive. For Netflix, the only risk is that people don’t subscribe, he said. “With Apple, you can say, ‘I’m going to punish them by not buying their phone or computer.’”

Apple has twice postponed the launch of its first slate of shows, moving it to March from late this year, agents and producers said. One leading producer with projects at Apple expects the date to be pushed back yet further.

I don’t think this is as big a problem for Apple as some make it out to be. After all, in theory, your “G” rated audience is going to be much bigger than your “R” rated audience. Apple wants to appeal to the broadest group of consumers it can – whether that be with iPhones or original content.

Daring Fireball:

As promised, here’s a selection of photos and videos taken with iPhone XS and iPhone X side-by-side. The low-light video clips are just amazing. And audio quality is remarkably better in all video.

As I’ve always said on Your Mac Life, these are the kinds of comparisons and shots I want to see. I don’t see the point of giving review cameras ahead of launch to the likes of Austin Mann and Pete Souza – they are professional photographers who are expected to take great photos no matter what camera they use. I’d rather see Apple seed cameras to “average” people and see what the differences are in their shots.

I’d also love it if Gruber would take my beginner digital photography class to learn how to take better images.

September 21, 2018

My thanks to Bare Bones Software for sponsoring The Loop this week. I’ve been using BBEdit since 1995, so I know first hand that it can handle any job I throw at it.

BBEdit is crafted and continuously refined in response to meet the needs of writers, web authors, and software developers, providing an abundance of high-performance features for editing, searching, and manipulation of text. All in all, BBEdit is a powerful editor with an interface that stays out of your way, and well worth checking out.

BBEdit 12 is 64-bit ready. Download and try it today!

Cabel Sasser:

So, I got a call from the 1-800 number on the back of my ATM Card: Wells Fargo. I answered, and a Fraud Department agent said my ATM card had just been used at a Target in Minnesota, was I on vacation? Ugh.

So the card-replacement dance began. “Is the card in your possession?” It was. The agent asked for the CVV code to verify I had it. After verifying, he offered to expedite a replacement. First he had to read some disclosures. Then he asked me to key in a new PIN.

Scary thread from Sasser, co-founder of Panic Inc. Big lesson is if someone calls you, call them back at the company’s official number to verify.

Or do what I do – just never answer the phone.

11 year old plays a masterful Classical Gas on ukulele

The fact that this kid is only 11 years old just knocks me out. Fantastic performance. Hard to believe this sound is coming out of a ukulele. Bravo, kid, bravo.

Christian Zibreg, iDownloadBlog:

Complications—small elements rendered on the Apple Watch face that provide quick access to frequently-used data—have received a boost on Series 4: all-new templates now let brand new elements, such as full-color images, text and gauges, follow curvature of the display.

Complications are a great way to connect users to their favorite apps with every wrist raise and keep them informed throughout their day. Tapping a complication launches its underlying app.

Terrific post, lots of interesting detail.

Kevin McCoy, USA Today:

The knockoff power adapters and chargers, which Apple says could cause electrical shocks, allegedly traveled from a manufacturer in Hong Kong to Amazon.com, with stopping points at the Brooklyn location and New Jersey electronics companies.

And:

From outward appearances, the Apple-like products seemed genuine.

However, the chargers and adapters lacked adequate insulation and had improper spacing between the high voltage and low voltage circuits, creating risks of overheating, fire or electrical shocks, Apple charged in a 2016 federal court lawsuit. The case ended with confidential settlements in late May.

And:

Twelve of 400 fake iPhone adapters tested in a study unrelated to those in Apple’s lawsuit were so badly constructed that they posed “a risk of lethal electrocution to the user,” U.S.-based safety standards leader UL warned.

When I first came across this article, I was pretty sure Amazon would be part of the equation. In addition to the obvious safety hazard issues, I also wonder if there are some counterfeits with embedded malware, just waiting for an unsuspecting device to be plugged in. One reason I zealously guard the USB bricks that come in the iPhone and Apple Watch boxes.

Lance Ulanoff:

Schiller, along with Graham Townsend, Apple’s senior director of camera hardware, and Sebastien Marineau-Mes, Apple’s vice president of software, sat down late on the afternoon of iPhone XS launch day to peel away the veil of secrecy surrounding at least one part of Apple’s iPhone technology matrix: how they design and develop their photo and video capture hardware and software.

While a lot of this post was conveyed in the Apple keynote, what I found most interesting were the little nuggets from the callout quotes from Phil Schiller, Graham Townsend, Sebastien Marineau-Mes, and photographer Pete Souza.

The Dalrymple Report: Unpacking the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and Apple Watch with Dave Mark

On Thursday morning, I picked up two new iPhones and an Apple Watch Series 4 to test out. Dave and I go through some of my thoughts after opening up the boxes.

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Fun story, in which someone who runs a popular guitar chord and scale calculator website finds themselves part of Apple’s iOS Shortcuts rollout. A pleasant surprise, and a terrific example of the power of Shortcuts.

Glenn Marston:

When Apple’s website reappeared after shutdown for the company’s Sept. 12 product event, it displayed a list of the new X-Series iPhones.

Eliminated from Apple availability were the regular- and large-size iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, which had been introduced in September 2014 and September 2015.

Also missing was a unique small phone, the iPhone SE. Based on the body of 2012’s iPhone 5, it had been the only remnant of the compact early iPhones.

And:

One should not assume that Apple has sworn off small phones. They are favorites of smaller folks, plus a segment of women that eschews the grand purse and those of both genders who prefer to travel light with clothes trailered tight.

Apple might have intended no inference other than limiting new iPhones to those in the minimal-bezel, Face ID form of the X series.

With that in mind, Apple should produce an iPhone XR Mini as a follow-on to the iPhone SE.

I’ve been thinking about the loss of iPhone SE form factor. Is Apple undervaluing people with small hands, and small wrists? The Apple Watch is getting larger (thinner, but longer/wider), even though there are plenty of people who wish for a smaller case size.

And, as Glenn points out, Apple has eliminated the last vestige of the smaller iPhone form factor, the iPhone SE. Is this the end of the line for the SE? Or is this, possibly, a supply chain issue?

Apple has unified their iPhone line in a number of ways. All the new phones (XS, XS Max, XR) use Face ID and have the corresponding notch and lack of a home button. And all the new phones are based on Apple’s 7nm A12 Bionic chip.

The XS and XS Max went on sale in Apple Stores this morning (8a, your local time). But, likely due to supply chain constraints, the iPhone XR will not be available for pre-order until early morning October 19th (12:01 am PT).

No complaints there, this is smart product rollout. But could those limitations have informed Apple’s decision not to release an iPhone X with the smaller iPhone SE form factor?

Could this also be an engineering issue? The notch is a relatively fixed size. Could fitting the Face ID hardware, etc. (the notch assembly) in the smaller iPhone SE footprint be problematic? Could that be the reason Apple has not announced an iPhone X updated SE, or, as Glenn put it, an iPhone XR Mini?

Seems to me, Apple is proceeding logically here. The first steps were to unify the product line and ramp up production of the 7nm A12 Bionic chip, to ensure that the iPhones XS, XS Max, and XR are all available to customers who want them.

Once those needs are met, and if they can solve the engineering problems (problems being speculation on my part) of fitting the notch contents in a much smaller package, might we see an iPhone X version of the SE? I really hope so. I’ve got a whole family of iPhone users who prefer that smaller footprint.

Amazon just announced a wave of new Alexa-equipped Echo devices. There’s a wall clock that lets you set timers, something called Echo Input that let’s you add an Alexa/Echo to an existing speaker via Bluetooth or 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s an Echo subwoofer and Echo Amp (think stereo equipment), and an Echo smart plug (use your voice to turn things on and off).

But my favorite? The Amazon Alexa Microwave. Yes, a microwave that lets you use your voice instead of pressing buttons. And it’s only $59.99.

I expect this thing to fly off the shelves, especially to college students. I wonder how long it will be until one of these devices makes its way into a movie or TV show plot. The microwave ships November 15th, in plenty of time for the holidays.

September 20, 2018

Golf Digest:

After 27 years in prison, a man who loves golf walked free today. Not only that, he was given back his innocence. Of course, the state can regift innocence about as capably as it can 27 years.

But before we dive into what really happened, a quick refresher on why golfers might care extra about Valentino Dixon. Six years ago, Golf Digest profiled this inmate who grinds colored pencils to their nubs drawing meticulously detailed golf-scapes. Although Dixon has never hit a ball or even stepped foot on a course, the game hooked him when a golfing warden brought in a photograph of Augusta National’s 12th hole for the inmate to render as a favor. In the din and darkness of his stone cell, the placid composition of grass, sky, water and trees spoke to Dixon. And the endless permutations of bunkers and contours gave him a subject he could play with.

It took about a hundred drawings before Golf Digest noticed, but when we did, we also noticed his conviction seemed flimsy. So we investigated the case and raised the question of his innocence.

This is an incredible story. If it hadn’t been for his drawings of a sport he never played, he’d still be in prison.

Channel News Asia:

When one of its planes was painted with a huge typo in its name, Cathay Pacific did not try to hide the mistake.

Instead, it posted photos of the gaffe on social media, showing the plane with the words “Cathay Paciic” painted in bold letters across its side.

In a lighthearted post on Facebook, the Hong Kong flag carrier wrote: “Breaking! Limited edition (Boeing) 777 makes an appearance.”

Very embarrassing for Cathay Pacific but they handled it well.

Josh Rubin, Cool Hunting:

I vary between this info-dense watch face and the new ultra-minimal and very hypnotic Fire, Water, Liquid Metal and Vapor faces. And these faces are more special than Apple let on during their keynote. They’re not rendered—each face is high resolution video shot in a studio using real fire, water and vapor elements.

This is yet another example of the tremendous effort Apple puts into design detail. Check out the behind-the-scenes making-of video embedded below.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball:

Apple has several products that lead their markets in revenue or profit. What makes Apple Watch different from every other product the company makes, though, is a measure near and dear to the company’s soul by which they cannot claim Apple Watch to be number one: nicest.

This is a very interesting point. At its core, to me, is the concept of fashion. Some people are happy to run around with running shoes and sweats, while others are careful to color-coordinate with the latest fashions, top to bottom. And this applies to the Apple Watch, far more than any other Apple product.

John continues:

Traditional watches are Apple’s competition for nicest watch. And Apple Watch just isn’t there. It’s not even close. Don’t get me wrong — Apple Watch is nice, and always has been. I think that’s ultimately what defined the minimum viable product for the original Apple Watch.

There’s an elegance to a beautifully crafted wristwatch. While I’d argue that Apple Watch has its own elegant elements, as a whole it’d be hard to place the Apple Watch on the same fashion shelf with high priced timepieces such as the Jaeger-LeCoultre Ultra Thin Moon or the Constantin Patrimony Grand Taille.

I do appreciate the beauty, the art of mechanical watches. But, to me, they belong in a different category. The Apple Watch is about functionality first. And that priority limits where Apple Watch can go in terms of fashion.

Apple could have made something that did what the original Apple Watch did years earlier, I’m sure. But it wouldn’t have been nice enough. But as nice as Apple Watch has always been, there are many watches that are nicer. And that makes Apple Watch unique in the history of the company. What successful product has Apple ever made that wasn’t at least arguably the nicest in its category? Apple Watch is the first.

Very interesting. My thought is that Apple Watch has disrupted the mechanical watch industry, and the concept of fashion driving what people put on their wrists. For good or for bad, that ship has sailed.

All that said, this point is just the tip of the iceberg in John’s Apple Watch review. It is appreciative of the Apple Watch design, incredibly detailed (incredibly!), and well worth your time. Here’s the link again, just for convenience.

Zac Hall, 9to5Mac, pulled together a bunch of unboxing videos, and some insight into the Apple Watch packaging.

Two things that stuck out:

First, Apple Watch Series 3 without LTE will no longer include the 5W USB charging brick, although the charging cable is still included. You can buy these separately of course, but a lot of customers probably also have spare bricks from iPhones and other devices.

This change strikes me as similar to not including a headphone to Lightning adapter in the iPhone box. A practical decision, no doubt fueled by market research. Not an issue for most folks, I suspect.

The second thing that stuck out to me was the pure beauty of the Apple Watch Series 4 packaging, enthusiastically shown off by iJustine in the video embedded below.