In China, nationalist rhetoric of “switch to Huawei” gaining traction

South China Morning Post:

“There is a calling from my heart that I need to show support for Chinese brands, especially in the trade war climate,” said the manager at one of China’s largest solar module manufacturers. When the time finally came to retire his three-year-old iPhone 7 earlier this month, Wang went with a Huawei P30.

This is a terrible situation for Apple. Their efforts at building good will and a positive brand message in China are being undone by the Huawei ban.

My worry is, even if the ban ends tomorrow, it will take Apple years to undo the brand damage.

Three keyboard changes Apple should make—to iOS

Dan Moren, Macworld:

Apple popularized the onscreen keyboard with the launch of the first iPhone, deciding to eschew the hardware keyboards that were de rigueur on smartphones at the time.

And:

That was great in 2007. But 12 years later, we’ve all largely adapted to touchscreen keyboards, and some of those smart technologies are starting to look and feel, well, not so smart. It’s time for an A-to-Z overhaul of text entry on iOS.

Dan digs into several virtual keyboard areas where there’s room for improvement. Take the time to read his article, not a long read.

I do think there’s plenty of room for improvements here. In my mind, one core problem is the blind dependence on machine learning to drive predictive text suggestions.

Here’s an example:

I brought up Twitter, and started composing a new tweet. I typed the letters “proc”, which led the keyboard to make the center prediction of the word “process”. Perfect, exactly what I was going for.

But then I typed “e”, the next letter in process. And that center suggestion was changed to another word. This happens a lot.

But the point is, when I am typing, and I see the word I want in a specific box, if I type one more letter in that word and then reach to tap the word, it should not move. I frequently find myself typing, reaching to tap the word I’m typing, and by the time my finger gets to the box, the word has changed to another word.

If my eye is on the target, and I continue to type the target word as already identified, the target word should stay the same. Until I type a letter that does not match the currently identified target word.

My sense of this is, machine learning has priority over straight logic.

I’d love to speak with someone on the keyboard team about this, and other related issues. I wonder if the team is not seeing these sorts of issues themselves.

Thoughts on Playdate. And delight.

Delight.

There’s just not enough delight in the world. Take a minute and wheel over to the Playdate web site and check out Panic’s new shiny. It’s delightful.

From the site:

We love video games.

We love the places they take us and the feelings they give us. We’ve grown up with them. It sounds silly, but they really mean a lot to us.

And:

We reached out to some top game designers, like Keita Takahashi and Zach Gage and Bennett Foddy and Shaun Inman.

We showed them Playdate and asked, “Want to make a game for it?”. Then we lost our minds when they said “Yeah!”

This is something special. Like watching the birth of Nintendo. It’s a grand, delightful experiment.

For $149, you get the Playdate hardware, crank and all (scroll down to the crank picture and click to turn on the sound to get a sense of what that’s all about), and a game a week for 12 weeks. Presumably, there will be follow-on subscription pricing for the game-a-week after that. And who knows, if this works, follow-on hardware.

If you’ve never experienced Panic’s game prowess, check out Firewatch. It’s on my shortlist of favorite indie games. Full of delight. And, if I’m not mistaken, there’s a Playdate in the game itself. A time-traveling Easter egg?

And if you don’t know Teenage Engineering (the hardware side of this collaboration), check out their synthesizers. Full of delight.

And if you are on still on the fence about Playdate, check out John Gruber’s take. He gets it.

Can’t wait.

Who’s going to stop Spotify’s viral rap impersonators?

Pitchfork:

There’s a rapper on Spotify named Lil Kambo who’s racked up 2 million streams and counting on his song “Kid Carti.” This would be a significant feat for any unsigned, self-releasing artist in the modern day.

The only problem is that “Lil Kambo” doesn’t exist and “Kid Carti” is a pitch-shifted leak of Playboi Carti’s yet-unreleased track “Kid Cudi” (previously referred to as “Pissy Pamper”), a song the rapper’s been teasing for some time and even playing out live. Lil Kambo isn’t a viral hit—he’s a fraudster.

And:

Fraudulent releases are nothing new on sites like YouTube and SoundCloud. But these recent unauthorized uploads, as demonstrated by the unauthorized Beyoncé and SZA releases back in December and a “Fenty Fantasia” leak of Rihanna songs in March are indicative of a growing trend that’s only grown more apparent in the past several months: leaks or unreleased snippets that make their way to “legitimate” streaming platforms, racking monetized streams by fans eager to consume that content regardless of who owns it or who benefits from the plays.

Bottom line, these fakes hurt both the original artists they’re lifted from, but also pollute the marketplace.

One final point:

As of May 22, fraudulent music on the profiles of Lil Kambo, Unocarti, and Unocompac have been removed from Spotify. The artist profile for Unocompac on Apple Music still features leaks, available to listen on the platform.

It’s a whack-a-mole problem. Seems like there should be a unified process for reporting and removing content like this. A takedown notice of piracy on one platform, once verified, could automatically trigger the takedown of that content on all the music services. Impossible? Overreaching?

Robots delivering stuff to your front door

[VIDEO] Amazon has robots pulling stock from shelves and packing boxes to ship to customers. They are also experimenting with Prime robots (essentially, automated coolers on wheels) to get goods near your front door. Fedex and other delivery companies are doing similar experiments.

The problem is getting those goods those last few feet, from the road to your front door, overcoming obstacles like bikes and scooters, potted plants and, of course, navigating those pesky steps.

Enter Ford.

Instead of using wheeled carts, Ford’s Digit robot walks on two legs, mimicking a human approach to getting from the sidewalk to the front door. Digit also uses the Lidar and computing power of its partner self-driving car to map the path it should take to get to the door while avoiding obstacles.

Watch the video embedded in the main Loop post and imagine a robot delivering your packages and mail. It’s coming.

What is the world’s number one brand?

[VIDEO] Here’s another one of these ranking races (embedded in main Loop post). In this one, we start back in 2000, with CocaCola dominating the rankings.

But keep a keen eye out for a newcomer to enter the race in 2010. Who could it be?

Federico Viticci: Seven years of iPad as my main computer

Federico:

My iPad journey began in 2012 when I was undergoing cancer treatments. In the first half of the year, right after my diagnosis, I was constantly moving between hospitals to talk to different doctors and understand the best strategies for my initial round of treatments. Those chemo treatments, it turned out, often made me too tired to get any work done. I wanted to continue working for MacStories because it was a healthy distraction that kept my brain busy, but my MacBook Air was uncomfortable to carry around and I couldn’t use it in my car as it lacked a cellular connection. By contrast, the iPad was light, it featured built-in 3G, and it allowed me to stay in touch with the MacStories team from anywhere, at any time with the comfort of a large, beautiful Retina display.

The tipping point came when I had to be hospitalized for three consecutive weeks to undergo aggressive chemo treatments; in that period of time, I concluded that the extreme portability and freedom granted by the iPad had become essential for me.

This is a wonderful read, a real manifesto. So much of the underpinnings of iPad use are explored and explained in these page. Read the whole thing, learn about the iPad at the feet of a true master.

And consider joining Club MacStories to support more efforts like this one.

Great work, Federico.

507 mechanical movements

Years ago, I went to a science museum (in Baltimore, I believe) that pulled together an exhibit showcasing many of these mechanical movements. Each movement was built and motorized, or implemented by a hand crank so you got a sense of how they worked.

This web site does the same thing. It’s fascinating.

Hard to call out one in particular, but definitely start out with the thumbnails (color means a design is animated), and be sure to check out this one.

The continuing war to fingerprint iPhones

SensorID:

When you visit a website, your web browser provides a range of information to the website, including the name and version of your browser, screen size, fonts installed, and so on. Ostensibly, this information allows the website to provide a great user experience. Unfortunately this same information can also be used to track you.

Cross domain tracking is a well known problem, and Apple is on top of it. But read on.

We have developed a new type of fingerprinting attack, the calibration fingerprinting attack. Our attack uses data gathered from the accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer sensors found in smartphones to construct a globally unique fingerprint.

Dear advertisers, no one wants this to happen. You can tell because the tunnels you dig keep getting blocked. No one ever write’s a blog post begging for newer ways to cross domain track.

Following our disclosure, Apple has patched this vulnerability in iOS 12.2.

Once again, Apple has our backs.

Huawei: ARM memo tells staff to stop working with China’s tech giant

BBC:

UK-based chip designer ARM has told staff it must suspend business with Huawei, according to internal documents obtained by the BBC.

ARM instructed employees to halt “all active contracts, support entitlements, and any pending engagements” with Huawei and its subsidiaries to comply with a recent US trade clampdown.

The screws are tightening. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, some form of retaliation from China.

This still feels like a negotiation tactic, rather than an actual security concern.

Side note: The BBC article does a nice job explaining ARM and its relationship to ARM adoptees like Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm. Huawei is one of ARM’s top customers. This ban is a big deal.

Rare Game of Thrones VHS intro

[VIDEO] This has been around for a while, and is a redo, adding sound to the original video, but is so very timely. The video is embedded in the main Loop post.

If you’ve ever seen old VHS footage, with its analog, noise-filled, time-stuttering inaccuracies, this will ring true. And even more so if you’ve ever seen the original intros from back in the earliest days of HBO.

How Apple dominates the touch feedback game

iFixit:

Put simply, haptic feedback recreates the sense of touch or movement in an otherwise immovable or shallow-clicking object, like a button or trackpad. This is accomplished with a vibration motor, emitting controlled bursts of bzzzt as you tap and press. Apple has branded its own vibration motor the Taptic Engine.

And:

What makes Apple’s Taptic Engine different from other haptic applications we’ve seen over the years is the precise engineering Apple has put into it, and the precious space they devote to it inside their increasingly tight devices. Given this effort, Apple has come closer than any firm at actually replacing the tactile mechanical buttons some of us might miss.

And:

When the weighted mass inside a vibration motor moves back and forth at just the right speed, the vibration effect produced by the motor is amplified across the whole phone.

And:

Apple tunes their Taptic Engines to resonant frequencies optimized for quick, precise taps; and since they are designed in-house, they can pick specific sizes, shapes, and resonant frequencies for each product. In contrast, other smartphone manufacturers are at the mercy of whichever vibration motor manufacturer they happen to be purchasing from.

It’s those tiny details. No one is better than Apple at identifying and implementing those details in fit and finish. And I hear some of you in the back shouting “Butterfly keyboard”. Yes, but the keyboard issues are most notable because they are glaring exceptions to what we’ve come to expect from Apple.

Fascinating read.

The most expensive lesson of my life: Details of the SIM port hack that stole north of $100K

Sean Coonce:

I lost north of $100,000 last Wednesday. It evaporated over a 24-hour time span in a “SIM port attack” that drained my Coinbase account. It has been four days since the incident and I’m gutted. I have zero appetite; my sleep is restless; I am awash in feelings of anxiety, remorse, and embarrassment.

And:

The ability to port your SIM card to another device is a service that mobile carriers provide to their customers. It allows a customer to request their phone number be transferred to a new device. In most cases, this is a perfectly legitimate request; this happens when we upgrade to a new phone, switch mobile carries, etc.

And:

A “SIM port attack”, however, is a malicious port performed by an unauthorized source — the attacker. The attacker ports your SIM card to a phone that they control. The attacker then initiates the password reset flow on your email account. A verification code is sent from your email provider to your phone number — which is intercepted by the attacker, as they now control your SIM card.

Part of the issue was the author’s investment in crypto-currency, making his loss irreversible. But this goes beyond that. The loss could just as easily have been via his bank account, or currency transfer mechanisms. Pretty riveting read.

Apple invents a Vehicle Radar System that reads road signs, detects other vehicles in low visibility conditions

Patently Apple:

The system relates to improving detectability of road signs and vehicles on the road in low visibility conditions like fog or snow with a plurality of retroreflectors. For instance, if traveling on the road in a snow storm and road signs are covered in snow, a retroreflector system, using radar, would be able to read the text under the snow and relate it to the driver on a CarPlay display and/or other device display.

This is an interesting invention, shows Apple is still going down the Project Titan road, has value for a human driver.

But, it seems to me, the future of road signs and low-visibility hazard warnings (a car stuck in the middle of the roadway in a snowstorm, for example), is digital, not analog. In addition to flashers and reflectors, which are great for humans, signs/on-board hazard signals designed for automated vehicles will be equipped with high speed communications targeted at all nearby traffic.

The rub here is that time in between, where both human and automated traffic share the road.

Apple made informal bid to buy Tesla at $240 per share in 2013

Malcolm Owen, Apple Insider:

Speaking on CNBC on Tuesday, Roth Capital Partners analyst Craig Irwin claimed Apple made a “serious bid” to purchase Tesla, around 2013, with the offer supposedly in the region of $240 per share. It is unclear how far along the alleged negotiations went, such as a “formal paperwork stage” that would signal an intent to purchase.

Interesting story. Clearly anecdotal, but seems to line up with this:

A profile of Apple’s mergers and acquisitions chief Adrian Perica in February 2014 included references to a meeting between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook in Cupertino in 2013, at around the same time as a German analyst wrote an open letter to Cook suggesting an Apple purchase of Tesla. That report cited multiple sources about the supposed meeting, but again with little proof it actually took place.

Would Apple owning Tesla, producing a car be a good match for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, et al, side of the business?

Side note: As of this writing, Tesla is trading at $201.49.

Google suspends Huawei’s non-open source Android license

Angela Moon, Reuters:

Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday, in a blow to the Chinese technology company that the U.S. government has sought to blacklist around the world.

And:

Holders of current Huawei smartphones with Google apps, however, will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Google, a Google spokesperson said.

It’s too early to truly know the impact of this suspension, but a few things click right away:

  • Huawei has confirmed that they’ve built their own operating system as a backstop. I can’t imagine it’s as good as Android or iOS, but if this situation continues, China’s leading smartphone seller will no longer run a US smartphone OS.

  • In quarter 1, 2019, Huawei shipped 29.9 million smartphones in China, compared to Apple’s 6.5 million. If Google’s suspension holds, I can only imagine those numbers moving even further apart. Certainly, I can’t see this situation helping Apple in China.

  • This could all end quickly, as such trade restrictions can do, if this is a White House negotiating tactic and not a permanent restriction.

Why did this happen?

From the South China Morning Post:

Huawei Technologies and over 70 affiliates were added to the US Commerce Department’s Entity List last week on national security grounds, restricting the company from buying parts and components from US companies without government approval.

More on this as it unfolds.

Apple Watch replacement constraint means some Series 3 repairs will get Series 4 upgrade

Jordan Kahn, 9to5Mac:

Apple appears to be running low on inventory for Apple Watch Series 3 repairs as the company informed store staff today that it will substitute some Series 3 repairs with the newer Apple Watch Series 4.

And:

The change means that customers looking for a repair or replacement for their Apple Watch Series 3 Stainless Steel (GPS + Cellular) model will instead be fulfilled with Apple Watch Series 4, Stainless Steel (GPS + Cellular) inventory as a replacement due to constraints on the older model.

Good to know. Huge swing in satisfaction, going in to the Apple Store all sad with a broken Apple Watch 3 and walking out with a brand new Apple Watch 4.

Google uses Gmail to track a history of things you buy — and it’s hard to delete

CNBC:

Last week, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a New York Times op-ed that said “privacy cannot be a luxury good.” But behind the scenes, Google is still collecting a lot of personal information from the services you use, such as Gmail, and some of it can’t be easily deleted.

Here’s a link to the op-ed, which painted Google as the privacy protector for the masses and Apple as privacy for the elite.

The op-ed really rubbed me the wrong way, felt like hypocrisy of the worst kind. And this CNBC post does a nice job laying out exactly why.

Google says it doesn’t use your Gmail to show you ads and promises it “does not sell your personal information, which includes your Gmail and Google Account information,” and does “not share your personal information with advertisers, unless you have asked us to.”

But, for reasons that still aren’t clear, it’s pulling that information out of your Gmail and dumping it into a “Purchases” page most people don’t seem to know exists. Even if it’s not being used for ads, there’s no clear reason why Google would need to track years of purchases and make it hard to delete that information.

The article gets specific, showing purchases not made through Google that are tracked by Google and not easily deleted. How is this privacy for the masses?

Over the Rainbow estate sues Apple, others over “massive music piracy operation”

Forbes (yes, Forbes – they broke the story):

The son and estate of Broadway composer Harold Arlen filed a lawsuit against Apple and other businesses for selling over 6,000 unauthorized recordings of his music. Described as a “massive music piracy operation,” the lawyers claim that “Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Pandora and their distributors have joined with notorious music pirates to sell and stream thousands of pirated recordings.”

And:

According to the lawsuit, the largest digital music stores and streaming services are now flooded with unauthorized copies of Arlen’s songs that are being sold under different record labels for less than the price of the authorized copies of Arlen’s songs. For example, one online retailer is selling a song from the Jamaica cast album under the record label Soundtrack Classics for $0.99 alongside an authorized copy of the song from the RCA Victor record label for $1.29. The cover art of the Soundtracks Classics version has been doctored to remove RCA Victor’s logo.

Seems like this is more of a broken system allowing pirates to slide into the digital music streaming chain and not piracy on Apple’s part.

Is there a system in place for filing copyright claims in Apple Music? If so, did Arlen’s estate file the claims and were those claims ignored?

I analyzed how the AirPods 2 and case charge

This is some nerdy deliciousness. The highlight is this graph, which shows what’s really going on.

The four takeaways, for folks who hate nerdy graphs:

  • The AirPods “boost” charge for the first 3.5 minutes
  • Pods take 30 mins to completely charge, Case takes 2 hours
  • The case waits to charge until the Pods hit 20%
  • Pods+Case never draw more than 2.5 watts total

Note that this was done using a 5 watt brick and a standard Apple cable on a non-wireless case.

Apple ruling opens a can of worms for digital storefronts

Rob Fahey, GameIndustry, writing about this week’s Supreme Court ruling against Apple:

When I walk into a convenience store to buy a cold drink, I’m a customer of the convenience store, not of the Coca-Cola Company, so why should different logic apply when I open the App Store on my phone? Yet Apple’s argument wasn’t entirely without merit either (that’s why it made it all the way to the Supreme Court, I guess). Apple isn’t buying the software from the developer and reselling it to you (as a convenience store does with your Coke Zero), it’s providing a storefront to the developer, who has responsibility for how the software is presented, what they put into it, how it’s priced, and so on.

And:

The precedent is now set; if Apple’s digital distribution consumers are considered to be direct customers of the company, and thus to have standing to challenge its business practices in court, this also holds true for every digital software or media store out there.

That’s a pretty big deal.

This writeup is one of the clearest explainers I’ve seen of the issues at work here and the potential for tipping over a major legal apple cart.

Bumper cars and Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook

Neil Cybart:

We are seeing the early signs of a new competitive landscape take hold in the tech space. Facebook and Google find themselves increasingly getting squeezed. Meanwhile, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are gaining competitive strength. Each is building stronger customer bonds while also expanding its respective ecosystem.

And:

One of the best and easiest ways to visualize this changing competitive landscape is to think of the giants as bumper cars. In the beginning, the bumper cars were on a track with a guardrail in the middle preventing head-on collisions. All of the cars moved safely around the loop in the same direction. Despite a few bumps here and there, each company (car) was able to largely do what it wanted without running into too many competitive hiccups.

And then they removed the guardrail in the middle of the track. Nice analogy (the pictures help) and an interesting read.

Angela Ahrendts appointed to Airbnb Board of Directors

Airbnb press release:

A world-renowned leader in the retail space, Angela brings to the Board a profound creativity, enormous expertise in scaled services, and a passion for building community among customers. For the past five years, she oversaw global retail at Apple, creating a seamless customer experience designed to foster greater human connection by integrating the company’s physical and digital businesses across its online store, app and more than 500 retail stores in 25 countries. Under her leadership, the Today at Apple program turned stores into gathering places, reshaping Apple’s retail experience to inspire community and unlock creativity.

And this quote from CEO Brian Chesky:

“Angela has a reputation for pushing brands to dream big, and she told me that’s exactly what she hopes to bring to Airbnb’s Board. She has led global brands through transformation, completely redefined the retail experience, and has done it all while putting customers and communities first. I’m so excited for her to join our Board and know her innovative thinking will make us a better company.”

Clearly, joining a company Board is far different than a full time job as an executive. You can have seats on multiple boards, but you’d be hard pressed to have more than one full time job. Not being critical here, just an observation.

The inside story behind the birth of the spreadsheet

Came across this link on Jason Snell’s excellent Six Colors this morning.

It’s a story that appeared way back in 1984, a retelling of a seminal moment in computing history, the birth of the spreadsheet in the late ’70s.

A great read, especially if you are interested in the history of Apple. VisiCalc, the spreadsheet that started it all, came to life on an Apple II.

Steam Link finally arrives on the iOS App Store

From the App Store writeup:

The Steam Link app brings desktop gaming to your iPhone or iPad. Just pair an MFI or Steam controller to your device, connect to a computer running Steam on the same local network, and start playing your existing Steam games.

Requirements: – iPhone or iPad using iOS 10 or higher – Computer running Steam – Windows, Mac, or Linux – iOS device must be on the same local network as the computer running Steam

This will definitely change the way I look at gaming. If the controls of a game translate to the flat glass of an iPad, I’ll definitely add it to my game roster.

Will this have any impact on subscriptions to Apple Arcade? Will Apple Arcade games, designed from the ground up for iOS, be significantly more pleasurable to play than Steam games?

Scientists create live bacteria with DNA that is entirely human made

New York Times:

Scientists have created a living organism whose DNA is entirely human-made — perhaps a new form of life, experts said, and a milestone in the field of synthetic biology.

And:

The bacteria are alive, though unusually shaped and reproducing slowly. But their cells operate according to a new set of biological rules, producing familiar proteins with a reconstructed genetic code.

The achievement one day may lead to organisms that produce novel medicines or other valuable molecules, as living factories. These synthetic bacteria also may offer clues as to how the genetic code arose in the early history of life.

The potential here is astonishing, both for good and for harm. This is not simply editing DNA, this is creating life forms from scratch. Truly a landmark.

How to tell if your Intel-based Mac is susceptible to this latest Intel vulnerability

First things first, chances are good that your Mac is not at risk in the first place. Want to check?

  • Go to the Apple menu, select About This Mac
  • Click the System Report… button
  • Click the Hardware title in the sidebar

In the Hardware Overview section (it’s relatively short), look for the term hyper-threading. Don’t see it? You can ignore this issue.

If your Mac does support hyper-threading, you should take a look at this official Apple Support document.

Before you take any action, note:

Testing conducted by Apple in May 2019 showed as much as a 40 percent reduction in performance with tests that include multithreaded workloads and public benchmarks. Performance tests are conducted using specific Mac computers. Actual results will vary based on model, configuration, usage, and other factors.

And:

Although there are no known exploits affecting customers at the time of this writing, customers who believe their computer is at heightened risk of attack can use the Terminal app to enable an additional CPU instruction and disable hyper-threading processing technology, which provides full protection from these security issues.

No known exploits. Just the potential for exploits. Forewarned is forearmed.

A bit of a PR ding for Apple, but a mighty issue for Intel.

UPDATE: There is some question as to whether lack of hyper-threading support puts your Mac in safe harbor from the Intel vulnerability. The issue is, if you disable hyper-threading (and add that extra CPU instruction), you’ll be safe. But the question is, if your Mac doesn’t support hyper-threading in the first place, does that mean your Mac is not susceptible to the issue?

If anyone knows the definitive answer to this, please reach out.

Apple, the iPhone 6s, and Made in India

A solid marketing campaign by the Indian government and a nice strategic move by Apple to ease their way into that market.

https://twitter.com/varunkrish/status/1128619867400167426

The iPhone 6s runs iOS 12, presumably will run iOS 13 as well.

From this Apple Insider post:

Using manufacturing partner Wistron, Apple has produced the iPhone 6S in India since 2018 and the iPhone SE since 2017, and has expanded to include the iPhone 7 for local sale. Current plans include tapping Foxconn for a trial run of production for the iPhone X, which may be a precursor to manufacturing the 2019 iPhones in the market.

Presumably, many of the parts for these iPhones are all sourced elsewhere, and the assembly and testing happen in India. Wondering what parts (such as the midframes and cases), if any, are actually manufactured in India.