Fatbits for your table, designed by original Mac icon artist Susan Kare

I’m a big fan of Susan Kare’s work. All it takes is a quick scan of her Wikipedia page or this sample page of some of her Apple icons and you can see the impact she had on the original Mac, an impact that carries on to this day.

Susan is still very active as an artist and designer and has a collection of table linens just perfect for the old-school Mac lover in your life. This is definitely my cup of tea. Take a look.

Elon Musk wins bet, turns on Australian mega-battery within 100 days

BBC:

The 100-megawatt battery, built by Tesla, was officially activated on Friday. It had in fact provided some power since Thursday due to demand caused by local hot weather.

South Australia has been crippled by electricity problems in recent times.

As I understand it, the region is a leader in wind-power, but suffers blackouts when wind levels fall too far.

Elon Musk stepped in, said he’d have a 100 Megawatt backup battery built, delivered, installed and working within 100 days or he wouldn’t charge them a penny.

Great story.

Alexa, HomePod, and the Apple Watch

From this very thoughtful post by Neil Cybart:

When introduced at WWDC 2017, HomePod was marketed as an iOS accessory that will serve as the best speaker people have ever owned. The $349 price certainly reflects this accessory mindset. While Apple briefly went over how HomePod will be able to serve as a type of smart home hub, it was almost more of an afterthought. At its core, Apple does not think the only function for stationary smart speakers is to pipe digital voice assistants.

And:

I don’t think stationary smart speakers represent the future of computing. Instead, companies are using smart speakers to take advantage of an awkward phase of technology in which there doesn’t seem to be any clear direction as to where things are headed. Consumers are buying cheap smart speakers powered by digital voice assistants without having any strong convictions regarding how such voice assistants should or can be used.

And:

If the goal is to rely on a digital voice assistant, an Apple Watch wearer has access to Siri at pretty much every waking moment. When simply wearing an Apple Watch, Siri is instantly available everywhere in the home. The same kind of access to Alexa would require five, ten, or maybe even 15 Echo speakers spaced strategically throughout the home (another reason why Echo sales are becoming increasingly misleading – some consumers may be buying a handful of $20 speakers at one time). With a cellular Apple Watch, Siri is now available outside the home even when users are away from their iPhones. Meanwhile, Alexa is stuck within four walls – at least until Amazon unveils its Alexa smartwatch.

To me, this is the core flaw in the argument I’ve frequently seen that HomePod is competing with Echo and Google Home, that Apple is late to the game.

Another way to look at it is, Amazon is late to the game. The Echo is a big seller, no doubt, but it is Amazon’s ingenious mechanism to get their digital voice assistant shoehorned into the space with Siri and Googly (my name for Google’s identity free voice assistant) when their phone strategy did not catch on.

Read the rest of Neil’s piece. It’s very interesting. I’m looking forward to the HomePod, to getting a sense of Apple’s long term strategy here.

iPhone X US delivery time now down to one week (it varies, actually)

Mikey Campbell, AppleInsider:

After a rocky start marked by a quick initial sellout and lingering supply issues, Apple is quickly catching up with iPhone X demand, with current U.S. delivery estimates pegging ship times at six business days.

I just checked and delivery now shows as December 11 (ten days from now). That’s still pretty good, and in plenty of time for gift-giving, if that’s your goal.

Even better, most models are showing available for pickup today. If you live near an Apple Store and an iPhone X is in your near future, check pickup availability for the model you crave. 64GB models are available today at most stores I checked, 256GB available at some, but far fewer.

Nikkei: Apple to design power chips in-house as early as 2018

Cheng Ting Feng, Nikkei:

Apple is designing its own main power management chips for use in iPhones as early as in 2018, cutting dependence on Dialog Semiconductor, according to industry sources, as shares in the U.K. developer plunged as much as 19% in afternoon trade in Frankfurt.

Seems a natural move, if true. Part of the process of reducing dependency, where possible.

How the Apple Watch precisely tracks your swimming movements

This is a Popular Science article from a few months ago, but I came across it last night, found it fascinating.

Rob Verger, Popular Science:

The device has functioned as a swim tracker since it became water-resistant in 2016, but with its latest operating system, it presents a more granular metric: set detection. It knows when you rest at the pool’s edge and then uses that information to divide the workout into sets of laps, showing you how far and long you swam in each, what stroke, and your rest time.

And:

Apple built its own algorithms to discern the stroke of swimmers of all skill levels, as well the calories they’re burning. The process involved gathering data from more than 700 swimmers and over 1,500 swim sessions. And Apple gathered even more data from people swimming in place (in an “endless” pool) while wearing a mask that descended from the ceiling.

And:

The watch uses the gyroscope and accelerometer to track the motion of your strokes, but in open water, it can leverage another sensor: the GPS chip. If you’re swimming in the ocean or a lake, your watch uses that to determine how fast and how far you go. But GPS signals don’t travel through H2O. Luckily, people are likely to do freestyle in open water and for that stroke, your arms regularly break the surface. Apple sets the GPS chip in acquisition mode for the whole swim. It looks for the satellite signal each time your hand rises from the water. “We’re trying to catch it every single time,” says Ron Huang, Apple’s director of engineering for location and motion services.

I absolutely love the effort that Apple puts in to get things like this to work. This is Apple at its best. Read the article. As I said, it’s fascinating.

Billboard’s intimate dinner with Jimmy Iovine, discussion of the music biz

Billboard:

It’s been three and a half years since Jimmy Iovine left his role as CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M to run Apple Music, but that doesn’t keep him from thinking about the problems facing labels today — or the rest of the industry for that matter.

Over a dinner recently at NeueHouse Hollywood in Los Angeles with Iovine and Allen Hughes, who directed the four-part documentary series, The Defiant Ones — which focuses on storied careers of Iovine and Dr Dre., his partner in developing Beats Electronics — a handful of journalists lobbed questions at and shared their thoughts with the iconic exec.

This was a fascinating read. Not too long, and completely Jimmy.

Just a little taste:

It’s not the price point that’s the problem for streaming services. It’s the free alternatives that are undermining the system in a way film and television streaming platforms are not forced to manage. He pointed to Netflix as a prime example, spending $6 billion on original content in 2017, while charging customers $9.99 or $11.99 for unlimited access to its unique offerings — including TV and film they exclusively license. Meanwhile in contrast, by and large, all music digital streaming platforms offer the same material.

And:

Put yourself in Kansas without a job and YouTube is free, Pandora is free, Spotify is free…. If there’s a restaurant down the street with the exact same food as this restaurant that’s on a mountain with a view, only this one’s for free, a lot of people are gonna eat there. They’ll use paper towels, they don’t give a shit about napkins.

A great read, well worth your time.

Face ID vs Touch ID

AppleInsider:

With the introduction of the iPhone X and Face ID, some are concerned that Apple’s new biometric system is not as secure or easy to use as the legacy fingerprint-based Touch ID. AppleInsider digs deeper to explain why you shouldn’t fear facing the future.

I went into the iPhone X launch with some preconceived notions about Touch ID having some convenience advantages over Face ID.

As this article points out, the convenience advantage lies with Face ID, and Face ID is only going to get better over time. It is the future. Good read.

If file sharing stopped working after yesterday’s Mac update, here’s what to do

UPDATE: Looks like Apple’s re-issue of Security Update 2017-001 most likely addressed the file sharing issue, so there’s nothing you need to do on your end. [H/T, Bryan Lee]

If file sharing stops working, go to this Apple Support knowledge base article.

Short story even shorter, you’ll go to Terminal and enter this line:

sudo /usr/libexec/configureLocalKDC

Follow with your admin password, when prompted, and you should be good to go. This is all a bit of a mess, but kudos to Apple for their rapid response here.

Update to High Sierra now live, official comment from Apple

An update to High Sierra has now gone live. It addresses the root password issue we first mentioned in this post.

“Security is a top priority for every Apple product, and regrettably we stumbled with this release of macOS”, said an Apple spokesperson in a statement to The Loop.

“When our security engineers became aware of the issue Tuesday afternoon, we immediately began working on an update that closes the security hole. This morning, as of 8 a.m., the update is available for download, and starting later today it will be automatically installed on all systems running the latest version (10.13.1) of macOS High Sierra.

We greatly regret this error and we apologize to all Mac users, both for releasing with this vulnerability and for the concern it has caused. Our customers deserve better. We are auditing our development processes to help prevent this from happening again.”

The download is now available via the Mac App Store.

Facebook’s new CAPTCHA: “Please upload a photo of yourself that clearly shows your face”

Nitasha Tiku, Wired:

Facebook may soon ask you to “upload a photo of yourself that clearly shows your face,” to prove you’re not a bot.

The company is using a new kind of captcha to verify whether a user is a real person. According to a screenshot of the identity test shared on Twitter on Tuesday and verified by Facebook, the prompt says: “Please upload a photo of yourself that clearly shows your face. We’ll check it and then permanently delete it from our servers.”

And:

In a statement to WIRED, a Facebook spokesperson said the photo test is intended to “help us catch suspicious activity at various points of interaction on the site, including creating an account, sending Friend requests, setting up ads payments, and creating or editing ads.”

This is somewhat reminiscent of Face ID, though presumably without the machine learning aspect, with zero 3D information (it’s a picture, after all) and, also presumably, with a much slower reaction time.

My two cents: I find it interesting that we have such a splintered approach to security. We’ve got security cams, passwords, fingerprints, iris scanning, and 3D facial mapping, all implemented with varying degrees of success by a wide variety of vendors.

Over time, there will be a tension for standards to emerge, to allow for constant verification. With the obvious dystopian potential that goes along with constant surveillance. This tension is between the requirement to verify that you are you, to validate a transaction, protect you from hackers and the like, and the desire to track you, to mine your habits.

With each new security standard you sign up for, opt into, important to know exactly where that data goes, what it will ultimately be used for.

Side note, here’s the Wikipedia page for CAPTCHA. Interesting acronym.

Security hole in macOS High Sierra lets anyone gain root access to a logged in machine

There’s a security hole in macOS High Sierra and we’ve verified the issue.

First reported in this tweet:

https://twitter.com/lemiorhan/status/935578694541770752

Here’s how to reproduce it:

  • Log in to your Mac, as you normally would
  • Now launch System Preferences
  • Click the Users & Groups pane
  • Click the lock to make changes but do NOT enter your normal credentials
  • Instead, change the user name to root, leave the password field blank, but click in the password field (does not appear to work if you don’t click in the password field) and click Unlock
  • If you don’t get in, change the user name to root, leave password field blank (but click in it), click Unlock again

Eventually, you will get a second Unlock dialog. Repeat this procedure with root and empty password field. This time, when you click Unlock, the admin lock will unlock and you are in.

Note that this does require you to have physical access to a machine and be already logged in to the machine. I have verified this on my machine and it does work.

While this is an issue, this would be way more of an issue if this technique allowed you to log in to a machine (perhaps a stolen one, for example), as opposed to gaining root access to a machine whose user logged in and granted access in the first place. Not nothing, but the sky is not falling.

We’ve reached out to Apple and will update this post the moment we hear back.

UPDATE: This just got a bit worse. This same technique will enable you to login to any Mac whose login options are set to “Display login window as Name and password” instead of “Display login window as List of users”.

While you wait for Apple to respond, suggest you do this:

  • Go to System Preferences / Users & Groups
  • Click the lock, login as your admin user
  • Click Login Options (bottom left)
  • Click List of users instead of Name and password

You can also follow up by entering a root password or, as others have suggested, disabling the root user. My suggestion would be to wait until Apple responds, then follow their suggested advice.

Apple Support launches YouTube channel featuring how-to tutorial videos for iPhone and iPad

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

Apple began a support Twitter account early in 2016, answering customer queries and tweeting out the occasional iOS tip. It has now expanded into a dedicated Apple Support YouTube channel.

The account features highly-produced tutorial videos explaining all sorts of iOS features from how to change your wallpaper to deleting your call history.

Here’s a link to the Apple Support YouTube channel. Terrific resource, nice find from Benjamin Mayo.

iPhone autocorrecting the word ‘it’ to ‘I.T’ on iOS 11 and later

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

At least a few hundred iPhone users and counting have complained about the word “it” autocorrecting to “I.T” on iOS 11 and later.

This is a bizarre new class of bugs. It started with autocorrect capitalizing the first letter of some words, even in The Middle of a sentence.

Then we saw a rash of autocorrects of the letter I to A[?], much to the amusement of Ohio State fans.

And now this. What’s going on here? Is this machine learning going awry? Is this the future of AI? Works most of the time, but every so often a robot goes insane and starts breaking things?

One problem with machine learning is that it creates evolving behavior, which creates a complex tree of possible behaviors, impossible to completely test.

That said, is that what’s going on here? Or is this something more mundane? It’d be good to actually know the cause of these issues. So far, mum’s the word.

Mac vs iPad

Gabe Weatherhead, MacDrifter:

When my 10.5″ iPad Pro arrived I decided to do a little experiment. You see, I honestly believe that the iPad, iPhone, and other micro super-computers are the future of computing and I want to force myself out of old-man complacency. Five months ago I committed to that experiment and avoided using my Mac unless there was absolutely no way to do something on my iPad or iPhone. Last week I ended my experiment and I have a few opinions (big surprise).

I use my Mac, iPhone, and iPad in a mix throughout the day. My iPhone is always with me, gets all the looks when I am away from my desk. My Mac gets all my looks at my desk. And my iPad gets the rest, those times when I am bopping about, laying about, or in a car (not driving!)

[Of course, my Apple Watch gets its share of looks, no matter the device I’m using, but in my view, does not impact the Mac vs iPad argument.]

Gabe’s piece really captures my feelings about the Mac, why it is the best solution for certain (but by no means all, or even most) situations. Here’s a taste:

I do a lot of text editing, so this is a category where I feel friction the most. There’s really no comparison for me. Text editors on the Mac are more feature rich and I can edit faster than on iOS.

Friction is a perfect word. The Mac is customizable to the point where I can really get at those friction points, ease them to make my process more efficient. iOS, on the other hand, is more portable, easier to get going and, for me, always with me every second I’m awake.

Apple has found a perfect blend of devices. At least for me and my habits.

That said, read Gabe’s piece. See if it resonates for you.

Internal Apple video from 1994

[VIDEO] Regardless of how much (or little) you enjoy the singing or production values, I do find this a fascinating piece of Apple history. Folks who’ve been around the Apple universe for long enough will recognize a lot of these references.

The video (embedded in the main Loop post) was originally posted in 2012, but I just came across it this morning, thought it worth sharing. Anyone recognize anyone in the video? They are ALL Apple employees.

The Touch Bar makes the Mac more accessible to me

Steven Aquino, responding to Marco Arment’s fixing the MacBook Pro post, specifically this point Marco made about the Touch Bar:

Sorry, it’s a flop. It was a solid try at something new, but it didn’t work out. There’s no shame in that — Apple should just recognize this, learn from it, and move on.

From Steven’s response:

Arment’s recommendation that Apple “back away from the Touch Bar” reiterates a popular sentiment in the Apple community: in blunt terms, the Touch Bar sucks. I’ve read many articles and heard many podcasts where prominent members of the community deride the feature and question its future. These criticisms, while legitimate, sting me personally because I like the Touch Bar.

Read on for the details, but I agree. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Touch Bar is an important concept. Let it evolve into the thing it was born to be.

A peek inside Google’s X ‘moonshot factory’

This is a fascinating glimpse of Google’s R&D organization, known as X. What I found most fascinating, was the coverage of one of the earliest X moonshots, Project Loon:

Loon took the spotlight in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which knocked out power and communications for nearly all of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents.

Before the storm, Project Loon’s team had been working on an AI-based navigation system that can keep high-altitude balloons over a given area for weeks or months at a time to provide aerial internet connections. Peru was the primary testing ground, and Puerto Rico was one of the launch sites. After the hurricane hit, the focus shifted to filling the gap in Puerto Rico. The team quickly worked out arrangements with Puerto Rico’s government and federal authorities as well as AT&T and T-Mobile to boost connectivity.

And:

X says Project Loon is currently providing basic internet connectivity for more than 100,000 people in Puerto Rico.

Loon may not be as well known as Google’s self-driving vehicle project, Waymo, but Project Loon has achieved a real-world impact.

iOS jailbreaking fading away

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

ModMy today announced it has archived its default ModMyi repository on Cydia, which is essentially an alternative App Store for downloading apps, themes, tweaks, and other files on jailbroken iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices.

ZodTTD/MacCiti also shut down last week, meaning that two out of three of Cydia’s major default repositories are no longer active as of this month.

And:

The closure of two major Cydia repositories is arguably the result of a declining interest in jailbreaking, which provides root filesystem access and allows users to modify iOS and install unapproved apps on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

I’ve always thought of jailbreaking as a wild west frontier, with few rules, little oversight and, correspondingly, no real way to prevent malware. Jailbreaking also technically violates your iPhone warranty.

But, that said, jailbreaking also brought some interesting, experimental features to iOS. Over time, Apple caught up, bringing the more successful jailbreaking features into the fold.

We’re seeing the end of an era.

Big picture of the iPhone X projected IR dot pattern

Fascinating project from Oliver Thomas. He bought a high resolution camera that can capture infrared images. He set the camera up on a tripod and shot the IR dot pattern projected by the iPhone X. […]

Putting the iPhone X camera to the test

This is a terrific piece from Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac, a realistic look at the experience of shooting with the iPhone X camera.

I’ve been using the iPhone 8 Plus (similar cameras, but the iPhone X has a slightly faster telephoto f/2.4 vs. f/2.8 – and the X has OIS in both lenses) for the past few days and my experience has been similar to Ben’s.

I will say, I find the iPhone 8 Plus camera to be astonishing.

Take a moment to compare the two images in this tweet. One was taken at the base of Philadelphia City Hall, looking up to the top of a tall tower. Without moving, I took a second shot, pinching out to zoom in on a statue at the top of the tower.

I was floored by the amount of detail in that second shot. Amazing to get this kind of result from a phone that fits in my pocket.

Mark Gurman’s bet: Why Apple’s HomePod is 3 years behind Amazon’s Echo

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

When the $350 gadget debuts early next year (on Friday Apple delayed the launch from December), the HomePod won’t be able to do many of the things the Echo can. Amazon offers thousands of “skills” (voice-activated apps) that let users do a range of things (including buy stuff from Amazon). The Google Home Mini, which debuted earlier this year, is similarly endowed. The HomePod will be mostly limited to playing tunes from Apple Music, controlling Apple-optimized smart home appliances and sending messages through an iPhone.

“This is a huge missed opportunity,” said one of the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter. Apple declined to comment.

I’m just going to quote this Daring Fireball piece from 2006, which itself quotes a post from the San Jose Mercury News, but Gruber really brought this to fame:

Responding to questions from New York Times correspondent John Markoff at a Churchill Club breakfast gathering Thursday morning, Colligan laughed off the idea that any company — including the wildly popular Apple Computer — could easily win customers in the finicky smart-phone sector.

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

This pattern repeats itself over and over again. They’re not going to just walk in. Until they do.

My money is on Apple and HomePod here. This is not casting doubt on Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. But Apple has an obvious advantage, a real barrier to entry for both Google and Amazon. Even if they don’t reveal all their cards from day one, HomePod (and HomePod Mini, if such a thing eventually ships) will have intimate, private API access to the Apple ecosystem.

Silly to bet against that home court advantage.