April 16, 2021

The Dalrymple Report: Apple event, Apple TV, Car Thing

Dave and I talk about the upcoming Apple event and what may be released. We also focus in a bit on Apple TV and the rumors surrounding that device. Apparently, Spotify has a new gadget called Car Thing, which looks really stupid.

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April 15, 2021

I love this iOS 14.5 privacy walkthrough from Joanna Stern, all the way through. Be sure to jump to about 1:11 in and check out Terrifying Tim Cook. A solid nuts and bolts explainer.

Washington Post:

The iPhone used by a terrorist in the San Bernardino shooting was unlocked by a small Australian hacking firm in 2016, ending a momentous standoff between the U.S. government and the tech titan Apple.

At the time, the general consensus was that the FBI was using an Israeli security firm, well known for this sort of smartphone break-in.

Azimuth Security, a publicity-shy company that says it sells its cyber wares only to democratic governments, secretly crafted the solution the FBI used to gain access to the device, according to several people familiar with the matter.

And:

The identity of the hacking firm has remained a closely guarded secret for five years. Even Apple didn’t know which vendor the FBI used, according to company spokesman Todd Wilder. But without realizing it, Apple’s attorneys came close last year to learning of Azimuth’s role — through a different court case, one that has nothing to do with unlocking a terrorist’s device.

And:

Apple has a tense relationship with security research firms. Wilder said the company believes researchers should disclose all vulnerabilities to Apple so that the company can more quickly fix them. Doing so would help preserve its reputation as having secure devices.

And:

But many security researchers say it’s legitimate to sell these flaws to democratic governments. And the ability of government agencies to unlock iPhones has also spared Apple from direct conflict with these governments. For instance, by unlocking the terrorist’s iPhone, some say, Azimuth came to Apple’s rescue by ending a case that could have led to a court-ordered back door to the iPhone.

I do think it’s true that this solution took the heat off Apple, turned down the dial on Congress’ efforts to force Apple to create a backdoor to the iPhone. But as has been proven time and time again, there’s just no way a back door created for law enforcement would not end up in the hands of black hat hackers.

I do agree with Apple’s take, that researchers should disclose all vulnerabilities to Apple so they can release patches.

The Washington Post story is a fascinating read. Here’s a link to the Apple News version of the article.

Apple:

“Blush” follows the journey of a stranded horticulturist-astronaut’s chances for survival after he crash lands on a desolate dwarf planet. When an ethereal visitor arrives, the once-lone traveler discovers the joy in building a new life and realizes the universe has delivered astonishing salvation.

And:

The inaugural Apple/Skydance short film is written and directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Joe Mateo (“Prep & Landing,” “Big Hero 6”), and shares the storyteller’s deeply personal journey of healing, hope and the undeniably human moments of being rescued by love. Mateo developed “Blush” alongside the Skydance Animation team and the film is produced by Heather Schmidt Feng Yanu (“Toy Story,” the “Cars” trilogy) and executive produced by Oscar® winner John Lasseter (“Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Cars”). “Blush” joins highly anticipated Apple/Skydance features “Luck” and “Spellbound,” and the animated series “The Search for WondLa,” with several more feature films and television series to be announced over the term of the pact.

That is some heavy hitting behind the scenes. Marked as “coming soon”, as of this writing, there was no landing page for Blush in the Apple TV+ search results.

I love the quality of the Pixar shorts that show before every theater showing of a Pixar film (my absolute favorite is here). Hoping Apple TV+ delivers that level of joy in the fruits of this partnership.

OSXDaily:

Ever ended up on a webpage in a different language and wished you could translate it instantly? With the latest versions of Safari for Mac, you can use a native translation feature to convert a webpage from a foreign language to your native tongue.

Happens to me all the time. I tweeted about it here, if you want a short version with instructions to pass along.

If you are in iOS Safari, you’ll find the translate feature under the “aA” button on the left side of the address bar. This is worth knowing about. Give it a try. A good test page is at lemonde.fr.

William Gallagher, AppleInsider:

As part of Apple’s series of health partnerships, the company is working with the University of Washington and the Seattle Flu Study. If accepted onto the coronavirus study program, participants will be provided with an Apple Watch.

Live in the Seattle area? Here’s where you can sign up for the study.

April 14, 2021

A few days ago, from Mark Gurman’s rumor Apple working on combined Apple TV, HomePod, camera:

The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.

I struggled to wrap my head around this concept. Was this for the TV room? If so, does it replace your existing speakers? If it’s an all-in-one, how do you place a combo camera/HomePod, since both have different placement needs.

Now this from Michael Firth (from a few months ago, well before this rumor surfaced), writing about the need for a camera for your Apple TV:

  • The camera doesn’t have to be built-in to the Apple TV itself. It could be a miniaturised version of something like the XBOX Kinect, connected via USB-C and designed to sit neatly aloft your TV.

  • When you walk into a room and sit down in front of the TV, the LIDAR scanner could detect your presence and automatically switch the TV on. It can identify you, it can sign into apps based on your identity. The home screen can show custom content for whoever just sat down – if it’s just you on your own, it shows that show you’ve been binge watching. Someone else? It’s their favourite show.

Bing. This clicked for me. This feels like a concept that would be a welcome addition to my TV room. A camera with Apple’s promise of privacy, doing all kinds of clever Apple TV tricks, a quality webcam for FaceTime/Zoom calls, with HomeKit compatibility perhaps.

Still not seeing the HomePod angle, but definitely an interesting take.

Zac Hall, 9to5Mac:

The tech enthusiast in me wants to find a use for every Apple Watch feature, but this can create an overwhelming experience if you’re not intentional about your approach. It’s possible to want to reduce your reliance on the iPhone through the Apple Watch, only to find yourself even more annoyed by interruptions on your wrist.

Identifying utility from the Apple Watch while toning it down when the watch becomes too much has been something I’ve been working through recently. I’ll share where I’ve landed as well as a few feature requests for managing the experience for the better.

Gaining control over your Apple Watch is a decluttering process, removing unneeded apps, and pruning the tree of notifications. Nicely presented, worth reading.

Spotify:

Currently available to eligible users in the U.S., Car Thing enables you to play your favorite audio faster, so you’re already listening to that hit song or the latest podcast episode before you’ve even pulled out of the driveway. Switching between your favorite audio is effortless, allowing you to shift gears to something else as soon as the mood strikes.

And:

Our focus remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform—not on creating hardware—but we developed Car Thing because we saw a need from our users, many of whom were missing out on a seamless and personalized in-car listening experience.

And:

The limited release of Car Thing is not meant to compete with in-car infotainment systems. Instead, it’s another step in our larger ubiquity strategy.

Here’s a link to Spotify’s ubiquity strategy, in case you just had to know.

As to “Car Thing”, follow the headline link, check out that first image. An odd, extremely specialized product. It mounts on a car vent (very Radio Shack) and purely does audio. Not feeling it.

First things first, watch the video here.

Next, follow the headline link for an incredibly colorful entry into Apple’s college student portal/store. Worth a look, even if you are not connected to a new college hopeful.

[Via 9to5Mac]

Apple:

Premiering globally July 30, 2021 on Apple TV+, this new docuseries will explore groundbreaking technology in music with Paul McCartney, Questlove, King Princess, Dave Grohl, Ad-Rock and Mike D from the Beastie Boys, Charli XCX and more

And:

Ronson explores music’s intersection with artistry and technology in candid conversations with music legends and icons including Paul McCartney, Questlove, King Princess, Dave Grohl, Ad-Rock and Mike D from the Beastie Boys, Charli XCX and more, where he discovers the ways in which these unique tools have influenced their work.

And:

At the end of each episode, Ronson will create and unveil a unique piece of original music using groundbreaking technology and techniques including reverb, synth, auto-tune, drum machines, sampling and distortion.

I’m a bit of a music documentary junkie, will definitely check this out. Sounds a bit like that drum machine documentary, 808. Or the fantastic Dave Grohl documentary Sound City.

April 13, 2021

Apple announces event for April 20

Apple on Tuesday sent out invites for a special event dubbed “Spring Loaded,” for April 20, 2021. As with all events in the past year, this one will be held online. You can watch the event on any Apple device from Apple’s web site or on your Apple TV.

There are a lot of rumors swirling about what we be announced including iPads and the long anticipated AirTags, but we’ll have to wait for another week to find out for sure.

Interestingly, Siri tipped off people to the event date yesterday.

Sami Fathi, MacRumors:

Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers.

Interestingly, I could not replicate this on any of my devices, until I asked my HomePod.

The #AppleEvent special hashtag does not yet seem to be enabled, so the announcement is still not official. Makes me wonder if Apple will turn this particular Siri response off on the server side, or if it will slowly make its way to my other devices.

My bet is on the latter, given that the date is a week away. Invites forthcoming later today?

Vanity Fair:

In the Apple TV+ series debuting June 4th, King starts at the end of a romance, exploring where devotion took Lisey and Scott Landon—what it cost them and what it gave them. King being King, he weaves a stalker thriller and an otherworldly supernatural mystery into his heartfelt love story.

Stephen King has quietly become a top notch TV series creator, getting better with each new kick at the can. This one is definitely on my short list to watch. Lots of details in the Vanity Fair piece.

Apple TV+’s Mythic Quest — Season 2 trailer

Big fan of Mythic Quest. Big fan of Ted Lasso. But the trailers for both (back before I’d watched either) left me cold. Neither was able to capture the essence of the show, the magic that drew you in.

With that in mind, watch the trailer below. I can’t wait for the special episode that will drop Friday, and the season start three weeks after that. And if you are new to Mythic Quest, ignore the trailer, dig into Season 1, Episode 1.

The three questions raised by The Verge’s Alex Castro:

  • Is the exclusive App Store a necessary part of iOS?

The heart of the case is the so-called App Store tax — a 30 percent surcharge Apple collects on purchases made through the App Store. Fortnite was kicked off the App Store for dodging that tax by installing its own payment system, which is forbidden under App Store rules. Now, Epic is making the case in court that the rules should never have been put in place.

  • How is the iPhone different from a PlayStation?

One of the biggest challenges for Epic is that the App Store model is fairly widespread. Consoles like Xbox and PlayStation operate on basically the same playbook, delivering games digitally through an open but curated digital store that’s locked to the hardware and controlled by the manufacturer. That alone doesn’t make it legal, but it adds credence to Apple’s claim that the App Store lockdown isn’t trapping consumers. If you don’t want to play Fortnite on an iPhone, you can play it on a console or a PC. Some devices come locked into a specific distribution channel and some don’t, giving users the chance to vote with their feet.

  • How much control can Apple exert over its hardware?

Underneath everything else, Apple is facing a profound question of how much control it can exert over its own devices. For critics, this is Apple’s original sin, using industrial and graphic design to lure customers into a walled garden, then locking the gate. For fans, it’s Apple’s genius, integrating hardware and software to deliver a more purposeful and powerful user experience. But it all rests on Apple’s ability to maintain a closed stack, using hardware integration to control what happens in software.

The quotes are just the start of Alex’s take on each question, just a taste. I found this a solid read, helped me get my head around an incredibly complex set of topics. Worth reading, and worth reading the comments/responses that follow.

José Adorno, 9to5Mac:

A new study reveals that Apple TV+ has the highest-quality content when compared to Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu. The analysis from Self Financial uses IMDb scores with US customer data.

Here’s a link to the study itself.

Key bullet point from the study:

AppleTV+ has the highest average IMDb score for its titles (7.24), but has fewer than 70 titles to choose from.

I know there are plenty of people who discount IMDb, prefer other scorekeepers (MetaCritic, Rotten Tomatoes, whatever). But picking one lets you compare apples to apples. And an average IMDb score across the service of 7.24 is remarkable.

April 12, 2021

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.

Struggling to wrap my head around this. Why pull all these things together? Especially the speaker part. If this is an actual in-the-works product, where would it sit? Is this intended for the TV room? If so, would it replace the TV’s own speakers? Any additional speakers you might have added to the TV already?

And if there’s a camera in the mix, wouldn’t it be difficult to position if it is tied to the speaker? Presumably, a speaker would require one specific placement (and you’d want at least two speakers, right?) and a camera a different placement.

Or is this a kitchen counter thing, like a portable TV so you could watch cooking videos in the kitchen? And do FaceTime calls at the same time?

Back to Mark Gurman:

Apple has explored connecting the iPad to the speaker with a robotic arm that can move to follow a user around a room, similar to Amazon’s latest Echo Show gadget.

Hmm. I guess I’ll understand it when I see it?

Yup. I said Samsung and clever in the same sentence. Cause it’s true (Don’t tell Jim). Watch the video, click this link on your iPhone if you want to take it for a spin on your own device.

Follow the headline link, then:

  • Click on each of the 4 color wells to set your gradient colors
  • Drag the little squares in the left image to set your gradient starting positions
  • Drag the squares in the right image to set the end positions

Rinse. Repeat. Export if you create something you like. Cmd-Z to undo. Shift-Cmd-Z to redo.

Have fun. Pass it along.

Taiwan News:

Taiwan’s worst drought in over 50 years has been a boon for one lucky tourist who was able to recover a fully functional iPhone that he accidentally dropped into Sun Moon Lake almost exactly one year ago.

First things first: The phone was in a waterproof case. But still, a year in the water, at the very least, that’s an excellent case. Check out the image about halfway down the page. That case took a beating. But the iPhone looks pristine.

Deadline:

Eager to bring Justin Timberlake back into the Apple TV + fold after the strong results of the Fisher Stevens-directed dramatic film Palmer in January, Apple won an auction and acquired the script to develop an hour-long drama series that will have Timberlake playing Gong Show host Chuck Barris.

Never heard of Chuck Barris? Do a search for the ridiculous Gong Show to see him in person. But he’s got other skills, including creator of classic shows like The Dating Game and the Newlywed Game and…um…CIA assassin?

All this was highlighted in the 2002 movie Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. It’ll be interesting to see what Apple does with this.

April 9, 2021

The Dalrymple Report: Scam apps, Tim Cook

This week Dave and I talk about how fake apps on the App Store scam users. Some people think Apple is ignoring the problem, but I’m willing to bet that there is a lot going on behind the scenes to fix it. We also discuss Tim Cook’s interview with Kara Swisher.

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April 8, 2021

Paul Simon, showing off his musical genius

If you don’t know the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, give it a listen.

It’s one of my favorite songs, one I’m learning to play on the piano. An amazing composition.

The video below shows a young Paul Simon, in an interview with Dick Cavett, being asked about writing the song. Watch him deconstruct the music, pulling out a guitar and effortlessly walk through the genres that all came together to make this work.

Apple:

Apple today introduced the updated Find My app, allowing third-party products to use the private and secure finding capabilities of Apple’s Find My network, which comprises hundreds of millions of Apple devices.

And:

New products that work with the Find My app from Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof will be available beginning next week.

And:

Approved products can be added to the new Items tab and will feature a “Works with Apple Find My” badge to clearly communicate to users that the product is compatible with the Find My network and the Find My app.

And:

Apple is also announcing a draft specification for chipset manufacturers that will be released later this spring. With this, third-party device makers will be able to take advantage of Ultra Wideband technology in U1-equipped Apple devices, creating a more precise, directionally aware experience when nearby.

Interesting that Apple has opened up the Find My ecosystem to third-party products before they announced their own proprietary and rumored AirTags. Perhaps it means nothing, but I would have expected the AirTags announcement to lead, with third-party capabilities as a follow-on to the announcement.

No matter. This feels like a brilliant move on Apple’s part. More ecosystem lock-in, more ammunition for their anti-trust counterattack.

This from John Gruber:

We’re all expecting Apple to announce its own “AirTags” tracking beacons imminently, but here’s Apple promoting third-party products, including a tag-like product from Chipolo that seems directly competitive with what we expect AirTags to be, and wireless earbuds from Belkin that obviously compete against AirPods.

And:

Conspicuously absent from the list, of course, is Tile. Given their membership in Epic’s Coalition for App Fairness, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Apple to promote Tile’s products. And it’s unclear to me whether Tile even wants to be in the Find My app — their spat with Apple is more about their own app competing with Find My, and their accusations that Apple unfairly advantages Find My by not holding it to the same rules as third-party apps that ask for always-on location access.

Fascinating.

If you liked Craig Grannell’s curated list of favorite iPhone/iPad apps, follow the headline link for his take on games.

All run on iPhone and/or iPad, but not all run on Android. Tiny evidence that for developers, it’s an Apple first world.

Andrew Webster, The Verge:

Last week, Apple Arcade received its biggest update since launching back in 2019. More than 30 titles were added to the subscription service, including much-anticipated games like Hironobu Sakaguchi’s roleplaying epic Fantasian. But while the quantity and quality of titles added were impressive, the most important part of the announcement was a change in direction. Among those big-name exclusives were a number of classics, ranging from Monument Valley to chess to Threes, that help round out the service. Apple Arcade has finally matured into something close to a Netflix for mobile games.

If you dipped your toes in the Apple Arcade waters and haven’t been back, worth another look. I’ve found some new games that really caught my attention, and the relaunches add some depth to the catalog.

Apple Arcade still feels like an experiment, running in parallel with the IAP and paid games section of the App Store. I hope it finds its groove with subscribers, bringing in enough value for Apple so they continue to invest in its growth.

Sami Fathi, MacRumors:

In a slight slip-up, however, Intel has accidentally used a MacBook instead of a Windows laptop in one of its newest ads to promote one of its new 11th-generation chips as “the world’s best processor.”

Follow the headline link, check the ad. That’s a MacBook Pro, from this Getty Images stock photo page, tagged as:

Hipster asian man playing games on a laptop at home

Who writes these captions?

Caption aside:

But while Apple still sells Intel-based Macs, the chip referenced in the ad is not used in any Mac, and in fact, it was launched around the same time Apple released its M1 Apple silicon chip late last year.

This just does not feel well thought through.

April 7, 2021

Sami Fathi, MacRumors:

Eleftheriou has highlighted yet another scam app on the ‌App Store‌. This time Eleftheriou is shining a light on how one scam app called “Privacy Assitant: StringVPN” uses Apple’s in-app purchasing system to trick people into purchasing either a weekly, monthly, or yearly subscription for a fake VPN service.

Here’s the tweet:

First things first, wrap your head around what’s going on here. Then wonder why these sorts of apps are allowed on the App Store.

I posed that question in this tweet. Follow the link, read the responses.

Some have suggested that Apple makes money on the scams, is not motivated to fix the problem. I just can’t accept that explanation. No way.

A better explanation is in this tweet from Joe Cieplinski:

I think it’s because for every one of these, there are 10,000 more that they did take down. I don’t think most of us understand the scale at which people are scamming the App Store. How many per day can a small group of reviewers take down, realistically?

If so, feels like Apple either needs to ramp up their efforts here, budget for more reviewers, or find a way to get smarter. Maybe they could create a trusted list of third party reviewers, starting with @Keleftheriou, who can help trim the scams out of the App Store. Maybe even offer them a bounty.

This hurts users, hurts Apple’s reputation, and also harms the developer community, especially indie devs, because it makes it so much harder for their apps to stand out/stay in business. This has got to change.

This is a good post to scan, just to see if anything catches your eye. But also an excellent post to share with folks new to the ecosystem.

Nice job by Craig Grannell. A lot of focus on indie-apps, some excellent exposure.