When Android Police raves about the iPad

Android Police:

Even if you don’t like Apple, or you think iOS is derpy and restrictive — which is, in my opinion, unarguably true — iPads really do offer the best big-screen tablet environment.

The first half of that sentence is what I expect from Android Police. But what I didn’t expect is the linked post’s rave about the iPad.

Consider how I got here. The linked post’s headline is Do yourself a favor and buy an iPad during lockdown. And they’re not wrong.

Comment: Why I ditched the Kindle in favor of Apple Books on iPad Mini

Bradley Chambers, 9to5Mac:

I closed out the mobile version of the Kindle website, and I reinstalled Apple Books. As I opened it, it felt like a breath of fresh air. The overall design is just stunning. I hadn’t spent a lot of time with the new interface that Apple released with iOS 12, but I was quickly blown away.

When I read this piece by Bradley Chambers, I. realized that I had been locked into the Kindle app on my iPad for a long, long time. So I fired up Books and dug in. Bradley is right. Apple Books really is a breath of fresh air.

Two things stand out in particular to me. First, the process of sliding the scrollbar to jump to a different location is so much better in Books. As you slide, a popup appears that shows both chapter number/title and page number. Much better than Kindle’s clunky navigation process.

Add to that, the process of searching for and purchasing new books. To be fair, Apple’s 30% fee makes it obvious why Amazon makes you exit the Kindle app and buy your books on the web. Definitely not their fault. But still. Buying new books in the Apple Books app is a pleasure.

EPIX, Showtime, other Apple TV+ third party channels free for the month

MediaPlayNews:

Apple TV Channels, which like Amazon Channels, offers access to third party over-the-top video platforms, is offering extended free access to content during the coronavirus pandemic.

Apple is extending to 30 days free trials to ViacomCBS’ Showtime OTT and MGM-owned Epix (through May 2 with no subscription required), AMC Networks’ Acorn TV and Lifetime Movie Channel, among others.

Lots of great, binge-worthy content here. If you’ve not yet seen it, check out the excellent Pennyworth (on EPIX), a sort of Batman pre-history, but focused on Alfred.

And on Showtime, there’s Billions, Dexter, and Ray Donavon. My tastes do run a bit dark, don’t they?

Tim Cook, a voice of calm and reason

[VIDEO] Watch the video in the tweet below. Apple is working hard to help, ramping up a manufacturing chain to produce face shields for health workers, and getting those face shields into the hands of those who need them.

And sharing the details is Tim Cook, a calm, rational voice at the center of the storm. Well done Tim. Well done Apple.

https://twitter.com/tim_cook/status/1246916489589837824

Inside Apple TV+’s Amazing Stories

Have you watched Amazing Stories? If not, this will give you a taste. To me, this genre is interesting, sort of a palette cleanser between other shows. Like Little America, you can watch one, or binge the whole thing, stop any time you like.

I see this as the short story collection, a break from the commitment to a full length novel.

An iPhone you can use underwater, and one that uses your face to guide rotation

William Gallagher, AppleInsider:

It may seem as if the iPhone, iPad, and even Mac, have not changed their user interface in years, but in truth Apple is continually revising its software. Apple is also increasingly good at hardware surviving underwater, plus it continues to look into actually making devices remain usable when submerged.

These issues are revisited in two new patents, one of which will concern anyone who’s truly wanted to operate an iOS device underwater. And the other uses technology to solve a small but recurring annoyance.

I would absolutely love the ability to use my iPhone camera under water (without a special case). There are issues with waterproofing the phone itself, but beyond that is the complexity of interacting with a phone within the physics of water. Complicated problem.

Then there’s using your face to orient your device:

All iPads have always automatically rotated their screen so that you can hold them in landscape or portrait, and such that you can hold them any way up. However, every iPad user has also had the experience of having to physically rotate the device in order to get it to check again after it’s turned the wrong way.

Happens to me every single time I fire up my iPad. Every time. I’d love to see this problem solved.

Great read.

The mighty Mini: Adapting Apple’s diminutive tablet to work and play

John Voorhees wrote a terrific appreciation piece, for MacStories, on the under-appreciated iPad mini. Worth reading, especially worth scrolling through to see all the use cases for which the iPad mini is just perfect.

At the very least, I think the iPad mini is perfect for reading. It’s got the right screen proportion, bigger than iPhone, but still very light. And it supports trackpad and mouse input. Spot on.

Ryan Pickren found a bug in Safari that let malicious code access iOS and macOS camera. Apple gave him $75K

Ryan Pickren:

This vulnerability allowed malicious websites to masquerade as trusted websites when viewed on Desktop Safari (like on Mac computers) or Mobile Safari (like on iPhones or iPads). ​> Hackers could then use their fraudulent identity to invade users’ privacy. This worked because Apple lets users permanently save their security settings on a per-website basis. ​> If the malicious website wanted camera access, all it had to do was masquerade as a trusted video-conferencing website such as Skype or Zoom.

And:

I reported this bug to Apple in accordance with the Security Bounty Program rules and used BugPoC to give them a live demo. Apple considered this exploit to fall into the “Network Attack without User Interaction: Zero-Click Unauthorized Access to Sensitive Data” category and awarded me $75,000.

If this sort of thing concerns you, put a post-it over your Mac and Mac display cameras.

New iPad adds in hardware microphone disconnect

Apple Platform Security document:

All Mac portables with the Apple T2 Security Chip feature a hardware disconnect that ensures the microphone is disabled whenever the lid is closed. On the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air computers with the T2 chip, and on the 15-inch MacBook Pro portables from 2019 or later, this disconnect is implemented in hardware alone. The disconnect prevents any software—even with root or kernel privileges in macOS, and even the software on the T2 chip—from engaging the microphone when the lid is closed. (The camera is not disconnected in hardware, because its field of view is completely obstructed with the lid closed.)

That’s the Mac side. On the iPad:

iPad models beginning in 2020 also feature the hardware microphone disconnect. When an MFI compliant case (including those sold by Apple) is attached to the iPad and closed, the microphone is disconnected in hardware, preventing microphone audio data being made available to any software—even with root or kernel privileges in iPadOS or in case the firmware is compromised.

The culture of camera and mic access on the Mac and iPad are very different. On my Mac, when the camera is in use, I see a light. And, as the note states, when the lid is closed, the camera is blocked.

Hardware disconnect does prevent the mic from working when the iPad case is closed. But what if I use my iPad without a case? And what about the camera without a case? There’s no hardware disconnect to rely on. Instead, Apple requires apps to ask for permission to access the camera and microphone.

Seemingly foolproof, but no.

“Hey Siri, play music on Spotify”

Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac:

After bringing the long-awaited feature to iOS last fall, Spotify has updated its app today to take advantage of Siri support on Apple Watch in watchOS 6.

And:

Spotify mentions in the release notes to use Siri with the music service on Apple Watch users can say, “Hey Siri, Play music on Spotify,” or just add “on Spotify” to any voice command to play content.

Works pretty much everywhere for me now, except HomePod. For that, you’ll need to use AirPlay.

Apple tells staff U.S. stores to remain closed until early May

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

In a memo to employees, Apple Senior Vice President of Retail and People Deirdre O’Brien told staff that the company anticipates that “flexible work arrangements will remain in place for all offices, and all retail stores will remain closed, until early May.”

She said that Apple is “continuing to monitor local conditions for every Apple facility on a daily basis” and that the company will make “reopening decisions on the basis of thorough, thoughtful reviews and the latest guidance from local governments and public health experts.”

Apple deciding to open a specific Apple Store will definitely be a canary in the coal mine, a sign that we’re heading back to normal, at least in that area.

Wondering what those early days will be like. Will there be social distancing methods in place? After all, until we have tests for everyone, and a widely available vaccine, how will stores prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Zoom responds

Eric Yuan, Zoom founder, on the Zoom blog:

Usage of Zoom has ballooned overnight – far surpassing what we expected when we first announced our desire to help in late February. This includes over 90,000 schools across 20 countries that have taken us up on our offer to help children continue their education remotely. To put this growth in context, as of the end of December last year, the maximum number of daily meeting participants, both free and paid, conducted on Zoom was approximately 10 million. In March this year, we reached more than 200 million daily meeting participants, both free and paid.

That’s amazing growth. Zoom has made Yuan one of the world’s richest people.

But Zoom is beset by security issues, with reports of attacks that can take over Windows machines and Macs, and lots of trolling Zoom-bombing (where an uninvited person joins a conference, frequently harassing the rest of the attendees).

Continuing:

We recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry, and I want to share what we are doing about it.

Read the rest of the post for all the details. This feels like about as good of a response as we could have hoped for. Feels like the team got in over their head, were not prepared for this growth, did not anticipate the security issues that have emerged.

A big black eye for Zoom. Let’s see if they can recover. In the meantime, here are some alternatives.

Stephen Fry, reading first Harry Potter book, now free on Audible

Greg Kumparak, TechCrunch:

If you’ve ever tried to buy the Harry Potter audiobooks, you probably noticed something kind of tricky: there are two very different versions. The version most widely available in the U.S. is narrated by Jim Dale. The U.K. version is read by Stephen Fry.

And:

Audible has put the Stephen Fry version of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” up online, for free, until further notice.

This is part of J.K. Rowling’s COVID-19 response, which grants teachers an open license to post videos of themselves reading from the books as part of the #HarryPotterAtHome program.

Apple providing subsidies to authorized service providers that offer repairs on pickup and drop-off basis

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

In an effort to encourage social distancing, Apple has indicated that it will provide subsidies to Apple Authorized Service Providers that offer product repairs on a pickup and drop-off basis in the United States and Canada.

Here’s how this works. Go to https://getsupport.apple.com/ and start a repair request. Go through the first few screens to describe your issue. Then, when you get to the screen titled “How would you like to get help?”, select “Send in for repair”.

Apple is doing double-service here. They’re providing repair when their stores are closed, and they are helping keep small businesses afloat.

Layoffs at The Omni Group

John Gruber:

This feels like another kick in the nuts, in an ongoing series of kicks in the nuts. Oof. All of this — as Brent says, gestures at everything — aside, it is hard to shake the feeling that the market for independent professional software is coming apart at the seams, fraying irreparably.

So many layoffs, so many people impacted. This tunnel feels particularly long and particularly dark, hard to make out that little pinprick of light at the end of it.

Related: Michael Tsai’s rollup page with other posts from Omni Group folks looking for work. There’s a deep talent pool on the bench, an opportunity for someone.

Apple offering work-from-home support roles to retail employees

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Apple has recently contacted some of its retail employees in the U.S. with an opportunity to work from home as a support advisor on a temporary basis due to the ongoing pandemic, according to sources familiar with the matter.

And:

Retail employees who accept this offer will receive the necessary equipment from Apple to offer support to customers by phone or online chat, as well as a small cash incentive, one source noted.

Looks like this offer applies to all retail employees.

How to enable waiting rooms in Zoom to prevent ‘Zoom bombing’

Zoom bombing. What are people thinking? And especially Zoom bombing like this.

The past week had not been good for Zoom. But no doubt, it fills a need and people will continue to use it. So follow the link, learn about waiting rooms, see if that’s a solution for you.

Russia ban on iPhones, computers without government mandated apps postponed

Mike Wuerthele, AppleInsider:

Russia’s lower house of parliament passed legislation in November 2019 that makes it mandatory for devices such as Apple’s iPhone that feature apps to include pre-loaded Russian-made ones. The legislation threatening the ban encompasses smartphones, computers, tablets, and televisions.

And:

Tass isn’t yet clear on the reasons behind the postponement. The delay may be technical, but is more likely related to the COVID-19 outbreak that is complicating device production and development at the moment.

Not the best time to hinder technology that allows people to communicate. The postponement makes a lot of sense.

Apple Pay and COVID-19

From the headline linked post about Publix rolling out Apple Pay:

A post on Reddit by user Gabriel2790 shows a picture of an internal document. “Contactless payments are coming to our store! What does that mean,” asks the document. “The most commonly known forms of contactless payment are Apple Pay and Android Pay.”

The document goes on to explain how customers will be able to use mobile phones, smartwatches, and contactless credit and debit cards, as well as what cashiers can expect from the transaction. At the bottom of the document, it shows that the store in question will receive the ability to accept contactless payments on March 31, 2020.

The number of in person credit card transactions is dwindling. But those few that still occur highlights the issue with someone else handling your credit card or placing your credit card in a slot that has held other people’s cards.

When Apple Pay first rolled out, I mostly thought about security and convenience. But now I think about transmission, in this case, of COVID-19.

In these days of fewer and fewer in person transactions, I can only imagine Apple Pay is showing shrinking transaction numbers along with all the other players. But as we emerge from this cocoon, I see big potential for Apple Pay, assuming the value of truly contactless payments is not lost as we rush to return to “normal”.

iOS 14 code reveals kids mode for Apple Watch activity rings

Zac Hall, 9to5Mac:

9to5Mac exclusively reported earlier this month that iOS 14 and watchOS 7 will include a new SchoolTime mode and kid mode. The latter feature includes the ability for a parent to set up and manage an Apple Watch for a child with a single iPhone.

Here’s a link to that post.

When an Apple Watch is configured in this new kids mode, Apple will treat the Activity rings differently for the first time.

And:

Apple Watch will instead replace the active calories metric for the move ring with a move time. For example, Apple Watch can track a goal of 90 minutes of movement throughout the day instead of 500 active calories burned.

I’ve long wondered (pure speculation on my part) if Apple would ever release an Apple Watch specifically for kids. One with geofencing built in that would notify parents if their child left school, or home. An active notification, rather than the passive use of “Find My”.

And, of course, sold in a smaller size, with kid oriented watch faces and bands.

“This…”

[VIDEO] Longtime friend of The Loop Rene Ritchie has launched a new YouTube channel. Of course, go subscribe.

But that aside, check out the announcement video, embedded in the main Loop post. Playing off his “This…is Vector” open, Rene calls on a little help from his friends. Nice.

Helvetica: The game-changing typeface made to go unnoticed

CNN:

It started its life as “Neue Haas Grotesk,” a boringly descriptive moniker which included the name of its maker (the Haas foundry), its design type (neo-grotesque or realist) and the fact that is was new (or “neue” in German).

“The original name sucked,” said Shaw. The name Helvetica, which means “Swiss” in Latin as a homage to its country of origin, was adopted in 1960 to make it easier to sell it abroad.

And:

But it didn’t take long before it became the standard for advertising and corporate branding in the US: “In 1967 it creeps into the design for the Yankee Stadium,” said Shaw, “And by 1968 it’s everywhere in America — it is the typeface.”

And:

In 1984, Steve Jobs puts it in the Macintosh: “This was a key move. If Apple didn’t use it, Helvetica would have remained a designer’s preference, same as Times New Roman. Instead, it becomes the default sans serif when sans serif fonts are becoming popular among the populous and not just avant-garde designers,”

Another key adoption was the New York Subway signage and system map. Interesting bit of history.

Coming to Apple TV+ on Friday, Home Before Dark

[VIDEO] This looks like perfect, shelter-in-place family viewing. This particular video, shared by Apple and embedded in the main Loop post, is an inside look at the show.

Apple tests its secrecy somewhere new: Employee homes

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Earlier in March, Apple shuttered many facets of its Apple Park and older Infinite Loop campuses as San Francisco Bay Area officials put in place stay-at-home orders. Later, the company told employees that specific approval is needed to gain access to an office, but identification badges remain functional.

And:

In early March, in a contrast to its normal practices, Apple started allowing engineers to take home early versions of future devices to continue work during the lockdown period. Previously, the company allowed select employees to take home nearly complete devices such as iPhones for real world testing.

And:

Taking home a future product requires the green light from the vice president of an employee’s organization. That list of staff with future devices at their homes also is sometimes reviewed by Apple’s senior vice presidents, the management team run by Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook.

Fascinating piece. Apple has built a company that revolves around secrecy, but now must allow trust to enter the equation in order to keep moving forward. A tricky and interesting problem.

A flashy look at the new iPad Pro

[VIDEO] A detailed look at the new iPad Pro in action (video embedded in main Loop post). I love the open of this video. Such great production values. Like butter.

The whole thing is worth watching, but one part I found particularly interesting popped up at about 2:50, where a 4K .mov file is exported to 1080p on both the new iPad Pro and the 2018 model. Amazing results. To me, this shows a splitting point from the old to the new models.

iFixit iPad Pro 2020 teardown, a solid look at those LiDAR dots

[VIDEO] Two things to watch for in this iFixit teardown of the new iPad Pro, embedded in the main Loop post:

  • Replacing the battery is impossibly difficult for a mere mortal
  • Those LiDAR dots are pretty huge

That latter point is not a complaint, just an observation. Jump to about 1:43 and see for yourself.

Compared to the fine mesh of Face ID, LiDAR dots are much larger, with a much wider spread. Makes sense. Face ID is intended for a detailed map of your face, up close, while LiDAR is intended to map, say, the walls of a room, or an arrangement of objects on a table.

Gruber: Curse words

Linked post from John Gruber, focused on the definition of the word “cursor”. What we typically think of as a cursor:

  • The icon that moves around on the screen that you control with your mouse or trackpad.
  • The vertical bar that blinks in a text editing field to indicate where typed characters will appear.

Gruber makes the case that we should use these terms, to be more precise:

  • Mouse/trackpad pointer.
  • Insertion point.

Read the piece. Very interesting, solid logic, well researched.

Virtual Disney World YouTube channel

Going a little stir crazy? Follow the headline link and enter the rabbit hole that takes you on your favorite ride at your favorite Disney park. Each video includes a control to look around as you make your way through the ride.

The video quality is just OK, but if you are a fan of Disney, the experience is solid.

On roofs or in basements, a new way to ice skate

Alyson Krueger, New York Times:

“The rink showed up in a big, giant truck,” said David Lemmond, the hotel’s general manager.

Made by Glice, a company based in Lucerne, Switzerland, this rink requires no cold weather, special blades, electricity or water (other than for cleaning). When skating season is over, the panels can be stacked and stored.

Softer than ice when you fall, this new rink tech works well with any ice skate. Glice now has 1800 rinks worldwide. A small rink starts at only $1,200.

I wonder how they’d handle the demands of hockey skates, with their scraping, ice chewing, sideways stops.

DVD bought at flea market had 80 minutes of undiscovered Seinfeld bloopers

[VIDEO] This is a pretty cool story, as told by Jon Lott on Reddit (via BoingBoing):

At the Raynham flea market 2 years ago I found a DVD with 80 minutes of previously unseen Seinfeld bloopers. These are different from the official DVD bloopers, which are already on YouTube. This DVD was in a bootleg case with a bootleg design, and a simple unvarnished disc inside. I ripped the footage from the DVD and uploaded it raw to YouTube. Forgive the video quality; the DVD has low-grade video.

The DVD was produced in 2000, which makes me think it’s a bootleg of a blooper DVD made for the cast and crew of Seinfeld in 1998 or 1999, to be shared in the days before internet. There is nothing else on the disc.

Fan of Seinfeld? Got some time on your hands? Enjoy. (video embedded in main Loop post).