August 6, 2020

Six Colors:

So here we are, at the end of OS X. Two decades ago Apple parked the sixteen-year-old Classic Mac OS and leaped to version 10.0, but four years ago the company rebranded the software that drives the Mac as macOS, and the writing was on the wall. And now in 2020 it’s macOS Big Sur, version 11.0. The name is an extension of Apple’s use of California places to brand its Mac releases, but the version number is the real story. The Mac OS X era is truly over. macOS Big Sur is the start of a radically new era in the Mac’s life.

I hadn’t thought of Big Sur as being the “end of OS X” but I guess it is. Whether that is truly significant remains to be seen.

Last year’s macOS Catalina felt like a release designed to settle old scores and clear the field for future advancement. It broke a lot of old software, frustrated a lot of users, and generally had the worst reputation of any macOS update in a decade. (I see you, Mac OS X Lion.) Did Apple sacrifice Catalina so that future OS updates wouldn’t be blamed for them? That’s probably a conspiracy theory too far, but I will say this: Good Cop macOS Big Sur fills me with excitement about the future of the Mac in a way Bad Cop Catalina never did.

I feel the same way Snell does – Catalina was the first major Mac OS release I didn’t even bother to install but I’m actually looking forward to using macOS Big Sur. I still won’t install the Developer or Public Beta versions though.

One Zero:

Wireless charging is increasingly common in modern smartphones, and there’s even speculation that Apple might ditch charging via a cable entirely in the near future. But the slight convenience of juicing up your phone by plopping it onto a pad rather than plugging it in comes with a surprisingly robust environmental cost.

Wireless chargers lose a lot of energy compared to cables. They get even less efficient when the coils in the phone aren’t aligned properly with the coils in the charging pad, a surprisingly common problem.

In my tests, I found that wireless charging used, on average, around 47% more power than a cable.

The energy loss from wireless charging shouldn’t come as a surprise. But convenience will always outweigh the disadvantages for most people. But, as wireless charging becomes more ubiquitous, the issues raised in this piece become more apparent.

Tire Meets Road:

While it’s true seaplanes are at home in the wet stuff, they have to come onto dry land for maintenance. Landing is one thing, they can be trailered in or land on grass (which we’ll get to later) but how do they take off from land? With a trailer and truck! Cessna floatplane owner Dave Hewitt captured the amazing moment his floatplane took off from the back of trailer towed along by a Chevrolet Silverado booking it at over 70 MPH.

I’m sure lots of you have seen this video on Facebook and Twitter this morning but while incredible, it’s actually fairly commonplace and “easy” as anyone who lives in an area serviced by floatplanes will tell you.

Almost every single building surrounding the harbor is gone.

And don’t miss the slide bar in the middle of the page. Slid all the way to the left. Astonishing. Terrible.

Alex Lee, Wired:

Last week, Instagram became the latest app to be called out by iOS 14’s privacy notifications feature after users began noticing that the green light indicator—which alerts users that the camera has been activated—kept turning on—even when the camera was not in use. Addressing the behavior, Instagram said that the activation of the camera was just a bug and that it was being triggered by a user swiping into the camera from the Instagram feed.

You’ve no doubt seen a steady stream of privacy-related “outings” as apps are called out for their inappropriate snooping, all revealed by iOS 14.

But this was an interesting perspective:

It’s wise to remember that most permissions abuse happens on Google’s Android operating system. Last year, researchers from the International Computer Science Institute found that up to 1,325 Android apps were gathering data, despite the researchers’ apps denying them permission to access that data. But whether Google decides to implement privacy notifications, however, is a different story.


Maximilian Golla, a security researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy says that the business model on Android is different from iOS. “I wonder whether the app developers really want to change this, or Google really wants to implement such a feature, because they depend on this kind of tracking,” he thinks. “Google makes its money from Google AdSense, and I would be surprised if Google implements such a tracking notification.”

It would definitely be interesting to see Google copy this behavior from Apple. Both from a business perspective (not really in their interests to do so) and to see what it would reveal about snooping behavior of its apps.

Tim Hardwick, MacRumors:

In iOS 14, Apple introduced a Translate app that can translate several different languages in real-time, and Safari picked up new translation capabilities, too.

Thanks to the new webpage Translation feature, Safari will automatically detect if it can translate a foreign webpage you visit based on your Preferred Languages list. Keep reading to learn how it all works.

At the time of writing, supported languages include English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, French, German, Russian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Follow the headline link for the details. Interesting that this works on iPad, yet the new Translate app is iPhone only.

Follow the headline link, take a look at the images to get a sense of the change. I definitely prefer the darker Dark Mode.

The Verge:

Google has discontinued the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, its flagship phones that were released in October of last year. Both devices are out of stock in Google’s store in the US, though some variants are still available in other regions for the time being.

And, from Google:

“Google Store has sold through its inventory and completed sales of Pixel 4 [and] 4 XL,” a Google spokesperson confirms to The Verge. “For people who are still interested in buying Pixel 4 [and] 4 XL, the product is available from some partners while supplies last. Just like all Pixel devices, Pixel 4 will continue to get software and security updates for at least three years from when the device first became available on the Google Store in the US.”

When I first read this, I was shocked. But this seems to be the industry trend now, as advances in supply chain management and just in time inventory makes it easy to shift sales to the newest models only.

Take a look at the Apple Store iPhone page. The only models listed are the iPhones 11, the SE, and the “ancient” iPhone XR. New normal?

Apple shares gorgeous Vertical Cinema, made for iPhone by Academy Award winner Damien Chazelle

First things first, from Damien Chazelle’s Wikipedia page:

Damien Sayre Chazelle (born January 19, 1985) is a French-American film director, producer, and screenwriter.[3] He is best known for his films Whiplash (2014), La La Land (2016), and First Man (2018). For La La Land, he received several accolades, including the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Director; making him the youngest person to win either award at age 32.

I’d love to hear the backstory on how Apple brought Chazelle to this project. No matter, fire this up on your iPhone, it’s a great experience. Can’t help but wonder if we’ll someday see a director’s cut of a movie designed for your phone. An excellent experiment.

Embedded below the movie is a behind-the-scenes, Chazelle talking about the project and shooting vertically.

August 5, 2020

“The Way I See It” trailer

Focus Features:

From the Academy Award-winning producer of FREE SOLO and based on the #1 NY Times Best-Seller by Pete Souza, Chief White House Photographer for Barack Obama, @The Way I See It is in theaters September.

Based on the New York Times #1 bestseller comes The Way I See It, an unprecedented look behind the scenes of two of the most iconic Presidents in American History, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, as seen through the eyes of renowned photographer Pete Souza. As Official White House Photographer, Souza was an eyewitness to the unique and tremendous responsibilities of being the most powerful person on Earth. The movie reveals how Souza transforms from a respected photojournalist to a searing commentator on the issues we face as a country and a people.

Souza is an incredible photographer with a unique ability to capture the formal and informal images of the POTUS. But, along the way, he has also become a political voice of change.

Mel Magazine:

Many home office setups include a printer. But the cost of a printer pales in comparison to the price of ink. Why? Is this some kind of racket? What the hell is special about ink, anyway?

“Think of the original price tag of a printer more like a down payment,” says Rich Sulin, who tests printers for Consumer Reports. One company, IHS Markit, disassembles various consumer electronics and estimates the cost to build them. It turns out that some printers are sold at a loss: A $70 HP printer actually costs $120 to manufacture.

Printer manufacturers hook you by selling you the product for cheap, and the replacement parts for a lot more money. Printer ink is proprietary and non-compatible with other brands, so they do their best to erect a fence around your purchase. According to Consumer Reports, over five years, ink for some printers can cost up to $700!

My family has very little need for a printer any more. We have a workhorse Brother B&W laser printer for printing off documents but, because of the rip-off that is the cost of inkjet printers, we’ll likely never buy another one.


Apple announced in its third-quarter earnings call on July 30 that it had approved a four-for-one stock split. This would make the fifth time the iPhone maker split its stock — and the first time since 2014.

After Apple’s four-for-one split, shareholders will have four times the number of shares as before. The value of each share will be quartered, however, meaning that the value of a shareholder’s stake will remain unchanged. Apple stock closed at $438.66 on Tuesday.

Once a stock price decreases after a split, the theory goes, more investors will buy shares, boosting the price. Mathematically, the company’s overall market cap remains unchanged.

Many of us can’t afford to buy stock in Apple at the $400 mark but we might be able to get a few shares after the split when it goes down to $100+.


Longtime Mac developer Rogue Amoeba today announced the launch of SoundSource 5, the next-generation version of its software utility that gives you much greater control over audio on your Mac.

For those unfamiliar with SoundSource, it lives right in the menu bar and gives you quick access to volume levels and input/output devices, as well as the ability to adjust volume levels and output devices on a per-app basis. Audio effects like equalizers can also be applied on a per-app basis.

I was a beta tester for SoundSource 5 and it works as advertised. I really like the ability to send sound to different apps at different volumes and audio quality. NOTE: SoundSource 5 is NOT yet compatible with the macOS Big Sur beta but Rogue Amoeba promises an update prior to the public launch of Big Sur.

This iPad sees for you

This is an amazing project, a tactile (think interactive simplified Braille) interface, attached to an iPad with Lidar. The idea is that you walk with this device and the camera tells you about obstacles in your path via this interface.

While this is a relatively simple interface, it does show a path towards something much more complex. I can imagine adding audio (via AirPods, say) to the interface to give you even more clues about the path and obstacles ahead.

Tim Hardwick, MacRumors:

To max out the RAM at checkout, Apple charges an additional $2,600, which is like buying another whole ‌iMac‌. Fortunately, the memory in the 27-inch ‌iMac‌ is user-replaceable thanks to the easily-accessible memory backdoor slot, and there are far more affordable options available from third parties.

Third party RAM prices vs Apple’s add-on price:

  • 128GB (4 x 32GB DIMMs): Amazon ($599) vs Apple ($2,600)
  • 64GB (4 x 16GB DIMMs) – Amazon ($269) vs Apple ($1,000)
  • 32GB (2 x 16GB DIMMs) – Amazon ($135) vs Apple ($400)

Same as it ever was. But good reminder for folks ordering the new iMac.

Some amazing work by map master Justin O’Beirne, laying out some easy to follow before-and-afters on changes to Apple Maps in Japan, including an interesting data source detail.

That last led me down a tiny bit of a rabbit hole to this, a page describing all the data sources for Apple Maps.

Charlie Monroe:

On Aug 4, 2020 I woke up to a slightly different world – I had lost my business as it seemed. Full inbox of reports of my apps not launching (crashing on launch) and after not too long I found out that when I sign into my Apple developer account I can no longer see that I would be enrolled into Apple’s developer program – au contraire – it shows a button for me to enroll, which I tried clicking, but only got a message that I can’t do that.

After more investigation, I found out that the distribution certificates were revoked – evidently by Apple as no one else has access to them and I was sound asleep when all this happened. Each macOS app these days needs to be codesigned using an Apple-issued certificate so that the app will flawlessly work on all computers. When Apple revokes the certificate, it’s generally a remove kill-switch for the apps.

I got really frightened as all of sudden, no user was able to use my apps anymore.

This is an interesting read. Clearly, a mistake was made and Apple did apologize.

Do check that alert that popped up when users launched Charlie’s app. That’d certainly make me wonder about the safety of the software I was running.

August 4, 2020


With theaters closed, Disney has decided to try a “premiere access” release strategy for its live-action Mulan movie. While it still plans to attempt a theatrical release in some parts of the world, on September 4th subscribers will be able to watch it at home for $30 via Disney+.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced the decision on his company’s earnings call, where it also announced it’s topped more than 100 million streaming subscribers across all of its services. He called it a “one-off,” but also said it’s “very interesting to be able to take a new offering, our premiere access offering, to consumers at that $29.99 price and learn from it.”

The $200 million-budgeted blockbuster was originally supposed to premiere in theaters on March 21st, but the coronavirus pandemic changed all of that.

Many people, myself included, have predicted this is the (relatively near) future of movies. Disney is just paving the way.


UCLA on Tuesday said it is launching a three-year study to better understand how factors such as sleep, physical activity, heart rate and daily routines impact symptoms of depression and anxiety.

UCLA is working with Apple to design the study, which will use data collected by the iPhone, Apple Watch and Beddit sleep-tracker, which Apple gained in a 2017 acquisition.

The university said that the pilot phase of the study will kick off this week and involves 150 participants recruited from among UCLA Health patients. From there, the next phases of the research will expand out to 3,000 participants from both the hospital and the student body. Study participants will download an app onto their iPhones, then receive a Beddit sleep monitor and an Apple Watch, which they can use throughout the study.

The study can be done entirely remotely so that people won’t need to risk exposure during the pandemic.

I don’t know if this is such a great time to be starting a “three-year depression study.” 2020 might skew the results.

Phil Schiller’s greatest stunt

In honour of his semi-retirement, I wanted to post this from Macworld Expo in New York City in 1999. I was in the audience when it happened and while we recognized it as a stunt, it was still pretty impressive. You have to remember that, even though WiFi was available, it was generally only in a corporate environment at the time and was hellaciously expensive. Apple, Schiller, Jobs, and the iBook democratized that and brought it to the huddled masses – and we broke free.


While the new 27-inch iMac does not feature the much-awaited redesign, and it does feature chiefly minor specification improvements, it’s also got one big extra. Previously, to get Apple’s high-quality nano-texture glass on a Mac display you had to pay $5,999 for the top-range Pro Display XDR.

Rather than diffusing reflections on the glass or perhaps trying to compensate for them with greater brightness, Apple cuts fine lines into the display. This means the monitor does not present a single plane for ambient light to bounce back from.

This is a big deal to those of us who hate reflections but can’t afford the $6,000 Pro Display.

Apple on Tuesday announced that longtime senior executive Phil Schiller would become an Apple Fellow. Greg Joswiak (Joz) will take over Schiller’s role of senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing at Apple.

“It has been a dream come true for me to work at Apple, on so many products I love, with all of these great friends — Steve, Tim, and so many more,” said Schiller. “I first started at Apple when I was 27, this year I turned 60 and it is time for some planned changes in my life. I’ll keep working here as long as they will have me, I bleed six colors, but I also want to make some time in the years ahead for my family, friends, and a few personal projects I care deeply about.”

Schiller has been behind the most important product launches in Apple’s history. All of the announcements and ads that we have grown to love over the years have his fingerprints all over them.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Phil many times over the last 20 years, and one thing I always came away with is that he cared about the company. Phil always believed in what Apple was doing and wanted the company to release the best products. He does “bleed six colors.”

Fortunately, Schiller isn’t going away entirely. Reporting to Tim Cook, Schiller will continue to lead the App Store and Apple Events in his role as an Apple Fellow.

If there is anyone at Apple that could take on Phil’s role, it’s Greg Joswiak. He will now be responsible for Apple’s product management and product marketing, developer relations, market research, business management, as well as education, enterprise, and international marketing.

Joz has been at Apple for more than 20 years and served as the vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing for the past four years.

Joswiak is another exec that I’ve interviewed many times over the years, and his philosophy is very close to that of Schiller’s. Create the best message and create the best products that Apple can do.

It’s a loss to see Schiller leave his role at Apple, but I’m confident that Joswiak can step into those shoes and pick up where Phil left off.

Having Schiller continue as an Apple Fellow is a bonus for Apple. He is the type of person you want to keep around.


Apple today announced a major update to its 27-inch iMac. By far the most powerful and capable iMac ever, it features faster Intel processors up to 10 cores, double the memory capacity, next-generation AMD graphics, superfast SSDs across the line with four times the storage capacity, a new nano-texture glass option for an even more stunning Retina 5K display, a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, higher fidelity speakers, and studio-quality mics.


For pros who need to push iMac even further, the 27-inch iMac has a 10-core processor option for the first time, with Turbo Boost speeds reaching 5.0GHz for up to 65 percent faster CPU performance. And when working with memory-intensive applications, iMac features double the memory capacity for up to 128GB.


For GPU-based rendering, editing multiple streams of 4K video, or playing a graphics-intensive game, the 27-inch iMac has more powerful next-generation AMD graphics. iMac delivers up to 55 percent faster graphics performance from its Radeon Pro 5000 series graphics, featuring AMD’s latest RDNA architecture with faster, more power-efficient compute units. And for customers using pro apps that can take advantage of large amounts of video memory for even greater performance, iMac features a graphics option with 16GB of memory for the first time — providing double the video memory capacity of the previous-generation 27-inch iMac.


Apple today also announced that its 21.5-inch iMac will come standard with SSDs across the line for the first time. Customers can also choose to configure their 21.5-inch iMac with a Fusion Drive. iMac Pro now comes standard with a 10-core Intel Xeon processor. Designed for pro users who require workstation-class performance, iMac Pro features Xeon processors up to 18 cores, graphics performance up to 22 teraflops, up to 256GB quad-channel ECC memory, and a brilliant 27-inch Retina 5K display.

That’s a lot of upgrade.

As to pricing:

  • 27-inch iMac starts at $1,799
  • 21.5-inch iMac starts at $1,099
  • iMac Pro starts at $4,999.

Available to order now.

Good rollup post from Tim Hardwick on the whole Microsoft wants to buy TikTok, Trump wants a piece of the action, China likely to retaliate situation.

You’ve no doubt followed this as it’s unfolded. New to the story is in this Reuters article:

China will not accept the “theft” of a Chinese technology company and is able to respond to Washington’s move to push ByteDance to sell short-video app TikTok’s U.S. operations to Microsoft, the China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday.

The United States’ “bullying” of Chinese tech companies was a consequence of Washington’s zero-sum vision of “American first” and left China no choice but “submission or mortal combat in the tech realm”, the state-backed paper said in an editorial.

Add to that this Daring Fireball post, titled, Major American companies with a consumer internet presence in China:

if China decides to retaliate — and why wouldn’t they? — what company might they target other than Apple? Facebook and Google are already banned in China. Amazon has AWS, which has a fair-sized presence there, but AWS is sort of the anti-TikTok in terms of being consumer-facing. Microsoft would be the obvious tit-for-tat target. But does Microsoft have a neatly bundled consumer presence in China?

If I were the dictator of China, and I was angry about the Trump administration forcing a proud Chinese company like ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok, and I was looking for a way to show that China cannot be pushed around by the U.S., I’d look at iCloud and the App Store, and humiliating the biggest company in the world.

And to add to this thought, this Wall Street Journal post titled, Apple Faces $1.4 Billion Lawsuit in China in Siri Patent Fight:

Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co. said Monday that it is suing Apple for an estimated 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion) in damages in a Shanghai court, after a court decision in June that upheld the validity of its Chinese patent for a chatbot similar to Apple’s Siri.


As part of the suit, Shanghai Zhizhen, also known as Xiao-i, asked Apple to stop sales, production and the use of products flouting the patent—a category that includes virtually all the U.S. company’s devices.

I agree with Gruber’s take, above. Apple does seem the likeliest target for retaliation. What a mess.

Geoffrey A. Fowler, Washington Post:

What do you call it when there’s a little voice in your head only you can hear? A hallucination?

Amazon calls it progress. I’ve been living with its latest talking artificial intelligence product, called the Echo Frames, for two weeks. They’re glasses with tiny speakers and a microphone so you can have your own private conversations with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant everywhere you go.

This new version of Alexa is much more proactive about chatting — and it has driven me bananas.

According to Amazon, there’s a waiting list to buy these things. I did get an invite, and wrestled with the idea of plunking down $180 to see this brave new world.

Reading/watching this, I’m really glad I didn’t. Don’t miss the video embedded at the top of the article.

NASA astronaut Bob Behnken:

“A timeline application on my tablet, uh, gives me a error message that says Safari cannot open the page, and then it’s got a HTML address because your iPad is not connected to the internet,” Behnken reported. “Can you confirm that Wi-Fi is off and AirPlane Mode is on,” asked Menon. Then the NASA astronaut improvised with a go-to troubleshooting step.

Follow the headline link to Zac Hall’s writeup. Scroll about halfway down to watch this all unfold in the embedded video (jump to about 4h16m in).

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Macs running macOS 10.15.5 or later have a Battery Health Management feature to preserve the life of the battery, and occasionally, the Battery Health Management option will cause the Mac to pause its charging for calibration purposes.


Battery Health Management features are available on Mac notebooks that have Thunderbolt 3 ports and that run macOS Catalina 10.15.5 or later. The option improves the lifespan of a Mac’s battery by reducing the amount of time that the battery spends at a maximum charge, which can cut down on chemical aging.

This Apple support document walks through the details.

From the Google Pixel 4a announcement:

Pixel 4a also has Live Caption, which provides real-time captioning (English only) for your video and audio content. New with the Pixel 4a launch—and also rolling out for Pixel 2, 3, 3a and 4 phones—Live Caption will now automatically caption your voice and video calls.

Follow the headline link to watch The Verge’s Dieter Bohn demo this. I’d love to see Apple add a feature like this to iOS and FaceTime. It’d be great for accessibility, in the same way as closed captioning provides an assist when you are watching a movie.

August 3, 2020


Apple TV+ today unveiled a first look at “Long Way Up,” an epic new motorcycle series, starring and executive produced by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, which reunites best friends after more than a decade since their last motorbike adventure around the world. The first three episodes of “Long Way Up” will premiere globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, September 18, and new episodes will roll out weekly.

Covering 13,000 miles over 100 days through 16 border crossings and 13 countries, starting from the city of Ushuaia at the tip of South America, Ewan and Charley journey through the glorious and underexposed landscapes of South and Central America in their most challenging expedition to date, using cutting-edge technology on the backs of their electric Harley-Davidson LiveWires in order to contribute to the sustainability of the planet.

The new series will follow Ewan and Charley as they journey through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and up through Colombia, Central America and Mexico.

Many motorcyclists are big fans of McGregor’s other series, “Long Way Round” and “Long Way Down.” I’m less impressed if only because they had a support crew of many, many people to assist – the trips weren’t “solo travelers testing their mettle.” I still enjoyed them enough to want to watch this series if only to see how they managed it on electric motorcycles. By their own admission, they averaged 130 miles a day which, even for rough terrain on an adventure bike, isn’t a lot of ground to cover in a day.

McGregor talked a bit about the trip on the Jimmy Fallon show a few months ago:


Last year, Google added automatic Android phone backups to Google One, the company’s “membership” program that includes Drive storage, family sharing and a handful of other perks. It made sense for Google to bake that feature right into Android, but today the company announced it’ll soon do the same for iPhone users as well. And whether you use an Android device or iPhone, the phone backup feature will be free for everyone, regardless of whether or not you have a Google One subscription.

iPhone users can manage their phone backups through a new Google One app that’s coming out soon; it’ll store photos, videos, contacts and calendar events in your Google account. Given that Apple already has backup options for all those things (albeit with a paltry free 5GB of iCloud storage), it wouldn’t surprise me if this feature mostly goes unnoticed.

It’ll be more useful for people who are paying for Google One — the base membership plan includes 100GB of storage for $2 per month, enough to make Drive, Photos and phone backups a lot more feasible. But regardless of whether you pay for Google One or not, it doesn’t hurt to have another option for backing up your phone.

I have multiple backups of all my Mac and iOS data, including a couple of cloud backups. I’ll add this to my repertoire.