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Untangling the rat’s nest of USB-C standards and cables

Glenn Fleishman, TidBITS:

USB used to mean one kind of connector for a computer: Type-A, which was flat, rectangular, and had one correct orientation. A peripheral either had a directly wired cord or sported a Type-B USB port: blocky, nearly square, and with only one correct orientation as well.

Along the way, though, we accumulated others: Mini-B, a thick trapezoid used by Texas Instruments graphing calculators, early Amazon Kindles, and other devices; and Micro-B, a slim trapezoid that became the de-facto charging shape for mobile devices, headphones, and other battery-powered hardware. More obscure connectors also appeared, like the wide and oddly shaped USB 3.0 Micro-B, though you may never have seen one as it flourished only briefly.

Even with all these choices, an educated glance at a port told you what kind of connector you needed. Whether you had one in your cable drawer was another matter entirely. If you did, chances are strong you were golden.

The initial premise of USB-C was that it brought all the goodness of a solid standard with the ease of a single, reversible connector, so you’d alway have the right cable on hand, and it was easy to plug it in.

USB-C was supposed to be the last cable you would ever need. It hasn’t worked out that way.

This is a terrific, detailed walk through the USB-C morass, with some very readable charts showing off things like pre-USB-C connector profiles, certified USB logos, and USB cable connector combinations.

Don’t miss the section at the end offering a “partial list of the possible data and power support you could find in a cable with USB-C connectors on both ends”.

Great work from Glenn Fleishman, worth bookmarking and passing along.

The official THX deep note you hear in the movie theater

Found this on Reddit yesterday. Follow the headline link, then click/tap on the image that appears.

If you click and hold, you’ll get that familiar THX movie deep note. If you click and let go, you can go in, then back out again. Sound on, obviously.

Nice way to show off your speakers. Beautifully done.

iOS 15.2 adds “Parts and Service History” to iPhone About settings

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

With the launch of iOS 15.2, Apple is adding a new “Parts and Service History” section to the Settings app that will let users see the service history of their iPhones and confirm that components used for repairs are genuine.

From the related Apple support document:

With iOS 15.2 and later, you can go to Settings > General > About to see the parts and service history of your iPhone.

Here are the specifics:

  • For iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, and later, including iPhone SE (2nd generation), you can see if the battery has been replaced.
  • For iPhone 11 models, iPhone 12 models, and iPhone 13 models, you can see if the battery or display have been replaced.
  • For iPhone 12 models and iPhone 13 models, you can see if the battery, display, or camera have been replaced.

And:

Information about parts and service history is collected by Apple and stored as part of the device information maintained for your iPhone. This information is used for service needs, safety analysis, and to improve future products.

If the battery, display, or camera have not been replaced, then you won’t see parts and service history.

If you are buying a used iPhone, or sent your iPhone away for repair, this is an easy way to check a bit of repair history and a way to tell if there are any non-Apple parts in the device.

Personally, I appreciate the heads up. Will this make its way to iPad? How about the Mac?

Amazon Web Services went down for a long stretch yesterday, big ripple impact

Richard Lawler, The Verge:

People started noticing problems at around 10:45AM ET, and just after 6PM ET the AWS Status showed “Many services have already recovered, however we are working towards full recovery across services.”

That’s a pretty long stretch of downtime.

Annie Palmer, CNBC:

Among the services that reported issues as a result of the outage were Disney’s streaming subscription service, Disney+, Netflix, Slack, Ticketmaster, stock trading app Robinhood, and Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S.

CoinBase! If you’ve built a dependency on CoinBase for your currency transactions, your money was down most of yesterday.

The outage also brought down critical tools used inside Amazon. Warehouse and delivery workers, along with drivers for Amazon’s Flex service, reported on Reddit that they couldn’t access the Flex app or the AtoZ app, making it impossible to scan packages or access delivery routes.

Late last night, I got an email telling me a package was just delivered. I went out and checked, no package. No doorbell notification either. Then I put two and two together. I got a package late morning, right around the time the outage started, but did not get a notification. It took all day for the infrastructure to catch up, to notify me about a package delivered more than 10 hours earlier.

This dependence on AWS is a single point of failure, never a good thing.

How to sign out of iCloud or Apple ID, sign in again, and the consequences

Ankur Thakur, iDownloadBlog:

This tutorial shows you the steps to sign out of iCloud and your Apple ID (both are the same) on your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac. It also mentions the steps to sign in again. The entire process is easy but has some consequences. Let us tell you everything about this.

This is one of those topics that comes up periodically. Makes you wonder, what happens if I sign out of iCloud in this particular instance? What data will I lose?

Worth the read, well presented.

Mars Lander simulation, other NASA goodies

Follow the headline link to get to the NASA’s Eyes home page. There are simulations/data visualizations for the solar system, Earth’s vital signs (think air temperature, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide levels, etc), exoplanets (scroll, scroll, scroll), and, my favorite, the Mars lander situation.

Take time to go through these. They are a lot of fun. Try clicking, scrolling, and dragging the various elements. There’s a lot of detail.

On the Mars lander, load the page and the simulation will start. Now click/tap the “rate” arrows (lower right of the display) to speed up and slow down the simulation. At the beginning, you’ll want to speed up (I’d go to a minute per second) until you get to about 10 minutes to touchdown, then slow back down to watch it all unfold. Drag to change your view, and scroll to zoom in. Great fun!

Hands on with iOS 15 SharePlay

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

With the iOS 15.1 update that launched in late October, Apple added SharePlay, a feature that’s designed to let you do more over FaceTime. Using SharePlay, you can watch movies, listen to music, and use apps with friends and family, and we thought we’d give it a try to see how it works.

If you’ve wondered about SharePlay but never quite got around to it, take the time to watch this walkthrough. Don’t miss the FaceTime call screen sharing bit about 2:48 in.

CT scans of AirPods

Came across this on Hacker News last night. Absolutely fascinating.

Follow the headline link, start scrolling. Bigger screen == better.

You’ll start with the December 2013 2016 first gen AirPods (have they really been in the wild that long?) As you scroll, the scan will turn and text will come into view relevant to that particular orientation. Take your time.

Next up are the AirPods Pro and then the 3rd gen AirPods. Brilliant.

New AirPods ad, more silhouettes

Saw this ad on TV over the weekend, video still not showing up on Apple’s YouTube channel. An old ad? New? Well, it’s new to me.

There’s this AirPods silhouettes ad from about a month ago, similar style, but definitely different. It’s on Apple’s channel. Guessing the ad below will pop up soon.

I do like the series, definitely reminds me of those original Apple iPod ads (like these), where the white EarPods stood out in stark relief, really popping.

AirTags allegedly used to track and steal high end vehicles

York Regional Police (via MacRumors):

Since September 2021, officers have investigated five incidents where suspects have placed small tracking devices on high-end vehicles so they can later locate and steal them. Brand name ‘air tags’ are placed in out-of-sight areas of the target vehicles when they are parked in public places like malls or parking lots. Thieves then track the targeted vehicles to the victim’s residence, where they are stolen from the driveway.

And this, on how they steal the car, without keys:

Thieves typically use tools like screwdrivers to enter the vehicles through the driver or passenger door, while ensuring not to set off alarms. Once inside, an electronic device, typically used by mechanics to reprogram the factory setting, is connected to the onboard diagnostics port below the dashboard and programs the vehicle to accept a key the thieves have brought with them. Once the new key is programmed, the vehicle will start and the thieves drive it away.

Of all the suggestions on protecting your vehicle, this seems the best suggestion:

Install a lock on the data port. This simple device can be purchased online and blocks access to the computer port where the thieves gain access to reprogram the vehicle’s keys.

Here’s a video that talks about the OBD port (the data port called out above) and one device in particular you can use to lock the port.

Personally, I think an OBD lock is far more convenient than a steering wheel lock, since you only need to remove the lock when you need to access the port (for service, say).

From John Gruber’s take on this article:

I’m interested in knowing how the police figured out that AirTags were used in this way. Let’s say a thief hides an AirTag on your car while it’s in a public parking lot. Then you park the car in your home’s driveway. The thief comes in the middle of the night and steals your car. You call the police and they come to your home to investigate. How would they know an AirTag had ever been involved?

Solid question, read the Daring Fireball post for John’s best guess. If Apple could go back in time, I wonder if they’d still release AirTags, knowing what they know now.

Apple broke up with me

Mere Civilian:

A few months ago, the balance on my Apple account was running low (less than $100), and therefore, I attempted to add funds to my account using my credit card. My first attempt resulted in an error, and I decided to try again in a couple of days. The very next day, all my Apple devices gave the following prompt when updating apps from the App Store: “Your Account Has Been Disabled in the App Store and iTunes.”

Follow the headline link for the details. In a nutshell, the poster’s Apple account was disabled due to alleged breach of the Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions.

This was interesting (and worth reading) on a number of fronts. Part of this is the hoops the poster had to jump through to try to find out why their account was disabled, and the fact that they never did get that info.

Another part was that having their account disabled meant they lost access to all ten years worth of “app and media purchases and the funds in my Apple account”. That’s alarming.

There’s also this:

The next day, I called again and was provided with the same response. However, this time, I was told that the Back End Team had made the decision, and there is no way to appeal that decision or even contact them. Furthermore, the senior Apple support person confirmed that they do not have access to the details as to why the account was disabled. This Back End Team appears to have God-like powers.

To be fair to Apple, this is a bit one-sided, anecdotal, so take with a grain of salt.

But read on to the end, where Tim Cook’s executive team comes to the rescue.

How to use Assistive Touch gestures on Apple Watch

Another terrific video from Apple Support. This one tells you how to enable Assistive Touch, shows the blue ring that indicates that Assistive Touch is enabled, and walks through gestures like the double-fist-clench, pinch, and double-pinch.

I love knowing this exists, excellent work by the Assistive Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple Support teams.

The Dalrymple Report: AirPods, Apple Music Replay, The Beatles

Dave and I catchup from the holiday week  and then talk about the proper way to clean your AirPods. We also talk about Apple Music Replay, the service’s playlist of your most popular songs of year, and where to find it. Dave discusses using camera app Halide and we talk about the TV shows we’re currently watching.

Follow this podcast

How to get your Apple Music ’21 Replay

Follow the headline link, then log in to Apple Music in Safari. Apple Music will build your Replay playlist, then update the list weekly.

Click the Add+ button to add the playlist to your library. It might take a bit to make its appearance, but it should show up on all your devices, assuming you have sync enabled.

If you head to the Music app, tap the Listen Now tab, then scroll down a ways, you should find your year-by-year Replay lists in a section called “Replay: Your Top Songs by Year” (H/T @cyclonus).

Apple tells suppliers iPhone demand has slowed as holidays near

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc., suffering from a global supply crunch, is now confronting a different problem: slowing demand.

The company has told its component suppliers that demand for the iPhone 13 lineup has weakened, people familiar with the matter said, signaling that some consumers have decided against trying to get the hard-to-find item.

Demand may be slowing (not sure how to measure that outside of Apple), but the iPhone 13 is not hard to find. At least in the US, you can get a base model Sierra Blue iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, or 13 Pro Max within a few weeks at worst.

I didn’t do an exhaustive search through all possible color/storage combinations, but “hard to find”? Doesn’t seem to be the case. Easy enough to check this for yourself.

Apple announces App Store Awards for best apps/games of 2021

Apple:

Apple today revealed the 2021 App Store Award winners, recognizing the 15 best apps and games that helped users tap into personal passions, discover creative outlets, connect with new people and experiences, and simply have fun.

And:

Ten years after its App Store debut, Toca Life World is masterfully iterating on the art of play and self-expression for kids. The developers behind DAZN guided local sport culture into the global spotlight for everyone to enjoy, while Carrot Weather brought its best-in-class meteorological forecasts — and the witty character behind it — to users’ wrists. LumaFusion made video editing faster, less intimidating, and more portable for creators at every level, and Craft creatively enabled efficiency and artistry through a notebook with seemingly limitless capabilities. The incredible graphics and rich storylines woven into “League of Legends: Wild Rift,” “MARVEL Future Revolution,” “Myst,” “Space Marshals 3,” and Apple Arcade’s “Fantasian” transported players of all ages into immersive gaming experiences.

Scroll through the linked article for the details and some pretty screen shots.

Also check out these links to App Store charts for Top Apps of 2021, Top Games of 2021, and Top Apple Arcade Games.

Twitter’s new photo-removing, anti-doxxing privacy policy

Twitter blog:

As part of our ongoing efforts to build tools with privacy and security at the core, we’re updating our existing private information policy and expanding its scope to include “private media.” Under our existing policy, publishing other people’s private information, such as phone numbers, addresses, and IDs, is already not allowed on Twitter. This includes threatening to expose private information or incentivizing others to do so.

And:

Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.

And:

While our existing policies and Twitter Rules cover explicit instances of abusive behavior, this update will allow us to take action on media that is shared without any explicit abusive content, provided it’s posted without the consent of the person depicted.

If you use Twitter, worth reading this whole blog post, to get a sense of where this policy is going, what types of tweets it covers.

This is a difficult enforcement road, as it opens the door to false complaints (think YouTube and misuse of DMCA takedowns). Definitely good to be aware of.

Translucent AirPods and 29W Power Adapter prototype pictures

Follow the headline link, start scrolling for a walk through Apple prototype collector Giulio Zompetti’s prototype tweets.

Interesting that Apple builds these prototypes in this way. Is it cheaper to pour with translucent material? Is it so engineers can see the guts of their designs, quickly tweak the fit ’til they get it right?

This definitely reminds me of the OG translucent Bondi iMacs.

The new Fisher Price toy telephone adds Bluetooth, lets kids make real calls with a rotary dial

Fisher Price:

Introducing the special edition Fisher-Price® Chatter Telephone™ — a phone smart enough not to come with any apps. Its intuitive bulky face design comes with a ‘super-advanced’ rotary dial and connects to your mobile device via Bluetooth® wireless technology, so you can make and receive real calls through your existing phone plan.

When I first saw this on Hacker News, I thought it was a joke. But it does seem to be a real product, with some excellent tongue-in-cheek marketing.

Follow the headline link and look at the pictures. If you’ve got kid toys in your life, especially older kid toys, you’ll instantly recognize the Chatter telephone. It’s iconic.

And now your kids can learn the pain of a rotary dial!

Benjamin Mayo: The Metaverse is not a real thing

Benjamin Mayo:

I can’t quite believe how much ink has been spilled these last few months about a concept that doesn’t exist and is — at best — a pipe dream. The metaverse is not a thing. It’s meaningless. Facebook had an hour long keynote event which wholly consisted of computer-generated sequences of floating Memoji/Xbox avatars. Microsoft joined the fray with similarly unsubstantiated claims that Teams is becoming a metaverse.

And:

Break apart the vision to any individual element and the state of the art technology is nowhere close to good enough. Realtime visual fidelity has to advance leaps and bounds to be as convincingly legitimate as what Facebook ‘demonstrated’ in its mockups. I’d love to know how long it took whatever render farm they used to make these videos. Probably, days.

And:

One of the things that motivated me to write up this ridiculousness in a blog post is this fencing demo from Facebook’s Meta keynote. Zuckerberg is shown to be playing against a hologram of a professional athlete, waving swords at each other. In the demo, when he lunges, she parries with the swords perfectly stopping in mid-air. How on earth is that going to be possible to do, outside of a visual effects mockup? There’s no way to recreate the sensation of metal hitting metal and the sabres rebounding.

This is an entertaining “the emperor has no clothes on” write-up. The point about the uncanny valley and the limitations of technology in senses (like touch) ring true.

That said, I do think we’re heading for a world of avatars, like it or not, because the tech drivers want this and will spend big bucks trying to race each other to this particular vision of reality.

As to the technological limitations, we’ll all live with them and, slowly, the fake world around us will improve over time, much as the graphics on our displays allowed us to move from TTL displays (think Texas Instruments calculators) to modern, varied, crisp, high resolution fonts.

Also, we’ll all have robot bodies.

Apple’s (RED) campaign work raises nearly $270m, gives us 6 new Apple Watch faces

Apple:

Over the past 15 years, Apple customers have played a critical role in (RED)’s fight to end AIDS through support to the Global Fund, which provides critical access to healthcare services in communities most in need in sub-Saharan Africa. As COVID-19 continues to impact communities around the world, including those living with HIV, the fight to end global pandemics is more urgent than ever.

And:

Since 2006, Apple customers have helped raise nearly $270 million to fund prevention, testing, and counseling services for people impacted by HIV/AIDS. Apple-supported grants have enabled care and support services for over 11 million people, provided over 192 million HIV tests, and allowed over 13.8 million people access to lifesaving antiretroviral treatments. In 2020 alone, Apple’s support for (RED) helped prevent over 145,000 HIV-positive mothers from passing the virus on to their babies.

Props to Apple for this ongoing work and support.

Follow the headline link to read more about Apple’s efforts here, and about their PRODUCT(RED) products.

Open this link on your iPhone, then scroll down to the Apple Watch Faces section to view and add any of the new Apple Watch faces to your collection.

Steve Jobs bashing music subscription services

This was from the iTunes Music Store intro back in 2003. Jump to 22:15 for the relevant part.

Jarring to hear this take with Apple Music and Spotify the now de facto standard music services.

You pay to download 500 songs and one day you stop paying your subscription fee and your entire music library goes away.

Said with real venom.

Jack resigned

From his tweet:

not sure anyone has heard but,

I resigned from Twitter

There’s also this letter that Jack sent to the Twitter team:

After almost 16 years of having a role at our company…from co-founder to CEO to Chair to Exec Chair to interim-CEO to CEO…I decided it’s finally time for me to leave. Why?

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of a company being “founder-led.” Ultimately I believe that’s severely limiting and a single point of failure. I’ve worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders. There are 3 reasons I believe now is the right time.

The first is Parag becoming our CEO. The board ran a rigorous process considering all options and unanimously appointed Parag. He’s been my choice for some time given how deeply he understands the company and its needs. Parag has been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around. He’s curious, probing, rational, creative, demanding, self-aware, and humble. He leads with heart and soul, and is someone I learn from daily. My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep.

The second is Bret Taylor agreeing to become our board chair. I asked Bret to join our board when I became CEO, and he’s been excellent in every way. He understands entrepreneurship, taking risks, companies at massive scale, technology, product, and he’s an engineer. All of the things the board and the company deserve right now. Having Bret in this leadership role gives me a lot of confidence in the strength of our board going forward. You have no idea how happy this makes me!

The third is all of you. We have a lot of ambition and potential on this team. Consider this: Parag started here as an engineer who cared deeply about our work and now he’s our CEO (I also had a similar path.…he did it better!). This alone makes me proud. I know that Parag will be able to channel this energy best because he’s lived it and knows what it takes. All of you have the potential to change the course of this company for the better. I believe this with all my heart!

Parag is CEO starting today. I’m going to serve on the board through my term (May-ish) to help Parag and Bret with the transition. And after that…I’ll leave the board. Why not stay or become chair? I believe it’s really important to give Parag the space he needs to lead. And back to my previous point, I believe it’s critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder’s influence or direction.

I want you all to know that this was my decision and I own it. It was a tough one for me, of course. I love this service and company…and all of you so much. I’m really sad…yet really happy. There aren’t many companies that get to this level. And there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego. I know we’ll prove this was the right move.

We’ll have an all-hands meeting tomorrow at 9:05 AM Pacific to discuss it all. Until then, thank you all for the trust you’ve placed in me, and for the openness to build that trust in Parag and yourselves. I love you all.

jack

PS I’m tweeting this email. My one wish is for Twitter Inc to be the most transparent company in the world. Hi mom!

Parag Agrawal, the new Twitter CEO, responded with his own tweet and note to the company.

Parag has been CTO since 2017, and is now the youngest Fortune 500 CEO, just a hair younger than Zuck. Notably, Jack has left Parag to deal with decisions about fake news and free speech.

Apple announces Podcasts Best of 2021

Apple:

Each year, Apple recognizes the best and most popular podcasts for their exceptional content, unique ability to engage audiences, and innovation in craft, spanning production, presentation, sound design, and more, that expand the definition of podcasting and deepen its impact on listeners worldwide.

Here’s a “Best of 2021” link that’ll open in Apple Podcasts.

Follow the headline link, scroll down for a list of top shows, episodes, then, below that, the Apple Podcast charts.

Apple announces third annual Apple Music Award winners

Apple:

The Apple Music Awards honor achievements in music across five distinct categories — Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Top Song of the Year, and Top Album of the Year — and winners are chosen through a process that reflects both Apple Music’s editorial perspective and what customers around the world are listening to the most.

And:

This year, the Apple Music Awards will introduce a new category of awards for Regional Artist of the Year, recognizing artists from five countries and regions: Africa, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia. The Regional Artist of the Year awards recognize artists who made the greatest impact culturally and on the charts in their respective countries and regions.

And about the physical award itself:

Each award features Apple’s custom silicon wafer suspended between a polished sheet of glass and a machined and anodized aluminum body. The result of this multi-month process, before it is sliced into hundreds of individual chips, is stunning and distinctive. In a symbolic gesture, the same chips that power the devices that put the world’s music at listeners fingertips sit at the very heart of the Apple Music Awards.

Short list of winners:

  • Global Artist of the Year: The Weeknd
  • Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year: Olivia Rodrigo
  • Songwriter of the Year: H.E.R.
  • Artist of the Year (Africa): Wizkid
  • Artist of the Year (France): Aya Nakamura
  • Artist of the Year (Germany): RIN
  • Artist of the Year (Japan): OFFICIAL HIGE DANDISM
  • Artist of the Year (Russia): Scriptonite

A macOS Safari bug that makes a background tab spontaneously jump to the front

Jeff Johnson:

The madness in this case is Safari background tabs spontaneously coming to the front again, an obviously undesirable behavior.

Read the blog post for the specifics on what causes this (props to Jeff for figuring it out). To give this a try, follow the headline link, click the “Start 5 second timer” button, then click another tab to bring it to the front. After 5 seconds, the background tab will jump to the front. Works every time.

Turns into an ad for the highly regarded StopTheMadness browser extension. Worth a look.

Watch an AI break Tetris

An AI that can play Tetris (via Kottke.org). Watching this play is very satisfying, especially when it hits the “kill screen” that takes out the vast majority of human players (about 7 minute in).

But it goes way beyond that. Interesting to watch it run out of numbers to keep score (screen width limits number of digits) and moves on to other characters which, ultimately proves its undoing.

In the market for Apple 14″ MacBook Pro?

Apple’s retail price for the base model 14″ M1 MacBook Pro is $1999.99. Follow the headline link to B&H Photo and save $200, a pretty great deal.

Interestingly, the discount only applies to the Space Gray model. Want Silver? Pay full price. Not sure why.

Quantities are limited, so jump on it.

Apple’s latest annual holiday commercial, “Saving Simon”

Before you watch the video (embedded below), take a moment to watch my personal favorite Apple holiday ad, Misunderstood. Hard to top that one.

Below the new ad, there’s a “making of” ad, starring father and son Oscar-nominated (for Up in the Air) directors Jason and Ivan Reitman. I loved this video, especially when you watch it right after watching the ad. That giant snowman!

BBEdit 14 on Big Sur and the M1 Mac

My thanks to BBEdit for sponsoring The Loop this week. There’s a lot to love about software I’ve been using for more than 20 years and now BBEdit, the power tool for text, is ready for Big Sur and M1-powered Macs and was just updated to version 14!