Saturday, February 17, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Time to End-of-Life Interact

Greg Pierce:

Since day one it’s been plagued by bugs in the underlying Contacts frameworks and almost none of them have been fixed by Apple in the intervening years.

It works great for most people, but for the ones with contact data that does not get along with the Contact framework, it fails in annoying ways. There are likely still places I could improve their experience in Interact, but I’ve burned too much time and effort on those edge cases for it to make sense to keep it going.

Nowhere Else to Go

The Menu Bar (tweet):

Marco Arment joins Zac and Andrew at the bar to talk about Ads vs Patreon, the end game for social networks, the trouble you get into for criticizing Apple, iPod as the new Vinyl, and the very sad state of affairs with newer MacBook keyboards.

This is another solid episode. (The previous episode with Dan Masters about Twitter and privacy was also good.) The key point for me is that the Mac and iOS platforms are one-of-a-kind resources that Apple controls. They are it for the foreseeable future unless you want to use Windows or Android, which have their own share of problems. It’s like the dark ages that Steve Jobs spoke of in the mid-90s. The barriers to entry are so high now that there is unlikely to be a Be or NeXT or Palm that seems to come out of nowhere.

Apple clearly feels a great responsibility as a steward of our planet. However, there are many governments, companies, and individuals who can also contribute to environmental causes. But in the case of these computing platforms, Apple is the lone steward. Making sure they are good—not just good enough—is something only Apple can do.

Previously: The Best Laptop Ever Made, Unreliable MacBook Pro Keyboards, New MacBook Pros and the State of the Mac, The 12-inch MacBook, Finding an Alternative to Mac OS X.

Twitter Abolishes Native Mac Client

Twitter (Hacker News, MacRumors):

We’re focusing our efforts on a great Twitter experience that’s consistent across platforms. So, starting today the Twitter for Mac app will no longer be available for download, and in 30 days will no longer be supported.

For the full Twitter experience on Mac, visit Twitter on web. 👉

Jason Snell:

Masterclass in doublespeak. Please wait while we upgrade your Twitter experience. With a browser window.

Thomas Brand:

A really sweet solution!

Peter Bright:

that plan again:

1. Kill third party apps

2. Force everyone onto first party apps

3. Kill first party apps too, for good measure.

Anil Dash:

I can’t complain about them making official what’s already been obvious for ages, but I wonder what Twitter’s answer is for how those of us with multiple accounts are supposed to use Twitter. Just keep logging in and out?

Jack Dorsey:

Within the iOS app you should be able to switch easily.

John Gruber (tweet):

It’s all fine, really, so long as they continue to allow third-party clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific to exist. But this “Mac users should just use the website” attitude is exactly what I was talking about here as an existential threat to the future of the Mac.

People choose the Mac because they want the best experience — not the same experience they can get on a $200 Chromebook.


To want to be “consistent across platforms” is a UX self-own: there’s a reason why platforms (plural) continue to exist. And a very few apps manage to escape platforms’ gravity.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

The Mac losing an app as fundamental to today’s society as Twitter is exactly why macOS needs ‘Marzipan’; without a shared app platform, the app ecosystem is going to leave the Mac behind — get used to web apps

Jeff Johnson:

There are so many apps that have both Mac and iOS native versions. I’ve worked on some. With small teams. Even a team of one. It can be done, very reasonably. It’s not trivial, but the narrative about how big corporations can’t afford to do it is absurd.

Somehow MAGICALLY small third party dev shops can have native iOS and Mac Twitter clients. But Twitter can’t because IT’S TOO HARD.

Macs are empirically selling better than ever. This is a matter of public record. But everyone wants to say the Mac is dead. WTF is wrong with this world? We’ve lost all touch with objective reality.

Calum Hunter:

it just shows how bad everything else is. mac hardware is crazy outdated they are still selling a macpro from 2013 on their store or crying out loud! MacOS 10.13 is a dumpster fire. But even still, its still better to use than windows or linux

Craig Hockenberry:

To celebrate, we just lowered the price of Twitterrific for Mac from $19.99 to $7.99.

John Siracusa:

Third-party clients haven’t even been able to use all Twitter features (e.g., polls, group DMs, etc.) for years. Only the “sweet solution” of the web can fill in completely for a first-party native Mac app.

Rosyna Keller:

The API third party Twitter clients use is also free and doesn’t support Twitter ads or other revenue generating features.

This API is also severely limited (no group DMs, searches limited to 7 days, no polls) and may be entirely deprecated in June.

Brent Simmons:

That thing where indie developers have a Twitter-imposed limit of OAuth tokens is still a thing.

Twitter leadership are jerks in so many different ways.

Jeff Johnson:

You know, they didn’t even need native clients that badly, because they had RSS. Any RSS reader allowed you to follow Twitter. But then they killed RSS support.

Oluseyi Sonaiya:

The app ecosystem is going to leave the Mac behind regardless. The desktop is increasingly marginal for non-productivity software, so this hand-wringing over a mediocre app being shuttered is surprising.

Josh Centers:

And you know what? Apple is as much to blame as anyone. When is the last time Apple made a great case for a native interface? Apple News?

Which doesn’t even have a Mac version…

Previously: Twitter’s First Profit.

Color Picker Now Rearranges Custom Swatches

Rory Prior:

Oh joy another High Sierra annoyance. Some engineer took it upon themselves to rewrite the custom colour swatch area in the colour picker to use a bloody collection view so it no longer lets you use spatial grouping.

He recorded a video.

iOS Share vs. Action Icons

Ole Zorn:

I suspect that 90% of users have no idea what distinguishes these two (completely separate) rows of icons, aside from the color.

(To be clear, I have no idea either. Theoretically, it’s “share” and “action”, but those concepts are so muddy that it’s hard to know which group a particular app extension belongs to.)

Further confusing things is that the “More” button in both rows brings up a panel titled “Activities.”

Friday, February 16, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Acorn Drops IAP Trial

Gus Mueller:

For the App Store version of Acorn, I’ve also removed the option to “purchase” a free trial for $0 via in app purchases. You can still grab the free trial off our website, and if you like it you can purchase Acorn directly from us or from the App Store.

IAPs have a lot of issues on the Mac, and provided a really crappy experience just to enable free trials. Incomplete store APIs (such as receipt refreshing), buggy / hung app store background processes (we were having to tell people to restart their computers if the purchases weren’t working), 403 App Store errors when trying to purchase the trial, dialog boxes saying “Are you sure you want to spend $0?” which scared people away, and of course emails from people assuming that I was going to try and charge them after the trial was up and they wanted to cancel their “subscription”.

Previously: App Store Trials: No More Free IAPs?.

Google Removes “View Image” Button From Search Results

Jacob Kastrenakes (via Hacker News):

The change is essentially meant to frustrate users. Google has long been under fire from photographers and publishers who felt that image search allowed people to steal their pictures, and the removal of the view image button is one of many changes being made in response. A deal to show copyright information and improve attribution of Getty photos was announced last week and included these changes.

Chrome’s Ad Filtering

Rahul Roy-Chowdhury:

Chrome will stop showing all ads on sites that repeatedly display these most disruptive ads after they’ve been flagged. More technical details about this change can be found on the Chromium blog.

Frederic Lardinois:

The most important thing to know is that this is not an alternative to AdBlock Plus or uBlock Origin. Instead, it’s Google’s effort to ban the most annoying ads from your browser. So it won’t block all ads — just those that don’t conform to the Coalition for Better Ads guidelines. When Google decides that a site hosts ads that go against these guidelines, it’ll block all ads on a given site — not just those annoying prestitials with a countdown or autoplaying video ads with sound.


As Google’s product manager for the Chrome Web Platform Ryan Schoen told me, 42 percent of publishers that were in violation have already moved to other ads.

Via Dare Obasanjo:

Chrome starts blocking ads unless they meet its rules. This is driving publishers to switch to “compliant” ad networks.

Would love to see stats on how many such publishers move to Google’s ad network. The strong arming so blatant. 😮

Mathew Ingram:

I would just like to point out again that having the world’s largest digital advertising company decide which ads to show in the world’s most popular browser is a bad idea

Jared Smith:

If Microsoft had an ad network in 1998 and tried something like this in Internet Explorer...

Multiple iOS Timers

Dr. Drang:

But you do have Reminders. They have names and can be set to alarm not only at an absolute time, but also at a relative time:

“Hey Siri, remind me to check the casserole in 20 minutes.”

This works on my iPhone, iPad, and Watch, and I assume—based on this article—that it would work on my HomePod if I had one. This is clearly Apple’s preferred solution to setting multiple timers, each with a distinct name.

Holger Eilhard:

The problem I see aside from the ones already mentioned from others: the HomePod doesn’t actively tell you a reminder is due, unless there’s some configuration option that I haven’t seen. Sure, the iPhone does but that might be in another room not in the kitchen.

John Gruber:

There’s no more reason for the Clock app to support only one timer than there is for it to support only one alarm.

Dr. Drang:

It’s been this way for years, and there’s always been a need for multiple timers. Right or wrong, Apple thinks you should use Reminders for that function. Maybe the HomePod complaints will change its mind, but I doubt it.

I frequently want multiple timers, but I’m not thrilled with using reminders for this. First, it’s easy to miss reminders. They might be muffled by Do Not Disturb, and they don’t keep playing the sound until you act.

I also use Siri and Reminders to enter tasks into OmniFocus. This works better for me than using Siri with OmniFocus directly. The problem is that if I then enter a “timer” reminder, it might get moved into OmniFocus and never go off.

The obvious solution is to have a separate Reminders list for timers. Even assuming that I would remember to use this, I haven’t been able to get it to work with Siri. The syntax is apparently supposed to be:

Add “list name” reminder “new item” on “date and time”

So I tried making a list called “Timers” and said:

Add Timers reminder check oven in 30 minutes

Siri transcribed this correctly, and it set the due date to 30 seconds in the future, but it added the reminder to my default Reminders list, not to Timers. I also tried various other names for the list, such as “Alarms” and “Cooking” with the same result. Adding to “Timers” usually works fine when not specifying a time, but when I add the time it silently does the wrong thing.

Previously: OmniFocus and Siri on iOS 11.

Update (2018-02-16): Matt Deatherage reports that pausing while you speak can help improve Siri’s parsing. I found that this:

Add a reminder…in 30 seconds…to check oven…to my Timer list

works. I had better success after renaming the list from “Timers” to “Timer.” Even so, you have to be careful with how long you pause. Speak too quickly and Siri gets confused. Pause for too long and Siri stops listening. Holding the Home button can prevent that but is inconvenient. My initial accuracy was only about 25%. After some practice, I am now able to speak at a normal rate with very small pauses and entered 10 reminders correctly in a row. It remains to be seen whether this will carry over into everyday use.

Simplenote Outage Due to DMCA


We discovered shortly after that Google Cloud Platform, which hosts the web application, had shut down the site due to a DMCA notice for allegedly infringing content that appeared in published notes. We worked with Google to rectify the issue as quickly as possible and they reinstated the app yesterday morning.

Via John Gordon:

This needs a LOT more explanation.

Your data (temporarily) disappears because of something posted by a completely unrelated user.

Bringing the Power of AMP to Gmail

Aakash Sahney:

This new spec will be a powerful way for developers to create more engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences.

For example, imagine you could complete tasks directly in email. With AMP for Email, you’ll be able to quickly take actions like submit an RSVP to an event, schedule an appointment, or fill out a questionnaire right from the email message. Many people rely on email for information about flights, events, news, purchases and beyond—more than 270 billion emails are sent each day! AMP for Email will also make it possible for information to easily kept up-to-date, so emails never get stale and the content is accurate when a user looks at it.

Steven Frank:

Please don’t allow Google to subsume (even more of) the open web in exchange for “more interactive and engaging” emails.

Devin Coldewey (via Hacker News):

The moat between communication and action is important because it makes it very clear what certain tools are capable of, which in turn lets them be trusted and used properly.

We know that all an email can ever do is say something to you (tracking pixels and read receipts notwithstanding). It doesn’t download anything on its own, it doesn’t run any apps or scripts, attachments are discrete items, unless they’re images in the HTML, which is itself optional. Ultimately the whole package is always just going to be a big, static chunk of text sent to you, with the occasional file riding shotgun. Open it a year or ten from now and it’s the same email.


What Google wants to do is bridge that moat, essentially to allow applications to run inside emails, limited ones to be sure, but by definition the kind of thing that belongs on the other side of the moat.


Ads and trackers that adapt themselves to the content around them, the data they know about the viewer, and the latest pricing or promotions. That’s how Google wants to “modernize” your inbox.

Does “engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences” ring a little different now?

Nick Heer:

Of course, there’s a good chance the advanced capabilities of this format won’t catch on because email clients are already pretty fragmented as things stand today. It’s an area of the web where the lowest common denominators — HTML tables and old-school tags like <font> — are used with disturbing regularity, simply because it’s the only markup that works well in all clients.

Tim Kadlec (via Hacker News):

So, to recap, the web community has stated over and over again that we’re not comfortable with Google incentivizing the use of AMP with search engine carrots. In response, Google has provided yet another search engine carrot for AMP.

This wouldn’t bother me if AMP was open about what it is: a tool for folks to optimize their search engine placement. But of course, that’s not the claim. The claim is that AMP is “for the open web.” There are a lot of good folks working on AMP. I’ve met and talked with many of them numerous times and they’re doing amazing technical work. But the way the project is being positioned right now is disingenuous.

If AMP is truly for the open web, de-couple it from Google search entirely. It has no business there.

Everything Easy Is Hard Again

Frank Chimero:

I had fifteen years of experience designing for web clients, she had one year, and yet some how, we were in the same situation: we enjoyed the work, but were utterly confused and overwhelmed by the rapidly increasing complexity of it all. What the hell happened?


Except with the websites. They separate themselves from the others, because I don’t feel much better at making them after 20 years. My knowledge and skills develop a bit, then things change, and half of what I know becomes dead weight. This hardly happens with any of the other work I do.

I wonder if I have twenty years of experience making websites, or if it is really five years of experience, repeated four times.

Oluseyi Sonaiya:

Two days ago this contention that web tech is self-obsoleting sparked a bunch of agitated responses from people who assumed I didn’t know what I was talking about.

Nick Heer:

Over the last five years or so, even the most basic website stopped being treated as a collection of documents and started being thought of as software. Over the same period of time, I have gone from thinking that I know how to build a website quickly and efficiently to having absolutely no clue where to start learning about any of this stuff. I can’t imagine being eight years old again and being interested in the web as something anyone can contribute to.

David Mack:

I appreciate now that technologies have a surprisingly short lifespan. CoffeeScript and AngularJS are our most obviously tired components (we plan to migrate to TypeScript and latest Angular). All of our technologies were fairly bleeding-edge when we adopted them and it’s a blessing that my predilection for hipster technologies has not caused any serious problems.

I’ve hugely appreciated the succinct functional syntax of CoffeeScript and believe it’s helped me achieve greater personal productivity over the years.

Building on the above, I now know that you need to budget time and strategize for the replacement of technologies. You accept long-term “technical debt” with the adoption of any technology.

Marc Edwards:

It’s amazing how much variation there is in blur radius across browsers and design tools. You can’t assume things will look the same.

App Store Selective Enforcement

Ryan Jones:

App Store rules don’t apply to a) big companies b) tiny piece of shit apps.

Everyone else? We’re going to rake you over the coals for 3 months lighting your time on fire (and passion to create, tbh).

App Store review won’t honor or even listen to precedents - such as approving *60* other app icons.


I can’t make great stuff if I can’t invest time and I can’t invest time if I don’t know what’s allowed! 😡😤

If the rules are vague, and you can’t rely on precedent, and you can’t ask for pre-approval, the only way to be safe is to stay really far away from the lines, and hope they don’t move.

Eric Schwarz:

I sort of felt like things were out the window when apps can send spam notifications or blatantly disregard rules, especially if they’re big players like Facebook. What you shared is also not surprising…

Previously: iPhone X Design and the Notch, Designing Apps for iPhone X.

Update (2018-02-16): Addison Webb:

Currently being burned by this as well. Vague rules. Spotty enforcement. No clarification from App Review on the exact problem, let alone a suggested fix.

Thursday, February 15, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Can macOS Tell How Large a File Really Is?

Howard Oakley:

The macOS programming class which provides most information about files is URL. It has quite an elaborate interface which involves telling a file URL object which ‘keys’ you want it to reveal, then accessing those that you want. In this case, the URLResourceKey in question is totalFileSize, which Apple’s developer documentation describes as:

Key for the total displayable size of the file in bytes, returned as an NSNumber object (read-only). This includes the size of any file metadata.

But apparently this refers to metadata from the resource fork. It does not count extended attributes.

The evidence from Precize is that the only accurate way to measure the full size of a Mac file is to total the sizes of each of its xattrs, and add those to the size of its data fork. That doesn’t appear to be a function performed by macOS, or at least it is not exposed anywhere to developers or users. So, as far as I can tell, macOS itself doesn’t have any direct access to the total size of any of its files – which seems a startling omission.

Howard Oakley:

I had not expected xattrs to be so heavily used in the /Library folder, but the average size of xattrs across its files which have xattrs is just over 7 KB per file. I had expected them to be commonplace in my Home folder, but am surprised that the average total size of xattrs across all the files there (not just with xattrs) is just over 2 KB.


The largest contribution is in ~/Documents, which has a total of 2.6 GB of xattrs across less than half a million files. However, a lot of my images in ~/Pictures still seem to sport thumbnails, so the average total of xattrs per file with xattrs is there almost 21 KB – that’s 0.796 GB in only 38018 files.

GitFinder 1.0


Apple has finally come up with official way and API to extend Finder functionality and offer custom badges for icons, as well as contextual and/or toolbar menu items (actually, adding contextual menu items was possible prior macOS 10.6, but it required tons of Carbon code, while icon badging was never officially supported). That was in macOS 10.10, also known as Yosemite. I immediately remembered seeing people years before using TortoiseGit/SVN on Windows and thought it would be nice to have something similar on Mac. However, the API in 10.10 was crippled in many ways (especially when it came to menus), that I just filled a bunch of bug reports and stopped thinking about it. As it usually happens in the last 7-8 years, Apple didn't bother fixing those things in minor updates, so most issues haven't been fixed before 10.11 (El Capitan) came out, a full year later.


The end result is the application, which can be used solely as Finder's extension, giving you quick access to files' git statuses via icon badging and most frequently used git command via Finder contextual and/or toolbar item menu. But, you can also kick its repository browser window and use it as a separate, fully functional git client. Repository browser offers all you could expect from such client; full list of branches, tags, remotes, submodules and other references, commits list, commit diffs, commits search and others. All just a click in a Finder window away.

I’ve been testing this for a while, and it looks promising. I like being able to quickly get the history of a particular file by Control-clicking on it. And it’s nice to be able to click, search, or glob in the Finder to choose which files to stage or revert. The main site has some good screenshots that show what it can do. For me, at least, it’s currently more of an adjunct than a replacement for other clients. Like GitUp, it uses libgit2 rather than the git command-line tool.

Data Loss on APFS Sparse Disk Images

Mike Bombich (Hacker News):

Earlier this week I noticed that an APFS-formatted sparsebundle disk image volume showed ample free space, despite that the underlying disk was completely full. Curious, I copied a video file to the disk image volume to see what would happen. The whole file copied without error! I opened the file, verified that the video played back start to finish, checksummed the file – as far as I could tell, the file was intact and whole on the disk image. When I unmounted and remounted the disk image, however, the video was corrupted.


Following the earlier example, suppose you attempt to copy 200GB of data to that 500GB disk image file. This shouldn’t be possible, because there was only 100GB of free space left on the underlying disk. The APFS disk image reports that there’s 500GB of free space available, though, so what the heck, let’s do this! The first 100GB of data does successfully get written into the disk image file – the disk image file has grown now to 100GB. But now the underlying disk is completely full, and the disk image file can no longer grow – the diskimages-helper application is getting “No space left on device” errors when trying to write data to its band files.

But diskimages-helper simply ignores these errors.

Update (2018-02-17): See also: Thomas Claburn.


These are not even complex problems of the new format. It is just Apple forgot to have basic checks. It is like the root access with an empty password incident happened 2 months ago. Why these serious but basic problems happen?

Another iOS Crash Caused By Sending Unicode Character

Tom Warren (Hacker News, MacRumors):

A new bug has been discovered in iOS 11 that lets people send a specific character that will crash an iPhone and block access to the Messages app in iOS and popular apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Outlook for iOS, and Gmail. Italian Blog Mobile World spotted the bug, and we’ve tested it successfully on multiple iPhones running iOS 11.2.5, and found it also works on the macOS versions of Safari and Messages. Apple plans to fix the problem in an iOS update before the release of iOS 11.3 this spring.

The bug itself involves sending an Indian language (Telugu) character to devices, and Apple’s iOS Springboard will crash once the message has been received.

I wonder if this is why Tweetbot was crashing on my Mac the other day.

Previously: Using Siri to Work Around iMessage Crash.

Update (2018-02-15): Ashley Bischoff:

At this rate, I’m kinda astounded that Apple still hasn’t yet run a fuzzer against Messages.

You’d think that someone at Apple would have brought up fuzzing after the first or second time that this sort of thing happened with Messages. But I guess not.

Update (2018-02-16): Rosyna Keller:

Likely because it’s not an issue in Messages or with the Unicode string itself. It’s a bug in the text renderer (which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to fuzzing).

Since some apps are unaffected, it means it also depends on layout options/factors.

Manish Goregaokar:

The original sequence is U+0C1C U+0C4D U+0C1E U+200C U+0C3E, which is a sequence of Telugu characters: the consonant ja (జ), a virama ( ్ ), the consonant nya (ఞ), a zero-width non-joiner, and the vowel aa ( ా).


And then I saw that there was a sequence in Bengali that also crashed.


So, ultimately, the full set of cases that cause the crash are:

Any sequence <consonant1, virama, consonant2, ZWNJ, vowel> in Devanagari, Bengali, and Telugu, where:

  • consonant2 is suffix-joining – i.e. र, র, য, and all Telugu consonants
  • vowel is not  ై or  ৌ

Paul Haddad:

Hey past me, good job on adding support for remotely filtering crashing unicode sequences.

Facebook’s “Protect” Feature

Adam C. Engst:

However, tapping Protect takes you to the App Store and displays an app called Onavo Protect — VPN Security. It is indeed a VPN — a virtual private network — that securely tunnels all your traffic through Onavo’s servers. The problem is that, as you might expect from the link source, Onavo is owned by Facebook. If you were to stumble on Onavo Protect in the App Store, you’d have to tap More and read the full description to discover that. If you read all the way to the end, you’d learn that Onavo Protect “directs all of your network communications through Onavo’s servers,” and that, “as part of this process, Onavo collects your mobile data traffic.”

Clearly, that menu item in the Facebook app should be labeled “Collect” instead of “Protect.”

Jamie Zawinski:

This lets Facebook “protect” you by intercepting and spying on the traffic of every other app on your phone including your web browser.

Nick Heer:

Even if you ignore potential anticompetitive issues, there’s still a question of whether users of Facebook’s VPN are adequately aware of how the company accessed and uses their data.

Previously: How Facebook Squashes Competition From Startups.

In other Facebook news, Kate Conger (via John Gruber):

Facebook is bleeding users, with external researchers estimating that the social network lost 2.8 million US users under 25 last year. Those losses have prompted Facebook to get more aggressive in its efforts to win users back—and the company has started using security prompts to encourage users to log into their accounts.


The texts are a particularly obnoxious form of spam, and instead of making me want to log into Facebook, they remind me why I’m avoiding it. It’s painful to see my ex’s name popping up on my phone all the time, and while my intern was great at her job, I’m not invested in keeping up with her personal life.


What’s most frustrating is that Facebook has taken a security feature like two-factor authentication—which gives users valuable protection from phishing and account takeovers—and perverted it into a tool for spam.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Castro 3’s Business Model


Oisín & Pádraig discuss the different options for Castro 3’s business model and the reasons behind the model they’ve chosen.

This is an interesting discussion about why they are switching to subscriptions despite previously not liking that model. Advertising does not seem like a good fit because they are deliberately targeting a niche user base. What is the proper way to balance unique features with a free trial?

Previously: Overcast Tries Ads.

Good vs. Better at Bad

Joe Cieplinski:

Without knowing where “good” is, anyone can wave either one of these comparisons away and chalk it up to priorities. Some people care more about the sound quality. Some people care more about the smart stuff. Sounds like a toss-up, right?

But there’s a threshold of quality where people consider something “good.” Where the general public—not just a niche of enthusiasts—agrees that a technology has gotten significantly good enough to make it ready for prime time.

We reached the “good” threshold for speakers decades ago. The subcategory of affordable bookshelf speakers got there sometime in the past few years.

But we’re nowhere near “good” yet when it comes to digital assistants.

I like the way his final chart visualizes this.

So yes, other platforms may currently be “better” than Siri. But when none of the platforms is good, what difference does that make, except to a small niche of enthusiasts? By all means, enjoy the Echo if you want to live on the bleeding edge of voice assistants. But don’t try to convince me Apple is doomed in this space[…]

The “doomed” narrative has taken hold because it seemed like Siri started out ahead but has fallen behind and is now facing a network effect. What reason do we have to think that it can or will catch up? Still, it’s far too early to know who will win the race, or whether that’s even the right question to ask. Perhaps at some point they’ll all be good enough that people choose based on other factors. Some would argue that’s what happened with maps, where Google remains ahead, and may even be increasing its lead, but yet Apple Maps is improving in an absolute sense and many people use it successfully.

Update (2018-02-15): Nick Heer:

But I maintain that, even if Amazon and Google aren’t that much closer to a fully assistive software or hardware product, the ways in which Siri frequently fails are unacceptable.

HomePod Can Leave White Rings on Wood Surfaces

Joe Rossignol (9to5Mac):

Apple has issued a statement confirming that the HomePod can possibly leave white rings on wood surfaces with an oil or wax finish.

The strange discovery was brought to light in HomePod reviews published by Wirecutter and Pocket-lint, as highlighted by VentureBeat, while at least one customer shared a picture of the same problem on Twitter.

Jeff Johnson:

This is why they didn’t notice the white rings on the table.

Not Jony Ive:

Fixed the HomePod “white ring” situation.

Update (2018-02-14): James Thomson:

The HomePod Wood Adaptor was included in every box. It’s the sticker.

Tiffany Arment:

Why don’t we just give everybody a coaster? Okay. Great. Let’s give everybody a coaster.

Riccardo Mori:

In reference to the latest HomePod issue, it’s time for another Tim & Steve strip: “If you see a ring, they blew it.”

Mike Burvill:

I’m really curious to find out if this has affected the famous wooden tables found in Apple Stores...

Myke Hurley:

If a device has a rubber base it suggests ‘protection’ between the surface and the product.

I feel there is no general assumption that you should also put something between a rubber base and a surface.


It is not unusual for any speaker with a vibration-damping silicone base to leave mild marks when placed on some wooden surfaces. The marks can be caused by oils diffusing between the silicone base and the table surface, and will often go away after several days when the speaker is removed from the wooden surface. If not, wiping the surface gently with a soft damp or dry cloth may remove the marks. If marks persist, clean the surface with the furniture manufacturer’s recommended cleaning process. If you’re concerned about this, we recommend placing your HomePod on a different surface.

The article says “Published Date: Feb 15, 2018,” but it was posted today.

Shawn King:

“HomePod may leave white ring on wood surfaces. Apple recommends using elsewhere.” So…is this the latest Apple version of, “You’re holding it wrong”? Jesus Apple.

Federico Viticci:

Like many recent Apple PR debacles, this HomePod ring problem could have been easily avoided by simply…telling people beforehand.

Explain how things work. Even the obvious ones. Be proactive. Don’t wait until people discover issues to spin the narrative back in your control.

John Gruber:

Anyone who runs into this should be outraged. I honestly don’t see how this could happen. Apple has been making products that go on shelves and tables for years — AirPort base stations, Apple TV, various docks — and I’ve never seen a report of damage to a surface. I guess the difference with HomePod is that the base factors into the acoustics, but still, this seems like an issue that should have been caught during the period where HomePod was being widely tested at home by many Apple employees.

Jon Chase:

This really undermines the design aspect of the HomePod—especially if you were thinking of displaying it on some prized piece of furniture—and it will surely be a sore point for many potential buyers. In other testing, we have seen no visible damage when using it on glass, granite countertop, nice MDF, polyurethane-sealed wood, and cheap IKEA bookcases. We also tested the HomePod in the same place a Sonos One regularly lives—and the Sonos hasn’t caused damage in months of use.

Update (2018-02-15): Ryan Jones:

MacBook Pro’s have battery life issue: Apple just removes battery time remaining

iPhone’s can’t retain battery health: Apple throttles CPU silently

HomePod marks wood tables: Apple says use a coaster

This dismissiveness is getting old.

Josh Centers:

How could Apple have anticipated that people who buy $350 speakers would set them on wooden furniture? This is a difficult problem at scale.

Mike Prospero, contra The Wirecutter:

A closer inspection revealed that the Sonos One speaker, which also has small silicone feet, had made these marks on my cabinet. Looking around the top of the cabinet, I noticed a bunch of little white marks, all left from the Sonos Ones as I moved them around. So, they will damage your wood furniture, too.

Update (2018-02-17): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

A Blind HomePod Test

David Pogue:

The PR person could switch playback from one speaker to the other without missing a beat. They even had a halo light rigged to turn on behind whichever speaker was playing, so you’d know which was which.

There was not a shred of doubt: In this side-by-side comparison, the HomePod sounded better than its competitors.


I hid the four speakers behind a curtain — a sheet of thin, sheer fabric that wouldn’t affect the sound. It took me a Sunday to figure out how to get the A/B/C/D switching to work seamlessly, but I finally managed it: All four speakers would be streaming from Spotify, all four over Wi-Fi. I’d use the Spotify app’s device switcher to hop among speakers without missing a beat.


For each song, I played the speakers in a different order (A to D sometimes, D to A sometimes). […] They held up their signs. Two of them ranked the Google Home Max (“D”) as the best. Three of them ranked the Sonos One (“A”) the best.

Nobody ranked the HomePod the best.


As far as I can tell, none of the other critics who declared HomePod No. 1 actually set up their own blind A/B/C/D tests. Maybe their conclusions wouldn’t have been so emphatic if they had.

Consumer Reports also rated HomePod lower (via MacRumors):

Overall the sound of the HomePod was a bit muddy compared with what the Sonos One and Google Home Max delivered.

All three of these speakers were impressive compared with other smart speakers we’ve tested, but they fall significantly short of our highest-rated wireless speakers, such as the Edifier S1000DB, $350, which earned an Excellent sound-quality rating.

It’s not clear to me whether they did a blind test.

Other reviewers continue to give HomePod high marks for sound. WinterCharm (ArsTechnica, Hacker News):

I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

See also: Jim Dalrymple.

Previously: HomePod Reviews.

Update (2018-02-14): WinterCharm:

In my review, I made a massive caveat that many news outlets when they picked this up, seemed to forget.

IN AN UNTREATED ROOM The HomePods are pushing better sound than a single X300A, as measured. That’s an impressive feat, I was impressed by it. but my conclusion was that obviously in a properly treated room, correctly set up speakers would be better. This is why I said that the product was great for the masses, but for audiophiles, you would be better off putting these in places like your kitchen and leaving your normal listening setup intact.

Unfortunately, as often happens with the news, they skim and summarize, in a way that some of the subtlety and conditions around which my main point rested are lost in translation. When you take 5000 words and turn it into 1 headline and a 250 word article, some stuff gets lost in translation.

Second, half the news outlets were Apple news sites who have a huge pro Apple bias. They picked it up… and it’s in their best interest to misrepresent or cherry pick the review, exaggerating the claims.

Kirk McElhearn:

The much touted review of the HomePod posted by an “audiophile” on Reddit last week – and gleefully tweeted by Apple’s Phil Schiller – turns out to be a long mess of uninformed and poorly made measurements.

This reply on Reddit highlights many of the problems, notably the fact that the HomePod wasn’t measure in an anechoic room, but mainly the fact that the “reviewer” fudged the display of his graphs, making them look better than they were.

Mark Sullivan (MacRumors):

We’ve heard plenty of opinions on the HomePod’s general sound quality, so it’s a good time to measure the consistency of the HomePod’s sound distribution using some professional-grade acoustic analysis tools.

Update (2018-02-15): Kirk McElhearn:

I’ve been following this Reddit thread and its published results. It’s amazing that in a world of audiophiles who obsess over which USB cable makes their music sound better, that this person performed all of these measurements, and forgot to mention that the HomePod uses digital signal processing to alter all music that it plays. In other words, it is far from neutral, and audiophiles make a big deal about their equipment being neutral. The frequency response may be excellent, but the equalization alters the music from what it should sound like.

In fact, I think it’s highly possible that this reviewer has based the conclusions of his testing on false assumptions. The HomePod has dynamic digital signal processing; it alters the music based on the music. In other words, it’s not a fixed EQ setting, but one that changes as music is played (and according to the room where it’s played). As such, sending single frequency sine waves, or whatever he did, won’t show the results of the EQ.

The Mac App Sandbox and Non-Native Apps

Felix Krause (tweet, Hacker News):

Any Mac app, sandboxed or not sandboxed can:

  • Take screenshots of your Mac silently without you knowing
  • Access every pixel, even if the Mac app is in the background
  • Use basic OCR software to read the text on the screen
  • Access all connected monitors

Jeff Johnson:

Nobody tell Felix that Mac apps can also read the clipboard.

This is why I think a network blocker like Little Snitch is more important for protecting users than the sandbox. Anyway, this is not really news, but it prompted some interesting comments from former Apple engineer Peter Ammon:

We did our best but the fact is that sandboxed apps run more slowly, have fewer features, are more isolated, and take longer to develop. Sometimes this cost is prohibitive (see Coda 2.5).

IMO the app sandbox was a grievous strategic mistake for the Mac. Cocoa-based Mac apps are rapidly being eaten by web apps and Electron psuedo-desktop apps. For Mac apps to survive, they must capitalize on their strengths: superior performance, better system integration, better dev experience, more features, and higher general quality.

But the app sandbox strikes at all of those. In return it offers security inferior to a web app, as this post illustrates. The price is far too high and the benefits too little.

IMO Apple should drop the Mac app sandbox altogether (though continue to sandbox system services, which is totally sensible, and maybe retain something geared towards browsers.) The code signing requirements and dev cert revocation, which has been successfully used to remotely disable malware, will be sufficient security: the Mac community is good at sussing out bad actors. But force Mac devs to castrate their apps even more, and there won’t be anything left to protect.

I still think the idea of sandboxing makes sense, but the actual implementation of it—the available entitlements, the framework bugs, the lack of documentation, and the App Store policies—were botched. And there has been little visible progress since macOS 10.7. Is this because it’s fundamentally not possible to do better, given that the Mac wasn’t designed with sandboxing in mind? Or has it simply not been a priority for Apple?

Peter Ammon:

It’s a hard UI problem. The Mac sandbox overcorrects to requiring capability resources for all file accesses, while on the other extreme we have e.g. Windows UAC which trains users to roll their eyes and click through.

But Apple doesn’t enjoy the luxury of solving this problem in a nuanced way, because Mac apps are not acting from a position of strength. I suspect you aren’t downloading lots of Mac apps today, and the reason is not insufficient sandboxing, but instead the limited selection, annoying install experience, etc. These are the problems that Apple must fix first.


Instead Apple should leverage the Mac’s unique software strengths. Aggressively evolve the Mac’s unique “UI vocabulary” and application frameworks. Empower, not punish, the dedicated and passionate developer community. Ship love to the userbase (perhaps the only one in existence) that’s willing to open their wallets for high-quality desktop software. And yes, tolerate web-tech apps too - but embarrass them!

Peter Ammon:

The theory of the Mac is to establish a set of UI conventions. When you launched a new app, you would already know how to use most of it, because it was a Mac app. It looks and behaves like other apps, so you feel at home already. And as a developer, you get the right behavior now and in the future, for free.

But if every developer builds a cross-platform app with a custom framework and appearance and behavior and UI, then the OS loses its role in defining the platform conventions. In that event, what’s the point in having more than one OS?

John Gruber (tweet):

I’m with Ammon: I think the Mac’s (relatively) recent move to cryptographically signed applications — with certificates that can be revoked by Apple — has been a win all around for security. But I don’t think the Mac sandbox has.


The whole point of the Mac is to be a great platform for native Mac apps. Sandboxing doesn’t help Mac apps do more. If the Mac devolves into a platform where people just use web browsers and cross-platform Electron apps, it might as well not exist[…]


The real problems facing the Mac are the number of developers creating non-native “Mac” apps and the number of users who don’t have a problem with them.

Andy Ihnatko (in 2011, previously):

Traditionally, the mandate of an operating system has been to enable all of a machine’s potential. Higher-level software is responsible for making a computer easy to use and sometimes that means putting the power tools high enough on a shelf that the kids can’t hurt themselves, but those resources should be there for anybody who looks for them.


The Mac must never, ever become a consumer product like the iPad, saddled with artificial limitations in the name of safety, reliability, and tidiness.

See also: Jeff Johnson, Dan Counsell, Sayz Lim, Michael Dupuis, Dave DeLong, Marcus Zarra.

Previously: Sandbox Limitation on Number of Files That Can Be Opened, Apple Rumored to Combine iPhone, iPad, and Mac Apps to Create One User Experience.

How Apple Plans to Root Out Bugs

Mark Gurman (tweet, MacRumors, Reddit, Hacker News, ArsTechnica):

Instead of keeping engineers on a relentless annual schedule and cramming features into a single update, Apple will start focusing on the next two years of updates for its iPhone and iPad operating system, according to people familiar with the change. The company will continue to update its software annually, but internally engineers will have more discretion to push back features that aren’t as polished to the following year.


The shift is an admission of what many customers have already come to notice: Some Apple software has become prone to bugs and underdeveloped features. […] Apple has also recently released features later than it expected, as the rush to meet the annual deadline overtaxed engineers and created last-minute delays.

John Gruber:

I’m not so sure the above is a new strategy so much as a tacit admission of what’s actually been going on the last few years.

Then why should we expect any improvement?

Jeff Johnson:

The idea of postponing features a year until they’re “ready” misses the whole point. It’s very difficult to find all the bugs in a major change until after you ship it. To get to a stable operating system, you need to spend at least a year just fixing bugs after a major release.

You can’t just consider the internal costs of annual updates. There are major external costs. Third party developers play an essential role in QA. If we never get the thing until June, and you ship every fall, never enough time to fix bugs.

A lot of people are pointing to Steven Sinofsky’s comments (Reddit). He makes some good points about the “broader context,” but I think he’s completely wrong about Apple’s software quality:

In any absolute sense the quality of Mac/iOS + h/w are at quality levels our industry has just not seen before. […] On any absolute scale number of bugs—non-working, data losing, hanging mistakes—in iOS/Mac is far far less today than ever before.

I don’t see how that can be taken seriously. He doesn’t have access to Apple’s bug database, so how would he know? I really doubt that the number of open bugs is lower than in the past, and even if it were there’s no reason to assume that Radar is representative of the actual number of bugs. He later says that the list of bugs is “infinitely long,” so this whole line of argument seems nonsensical. In what way is today’s Mac/iOS quality better in “any absolute sense” than in, say, 2010? He doesn’t say, except that more people are using it:

What is different is that at scale a bug that happens to 0.01% of people is a lot of people. A stadium full or more. […] No one ever anywhere has delivered a general purpose piece of S/W+H/W at scale of 1B delivering such a broad, robust, consistent experience. We don’t have a measure for what it means to be “high quality”.

Well, we can look at how many problems an individual user runs into. Is it higher or lower than before? This measure is independent of Apple’s scale. So is the circle of people I hear complaining. Apple’s customer base has doubled many times over, but the number of family members, friends, and customers that I communicate with has not. Now you could argue that maybe we have become exceptionally unlucky and are running into more than our share of issues, but I don’t find that very convincing.

He wants to discount the actual experiences of “many super smart/skilled people” because “the more a product is used the more hyper-sensitive people get to how it works.” What does that even mean? The number of hours in a day hasn’t increased; I don’t think my Mac/iPhone usage has increased much, if at all. Hardly anyone complains to me about the “slightest changes”; I hear about things that flat out don’t work. That’s not being hyper-sensitive.

Previously: Apple Delays Features to Focus on Reliability, Performance.

Update (2018-02-13): jarjoura:

As someone who used to work on iOS at Apple, what that company honestly needs is a culture not beholden to the whims of their EPMs (project managers). They used to help organize and work with engineering to schedule things across the company’s waterfall style development. However, by the time I left, they essentially took power over engineering. Radar became the driver for the entire company and instead of thinking about a holistic product, everything became a priority number. P0 meant, emergency fix immediately, P4 meant nice to have. You get the idea.

Nothing could be worked on if it wasn’t in Radar with a priority number attached and signed off by the teams’ EPM. No room for a side project or time away from your daily duties because there were always P1s to fix. If you didn’t personally have any left for the day, you’d take one from another engineer who was likely swamped with their own list of P1s.


This is how you get bugs in shipping software. EPMs driven to schedule things and over manage engineers would decide on a whim that something was a P2. That was basically always shelved to a follow-up .1 release.

Ultimately, engineers lost the freedom to decide when a feature was ready to ship.

This point about bug prioritization came up two years ago.

Bob Burrough:

This is absolutely, 100% true, and jibes with my experience.

There was (don’t know if there still is), another really whacky problem with iOS work prioritization back then. Radar has P1, P2, P3, etc priorities. Milestones were arranged such that “No P3’s” happened (the point at which P3’s were no longer allowed to be worked on)… followed by “No P2’s” then finally “No P1’s.” At first glance that arrangement makes sense because it means the only bugs getting fixed late in the game are the really high priority ones. However, what it meant in practice was, if there was a P2 bug an engineer wanted to fix… They would scramble to make sure it gets fixed before the “No P2’s” milestone occurs…in effect, causing P2 bugs to be worked on before P1’s.


I’m a former iOS EPM (not speaking for Apple, obviously, since I don’t work there anymore), and although the Reddit commenter got the atmosphere of constant crisis right, he/she is misplacing the blame and misunderstanding the power dynamic. EPMs at Apple essentially have zero power over engineers’ workload. They take the list of stuff the engineering managers said they want to get done this year and say “You guys are crazy, you’ll never be able to do this without 3x the hours/manpower.” Then they proceed to drive the team as hard as necessary to make sure that they actually deliver what they said they were going to deliver. That’s it. The idea that there is this cabal of mighty EPMs twirling their mustaches and loading developers down with work is pretty far from reality.

It’s true that you shouldn’t be working on anything not in Radar (the bug tracker) but this is true anywhere you’ll work. Project managers however do not sign developers up for all those radars--on the contrary--we’re usually trying desperately to help you get rid of scope and get the task list down to what’s actually do-able!

One of the great things that IMHO sets Apple apart is how engineering-driven they are. I’ve never worked anywhere else where engineers had so much freedom to decide what they’re working on. The fact that they always decide to work on 3x what they can actually achieve is kind of on them. But that drive to try to do so much is part of what keeps innovation strong at Apple.

Benjamin Mayo:

It sure looks like this is a case of the feedback loop working. The Apple community complains about software quality, the executive team reviews procedures and makes structural changes.


As an outsider, I think it’s hard to really assess whether these changes are meaningful rather than empty, ambitious, words. However, I’m glad the way it is portrayed in the Bloomberg report indicates it is a deeper shift of philosophy rather than a one-time focus for iOS 12 followed by a return to the status quo.

Nick Heer:

If the changes are as modest as this report makes them out to be, how much of an improvement can we realistically expect in software quality?

Tim Bradshaw:

First Apple shareholder question is about software quality, which he says is “very unsatisfactory”. “We are getting plenty of changes but not many improvements... My solution has been to stop upgrading because I no longer trust Apple.” Apple is “losing touch with working people”

Update (2018-02-14): Riccardo Mori:

While I’m certain there are still underlying issues left unsolved in both Tiger and Leopard, in day-to-day general use, nothing prominent shows up on my radar. I turn on this PowerBook, it boots into Mac OS X 10.5.8, I open whatever apps I need for this session, and I feel I’m working in a stable, predictable environment. The only unfortunate thing I notice is that in places the hardware shows its age, or that certain features or services are too new to support this platform, but neither this particular vintage Mac nor its Mac OS X version are at fault. And it’s pretty amazing I’m still being productive with a 14-year old machine.


I’m just an outside observer, with perhaps the vantage point of having been using Apple hardware for almost 30 years. I can’t say with certainty that today both Mac OS and iOS have more bugs and issues than before. I’m also not saying that everything was 100% perfect before and now it’s all rubbish, because it’s not true. But from having extensively used (almost) each version of Mac OS and iOS, what I do notice is that behind the scenes there was a different approach to their development before a certain point in Mac OS X’s timeline, and that something changed (for the worse) after that point.

Update (2018-02-16): See also: Download.

Friday, February 9, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

VLC 3.0

John Voorhees:

Today, VideoLAN, the non-profit organization behind VLC, released version 3.0 of its media player app across several platforms, including macOS and iOS. The update, known as Vetinari, supports a long list of modern video, audio, and streaming technologies such as[…]

The new version can stream (and seemingly transcode) to a Chromecast. Here is the change log.

Update (2018-02-13): See also: MacRumors.

Twitter’s First Profit

Selina Wang (via Hacker News):

The company topped analysts’ average sales estimates in the fourth quarter and for the first time reported a real profit, a milestone in Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey’s turnaround effort. Monthly active users were little changed from the prior quarter at 330 million, a lower-than-projected total that the company attributed in part to stepped-up efforts to reduce spam, malicious activity and fake accounts.


Revenue in the recent period rose 2 percent from a year earlier to $731.6 million, buoyed by data-licensing sales and video advertising.


Twitter said daily active users increased 12 percent from a year earlier, marking its fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit increases. The company doesn’t disclose the specific number of daily active users, arguing that showing growth is more important.


The San Francisco-based company may stand to benefit from Facebook’s recent decision to shift its news feed toward content from family and friends and to focus less on posts from media outlets and businesses. The change is encouraging publishers and online advertisers to increase investment on Twitter, according to some analysts.

Previously: Birdcage Liners.

iOS 9 Source Code Leak

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (Hacker News, MacRumors):

The GitHub code is labeled “iBoot,” which is the part of iOS that is responsible for ensuring a trusted boot of the operating system. In other words, it’s the program that loads iOS, the very first process that runs when you turn on your iPhone. It loads and verifies the kernel is properly signed by Apple and then executes it—it’s like the iPhone’s BIOS.

The code says it’s for iOS 9, an older version of the operating system, but portions of it are likely to still be used in iOS 11.


“This is the biggest leak in history,” Jonathan Levin, the author of a series of books on iOS and Mac OSX internals, told me in an online chat, referring to Apple’s history. “It’s a huge deal.”

Via Jake Williams:

Remember that debate about the FBI adding backdoors to the iPhone and “don’t worry, it will stay secret?” None of us believed that, ever. But now I’d say we have evidence that even Apple can’t keep backdoor code a secret…

Sean Gallagher:

The DMCA notice required Apple to verify that the code was their property—consequently confirming that the code was genuine. While GitHub removed the code, it was up for several hours and is now circulating elsewhere on the Internet.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

The scary part about the iBoot source code leak isn’t that iBoot code leaked, it’s that somebody (from Apple) passed around Apple source code. And if this happens in public, what would you imagine is being sent in private to the most malicious of bad actors or hostile powers?


I happen to have a copy of the System 7 source code that I acquired so long ago that I can’t even remember where it came from. So Apple employees passing around source code is nothing new.

Previously: FBI Asks Apple for Secure Golden Key.

Update (2018-02-09): Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

A low-level Apple employee with friends in the jailbreaking community took code from Apple while working at the company’s Cupertino headquarters in 2016, according to two people who originally received the code from the employee. Motherboard has corroborated these accounts with text messages and screenshots from the time of the original leak and has also spoken to a third source familiar with the story.

Motherboard has granted these sources anonymity given the likelihood of Apple going after them for obtaining and distributing proprietary, copyrighted software. The original Apple employee did not respond to our request for comment and said through his friend that he did not currently want to talk about it because he signed a non-disclosure agreement with Apple.

According to these sources, the person who stole the code didn’t have an axe to grind with Apple. Instead, while working at Apple, they were encouraged to use their access to help their friends in the jailbreaking community with their security research by leaking them internal Apple code. And they did.

Update (2018-02-13): See also: MacRumors.

Many Siris

Bryan Irace:

When talking to Siri on my iPhone, she has a certain set of capabilities. These differ if I talk to Siri on my Mac. When talking to Siri through my AirPods, she’ll assume whatever functionality she’d otherwise have on the device that they’re currently paired with. Siri on my Apple Watch can take certain actions when untethered, but different ones when my iPhone happens to be in range. Siri on my Apple TV has a different set of skills altogether, and now, the HomePod will add yet another Siri to the family.


If the Lyft app is installed on your iPhone, you can ask Phone Siri to order you a car. But you can’t ask Mac Siri to do the same, because she doesn’t know what Lyft is. Compare and contrast this with the SDKs for Alexa and the Google Assistant – they each run third-party software server-side, such that installing the Lyft Alexa “skill” once gives Alexa the ability to summon a ride regardless of if you’re talking to her on an Echo in your bedroom, a different Echo in your living room, or via the Alexa app on your phone.

Update (2018-02-17): Steve Troughton-Smith:

Frustrating HomePod ‘feature’: because it intercepts all ‘Hey Siri’ requests in the room, it takes over requests that it can’t perform (like knowledge or search) that your iPhone can, tells you it can’t do that, and the request never gets passed back to the iPhone to continue

Kyle Copeland:

Even more frustrating is when it intercepts a request said at normal volume all the way across the house from a phone right next to my bed.

What I Learned from Watching My iPad’s Slow Death

John Herrman (via Jeremy Daer):

Fifteen years ago, before I would replace a desktop computer or a laptop, it would have quite conspicuously broken down, its fans getting louder, its spinning hard drive grinding to a halt. When I would replace it with something newer or faster or more capable, it would enter a promising second life: it could be repurposed as a spare, a computer for a friend, a terminal for playing old games or for doing undistracted work. It could be given to someone who could make use of it.

As I did when I first got it, I still use my old iPad for passive consumption: reading, watching videos, checking feeds. My routine has barely changed, but one by one, formerly easy tasks have become strained. Social apps have become slow, videos take longer to load and Safari can’t seem to handle the most important and fundamental services of the modern web.

As my iPad has aged, I’ve started to notice it more, not because I’m growing fonder, but because I’m getting frustrated: by the fact that it won’t do what it ought to or even what it used to.

That 30% App Store Tax

Brent Simmons:

Apple’s 30% tax on the App Store is increasingly absurd. Richest company in history, and it’s still taking 30% from your friendly neighborhood indie developers.

Jamie Halmick:

It’s an absurdly large cut for the level of support they give devs given the amount of profit they make on it. Obviously as a biz they can demand it and we will pay it. That doesn’t mean we should shut up and like it. They should either do better or take less or both.

Brent Simmons (tweet):

There’s no sacred verse that says businesses acting lawfully can’t be criticized. Nothing says we can’t advocate for change. In fact, I’d say that that’s part of capitalism, too.


My thinking is that a lower cut provides more incentive for developers to invest in high-quality, long-lived apps — and that that’s good for the platform and good for users, and good for Apple, and so everybody wins.

As hardware progress inevitably slows, software quality and app ecosystems will be increasingly important platform differentiators. The App Store has so many major problems, and I don’t think the 30% is at the top of the list, but on the other hand it’s a really easy knob to turn, with seemingly low downside and possible great upside.

Previously: Dirty Percent, BBEdit Leaving the Mac App Store, Pre-WWDC App Store Changes, Apple to Halve App Store Fees for Subscription Video Apps, Apple Wants 30% of Tips From Chinese Chat Apps.

John Perry Barlow, RIP

Cindy Cohn (Hacker News):

It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.

Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity’s problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth. Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: “I knew it’s also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls ‘turn-key totalitarianism.’”

Cory Doctorow:

Barlow wrote the Declaration and co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation precisely because he foresaw those possibilities: he saw that the world would be remade by general-purpose networks tied to general-purpose computers, and that unless we committed ourselves to making that network free, and fair, and open, that it would give the powerful and wicked the power to exert unprecedented, near-total control over our lives.

Today, Barlow is dead, and his vision is vindicated: the risks Barlow foresaw (along with other EFF founders like John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor) are more imminent than ever; the organization that he started and the movement he kicked off has never been more badly needed.

Steven Levy:

Over the next few years, I watched with fascination as Barlow became a leading voice in technology. With no engineering experience whatsoever, he became a great explainer, turning his gift for bullshit into a force for comprehension. He could hang around a bunch of cryptographers for a while and two weeks later explain public key crypto (pretty much) to a room of bankers, diplomats, and corporate managers. Even more important, he grasped the soul of the technology, whether the transporting aspects of virtual reality or the glorious disruptiveness of friction-free distribution.

See also: A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Electronic Frontiersmen.

Update (2018-02-14): See also: The Internet Archive.

iOS Auto-Correction From Contacts

Wil Shipley:

Imagine being in charge of an algorithm that hundreds of millions of users depend on every day and saying, “Hey, let’s take any word that’s capitalized in your contacts and just always capitalize it in text messages!”

“What could POSSIBLY go wrong? Unless you subscribe to ‘One Medical’ or ‘Capital One’ and you ever want to type ‘one’ to someone. But who would do that?”

Update (2018-02-13): Nick Heer:

It’s not just contact names that inform the autocorrect dictionary: any capitalized word in a contact record will be fed into the dictionary, as will installed apps. So, if you know someone who works at, say, Apple, or you have the Transit app installed, you will find yourself regularly undoing the automatic capitalization of those words when talking about fruit or the very concept of public transit.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

BBEdit 12.1

Bare Bones Software:

BBEdit is now built as a 64-bit application. This works around various reported bugs in the OS and has other beneficial side effects: the application starts more quickly on a “cold” launch; 64-bit color pickers and contextual-menu plug-ins are now available; and our customers are even more handsome and athletic than before.


When the “Match window appearance to selected editor color scheme” setting is turned on (as it is by default), BBEdit will use a light or dark (system-defined) appearance for the window title bar, appropriate to the color scheme.


Made a change to significantly improve performance when soft-wrapping long documents to the window width.


When using “Compare Against Previous Version”, the previous-version file now includes the time stamp as part of the file name, to make it easier to see which version of the file you’re comparing against.

Not being affected by 32-bit-only macOS bugs is a bigger deal than you would think.

Previously: BBEdit 12.

Battery Health and Peak Performance Capacity

Benjamin Mayo:

As promised, Apple has included a new screen in the iOS 11.3 beta 2 settings called Battery Health (Beta) available on all iPhones since iPhone 6. This view includes information about the maximum capacity of the battery in the device, and describes whether the battery has degraded to the point where it can no longer offer peak performance.


With iOS 11.3, it is now possible to disable performance management, stop the throttling, and restore full speed. Apple has also tweaked the algorithms that decide when performance management should come into effect. Apple says performance management is more ‘adaptive’ than it was before so that it can dynamically increase or decrease the amount it is used, without the user doing anything at all.

iPhone 8 and iPhone X include smarter hardware that enables Apple to more precisely apply power management, so noticeable effects of throttling on these devices should be less when it eventually kick ins.

Apple has actually posted lots of beta screenshots itself.

Previously: Tim Cook Talks iPhone Batteries, Apple’s Message to Customers About iPhone Batteries and Performance.

Update (2018-02-06): See also: Juli Clover.

HomePod Reviews

The consensus seems to that the sound is best of class but Siri needs work, which is what we all expected.

See also: Nick Heer, Ryan Jones, Marco Arment, Matt Birchler.

Previously: The Apple Music and HomePod Strategy, HomePod to Arrive February 9.

Apple E-mails Developers Other People’s Search Ad Results

Tech Crunch:

An issue at Apple appears to be resulting in app developers getting emails of ad spend and install summaries for apps belonging to other developers.

The issue — which appears specific right now to developers using Search Ads Basic, pay-per-install ads that appear as promoted apps when people search on the App Store — was raised on Twitter by a number of those affected […]

Some of the developers affected: Steve Troughton-Smith, Louis D’hauwe, Rafael Costa, René Fouquet, Luc Vandal.

Jeff Johnson:

You can lock down end users all you want, but the most damaging security vulnerabilities are always always always on the server side.

Previously: iTunes Connect Bug: Logs You Into the Wrong Account.

Update (2018-02-09): Joe Rossignol:

Apple today apologized after sending incorrect information to some iOS developers using its Search Ads Basic service yesterday. […] The follow-up email blames the mishap on a "processing error" and adds that all future reports of these kind will require developers to sign into their accounts to view their dashboards to ensure this issue does not occur again.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

“We can’t trust ourselves to not do this again, so we just won’t provide details by email again” I guess it’s a decent policy…

Minimum Password Lengths

Troy Hunt:

When I run my Hack Yourself First workshop, that’s one of the first questions I ask - “what’s the correct minimum password length?” I was thinking about that again just this weekend when preparing V2 of Pwned Passwords because I thought I might be able to use a minimum length threshold to reduce the size of the data set. So, rather than projecting my own views on minimum password length, I thought I’d go and check what the world’s top sites are doing. Here’s 15 of the biggest with a summary and some further commentary after that[…]


The point of all this is that you can no longer just look at a minimum length and say “ah, 6 characters - or even just 4 - is way too few” because authentication schemes can be far more intelligent than simply matching those 2 strings. That’s not to say those nice round, even numbers are always correct either - there are plenty of sites that don’t have any intelligence beyond mere string matching - but hopefully it provides food for thought.

Safari actually knows about the requirements for some top sites (via Hacker News). Or maybe this feature hasn’t shipped yet, since I could only find the referenced file in Safari Technology Preview:

/Safari Technology

Serialization on macOS and iOS: Speed and Size

Dirk Holtwick:

Overall for my personal purposes JSON and MessagePack seem to be the most appropriate ones. I was very positively surprised of the JSON results. MessagePack as the clear winner in the size comparison is probably the best choice for the projects I'm working on.

I was very disappointed of KeyedArchiver, which I previously expected to be in the top field. If not required for Apple OS specific purposes it really does not make sense to use any of those proprietary formats anymore.

I like the old, deprecated NSArchiver. It scales much better than NSKeyedArchiver.

Monday, February 5, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

How CloudKit Works

Apple (PDF, via Russ Bishop):

CloudKit is Apple’s cloud backend service and application development framework that provides strongly-consistent storage for structured data and makes it easy to synchronize data across user devices or share it among multiple users. Launched more than 3 years ago, CloudKit forms the foundation for more than 50 Apple apps, including many of our most important and popular applications such as Photos, iCloud Drive, Notes, Keynote, and News, as well as many third-party apps. To deliver this at large scale, CloudKit explicitly leverages multi-tenancy at the application level as well as at the user level to guide efficient data placement and distribution. By using CloudKit application developers are free to focus on delivering the application front-end and logic while relying on CloudKit for scale, consistency, durability and security. CloudKit manages petabytes of data and handles hundreds of millions of users around the world on a daily basis.

Russ Bishop:

Fun fact: development logs across CloudKit are on the order of 100TiB per day.

See also: Dynamo: Amazon’s Highly Available Key-value Store.

The Apple Music and HomePod Strategy

Joe Rossignol (Hacker News):

Apple Music now has 36 million paying subscribers around the world, an increase from well over 30 million reported last September.

Apple confirmed the updated total to The Wall Street Journal, which today reported that Apple Music is growing at a faster pace than Spotify in the United States, and could soon eclipse the service in popularity in the country.

Kirk McElhearn:

Also note that Apple Music is available in many more countries than Spotify. Spotify has a presence in 62 countries, and Apple Music is present in 117 countries, notably including India and China, where Spotify is absent.

Ben Thompson:

What HomePod shows, though, is that Apple Music is part of the strategy story. Remember, strategically speaking, the point of services is to differentiate hardware. To that end, HomePod is not exclusive to Apple devices to prop up Apple Music; rather, Apple Music is exclusive to HomePod to sell speakers. Most commentary has assumed that:

  1. Customer wants HomePod
  2. Therefore, customer subscribe to Apple Music
  3. Apple profits

Again, this doesn’t make sense because Apple Music isn’t profitable!

Instead, I think the order goes like this:

  1. Customer owns an iPhone
  2. Customer subscribes to Apple Music because it is installed by default on their iPhone
  3. As an Apple Music subscriber, customer only has one choice in smart speakers: HomePod (and to make the decision to spend more money palatable, Apple pushes sound quality), from which Apple makes a profit

If the goal is to sell speakers, why does HomePod lack an aux input and support for Bluetooth audio? You can’t use it from Android even if you subscribe to Apple Music there. You can’t even reliably play audio from third-party iOS apps.

Previously: HomePod to Arrive February 9.

Update (2018-02-05): Nick Heer:

More than anything, I think Simon falls into the same trap many others do: Apple isn’t setting out to build the biggest user base, but a large paying user base. A free trial accomplished that goal; a free tier does not.

Update (2018-02-06): Third-party app support may get better when AirPlay 2 is released and apps are rewritten to use it.