Archive for August 29, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

CoreText Bug Allows Specific String to Crash Apps

Matthew Panzarino:

A bug in Apple’s CoreText rendering engine in iOS 6 and OS X 10.8 causes any apps that try to render a string of Arabic characters to crash on sight. The string of characters which can trigger the bug — which was discovered yesterday and has spread around the hacking and coding community — has made its way to Twitter, where even looking at it in your timeline will crash the app.


The characters were discovered and posted on a Russian site yesterday morning. The site claims that Apple has known about the problem for ‘six months’ and has not reacted. There is some evidence of the string appearing on Twitter back in February. The posting includes a request to click the crash report button on any apps affected and report it to Apple.

Sounds like this bug, though it’s in a different OS subsystem. It’s apparently fixed in Mavericks and iOS 7.

ArsTechnica and Hacker News have additional coverage.

Update (2013-09-08): Chris Williams explains the buffer overrun (via Nicolas Seriot):

If we open libvDSP (located deep within the /System/Library/ filesystem hierarchy of your computer) in the rather handy reverse-engineering tool Hopper, we can look at the compiled machine code that blew up. See the screenshot below: the faulting instruction 117462 bytes in, or 1cad6 in hex, is highlighted.

Update (2013-09-13): This seems to be fixed in Mac OS X 10.8.5.

New YouTube Logo

Armin Vit:

I’ve never been a fan of the YouTube logo. It’s fine and much less annoying than most of the start-ups that went on to dominate the internet (i.e., PayPal, eBay, Google, etc.) so I have no qualms in seeing it go away. In exchange, they are establishing their big play button inside its own recognizable shape as the main identifier for YouTube, which is a perfect strategy since every time you watch a YouTube video it’s the first thing you see. It’s similar to Twitter going with the blue bird.

I don’t like the skinny type, though.


Lukas Mathis:

Nowadays, Mac analysts have a similar obsession with Nintendo. The logic goes a bit like this: Nintendo is doing poorly because Apple and Samsung own the market for portable devices. If only Nintendo stopped making hardware and published their games for iOS instead, surely, it would do much better.

Update (2013-08-30): Federico Viticci:

Saying that Nintendo should shut everything down, go home, and start making games for iOS is an easy but flawed solution that just isn’t supported by the facts.

Update (2013-09-02): John Siracusa:

At the tail end of the GameCube’s life, Sony had sold many times more consoles and games than Nintendo over the course of a decade. Should Nintendo have started writing games for the overwhelmingly dominant Sony platform? Would that have helped Nintendo achieve Wii-like success? I don’t think so; no amount of software alone could have done that.

Update (2013-09-04): John Gruber:

That, to me, is how I wish Nintendo saw iOS gaming. It might not kill Nintendo’s own console platforms any more than The Mickey Mouse Club killed Disney’s feature film business. And if Nintendo’s hardware platforms are doomed, I think they’re doomed no matter what. Nintendo producing iOS games isn’t going to accelerate the demise of DS handhelds. Better to get a foothold in the new world as soon as possible, to do it before it’s too late.

Lukas Mathis:

The criticisms levelled against the DS and the Wii were exactly the same ones Gruber now levels against the current Nintendo consoles. But Nintendo is at its best when it doesn’t try to compete with other devices on the market, and often at its worst when it does. Nintendo is not competing on hardware. It’s competing on entertainment value.


I’m sure Nintendo wants the 3DS to sell better than the DS, and the Wii U to sell better than the Wii. Fortunately, Nintendo doesn’t need every console to sell 120 million units. Nintendo is a small company. It only has 5000 employees. It doesn’t need to be the number one videogame hardware maker to sustain itself.


Most of this whole discussion is based on the expectation that Nintendo will continue (and must continue) being as dominant as it was during the Wii/DS years. But these years were a fluke. Nintendo never did that well before, and possibly won’t do that well again. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to.

Update (2013-09-06): Lukas Mathis:

It’s always seductive to take a single aspect of a company, and view that company’s whole history through that lens. It’s also usually wrong. But it’s surprising how well it works in this particular case. «Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology» seems to correlate quite well with Nintendo’s ups and downs. Whenever Nintendo produced videogame systems that used established technology in surprising ways, it did well. When it tried to compete on specs, it did poorly.

Update (2013-09-08): John Gruber:

Here then, I can put my finger precisely on where Mathis and I disagree. Because I think this is nearly as applicable to video game consoles — portable ones in particular — as it is for BlackBerrys. People do not want to carry extra devices. It’s that simple.

Lukas Mathis:

I don’t think most people buy portable gaming systems with the intention of regularly carrying them in their pockets. I don’t think they ever did. I don’t remember knowing even a single person who routinely carried a portable gaming device in his or her pocket.

Update (2013-09-14): Lukas Mathis:

With historical data, you can’t do this type of experiment. But you can get close. If the Wii’s sales pattern truly is unusual, and mainly caused by the «post-PC era», then the following things should be true[…]

Redesigning Instapaper on the Web

Grant Custer:

When I got the opportunity to redesign the Instapaper website my goal was to do justice to the service Instapaper provides. In the FAQ quoted above, Marco referred to the “information-skimming, speed-overload mode” we often enter while surfing. I think of Instapaper as a place I can go to take a break from that mode, and I wanted the design of the website to signal and support that break.

There’s much to like in the new design, but one problem is that there seems to no longer be a way to quickly send a series of articles to the Archive. The button only appears when you move the cursor, so you can’t just keep clicking in the same place like with the old design. This is a problem because the “Archive All” link in the Kindle edition has been intermittently broken for me for a few months. Instapaper doesn’t keep track of what it’s already sent to the Kindle, so I have to manually clean it out after each mailing.

Update (2013-09-14): I continue to have problems with the “Archive All” link not working, saying that the link is invalid. However, it is now possible to double-click on the Web site to successively archive individual articles.