Archive for April 4, 2016

Monday, April 4, 2016 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Working Around Broken Mac App Store Test Account Switching

Since Mac OS X 10.11.2, I have had problems testing the Mac App Store versions of my apps using an iTunes Connect sandbox user account. You are supposed to be able to launch the app, get prompted for an Apple ID and password, enter the test account credentials, and have it automatically download a receipt and launch the app. Instead, I would get the dreaded “This Apple ID has not yet been used with the App Store. Please review your account information.” alert.

For a brief time in January, test accounts worked for me after I installed an updated Apple certificate in the System keychain. Then, in early March, they stopped working again, despite having the new certificate.

Weeks of communication with Apple via Radar and developer support channels did not produce anything helpful except for the knowledge that completely cleaning out my keychains and certificates did not help. The same problem was occurring on both of my Macs—though, curiously, not in a clean VMware Mac OS X installation that was missing the WWDR certificate that I’d had to update before.

This led me to hypothesize that I was looking in the wrong place with the certificates and actually the problem was with the local store software. I found that deleting the cache folder:

~/Library/Caches/com.apple.appstore

and restarting the Mac allowed me to launch apps using the test user. (I’ve since discovered that others have also found this to help.)

However, this is more of a workaround than a fix because test accounts still don’t work normally, i.e. the way they did prior to December 2015. Once I’ve launched an app with a test account, the App Store app itself becomes unusable. It refuses to let me purchase or update apps, saying that one cannot purchase from the sandbox environment, even though the App Store app is logged into my regular Apple ID.

I got the App Store app to work by again deleting the cache folder and restarting the Mac. However, after I successfully updated a few apps, I again got the Apple ID errors when trying to test apps using a sandbox user. The same thing happened on my other Mac.

My conclusion is that, at least with Mac OS X 10.11.4, every time I want to switch from testing an app to using the Mac App Store like a regular user—or vice-versa—I have to delete the cache folder and restart the Mac.

Early Apple Retail Adventures

Jean-Louis Gassée:

As we saw it at the time, the accepted practice of volume discounts was the first step on the Road To Perdition. Big retailers would order large quantities of computers at a reduced price and then rather than using their fat margins to hire and train competent sales and service organizations, they would cut the price tag of the product in order to drive out the competition. They would sell Apple products the way hypermarchés sold yoghourts.

Smaller retailers would get killed, squeezed between discounting competitors and their higher product cost. And yet, those smaller retailers were the most enthusiastic, the most competent promoters of Apple machines, always willing to spend an extra hour to explain the product, to answer questions after the sale, to provide personalized service.

We resolved to go against standard practice and enforced uniform pricing: No quantity discount.

How Amazon Created Echo

Eugene Kim:

Echo has emerged as Amazon’s sleeper hit, a hot-selling gadget that’s being hailed as the standard-bearer for an entirely new computing paradigm in which Amazon suddenly has an edge on rivals such as Apple and Google.

[…]

The average latency of existing voice-recognition technology at the time was around 2.5 to three seconds, so the Echo team initially set the goal at two seconds, according to an early team member.

But when the team presented its plan to Bezos, Amazon’s CEO countered with a much more ambitious target.

[…]

The test involved a human “wizard” sitting in a separate room and responding in real-time to any voice query a human testing subject would make to the Echo, often without telling the tester in advance. For example, if the subject asked Echo, “What’s the weather like in New York?” the wizard in the other room would quickly type and send out an answer through Echo’s voice.

Apple Classroom First Impressions

Fraser Speirs:

Apple Classroom is not like Google Classroom. Google Classroom is roughly equivalent to Apple’s iTunes U - a service that lets you share materials and content with students and receive, mark and grade assignments.

Apple Classroom is more like a basic Apple Remote Desktop for iOS. Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) was a Mac app that allowed administrators to monitor and manipulate multiple Macs remotely over the network. ARD was mostly a sysadmin tool but occasionally teachers would get into using it because of its ability to monitor and lock computer screens in a lab scenario. ARD was really too complex for classroom use.

[…]

The frame-rate on the full screen view of a student iPad is not very high at all. I would estimate it as about 1-2 frames per second (not a typo).

[…]

The Achilles heel of Apple Classroom right now is its total reliance on Bluetooth. If you are a student, the simple way to hide from Classroom is simply to turn Bluetooth off. This results in a total defeat of the system and is clearly something that needs to be addressed in future configuration profile options.

Brave’s Payment Spec

Marshall T. Rose and Brendan Eich (Hacker News, Slashdot):

We know and respect that content on the Internet is largely advertiser supported, so our goal is not to remove advertising, but to put you back in control. Our architecture to do just that is – no surprise – an inversion of the traditional browser advertisement model. The traditional model treats the browser as a “silent partner”. You are tracked by multiple third parties as you browse across different sites. Those parties build sophisticated (yet annoyingly incomplete) profiles in private clouds, and then some party (often distinct from the tracker) serves ads based on those profiles.

[…]

So, in Brave’s anti-cloud model, all of your detailed information is kept only in the browser. […] When non-intrusive ad slots are detected, the Brave Browser contacts the Brave Ad Network and requests ads to fill those slots. The Brave Browser maps browsing history to a fixed set of general “interest” categories. A subset of those categories are combined with categories based on the context of the current page and possibly some “decoy” categories. No other information is disclosed and no unique or persistent identifiers are used. The Brave Browser then selects appropriate ads to display from the list returned by the Brave Ad Network and either ignores the remainder or caches them for later use.

[…]

Today we are discussing the Brave Ledger, a Bitcoin-based micropayments system for users and publishers.

Previously: Brave Browsers.

Update (2016-04-14): Nick Heer:

While technically true, Brave treads awfully close to an uncomfortable line previously drawn by content framing and JavaScript injection.