Archive for December 1, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Apple’s New OS “Activation” for Touch Bar MacBook Pros

Erik Gomez (via Hacker News):

Last week Joe Chilcote discovered an interesting message when imaging a Late 2016 MacBook Pro TouchBar […]:

A critical software update is required for your Mac. To install this update you need to connect to a network. Select a Wi-Fi network below, or click Other Network Options to connect to the internet using other network devices.


Attempting to skip this page would lead to an additional failure […] Even more worrying was the final note:

Your Mac can’t be used until this update is installed.


Welcome to the future of Apple’s hybrid ARM/x86 platform.

It’s also quite clear that destroying entire disks is going to lead to some pain points for people still imaging.

Erik Gomez:

Online Activation is typically required after Internet Recovery or a full disk wipe and subsequent re-image.


Offline Upgrades seems to occur each time the machine there is a new firmware detected in the iBridge1_1Customer.bundle.


My spidey sense tingled when I first noticed offline activations and offline upgrades. It was clear that Apple didn’t want to force a “Critical Update required” screen every time there was a new point release and we could use this to our advantage.

Spark Mail Stores Credentials in Cloud


Spark is much more than a mailbox. It’s a smart, unified inbox which collects all of your emails and automatically categorizes them for easy processing.

Ole Begemann:

While everyone’s raving about @sparkmailapp, remember that they store the credentials to your email(!) on their servers.

Readdle’s privacy policy:

In the event you delete your data from Spark, or revoke access to your data, or delete your Spark account, all your data, as well as your authentication/password information, is completely and permanently deleted from our servers, and we, therefore, do not have access to any of your data anymore.


Credentials are stored in encrypted form on Amazon server. There’s no way to access them in the original form

Presumably, whatever they’re storing is enough to access your mail. Otherwise, what would be the point? This is a concern, not only because of privacy, but also because access to your e-mail account can (through password resets, in the absence of two-factor authentication) unlock all of your other accounts.

My guess is that the main reason Readdle wants their server (rather than just the app running on your phone) to be able to access your mail account is for push notifications. My understanding is that Apple’s Mail app gets special privileges to run in the background and use push to detect when the IMAP or Exchange server has new messages. It also does background polling.

Third-party iOS apps are not allowed to do either of these things, just as they cannot register for the mailto: protocol. However, if Readdle’s server can monitor the mail account for new messages, it can send an Apple Push Notification to wake up the iOS app. Alternatively, you can turn off this feature. However, then you would not get background notifications of new mail, and it would probably use more battery power in the foreground.

Previously: FastMail Enables IMAP Push for iOS.

Update (2018-01-03): See also: Reddit (via Dennis).

The Mac App Store Is Full of Scams

Justin Pot (via John Gruber):

Try to put yourself into the mental state of a novice computer user. You have a brand new iMac, and you want to edit some Excel spreadsheets. In the dock you find that App Store you’ve heard so much about, so you open it. You find the search bar, then type “Microsoft Excel.”


It’s…templates. A $30, 293MB collection of templates, all of which are useless without Microsoft Office.


Let’s be blunt: these customers were ripped off, and Apple pocketed $10 each. And you’ll only see these comments if you scroll past the two five star reviews that mention the word “app” numerous times. Both of those reviews, by the way, were left by accounts that haven’t reviewed any other apps in the Store.


Search for “Indesign” and you won’t find Adobe’s publishing tool, but you will find several bundles of tutorial videos with icons that mimic InDesign’s closely.


And other developers seem to be working some dark App Store SEO magic. Search for “Firefox” or “Chrome” and the top application is “Fast Browser,” a $1 app that hasn’t been updated since 2014.

A History of Hard Drives

Peter Cohen:

IBM made the first commercial hard disk drive-based computer and called it RAMAC – short for “Random Access Method of Accounting And Control.” Its storage system was called the IBM 350. RAMAC was big – it required an entire room to operate. The hard disk drive storage system alone was about the size of two refrigerators. Inside were stacked 50 24-inch platters.

For that, RAMAC customers ended up with less than 5 MB – that’s right, megabytes of storage.


In 1980, a young upstart company named Shugart Technology introduced a 5 MB hard disk drive designed to fit into personal computers of the day. It was a scant 5.25 inches in diameter. The drive cost $1,500. It would prove popular enough to become a de facto standard for PCs throughout the 1980s. Shugart changed its name to Seagate Technology.


There’s no question that the hard drive market is in a period of decline and transition. Hard disk drive sales are down year-over-year. Consumers switch to SSD or move away from Macs and PCs altogether and do more of their work on mobile devices.

Regardless, Innovation and development of hard drives continue apace. We’re populating our own Storage Pods with 8 TB hard drives. 10 TB hard drives are already shipping, and even higher-capacity 3.5-inch drives are on the horizon.