Archive for February 12, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Virtual Apple II

Virtual Apple ][ (via Hacker News):

Almost every Apple ][ and Apple IIgs game ever made, ready to play in your browser.

I was hoping to see Life & Death. They do have have Thexder and Oregon Trail, though, along with Risk, which had a better AI than the Mac version.

Previously: Apple ][js.

Update (2017-02-12): They even have some scanned user manuals.

Testing Out Snapshots in APFS

Adam H. Leventhal:

It’s 2017, and Apple already appears to be making good on its promise with the revelation that the forthcoming iOS 10.3 will use APFS. The number of APFS tinkerers using it for their personal data has instantly gone from a few hundred to a few million. Beta users of iOS 10.3 have already made the switch apparently without incident. They have even ascribed unscientifically-significant performance improvements to APFS.


We figured out the proper use of the fs_snapshot system call and reconstructed the WWDC snapUtil. But all this time an equivalent utility has been lurking on macOS Sierra. If you look in /System/Library/Filesystems/apfs.fs/Contents/Resources/, Apple has included a number of APFS-related utilities, including apfs_snapshot (and, tantalizingly, a tool called hfs_convert).


After the volume is mounted again, not only are the contents reverted (to an empty directory in this case), but any snapshots taken after the snapshot used for the revert operation are deleted as well. One might expect APFS snapshot revert to immediately take effect and restore the contents of the volume to the previous state. Some technical issues likely make that challenging, such as what to do about programs that have files within in that volume open. So seeing if and how Apple decides to expose this functionality will be interesting.

mkfile(8) Is Severely Syscall Limited

Marcel Weiher (Hacker News):

It never occurred to me that the problem could be with mkfile(8). Of course, that’s exactly where the problem was. If you check the mkfile source code, you will see that it writes to disk in 512 byte chunks. That doesn’t actually affect the I/O path, which will coalesce those writes. However, you are spending one syscall per 512 bytes, and that turns out to be the limiting factor. Upping the buffer size increases throughput until we hit 2GB/s at a 512KB buffer size. After that throughput stays flat.


The point is that the hardware has changed so dramatically that even seemingly extremely safe and uncontroversial assumptions no longer hold. Heck, 250MB/s would be perfectly fine if we still had spinning rust, but SSDs in general and particularly the scorchingly fast ones Apple has put in these laptops just changed the equation so that something that used to just not factor into the equation at all, such as syscall performance, can now be the deciding factor.

The Slow Decline of iPad Sales

John Gruber:

But put software development aside. I think the bigger problem for the iPad is that there are few productivity tasks, period, where iPad is hardware-constrained. Aldus PageMaker shipped for the Mac in 1985. By 1987 or 1988, it was easy to argue that the Mac was, hands-down, the best platform the world had ever seen for graphic designers and visual artists. By 1991 — seven years after the original Mac — I think it was inarguable. And the improvements in Mac software during those years drove demand for improved hardware. Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand (R.I.P.), QuarkXpress — those apps pushed the limits of Mac hardware in those days.

Michael Rockwell:

iPad owners don’t buy new iPads because the one they have is just as fast as the day they bought it. By comparison, the Windows PCs that many of these users buy are at their fastest when they’re first setup. I reference Windows users because they represent the vast majority of mainstream computer users and I believe them to be the primary reason for the massive success of the iPad in its early days.


In the tech-centric circles that many of us frequent, new hardware and software features matter, a lot. But I don’t think the mainstream user is convinced to spend hundreds of dollars on a new device just because it connects to a new kind of wireless keyboard or works with a $100 drawing accessory that you have to buy separately.


The iPad upgrade cycle might be longer than any other computing device in history. This might look terrible for Apple’s financial department, but it’s a testament to how well-crafted these devices are from both a software and hardware standpoint. The lengthy upgrade cycle lends itself to high customer satisfaction ratings and repeat customers. That’s something Apple should be proud of — a computing device that doesn’t have to be replaced every few years.

Nick Heer:

Apple has long said that the iPad’s big display provides the opportunity to create a completely different app experience. At the first Retina iPad event, Tim Cook even spent stage time mocking Android tablet apps that looked like large phone apps.

But now, five years after that event, it’s not so much the apps that are scaled-up versions of a smartphone, but rather that the operating system seems largely driven by what the iPhone can do. This was an early criticism of the iPad, but I felt it was unwarranted at the time — a larger version of a familiar interface is a great way to introduce a new product category.

Chris Adamson:

Here’s a counter-argument that is being overlooked: the iPad represents effectively all of the “productivity tablet” market[…].


Now even if the Mac sells less than the iPad, the PC market as a whole is massive… much larger than tablets, and larger still than my contrived “productivity tablet” market. And Mac’s not even 10% of this giant PC market.

So, in terms of growth opportunities, which is more realistic: finding non-tablet-users to adopt the iPad for their productivity or work needs (and making the iPad more suitable for that), or flipping more of the 90% of people already using PCs to a better version of the same thing?

Previously: Apple’s Q1 2017 Results.

Update (2017-02-12): Jeff Johnson:

iPad upgrade cycle shouldn’t be the focus. Ask why new sales aren’t growing. How did iPad reach market saturation in only 4 years?

Ole Begemann:

Not sure I buy the argument that iPad sales are slow because old devices are “fast enough”. My 3-year-old iPad Air is often painfully slow.