Archive for January 30, 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple Delays Features to Focus on Reliability, Performance

Ina Fried (Hacker News, MacRumors, 9to5Mac):

Apple has shaken up its iOS software plans for 2018, delaying some features to next year in an effort to put more focus on addressing performance and quality issues, Axios has learned.

Mark Gurman (MacRumors):

While core features like the combined apps platform are still on schedule to be introduced this year, some flashier changes like the redesigned home screen will likely be held back until the 2019 software update, a person familiar with the matter said. The company will also probably delay a revamped photo management application that used new algorithms to better automatically sort pictures, though some smaller upgrades to the Photos app will still appear this year.

[…]

The company told its software engineering groups about the change this month, one of the people said. The shift will also affect this year’s update to Mac computer software, but to a lesser degree, the person said, adding that planned upgrades to Apple Watch and Apple TV software won’t be affected.

I imagine that it’s normal for some features to get cut, so it’s not clear how much of a change this is. And we were told last year that High Sierra was to be a refinement release, but it didn’t end up the way we expected. We already know that macOS 10.14 will contain major changes for 32-bit apps and possibly Marzipan-related framework changes.

There are benefits to a predictable schedule, but the problem is that even cutting features doesn’t guarantee quality. If finding or fixing bugs takes longer than expected, you either have to ship the bugs or slip the schedule. In the old days, Apple was more flexible with the schedule, and there was almost always more than a year between major releases. It’s debatable whether the old 10.x.0 releases were more solid than recent ones. I think they were, though they always seemed to be a bit buggy.

I think the real difference is that, with more time between major releases, there was less churn, and there was time for things to settle down before the next major release upended everything again. The last few versions of each cycle got to be really good, and you could stick with them until the next version settled down. Some people stayed with 10.6.8 for multiple whole cycles. (There was also less pressure to update then.) Last fall, if Sierra was buggy for you, the choice was between sticking with a release you weren’t happy with or rolling the dice on High Sierra, which included significant fixes but also introduced new problems of its own.

All of this is to say that this sounds good on the surface, but I would have preferred to hear about schedule changes rather than feature cuts. I would be more excited about a 10.13.11 than a less ambitious 10.14.0. And lengthening the schedule would be more of a long-term fix. In any case, the proof will be in the pudding.

Update (2018-01-30): Marco Arment:

You can’t produce high-quality software with a large number of short-staffed platforms following an aggressive annual release schedule.

ATPTipster:

Rejiggering what fundamental components ship means that much of the work prior to the rejigger was a waste of time. Which also leads to lower software quality.

No easy choices, no easy fix.

Update (2018-01-31): Michael Steeber:

Over the past two years, the legend of Snow Leopard has steadily grown, its mythology spreading with every new discussion about Apple software.

Update (2018-02-01): Benjamin Mayo:

Long term, I don’t know how Apple prevents this same cycle of happiness, discontent, and anger, from happening again without deeper structural changes in organisation and management. Like, how is software quality affected when iOS 13 reverts back to a release where employees are stretched to deliver new features?

Fixing PDFs Whose Pages Render as Black Rectangles

Adam C. Engst:

When he sent me the PDF, it opened and displayed fine in Preview on my Mac, running the same versions of macOS and Preview.

[…]

The solution may have been simple, but it was far from obvious. User oakcan reported suffering from the same problem and resolved it by calibrating his display. Chris Lee said that recalibrating the display worked for him too.

The PDF issue I’ve been seeing lately is pages that render as white rectangles, but only intermittently (e.g. after switching back from another app).

Previously: PDFKit Improves Somewhat in High Sierra.

Update (2018-01-30): Dan Masters:

This happens all the time in iBooks – maybe Apple should allow us to recalibrate iOS displays too 😄

Update (2019-01-31): Alas, I’m still seeing the problem with white pages on macOS 10.14.3.

Update (2019-02-01): Friedrich Markgraf:

Had a DHL shipping label PDF. Looked good in Preview, strange artifacts in Chrome, and totally unusable printed from Preview. Had to print a screenshot.

Fitness Tracking App Gives Away Locations of US Army Bases

Alex Hern (via Bruce Schneier):

Sensitive information about the location and staffing of military bases and spy outposts around the world has been revealed by a fitness tracking company.

The details were released by Strava in a data visualisation map that shows all the activity tracked by users of its app, which allows people to record their exercise and share it with others.

The map, released in November 2017, shows every single activity ever uploaded to Strava – more than 3 trillion individual GPS data points, according to the company. The app can be used on various devices including smartphones and fitness trackers like Fitbit to see popular running routes in major cities, or spot individuals in more remote areas who have unusual exercise patterns.

Liz Sly et al.:

The concerns raised by the online map went beyond sensitive military sites, with evidence that Strava could help reveal the movements of international aid workers, intelligence operatives and millions of other people in many countries.

In the latest discoveries Monday, Internet sleuths found ways of using the publicly available Strava data to identify individual users of the tracking service by name, along with the jogging routes they use in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

[…]

Privacy experts have long warned that tech companies often make personal information — including contact lists, social media posts and location data — available by default. That means users who do not routinely read privacy notices and tweak settings can be surprised by how much information is collected by private companies, as well as how that data ultimately is used.

iMessage on Android

Russell Ivanovic:

Honest question: do you think Apple will bring iMessage to Android? I feel like the list of reasons they should outweighs the shouldn’t in 2018.

Apple Pay Cash is the business model. As is the Halo Effect of doing it well. And yes, I think a CloudKit backed iMessage could be both reliable and good.

Also think about the value in being the message service people use.

I, too, wonder the calculus for keeping iMessage Apple-exclusive will change. In this case, Apple Pay everywhere could be a great business, but I doubt that Apple would want to deal with supporting it on third-party hardware with differing mechanisms for secure storage, which are not controlled by them.

Update (2018-02-05): See also: Rene Ritchie.