Archive for April 4, 2018

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Apple Hires John Giannandrea

Jack Nicas and Cade Metz (Hacker News, MacRumors):

Apple has hired Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, John Giannandrea, a major coup in its bid to catch up to the artificial intelligence technology of its rivals.

Apple said on Tuesday that Mr. Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and A.I. strategy,” and become one of 16 executives who report directly to Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.

I don’t know much about Giannandrea, but at least on paper this sounds like a great move. Of course, talent is not plug-and-play so we’ll have to see what happens. Some are already floating Giannandrea’s name as a possible successor as CEO. We also saw that with the hiring of Angela Ahrendts, which was also nearly universally praised, but four years later it’s not clear whether she’s succeeding as SVP of Retail.

John Gruber:

I think it’s important too that Giannandrea reports directly to Cook.

In other words, he should have the power to get things done, and this should take some of the load off of Craig Federighi. Back at Google, Giannandrea’s old position is being split into separate jobs for search (Ben Gomes) and AI (Jeff Dean).

See also: The Information.

Previously: What Went Wrong With Siri.

Update (2018-04-05): Samuel Axon:

Giannandrea joined Google in 2010 as part of the company's acquisition of Metaweb, the company behind Freebase, a community-driven database of data and information that was eventually leveraged to augment Google search results. He has also worked as Chief Technologist for Netscape, and he sits on the board of trustees for the SETI institute.

Update (2018-07-19): John Voorhees:

The Information reports that Tom Gruber, Apple’s head of the Siri Advanced Developments group, has retired to pursue personal interests including photography and ocean conservation. Gruber joined Apple as part of the company’s acquisition of Siri in 2010 along with his co-founders Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer, who previously left Apple in 2011 and 2012 respectively. In addition to Gruber, The Information reports that Vipul Ved Prakash, Apple’s head of search, has left the company.

Textlicious 1.0

Textlicious, from Wil Shipley:

Textlicious is a tiny extension that lets you enter styled text in places that normally accept only plain text. Make your tweets more expressive, your texts stand out, and your posts on the ‘book the envy of all your friends.

Just highlight any text you’re typing in any app on your iPhone or iPad, click on the “Share” menu item, select the style you want from Textlicious, and paste the newly styled text over your old word.

Available styles include bold, italic, serifed, typewriter, script, double-struck, and more.

It really does output plain text, so it will work anywhere (that supports modern Unicode). This is possible because Unicode actually has separate characters to represent the same Roman letter in different styles. These were not necessarily intended for styling but for conveying different meanings. For example, the double-struck capital Z (ℤ) is used in math to refer to the set of integers. Perhaps because of this intent, and perhaps because it would be extra work, lots of software does not treat these styled characters as equivalent to their regular counterparts. So, for example, a screen reader may not know how to pronounce words comprised of them, and some apps and search engines will let you find ℤ by searching for Z, while others won’t.

Update (2018-04-06): There’s also a Mac version.

Rosyna Keller:

VoiceOver won’t read the emotion “;)” as ; and ) are voiceless.

For things like “🅘🅓🅙🅘🅣🅢” (been rewatching Supernatural), VoiceOver reads their Unicode names, as it should.

Also, making VoiceOver understand lookalikes creates a layering violation

Avoiding Apple Pay’s Pestering

John Gruber:

This does annoy people who, for whatever reason, don’t want to set up Apple Pay. There is a way to dismiss the red badge, but it’s not obvious how, because the button you have to tap says “Set Up Apple Pay”. (After that, you tap “Cancel” or “Set Up Later in Wallet”.) It is inscrutably counterintuitive to need to tap a button that says “Set Up Apple Pay” when your intention is to stop being nagged to set it up because you don’t want to set up Apple Pay.

See also: Dark Patterns are designed to trick you.

Previously: Apple Music Problems, Apple Pushes iPhone 6s Pop-up Ads to App Store.

Instagram Removes Watch App

Benjamin Mayo:

In a move that surprises almost no one, Instagram opted to ditch its Watch app entirely rather than dedicated it engineering resources to ‘modernise’ it. I expect this will be the path many developers pick, continuing the exodus of Watch apps from the store, a trend that we’ve seen for the better part of a year at this point.


Another facet to this story that people don’t really talk about is that you need a Watch app to offer custom Apple Watch notification interfaces for your app. The notification controller is embedded inside the Watch app binary, so if you don’t have a Watch app, you can’t provide Watch users with custom-designed alerts. This means that along with the Instagram Watch app, Watch users also lose the pretty Instagram notifications.

Previously: Major Apps Abandoning Apple Watch, WatchKit Is a Sweet Solution.

Update (2018-06-05): Juli Clover:

Lyft is the latest company to ditch support for the Apple Watch, eliminating its Apple Watch app in an update that was released this morning.

Update (2018-08-06): Christian Zibreg:

The app’s developer has removed the watchOS component from Instapaper’s most recent update on App Store, which basically killed all Apple Watch functionality. That’s quite a shame given Instapaper was one of the better Apple Watch apps out there: it allowed you to access text-to-speech playback of saved articles, as well as like, delete or archive individual items.

Interview With Apple Logo Creator Rob Janoff

Michael Steeber:

At a time when design trends and tastes seem to fluctuate with increasing speed, one image has remained remarkably persistent: the Apple logo. Often remixed but never replaced, the symbol has been continuously in use in one form or another since graphic designer Rob Janoff first sketched it in 1977. 9to5Mac talked with Janoff about his time working with Steve Jobs, the perspective gained from working over 40 years in the design industry, and an upcoming creative collaboration.


While both skillsets have unique merit, he believes that the technical implementation of a solution can get in the way of the creative process if left unchecked. “Whenever I’m talking to kids, there is such a tendency to go straight to the computer. But almost always, it’s devoid of idea. I think a lot of times tech can be an idea killer, because you’re spending all that time on making that corner good, or connecting some other thing, and you’re forgetting what the bigger picture is, what the bigger idea is. I think that only comes when you’re free and you’re just drawing and pouring stuff out of your brain.”


Clients are routinely presented with a buffet of options when narrowing down a final logo or layout. In contrast, Steve Jobs was only offered one design for Apple’s logo – which he accepted.

Swift Protobuf

Apple (via Russell Ivanovic):

Apple’s Swift programming language is a perfect complement to Google’s Protocol Buffer ("protobuf") serialization technology. They both emphasize high performance and programmer safety.

This project provides both the command-line program that adds Swift code generation to Google’s protoc and the runtime library that is necessary for using the generated code. After using the protoc plugin to generate Swift code from your .proto files, you will need to add this library to your project.

Previously: Serialization on macOS and iOS: Speed and Size.