Archive for June 14, 2018

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Black Pixel (tweet):

Last week at WWDC 2018 Apple announced they are officially supporting free trials for apps via a Non-Consumable IAP item. Inspired by The Omni Group, this is exactly the approach Black Pixel took last year when releasing Kaleidoscope 2 and Pixelboard.

Last Summer when working on these two apps, we decided to create a shared framework to use internally that would wrap the iOS SDK APIs necessary to provide a smooth consistent experience with starting a free trial and upgrading to full app versions. Today we are open sourcing the fruit of this labor as IAPKit.

Previously: Mac App Store Sandboxing, IAP Trials, Multiplatform Services.

Intel FPU May Spill Crypto Secrets to Apps

Chris Williams:

The security shortcoming involves what’s known as lazy FPU state restore. Operating system kernels would only save and restore the floating-point unit (FPU) registers, and other context information, when programs were actually using the math unit.

This, it turned out today, through a security gaffe in Intel’s blueprints related to Spectre-Meltdown Variant 3A, allows a program to obtain scraps of the FPU context of another app. Variant 3A allows applications to read system registers that only privileged code should be allowed to peek at.

The fix is to employ a mechanism called eager FPU state restore, which modern Linux, Windows and other kernels use. These mitigations do not carry a performance hit – in fact, eager state switching can increase performance.

It says that only older Windows and Linux versions are vulnerable—no mention of macOS.

Previously: Intel CPU Design Flaw Necessitates Kernel Page Table Isolation.

Shortcuts: A New Vision for Siri and iOS Automation

Federico Viticci:

On the surface, Shortcuts the app looks like the full-blown Workflow replacement heavy users of the app have been wishfully imagining for the past year. But there is more going on with Shortcuts than the app alone. Shortcuts the feature, in fact, reveals a fascinating twofold strategy: on one hand, Apple hopes to accelerate third-party Siri integrations by leveraging existing APIs as well as enabling the creation of custom SiriKit Intents; on the other, the company is advancing a new vision of automation through the lens of Siri and proactive assistance from which everyone – not just power users – can reap the benefits.

While it’s still too early to comment on the long-term impact of Shortcuts, I can at least attempt to understand the potential of this new technology. In this article, I’ll try to explain the differences between Siri shortcuts and the Shortcuts app, as well as answering some common questions about how much Shortcuts borrows from the original Workflow app.

Training a Text Classifier with Create ML

Mattt Thompson:

Consider this: in under an hour, we went from nothing to a working solution without any significant programming. That’s pretty incredible.

Create ML is a powerful way to prototype new features quickly. If a minimum-viable product is good enough, then your job is done. Or if you need to go even further, there are all kinds of optimizations to be had in terms of model size, accuracy, and precision by using something like TensorFlow or Turi Create.

Apple’s Design Language Has Killed Fun in Consumer Electronics

Mike Murphy:

For a while, the company stuck to this design trend, selling increasingly ambitious and playful products, including the original iPod, the iBook G4, the Power Mac G4 Cube, the iPod Nano, Touch, and Shuffle, and even the iPhone 5c. Today, the only colors you’ll find on Apple products is black, white, shades of grey, and occasionally, gold. We don’t even have rose gold anymore. Real pops of color are reserved for accessories like watch bands and phone cases.

Something changed over the last decade. Perhaps it was the hiring of Angela Ahrendts from Burberry to run Apple’s retail division and her increasing influence within the company. Perhaps it’s just because metal looks more premium than plastic does. For whatever reason, Apple looks and acts far more like a luxury brand than a consumer-technology brand in 2018.

Previously: What Happened to Apple’s Whimsy?.

Update (2018-06-15): But on the software side, Mojave is adding accent colors.

Update (2018-06-24): Riccardo Mori:

Now, perhaps Murphy’s piece is guilty of all the faults the Macalope points out — it all boils down to the author cherry-picking examples to fit his narrative — but the Macalope, in his rebuttal, does exactly the same. He points out that Apple still has colourful products: there’s the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone, there are the iPod touch colour options, there are the bands for the Apple Watch. These examples are valid, but weak.

Slix ~ Jeremy:

Still don’t see why Apple dropped the metallic colors, since the iPod line had a really good thing going for a long time. I think the colors and textures from the iPod nano 4th generation line could easily be put onto iPhones and people would eat them up.

Amazon Fire TV Cube

Mitchel Broussard:

Amazon today unveiled its latest “Fire” branded product, called the “Fire TV Cube.” The company describes the device as a hands-free box that streams 4K Ultra HD video using Alexa voice controls. The set-top box appears to have many features similar (or coming soon) to the Apple TV 4K, with 4K HDR content, smart assistant integration, HDMI CEC, Dolby Atmos support, and more.


The Fire TV Cube can be pre-ordered today and tomorrow for a special price of $89.99 (for Prime members only), and afterwards the device will cost $119.99. The Cube comes with 16GB of storage, a power adapter, IR extender cable, Ethernet adapter, Alexa Voice Remote, and will begin shipping out to customers on June 21.

Update (2018-06-24): Lauren Goode:

If you’re thinking of buying the Amazon Fire TV Cube, stop right there: it’s slow, talking to your TV gets old, and your significant other or roommate may very well move out if you buy it.