Archive for June 21, 2018

Thursday, June 21, 2018

AirPower Status and Removing the Lightning Port

Mark Gurman (tweet):

Apple also wants users to be able to place any of their devices anywhere on the charging mat to begin a charge. That ambitious goal requires the company to pack the AirPower with multiple charging sensors, a process that has proven difficult, the people said.


The AirPower charger is also more advanced than the current competition because it includes a custom Apple chip running a stripped down version of the iOS mobile operating system to conduct on-device power management and pairing with devices. Apple engineers have also been working to squash bugs related to the on-board firmware, according to the people familiar.


Apple didn’t say when in 2018 it would release AirPower, but engineers hoped to launch the charger by June. The aim now is to put it on sale before or in September, according to one of the people.


During the development of the iPhone X, Apple weighed removing the wired charging system entirely.

Joe Rossignol (tweet):

Just to be absolutely clear, Gurman confirmed to me that this would have included removing the Lightning connector from the device. In fact, his report notes that Apple designers eventually hope to “remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone,” although this is likely multiple years away.

A few years ago, it was reported that Apple’s design chief Jony Ive’s end goal is for the iPhone to resemble a “single sheet of glass,” while Apple has repeatedly expressed its ambitions to “create a wireless future,” so the eventual removal of the Lightning connector should perhaps come as no surprise.


Removing the Lightning connector would also prevent an iPhone from directly connecting to a wide range of peripherals, including many adapters, docks, battery cases, power banks, keyboards, game controllers, audio cables, wired headphones, and other accessories authorized under Apple’s MFi Program.

Previously: Pre-Announcing AirPower.

Airbnb Switching Away From React Native

Gabriel Peal (Hacker News):

The primary benefit of React Native is the fact that code you write runs natively on Android and iOS. Most features that used React Native were able to achieve 95–100% shared code and 0.2% of files were platform-specific (*.android.js/*.ios.js).


We opted to rewrite components instead of wrapping native ones because it was more reliable to make platform-appropriate APIs individually for each platform and reduced the maintenance overhead for Android and iOS engineers who may not know how to properly test changes in React Native. However, it did cause fragmentation between the platforms in which native and React Native versions of the same component would get out of sync.


Before React Native can render for the first time, you must initialize its runtime. Unfortunately, this takes several seconds for an app of our size, even on a high-end device.

Gabriel Peal:

A common misconception is that React Native allows you to move away from writing native code entirely. However, that is not the current state of the world. The native foundation of React Native still rears its head at times. For example, text is rendered slightly differently on each platform, keyboards are handled differently, and Activities are recreated on rotation by default on Android. A high-quality React Native experience requires a careful balance of both worlds. This, paired with the difficulty of having balanced expertise on all three platforms makes shipping a consistently high-quality experience difficult.

Gabriel Peal:

Because we weren’t able to achieve our specific goals, we have decided that React Native isn’t right for us anymore. We are currently in the process of working with teams to create a healthy transition plan. We have halted all new React Native features and have plans to transition the majority of the highest-trafficked screens to native by the end of the year.

Gabriel Peal:

Even though we’re not using React Native, we still see the value in writing product code once. We still heavily rely on our universal design language system (DLS) and many screens look nearly identical on Android and iOS.

Several teams have experimented with and started to unify around powerful server-driven rendering frameworks. With these frameworks, the server sends data to the device describing the components to render, the screen configuration, and the actions that can occur. Each mobile platform then interprets this data and renders native screens or even entire flows using DLS components.

Nick Schrock:

I’m seeing a lot of hemming, hawing, and gnashing of teeth over AirBnB’s announcement that they are sunsetting React Native. They are unrolling a pretty massive investment. Obviously this is a setback for React Native ecosystem.

Update (2018-06-25): Ash Furrow (tweet):

So when people frame Airbnb’s decision as a failure of React Native, I wonder about how much they really understand about what React Native is for. If you have an expectation that a technology can do something that it’s not designed for, and then you’re disappointed when it fails to deliver, it’s not really the technology’s fault, is it? And further, if “only a small percentage” of your app even uses that technology, then you don’t get as much of the benefits.

I’m trying not to frame this as an Artsy-vs-Airbnb discussion, but it’s hard to avoid the comparison because Artsy has had such overwhelming success with our React Native stack. I think a big part of that comes from how we structured our React Native code: all the JavaScript is in its own repository and it gets shipped as a CocoaPod.

Update (2018-07-05): Nate Ebel (via Ben Sandofsky, Hacker News):

The mobile team here at Udacity recently removed the last features in our apps that were written with React Native.

Europe’s New Copyright Rules

Karl Bode:

The EU proposal in question is an attempt to shore up existing problems with EU copyright law. But the poorly crafted nature of the effort could have a profoundly negative impact on everything from your ability to share hot memes to the survival of new startups.

For example, Article 13 of the plan declares that any website that lets users upload text, sounds, images, code, or other copyrighted works for public consumption will need to employ automated systems that filter these submissions against a database of copyrighted works.


“This law does not anticipate the difficult practical questions of how companies can know what is an infringement of copyright,” Reddit said in a statement. “As a result of this big flaw, the law’s most likely result would be the effective shutdown of user-generated content platforms in Europe, since unless companies know what is infringing, we would need to review and remove all sorts of potentially legitimate content if we believe the company may have liability.”

Cory Doctorow:

If the proposal is adopted, a service that publishes a link to a story on a news website with a headline or a short snippet would have to get a license before linking. News sites could charge whatever they want for these licenses, and shut down critics by refusing to license to people with whom they disagreed. And the new rule would apply to any service where a link to a news story can appear, including social media platforms, search engines, blogging platforms, and even nonprofits like Wikipedia.


However you feel about the battles between these giant media companies and giant tech companies, you should be worried about this new link tax. For one thing, ironically enough it will help ensure that the tech giants of today can continue to rule the internet. Facebook and Google and Twitter will figure out how to deal with the link tax. Maybe they’ll share some of their profits with the big media companies, or maybe they’ll boycott the media companies until they agree to a “free license” (this is what happened when Germany tried this a few years ago.) Either way, they can afford to manage the cost.

But if you are hoping that someday there will be alternatives to these giants—European alternatives, say, that are responsive to the needs of European citizens, or just platforms that offer something different, maybe no surveillance of their users, or different rules on cyberbullying and harassment—then the link tax dashes your hopes.

James Vincent:

The European Union has taken the first step in passing new copyright legislation that critics say will tear the internet apart.

Andy Hertzfeld Interview

Devon Zuegel (tweet):

Welcome to the first episode of Tools & Craft! My name is Devon, and I spoke with Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the team that built the original Macintosh.

I’ve always been fascinated by the process of creating new tools and interfaces, especially those that amplify our thought and communication. We’ve all seen the legendary Apple keynotes and how personal computing has transformed the way we live and work, but what I was really interested to learn from Andy was what it was like to shape that vision from scratch, what it was like to work as an engineer when most people didn’t even really understand what a computer was, when the frontier of what it could become was wide open.

Good interview, but I wish it were longer.

Malware via USB Charging

Reuters (in 2016, via Alasdair Allan):

A nuclear power plant in Germany has been found to be infected with computer viruses, but they appear not to have posed a threat to the facility’s operations because it is isolated from the Internet, the station’s operator said on Tuesday.


As an example, Hypponen said he had recently spoken to a European aircraft maker that said it cleans the cockpits of its planes every week of malware designed for Android phones. The malware spread to the planes only because factory employees were charging their phones with the USB port in the cockpit.

Because the plane runs a different operating system, nothing would befall it. But it would pass the virus on to other devices that plugged into the charger.

Tom Lowenthal:

If you carry around a cable because you often need to charge your device, consider accessorizing with a data blocker dongle like this red cutie. You device can still charge at full speed, but there’s no data connection.