Archive for November 5, 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018

Dan Frakes Goes to Apple as Mac App Store Editor

Dan Frakes:

Some job news (thread): After 4(!) amazing years at @wirecutter, I’m leaving for a new editorial position at Apple (Mac App Store Editor!) focused on helping Mac users discover and get more out of great Mac apps. (It’s like Mac Gems redux :) )

John Gruber:

And on a personal level, this trend is not good for me, because I can’t link to App Store articles, because they’re not on the web. They only exist within the App Store apps. I can’t link to some of the best pieces being written these days about indie iOS and Macs apps — and that’s a little weird. And none of these pieces are archived publicly.

The Mac App Store app itself feels locked down. There’s a steady stream of new content in it, but as far as I know there’s no RSS feed or mailing list to find out about it. You can read the content in the app, but you can’t export or print it to read it elsewhere or save it. You can’t even select the text to copy an excerpt.

Meanwhile, the full collection of apps seems to only be available via search. Only the top sellers in each category are listed. It feels like Apple is hiding away both the content (which I agree is good) and the apps.

Previously: Is There Hope for the Mac App Store?.

Backblaze bzfileids.dat Scaling and Little Snitch


As part of our backup process, Backblaze will run a checksum against each file before uploading it. This requires the entire bzfileids.dat file to be loaded into RAM. After a long time, or if you have an extraordinarily large number of files, the bzfileids.dat file can grow large causing the Backblaze directory to appear bloated. The only way to resolve this would be to repush (or reupload all of your data).

Via Matt:

Known for >7 years. Bit me when a drive died and I restored. Could not handle deduping it’s index after restoration and it grew too big. The software has one job...

I don’t understand why this is still an issue. Couldn’t they use a database or other indexed structure instead of keeping everything in RAM all the time?

Ryan Waggoner:

I use LittleSnitch and bztransmit has recently been prompting to be allowed to connect to,, and Seems suspicious.

Brian Gerfort:

Uhm. @backblaze, I don’t feel so safe with you anymore if your developers think this is an acceptable thing to do? Your backup software should only be talking to you. This is not a good look.


The Backblaze client needed to solve a technical problem, which is to distinguish when the customer’s computer is entirely offline (no network connectivity) and when Backblaze’s datacenters and servers are offline (which is unusual). The way I implemented this is that ONLY IF the client cannot reach the Backblaze servers, then in that case the client attempts to fetching the homepages of these three websites without any cookies and ignoring the results that come back (other than verifying they are valid HTML)[…] to establish the difference between “the Backblaze service is down” and “you have no internet connectivity at all.”

The reasoning actually makes a lot of sense; the issue is that the user has no way of knowing what is happening or why.


FYI in my case this happens when I am connected to a network that allows connections to Reddit, Wikipedia and Google but blocks backblaze. I quickly figured out that this was some kind of connectivity detection but is mildly annoying (but no big deal).

Yev Pusin:

when I worked at Wells Fargo (before Backblaze) almost all websites were allowed for social reasons (marketing teams need access to Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn) but Backblaze was actually blocked as well. Why? Because it’s a backup service and Wells Fargo does NOT want you backing up your company machine, so all backup companies were blocked

Update (2019-01-04): Richard Gaywood, on another scaling issue:

When the only free restore method @backblaze offers can’t restore all your files...

How annoying. I can work around by doing it in chunks, but that’s not a great UX.

MacBook’s T2 Will Prevent Eavesdropping on Your Microphone

Zack Whittaker (tweet, MacRumors):

Little was known about the chip until today. According to its newest published security guide, the chip comes with a hardware microphone disconnect feature that physically cuts the device’s microphone from the rest of the hardware whenever the lid is closed.

“This disconnect is implemented in hardware alone, and therefore prevents any software, even with root or kernel privileges in macOS, and even the software on the T2 chip, from engaging the microphone when the lid is closed,” said the support guide.

The camera isn’t disconnected, however, because its “field of view is completely obstructed with the lid closed.”

Nikolaj Schlej:

I’d like to personally thank HW engineering and HW bring-up teams at Apple and Intel for eSPI SAF capability of new chipsets.

Previously: October 2018 Apple Event, Micro Snitch 1.0.

Update (2018-11-06): Maxwell Swadling:

wait does this mean FaceTime audio in lid closed + monitor plugged in config also doesn’t work?…

Update (2018-11-12): See also: Hacker News.

Apple Legal Doesn’t Like Domain Redirect

Ryan Jones:

Apple’s lawyers sent me an IP infringement letter about 🙄.

I sent a… stern reply (one example shown). But I’m not going to renew the domain, just to avoid this crap. Sorry I don’t have the time to fight it.

It’s too bad because this was addressing a real issue: that Apple’s official link to manage app subscriptions is unwieldy and hard to find.

Previously: Apple Pulling High-Grossing Scammy Subscription Apps Off the App Store, App Stores No Longer Listing All In-App Purchases, Is There Hope for the Mac App Store?, The Mojave Marzipan Apps.

If Apple were to place the link to subscription management somewhere more obvious in the Settings app, perhaps under the iTunes & App Store section—or better yet, right in the top-line Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes & App Store—that would be a big improvement. Adding an easier-to-find link in the iTunes Store and App Store apps would also be welcome.

Fortunately, developers can help make finding subscription settings easier, too.

Interesting contrast: Google Play’s subscriptions link is front and centre

Where was that thread re: “super easy” subscription management on the App Store again? Got a sad addendum here…

User felt they had to cancel their credit card to stop a subscription. (And we get a 1-star, of course.)

Max Seelemann:

We’re getting 1-star reviews every single day for stuff that’s beyond our control. Other examples:

- it’s basically impossible to update apps no longer on sale: 1 star
- the store says “free” for an app that requires a subscription: 1 star

Apple recently made a change (seems iOS 12.1.4 and 12.2 beta) to make it easier to manage subscriptions for iOS apps.

Now you just need to open the App Store, tap your profile, and choose ‘Manage Subscriptions’.

The WWDC App Is Unusable Offline

This weekend, my iPhone ran out of space and couldn’t take any more photos. No problem, I thought, I’ll just go into the WWDC app and delete some of the downloaded videos that I recently finished watching. Unfortunately, without a network connection, all the app shows is a progress spinner. There is no cached list of sessions or even of the videos that are filling up my phone. I thought this was supposed to be an example of the proper way to write a CloudKit app?

I have Cellular Data disabled for the WWDC app because it doesn’t do anything time-sensitive that would be worth counting towards my plan’s quota. I’ve already pre-downloaded all the videos I want to watch while on Wi-Fi. And, in this case, I didn’t have a good cell signal, anyway.

So I resorted to what I always do: going to Settings and temporarily deleting some music synced from my Mac. After transferring the photos to my Mac, iTunes automatically puts the music back. Music is a pragmatic way to reserve some easily purgeable storage.

Apple’s Q4 2018 Results

Apple (MacRumors):

The Company posted quarterly revenue of $62.9 billion, an increase of 20 percent from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.91, up 41 percent. International sales accounted for 61 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Services revenue reached an all-time high of $10 billion.

Jason Snell:

iPhone sales were up slightly over the same quarter last year, but iPhone revenue during the same period was up 29 percent. Mac sales dropped 2 percent but Mac revenues rose 3 percent. iPad unit sales fell 6 percent and iPad revenues dropped 19 percent.

Neil Cybart:

Apple will stop providing iPhone, Mac, and iPad unit sales data.

 Observer:

I remember hearing Steve Jobs saying something along this line: if you are proud of your numbers, tell the world. Or something like this.


Funny comment on the Verge[…]

Luca also announced earlier, but we didn’t get it entered, that Apple will start providing both cost of sales and revenue for all product categories, including services.

Bob Burrough:

All product categories are flat or down. Apple will continue to increase markup through 2019, to the degree that unit sales will drop although revenue increases. Making more money from fewer people.

Dan Masters:

I think that everyone is raising prices simply because Apple is doing it. Apple paves the path for most everything in the industry.

Tom Warren:

Apple’s financial report is out.

Apple’s iPhone is now 59% of its earnings

iPad is 6%

Mac is 11.7%

Services is 15%

Apple Watch, beats, everything else 6%

Apple makes more money milking iPhone services than selling Macs. That’s the future of Apple


Speaking of unreportable units: iPod, iPad, Watch, AirPods, etc have all come to dominate their respective segments at 50-70% in market share and 70-90% in profits. I’d love to be in trouble like that any day.

Mark Gurman:

Apple Inc. shares had their worst day since 2014 amid concerns that growth in its powerhouse product, the iPhone, is slowing.

Ben Thompson (Hacker News):

Apple has long been an exception in the smartphone space when it comes to reporting unit sales, so deciding not to is not that out of the ordinary; Apple, though, has always positioned itself as the extraordinary alternative — the best — and that approach paid off for years with sales numbers that were worth bragging about.

The reality, though, is that unit sales in isolation have indeed misrepresented Apple’s business for the last several years; specifically, they have underestimated it.


What the reports are right about, though, is that unit sales going forward are absolutely a story Apple would prefer to avoid: it is very unlikely that units will grow, and while Apple pushed pricing even higher with the iPhone XS Max, it probably can’t go much further, which means it is likely that the average selling price-based revenue growth story is drawing to an end as well.


This, though, is why Today at Apple is compelling, particular Ahrendts’ reference to bringing people together in a “real social way” — and she could not have emphasized the word “real” more strongly. Apple is in effect trying to build a social network in the real world, facilitated and controlled by Apple, and betting that customers will continue to pay to gain access.


Now Apple is arguing that unit sales is the wrong way to understand its business, but refuses to provide the numbers that underly the story it wants to tell.

Previously: October 2018 Apple Event.

Update (2018-11-06): Charles Arthur:

On with the graphs.

Jason Snell:

Here’s a complete transcript of Thursday’s Apple call with analysts.]

Benjamin Mayo:

Moreover, I expect a lot of turbulence in the Mac and iPad businesses in the near future, as each of those products go through major transitions. It’s a lot easier to make those changes when there is less focus on financials.

Update (2018-11-12): John Gruber:

For all the fretting for the future of the Mac — the widely held notion that Apple wants everyone to move from the Mac to iPad, that these totally shitty Marzipan apps in Mojave are the future, that the Mac is “legacy” — here is some cold, hard, financial proof that the Mac is doing as well as ever. Not only was the Mac far ahead of the iPad in terms of revenue, it’s downright amazing that it amounted to one-fifth the revenue from the iPhone.


I wish it weren’t so, but I don’t blame Apple for making this change. I also don’t think it has anything to do with Apple expecting bad unit sale numbers in the near future. Apple doesn’t make policy changes like this with the near term in mind. This change will affect what they announce in all quarters, for years to come, whether unit sales are good, bad, or middling. Apple is a long-term company, not a short-term one.

Ryan Jones:

Not so sure about your Mac comments. Lowest Q4, lowest Q3, and second-lowest Q2 in years. Higher prices is the “good news”.

cremnob (via Zac Cichy):

Apple’s gross margins haven’t changed at all in recent years. And that’s with the higher-than-corporate-average gross margin from Services becoming a bigger part of the business. That implies that component prices have risen, and Apple has passed the cost on

Update (2018-11-15): Aaron Tilley:

But what’s less understood is that as iPhones have increased in hardware complexity, the gross profit margins on Apple smartphones have actually gone down over the past decade, from a high of nearly 74% to around 60% for most of the latest entry-level models, according to an analysis of iPhone component costs provided by TechInsights, a firm that analyzes hardware costs. That is true even as Apple has pushed the price of its smartphones to new altitudes, starting with the $999 iPhone X in 2017.