Archive for November 12, 2018

Monday, November 12, 2018

How AI Agents Cheat

Jason Kottke:

This spreadsheet lists a number of ways in which AI agents “cheat” in order to accomplish tasks or get higher scores instead of doing what their human programmers actually want them to.


[Some] of this is The Lebowski Theorem of machine superintelligence in action. These agents didn’t necessarily hack their reward functions but they did take a far easiest path to their goals, e.g. the Tetris playing bot that “paused the game indefinitely to avoid losing”.

An Unzipping Shortcut for iOS

Dr. Drang:

Apple provides the product images as zipped archives, so when I clicked on the link in the press release, I was confronted with this “what do I do?” screen in Safari.


I went to the Shortcuts Gallery and searched on “zip,” “unzip,” and “archive.” There was a shortcut for zipping up a bunch of files and putting them into an email message, but nothing for unzipping and saving. I also couldn’t find anything by Googling. So I made my own.

As you can see, there’s not much to it. You can make it yourself or download it.

The Shortcuts app has a built-in “Extract Archive” action, but this capability is missing from the Files app, even though most third-party file manager apps have supported it for a long time. And one could argue that Safari should just view ZIP archives directly.

Apple Removes RescueTime From the App Store

Mark Wolgemuth:

We have submitted a feature-reduced app for approval while we communicate with Apple about why we were singled out for rejection while other similar apps have been allowed to continue (or have been re-admitted after seemingly identical rejections.)


Critically, using the persistent location API also allows us to use an acknowledged acceptable way to capture when our users have active screen time. This, of course, in a get-things-done digital wellness tool is absolutely critical information as well. It is why we use this method rather than the significant location change methods.

We do not understand or agree that this is “misusing” the method. While we believe a mature device use API would be far preferable, this solution seems to be blessed by Apple in some cases already, because location matters AND screen time matters, they said it themselves.

Location definitely seems like something you’d want to include when tracking your time, and it sounds like you can opt out, so this rejection doesn’t make much sense to me.

Amazon Kicks Off Unauthorized Apple Refurbishers

Jason Koebler (tweet, Hacker News):

As the email notes, this is part of a new agreement between two of the largest companies in the world that will allow Amazon to sell new Apple products around the world; in exchange, Amazon agreed to let Apple pick-and-choose who is allowed to sell Apple products on the site.


Apple did not respond to a request for comment, so for now we don’t know how it is going to decide who can be an “authorized” reseller on Amazon. It’s worth noting, however, that Apple places many restrictions on its “authorized” service providers, who it grants permission to repair Apple devices. They are only allowed to work on certain devices, are only allowed to do certain repairs, and have to pay Apple to be accepted into the program.


“The first sale doctrine has never required an owner to get permission to sell their property,” Perzanowski added. “But Amazon is leveraging its power over its marketplace to give Apple power that the courts and Congress never have and never would.”

Marco Arment:

This makes sense. I’ve been burned multiple times buying counterfeit Apple accessories on Amazon (power adapters, etc.) labeled as new and authentic. Amazon’s control over knockoffs is awful.

The only things I refuse to buy on Amazon: Apple products, memory cards, and dog food.

Luca Marturana:

I can understand that it’s nice to have guaranteed legit Apple products. But for example it was very convenient to buy cheap refurbished iPhones on Amazon. Not sure if it will be possible anymore.

Adam Selby:

I’ve sold old iPhones on Amazon in the past. Honestly, it’s great to be able to buy used things on Amazon. Amazon bans used listings for their own products, now Apple’s, and likely others I’m unaware of, and it sucks. The problem with counterfeits is not in the used market.

Previously: Amazon Is Complicit With Counterfeiting, Apple Sued an Independent iPhone Repair Shop Owner and Lost.

Update (2018-11-13): See also: TidBITS Talk.