Archive for September 26, 2019

Thursday, September 26, 2019


Riley Testut (tweet):

AltStore is an alternative app store for non-jailbroken devices. Unlike other unofficial app stores today, AltStore does not rely on enterprise certificates, which Apple has been cracking down on more and more recently. Instead, it relies on a lesser known developer feature that allows you to use your Apple ID to install apps you’ve developed yourself with Xcode[…]

AltStore is a fully native, sandboxed iOS application that allows you to sideload apps by essentially “tricking” your phone into thinking it’s installing apps that you made yourself, when really they can be any apps whatsoever. Since this is an actually supported installation method by Apple, it’s far less fragile than other distribution methods in the past[…]


Unlike apps distributed with a paid Apple Developer account, you can’t install apps distributed with a free Apple ID over-the-air. This means that while we can prepare apps for installation from the AltStore app, unfortunately there is no way to actually install apps directly from the iOS device. However, as it turns out this restriction does not apply to installing apps via iTunes WiFi sync, which is where AltServer comes in.


All apps signed with a free Apple ID are only valid for 7 days, at which point they expire and can no longer be launched. To compensate for this, AltStore will periodically refresh all your installed apps in the background, or alternatively you can manually refresh the apps yourself from within AltStore.


Delta of course is not allowed in the App Store due to Apple’s stance on emulation, but why make a clipboard manager when so many already exist in the App Store? Simple: there is no App Store-approved way for apps to run continuously in the background, which means you need to remember to manually open up these apps for them to save your history.

Looks like great work, but I hope Apple Sherlocks it and adds a built-in way for users to sideload apps.


Update (2019-10-04): Nick Statt:

For Testut, AltStore arose from him just “wanting to get Delta out” and in the hands of people who’d want to try it. “It just made sense. If I’m building this whole process for Delta, just to build it out for anyone to use,” he says. “I’m also hoping that because I was so motivated to do this, and I build this whole process, other people can now start making more apps to bring to it. I’m doing it because I want to also improve the quality of apps that you won’t find in the App Store, but that could still exist on the platform.”

Mail in iOS 13

Dan Moren:

No, the only place you’ll find the multicolored flag options is, somewhat nonsensically, under the Reply button from a message itself.

iOS needs a menu bar or something.

Tap the Flag button there and you’ll get a sub-menu that lets you choose one of seven colors, as well as an option to remove a flag.

Whatever color you’ve picked there most recently will be treated as the default on that device until you pick another color. So, if you go to flag a message using one of those other methods after choosing a color, you’ll see the Flag button color changed to reflect that. But jump from your iPhone to an iPad and you may have a totally different color.


But my other favorite improvement to Mail in iOS 13 is an iPad-only capability that came along with the multitasking features: message composition windows can be dragged into Split View mode, so you can write an email while referring to another email.

Peter Kafka:

I updated to the new iOS yesterday and have since accidentally deleted at least 6 emails instead of replying to those emails and that does not seem like a great feature.

Update (2019-09-27): Craig Grannell:

The previous grab shows Mail in iOS 12 (left) and iOS 13 (right). On the left, you have immediate access to options that let you flag, file, archive/delete, reply, and start a new message. It’s not overly complicated, and it looks fine. Also: all these actions are fundamental to rapidly dealing with email. Now, you only get archive/delete and reply.

Update (2019-09-30): Kyle Howells:

iOS 13 Mail app moves the reply/move controls into a fake toolbar in the email content, which means if you have a slow network and it takes a while to load you also can’t access any of those controls until it’s loaded.

Update (2019-10-03): Kyle Howells:

The mail app on iOS 13 does feel almost like a web app.

The design direction needs to be rapidly reversed for that app.

Dr. Drang:

Filing an email message used to mean tapping the folder button in the bottom toolbar. Now it means tapping the curvy arrow, then scrolling up to expose the Move Message button, and then tapping it.

Michael Rockwell:

Why would Apple remove quick access to so many useful features in favor of this “archive plus junk drawer” setup? Luckily for me, the vast majority of the email I receive is simply archived. But for anyone that frequently perform other actions, this change is terrible.

Nicholas Riley:

Despite the way it is worded in settings the swipe actions work in the message view too.


For me it means tapping the trash by mistake because it’s right next to the arrow with blank space everywhere else, then shaking to undo like an idiot, then finally hitting the arrow

Update (2019-10-11): Riccardo Mori:

You wonder why people are criticising Mail’s UI in iOS 13? Look at this: all the controls and UI elements have been remained consistent from iOS 6 to iOS 12.

Update (2019-10-21): Michael Kosta (Marcin Krzyzanowski):

Why didn’t @apple move the delete button over 1 inch? Big mistake.

Update (2019-10-25): Craig Hockenberry:

Muscle memory is a bitch.

I would also love to understand the design decisions that went into the latest version of Mail.

So much hidden functionality, but why?

Update (2019-11-27): John Gruber:

And it just seems odd to me that they moved all these features there in the first place. The iPhone really only has room for five toolbar buttons. Flag, Move, Trash, Reply, and New Message seemed like good ones. What’s the point of having only two buttons and all that unused whitespace on the left side? In addition to the fact that it’s not intuitive to look for Flag and Move commands behind a button that clearly looks like “Reply”, it’s also a bit frustrating to me that there’s no longer a way to just create a new message from this screen — you have to go back one level in the navigation controller to the list of messages to create a new (non-reply) message.

At the very least, if the toolbar is only going to have these two buttons, why not place the Trash button on the far left, and put the whitespace between the two buttons? That would eliminate inadvertent taps on the Trash button from either pre-iOS 13 muscle memory or from proximity to the Reply button.

Nicholas Riley:

I suspect not putting anything on the left of the message toolbar had to do with making room for “See More”. Not that I think this is a good idea!

Mike Rundle:

I’ve been upset for months that I couldn’t long-press on the refresh button in Safari to turn off content blockers anymore and I just found this stupid menu hanging off a totally unrelated icon that I never press. Nice, Apple. Real nice.

Update (2020-03-27): Chance Miller (tweet):

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk knocked Apple during an event this week, criticizing the company’s recent updates for iOS.


“What I was referring to is that technology does not automatically improve,” Musk said. “People are used to the phone being better every year. I’m an iPhone user, but I think some of the recent software updates have like been not great, certainly feeding into that point. It, like, broke my email system. . .which is quite fundamental.”

Safari 13 and Extensions

Apple (Hacker News):

Removed support for Legacy Safari Extensions


Moving forward, the use of 1Password with Safari will require 1Password 7, which fully supports the latest Safari and macOS releases.


We’ve been asked if it would be possible for us to provide the extension such that it could be installed regardless of the Safari Extension Gallery’s status. Since Safari 12 does not allow .safariextz extensions to be installed from anywhere except the gallery, and Safari 13 does not allow such extensions to be installed from any source, if we were to provide the extension files, they could not be installed. As such this will not be a feasible solution.


It really, really is a shame that they removed proper extensions. While Safari never had a good extension story, it was at least bearable, and in all other regards its simply the best Mac browser.

Now I have to take a really hard look at switching back to Firefox, and that would be a downgrade in almost every regard I care about. Pity.


Just opened it again out of curiosity and the first message I got is that the Bitwarden and Pocket extensions are not supported anymore. Oh, well, as much as I’d like to use it, a desktop browser without extensions is dead to me. There are some extensions that provide me with little quality of life improvements and whatnot. Since, when I’m using my computer, I’m almost always using a browser, these things become important.

I wonder why Apple decided to axe extensions and not support WebExtensions, that at this point have become a standard shared by Firefox and Chrome. Too bad.


Apple removed the ability to use uBlock Origin or similar.

I tried few ad blocker from the app store, but non of them block Youtube’s video ad, making it useless.

We still have Firefox for now I guess.

Geoff Duncan:

I appreciate Apple adding privacy protections to Safari. However, since Safari 13 for macOS cannot run legacy extensions that worked—which cannot generally be replaced with the new, more-limited extension apps that don’t—Safari is now off my list of “usable browsers.”

Mark Hughes:

So I hit upgrade, and I regret everything.

Obviously, this is the release where they break Safari Extensions, they now have to be apps. uBlock Origin is dead. I’ve installed Ghostery Lite for the moment but I have no real solution for the future[…]


Yeah, obviously I could change to another browser. But I hate every other browser.

Jeff Johnson:

There are 2 separate questions that are getting conflated:

1) Why did Apple deprecate the JavaScript API “canLoad” in favor of content blockers?

2) Why did Apple deprecate safariextz in favor of Safari app extensions?

Apple did 1 and 2, but they could have done 1 without 2.

The problem with 2 is that it limits the pool of extension devs to experts in both JS and AppKit. Very small pool.

Web devs don’t want to learn AppKit. Not even iOS devs want to learn AppKit. And Catalyst apps don’t support Safari extensions!

Jeff Johnson:

Apple: iPad is a real computer.

People: Real computers have browser extensions.

Apple: [kills most Safari Mac extensions] You were saying?

Catalin Cimpanu (via Hacker News, Slashdot):

Over the course of the last year and a half, Apple has effectively neutered ad blockers in Safari, something that Google has been heavily criticized all this year.

But unlike Google, Apple never received any flak, and came out of the whole process with a reputation of caring about users’ privacy, rather than attempting to “neuter ad blockers.” The reasons may be Apple’s smaller userbase, the fact that changes rolled out across years instead of months, and the fact that Apple doesn’t rely on ads for its profits, meaning there was no ulterior motive behind its ecosystem changes.


The latest to fall is uBlock Origin for Safari, another ad blocker, which shut down for good two weeks ago. In a post on GitHub, the extension’s developer recommended that users who care about running an ad blocker either switch to using Firefox for Mac, where ad blockers still work just fine, or remain on an older Safari version, which is not really an option.

The other alternative was that users switch to using one of the new Content Blocker-based ad blockers; however, he described the new Content Blocker system as being “extremley limited in adblocking functions.”


On the other side, when Apple rolled out the new Content Blocker API, it enforced a maximum limit of 50,000 rules for each new extension that wanted to block content inside Safari.


Safari’s content blockers are super easy to circumvent by anti-ad-blocking tech.

That many publishers don’t do that already is a mystery, probably because visitors with ad-blocking are still a minority and publishers don’t want to piss them off.

Will Lesieutre:

When Apple says “We’re designing this API in a way that allows you to block ads without having full visibility to monitor everything that any user does every web page they visit” it’s totally believable because it’s in line with the last 10+ years of their product direction.

Yeah, it makes ad blockers less powerful. It also makes them less of an enormous security risk in that all of your web traffic is redirected through them, and a compromised extension could do whatever it wanted with that.

Kuba Suder:

I don’t like the dropped support for old Safari extensions, because I will need to spend some time to look for a replacement for @Ghostery (the Lite isn’t as good)…


What Time Machine Doesn’t Back Up


You can use Time Machine, the built-in backup feature of your Mac, to automatically back up all of your files, including apps, music, photos, email, documents, and system files.

Maxwell Swadling:

Time Machine backups skip a bunch of files. Some you might expect, some might surprise you!


The Voice Memos iPad App On The Mac seems to exclude the one bit of data it is responsible for saving... recordings...


I covered in another blog post that the key Photos Photo Library database file is missing[…] Missing this and all its associated files needed to restore Photo Libraries without data loss.

I don’t use Photos enough to know what its database stores that isn’t in iCloud Photo Library. But print projects definitely don’t sync using iCloud, and they can represent a huge time investment. It looks like some project-related files do get backed up—maybe Photos is able to rebuild them into a new database?

But I would feel more comfortable with everything backed up and not relying on a potentially lengthy or buggy rebuild. Some other backup software will exclude files by default, but you can adjust the settings to manually include them. That’s not possible with Time Machine.

Maxwell Swadling:

I was genuinely surprised iCloud Drive wasn’t backed up because I think of time machine as having the “go back in time a year and see what the file was” feature, which doesn’t work on iCloud Drive files!

This sounded really bad to me, because iCloud Drive files don’t necessarily get stored in the cloud, either. Your Mac may not currently have a network connection, and sometimes uploads get delayed or wedged. Once in the cloud, the files are subject to beta bugs, and you have only a very limited ability to restore the latest version of individual files that it thinks you deleted.

But Howard Oakley says iCloud Drive does get backed up, and I do, in fact, see the files in my Time Machine backups.

Maxwell notes that Time Machine doesn’t back up folders which are found in iCloud Drive, but in my experience it’s not as simple as that. The rule seems to be that Time Machine does back up the contents of your current iCloud Drive, but only those items which are currently stored locally. Any items which have been evicted to iCloud, and are only represented by local stub files, aren’t backed up.


For Time Machine to be able to back up a file evicted to iCloud Drive, that file would need to be downloaded to local storage first. Imagine having a 512 GB internal SSD, and over a terabyte of documents in your iCloud Drive, almost all of which were evicted from local storage.

This makes sense and is probably the only reasonable thing for Time Machine to do. But, to me, it’s yet another reason to avoid the Optimize Mac Storage option. If your files in iCloud Drive are important enough to sync between devices, they’re probably important enough that you want to have your own backups of them.


Update (2019-09-27): Jesse Squires:

Now that we sort of understand the layout of ~/Library/Mobile Documents/, where the hell are our iCloud Drive documents stored? Those live in com~apple~CloudDocs/. If you cd there, you should see all of the “custom”, non-app-specific files that you’ve stored in iCloud Drive. These should match what is viewable in Finder.

This is the directory that we want to backup. We can use rsync to do that. (Side note: the way that rsync handles paths is a bit odd. It doesn’t like relative paths, or ~, or escaping spaces in directory names. Thus, this script uses absolute paths with spaces.) You just need to fill-in the USER and DEST variables.

Update (2021-09-08): See also: Howard Oakley.

iPhone 11 Pro Display Tests

Raymond M. Soneira (via MacRumors):

The iPhone 11 Pro Max has an impressive Top Tier display with close to Text Book Perfect Calibration and Performance!

Based on our extensive Lab Tests and Measurements the iPhone 11 Pro Max receives our DisplayMate Best Smartphone Display Award earning DisplayMate’s highest ever A+ grade by providing considerably better display performance than other competing Smartphones.


OLED displays now have tremendous performance advantages over LCDs, so high-end and flagship Smartphones need OLED displays in order to compete at state-of-the-art performance levels, securing OLED as the definitive premier display technology for Top Tier Smartphones in the foreseeable future over the next 3-5 years. With the continuing improvements in OLED hardware performance, picture quality, and precision accuracy, it will be much harder for new display technologies to challenge OLED.

But OLED displays have problems with movement, and it seems their tests don’t cover that.

iPhone Drop Tests

Michael Potuck:

After Apple announced at its iPhone 11 event that its newest phones have the “toughest glass in a smartphone” it’s no surprise that we’re seeing that put to the test on launch day. The first drop tests show how the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max fare from up to 11-foot drops on concrete.

So far we’ve got some drop tests from Tom’s Guide and YouTuber EverythingApplePro. The results from Tom’s Guide were disappointing as the iPhone 11 Pro cracked on the first drop. However, EverythingApplePro had a totally different experience with both Pro iPhones lasting over 8 drops each before the glass cracked.

Juli Clover:

According to SquareTrade’s Breakability Score tests, the new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models had more durable glass and better handled small drops, but were still prone to shattering in major drops.

In a series of 6 foot drop tests conducted both face up and face down, all three of the iPhones broke and suffered damage of varying degrees. In a tumble test, though, where the iPhones are tumbled around in a metal cylinder, the new devices fared a bit better.


According to SquareTrade, the iPhone 11 Pro is the first iPhone that’s ever been able to survive the tumble test intact. SquareTrade says the iPhone 11 Pro is the “most durable iPhone” it’s tested in generations.

Lexy Savvides:

While neither of the phones cracked like we’ve seen in previous years, they didn’t emerge totally unscathed: The iPhone 11 Pro had some damaged pixels and the iPhone 11’s rear camera stopped working after our final drop.

Colin Cornaby:

Long ago I worked for a school district that drop tested Mac laptops to figure out how kids were breaking them. A lot of what we figured out is that gear doesn’t break like you think it does.

We were surprised when we had really good results from high drop distances, so much that it didn’t match with what we were seeing students do. But device damage isn’t necessarily based on height.

A drop from a very short height could damage the device significantly as long as it hit in just the right location. Corners are especially vulnerable, which is one reasons I suspect Apple has been rounding device corners more and more.

Már Másson Maack (via Ben Lovejoy):

Last year, photographer Haukur Snorrason was on an aerial photo tour of the Skaftá river in South Iceland to grab pictures of the yearly glacier river floods. Unfortunately, when he grabbed his iPhone [6s] to film the flood, the phone got swept away by a gust of wind. Falling 60 meters (200 feet) down on rocky terrain — where a massive river was overflowing and rupturing roads — the time came for Haukur to say goodbye to his phone forever – or so he thought.

Or so he thought, until 13 months later, when he received a phone call from people that had found his phone while hiking. After falling from a plane, and spending over a year exposed to the harsh Icelandic elements, it still worked!