Archive for December 23, 2019

Monday, December 23, 2019

What to Do When a macOS Update Goes Wrong

Howard Oakley:

When you’re ready, in most cases the best thing to try next is to start up in Safe mode, which is explained in full here We often don’t do that properly, and it’s worth following Apple’s instructions very carefully[…]


If Safe mode makes little or no difference, the next thing to try is downloading a standalone version of the update and installing that.


In Catalina, one unique problem which can occur is that spurious additional volumes are created by the installer. To discover whether that has happened, check your boot disk using Disk Utility.


AirPods Pro Bluetooth Latency

Stephen Coyle (via John Voorhees):

Looking to the AirPods first, there’s a very encouraging trend occurring. They drop from 274ms to 178ms going from the first to second generation, and the AirPods Pro take it down even further, to 144ms. While a 130ms reduction may not seem like a lot, the perceptual difference from this makes the AirPods Pro tantalisingly close to seamless.

Keyboard clicks are near enough to their corresponding keypresses that they feel like they’re actually related to them, not just the cacophony of blips they had seemed before. Tapt is playable, but only just; there’s still additional cognitive load caused by the delay, which I’m sure affects other rhythm-based games equally, and risks upsetting the playability of games that rely heavily on audio cues. However, it’s a lot better, and it looks like things are heading very much in the right direction.

Impressive, although I wonder how much more improvement will be possible.


ToTok and TikTok

Mark Mazzetti, Nicole Perlroth, and Ronen Bergman:

It is billed as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text message with friends and family, even in a country that has restricted popular messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype.

But the service, ToTok, is actually a spying tool, according to American officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment and a New York Times investigation into the app and its developers. It is used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones.


Apple removed ToTok from its App Store on Friday and was still researching the app, a spokesman said.

Patrick Wardle (tweet):

The main goal of this blog post is to provide the technical details, about how one may go about triaging an iOS application, using ToTok as a “case-study”


It’s reviews (over 32,000!) are largely positive, and mostly laud the fact that this application is not blocked in the UEA (Skype, WhatsApp, etc. are blocked, while using VPNs to access blocked services is illegal).


Based on these embedded strings it’s relatively clear that ToTok is largely composed of code from YeeCall. According to CrunchBase YeeCall is “a software company that has developed Yeecall messenger app for video & voice calling.” It is rather unsurprising that ToToks is simply based on existing code/an product (vs. written entirely from scratch).

Random Hash Value:

As a side note.... A good description why locked down platforms make security harder. Needing a jailbreak to reverse a suspect software just to bypass the device vendor is Corp policy gone wrong.

ToTok is not to be confused with with TikTok.

Matthias Eberl (Hacker News):

I did a detailed privacy check of the app TikTok and its corresponding website. Multiple law infringements, trust, transparency and data protection breaches were found.

M.B. Pell, Echo Wang (Hacker News):

Earlier this week the United States Navy banned the social media app TikTok from government-issued mobile devices, saying the popular short video app represented a “cybersecurity threat.”


TikTok is hugely popular with U.S. teenagers, but has come under scrutiny from U.S. regulators and lawmakers in recent months. The U.S. government has opened a national security review of the app’s owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co’s $1 billion acquisition of U.S. social media app, Reuters first reported last month.


Update (2020-01-06): Bill Marczak:

This report examines the corporate structure of ToTok, a Voice over IP (VoIP) app associated with an Abu Dhabi-based company, Breej Holding Ltd. In December 2019, the New York Times reported that American officials said that the UAE Government spies on ToTok’s users, and that Breej was connected to UAE companies involved in earlier spying attempts. Google and Apple removed the app from their app stores, and ToTok has begun to aggressively fight the charges, calling them “defamat[ory],” a “shameless fabrication,” “vicious rumours,” “deranged,” and “absurd.”

Update (2020-01-07): Joseph Cox:

ToTok, a social media/messaging app that is reportedly a secret surveillance tool for the UAE, is back on the Google Play Store. Originally Google said the app violated policies; now the app makes it explicit it gathers your contact information.

Swift’s CollectionOfOne

Bruno Rocha:

The cases where using CollectionOfOne is the best approach possible is when you are forced to operate on Collections. In the Standard Library for example, CollectionOfOne is used to insert elements in specific positions of an Array:

public mutating func insert(_ newElement: __owned Element, at i: Int) {
  self.replaceSubrange(i..<i, with: CollectionOfOne(newElement))

Because replaceSubrange replaces a Collection with another one, cases where the replacement is only a single element can greatly benefit from using CollectionOfOne.

Chuck Peddle, RIP

Mike Mika:

On Dec 15th, we lost Chuck Peddle, the lead designer of the MOS 650x series microprocessor and the Commodore PET. His processor was the heart of the Atari 2600/5200/400/600/800, Apple II, NES, VIC-20, C-64, Kim-1, Master System, Lynx, BBC Micro, arcade games and so much more. RIP

Bill Mensch (Hacker News):

In the Spring of 1974, Chuck asked me to head a semiconductor engineering team to design a microprocessor family of chips that the world knows as the 6502 family of chips. We left Motorola as a team on August 19, 1974 to begin work at MOS Technology.


The TFC chip was designed using my 65C02 microprocessor with high-speed DMA features for USB FLASH Modules Chuck planned to manufacture sell. The TFC used Chuck’s patented “page-mode” concepts for replacing bad pages with “good” pages within tested “bad” segments. Chuck wrote the Assembly language code for the TFC. Chuck had negotiated a relationship with FLASH memory suppliers to support his “page-mode” business.


Chuck’s latest work was on Solid State Disc (SSD) drives, used some of the TFC concepts for high speed DMA transfers.


Update (2019-12-26): See also: Cade Metz (Hacker News).