Archive for February 14, 2020

Friday, February 14, 2020

SwitchGlass 1.0

John Siracusa:

SwitchGlass adds a dedicated application switcher to your Mac.


Apple provides APIs to activate applications, optionally also bringing all of their windows to the front. Sometimes, when a call is made to one of these APIs, nothing happens. Or sometimes the app activates but none of its windows come to the front, even though the API call asked for all windows to come to the front. These bugs have existed in macOS for many years, and I’ve not yet found workaround for them in SwitchGlass.


Q: Why can’t I use SwitchGlass to quit apps?

Sandboxed Mac apps cannot tell arbitrary other applications to quit.


The area of the preferences window used to set the app switcher’s positon on the screen is meant to show a tiny version of each display’s desktop background image. Unfortunately, sandboxed Mac apps cannot read images from arbitrary locations without asking for permission first. SwitchGlass can access the desktop pictures that come bundled with macOS, but it cannot see any of your personal pictures. I decided it wasn’t worth prompting for permission for this visual frill, so if SwitchGlass cannot read your desktop background image, it will just show a gray box instead.

Brad Ellis discusses designing the icon.

Companies that Scrape Your E-mail

Joseph Cox (via Bruce Schneier, Hacker News):

The popular Edison email app, which is in the top 100 productivity apps on the Apple app store, scrapes users’ email inboxes and sells products based off that information to clients in the finance, travel, and e-Commerce sectors. The contents of Edison users’ inboxes are of particular interest to companies who can buy the data to make better investment decisions, according to a J.P. Morgan document obtained by Motherboard.


Some of the companies listed in the J.P. Morgan document sell data sourced from “personal inboxes,” the document adds. A spokesperson for J.P. Morgan Research, the part of the company that created the document, told Motherboard that the research “is intended for institutional clients.”


Edison is just one of several companies that offer free email apps which then sell anonymized or pseudonymised data derived from users’ inboxes. Another company that mines inboxes called Foxintelligence has data that comes from users of the Cleanfox app, which tidies up users’ inboxes.


To keep our Edison Mail app free, and to protect your privacy by rejecting an advertising-based business model, our company Edison Software, measures e-commerce through a technology that automatically recognizes commercial emails and extracts anonymous purchase information from them. Our technology is designed to ignore personal and work email, which does not help us measure market trends.

Michael Potuck:

While the developer says on its website that it does “process” its users’ emails, Edison customers that Motherboard interviewed said they didn’t realize what was happening.

And when looking at the big picture, Edison having phrases like “privacy by design” and “privacy first” on its website can feel misleading after learning about how they scrape and sell personal data.

Joe Rossignol:

Edison’s privacy policy and support website also indicate that users can opt out of having their anonymized data shared with Edison Trends partners by navigating to Account > Settings > Manage Privacy in the app.

Nick Heer:

Slice is owned by Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce conglomerate that also owns A few years ago, the latter company was at the centre of a similar controversy over the appropriateness of scraping users’ inboxes for marketing data that can be sold.


Unpaid Apple Store Bag Checks Ruled Illegal

Mikey Campbell (L.A. Times, Hacker News, Reddit):

The California Supreme Court in a decision delivered on Thursday found Apple broke state law by not paying retail workers for the time they spent participating in mandatory bag and device searches, leaving the company liable for millions in unpaid wages.

In a unanimous ruling (PDF link), the court holds employees were and are in Apple’s control during mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, devices and other items. As such, Apple is required to compensate its employees for time spent on the anti-theft program, which in this case allegedly amounted to up to 20 minutes worth hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.

Juli Clover:

Apple requires all personal packages, bags, and Apple devices that belong to retail employees to be checked by a manager or security before an employee is allowed to leave the store for any reason, including breaks, lunch, and the end of shifts.

Employees are also required to clock out before submitting to an exit search, and have estimated that the time spent waiting and undergoing searches ranges from five to 20 minutes. On busy days, some employees have waited for up to 45 minutes waiting for a bag check.

Apple has argued that allowing employees to bring bags and devices to work is a convenience and has positioned the searches as a “benefit” because employees could prevent searches by not bringing personal items or could be banned from bringing personal items all together. The California Supreme Court says that such a ban would be “draconian” and that Apple’s arguments that employee iPhones are a convenience are “at odds” with how the iPhone is described in marketing materials.

Update (2020-02-18): John Gruber:

This whole thing is an embarrassment for the richest company in the world. I can see how it happened in the first place, but once it got to court, Apple should have recognized that the policy was flatly wrong and settled it by fully paying wages for time spent in these checks to retail employees worldwide.


Second, taking this lawsuit to the state supreme court left Apple’s lawyers arguing that employees don’t need to take their Apple devices to work. Who doesn’t take their phone to work? I literally don’t know anyone who leaves the house for anything without their phone.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Really a stain on the company. And they took it to the California supreme court? WAT?

Still can’t get over how Cook signed off on the gaslighting argument that getting frisked at work is a “benefit” to employees, and if they didn’t want that “benefit”, they could leave their iPhones at home.

Update (2020-09-07): Tim Hardwick:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday said Apple must pay over 12,000 retail workers in California for the time spent waiting for compulsory bag searches at the end of their shifts (via Reuters).

The ruling is here. See also: Hacker News.

Update (2021-08-21): See also: Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk (via Simone Manganelli).

Update (2022-08-29): Juli Clover:

Apple will pay $30.5 million to settle a long-running lawsuit over employee bag checks, reports Bloomberg Law. Apple initially agreed to the sum in November 2021, and now a judge has given final approval to the settlement amount.

macOS 10.15.3 Time Machine Problems

Howard Oakley:

In yesterday’s article, I described how I discovered that two of my Time Machine snapshots had apparently got stuck, and couldn’t be deleted when automatic backups tried to ‘thin’ those snapshots. That in turn was filling my log with error messages every time that Time Machine made an automatic backup. This article explains what happened, and how I fixed the problem.

Howard Oakley (Hacker News):

If you’re intending to rely on Time Machine backups in macOS 10.15.3, you might want to use an alternative as well. I can now confirm that making the first full backup using Time Machine can take so long that it may not be feasible, and that some users are also experiencing failure to restore from an existing backup.


If you are intending to make a full first backup using Time Machine in 10.15.3, you should be wary of its potential to never complete, and be prepared to fall back to a substitute backup system. If you do encounter very slow progress during the first backup, cancel it, remove the incomplete backup, add the .DocumentRevisions-V100 folder at the root of each volume to be backed up to Time Machine’s exclude list (press Command-Shift-. to see hidden items in the file selector dialog), then try again.


Update (2020-02-17): Howard Oakley:

This article explains how you might determine if this is the cause of your Mac backing up slowly, and if it is, what you might do about it.

macOS 10.15.3 Update Erases Log Files, Too

Mr. Macintosh:

Almost all the /var/log files have been erased and start over the minute after the 10.15.3 update finished installing.


This is my 4th article on 10.15.3 Combo Update issues. If you have not seen them yet, you can view them below.