Archive for October 9, 2020

Friday, October 9, 2020

Google v. Oracle at Supreme Court

Timothy B. Lee:

The Supreme Court’s eight justices on Wednesday seemed skeptical of Google’s argument that application programming interfaces (APIs) are not protected by copyright law. The high court was hearing oral arguments in Google’s decade-long legal battle with Oracle. Oracle argues that Google infringed its copyright in the Java programming language when it re-implemented Java APIs for use by Android app developers.

John Gruber:

My gut feeling is that Google is in the right here — APIs should not be copyrightable — but that they utterly failed to make the argument in a clear way.

See also: Miguel de Icaza, Florian Mueller (3, 4).

Charles Duan:

Readers of this site no doubt know that Oracle’s arguments in its lawsuit against Google, set to be argued in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, could spell disaster for the computer industry, by turning the act of reimplementing an API into copyright infringement. Back in January, I revealed in an Ars Technica piece that it could even spell disaster for Oracle itself, because Oracle’s cloud storage service reimplements Amazon’s S3 API. Oracle did not dispute my findings but shrugged them off, claiming Amazon had granted permission. I was skeptical, but at the time did not have hard evidence to prove a negative that Oracle had no license.

I’ve now found the evidence for why Oracle should be worried. And more importantly, it shows why every tech company and startup should be worried about the Google v. Oracle case.


Apple Forces Telegram to Close Channels Run by Belarus Protestors

Scott Chipolina (via Old Unix Geek, Hacker News):

Apple is requesting that Telegram shut down three channels used in Belarus to expose the identities of individuals belonging to the Belarusian authoritarian regime that may be oppressing civilians.


These channels are a tool for Belarus’ citizens protesting the recently rigged presidential election, but, with a centralized entity like Apple calling the shots on its own App Store, there’s little the protesters can do about it.


Update (2020-10-12): Pavel Durov (via Hacker News):

Apple released a statement saying they didn’t want us to take down the 3 channels run by the Belarusian protestors, but just specific posts “disclosing personal information.

This sly wording ignores the fact that channels like @karatelibelarusi and @belarusassholes consist entirely of personal information of violent oppressors and those who helped rig the elections – because that is why those channels exist.

By hiding their demands with vague language, Apple is trying to avoid the responsibility of enforcing their own rules. It is understandable: according to this poll, over 94% of Belarusian users think the channels that made Apple worry should be left alone.

Previously, when removing posts at Apple’s request, Telegram replaced those posts with a notice that cited the exact rule limiting such content for iOS users. However, Apple reached out to us a while ago and said our app is not allowed to show users such notices because they were “irrelevant”.

Alex Stamos:

I had been looking forward to next week’s new batch of iPhones for a while, but thanks to Apple’s increasingly unethical use of DRM to enforce their rules and support of authoritarian regimes, I gotta consider moving the entire family to the Android ecosystem.

Stefan Esser:

In this comment it was said that Apple told Telegram to censor the info that certain posts had to be removed due to Apple. Standard apple monopoly practice. When we released SysSecInfo Apple bullied us into removing features and they forbid us to inform users about it.


Update (2020-10-15): John Gruber (tweet, Hacker News, AppleInsider):

This has nothing to do with relevance and everything to do with convenience. I’ve said it before and will adamantly say it again: it is prima facie wrong that one of the rules of the App Store is that an app is not allowed to explain the rules of the App Store. I’m hard pressed to think of an exception to this conviction, not just on Apple’s App Store, but in any sphere of life — whether a harmless game or the administration of the law.


My own experience with this was that once I included a description of an OS bug I worked around in the changelog of my apps and the reviewers made me remove it with almost exactly the same verbiage–I can’t remember if they actually said “irrelevant” but the summary was “this information is not useful to your users”.

My experience has also been that you’re not allowed to mention OS bugs in release notes, even if they were officially reported via Radar and acknowledged there by Apple. “Irrelevant” basically means “potentially embarrassing to Apple.”

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Apple reaching inside communication apps to tell the maker what users can and cannot posts is 🍌. Apple then asking that their censorship is kept private is 🤯. Apple justifying their prohibition on notices because they’re “irrelevant” is positively 1984.

Phones are the primary computing device for the majority of people today. It’s completely insane that we’ve arrived at a place where two companies can dictate what can be said or installed on those devices.

Remote Work and Apple and Microsoft


Apple CEO Tim Cook participated in an interview as part of The Atlantic Festival on Monday, where he discussed a range of topics from climate change to remote work and the company's antitrust troubles.

Mark Gurman (Hacker News):

Cook said he doesn’t believe Apple will “return to the way we were because we’ve found that there are some things that actually work really well virtually.”

Bloomberg’s headline is “Apple CEO Impressed by Remote Work, Sees Permanent Changes,” but it does not actually sound to me like Cook is changing much.

Juli Clover:

As for the shift to working from home for many Apple employees, Cook said “it’s not like being together physically” and that he can’t wait for “everybody to be able to come back,” confirming that Apple is not going to be one of those companies that lets employees work from home long term.

Tom Warren:

Microsoft is allowing some of its employees to work from home permanently. While the vast majority of Microsoft employees are still working from home during the ongoing pandemic, the software maker has unveiled “hybrid workplace” guidance internally to allow for far greater flexibility once US offices eventually reopen.

See also: 1Password (Hacker News).


Update (2020-12-16): Juli Clover:

The majority of Apple employees likely won’t be returning to work at Apple’s Cupertino campuses before June 2021, Apple CEO Tim Cook said today at a town hall meeting, details of which were shared by Bloomberg.

Cook said that while face-to-face collaboration is important, Apple’s success amid the pandemic this year could potentially lead to the company being more flexible about remote work in the future.

Update (2021-06-04): Chance Miller (tweet, MacRumors):

Apple has laid out a formal plan to begin bringing all of its staff back to the office following more than a year of remote work prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a memo sent to employees today, Tim Cook outlined that Apple expects staff to return to the office three days a week starting in early September. A hybrid approach will be taken until at least 2022.

Update (2021-06-05): Zoe Schiffer:

Apple employees are pushing back against a new policy that would require them to return to the office three days a week starting in early September. Staff members say they want a flexible approach where those who want to work remote can do so, according to an internal letter obtained by The Verge.

Update (2021-07-02): Zoe Schiffer (Hacker News):

Apple isn’t backing down from its hybrid work model that will require most employees to return to the office three days a week starting in early September. Fully remote positions will be extremely limited.

“We believe that in-person collaboration is essential to our culture and our future,” said Deirdre O’Brien, senior vice president of retail and people, in a video recording viewed by The Verge. “If we take a moment to reflect on our unbelievable product launches this past year, the products and the launch execution were built upon the base of years of work that we did when we were all together in-person.”

Update (2021-07-16): Zoe Schiffer (tweet, Hacker News):

One employee said they were currently on an Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation that allowed them to work from home, but were told that accommodation would be denied when the company went back to the office.


Some employees say they were told only people with documented medical conditions would be approved for permanent remote work. But the form that Apple employees use to request such an accommodation asks them to release their medical records to the company, which made some people uncomfortable.

Update (2021-07-28): Zoë Schiffer:

Apple’s internal debate about remote work is continuing to rage. Here’s a little thread with news that hasn’t been reported yet[…]

Sunsetting Google Play Music


YouTube Music is the new home for your music. Starting in September, we will close the Music store on Google Play.

Starting in October, users will begin losing access to the Google Play Music app.

To keep your Play Music library, including your purchases, you can transfer to YouTube Music or download any music that you’ve purchased via Google Takeout.


After the Play Music app goes away, the transfer tool will be available for a minimum of 30 days


BitBar Needs a Developer

Jason Snell:

Hey developer friends, it has come to my attention that BitBar development has stopped. I love this app and maybe you do too? If anyone is interested in keeping it afloat (and getting it to work well with Big Sur), here’s a github thread.

See also: How bad is the air out there?.


Update (2020-11-23): Casey Liss:

Both @jsnell and I have been lamenting the apparent abandonment of BitBar. He has since pointed me to SwiftBar, by @melonamin which seems to be the spiritual replacement. 🎉

Update (2020-12-16): Jason Snell:

I have come to rely on having little blobs of information available to me whenever I glance up to my Mac’s menu bar. Thanks to SwiftBar, I don’t need to even consider the prospect that I might have to give that up.