Archive for October 27, 2020

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Unkillable “Songs of Innocence”

Russ Frushtick (via Stephen Hackett):

Around 2016 or 2017, a couple years after Apple launched its CarPlay service, allowing your vehicle to sync with iOS, I started noticing something odd. Whenever I got into a car and connected my phone, it would automatically play something I had purchased on iTunes: a list of options so small — just nine albums total — it meant I was incessantly hearing the same tracks over and over again. And as much as I love Huey Lewis, “The Heart of Rock & Roll” has its limits. The albums were constantly syncing to my newer devices because of some iCloud setting somewhere; even deleting them didn’t do the trick, as they’d continue to play over the cloud. After suffering with it for a few years, I found out that you could “hide” albums from iTunes, ensuring that they’re never automatically played. It saved me from the shame of hearing the first track of the Charlie Brown Christmas album for the 700th time. I was free.

But one album remained: Songs of Innocence.

Unlike the other albums, there was no way to hide this, and it never appeared in my purchased albums. Because I hadn’t purchased it. It was a gift from Tim Cook and Bono. And due to some quirk in iTunes, it was unkillable.


A few days after writing everything you just read, I decided to give one more call to Apple support, hoping to better understand what exactly was preventing them from removing the album in the first place. Here’s an edited transcript of the unthinkable conversation that ensued[…]


Zoom’s End-to-End Encryption Has Arrived

Jon Porter:

Zoom’s end-to-end encryption (E2EE) has arrived, letting both free and paid users secure their meetings so that only participants, not Zoom or anyone else, can access their content. Zoom says E2EE is supported across its Mac, PC, iOS, and Android apps, as well as Zoom Rooms, but not its web client or third-party clients that use the Zoom SDK.


Although E2EE meetings are more secure, they don’t work with a few of Zoom’s features. These include its cloud recording, live transcription, polling, meeting reactions, and join before host features. Participants also won’t be able to join using “telephone, SIP/H.323 devices, on-premise configurations, or Lync/Skype clients,” as Zoom says these can’t be end-to-end encrypted.


Sketch on Native Mac Apps

Sketch (Hacker News):

Native apps bring so many benefits — from personalization and performance to familiarity and flexibility. And while we’re always working hard to make Cloud an amazing space to collaborate, we still believe the Mac is the perfect place to let your ideas and imagination flourish.


This is something we pride ourselves on — over the years we’ve taken design cues from Apple, working hard to make your experience feel consistent and natural whenever you switch from our Mac app to apps like Pages or Keynote. We support UI changes, such as Dark Mode, as they launch. And right now we’re putting the finishing touches to a major UI update so that our Mac app will still look perfectly at home when macOS Big Sur releases later this Fall.

I love native apps, Sketch is my design app of choice, and the retro design of the blog post makes feel warm and fuzzy. But something about this worries me. Is it convincing for someone who isn’t already sold on native apps? Or who is choosing based on other criteria?

Kevin Kwok (via Hacker News):

The core insight of Figma is that design is larger than just designers. Design is all of the conversations between designers and PMs about what to build. It is the mocks and prototypes and the feedback on them. It is the handoff of specs and assets to engineers and how easy it is for them to implement them. Building for this entire process doesn’t take away the importance of designers—it gives them a seat at the table for the core decisions a company makes.


Designs in Figma are not just stored in the cloud; they are edited in the cloud, too. This means that Figma users are always working on the same design. With Dropbox, this isn’t true. The files may be stored in the cloud, but the editing happens locally—imagine the difference between sharing Word files in Dropbox vs. editing in Google Docs.


When many creative tools companies talk about the cloud, they seem to view it as an amorphous place that they store files. But the fundamental user experience of creating in their products is done via a standalone app on the desktop. Figma is browser-first, which was made possible (and more importantly performant) by their understanding and usage of new technologies like WebGL, Operational Transforms, and CRDTs.


Update (2020-11-19): Marc Edwards:

Here’s some extremely non-scientific tests using popular design tools, where I drew a bunch of boxes with strokes and rotated them.


Can a native Mac code editor really be that much better?

Find out.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Are you a real Mac developer anymore if you don’t have a screed on your marketing pages about how Mac-like and native your apps are? Is that something we should all be doing now? 😂

Dan Grover:

Native Mac app developers have become kinda like the specialty/vegan/organic brands at supermarket. They were like that before Apple’s comeback in 00’s....but it’s funny they still are.

David Barnard:

Whether or not those sites are about convincing people native apps are better, they do work to reinforce some people’s existing belief that they are. I tried Figma and don’t like it. Non-native aspects of Slack bug me. That page reinforces my preference and loyalty to Sketch.

Curtis Herbert:

🔥 take: maybe you’d be able to spend less time convincing people “native” mattered if a web app wasn’t out-classing you on performance.

Kyle Howells:

Sketch’s big performance problems come from one of its previously biggest selling points.

It renders using CoreGraphics (which renders on the CPU). So its results are native & exactly what the end result will look like on macOS.

Randy Luecke:

The web has only been getting faster and the Mac has only been getting worse.

There will always be some native loyalist, but most of your users don’t care anymore. The tool you provide is more important than how well it blends in on a decaying platform.

Imagine if Apple had spent the last decade the same way as the first decade of Mac OS X: making powerful frameworks to give native Mac apps more advantages Instead, it put most of its attention on iOS, ran the Mac App Store in such a way that encouraged Sketch—which should have been a crown jewel—to leave, introduced sandboxing, bugs, and security/privacy friction that made native apps more difficult to develop and support. And now it is flooding the Mac App Store with unmodified iOS apps.

Matt Birchler:

Sketch is great, and if it were up to me I’d be using it at work, but despite its “Mac-ass Mac app” bonafides, Sketch being Mac-only means it was not possible to be used in an environment where people would be using Windows as well. We’re a Figma company now, and I’m largely happy with it, but I so miss things like local files and the performance benefits Sketch brought with it.

Ilja A. Iwas:

Maybe the discussion is not only about native vs. web technologies, but also about $40M vs. $130M funding?

Roben Kleene:

For a decade, from 2000–2010, native Mac apps beat web apps without even breaking a sweat.

What’s changed since then? Apple stopped investing in AppKit. The framework that had enabled an unparalleled period of innovation on the desktop culminating in Sketch in 2010.

No further explanation is necessary to explain what’s happening with Figma vs. Sketch.

Extrapolating a hypothesis about the inherent merits of the web vs. native is a red herring when the web has had a decade to catch up with native desktop apps.

Dominik Wagner:

Too few users care about this anymore, and Apple actively destroys the boundary by making native less of an edge as it becomes unhappy, slow and less consistent for years.

Core Intuition:

They discuss the debate sparked by Sketch about native desktop apps vs. web apps, and Daniel concedes some of the advantages of web development.

John Gruber:

Sketch hits all the key marks about what best defines a great, truly native Mac app, particularly deep Mac tools for professional work. Customization that allows you, the user, to shape the tool into something personal, that fits your needs and idiosyncrasies. Familiarity — the je ne sais quoi of doing things, large and small, the Macintosh way — that makes new (or just new to you) Mac apps easy to get started with and intuitive to explore. And, well, just being a beautiful work of art unto itself.

Nick Heer:

The hardware that is being announced at tomorrow’s big Apple event is certainly exciting, but third-party apps are why I continue my investment in the Mac ecosystem. This piece speaks to my deep appreciation for really great Mac apps — from Sketch to Nova; NetNewsWire to MarsEdit; Keyboard Maestro to Things. I live in apps like these, and they are why I use a Mac.

Ben Thompson (Hacker News):

The fly in Sketch’s celebratory ointment is that phrase “even macOS itself has evolved”; the truth is that most of the macOS changes over Sketch’s lifetime — which started with Snow Leopard, regarded by many (including yours truly) as the best version of OS X — have been at best cosmetic, at worst clumsy attempts to protect novice users that often got in the way of power users.

Meanwhile, it is the cloud that is the real problem facing Sketch: Figma, which is built from the ground-up as a collaborative web app, is taking the design world by storm, because rock-solid collaboration with good enough web apps is more important for teams than tacked-on collaboration with native software built for the platform.

Sketch, to be sure, bears the most responsibility for its struggles; frankly, that native app piece reads like a refusal to face its fate. Apple, though, shares a lot of the blame: imagine if instead of effectively forcing Sketch out of the App Store with its zealous approach to security, Apple had evolved AppKit, macOS’s framework for building applications, to provide built-in support for collaboration and live-editing.

K.Q. Dreger:

Second, it’s not about “native” and whether the app is pure Swift/Objective-C. Who cares? It’s about the feel of the thing. Can I rearrange sidebar items? Do disclosure triangles reflect the visibility of the disclosable content? Will common keyboard shortcuts work as expected? Is there consideration given to the software’s usage of my memory, CPU, and energy?

Or, simply: is it tuned for the Mac?