Archive for February 16, 2021

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Dash 6

Kapeli (tweet):

The interface was updated to feel more native, especially in macOS Big Sur


The most requested feature is here. I think I finally found a way to make full-text search fit well within Dash, alongside the results coming from the docset index.

Full-text search is opt-in. You have to manually enable it for the docsets you want, by opening the docsets in the docset browser and choosing “Enable full-text search”

Full text search is not supported for the Apple API Reference or Man Pages. In my limited testing it worked well for Python, though. Dash 6 retains the 5.x interface of having separate search fields for searching across pages and within the current page. I still haven’t fully adjusted to that. I find myself having to think about which keyboard shortcut to press, whereas the unified search field always felt natural. It’s $30 to buy the app or $20 to upgrade.



Michael Potuck (via Ruffin Bailey):

With Apple’s official battery service for worn-out AirPods, you’re looking at $49 for AirPods and AirPods Pro (per headphone), and the same rate goes for any of the AirPods charging cases.


PodSwap is a relatively new service, and it looks like a great option to get your AirPods batteries replaced at a nice discount. You can swap in your gen 1 or gen 2 AirPods with dead batteries for a refurbished and sanitized pair with “restored battery life.”

The company has indeed found a way to replace AirPods’ batteries with “specially developed equipment.” You’re not getting an official Apple battery here, but PodSwap says it’s done independent testing to make sure “The batteries we use are similar in performance to your original ones from Apple.”

This costs $60 for a pair. They don’t yet support AirPods Pro.


Update (2021-05-24): Jeff Carlson:

To be clear, Podswap doesn’t actually recondition and return your particular AirPods—that would take longer and require additional tracking. Instead, you receive someone else’s old pair with a new set of batteries.


Podswap makes it clear that the set you receive might have minor scratches or wear and tear, but the company also points out that every pair undergoes “ultrasonic micro-removal suction of dirt and organic debris, medical-grade solution treatment, and industrial-grade low temperature sterilization.” In other words, you’re not sharing someone else’s earwax.

Overall, I’m delighted by the Podswap experience and happy I can get new life out of my original investment, even if it requires two different physical units.

Why Does the Apple TV Still Exist?

Jason Snell (tweet, 2):

First, the arrival of the Movies Anywhere service has allowed most iTunes film (not television) purchases to migrate to other devices. Then in advance of the arrival of Apple’s TV streaming service, Apple made deals with the makers of TV sets and streaming boxes to add support for AirPlay, an Apple TV app, or both.


Gruber and Thompson suggest that perhaps the way forward is to lean into an identity as a low-end gaming console. Maybe amp up the processor power, bundle a controller, and try to use Apple Arcade to emphasize that this is a box that is for more than watching video.

The thing is, that’s really been the story of the Apple TV for the last few years, and so far as I can tell, it’s basically gone nowhere.

My Apple TV 3 is long in the tooth. Now we want to watch a show on HBO, which it no longer supports. But, and I’ve been thinking this for a year or two, this is not a good time to buy an Apple TV 4. It’s still got that awful remote, and surely version 5 will be out soon. I should probably just buy a Roku, now that they support AirPlay and iTunes content. I would miss the Flickr screensaver, though.

John Gruber (tweet):

Really, Apple Arcade is the only recent evidence that Apple remains strongly committed to the Apple TV platform. Every single Apple Arcade game is available on Apple TV — which is difficult for games designed for touchscreen phones. And I will bet that it’s been difficult for some games performance-wise to achieve 30+ FPS on Apple TV 4K. I think Apple’s requirement that Arcade games not just play but play well on Apple TV is a sign that they’re committed.

Cory Zanoni:

If my Apple TV 4K packed it in today, I’d buy a new one. Options are limited here in Australia and I’m not sold on Chromecasts or Fire Sticks. Asking Siri to jump through videos is just that good. The screensavers are incredible. tvOS, neglected as it is, is smooth. Then there are the services: Music and Fitness+ have their hooks in me.


Update (2021-02-22): John Gruber:

Also, Apple TV is the only box known to protect your privacy. I think Roku is pretty bad in that regard — that’s how they sell for such low prices.

Jason Snell:

I think this is overstated. Roku defaults to tracking, you can turn it off.


You can’t fully turn off Roku tracking. All you can do is turn off the most egregious kinds of profiling but Roku still tracks your usage patterns and what you watch / search for and there is NO WAY to turn that off.

John Gruber:

But even on an Apple TV box, you’re at the mercy of each app you use, and the major streaming services all collect information on everything you do.


But Roku (and similar boxes, and smart TVs) track you at the system level.

Benjamin Mayo:

What I want, what everyone wants, is a modern Apple TV with an updated processor. We will pay for the niceness. At $99, we’re sold. Like all of Apple’s products, the Apple TV should aim to fill the segment of the market that toes the line between being accessible to the masses and being aspirational luxury.

Mike Rockwell:

I’ve been a fan of the Siri Remote since day one. The ability to control HomeKit devices with my voice, being able to quickly swipe through lists, and essentially acting as a universal remote is just so nice. We don’t use any other remotes in our house. The Apple TV remote turns our TV on and off, controls the volume of our receiver, and interacts with the only non-game console connected to our television.

I would argue that it’s actually the best TV remote I’ve ever used.


If Apple wants to be in the living room, they need to make their own box to ensure a rock solid, predictable experience. I’m actually surprised that companies like Netflix and Hulu aren’t building their own boxes too.

Swift for TensorFlow Canceled

TensorFlow (via Francisco Tolmasky, Hacker News):

Swift for TensorFlow was an experiment in the next-generation platform for machine learning, incorporating the latest research across machine learning, compilers, differentiable programming, systems design, and beyond. It was archived in February 2021.


It’s a shame. I had high hopes at the beginning that S4TF - and the investment in Swift from Google - would help Swift break out of the iOS ghetto and cement it as a mainstream language.

Alexis Gallagher:

Was very saddened to learn, in the Swift for TensorFlow design meeting this morning, that the project had been canceled.

But as this thread notes, much of the tech that was developed is freestanding and usable without tensorflow.

Fan Jiang:

[The] Differentiable Swift part made into mainline and should be available in the official toolchain pretty soon. In retrospect, and from a user’s perspective, I think the team did a great job in modularizing the whole effort so a lot of the products will thrive, like the PythonKit and the Swift Jupyter kernel. One of the unfortunate (and fortunate) aspect is that S4TF is a bit too close with TF - TF is the reason why S4TF even exists, but it also tied the project image to TF, and makes contributing to S4TF libraries require understanding TF and XLA, which is by no means a simple job, especially in a market where elegance in code is yet not a first-class citizen.

See also: Swift: Google’s bet on differentiable programming (Hacker News).


The Long Hack

Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley (Hacker News, 9to5Mac):

Bloomberg Businessweek first reported on China’s meddling with Supermicro products in October 2018, in an article that focused on accounts of added malicious chips found on server motherboards in 2015. That story said Apple Inc. and Inc. had discovered the chips on equipment they’d purchased. Supermicro, Apple and Amazon publicly called for a retraction. U.S. government officials also disputed the article.

With additional reporting, it’s now clear that the Businessweek report captured only part of a larger chain of events in which U.S. officials first suspected, then investigated, monitored and tried to manage China’s repeated manipulation of Supermicro’s products.


“In early 2018, two security companies that I advise were briefed by the FBI’s counterintelligence division investigating this discovery of added malicious chips on Supermicro’s motherboards,” said Mike Janke, a former Navy SEAL who co-founded DataTribe, a venture capital firm. “These two companies were subsequently involved in the government investigation, where they used advanced hardware forensics on the actual tampered Supermicro boards to validate the existence of the added malicious chips.”

The story has more than 50 sources, most anonymous. All the companies and the NSA still deny it. I guess the truth could be so bad that everyone is conspiring to cover it up, but in that case I still would have expected Bloomberg to present some more convincing details and evidence. I started reading this thinking they were going to go back and lock down the 2018 story, but that’s not what this is.

Nick Heer:

Robertson and Riley’s new report concerns the three specific incidents in the quoted portion above. There is no new information about the apparent victims described in their 2018 story. They do not attempt to expand upon stories about what was found on servers belonging to Apple or the Amazon-acquired company Elemental, nor do they retract any of those claims. The new report makes the case that this is a decade-long problem and that, if you believe the 2010, 2014, and 2015 incidents, you can trust those which were described in 2018. But if you don’t trust the 2018 reporting, it is hard to be convinced by this story.

This time around, there are many more sources, some of which agreed to be named. There is still no clear evidence, however. There are no photographs of chips or compromised motherboards. There are no demonstrations of this attack. There is no indication that any of these things were even shown to the reporters. The new incidents are often described by unnamed “former officials”, though there are a handful of people who are willing to have quotes attributed.

John Gruber:

It’s a 4,000-word exercise in journalistic sophistry. It creates the illusion of something being there, but there is nothing there.

Matt Tait:

tl;dr is a source misunderstood an FBI defensive briefing on China’s supply chain activities, leaked it to the press, and bloomberg has again failed to do the work necessary to verify the sensational claims, because they mistake impressive credentials with domain expertise.


Articles like this are constructed out of parts. There are a series of claims attributed to collections of sources, grouped into an overall story. The way to read them is to read carefully to break out the specific claims and the corresponding sourcing.