Archive for June 22, 2021

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Matter’s Smart Home

Dan Moren:

Matter accessories have not yet hit the market, which is why the support Apple is rolling out in the newest versions of most of its operating systems—iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and tvOS 15—is only billed as a “developer preview” targeted at those making smart home apps or accessories.

The arrival of Matter does not signal the demise of HomeKit—in fact, HomeKit will continue to exist as a layer on top of Matter, positioning it as a parallel to existing accessories.


So if Matter just looks like HomeKit, what’s the real advantage? The main appeal is the interoperability, which should broaden the devices available to HomeKit users.


OldOS: iOS 4 Built in SwiftUI

Zane Kleinberg (via Hacker News):

OldOS is a testament to the days of yesteryear, showcasing what iOS once was ten years ago. The ethos of the app is to merge the technologies of today with a pixel-perfect recreation of the user experience of the past. The vast majority of apps in OldOS are fully functional — meaning they seamlessly integrate with the data on your phone to deliver a live, emulator-esque experience. What does this mean? Well, you can play your music in iPod, get directions in Maps, surf the web in Safari, view the current weather in Weather, and much more. By the same token, no shortcuts were taken in fully fleshing out the operating system. You can change your background, adjust settings, search apps, et cetera. There are a few apps still not ready for primetime but don't worry, they're coming soon.

With OldOS, you no longer need to worry about securing a legacy iPhone to experience nostalgia — it's available on your daily driver.

John Gruber:

Once you get past the surface aesthetic differences, it’s also interesting as a way to remember how many little things iOS has added over the years. iOS is so much richer now. You couldn’t do anything in list views back then. E.g., if you wanted to delete a note in Notes, you had to open the note and tap the Trash button. In a view hierarchy, you couldn’t go back just by swiping from the left edge of the display — you had to tap the Back button in the navigation bar at the top of the display.

Testing the Apollo Spacecraft

Ken Shirriff (via Alexis Gallagher):

To test all the components of Apollo, NASA created (and patented) a complex system called Digital Test Command System. The testing control room (pictured below) sent digital commands to the spacecraft, to control and monitor all parts of the spacecraft.

At the spacecraft, racks of test equipment decoded the digital commands and operated components. The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC, below) needed to be operated remotely, which brings us back to the Computer Buffer Unit. It converted test commands into serial data for the AGC.


Apollo test hardware had corrosion problems in the Florida humidity. To solve this, they zip-tied a desiccant packet inside. If the humidity sensor turned pink, you needed to replace the packet. The box was pressurized with nitrogen through a valve to keep moisture out.


Google Messages Adds End-to-End Encryption

Abner Li (via Hacker News):

Back in November, Google announced that it would start testing end-to-end encryption in Messages for Android. After being limited to the beta channel, E2EE is now rolling out to all stable users.

With end-to-end encryption enabled, Google or other third parties cannot read the contents (text and media) of your RCS chats as it’s in transit between the sender and receiver. Google is using the Signal Protocol and offers a technical paper with more details. 


Messages also uses this central database to include SMS and RCS messages in Android system backup, so messages can be transferred to a new client or device. Starting from Android version P, the Android system backup is end-to-end encrypted with a secret key derived from the user’s lock screen PIN/pattern/passcode so Google servers can’t access it.


Update (2021-06-29): Chaim Gartenberg:

Over the past 15 years, Google has introduced more than a dozen messaging services spanning text, voice, and video calling.


Here’s a breakdown of Google’s major messaging offerings over the years, with currently active services in bold[…]

Via Nick Heer:

I would love to know the inside story of why there are so many disjointed and failed attempts to launch such a seemingly straightforward platform-level feature.

John Gruber:

My first thought was that this exemplified my argument the other day about Google’s lack of institutional focus. But it sort of works against my argument that Sundar Pichai is shepherding Google in a more focused direction — a bunch of these false steps in messaging were under his leadership.

Update (2021-07-26): Juli Clover:

Verizon today announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging service on Android devices, joining AT&T and T-Mobile. That means all three major carriers in the United States will support the RCS standard on Android devices as of 2022.