Archive for July 1, 2021

Thursday, July 1, 2021

APFS Volume Names Are Still a Unicode Mess

Howard Oakley (tweet):

This article stems from Thomas Tempelmann’s (@tempelorg) observation on Twitter that, if you name a volume in Disk Utility, it can remain in Unicode normalized Form C, which isn’t compatible with the rest of macOS, which expects Form D to be used.


If you do use Disk Utility to create two volumes with what appear to be identical names, but actually differ in their normalisation, then behaviours become stranger still.


The underlying problem seems to be a bug in Disk Utility, which fails to normalise volume names to Form D as the Finder does. But there’s also a bug in Spotlight indexing which results in volumes with Form C names not being indexed at all. APFS brought us many great things, but this initial design decision has only brought problems, complexity and bugs like these.

Thomas Tempelmann:

To all #Mac users who have accented chars (or umlauts) in their volume (disk) name: If #Spotlight doesn’t work for you, then try renaming your volume in Finder once to “abc”, then back to your preferred name. That might fix Spotlight.


macOS 12 Monterey Public Beta

Juli Clover:

The macOS Monterey Public Beta is available to anyone with a compatible Mac and it does not require a developer account. This guide walks you through some simple steps on installing the beta software.

Before downloading the update, it's worth noting that Apple does not recommend installing the macOS Monterey Public Beta on your main Mac, so if you have a secondary machine, use that.

The release versions of DropDMG and ToothFairy are compatible with the Monterey public beta. I recommend updating to the public beta versions of EagleFiler and SpamSieve before installing Monterey.

Jason Snell:

The good news is, for all the recent fears among Mac users that Apple might be attempting to collapse Mac, iPhone, and iPad into a single amorphous product, macOS Monterey still feels unreservedly like a Mac. Apple wants its platforms to share features, but it also recognizes that each serves a different (albeit overlapping) audience.


And this year, Apple has chosen to make dramatic interface changes to Safari across not just macOS but iOS and iPadOS as well. I think the changes work fairly well on the iPad, but they’re kind of a mess on the iPhone and, unfortunately, the Mac.


Though Shortcuts has already surpassed Automator in terms of ease of use as well as functionality, it’s still a very young app—there’s plenty of room to grow over the next few years. Only with this version can you hide steps of a shortcut to make the rest of the file easier to read, for example. Shortcuts also shows its new arrival on the Mac by generating dialog boxes and alerts that look nothing like standard Mac interface elements. In the end, either Shortcuts needs to feel like the rest of macOS or the rest of macOS needs to come to Shortcuts—but right now, it’s neither fish nor fowl.


I don’t have much to report on group FaceTime based on early betas of macOS Monterey and iOS 15 other than to say that I found them pretty buggy, with video and audio cutting out and individual participants sometimes appearing more than once.


Most notably, macOS Monterey does nothing to address the failure of notifications, Notification Center, and widgets from macOS Big Sur.

John Voorhees:

I haven’t run into any show-stopping bugs, and this year’s beta is far more approachable than the Catalina or Big Sur betas were. Those updates included fundamental shifts in the way the OS worked that made the update uncomfortable for some users. There’s some of that in Monterey, but less than in the past couple of years. Instead, Monterey introduces a collection of enhancements to existing system apps and new cross-system feature integrations that make the update useful immediately.


Bottom line, I’d like to see the unification of the tab bar and toolbar rolled back or an option added to settings to turn it off. I applaud the effort to free up more space for content and also appreciate the more unified look afforded by the extension of websites’ colors to the tab bar, but the usability cost of cramming so much into one horizontal strip is too high.


I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the new Focus feature as much as I have. A lot of thought has gone into Focus, which allows for finely-tuned setups that highlight what a simple, blunt tool Do Not Disturb was. There’s more to Focus than specifying who and what apps can interrupt you in certain contexts, but even just that unlocks a tremendous amount to control over the barrage of daily notifications everyone receives.


Update (2021-07-02): See also: Hacker News.

iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 Public Beta

Federico Viticci:

I don’t think iOS and iPadOS 15 are massive updates like iOS and iPadOS 13 or 14 were. There are dozens of interesting new features in both updates, but none of them feels “obvious” to demonstrate to average users like, say, dark mode and iPad multiwindow in iOS and iPadOS 13 or Home Screen widgets in last year’s iOS 14. And, for the most part, I think that’s fine. The wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented every year, and the pandemic happened for everyone – Apple engineers included.


Of all the new features in iOS and iPadOS 15, the one I’ve been using – and enjoying – the most is Focus, which already feels like it has been part of iOS for years now.


Conversely, I’m not so sure the new Safari will be an instant success with iPhone and iPad users; of all the features I covered in this story, I wouldn’t be surprised if Safari ends up being the one Apple tweaks the most before the public release of iOS and iPadOS 15. I’ve been struggling to adjust to the new Safari on both my iPhone and iPad, and although I believe there are some good ideas in it, many of them feel rushed and counterintuitive.


A good way to think about iPadOS 15’s revamped multitasking is the following: what you can accomplish with Split View, Slide Over, and multi-window isn’t changing, but Apple is making it easier and faster for everyone to discover and use those features.


Google Sunsets the APK Format for New Android Apps

C. Scott Brown (via Hacker News):

Starting in August 2021, Google will require all new Android APKs to land on the Play Store as App Bundles instead.

This will invariably result in smaller file sizes and other boons for the end-user.


However, there are two significant issues with AABs. The first is that developers who want their apps to appear in other distribution channels — such as the Amazon App Store or Huawei’s App Gallery — will need to manually export APK versions of their apps.


The other issue is that developers will need to give Google their app signing key to export an AAB app as an APK.


The good: .aab can be optimized by the Play store for the device that is requesting them (for example stripping resources that don’t apply to a particular device)

The bad: it will be more difficult for non-Google app distribution storefronts to jump-start their catalog by grabbing APKs from the Play Store, because they won’t be able to get one neat APK per listing via some APK downloader. (For apps that do want to get listed on those storefronts, life won’t be very different.)

The ugly: APK distribution is a “zero-trust” model which allows the developer and the user to not have to trust the store not to make any changes to the application. In fact that’s what prevents the kinds of “good” optimizations mentioned above: Google can’t reach into an APK to strip resources that are irrelevant to a particular device, because doing so would invalidate the APK’s signature. By forcing apps to be deployed with keys under Google’s control, this trust model is broken. The Play Store no longer guarantees through cryptography that APKs haven’t been tampered with between the developer’s build system and the recipient device.

A lot of developers seem to be upset by this last bit, though from an Apple developer’s perspective, Apple already has all the keys, anyway (since it generates them for you); and apps from the store get re-signed by Apple’s key, so that users can’t see whether it was signed by the developer.


Update (2021-07-02): For Apple developers, the keys are generated locally, and the private key stays on your Mac. Only the public key is given to Apple. Also, I agree with commenter Jean-Daniel that zero-trust is of limited value because you have to trust the platform, anyway.

Ron Amadeo (Hacker News):

Developers can keep a local copy of the signing key they upload to Google, allowing them to generate valid updates that can be installed over Google Play versions. Developers can also download signed “Distribution APKs” from the Google Play Developer Console, which are old-school universal APKs that can be uploaded to other app stores. If you’re concerned about Google changing your app without your consent, Google says an optional new “code transparency“ feature will let developers verify that the hashes on downloaded app code match what they uploaded.


For Google, Android App Bundles are a big deal. At Google I/O 2018, the company said that if every app switched to bundles, Google would save 10 petabytes of bandwidth per day, which is an incredible number, indicating the scale the Play Store operates at.