Archive for September 29, 2021

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Retro Dither 1.0.1

David Kopec:

Today I launched a new novelty Mac app, Retro Dither. Retro Dither gives any photo a cool retro look using just black and white pixels. You may want this for artistic effect, or you may want to export your photo to MacPaint for display on a retro Mac. Retro Dither launched on the Mac App Store today.


I was working on my next programming book, which will be an intermediate Python projects book, when I came across an article about Atkinson Dithering on Hacker News by John Earnest. Dithering algorithms can be used for approximating the look of an image with less colors. Atkinson Dithering is one that is particularly well suited for approximating an image using just black and white.


So, I started researching the MacPaint file format and found this article.


Update (2021-10-05): Ashley Bischoff:

Oh, so kinda like @Iconfactory’s BitCam?

App Tracking Transparency Doesn’t Stop Trackers

Johnny Lin and Sean Halloran:

Using the open source Lockdown Privacy app and manual testing, we found that App Tracking Transparency made no difference in the total number of active third-party trackers, and had a minimal impact on the total number of third-party tracking connection attempts. We further confirmed that detailed personal or device data was being sent to trackers in almost all cases. ATT was functionally useless in stopping third-party tracking, even when users explicitly choose “Ask App Not To Track”.


How could Apple have failed so miserably in stopping third party trackers with a feature named “App Tracking Transparency”? Digging into the answers for this question led us to discover the main cause: Apple’s narrow definition of the term “tracking”.


Instead, Apple has hijacked the term “tracking” to define it as something highly specific, and they’ve even placed their full definition of it in developer documentation, which of course no average iOS user will ever read. […] Based on our research, we found Apple’s definition of tracking to be misleading, counterintuitive, and confusing for these reasons[…]


Not only do these trackers allow their clients to break Apple’s rules, but they specifically built features to help their clients easily circumvent Apple’s ATT privacy rules.

Nick Heer:

The disconnect in these findings may be explained by the many apps that are following the rules, particularly those from smaller or independent developers — who cannot afford to incur the wrath of App Review — and from really big developers where it would be obvious if they did not comply. In the middle lies this assortment of apps not quite notable enough to attract attention — at least, until this study came out.


That aside, I do think the similarities between other permission prompts and the one for app tracking could be misleading. I do not think this is deliberate. But I can see how many people could view their effects similarly, even though the negative option is to “ask” for the app to comply with the user’s request instead of simply disallowing permission.

Matt Wille:

The investigation found at least three iPhone games — popular enough to make it to the top of the App Store charts — sending explicit user data to third-party advertising companies, even after the user has selected the option for their information not to be collected. And Apple has done nothing about those apps’ invasive methods, despite being alerted to them weeks ago.


Safari 15 for Mac

Howard Oakley:

Apple has released an update for Safari in Big Sur and Catalina, bringing it to version 15.0. This brings some of the new features coming in Monterey, including tab groups, redesigned tabs, a compact tab bar option, and automatic switching from HTTP connections to HTTPS where they’re available. I’ve been using tab groups for a while now, and am very impressed by them. If you like to have a lot of tabs, they’re your last hope to get better organised.

The basic features are working fine for me except that iCloud is no longer syncing tabs to my other devices. Safari’s history now syncs to my iPad but not to my iPhone. Bookmarks and Reading List sync to all devices. [Update (2021-09-30): I’m now having problems with Reading List, too. It stopped syncing new items from iPhone to Mac; then I reset it on both devices and it synced the new items but didn’t delete the items from the phone after I deleted them on the Mac.]

Juli Clover:

Safari 15 introduces a new look for Safari with rounded, more defined tabs and support for transparency, a compact tab bar option that can be toggled on or off, and Tab Groups.

Nick Heer (tweet):

On my iPad — and on my Mac, where I have been running beta versions of Safari 15 for weeks — I still think this redesign is a mess. It is unnecessarily cramped, it is visually unappealing, and there are usability problems even if you enable the separate tab bar to mimic previous versions. The best updates to Safari 15 on iPad and Mac will be those that make it look and work more like Safari 14.

Jesse Squires:

the safari 15 tab design is so bad i might switch browsers just because of this

Marco Arment:

A company famous for its design went with… this

It looks like I hovered over it or clicked down, then Cmd-Tabbed to a different app, locking it in a hover/active state.

My web browser now always looks like a UI-rendering bug.

I still get confused because in regular macOS tab views the active tab is lighter than the others, and the active window also has a lighter title bar, but in Safari the active tab is darker. (Prior to Big Sur, the active window and active tab were darker with the standard controls, except in Safari where the active tab was lighter.)

John Gruber (post, tweet):

My strong advice to MacOS Big Sur users, if it’s not too late for you already, is NOT to upgrade to Safari 15.

The new tabs are terrible. I’ve tried them, given them a fair shot, but they’re ugly at best, and I find them genuinely confusing. I feel lost.

Colin Cornaby:

I feel like Safari’s new tab bar layout would be more successful with a traditional Mac look, and without the Big Sur flat design. So many of the odd issues could be fixed by adding depth.

Juli Clover:

Honestly the worst. The new design definitely impacts my workflow and makes Safari tabs more annoying to deal with. I don’t understand why Apple made this change because it’s in no way better.

Joe Fabisevich:

Why did the Safari team think this was a good design choice? I can barely read anything in my tab bar or see any of my extensions because some random website (CNET) chose to make their background some obnoxious red. I love colorful design but this is horribly inaccessible.

Thomas Tempelmann:

My favorites bar now looks as if it’s part of the web site content.

Jordan Borth:

It looks like Safari is drawing custom window controls? These look so gross… Finder included for comparison of the standard appearance

And the inactive window state… why? 🤢

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Butterfly effect in action: They had to do custom window controls in Safari to account for the new toolbar tinting 👀

And the controls look funny even if you turn off tab bar coloring.

Jeff Johnson:

Also, Safari 15 also removed the hidden preference, previously in the “Debug” menu, to disable the tab hover previews.

Roustem Karimov:

Safari 15 has a ton of bug fixes though, especially when it comes to browser extensions. We’ve waited for this update many months.


Update (2021-10-04): Matthias Gansrigler:

Have I already said how bad this new version of Safari is on macOS? I restart my Mac, or just Safari, and most of my tabs are gone. What a poop-show. If you can, keep using the previous version of it.

John Gruber (tweet, The Talk Show):

I despise the new tabs even when the “Show color in tab bar” and “Compact” layout settings are turned off. They don’t look like tabs. They look like buttons.


These new “tabs” waste space because, like buttons, they’re spaced apart. Tabs that look like real-world tabs aren’t just a decorative style. They’re a visual metaphor. My brain likes visual metaphors. It craves them. And my brain is very much comfortable with the particular visual metaphor of tabs in a web browser window. Buttons do not work as a metaphor for multiple documents within a single window. Thus, trying to use the new Safari 15 on Mac (and iPadOS 15, alas), I feel somewhat disoriented working within Safari. I have to think, continuously, about something I have never had to think about since tabbed browsing became a thing almost 20 years ago. The design is counterintuitive: What sense does it make that no matter your settings, the active tab is rendered with less contrast between the tab title and the background than background tabs? The active tab should be the one that pops.


If I were preparing a lecture for design students about what Jobs meant, I’d use Safari 14 and 15’s tab designs as examples. If anything, Safari 15 feels like a ginned-up example — too obviously focused solely on how it looks, too obviously callous about how it works. If it hadn’t actually shipped to tens of millions of Mac users as a software update, you’d think it was a straw man example of misguided design.


It’s hard to express in words how perverse this is. The icon that represents the web page is a destructive button for that web page. Imagine clicking a document icon in the Finder to trash it.

Dave Mark:

John focuses on the Mac in his post, but his comments might just as well apply to Safari for iPadOS 15. Though there are differences between the two implementations of Safari tabs, both joyously break the tab metaphor.

Simon Boo-th:

@gruber undersells how bad Safari 15 is. He’s missed the case with three tabs, where active and inactive-but-hovering are the same colour, so if your mouse is in the “tab” bar the third tab is the one that looks active.

Cesare Forelli:

I believe this is the most important piece @gruber wrote in years. It needs to reach Apple’s C-suite because tiny paper cuts decisions like hiding proxy icons suggested someone didn’t get Mac design, but this year Safari plainly proved someone should be shown the door. That bad.

Kieran Healy:

As @gruber says, the design of tabs and the differentiation of the browser from the page it’s rendering are both terrible on Safari 15 for Mac. I am reverting to a browser where things that look like buttons are in fact buttons.

Christoffer Lernö:

The new tabs on Safari is such an UX disaster. I keep clicking on the tab thinking it’s the address bar, since the tab more resembles a text input than the address bar itself...

Dieter Bohn:

It is truly astonishing how bad the new Safari tabs are on Mac. @gruber calls it an own goal and he’s exactly right. I’m baffled that this made it past any kind of design review.

Jason Snell:

Even more baffling is that it comes alongside Tab Groups, a feature that’s designed to enhance the use of browser tabs. The contrast between understanding what users like and utterly misunderstanding basic tab usability is breathtaking.

Jesse Squires:

Safari 15 tabs are so fucking terrible that I have to retweet this.

The options to turn off the new “compact” tabs should fully revert to the v14 tab design.

Peter Maurer:

Bonus fun fact: Safari’s web inspector evolved in the opposite direction: Its tabs were pills for the last few Safari versions; now they’re gap-less tabs again that look very similar to what Safari’s page tabs used to look like.

One can only imagine the discussions within Apple.

Jeff Johnson:

Try using Safari 15 tabs with a private window in dark mode.

I’m utterly confused about which tab is active. It’s the opposite of what I expect.

Peter Maurer:

Days since I’ve tried to drag a Mac Safari URL from the location field only to find I’m dragging the entire tab/window: zero.

Also, that was the only tab in my only Safari window, so the entire tab dragging operation is pointless — it’s just going to end up as the only tab in the only window again anyway. Maybe at least disable it under these circumstances?

Joe Rossignol:

On both macOS Big Sur and the macOS Monterey beta, it appears that attempting to bookmark a YouTube page in Safari 15 results in the browser crashing.


On macOS Catalina, some users across the Apple Support Communities, MacRumors Forums, Reddit, and Twitter have reported that some websites fail to load in Safari 15, with affected users receiving an "a problem repeatedly occurred" error message.

Update (2021-10-05): Joe Rossignol:

In Safari 15, however, tabs have a new button-like design with a rounder and more defined appearance. Apple has also inverted its shading of tabs, with an active tab now having darker shading and inactive tabs having lighter shading. The change has annoyed Gruber and other users, as evidenced by this Reddit thread with nearly 1,000 upvotes.

Update (2021-10-15): Corbin Dunn:

Safari 15 “tabs” are such a bad UI experience. The active tab should be lighter than other tabs, not darker. And which tab is active when you hover over it? You can’t tell! @Apple please fix this design…

Mark Allen:

The blue highlight given to third-party extensions on Safari 14 to show which extensions can access page data is horribly distracting.

Jeff Johnson:

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post called The Safari extension blues, in which I described how Safari tints many extension toolbar icons with the system accent color, by default blue, and how my own StopTheMadness avoids the tinting.


In my previous blog post, I argued that Apple should drop the icon tinting, because it's confusing to users, ugly, distracting, completely undocumented, and pointless security theater.

Jeff Johnson:

It’s important to note that is there’s no official Apple documentation explaining the significance of Safari extension toolbar icon tinting. I’ve looked everywhere in Safari and also searched extensively in Apple’s support pages. The only way that anyone knows how this works is that occasionally a Safari engineer will respond to someone’s perplexity. But this haphazard approach obviously doesn’t scale to over a billion Safari users.

It’s also important to note that due to confusion, users tend to blame Safari extension developers for the color instead of Apple. We get the complaints and the support issues about it, not Apple. […]

The links I’ve collected here are anecdotal data, but I challenge anyone to try to collect anecdotal data to the contrary, showing Safari users who enjoy the extension toolbar icon tinting, find it useful, and would rather keep it than eliminate it.

Update (2021-11-12): Marco Arment:

Just spent a half hour trying to figure out where iCloud Tabs went in new Safari.

Had to go to iCloud prefs and uncheck/recheck “Safari” on each device, then look up where it was moved to (a section you may need to enable on the new-tab Start screen).


Of course, this feature is there on the Mac, but hidden behind a hover gesture that’s hard to see or discover.

Of course.

Best part: this non-standard UI widget doesn’t even respond to clicks on the text label. Gotta hit that <> thing exactly.

The End of AMP?

Dwayne Lafleur (via Hacker News):

Google provided a distinct advantage to sites using AMP – priority placement on the world’s largest traffic source – Google search. I’ve had the pleasure of working with more than twenty thousand publishers in the five years since AMP’s launch, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a single reason that a publisher uses AMP other than to obtain this priority placement.


The good news is that, in May [2021], this is all about to change. Part of the Google update is that all pages with high Page Experience scores are eligible to be in the featured top news carousel. This effectively means that publishers will no longer be forced to use AMP and can instead provide fast, rich experiences on their own domains.


The good news gets even better; non-AMP pages make considerably more revenue per pageview than AMP pages. Initially, I assumed this was due to the nature of how ads load on AMP, however, recent Antitrust lawsuits have proposed that hindering ad competition was a feature and that all non-amp ad tags, such as my company, Ezoic’s, were delayed by 1 second to make them less effective.

Nick Heer:

Let us hope this marks the rapid decline of a proprietary format designed to replicate the open standards of the web in a way that Google can more readily control and track.

John Wilander:

The Google AMP cache is the cross-site tracking stunt of the decade. How did they get away with serving others’ content under for all these years, with full access to people’s Google login cookies, while making the actual content providers into 3rd-parties?

Marko Saric (via Hacker News):

From the release of the Core Web Vitals and the page experience algorithm, there is no longer any preferential treatment for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in Google’s search results, Top Stories carousel and the Google News. Google will even remove the AMP badge icon from the search results.

You can now safely ignore Google AMP when building a more diverse and more exciting web without any artificial restrictions set by the adtech giant.


Google AMP was never popular. It was controversial from the day it was introduced and received a big push back and a lot of hate but Google stuck to its guns for years.

There’s been a lot of antitrust scrutiny on Google and it may have played a role in this change of heart.