Archive for November 15, 2021

Monday, November 15, 2021

Apple Buys Google Ads for Subscription Apps

Hartley Charlton (tweet, Eric Seufert, Hacker News):

Apple allegedly buys Google ads for popular subscription-based third-party apps to bolster its collection of commission on in-app purchases, according to an investigation by Forbes.

Apple has purportedly been buying Google ads for subscription-based third-party apps, including HBO, Masterclass, Babbel, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and Bumble, for at least two years. A marketer speaking to Forbes suggested that many of the brands Apple appears to be advertising for have been assertive about attempting to circumvent App Store policies. The ads are said to be placed without the developer’s consent and Google apparently refuses to remove them.

The ads do not disclose that they are paid for by Apple, but redirect to the App Store rather than subscription sign-up pages on the brand’s website.

My first reaction is that isn’t this sort of a win-win? All things being equal, I’d rather that Apple use some of the fees I’m paying to help sell more copies of my apps. That seems like something a good business partner would do. But, as far as I can tell, it’s not buying ads for indie apps. The situation for the big apps is a bit different:

Hartley Charlton:

Apple has now clarified that it has placed ads to promote products it distributes for five years now, and these ads are clearly marked as being from the App Store.

Apple indicated that this is no different from retailers running ads for the products they sell, and is a very standard business model. Apple is granted conventional legal rights to advertise in this way in the agreements it has with developers.

Apple says that the allegation that it is "secretly" or "quietly" purchasing ads for developers without their knowledge or consent is an overt mischaracterization. On the contrary, the company says that it regularly engages in conversation with developers about the ads it places and many developers express their appreciation for this support.

However, Apple doesn’t seem to have commented on the allegation that there’s no way to opt out. Apple would say that all these developers opted in as part of agreeing to be in the App Store, but they didn’t really have a choice in that aside from the sweet solution.


Mouse Pointer Memory Leak

Howard Oakley (Hacker News, MacRumors):

Soon after the release of macOS 12.0.1, reports appeared that some apps, notably Firefox, could suffer large and progressive memory leaks until they took 70 GB or more of app memory, and the Mac simply ran out. At first this appeared confined to certain apps, including Firefox, Microsoft Word, and even Safari.


The cause has now been isolated to a single group of settings in one preference pane, Accessibility. All Macs which appear to suffer this leak are using custom pointer controls in the Pointer tab of the Display, specifically a larger than normal Pointer size and custom outline and fill colours. The latter two items are one of the new features in Monterey, and have proved popular with users.


Apps which feature many and frequent changes in pointer type, such as browsers, therefore leak memory more quickly than those that change the pointer type less often. However, every app with an interface in which the pointer can change type will leak until this bug is fixed in Monterey.

I’m also seeing reports of this happening on Big Sur.

Update (2021-11-15): Steve Troughton-Smith:

This is crazy. You can literally wiggle the mouse cursor over the sidebar divider in Finder and watch its memory usage go up by a couple MB every time the cursor changes

Update (2021-11-16): Josh Centers:

On 9to5Mac, Ben Lovejoy argues that the custom pointers aren’t the sole cause of memory leaks, although he says resetting the pointer is worth trying. However, Howard Oakley points out that this leak is associated with any pointer change—such as from the arrow to the text insertion bar—so any app with frequent pointer changes, like a Web browser, will suffer from this issue.

See also: Hacker News, Reddit.

Update (2021-11-23): Kyle Howells:

Just a casual 124GB of ram being used by Control Centre, no big deal.... No memory leak here. Everything completely under control.

Gregory McFadden:

So glad I got 64GB of memory on my new Mac so I can use 26GB of it for control center... Wait... what.

Howard Oakley:

I can now describe a total of four [memory leaks], three of which I can reproduce here, and one which I can’t. This article summarises them, and how to avoid becoming victim to them.

Update (2021-11-29): Saagar Jha:

FYI: the situation with the widely reported “macOS memory leaks” is not as simple as the cursor leak that Mozilla found. I trust that their analysis is accurate, but it isn’t the whole answer: the true situation is more complicated than “don’t use custom cursors”.

Update (2021-12-17): Robin Kunde:

Haven’t seen this mentioned much, but 12.1 fixed the mouse pointer related memory leaks for me.


Microsoft Blocks EdgeDeflector to Force Windows Users Into Edge

Tom Warren (via Nick Heer):

Microsoft has already made it more difficult to switch default browsers in Windows 11, and now the company is going a step further by blocking apps like EdgeDeflector. Third-party apps like EdgeDeflector and even Firefox have offered workarounds to Microsoft forcing people to use Edge in Start menu search results, even if their default browser is not Edge.

Microsoft has been forcing Windows 10 and Windows 11 users into Edge and its Bing search engine in the Start menu search results, and now with the new Widgets panel in Windows 11. It’s a frustrating part of Windows that doesn’t respect your default browser choice. EdgeDeflector lets you bypass these restrictions, and open Start menu search results in your default browser of choice.

Update (2021-11-17): Dave LeClair (via Hacker News):

The upcoming Windows Update won’t block you from changing the default browser in Windows 11. The patch will force links using the microsoft-edge protocol to always open in Edge. These are specific links opened through Windows 11, such as those directly from the taskbar’s search feature. Firefox’s workaround and EdgeDeflector made it so these links would still open in your default browser. Microsoft is about to roll out an update that disables this workaround, calling it “improper” on Mozilla’s part


As you might expect, the developer of EdgeDeflector isn’t thrilled, as outlined in a blog post. “Microsoft isn’t a good steward of the Windows operating system. They’re prioritizing ads, bundleware, and service subscriptions over their users’ productivity,” developer Daniel Aleksandersen said.

“The 500,000 EdgeDeflector users were probably never more than a nuisance to Microsoft,” said Aleksandersen. “However, last month both the Brave and Firefox web browsers either copied EdgeDeflector’s functionality or signaled it was on the roadmap.”

Update (2021-12-03): Mary Jo Foley:

The latest Windows 11 Dev Channel test build released earlier this week, Build 22509, has a new browser Set default button, as discovered by Microsoft watcher Rafael Rivera. If and when this new button makes it into the commercially available Windows 11 release, users will again have a cleaner and simpler way to select a browser other than Edge.

Via Nick Heer:

All it had to do is avoid user-hostile interactions, but Microsoft deliberately made changes in that direction anyway.

Apple Software Quality in 2021

Dan Moren (Hacker News):

But one challenge with continually moving the state of the art forward is that sometimes it comes at the expense of making sure the technology that’s already here works as well as it can. After all, if you have to add a dozen new features in a year, that could mean taking away from work enhancing reliability, and squashing bugs in existing features.

We’ve all encountered a slew of problems—some simple (if ridiculous) to fix, others are maddeningly difficult to troubleshoot. As our devices get more and more complex, it’s all too easy for some of those problems to persist for years. And though the best part of the Apple experience has long been “it just works,” the question is…what happens when it doesn’t?

I think Monterey is probably the best update since High Sierra in terms of not introducing too many new problems. On net, I think it fixed more significant bugs than it added. However, in total, Monterey still feels more buggy than Mojave or earlier, and the goal should be to get to much better than Mojave: more like El Capitan or Snow Leopard.

The yearly release cycle continues to be a problem. On the developer side, a quarter of the year is spent dealing with potential breakage (made more real by public betas) and another quarter or more with actual breakage. On the customer side, there aren’t enough months for Apple to polish one release before moving on to the next. Even security updates aren’t getting enough attention now.

Andrew Cunningham (Hacker News):

News is making the rounds today, both via a write-up in Vice and a post from Google’s Threat Analysis Group, of a privilege escalation bug in macOS Catalina that was being used by “a well-resourced” and “likely state-backed” group to target visitors to pro-democracy websites in Hong Kong. According to Google’s Erye Hernandez, the vulnerability (labeled CVE-2021-30869) was reported to Apple in late August of 2021 and patched in macOS Catalina security update 2021-006 on September 23. Both of those posts have more information on the implications of this exploit—it hasn’t been confirmed, but it certainly appears to be yet another front in China’s effort to crack down on civil liberties in Hong Kong—but for our purposes, let’s focus on how Apple keeps its operating systems up to date, because that has even wider implications.

On the surface, this incident is a relatively unremarkable example of security updates working as they ought to. Vulnerability is discovered in the wild, vulnerability is reported to the company that is responsible for the software, and vulnerability is patched, all in the space of about a month. The problem, as noted by Intego chief security analyst Joshua Long, is that the exact same CVE was patched in macOS Big Sur version 11.2, released all the way back on February 1, 2021. That’s a 234-day gap, despite the fact that Apple was and is still actively updating both versions of macOS.


Update (2021-11-16): Rui Carmo:

Even though the article could be a lot more detailed, I hope it gets enough exposure to bring this topic back on the agenda. […] As this sprawling thread on Hacker News points out, there is an overall feeling of neglect and change for the sake of change in many aspects of Apple’s software experience, and it isn’t as if they don’t know.

Nick Heer:

I was too generous when I gave Apple’s software quality in 2020 a four out of five. It was certainly better than the preceding year, but I should have graded it a whole point lower, at least. 2021 has been even rockier for me, and not just with Apple’s software and services. I feel increasingly as though big software vendors are taking customers’ business for granted.

Quality used to be one of the factors that differentiated Apple’s products from its competitors — not just in the big picture of things “just working”, but also in the details. That feels much less true than it used to. There are big problems: MacOS Monterey bricked a bunch of T2 Macs, and the version of Shortcuts that debuted across Apple’s operating system lineup this year shipped in an unusable state. But the thousand tiny cuts are perhaps more grating[…]


So it turns out that a shared Pages document can be edited on a newer version which silently breaks compatibility, and the only way someone will find out is when they decode a cheery update notification. I would not mind except this sort of stuff happens all the time in software and services from Apple and plenty of other vendors.