Archive for December 14, 2021

Tuesday, December 14, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Detecting the Mac TestFlight Environment

Lukas Kubanek (tweet):

To detect the TestFlight environment on iOS, a trick that checks the receipt file name seems to be commonly used. Unfortunately, on macOS, the receipt file name is the same regardless of the environment, meaning that this approach can’t be utilized. The only difference I found for the TestFlight builds on macOS is the name of the signing certificate set to TestFlight Beta Distribution. This is the above posted snippet checks for. According to my early tests on macOS, it works reliably. If you know a better way for this check, please let me know in the comments.

Previously:

iPad Needs a Better Oleophobic Coating

Rado Minkov (via Meek Geek):

But a day or two after using it, a ray of sunshine hits the iPad’s display and you realize a horrifying fact about it – under light it looks disgusting, smudged up – it’s somehow collected all the fingerprints in the world… Ew!

Nobody told you that this was a thing that would happen, even if you’ve read all the reviews and prepared carefully for your iPad purchase, the tragic state of your iPad’s display wasn’t something you expected at all. You knew fingerprints were a thing, but not like this!

[…]

For some reason the majority of Apple users don’t seem to be bothered by the fact that Apple claims the iPad Pro has “fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating”, yet its display collects seemingly way more fingerprints and smudges than the iPhone, which too has “fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating” listed under its display specs.

I upgraded from an iPad mini 2, which didn’t have Apple Pencil support, to an iPad Air (4th generation). In nearly every respect it’s better, but the fingerprints on the display are a huge regression. It reminds me of the original iPhone display when there was no oleophobic coating. I would gladly forego Apple Pencil support to get a better coating.

Opacity Precision

Marc Edwards:

While easy to understand, using integer percentages for opacity does not map well to what typically happens at a technical level — opacity values in 8bit per channel images have a range of 0 to 255. A design tool that uses a 0 to 100 range for opacity can not access 154 of the actual possible values. The percentages just get rounded to the nearest real value.

[…]

Does it matter? Quite often, shadows are incredibly sensitive to opacity changes, and many shadows use values from around 5% to 20%. That means there’s only 15 or so steps in the usable range, and single step jumps can be quite noticeable. This is not the most pressing issue in the design tools we use, but it is a real problem.

Retiring Alexa.com

Wikipedia:

Alexa was founded as an independent company in 1996 and acquired by Amazon in 1999 for $250 million in stock. Alexa provides web traffic data, global rankings, and other information on over 30 million websites. Alexa estimates website traffic based on a sample of millions of Internet users using browser extensions, as well as from sites that have chosen to install an Alexa script. As of 2020, its website is visited by over 400 million people every month.

Alexa (via Hacker News):

Twenty-five years ago, we founded Alexa Internet. After two decades of helping you find, reach, and convert your digital audience, we’ve made the difficult decision to retire Alexa.com on May 1, 2022. Thank you for making us your go-to resource for content research, competitive analysis, keyword research, and so much more.

Tim Cook’s Secret $275 Billion Deal With China

Hartley Charlton (Hacker News):

In an extensive paywalled report based on interviews and purported internal Apple documents, The Information revealed that Tim Cook personally forged a five-year agreement with the Chinese government during a series of in-person visits to the country in 2016. The need to push for a closer alliance with the Chinese government reportedly came from a number of Apple executives who were concerned about bad publicity in China and the company’s poor relationship with Chinese officials, who believed that Apple was not contributing enough to the local economy.

[…]

The agreement included a pledge from Apple to help Chinese manufacturers develop “the most advanced manufacturing technologies,” “support the training of high-quality Chinese talents,” use more components from Chinese suppliers, sign deals with Chinese software firms, collaborate with research in Chinese universities, and directly invest in Chinese tech companies, as well as assistance with around a dozen Chinese government causes. If there were no objections from either side, the deal would be automatically be extended for an additional year until May 2022, according to the agreement.

Apple vowed to invest “many billions of dollars more” than its current expenditure in China, including on new retail stores, research and development facilities, and renewable energy projects. Other internal documents reportedly showed that Apple’s pledge amounted to more than $275 billion in spending over a period of five years.

Samuel Axon:

To date, Apple has mostly honored its part of the agreement, and the article details exceptional cases when Apple has benefited from the strong relationship in successfully circumventing limitations that would normally be imposed on foreign companies.

For example, encryption keys for iCloud user data for the region are controlled by Apple, despite the government’s efforts to encourage, pressure, or force foreign companies to hand over responsibility for that data to Chinese companies. On the other hand, a commitment by Apple to adhere to Chinese government regulations and policies was part of the deal, and Apple has often complied with requests to delist apps and content that run counter to the state’s priorities and goals.

[…]

Apple has performed better in China than most comparable American tech companies, and the report makes the case that this is in large part thanks to Cook’s lobbying, dealmaking, and relationship building.

[…]

The Information notes that China represents 19 percent of Apple’s total sales, up four points from just a year earlier. It also cites data by Counterpoint Research that states Apple has recently become China’s largest smartphone brand.

Nick Heer:

First, it confirms what analysts speculated in 2016 when Apple announced its uncharacteristic investment in ride hailing company Didi Chuxing — that it was basically a way to appease government officials in China. Cook wrote a glowing endorsement of Didi Chuxing CEO Jean Liu for Time’s “100 Most Influential People” feature in 2017.

Second, while this agreement may be officially non-binding, it is hard to imagine Apple could run afoul of its spirit given its dependency on suppliers and manufacturing in China.

John Gruber:

I feel compelled to share this nugget:

Sometime in 2014 or early 2015, China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping told members of the Apple Maps team to make the Diaoyu Islands, the objects of a long-running territorial dispute between China and Japan, appear large even when users zoomed out from them. Chinese regulators also threatened to withhold approval of the first Apple Watch, scheduled for release in 2015, if Apple didn’t comply with the unusual request, according to internal documents.

Some members of the team back at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., initially balked at the demand. But the Maps app had become a priority for Apple, so eventually the company complied. The Diaoyu Islands, when viewed in Apple Maps in mainland China, continue to appear on a larger scale than surrounding territories.

I would venture to say that all members of Apple’s Maps team balked at this request. It’s absurd and offensive. Asking professional cartographers to misrepresent the size of islands for propaganda purposes — even if only to users in mainland China — is like asking writers to misspell words or misstate facts, or asking mathematicians to generate incorrect results.

This does seem to go beyond the more common government requests about how to label a territory when the map is viewed from within that country.

John Gruber:

A demand for iOS’s source code, though, that would be over the line. I don’t see how Apple could comply with it. The Chinese get that. It is a two-way relationship.

And in terms of ways that Apple has benefitted from this diplomacy, look no further than Huawei. Trade sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have effectively driven Huawei out of the high-end smartphone business. The way trade wars typically work is tit-for-tat. After the tit of the U.S. imposing harsh sanctions on Huawei — the premiere Chinese phone maker — the obvious tat would have been for China to crack down on Apple — the premiere U.S. phone maker. That never happened.

Joel Breckinridge Bassett:

Note that The Information writer Wayne Ma never uses Senkaku Islands, the Japanese name for islands, only the Chinese Diaoyu name. I’ve already posted about Apple Maps removing the Sea of Japan name, both in English and Japanese.

Even on my Mac, running in English from the United States, Apple Maps does not label the Sea of Japan, even though it labels the nearby East China Sea and many much smaller bodies of water. Google Maps calls it “Sea of Japan (East Sea).”

Previously:

Apple Wins Delay on Anti-Steering Injuction

Stephen Nellis (Hacker News):

But with just slightly more than 12 hours remaining before the deadline, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Apple’s request to pause the order.

The appeals court order means Apple will not have to make the changes while it pursues a potentially years-long appeal of the Epic Games decision, which was largely favorable to the iPhone maker aside from the order to allow buttons to outside payment methods.

Russell Brandom:

As a result of the stay, Apple can maintain its IAP system as the sole source of in-app payments on iOS, despite the district court’s earlier ruling that the exclusive arrangement is illegal.

[…]

“Our concern is that these changes would have created new privacy and security risks, and disrupted the user experience customers love about the App Store,” said Apple spokesperson Marni Goldberg in a statement.

John Gruber:

The injunction requires only that Apple allow other forms of payment processing, including links to the web — not that they aren’t entitled to monetize the platform by charging a mandatory commission. You might say, well, wait a minute, if apps are able to use payment processors other than Apple’s IAP, wouldn’t it be complicated and difficult to figure how to account for and collect these fees? Basically, that’s Apple’s argument.

Florian Mueller:

But the real #epicfail here--which has significant implications beyond Epic Games v. Apple has apparently not been noticed yet by others reporting on the case. The largest and most influential U.S. regional appeals court denied a motion by the Coalition for App Fairness and some of its members to submit an amicus brief in support of Epic’s opposition to Apple’s motion, and the denial of an amicus motion is nothing short of a nightmare for any advocacy group[…]

[…]

As a result, the CAF now faces a credibility issue in any other App Store cases around the globe in which it may try to support Epic or even another one of its large members. Even if other courts ultimately allowed the CAF to join other cases, Apple would point to the Ninth Circuit decision, which at a minimum would diminish the credibility of anything the CAF would say on Epic’s behalf. The CAF has now been stigmatized as part of an Epic anti-Apple initiative designed to raise issues regardless of whether those were "organic or manufactured" as the evidence shows.

David Barnard:

Winning these court battles isn’t all upside for Apple. There’s a growing consensus that the mobile app store duopoly is stifling innovation and otherwise harming developers. That current law isn’t sufficient to reign them in gives legislators more reason to act.

Previously: