Archive for March 7, 2022

Monday, March 7, 2022

ChronoSync 10

Econ Technologies (release notes):

ChronoSync is now a Universal binary that natively supports both Intel and Apple Silicon platforms.


ChronoSync now allows you to sync to and from iCloud storage. One benefit of syncing to iCloud storage is that any new files placed in iCloud will propagate to all other devices that you have associated with that same Apple ID. ChronoSync is the only tool for macOS that offers an efficient way to backup your iCloud storage to another device (or cloud storage service).

It can download any non-resident files from iCloud Drive, back them up, and then mark them for eviction. It can also back up to iCloud Drive, immediately marking the files for eviction so the backup doesn’t take up space locally.

Prior to version 10, ChronoSync’s approach to creating bootable backups on Big Sur was quite cumbersome. It ignored the System volume and could only sync the Data volume. This was a less than ideal scenario. Fortunately in version 10, ChronoSync takes advantage of Apple’s APFS replication utility (called ASR) to create a cloned image on the destination volume. Once the full system clone is made, ChronoSync will only handle the Data volume in subsequent syncs.

ChronoSync is $49.99, with free updates for existing customers.


Mac Software Stagnation

Riccardo Mori (tweet):

In other words, if I open my toolbox with all the essential Mac apps I use on a daily basis for everything I do, what I see are old (some very old), tried-and-trusted applications[…]


This may be a completely subjective observation, but I’ve been feeling a certain stagnation in Mac software these past few years. There are always exceptions and things I’ve missed, sure, but it seems to me that the landscape appears to be more tired than vibrant.


The problem is that, while it’s true that iOS and Mac OS have remained two separate operating systems, Apple has been really pushing to have them both work in the same way when it comes to their underpinnings.


Remember when I was pointing out that iPads were becoming incredibly powerful machines but with an OS that wasn’t capable of taking full advantage of that amazing hardware? Apple has managed to put the Mac in a similar position, in my opinion.

Tyler Hall:

Making cross-platform apps easy by removing the engineering friction is what I consider the root cause of so many iPad turned sub-par Mac apps.


Catalyst, today, is somewhere in the middle. Not bad. Not great. It mainly “just works” with minimal effort in a way that is accessible to the larger pool of iOS developers. Apple succeeded with the goal Riccardo laid out. And we end up with apps that typically fall somewhere in between serviceable and usable - an uncanny valley of mish-mashed blah.

Tyler Hall:

Anyway, I made it for iPad. And after I finished, thought, “I wonder if this whole Catalyst thing works?”

And it did. Thirty minutes later it was running on my Mac. Bravo, Apple.

But the flip side - that aligns with my original thesis - is that while it works and is serviceable as a Mac app, it’s a terrible Mac app. Unfortunately, because it does cross over the threshold of being just good enough for my needs, I have very little reason or motivation to ever make it any better on macOS since that’s not my target platform for this app. That it works at all on a Mac is a happy bonus.

Christian Tietze (Hacker News):

I also don’t have any “new” apps, which in Riccardo’s sense doesn’t mean a new purchase in my library, but a new app on the marketplace.

Maybe because I’m not purchasing a lot of apps in general?

I’m pretty happy with most of the third-party apps that I use, and they are mostly apps I’ve been using for a long time, so to some extent this is just a sign of maturity. And these apps are not stagnant; they keep getting better. Maybe the flurry of activity with new apps in the early years of Mac OS X was the aberration. But I don’t think it’s that simple because there was also a lot of interesting stuff happening in the late 90s, when the classic Mac platform was mature—and Apple was doomed.

Sam Rowlands:

It’s my belief, the App Store has caused irrevocable harm to the Mac software industry.

There is ‘sideloading’, but the Mac Media is just a shell of it’s former self after Apple gutted it, with a bait & switch campaign of affiliate links.

Many indie developers can’t afford the kind of advertising that Apple’s “preferred” developers can.

So we’re forced to adopt a Minimize Risk attitude, which reduces indie devs incentives to allocate years into building a complex, complete, great Mac application.


All in all, developing for the macOS is not as great as it was 10 years ago, it’s become expensive to maintain a macOS application, which eats into the time an indie can be creative, and eats away at them emotionally.

Jeff Johnson:

What happened to the thriving 3rd party Mac software scene of the 2000s?

Many factors involved, but the theme is simple: the iOSification of the Mac, starting in 2011.

Preface: Mac hardware sales last quarter were 4.5x higher than 15 years ago. Mac has grown a lot, not shrunk.


Mac iOSification has undermined Mac developers financially, undermined them functionally, undermined their freedom to distribute, and undermined their workflow by constantly shipping OS bugs and breaking changes.

Apple has also badly undermined the Mac developer documentation.


The sad part is that Catalyst and native iOS apps running on macOS aren’t even the largest offenders. That title goes easily to all those who push „apps” written in Electron and similar. Compared to those, Catalyst is marvellous.

There’s also the matter of crappy documentation. I’m not a developer but this has been a recurring theme for years. Introduction of APFS is a great example. Major change with piss poor support articles. How can you write advanced software with crap like this?

There’s the lack of effort on Apple’s part too. Why would 3rd parties be interested in developing exceptional software when even the OS maker doesn’t seem to be that interested? Music is a great example here. There are exceptions (iWork) but that’s what they are, exceptions.


I think that (all faults aside) Setapp has done more good in terms of curating and giving easy access to quality Mac software than Apple over the past few years. If I had a new user in front of me I’d rather they sourced their apps from there rather than MAS, less overall crap.

Riccardo Mori:

I want to thank you all those who have given me valuable feedback on the topic so far, and I’ll definitely be adding other personal thoughts and external contributions in the future. This is a subject that’s particularly close to my heart, because at this stage I think that Mac users — especially power users — do need more than just professional, ultra-fast Macs. Great hardware without great software isn’t enough to make a platform thrive or continue to thrive.

Dave Winer:

Then I came across something I posted on Facebook a few years ago, imagining that a programmer from the 80s had time-traveled to the 2020s and wondered why we used such crappy writing tools, when in the 80s we had a remarkable variety of excellent writing tools. In evolution terms here’s my theory of what happened, and I admit I’m vastly simplifying this, I know a lot more about it because I lived through it, and made software in this period, and until recently was puzzled why some ideas took off and other good ideas did not.

In the early 90s a technological asteriod hit the software world called the web and wiped out all the GUI apps. To access the new network (the asteroid) all you needed was a web browser. And that was all that survived from the desktop operating systems of the 80s. The server operating system, Unix, came to dominate because it had the networking that the new world evolved from. The creatures from the network survived, the ones that lived on GUIs did not. To the animals that lived in UnixWorld, the web looked pretty amazing. But they liked their editors, and didn’t see the need for anything more. Further, the desktop writing tools couldn’t do the things a Unix programmer needed to do. So they just kept using the ones that came with Unix, Emacs and the like.

Evolution could have taken a different path in regards to eyes and writing tools. If the first life evolved on land, our eyes would see much better in air. If the Macintosh developed open and easy networking as Unix had, making the switch to the web unnecessary, we could have kept using all our wizzy writing tools.


Update (2022-03-09): See also: Hacker News.

Blurry Text on a Scaled 4K Display

Jack Wellborn:

Here are three pictures of the letter “a”. The first is from my 5k iMac at native resolution, the second is from my 4k display also at native resolution, and the last is from my 4k display scaled to pseudo 5k resolution. Do you notice how much blurrier the last scaled “a” is?


Most displays sold are 27”. 4k 27” displays force you to choose between crisp, but oversized text or appropriately sized, but slightly blurry text. To get appropriately sized crisp text, you need 5k at 27” and yet there is only one 5k monitor on the market.

Hopefully we’ll get a new option tomorrow.


Apple Employees Returning to Offices

Kim Lyons (Hacker News):

Apple will begin phasing in its planned hybrid work pilot on April 11th, bringing employees back to the office one day a week to start, according to an email from CEO Tim Cook to Apple employees, which was seen by The Verge. Apple originally announced its plans for a hybrid work pilot in November.

In the third week of the pilot, Cook writes, employees will come in twice a week, with the full hybrid pilot — where workers will come into the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and work “flexibly” on Wednesday and Friday — would go into effect May 23rd. The timing may vary from office to office depending on local conditions, Cook added.


I left Apple after years of lack of any flexibility on the remote work process. They wouldn’t allow transferring to any alternative office for most teams. From what I understood, VPs could protect a small minority of some of their employees if a senior leader made a case to them.

Unfortunately, this just seemed to lead to the most politically connected folks going remote and directors friends and favorite hires getting the perk.


COVID made my situation worse at Apple. I worked in a satellite office (NYC), and while in the office, most folks in California were reluctant to schedule meetings later than ~2pm california time because they didn’t want to keep people in the office late. When we went fully remote, suddenly it seems like any compunctions about that vanished; I would have meetings until 9pm 3 nights a week, I guess because the managers figured that we were already home.


Fair warning: my experience has been very different than yours or tombert’s in most respects and some things have changed over time (some OSS contributions are now much easier, a very recent change). It is also the first company I’ve worked for that backed up appreciation for my efforts with compensation to match, and where my management chain cared about burnout and mental health with actions rather than empty words.

It is still primarily an on-site company. That might mean on-site an an office in San Diego, Austin, Philadelphia, NYC, etc. But in-office nonetheless.

Every team does things differently, even down to the department or individual manager level. Compared to the other FAANGs it is far more varied in most respects.


Update (2022-04-15): Mark Gurman:

Last month, Apple published a promotional video titled Escape From the Office. The heroes of the almost 9-minute ad are a group of employees at a fictional company called ARCA who respond to the requirement that they return to a physical office by quitting and launching their own startup. Using Apple’s iPads, MacBook Pros, and software, they then build their own office-less business.

A week before its tribute to remote work, Apple Inc. gave its own workers a timeline by which they’d have to return to their offices. To some, including the 7,500 of Apple’s 165,000 employees who belong to a Slack room dedicated to advocating for remote work, it was bruising. “They are trolling us, right?” one wrote.

Juli Clover:

Corporate Apple employees in the United States began returning to their offices today, ending a two-year work from home policy that Apple implemented during the pandemic.

Chance Miller:

Apple is one of the few Silicon Valley companies mandating in-person work. Twitter is allowing its employees to permanently work from home, as can most Facebook employees. Google is mandating some teams return to in-person work starting as early as this month, but many employees are able to permanently work from home.

Apple’s insistence on a return to in-person could be impacting its retention.


A final, important piece of context is that another wave of COVID-19 is believed to be brewing in the United States. This variant, coined BA.2, is a subvariant of the highly infectious Omicron variant. While the extent of how big this wave will be remains unclear, many Apple employees have voiced concern about returning to work amid the uncertainty caused by this new variant.

Miguel de Icaza:

Sadly, this Apple policy is only going to drive talent away, and people with intimate knowledge of their products.

Ken Kocienda:

Only, big tech companies generally don’t value individuals for their specific tech work, and certainly not in a way that matches the mental model built up over years by a lot of folks.

I’m afraid the actual value structure inside big tech companies is far more political and dog-eat-dog than we’d like to admit.

Apparently, this has come as a surprise to many. Thus, the compulsory call back to the office has caused much dismay and much angst is felt.

Andrew Wooster:

Big tech companies still haven’t quite come to terms with the reality that if you can make $1 million a year off of an employee, and they want to make $300k, live in Tahoe, and work remotely, that is still a bargain.

Instead, management that lives 15 minutes from the office, in $5m homes in Los Altos/Portola Valley/Palo Alto, want people to commute 2+ hours a day from Gilroy so they can have some “face time”.

Dan Grover:

I didn’t understand why SV tech workers were so loathe to return to the office. The offices are lovely and all day Zoom sucks. Now it sinks in: it’s not the office, it’s the commute.

Solo iOS Developer Tips

Zach Shakked (via Peter Steinberger):

If you ever plan on selling your app, things will be a lot more complicated if you have an iCloud entitlement because then you can’t transfer an app. Try to avoid using iCloud or CloudKit

don’t make your app a paid up front app. If you can convince people to pay up front, you can probably convince them to pay for a subscription. Freemium will almost always net you more $ and paid up front is almost never worth it. Add lifetime instead

analytics are your eyes and ears, add firebase events at a minimum (free), and if you’re serious use Mixpanel or Amplitude. Otherwise, you’re flying blind and have no idea how people are using your app

do keyword research using Appfigures or another ASO tool to strategically pick app keywords/titles/subtitles that match what users are already searching for on the app store


don’t over engineer - use shitty code design patterns and be lazy. Get the app out ASAP, start collecting reviews & feedback, and iterate and improve. Better to sprint launch a crappily-coded version of your app in 2 weeks then spend 3 months building an app no one wants

optimize for learning speed - you want to be learning as much as possible about your market and users as fast as possible, so it’s better to update frequently in the beginning then spend months building the “perfect” version because perfection is elusive

NEVER offer iPad in the beginning - it makes your life hell. You can’t ever unsupport iPad, the market for iPad is much smaller than iOS, you always need extra screenshots, extra testing, and it just slows you down in the beginning which is exactly when you want speed


dont ever use apple search ads basic, watch a few videos and learn about advanced apple search ads, its not that hard, try bidding on competitor keywords (exact match) - this is where you can find cheap, high-intent installs