Archive for May 5, 2022

Thursday, May 5, 2022

ReadKit 3

Balazs Varkonyi:

  • Universal app: same features and same services are supported on iOS and macOS.
  • Brand new macOS application with new design and improved functionality.
  • New supported services on macOS: BazQux, FreshRSS, Inoreader, Miniflux, The Old Reader, Tiny Tiny RSS, Wallabag.
  • Safari Extension to subscribe to feeds from Safari on macOS.
  • Improved focus-based navigation with left/right arrow keys.

The old Mac app was an iOS-style AppKit app. Now it’s an iOS-style Catalyst app, with many parts written using SwiftUI.

ReadKit 2.5 was $9.99. The new version is free (with no ads) and has premium features available for a $9.99/year subscription ($1.99/month or $39.99 lifetime):

  • Universal purchase: all premium features are available on both iOS and macOS with a single purchase.
  • Multiple accounts: use it with two or more accounts at the same time. Allows you to save articles from RSS feeds to read-later accounts.
  • Unlimited feeds: unlocks the limit of 20 feed for the built-in RSS service.
  • Manage folders and tags: allows to organize feeds and read-later articles into folders or tags.
  • Reader mode: displays the full text of article, even if it’s not included in the feed source.

OPML import and export are also premium features, though likely also available via your syncing service, if you have one. iCloud syncing for local accounts is promised for an upcoming version.


Open Letter About Apple Remote Work

Stephen Warwick (Hacker News):

A group of Apple employees has penned an angry letter to the company’s executive team over its office-bound work policy that doesn’t let them work remotely for more than two days a week.


The group says the most important reason that the hybrid working pilot is bad, is because it sends a bad message to customers:

We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, yet, we ourselves, cannot use them to work remotely? How can we expect our customers to take that seriously? How can we understand what problems of remote work need solving in our products if we don’t live it?

The same irony was not lost in a March video posted by the company touting the benefits of remote working using devices like its best iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks for remote collaboration. The film told the story of a group called ‘The Underdogs’ who literally escape “from their evil boss’s clutches.”

Apple Together:

In your first email titled “Returning to our Offices”, you talk about “the serendipity that comes from bumping into colleagues” when everyone is in the same place. Except we are not all in one place. We don’t have just one office, we have many. And often, our functional organizations have their own office buildings, in which employees from other orgs cannot work. This siloed structure is part of our culture. It doesn’t take luck to overcome the communication silos and make cross-functional connections that are vital for Apple to function, it takes intentionality. We need to be able to reach out to each other intentionally, and have the chance to do so.

Slack has made this much easier over the last two years. Yet, you choose to keep us all in separate siloed Slack workspaces and try to prevent us from talking to each other, so software engineers don’t accidentally talk to AppleCare employees, and retail staff don’t accidentally meet hardware engineers.


What is also required for creativity and excellent work for many of us is time for deep thought. But being in an office often does not enable this, especially not many of our newer offices, with their open floor plans, which make it hard to concentrate on anything for an extended amount of time.

And with everyone working “remotely” it was much easier to reach out to colleagues in other offices. For example, a US team member could easily have a meeting with someone from the UK in the morning and meet with someone from Japan a couple hours later in the afternoon. This enabled a kind of international collaboration that we didn’t see before, where especially colleagues from “far away” locations could finally contribute as well as people in our major offices and no longer felt like second-class participants in meetings.

They make a lot of good points. It’s hard for any of us on the outside to adjudicate how well the previous remote policy worked, and different people and groups probably have different opinions on that. I think the main weakness in the letter’s argument is that it’s framed as “people should get to choose,” but that’s not really possible. If anyone can choose to be remote, that prevents the rest of their team from being able to choose to work (with them) in person. I don’t think anyone prefers hybrid meetings. There’s no solution that will please everyone.


Update (2022-05-09): Sami Fathi:

Apple’s director of machine learning, Ian Goodfellow, has resigned from his role a little over four years after he joined the company after previously being one of Google’s top AI employees, according to The Verge’s Zoë Schiffer.

Update (2022-05-20): Richard Lawler and Zoe Schiffer (MacRumors):

Apple is delaying moving forward on its hybrid return to work for office employees, saying in a memo seen by The Verge and (reported earlier by Bloomberg) that “we are extending the phase-in period of the pilot and maintaining two days a week in the office for the time being.” Employees who are in the current two-day-per-week pilot will have the option to once again work fully remote if they feel uncomfortable coming into the office.

In the memo, the company’s COVID-19 response team says that its updates are based on monitoring local info like test positivity and hospitalization rates. The memo also asks employees to go back to wearing masks when in common areas like meeting rooms, hallways, and elevators.

Juli Clover:

Goodfellow has now found another company to work for, taking a position with DeepMind, a subsidiary of Alphabet, reports Bloomberg.

Update (2022-08-29): Juli Clover (Hacker News):

Apple today informed corporate employees that they must return to the office for three days starting the week of Monday, September 5, reports Bloomberg.

CDC Bought Phone Location Data

Joseph Cox (Hacker News):

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bought access to location data harvested from tens of millions of phones in the United States to perform analysis of compliance with curfews, track patterns of people visiting K-12 schools, and specifically monitor the effectiveness of policy in the Navajo Nation, according to CDC documents obtained by Motherboard. The documents also show that although the CDC used COVID-19 as a reason to buy access to the data more quickly, it intended to use it for more-general CDC purposes.


SafeGraph is part of the ballooning location industry, and SafeGraph has previously shared datasets containing 18 million cellphones from the United States. The documents say this acquisition is for data that is geographically representative, “i.e., derived from at least 20 million active cellphone users per day across the United States.”


Researchers at the EFF separately obtained documents concerning the CDC’s purchase of similar location data products from a company called Cubeiq as well as the SafeGraph documents.


Google banned SafeGraph from its Google Play Store in June. This meant that any app developers using SafeGraph’s code had to remove it from their apps, or face having their app removed from the store.

Nick Heer:

In a context vacuum, it would be better if health agencies were able to collect physical locations in a regulated and safe way for all kinds of diseases. But there have been at least stories about wild overreach during this pandemic alone: this one, in which the CDC wanted location data for all sorts of uses beyond contact tracing, and Singapore’s acknowledgement that data from its TraceTogether app — not based on the Apple–Google framework — was made available to police. These episodes do not engender confidence.

Also — and I could write these words for any of the number of posts I have published about the data broker economy — it is super weird how this data can be purchased by just about anyone. Any number of apps on our phones report our location to hundreds of these companies we have never heard of, and then a government agency or a media organization or some dude can just buy it in ostensibly anonymized form. This is the totally legal but horrific present.


EU Objects to Apple Limiting Third-Party Access to NFC

Eric Slivka:

In line with a report late last week, the European Commission today officially announced that it has issued a Statement of Objections to Apple over its restrictions that prevent third-party services from accessing the NFC capabilities of the iPhone, thereby restricting competition in mobile wallets on iOS.


European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager argues that access to NFC is a requirement for viable mobile wallet services at brick-and-mortar locations.

John Gruber:

Apple took a vibrant, perfectly balanced market where NFC payments were used by almost no one and turned it into a market where Apple Pay is accepted at most brick and mortar retailers and millions of iPhone users enjoy using it, with whatever credit and debit cards they choose. Let’s get back to a balanced market, right?

It’s hard to tease out what caused what because access to iPhone’s NFC hardware was tied to the availability of Apple Pay. So we went from Apple blocking progress in this area to promoting its own (very good) solution. There was never a market where customers could choose among alternatives.

The E.C. complaint wavers between claiming Apple Pay dominates NFC payments on iPhones and dominates the entire industry. The latter was true as recently as October 2017, when Apple Pay accounted for 90 percent of all contactless transactions globally, where it was available. As I noted at the time, that’s a remarkable achievement for a platform that by all accounts is a distant second to Android in global market share.

It is, but we also know that—separate from NFC—the App Store generates more than double the revenue of the Google Play Store. (Hardware revenue is also disproportional.) So how much of the payments difference is because Apple Pay is so good and how much of it relates to iOS and Android customers being different?

Nick Heer:

In Canada, where tapping to pay for stuff has been similarly commonplace for years, people use their cards about twice as often as they use a mobile wallet, according to a 2021 report from Payments Canada[…]


If mobile wallet apps were so much more amazing to use, should they not have much greater adoption than this? It is ironic that the one clear benefit they provide — security — is cited as a reason against their use.

This report also found Apple Pay is used more than Samsung Pay only by four percentage points, even though iPhones are about twice as popular here as Samsung phones.

John Gruber:

I don’t see how the security implications of any of these features — payments, car keys, getting into hotel and dorm rooms — are not obvious.


I mean, it’s all just ones and zeroes. Apple could allow users to add third-party wallet apps and grant them permission to be invoked simply by double-pressing the side button. But what happens then? Do you get an extra step where the user has to choose which wallet to use, Apple Wallet or a third-party one? Or does the third-party one replace Apple Wallet? What happens when you add a second third-party wallet app? It would get confusing very quickly.

It is not obvious to me that this couldn’t be opened up in a secure way. It’s true that things could get more confusing, though the same could be said of many other areas that are (rightly) not locked down today. The question is whether the potential benefits are worth it.

Ben Brody:

Apple told the Wall Street Journal it is “setting industry-leading standards for privacy and security” while providing would-be competitors access to the technology on the same terms as it operates. The pushback echoes Apple’s defense in other antitrust cases, including those targeting its App Store: The company often insists that features that appear to create a closed ecosystem funneling consumers through its products are merely security protections.

Nick Heer:

Are the security features it has built for Apple Pay unique to the implementation of that service, unable to be reproduced by or for third parties? I am asking honestly. Apple’s statement manages to be both misleading — “Apple Pay […] has ensured equal access to NFC” makes no sense — and vague about its security standards. Apple’s security guide suggests deep hardware and software integration lends Apple Pay a superlative level of security, but it does not say anything about why this could not be made available to third parties.

John Gruber:

Is the E.C.’s argument that any third-party app should be able to wake up and respond to an NFC tap?


To me it’s clear that the wallet itself belongs as part of the system. It’s the elements inside the wallet that should be open to third-party apps, which is exactly how Apple Wallet works. That NFC card readers in retail point-of-sale terminals only work with credit and debit cards isn’t Apple’s fault or responsibility, and Apple Pay integrates with any and all credit and debit cards that choose to support Apple Wallet.

So, because Apple makes the phone, they should get a percentage of every credit card transaction that goes through the phone’s NFC chip? And what potential features might we be losing out on? For example, there’s no way to sync my Apple wallet with a non-Apple device.

Update (2022-05-09): Damien Petrilli:

Also because of Apple lockdown, most NFC public transport systems are android only (ex: Paris, Lyon in France)