Archive for March 20, 2023

Monday, March 20, 2023

Microsoft 365 Copilot

Jared Spataro:

Today, we are bringing the power of next-generation AI to work. Introducing Microsoft 365 Copilot — your copilot for work. It combines the power of large language models (LLMs) with your data in the Microsoft Graph and the Microsoft 365 apps to turn your words into the most powerful productivity tool on the planet.


Copilot is integrated into Microsoft 365 in two ways. It works alongside you, embedded in the Microsoft 365 apps you use every day — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams and more — to unleash creativity, unlock productivity and uplevel skills. Today we’re also announcing an entirely new experience: Business Chat. Business Chat works across the LLM, the Microsoft 365 apps, and your data — your calendar, emails, chats, documents, meetings and contacts — to do things you’ve never been able to do before. You can give it natural language prompts like “Tell my team how we updated the product strategy,” and it will generate a status update based on the morning’s meetings, emails and chat threads.


With Copilot in Word, you can jump-start the creative process so you never start with a blank slate again. Copilot gives you a first draft to edit and iterate on — saving hours in writing, sourcing, and editing time. Sometimes Copilot will be right, other times usefully wrong — but it will always put you further ahead.

Via John Gruber:

Hard to predict how these AI-powered features are going to play out, but it feels like they’re soon going to be table stakes.

Lukas Mathis:

It has always been a truism that what we have gained in ease of use by switching from the command line to the graphical user interface, we have lost in efficiency. I've long been interested in exploring how text-based interfaces could be integrated into GUIs, but it was just never quite possible to find the balance between accessibility and power. Make a text-based user interface too powerful, and it becomes impossible to use for the majority of people. Make it easier to use, and now it's just no longer powerful enough to warrant its own existence.

Until now.


Photos Data Loss With macOS 13.3 Beta

Josh Hill (via Marquelle D. McKean):

During a Europe trip in May 2022, I uploaded over 6,000 photos and hundreds of videos to the cloud. Upon editing and deleting some of the photos, I encountered an issue with, which ultimately led to the complete wiping out of my entire cloud library. Despite my efforts to recover the lost data using tools such as Disk Drill and contacting Apple support, no useful recoverable files could be found. Unfortunately, Apple support refused to escalate the issue to the engineering team due to the use of a beta version of macOS Ventura.

The loss of my lifetime memories and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of intellectual property is one of the most devastating experiences of my life. I believe it is crucial to highlight the importance of backing up all data, including cloud content, to prevent such a catastrophic loss.

As a result of this incident, Koingo Software is investing 100% of our resources into finding a solution; all standard business operations have been halted for the time being.

Cloud syncing is not a backup. Apple doesn’t provide a way to directly download a backup of your photos, so you need to have Photos set to Download Originals to this Mac, which for most people means that they need to fit on your internal SSD. Then you can back them up yourself with Time Machine or to another cloud provider.

The other issue here is using your real data with a beta OS version. It’s easy to say that one shouldn’t do that, and I try not to. But I can’t really blame a developer for doing so because we want to identify bugs before they hit our customers, and many bugs don’t show up when using a clean test system. There’s no way to, say, use different Apple IDs for calendars and photos. And it’s not as though release versions are free of data loss bugs, either. So I think the main problem was not realizing that his local backup needed to include the photo library.

Marquelle D. McKean:

By all reasonable standards, this is a person we would expect to have understanding of how these things work. You don’t become the CEO of a small software company that’s been in business for nearly 30 years by being ignorant about computers. (Okay, maybe some people do, but they generally don’t stay in business for long after that.)

If someone like Josh can get something so straightforward and fundamental so very wrong, is it any wonder “ordinary” users make the same mistake, over and over again?


Update (2023-03-21): Brian Stucki:

The greatest digital fear. I “Optimize for Storage” on MacBook and iPhone but I have a Mac mini in the data center set to “Download Originals to this Mac” and copy to an external hard drive. It does the same for full copies of iCloud Desktops and Documents. Automatic everything.

Nick Heer:

I expect big cloud providers have more redundancies than most of us do, which makes it all the more disappointing that none of this stuff comes with a guarantee. That is, even if Hill were only running production operating systems, Apple — like every major provider of consumer cloud services — does not obligate itself to perform data restoration. iCloud Photo Library may only officially be a syncing service, but it is easy to think of it as something more robust, especially when it is described as “safe”, where your photos are “always available”, “without worrying about space on your devices”. Not sure about you, but after reading Hill’s experience, I am less concerned about disk space and more concerned about whether those photos are actually as safe as they ought to be.

I still think that a backup that’s not in your direct control is not really a backup. But Apple could certainly do more here. Calendars and contacts are synced, but multiple versions are stored in the cloud, and you can roll them back. This should be extended to other types of data.

Juli Clover:

Apple today seeded the release candidate version of macOS Ventura 13.3 to developers for testing purposes, with the new software update coming a week after the release of the fourth macOS 13.3 beta.

I hope the bug is fixed, but I’ve seen no reason to believe that it is.


Update (2023-03-23): Ezekiel Elin:

I’ve never seen any issues but 22E252 does run a Photos library upgrade

Damien Petrilli:

The Apple world is now used to beta being alpha quality without any questioning.

No Beta should incur data loss, they are almost production ready. And if data loss happens, it should be escalated quickly because of the oversight of a critical bug.

Update (2023-03-28): Josh Hill:

Regular every day phone-in support basically said there was nothing they could do — especially because we had used a beta. They wouldn’t even submit a ticket to the engineering team and told me to submit a comment using the Feedback tool instead (which often feels like the lowest priority format simply for remitting bugs).


I wrote in to upper management and explained the situation, and made a desperate plea to anyone in the tech community who could help provide suggestions.


After a few days, Apple’s backend engineers were finally able to recover what now seems to be all of the lost data, despite what the phone-in agent stated.


As it turns out, the “feature” is unlikely related to the beta at all after talking with Apple. The support agent I spoke with even told me he had the same problem.

The problem was triggered by creating a new local library and setting it as the system photo library.


If you designate a new library as the System Photo Library and then turn on iCloud Photos, the photos and videos in the new library will merge with those already in your iCloud Photos. Additionally, all photos and videos from iCloud will redownload to the device.

However, instead it deleted all the photos from all devices, bypassing “Recently Deleted.” It sounds like this is not fixed in macOS 13.3.


Update (2023-04-03): Nick Heer:

I also do not love that Hill removed the original article and excluded it from the Wayback Machine because I think these things are important to document, even if they are later corrected[…]

Spelunking Apple’s Open Source

Daniel Jalkut (Masotdon):

There’s no need to worry: the whole list, indexed by the pertinent platform and OS release to which they belong, is still available on a separate Releases page. Even better, each of these releases now has a corresponding GitHub repository, hosted in a dedicated organization reserved exclusively for open source distributions.


If you want to find the source code to an arcane tool like “banner”, just type it into a GitHub search of the organization. If there are too many false hits, as is the case for a common word like banner, try searching on something unique like a term from the command’s man page. The banner tool is credited as being authored by Mark Horton, and a search for “org:apple-oss-distributions Mark Horton” brings up more hits than I would have guessed (he also contributed to vim and vi, coincidentally), but a reference to the banner man page is the second search result.


Camo Studio 2

Jason Snell:

I’ve been using Camo Studio 2 for a few weeks and I’ve been relieved, frankly, to finally have proper control over my Continuity Camera and Studio Display cameras. The lighting in my office is weird, so I often need to adjust the color balance, and I’m never happy with the default zoom and options that Apple offers. With Camo Studio, I can drop an iPhone into a MagSafe mount and use it immediately without attaching a cable or launching an app on the iPhone.

Camo Studio has also picked up a bunch of new tricks. In addition to its classic zoom and image-adjustment settings, it’s got its own versions of Center Stage, Portrait Mode, and Studio Light. Reincubate claims its features are better and less processor intensive than Apple’s versions. (I did notice a few cases where Camo’s software seemed to better detect the difference between me and my background.) There’s also a really nice auto-pan mode that’s similar to Center Stage, but allows you to lock the zoom.


Update (2023-03-28): Duncan Babbage:

Camo Studio 2.0 from Reincubate makes the Apple Studio Display’s webcam look great.

You can set a fixed zoom position, SO much better than Centre Stage, and sharpen the image. It shows how ridiculous it is Apple doesn’t offer a pick-the-section-to-crop-and-display option for the Studio Display webcam.

No longer do I have to experience bouncing up and down in my chair slightly and having Centre Stage put my eyes in the centre of the frame, when it should be framing me head-and-shoulders.