Archive for May 17, 2023

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Apple’s 2023 Accessibility Feature Preview

Apple (Hacker News):

Coming later this year, users with cognitive disabilities can use iPhone and iPad with greater ease and independence with Assistive Access; nonspeaking individuals can type to speak during calls and conversations with Live Speech; and those at risk of losing their ability to speak can use Personal Voice to create a synthesized voice that sounds like them for connecting with family and friends. For users who are blind or have low vision, Detection Mode in Magnifier offers Point and Speak, which identifies text users point toward and reads it out loud to help them interact with physical objects such as household appliances.


With Live Speech on iPhone, iPad, and Mac, users can type what they want to say to have it be spoken out loud during phone and FaceTime calls as well as in-person conversations. Users can also save commonly used phrases to chime in quickly during lively conversation with family, friends, and colleagues. Live Speech has been designed to support millions of people globally who are unable to speak or who have lost their speech over time.

For users at risk of losing their ability to speak — such as those with a recent diagnosis of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other conditions that can progressively impact speaking ability — Personal Voice is a simple and secure way to create a voice that sounds like them.

Will there be a way to export your Personal Voice so that you aren’t totally reliant on iCloud to preserve it? Many of these users will not be able to just re-record new prompts if something goes wrong or if they need to switch to a different Apple ID.

Emma Roth (via Hacker News):

Additionally, Apple is introducing streamlined versions of its core apps as part of a feature called Assistive Access meant to support users with cognitive disabilities. The feature is designed to “distill apps and experiences to their essential features in order to lighten cognitive load.” That includes a combined version of Phone and FaceTime as well as modified versions of the Messages, Camera, Photos, and Music apps that feature high contrast buttons, large text labels, and additional accessibility tools.


As an example, Apple says a user can aim their device’s camera at a label, such as a microwave keypad, which the iPhone or iPad will then read aloud as the user moves their finger across each number or setting on the appliance.

Shelly Brisbin:

Photos and Music each display their contents in a grid that’s “flatter” in structure than the hierarchical interfaces the standard versions of those apps offer.

Assistive Access is the closest Apple has come to an interface designed specifically for people with disabilities or elders—an option that Android has offered via its support for alternative launchers. It will be interesting to see if it’s full-featured enough to not only support users with cognitive disabilities, but also offer a “grandparent-friendly” experience for those trying to choose between and iPhone and an Android phone.


Last year’s accessibility preview featured a handful of enhancements for hearing aid owners who use an iPhone. This year, Apple says support for Made for iPhone Hearing Aids is coming to the Mac. That’s been a long time coming. You’ll need an M1 or better Mac to make the connection, though.


Update (2023-05-19): Mr. Macintosh:

In a few of the images, System Settings has a forward button ?

Joe Rossignol:

Those with an iPhone, iPad, or newer Mac will be able to create a Personal Voice by reading a randomized set of text prompts aloud until 15 minutes of audio has been recorded on the device. Apple said the feature will be available in English only at launch, and uses on-device machine learning to ensure privacy and security.

Harry McCracken:

People who create Personal Voices will get to judge for themselves how well the company met this goal. With audio samples I heard, reproducing a variety of distinct voices, the intonation and pacing could be a bit flat, as computerized speech tends to be. Overall, though, they were impressive, entirely distinct from each other, and certainly worlds apart from the one-voice-fits-all feel of most of the synthesized speech in our lives.


Those creating voices for later use will presumably want to sync them to their iCloud account for eventual access on devices they may not yet own. But that process only happens at their express instruction, and the data is encrypted on Apple’s servers.

So backup is opt-in, and there’s no mention of exporting.

John Voorhees:

To get a better sense of what some of this week’s announcements mean, I spoke to David Niemeijer, the founder and CEO of AssistiveWare, an Amsterdam-based company that makes augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps for the iPhone and iPad, including Proloquo, Proloquo2Go, and Proloquo4Text. Each app addresses different needs, but what they all have in common is helping people who have difficulty expressing themselves verbally.

.zip TLD

Christina Yeh (tweet, via Hacker News):

Google Registry has launched some of the most popular (and secure) top-level domains, such as .app and .dev. Today, we’re adding eight new extensions to the internet: .dad, .phd, .prof, .esq, .foo, .zip, .mov and .nexus.

Terence Eden (via Hacker News):

Many years ago, Google applied for the .zip Top Level Domain. ICANN, in its infinite wisdom, granted it. And now, I think, bad things are going to happen.


So what happens when things which are not domain names look like they are domain names? I’ve been worrying about this for a few years[…] Anyway, have fun determining if the link you see was ever intended to link to a website!

He’s referring to confusion over the .zip filename extension for compressed archives. Amazingly, the original idea for the TLD was in reference to the Iomega Zip drive.

Karen West (via Hacker News):

You can now purchase .zip and .mov domain names, like the one this page resides on! Isn’t that just fun for the entire family?


For decades engineers have been working hard to try and make the internet less susceptible to phishing attacks, look-alike domains, etc., and now money men have decided to unravel that work so somebody can purchase as a domain name.


Update (2023-05-18): Ezekiel Elin:

I’ve seen points claiming that apps will auto link something like and then a scammer could pre-emptively have created a scam website - but I feel like most systems don’t auto link without http(s):// and when they do it’s usually just .com/.org

Martin Brinkmann (via Sören):

The .zip extension allows cyber criminals to run phishing campaigns that abuse the fact that .zip is a popular file extension and also a top level domain.

Domains such as or have already been used in phishing campaigns. The latter is still online but safe browsing should warn users prior to accessing the site in question. Several of the registered domains could be used in phishing campaigns, while others may be used for legitimate purposes.


Some applications may attach hyperlinks to ZIP file names now, which may lead to the firing of DNS queries and the leaking of information to the .zip domain.

The ICSS recommends to disable access to .zip domains entirely until the dust settles and risks can be accessed.

Bobbyr (via Sören):

Can you quickly tell which of the URLs below is legitimate and which one is a malicious phish that drops evil.exe?


As you can see in the breakdown of a URL below, everything between the scheme https:// and the @ operator is treated as user info, and everything after the @ operator is immediately treated as a hostname. However modern browsers such as Chrome, Safari, and Edge don’t want users authenticating to websites accidentally with a single click, so they will ignore all the data in the user info section, and simply direct the user to the hostname portion of the URL.

Volume Names, Mount Points, and Normalisation

Howard Oakley:

[The] current Data volume, by default named either Macintosh HD - Data (Intel) or simply Data (Apple silicon), isn’t mounted in /Volumes at all, but at /System/Volumes/Data. This article looks at another situation where APFS volumes will appear at mount points that differ from their volume name, when there’s the potential for a name collision, such as one resulting from Unicode normalisation.


The last time that I looked at the state of normalisation in APFS, almost two years ago, I found there were still issues and bugs, most weirdly with the fact that a volume whose name contains composed forms (Form C) was inaccessible to Spotlight indexing. That wasn’t helped by the fact that, unlike the Finder, Disk Utility doesn’t normalise the names of APFS volumes, and lets you create two volumes in the same container that differ only in their normalisation, and appear identical to the user.


APFS and Disk Utility are very flexible when it comes to naming volumes. If you want, you can mix cases across volumes that aren’t case-sensitive, and even use exactly the same name for as many volumes as you want, because the file system doesn’t identify volumes by name. What’s most important to APFS is the UUID of the volume: try mounting two volumes with identical UUIDs and you’ll see what I mean.


What happens is that the volume name is normalised to Unicode Form D, or decomposed, and compared without case-sensitivity to existing mount paths. If there’s any clash, then a number is appended after the normalised name to form the additional mount path.


Morris Tanenbaum, RIP

James R. Hagerty:

Dr. Tanenbaum, a chemist who worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories, the research arm of American Telephone & Telegraph Co., saw a chance to dash back to work to test his latest ideas about how to make better semiconductor devices out of silicon.

He tried a new way of connecting an aluminum wire to a silicon chip. He was thrilled when it worked, providing a way to make highly efficient transistors and other electronic devices, an essential technology for the Information Age.


Dr. Tanenbaum’s pioneering work in the mid-1950s demonstrated that silicon was a better semiconductor material for transistors than germanium, the early favorite.


“Bell Laboratories, the world’s premier industrial laboratory, was destroyed [following the 1982 antitrust settlement], a major national and global tragedy,” he wrote later in an unpublished memoir written for his family.

Amanda Davis (Hacker News):

Tanenbaum later developed the first gas-diffused silicon transistor, which could amplify and switch signals above 100 megahertz at a switching speed 10 times that of previous silicon transistors.

Despite Tanenbaum’s early work on silicon transistors, AT&T did not support further research or advancement of the technology.


Tanenbaum instead worked on other new technologies in the decades that followed. In 1962 he was named assistant director of Bell Labs’ metallurgical department. He led the team there that created the first high-field superconducting magnets, which are now used in MRI machines and other medical imaging technologies. Later he helped develop optical fiber and digital telephone switching.