Archive for December 4, 2023

Monday, December 4, 2023

Smaller and Faster Updates With Sonoma

Howard Oakley (Hacker News):

When a user accepts Software Update’s invitation to upgrade to macOS 13 or 14, rather than downloading a full installer app of about 12 GB, Ventura or Sonoma will instead attempt an update, in which only changed files are copied to the System volume, substantially reducing the amount to be downloaded, and increasing the speed of the update process. This also has the unfortunate side-effect that users who inadvertently start that update process have no easy way to abort it, and Ventura and Sonoma resulted in many upgrading sooner than they had intended [because Apple released them as updates rather than upgrades].

As far as I’m aware, Apple has made no announcements of changes in macOS updates for Sonoma, and there’s no evidence that any more of the contents of the SSV have been transferred to cryptexes, allowing them to be updated without rebuilding the SSV. However, the two unscheduled patch updates to Sonoma so far, in 14.1.1 and 14.1.2, have required the smallest updates since the days of Mojave. In the case of 14.1.2, the update was only 400 MB for Intel Macs, and 820 MB for Apple silicon, far below the smallest update sizes in Ventura. Although there’s some uncertainty as to exactly what was changed in 14.1.1, 14.1.2 contains two fixes to WebKit, thus in a cryptex, and some smaller updates in the contents of the SSV. In previous versions of macOS since Big Sur, those would have required larger downloads, particularly for Apple silicon Macs, which would have been at least 1 GB larger.

Although harder to quantify, macOS update installation times have also become steadily shorter, at least on Apple silicon models, whose 30 minutes ‘preparation’ seldom takes even half that time. Some of this improvement in speed may be attributable to the smaller size of updates, of course, but on Apple silicon Macs they are now sufficiently quick as to be little interruption.

I continue to have problems, on multiple Macs, where updates repeatedly fail to prepare. So it takes a while to redownload the updater and prepare multiple times. However, I agree with Oakley that, when they work, the updates are smaller and install much more quickly.


Sony Removing Purchased Discovery TV Shows

PlayStation Store (via Hacker News, Reddit):

As of 31 December 2023, due to our content licensing arrangements with content providers, you will no longer be able to watch any of your previously purchased Discovery content and the content will be removed from your video library.

It isn’t that streaming content is no longer available; they actually admit they’re removing content that people purchased.

Sophie McEvoy:

Over 1,300 seasons of shows will be removed as listed by PlayStation, including Animal Planet Presents, Cake Boss, Deadliest Catch, How It’s Made, and MythBusters.

Last year, PlayStation removed purchased content from Studio Canal due to “evolving licensing agreements with its content providers,” leaving users unable to view purchased content in their library.

Kara Phillips:

Yet, no efforts to explain whether or not you will be compensated for the loss were touched on either. Rather, the email continues: “We sincerely thank you for your continued support.”

Wesley Yin-Poole:

The decision has sparked a backlash online, and fuelled concern around ownership of digital media. Video game preservation is a hot topic within the industry, but the issue of content removal from digital platforms is top of mind of movie and TV makers, too. Last month, Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro backed Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan in championing physical media amid controversial moves by streamers that have seen some films pulled from availability.


There is currently no way to back up purchased PlayStation Store video content from a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5. They cannot be transferred to a disc by any means.


It’s worth noting that when Sony stopped selling TV shows and movies from the PlayStation Store in 2021, it said users would still be able to access existing purchases.

Kind of like how Apple says that HomePod can play iTunes music purchases, but due to bugs and/or content licensing arrangements this doesn’t actually work for many older purchases.

Ethan Gach:

This isn’t the first time Sony has done something like this and it won’t be the last. I’d say just buy your favorite shows on Bluray instead, but Sony and Microsoft also appear to be planning to slowly phase out optical disc drives in the future. Even the new PS5 slim’s detachable disc drive will require an online DRM check every time you plug it in.


Update (2023-12-06): Nick Heer:

I spot-checked the PlayStation list and found many of these shows are not officially available in a hard copy format. Sure, nobody is entitled to own them at all, but if you want to ensure you retain access for whatever reason, you often have no legal option. “Okay, well, you know what that means: steal it”.

Amazon Employees Returning to Offices

Jane Thier (via Hacker News):

Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, reportedly told members in an internal meeting that when it comes to returning to the office, “it’s time to disagree and commit. We’re here, we’re back—it’s working,” he said. “I don’t have data to back it up, but I know it’s better.”


Disgruntled Amazon workers likely saw this coming. This time last year, Jassy said Amazon had no plans for a compulsory office return and instead intended to “proceed adaptively.” That sentiment didn’t last, and Jassy soon joined peers Elon Musk and Sundar Pichai in their pro-office enthusiasm, mandating an office return earlier this year (the company does have an exception request process that’s considered on a case-by-case basis).


Amazon spokesperson Rob Munoz told Fortune that the company has been happy with how the return to office has gone since Amazon mandated it earlier this year: “There’s more energy, collaboration, and connections happening, and we’ve heard this from lots of employees and the businesses that surround our offices.”

Greg Iacurci (via Hacker News):

The share of workers being called back to the office has flatlined, suggesting the pandemic-era phenomenon of widespread remote work has become a permanent fixture of the U.S. labor market, economists said.

“Return to the office is dead,” Nick Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University and expert on the work-from-home revolution, wrote this week.


Research has shown that the typical worker equates the value of working from home to an 8% pay raise.

However, the work-from-home trend isn’t just a perk for workers. It has been a profitable arrangement for many companies, economists said.


Update (2023-12-11): Jane Thier (via Hacker News):

Bolstered by Daco’s four-point explanation, the new BLS data puts to rest the idea that where work happens is consequential in the productivity debate. Experts have maintained that exact point for years.

Evidence of productivity differences between remote and in-person work isn’t black and white, Daco says; there’s a “huge diffusion” of gains and losses. “I don’t know if return-to-office policies have had much of an effect one way or another, because the arguments are clear both ways,” he adds. “It really depends on the culture and the reasoning behind the [policies].”

Computational Bridal Photo

Matt Growcoot:

A woman says that “the fabric of reality crumbled” after she looked at an iPhone photo of herself trying on a wedding dress and noticed that her reflection looked different.

Standing in front of two large mirrors, Tessa Coates’ reflection does not return the same pose that she is making, and not only that, but both reflections are different from each other and different from the pose Coates was actually holding.

While Coates was holding one arm up and another down, the reflection on the left is seen holding both arms down, and the reflection to her right is holding both arms up to her waist.

John Gruber:

Coates, in her Instagram description, claims “This is a real photo, not photoshopped, not a pano, not a Live Photo”, but I’m willing to say she’s either lying or wrong about how the photo was taken.


In a long-winded story post, Coates says she went to an Apple Store for an explanation and was told by Roger, the “grand high wizard” of Geniuses at the store, that Apple is “beta testing” a feature like Google’s Best Take. Which is not something Apple does, and if they did do, would require her to have knowingly installed an iOS beta.

Nick Heer:

This is, as far as I can find, the first mention of this claim, but I would not give it too much credibility. Apple retail employees, in my experience, are often barely aware of the features of the current developer beta, let alone an internal build. They are not briefed on unannounced features. To be clear, I would not be surprised if Apple were working on something like this, but I would not bet on the reliability of this specific mention.

It’s almost unbelievable the sort of looney things that my customers tell me they were told by Apple retail employees/geniuses, and I’ve been directly told some quite unlikely things myself. The best bet is that someone in this story is mistaken. But I’m not sure I’d rule anything out after hearing Apple brag on stage that they secretly beta tested APFS file system conversions during the regular software update process.

Wesley Hilliard (Hacker News):

What’s actually occurred here is a mistake in Apple’s computational photography pipeline. The camera wouldn’t realize it was taking a photo of a mirror, so it treated the three versions of Coates as different people.

Coates was moving when the photo was taken, so when the shutter was pressed, many differing images were captured in that instant as the camera swept over the scene, since it was a panoramic photo capture. Apple’s algorithm stitches the photos together, choosing the best versions for saturation, contrast, detail, and lack of blur.

John Gruber:

The subject claims it wasn’t a Panoramic mode photo, but she didn’t snap the photo, and if a photo taken in Panoramic mode isn’t wide enough to reach some threshold, the Photos app does not identify/badge it as such. And conversely, a normal photograph cropped to a very wide aspect ratio will be badged as Panoramic — like this and this from my own library — even though it wasn’t snapped in Panoramic mode.

Those sound like bugs to me.

I think it’s quite likely Korkmaz is correct that this is the explanation for how this photo was created; I remain unconvinced that it wasn’t a deliberate publicity stunt.


Dave Cutler Interview

Dave Plummer (via Hacker News):

Dave Cutler is a seminal figure in computer science, renowned for his contributions to operating systems. Born in 1942, he played pivotal roles in the development of several OSes, most notably VMS for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and Windows NT for Microsoft. Cutler’s design principles emphasize performance, reliability, and scalability. His work on Windows NT laid the foundation for many subsequent Windows versions, solidifying its place in enterprise and personal computing. A stickler for detail and a rigorous engineer, Cutler’s influence is evident in modern OS design and architecture.

Cutler is quick-witted and has an impressive recall of details. It’s hard to believe he’s 81, except that his stories go back to punched cards and 16-bit minicomputers.


Disabled Safari Extensions Are Not Fully Disabled

Jeff Johnson:

The good news is that when you navigate to a new page in a Safari tab after disabling the extension, its content script won’t get injected into the new page. The bad news is that if you navigate back to the old page with Safari’s back button, the disabled extension’s injected content script remains in the cache of the old page.

Following Nick Heer’s workaround, when you subsequently reenable StopTheMadness after updating to the latest version in the App Store while Safari is still open, Safari injects the updated extension’s content script and style sheet into open web pages that the extension has permission to access, which is typically all of them, including the pages with leftover content scripts from the previous version of the extension. Consequently, an App Store update can leave you with two different versions of the extension’s content script running simultaneously in the same web pages! This is a very undesirable situation, because the two competing scripts could conflict in unpredictable ways.


You may be wondering, since the App Store allows you to update Safari web extensions without quitting Safari, how do they avoid the issues faced by StopTheMadness and other Safari app extensions? The answer, surprisingly, is that they don’t!


In my testing, Chrome (1) does not inject the extension’s content scripts into open web pages when enabling the extension, (2) does not disable the extension’s content scripts when disabling the extension, and (3) does not include the disabled extension’s content scripts in the page cache. Firefox (1) does inject the extension’s content scripts into open web pages when enabling the extension, (2) does disable the extension’s content scripts when disabling the extension, and (3) does not include the disabled extension’s content scripts in the page cache (because of 1).


Update (2023-12-19): Andrew Abernathy:

In general, I’m very happy about the new level of security protection on Safari extensions, allowing me to approve access for just one day. But it didn’t register to me that when I approved access for a day, it didn’t then go ahead and perform the extension’s action. I thought I had saved a bunch of items to Instapaper, but no, I have to click the toolbar button again after responding to this alert.