Archive for December 5, 2023

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Filmic’s Entire Staff Laid Off

Jaron Schneider (Hacker News):

Filmic, or FiLMiC as written by the brand, no longer has any dedicated staff as parent company Bending Spoons has laid off the entire team including the company’s founder and CEO, PetaPixel has learned.


Considered for years as the best video capture application for mobile devices, the team behind Filmic Pro and presumably Filmic Firstlight — the company’s photo-focused app — has been let go.


The company acquired Filmic in September 2022 in what was framed as a move designed to provide much-needed support to further build out the company’s capture apps, which made sense given Bending Spoons’s focus on post-production.

Via Christina Warren:

This sucks but is sadly not at all surprising. If you pay for a Filmic subscription, I would cancel now and start migrating to the Blackmagic Design camera app. It is free b/c it is a loss leader, and is actively developed. But I hate this for the Filmic team who I truly believe erred in underpricing their app for close to a decade before selling/moving to a very unpopular subscription model.


Update (2023-12-08): John Gruber:

Filmic was featured by Apple in numerous iPhone keynotes and App Store promotions over the years — for a long stretch it was undeniably the premier “pro” video camera app for iPhones.

The Impassioned Moderate (2022):

The problem? Bending Spoons is the one the most predatory actors on the entire App Store - they’re terrifying in a completely different way.


So what most likely happened is that Bending Spoons raised ~$50M in equity from all these various celebrities, and a much larger debt facility (~$300M) that they can draw on to pursue the “acquisitions” they refer to. It’s highly misleading for the company to foster the narrative that this was a $340M equity funding round[…]


Now, lest you think this critique an ad hominem one, let’s talk about Bending Spoons’ business model.

Via John Gruber:

Bending Spoons’s business model is to buy successful apps, change them to a weekly auto-renewing subscription model that perhaps tricks users into signing up, and using the revenue to buy more apps and repeat the cycle. Filmic, for example, now defaults to a $3/week subscription — over $150/year. To be fair, there’s also a $40/year subscription.

It doesn’t seem like a scam, per se, but it doesn’t seem like a product-driven company. Apps seemingly don’t thrive after acquisition by Bending Spoons — instead, they get bled dry.

Ads When You Start Your Fire TV

Luke Bouma (Hacker News):

Amazon is adding full-screen video ads that will play when you start your Fire TV unless you quickly perform an action on it.

This new update will be rolling out to all Fire TVs made in 2016 or newer. With this update, the ad at the top of your Fire TV will now start playing full-screen, often promoting a movie or TV show. By hitting the home button, you can quickly exit the ad or if you quickly perform an action on the Fire TV once it finishes, you will avoid the video ad, but you only have a few seconds.

In a way, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds because turning on a TV has historically shown full screen content that you weren’t expecting to see. But Amazon is not offering this as a Special Offers discount, and it sounds like there’s no way to turn it off. They are altering the implicit deal with customers, notwithstanding the attempt to spin this as an “immersive experience” feature.

Via John Gruber:

I really don’t understand how anyone uses anything but an Apple TV box. Apple TV is far from perfect but holy hell, it really does start from the perspective of respecting you, the user.

It sure doesn’t feel like that if you don’t subscribe to Apple TV+. And the Netflix app, especially, constantly shows unsolicited partial-screen previews when all I want is a static menu with no sound when nothing’s playing. But, yeah, the grass is not always greener.

The people at Apple who make it are obviously trying to create the experience that they themselves want when they’re watching TV at home.

To me, this is not at all obvious when using the product. Who wants wants a multi-step process to toggle subtitles? It feels like it was designed by people who don’t watch TV. And that don’t respect me to choose for myself what I want to watch.


Slower Chrome Extension Updates

Ron Amadeo (via Hacker News):

Google’s war on ad blockers is just gearing up, with YouTube doing its best to detect and block ad blockers and Chrome aiming to roll out the ad block-limiting Manifest V3 extension platform in June 2024. A new article from Engadget detailing the “arms race” over ad blocking brings up an interesting point regarding the power that YouTube and Chrome have in this battle: a dramatic update advantage over the ad blockers.

In addition to hamstringing Chrome’s extension platform with no real user-centric justifications, Manifest V3 will also put roadblocks up before extension updates, which will delay an extension developer’s ability to quickly respond to changes. YouTube can instantly switch up its ad delivery system, but once Manifest V3 becomes mandatory, that won’t be true for extension developers. If ad blocking is a cat-and-mouse game of updates and counter-updates, then Google will force the mouse to slow down.


All updates, even to benign things like a filtering list, will need to happen through full extension updates through the Chrome Web Store. They will all be subject to Chrome Web Store reviews process, and that comes with a significant time delay.


Keyboard Cowboy 3.19

Christoffer Winterkvist (Reddit):

With Keyboard Cowboy, users can automate repetitive actions, launch applications and scripts, control system settings, manipulate files and folders, and perform a wide range of actions – all without ever having to take their hands off the keyboard.


Automating workflows by triggering them through application events, such as opening, switching, or closing an application.


By binding groups of workflows to specific applications, you can stay focused and run workflows seamlessly, making you a multitasking master.


By rebinding keys to perform different actions or execute complex key sequences, power users can unlock a new level of efficiency and customize their workflow to fit their unique needs.

This looks really interesting, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to get it to work. Anything I do in the main window seems to trigger a SwiftUI hang and then eventually a crash. It sounds like this may be a Ventura-specific issue.


Update (2023-12-06): The hang and crash are fixed in 3.19.1. I then ran into a bug where AppleScript text views were compressed, due to a difference in how SwiftUI decides the intrinsic content size for an element between Ventura and Sonoma. Winterkvist quickly fixed this one, too, in version 3.19.2.

Castro May Be Dying

Jason Snell:

The cloud database that backs the service is broken and needs to be replaced. As a result, the app has broken. (You can’t even export subscriptions out of it, because even that function apparently relies on the cloud database.) “The team is in the progress of setting up a database replacement, which might take some time. We aim to have this completed ASAP,” said an Xtweet from @CastroPodcasts.

What’s worse, according to former Castro team member Mohit Mamoria, “Castro is being shut down over the next two months.”


The truth is, between Apple’s solid upgrades to the Podcast app and the rise of Spotify as a podcast-playing competitor, the squeeze has really been put on most podcast apps.

John Gruber:

As a publisher, Castro was the 4th or 5th most popular client for The Talk Show for a while, but in recent years has slipped. Right now it’s 10th — but in a logarithmic curve. Overcast remains 1st; Apple Podcasts 2nd. The truth is, if not for Overcast, Castro would likely be in that top position, not shutting down. But Overcast does exist, and it’s the app where most people with exquisite taste in UI are listening to podcasts.

It’s a shame because, though I like Overcast, I would like to have multiple good options, especially when they tend to be opinionated. I like all the indie podcast apps I’ve tried better than Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Stephen Hackett:

As a podcast network owner, I’ve had a front-row seat to Castro’s entire history. It’s never accounted for a large number of downloads when it comes to shows on Relay, but I know users who love Castro really love it, despite the lack of an iPad app and other oddities.


While it is true that we have experienced departures within our company, we want to assure you that we are actively working with a lean dedicated team to address these challenges. We apologize for any unnecessary panic that may have arisen from these conversations.

We believe in transparency with our community and want to share with you that we are actively seeking a new home for Castro with new owners.


Update (2024-01-09): Ben Lovejoy:

The popular podcasting app Castro appears to have ceased functioning, and the website has gone. The latter appears to be because the domain is no more, as emails also bounce.


We are having issues with our DNS on Digital Ocean. We have been working over the weekend to fix it. We will be back shortly.

It seems to be back for now.

Via Stephen Hackett:

“Working over the weekend” should have included updating paying customers as to what was going on. Instead, the company was silent — yet again — as people wondered about the future of the app.

I hate it to say it, but I have very little confidence that Tiny knows what it’s doing with Castro, or even cares that much about it.

iMessage Contact Key Verification

macOS 14.2 Beta:

With iMessage Contact Key Verification, users can choose to further verify that they are messaging only with the people they intend. iMessage Contact Key Verification uses Key Transparency to enable automatic verification that the iMessage key distribution service returns device keys that have been logged to a verifiable and auditable map. When a user enables the feature, they will be notified about any validation errors directly in the Messages conversation transcript and Apple ID Settings.


All devices signed into your iCloud account must be on the minimum supported version of iOS 17.2 Beta, macOS 14.2 Beta, or watchOS 10.2 Beta. If you wish to keep using other devices on older versions of the OS, you will need to sign out of iMessage on these devices in order to enable contact key verification.

Glenn Fleishman:

The company announced the process and timeline on 27 October 2023 on its Security Research blog.


Instead of relying on Apple to verify the other person’s identity using information stored securely on Apple’s servers, you and the other party read a short verification code to each other, either in person or on a phone call. Once you’ve validated the conversation, your devices maintain a chain of trust in which neither you nor the other person has given any private encryption information to each other or Apple. If anything changes in the encryption keys each of you verified, the Messages app will notice and provide an alert or warning.


Looking at it another way, this explains why Apple notes someone with a “public persona” could post a verification code online without risk. When someone wants to start an iMessage conversation with a public figure, they rely on that public element as proof that the public figure is who they say they are. Further, because Apple associates their public key with the email addresses and phone numbers associated with their Apple ID account, someone contacting them and verifying their code could only face an imposter if the hijacker had taken over the public figure’s Apple ID account.

Contact Key Verification is a solution to an issue known for years. Way back in 2016, security researcher Matthew Green explained several of iMessage’s fundamental design problems, with one of the worst being “iMessage’s dependence on a vulnerable centralized key server.” (Another was Apple’s failure to publish the iMessage protocol, which remains a concern. I wrote a Macworld column about these failings in 2016.)

Bruce Schneier:

Signal has had the ability to manually authenticate another account for years. iMessage is getting it.


Update (2023-12-19): Howard Oakley:

To turn on CKV, open System Settings, then your Apple ID. At the foot of that you’ll see the new item Contact Key Verification, within which is the switch to enable it.


If you’re in any doubt as to whether you’re messaging the person you want, provided that their details are saved to a card in your Contacts, you can verify them. Both of you will then create a code at the same time, to share and compare. To do that, open the Messages app, tap the message thread, then that person’s name to obtain Conversation details. At the foot of those you and your contact should then tap Verify Contact…. Both of you will then receive a code that you can compare with them, in person, using FaceTime or over a phone call. If the codes match, mark them as verified to add the code to their card in Contacts.


For those who have extensive contact with the public, perhaps as a well-known figure, they can create and share a public verification code, to allow others to verify messaging with them.

Update (2023-12-21): See also: Hacker News.