Archive for May 20, 2024

Monday, May 20, 2024

iOS 17.5.1 and iPadOS 17.5.1

Juli Clover (release notes, no security, no developer):

According to Apple’s release notes, the updates include a fix for an issue that could cause images to reappear in the Photos library even after being deleted.


MarketplaceKit updated in iOS 17.5.1. Now it returns a consistent client ID per device, but the ID is different from the one that was generated in iOS 17.4. So this will only impact customers who installed @altstore before iOS 17.5.1. But will it be reliable this time? 🤷‍♂️


Update (2024-06-04): Ric Ford (MacRumors):

Apple has issued an odd update, re-issuing a different “build” of the critical iPadOS 17.5.1 update for undisclosed bugs affecting one specific iPad model without changing the version number.

Safari Hover Link Preview Keyboard Shortcut

Jeff Johnson (Mastodon):

Pressing control-command-d (⌃⌘D) while hovering over a link in Safari opens a popup window containing a preview of the linked web page, just like pressing and holding down a link in Safari on iOS.

Apple does say that you can preview a link in a webpage in Safari on Mac with a Force Touch trackpad, but Apple’s support document doesn’t mention the keyboard shortcut. Typically, the control-command-d shortcut is used to show or hide the definition of the selected word, and indeed this works in Safari to show the Dictionary definition when hovering over non-link text. So the link preview behavior of the keyboard shortcut was a surprise, at least to me.

This was new to me, too. It doesn’t work on my main Mac, even with a safe boot, so I guess it’s controlled by an unknown setting that I somehow turned off. It does work on a Mac with a clean install of macOS.


Swift FormatStyle Issues

Wade Tregaskis:

They’re terser than using their otherwise more powerful cousins the Formatters, as they support a “fluent” style of property-based access, which tends to read more naturally and usually avoids having to define variables to hold the formatter.


They almost always break Xcode’s auto-complete, which is a problem since their syntax is non-trivial and unintuitive.

They’re hard to understand – and to even find in Apple’s official documentation – because there’s so many protocols and indirection involved.

It’s particularly hard to tell where the inexplicable gaps are. e.g. Double doesn’t support ByteCountFormatStyle, even though logically it should and Xcode will sometimes auto-complete as if it does.

I haven’t used the new formatter API much because it isn’t available in the SDK that I’m targeting. I like that it’s terser and doesn’t require tracking a formatter instance. But it’s probably not terse enough that I would use it directly vs. via a more semantically named helper method. And I agree that it’s not actually that easy to use if you don’t already know what you’re doing.

Wade Tregaskis:

Alas, they don’t always work correctly; some of these formatters contain egregious bugs.

In particular, ByteCountFormatStyle pretends to support multiple numeric bases – decimal and binary – but it doesn’t[…] Note how it still uses decimal units, “kB”. Decimal is not binary. I mean, duh, right? But apparently Apple don’t know this.

NSByteCountFormatter behaves the same way. I don’t think it’s a bug so much as Apple deciding to never display binary prefixes even though it is intentional about calculating memory sizes as binary and file sizes as decimal.


Sutskever and Leike Out at OpenAI

Sigal Samuel (tweet):

For months, OpenAI has been losing employees who care deeply about making sure AI is safe. Now, the company is positively hemorrhaging them.

Ilya Sutskever and Jan Leike announced their departures from OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, on Tuesday. They were the leaders of the company’s superalignment team — the team tasked with ensuring that AI stays aligned with the goals of its makers, rather than acting unpredictably and harming humanity.


Altman was fundraising with autocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia so he could spin up a new AI chip-making company, which would give him a huge supply of the coveted resources needed to build cutting-edge AI. That was alarming to safety-minded employees. If Altman truly cared about building and deploying AI in the safest way possible, why did he seem to be in a mad dash to accumulate as many chips as possible, which would only accelerate the technology?


For employees, all this led to a gradual “loss of belief that when OpenAI says it’s going to do something or says that it values something, that that is actually true,” a source with inside knowledge of the company told me.

I don’t think wanting access to chips is a bad sign, but it seems clear that the safety folks lost the power struggle within the company.

Greg Brockman and Sam Altman:

We’re really grateful to Jan for everything he’s done for OpenAI, and we know he’ll continue to contribute to the mission from outside. In light of the questions his departure has raised, we wanted to explain a bit about how we think about our overall strategy.

As many of the replies note, the words seem rather hollow and don’t really correspond with their actions.

Kelsey Piper:

But there was no stronger sign of OpenAI’s commitment to its mission than the prominent roles of people like Sutskever and Leike, technologists with a long history of commitment to safety and an apparently genuine willingness to ask OpenAI to change course if needed.


And it makes it clear that OpenAI’s concern with external oversight and transparency couldn’t have run all that deep. If you want external oversight and opportunities for the rest of the world to play a role in what you’re doing, making former employees sign extremely restrictive NDAs doesn’t exactly follow.

Altman claims that they didn’t actually mean to cancel the equity for employees who didn’t sign the exit NDA. It was just a mistake in the paperwork (via Ryan Jones, Hacker News).


Update (2024-05-21): See also: Edward Zitron and Scott Aaronson.

Update (2024-05-24): See also: Nick Heer, Hacker News, John Gruber.

iOS 17.5 Resurfacing Deleted Photos

Juli Clover:

A Reddit user wiped an iPad following Apple’s guidelines in September of 2023 before selling it off to a friend. That friend updated the iPad to iPadOS 17.5 this week, and began seeing the Reddit user’s old photos reappearing in the Photos app.

That would be very concerning because it would imply that Apple is retaining deleted photos in the cloud. However, this particular Reddit post has since been deleted, and I haven’t seen any others making this claim.

I do continue to see reports that deleted, non-cloud photos are resurrected after installing iOS 17.5. That is also a serious bug, which I hope Apple will communicate about. It’s apparently fixed today in iOS 17.5.1, but Apple has not posted release notes of that yet.


Update (2024-05-20): Juli Clover:

Images deleted as far back as 2010 were surfacing again, leading to confusion and worry over what was going on. Apple’s information today indicates that it was a database corruption issue, and iOS 17.5.1 should solve the problem.

Some details are still missing here. Presumably, the database was corrupted at the time of deletion, which is why the photos were left on disk. iOS 17.5 wasn’t the cause of the problem; it just revealed the failure that happened long ago. This implies that people who don’t (or can’t) update to iOS 17.5/17.5.1 may still be subject to the problem. It’s also not clear what the fix is. How does 17.5.1 detect which photos were meant to be deleted? If the database is corrupted, how does it do that without potentially losing photos that are meant to be there?

Is it confirmed that there is no cloud angle to this bug and that it doesn’t affect wiped devices?

Update (2024-05-21): _tysen:

I may or may not know somebody who is a Private Contractor @ Apple, and they may have or may not have given me an explanation on the current situation.


Now how are the deleted photos “reappearing” after being deleted? This is because almost every case of this incident happening which Apple has investigated has been caused by the photo(s) being deleted from the “Photos” app but NOT the “Files” app. They are two separate apps with two copies of the photos.


But due to a rare bug within iOS 17.5 the system attempts to re-save all photos/media/files from the “Files” app into the “Photos” app, this happens during the re-indexing process which happens when you update your iPhone. Since the “Photos” app can’t display files but it can display media/photos, it appears as your “deleted” photos have reappeared ALTHOUGH they have been on your iPhone the whole time in the “Files” app.

This doesn’t seem to be the full explanation because some people have reported the problem in relation to photos that are not in the Files app and indeed which predate the app’s existence.

Nick Heer:

I suppose even a “rare” bug would, at Apple’s scale, impact lots of people. I heard from multiple readers who said they, too, saw presumed deleted photos reappear.

The thing about these bare release notes — which are not yet on Apple’s support site — is how they do not really answer reasonable questions about what happened.

Apple did eventually publish the release notes, but they don’t answer the questions people have.

Adam Engst:

I don’t know if there’s an easy way to tell if you’re affected—I certainly couldn’t tell you if a few deleted photos reappeared in my library.


While the exact cause remains unknown, reports suggest Apple may have been attempting to fix a problem that caused photos to be lost if the iPhone crashed during upload and corrupted the database underneath the Photos library.


Is there any connection to iCloud Photos here? Some people who have experienced the bug do not use iCloud Photos, so it’s not required. However, it would be more troubling if deleted images were retained online instead of just locally.

What happens to the corrupted images after updating to iOS 17.5.1 and iPadOS 17.5.1? Are they kept or deleted?

Victoria Song:

It raises valid questions as to how Apple stores photo data and whether iPhone owners can truly trust that their deleted data is actually deleted. The Verge has reached out to Apple multiple times to comment publicly on the matter but has yet to receive a response. Doing so would at least shed light on why this bug happened, what’s been done to fix it, and what it’s doing to ensure that this won’t happen again.


If anything, Apple ought to comment simply because it markets itself as a company that cares about your privacy. It’s spent countless WWDC keynotes talking about software updates to keep your data encrypted so that not even Apple knows what’s going on on your phone. That you can trust its services because privacy is a fundamental, core tenet of its philosophy. Responsible disclosure and transparency are the hallmarks of a company that truly believes in protecting your privacy. Brushing things under the rug? Not so much.

See also: Lauren Goode (Hacker News).

Update (2024-05-22): The bug also affected tvOS. Since it’s now “fixed” everywhere, I suppose this is all we’re going to hear from Apple, but something about this story still doesn’t sit right with me.

Update (2024-05-24): Bill Toulas:

Analysts at Synactiv reverse-engineered the iOS 17.5.1 update that addressed the problem, examining the IPSW files and comparing the DYLD shared caches of the two versions to find changes.


Apple removed a routine in the function responsible for scanning and re-importing photos from the filesystem, which caused it to reindex old files on the local file system and add them back to people’s galleries.


“The reason why those files were there in the first place is unknown.”

Quentin Salingue (Saagar Jha):

The 17.5.1 update removed the scanning of the filesystem that was added in 17.5 to prevent deleted photos stored outside of the photo library to re-appear. According to our analysis, no code was added to purge the imported photos from the library as well as the “deleted” pictures lying on the filesystem.

John Gordon:

Am I wrong that Apple had a recovery fix for images lost due to sync bugs but then rolled it back so now there is no fix?

Yes, either way it sounds like there will be orphaned photos left on the disk. Either they are images that should have been recovered or ones that should have been deleted, in some cases more than a decade go. The 17.5.1 update doesn’t fix this; it just returns us to the status quo ante.

Chance Miller (MacRumors):

One question many people had is how images from dates as far back as 2010 resurfaced because of this problem. After all, most people aren’t still using the same devices now as they were in 2010. Apple confirmed to me that iCloud Photos is not to be blamed for this. Instead, it all boils to the corrupt database entry that existed on the device’s file system itself.

According to Apple, the photos that did not fully delete from a user’s device were not synced to iCloud Photos. Those files were only on the device itself. However, the files could have persisted from one device to another when restoring from a backup, performing a device-to-device transfer, or when restoring from an iCloud Backup but not using iCloud Photos.


The company says that after a device has been completely erased using the steps below, all files and content are permanently deleted.


iOS 17.5.1 doesn’t automatically re-delete photos that reappeared after updating to iOS 17.5. If you were affected by this problem, you’ll need to go to the Photos app and manually delete those images.

I still think it’s unclear how tvOS was affected. How did the photos get on the Apple TV if not via iCloud Photos?

Dan Moren:

While it’s good that Apple has now (after several days of requests) clarified the issue, this does speak to a larger point: why is the company not more proactive in talking about these issues when they come up?

Stephen Hackett:

Now the company should address the recent issue with folks having their Apple IDs locked.


Update (2024-05-28): Ezekiel Elin:

It’s possible that the database repair process was also present on tvOS and they removed it out of caution.

This whole thing seems relatively simple and I haven’t seen any concrete evidence it’s more complex than:

  • Database/file management bug in the past (maybe ongoing)
  • Repair process (probably implemented alongside fix to original bug) bringing back undeleted photos