Archive for June 28, 2024

Friday, June 28, 2024

RCS in iOS 18 Beta

Ryan Haines:

Then, it was time to jump into an RCS-powered future, and by that, I mean flipping a toggle in the Settings app. Seriously, that’s all there is to it right now for beta testers on the most recent build.

From there, it was time to send my first RCS text message on an iPhone, so I figured I’d start with an easy one — a dig about Apple finally getting the message. Then, it was time to test a few RCS basics: the ability to react to messages and send read receipts from Android to iOS. I asked my dad to respond to my first message, and he sent back a thumbs up — both to my original message and my request for a reaction. Both reactions popped up smoothly and immediately, a massive improvement over the generic SMS alert on iOS 17 and older, and far closer to what we see from Apple’s iMessage service between Apple devices.


Once I finished shaking my head, I realized that both had come through just the same as if they’d been sent from another iPhone. The comic was crystal clear, and the video came out much better than the Patterson-Gimlin resolution I often get when he sends me a clip. It’s a vast improvement over the SMS and MMS struggles both sides have been used to and a sign that Google was probably right all along.

Via Dave Mark:

Note that the only currently supported carriers are Verizon, AT&T, & T-Mobile, though that’s pretty much everyone I know.


Update (2024-07-02): Chance Miller:

Curious if your carrier supports RCS on iPhone yet? Here’s how to check.

Update (2024-07-09): Tim Hardwick:

Think of it as SMS 2.0 – a major upgrade to the traditional text messaging we’ve been using for years.

Removing Archives of Comedy Central and MTV News

Rick Porter:

A pop-up window on the Comedy Central site reads, “While episodes of most Comedy Central series are no longer available on this website, you can watch Comedy Central through your TV provider. You can also sign up for Paramount+ to watch many seasons of Comedy Central shows.”


As noted by LateNighter, the cleaning out of the Comedy Central site in particular wipes out a huge trove of archival material from The Daily Show and other late night series, along with clips from South Park, Key & Peele and Workaholics, among many others. Some of that material is available on YouTube, but it’s not as easily searchable or accessible as it was on the network page. (The oldest video on the Daily Show YouTube channel, for instance, is from 2016, while the show’s history stretches back 20 years before then.)

Todd Spangler:

The move to scrub content from Comedy Central comes after Paramount similarly pulled the full archive of MTV News from the internet on Monday, as well as articles from CMT.

What’s odd is that they aren’t bothering to sell access direct to the content nor even make it available on the paid Paramount+ service.

Nick Heer:

I will not pretend to understand how big of a financial hole Paramount is in, but I fully understand the loss of this archive. Most of the video clips are not available anywhere else — at least, not publicly and not legally. Much of the text on MTV News has been saved by the Internet Archive going back to 1996, but it also has huge gaps.

Dare Obasanjo:

I assumed Paramount would be one of the streaming services that wouldn’t make it but I didn’t expect the company to struggle so much it would rather delete its websites than maintain them.

Sarah Kessler:

In a storage unit somewhere in Philadelphia, 140,000 VHS tapes sit packed into four shipping containers. Most are hand-labeled with a date between 1977 and 2012, and if you pop one into a VCR you might see scenes from the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Reagan Administration, or Hurricane Katrina.

It’s 35 years of history through the lens of TV news, captured on a dwindling format.

It’s also the life work of Marion Stokes, who built an archive of network, local, and cable news, in her home, one tape at a time, recording every major (and trivial) news event until the day she died in 2012 at the age of 83 of lung disease.


Update (2024-07-02): See also: Hacker News.

Longevity, by Design

Joe Rossignol:

Apple today published a lengthy whitepaper that highlights the company’s approach to device repairability and longevity. In the document, Apple revealed that iPhones will better support third-party displays and batteries later in 2024.


First, Apple said True Tone will work with third-party iPhone displays later this year[…]


Second, Apple said battery health metrics such as maximum capacity and cycle count will work with third-party iPhone batteries later this year[…]


Apple Diagnostics for Self Service Repair — a software tool that enables users to troubleshoot issues — is now available in 32 European countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Nick Heer:

The paper is worth a read to understand what role Apple sees repair playing in the lifecycle of a device, and why it is so keen on parts pairing. For example, it says the charging port is part of a more complex module, and separating it would actually create greater carbon emissions if you account for both the total emissions from manufacturing and the likelihood of repair. This is fair though, it should be said, based entirely on an internal case study, the results of which are not readily available, and which appears to be isolated to only carbon emissions — what about other environmental costs?


It also makes me wonder about Apple’s attitude toward batteries in general. There should be no need to replace the trackpad, keyboard, and a square foot of aluminum in order to install a new battery in a laptop.


Update (2024-07-04): Howard Oakley:

Where Apple’s case is weaker is with macOS support. Although the white paper states that “a key pillar of product longevity is software support, especially security updates and bug fixes,” it avoids stating Apple’s longstanding macOS support policy of 1 + 2 years. This is strange, as this policy is well-known, but has (as far as I’m aware) never been articulated in writing.

The paper then boldly goes where macOS doesn’t, in claiming that “macOS Sonoma is compatible starting with Mac computers introduced in 2017. But even after an Apple product can no longer be updated with Apple’s newest OS, we strive to provide our customers with critical security updates”.

What it doesn’t say is that the sole Mac from 2017 that’s still supported by Sonoma is the iMac Pro, then top of the range, and the only Mac released that year that is still supported, and will be by Sequoia. The situation changes again this autumn/fall with macOS 15, which is dropping support for two more recent MacBook Air models.

Porting Google Sheets Calculations to WasmGC

Michael Thomas and Thomas Steiner Thomas Steiner (via Hacker News):

The Google Sheets calculation engine was originally written in Java and launched in 2006. In the early days of the product, all calculation happened on the server. However, from 2013, the engine has run in the browser using JavaScript. This was originally accomplished through Google Web Toolkit (GWT), and later through Java to Closure JavaScript transpiler (J2CL).


The Sheets team uses this tool regularly to validate changes to Sheets. But the team didn’t just compare the results of those calculations, they also compared the performance between JavaScript on the client and Java on the server. They found that the JavaScript version of the calculation engine was more than three times slower than the Java version.


By mid 2021, the teams had a working Java to WasmGC compiler. Toward the end of the same year, they had a prototype version of Google Sheets running as WasmGC and doing calculations.


After all these optimizations, the final WasmGC version of Sheets achieves a calculation performance approximately twice as fast as JavaScript, representing a fourfold improvement from the starting point of the initial WasmGC version.

Python Apps Rejected From App Store

Joe Brockmeier (via Hacker News):

The problem at hand is that Apple’s macOS App Store is automatically rejecting apps that contain the string “itms-services”. That is the URL scheme for apps that want to ask Apple’s iTunes Store to install another app. […] That string is in the urllib parser in Python’s standard library, though an application may never actually use the itms-services handler.


Of course, Apple did not do anything so straightforward as to explain this to Froemling.


One solution might be to obfuscate the offending string to pass review, but that might “lead to an obfuscation arms race” and there were no guarantees this would be the last time the project had to resolve app-validation problems.


It is frustrating that free-software projects like Python have to waste time finding ways around opaque review processes just so developers can write software for non-free platforms.

The first problem is that Apple is doing a dumb static analysis. If it can be thwarted by simple obfuscation then what good is it really doing? But, second, why is it even trying to detect this URL scheme upon submission when iOS could more easily and effectively block all the “dangerous” URLs at runtime?

Years ago, I ran into a similar problem with EagleFiler being rejected because it used PyObjC, which included some symbols for the deprecated Java VM.


Rounded Quick Look Corners

Robin Allen (via Hacker News):

For whatever reason, QuickLook will now remove the corners of your images before showing them to you.

It doesn’t matter if they’re photos, game assets, or UI elements you’re designing. Everything will be rounded off before you see it.


We can click through these views and get info about them, including their addresses so we can mess with them in the debugger. And we can see straight away that the frontmost view, which Xcode tells us is a QLBorderView, is a border with rounded corners!


We now have all the building blocks we need to make a nice script that attaches to all running QuickLook processes and patches them.

-[NSObject fp_shortMethodDescription] was new to me. QuickTime Player has also hidden the corners for for a long time. I think it also used to hide part of a paused video with the player controls, but now it hides those when you move the cursor out of the window.

Mac Marketshare in Q1 2024

Ben Lovejoy (via Hacker News):

Mac shipments are estimated to have grown from 1.7M in the first quarter of 2023 to 2.1M in the same quarter this year. That represents year-on-year growth of 22%, giving Apple a 14.2% share of the US PC market.

The launch of the new M3-powered MacBook Air models in March were likely one of the main reasons for this growth.

I find this kind of surprising given that the new MacBook Air wasn’t available until late in the quarter, and while it was a solid update it did not have as large a performance bump as the M1 MacBook Air nor the new physical design of the M2 MacBook Air.


Moaan InkPalm Plus

John Moltz (Hacker News):

A post on Mastodon got boosted into my feed that touted the Xiaomi Moaan InkPalm 5 which sells for about $95. Now you’re talking my kind of cheap. Looking into the Moaan lineup, I then found the InkPalm Plus which features a slightly larger screen, more storage and a more up-to-date version of Android, all for as low as $124 on AliExpress.


So, what did I get for not that much of my money? The InkPalm Plus has 64 GB of storage, 2 GB of RAM, a 5.84-inch screen with a 1440 x 720 resolution and runs Android 11. All of the hardware specs are less than the Boox Palma but, again, see the price.


My main attraction to the Boox Palma was twofold: it was easy to palm and it had physical buttons for page turning. These two things are ultimately what make the InkPalm Plus worth the warts for me.

It works with content from both Kobo and Kindle, but neither Kobo nor Amazon makes a reader in this narrow a size. It looks like it will easily fit in a pocket, but the line lengths are very short.

Starlink Mini

Chris Wedel (via Hacker News):

However, since I first began using these low-orbit satellites to power my internet, not only has the price gone up $30 per month, but the speeds and reliability have degraded significantly. I’ve talked to others in my area who use Starlink, and since January, we’ve experienced frequent downtime and fluctuating speeds between 30-50/2-10Mbps. I’m aware Starlink states that what I’m getting served is within stated expectations. I could deal with that if it were consistent and reliable and also if I wasn’t getting charged $120 per month.


This has forced me to look for alternate options. For the last two months, I’ve gone back to T-Mobile Home Internet because I can get T-Mobile for only $50 per month and because speed and reliability are on par with what I’d been getting from Starlink. But even getting T-Mobile at my house required some extra work and money on my part. If you can believe it, I had to first walk into the store and ask for a modem and reassure them that I knew my experience might not be great because, officially, according to the T-Mobile website, the internet isn’t available at my home. I also had to purchase a $400 external antenna kit designed to connect directly to the router since I don’t get a good cellular signal from any U.S. carrier at my house, and I need the boost from an antenna.

Thomas Ricker:

The new compact DC-powered Starlink Mini is about the size of a thick laptop and integrates the Wi-Fi router right inside the dish. And despite using less power than other Starlink terminals, it can still deliver speeds over 100Mbps.


Notably, the Mini kit consumes an average of just 20-40W compared to the 33-62W we measured just two years ago with a Standard Actuated dish and separate AC-powered Wi-Fi router. That means you can power the Mini dish for two to three hours from something like an Anker Prime 27,650mAh (99.54Wh) power bank, or a little over an hour with smaller 10,000mAh (40Wh) portable batteries you probably already have laying about. It requires a USB-C PD power source with a minimum rating of 100W (20V/5A).


In the US, Starlink Mini is an add-on to Residential plans — at least for now. The Mini kit costs $599 which is $100 more than the standard dish, and will cost an extra $30 per month to add the Mini Roam service to existing $120 Residential plans. That gives Starlink Mini users up to 50GB of mobile data each month, with the option to purchase more for $1 per GB, according to early-access invitations sent to some exiting US Starlink customers.