Archive for July 2024

Friday, July 12, 2024

Transferring Google Photos

Data Transfer Project:

Beginning today, Apple and Google are expanding on their direct data transfer offerings to allow users of Google Photos to transfer their collections directly to iCloud Photos. This complements and completes the existing transfers that were first made possible from iCloud Photos to Google Photos and fulfills a core Data Transfer Initiative (DTI) principle of reciprocity.

Joe Rossignol:

More details can be found in the Google and Apple support documents for each tool[…]

Chance Miller:

Apple says that the service will be available in over 240 countries and regions around the world. The service isn’t available for child accounts or Managed Apple ID accounts. You also can’t import photo and video data to iCloud while Advanced Data Protection is enabled.

Nick Heer:

While Google has long permitted users’ retrieval of data it holds, it has not been the most enthusiastic supporter of direct transfers away from its services. This distinction becomes increasingly important as users store more data with cloud-based services instead of keeping local copies — they may not have space to download all their pictures if they trust the cloud provider’s hosting.

Previously:

Delta 1.6 Rejected From the App Store

Zac Hall:

We knew the retro game emulator app Delta was popular, but over 10 million users on iPhone alone? That’s the stat that the team behind Delta shared today alongside the latest news about availability on iPad.

[…]

Delta for iPad comes with features exclusive to iPadOS, including support for Handoff from iPhone, opening multiple Delta windows, and even playing Delta in Stage Manager or in Split View. That’s in addition to each console skin being optimized for the iPad and full-screen game support.

Riley Testut:

lol Apple rejected it

John Voorhees (Mastodon):

I’ve had a chance to try the new Delta 1.6 iPad features and they’re great, so it was disappointing to see that the app has been rejected by App Review. According to the AltStore Mastodon account, the reason was that the app included a link to the developers’ Patreon page, even though that link appeared in prior versions of the app. The Patreon link has been removed and the app resubmitted, so hopefully the update will be available worldwide soon.

Riley Testut:

Some positive news! App Review just called — tl;dr we are allowed to include Patreon benefits (e.g. alternate app icons), there are just some changes we need to make first

Rather than delay 1.6 any more though, we’ve removed all Patreon functionality for now and resubmitted. Plan is to add it back in an update soon once we get 1.6 out the door (hopefully soon)🤞

It was also rejected for “4.3.0: Design Spam.”

Stuart McHattie:

it’s their get out clause for “actually we just don’t want to approve your app any more”. See the review guidelines and in particular (b). So I guess what they’re saying is that they wanted emulators, but they’ve had their fill.

Which is a dumb reason for an update. I could understand this reason for rejection on a brand new app.

Craig Grannell:

Rejecting Delta – DELTA! – for “spam” is, even by Apple standards, taking the piss. Then again, this is one of those opaque rules that often just means Apple doesn’t want the app. MAME4iOS has been tangled in this net for some time now (although I suspect will now fall foul of Apple gradually deciding to punt emulators that aren’t specifically for game consoles, despite having approved a bunch for home micros; still, arcade boards were an unknown).

Craig Grannell:

Emulation state of play on iOS:

  • A few stars (eg Delta & PPSSPP)
  • A cut-back RetroArch (and no front-ends)
  • The odd fun curio (eg ZX81)
  • Loads of crap (me-too NES; terrible C64)
  • Presumably intentionally opaque Apple rules that would be simple to clarify, but Apple doesn’t want to because it never wanted emulators on the store and appeared to only approve Delta to blunt AltStore, and this also means many good devs won’t bother and Android remains way better for emulation

[…]

So three months in and, as predicted by me and others, emulation on iOS is an incoherent mess. Which probably suits Apple just fine but it further dents the platform’s credibility with a very noisy contingent of gamers and makes it look inferior compared to Android. And Apple’s ridiculous review stance means a lot of great devs won’t bother. Why would they? Why spend months polishing an emulator only for Apple to arbitrarily decide to reject it?

Joe Rosensteel:

We need some people who can manage from the bottom up. Who can talk to developers directly about App Store issues. Whose responsibilities are the interrelated aspects of customer experience, not just the UX of a single product.

Decades ago, Apple changed its relationship with the community with Apple Evangelists. Maybe it’s time to do so again with a team of Apple Ombudspeople?

[…]

Apple famously isn’t aligned around product lines, which is part of the whole “secret sauce” of Apple product development. Except it sometimes seems that nobody is asking the big questions about how Apple’s products interoperate.

[…]

It’s not the job of the security boffins to worry about balancing security with user experience. They’re thinking about making sure the user is safe, and that’s a fine role. But it has to be counterbalanced by larger considerations, and it’s hard to imagine that anyone is empowered to do that right now.

I like the general idea. But two of his examples are Epic and emulators, and I think those are cases where the people at the top were well in the loop. If they had wanted these submissions to go smoothly they would have. Ombudspeople can be great at surfacing issues, but I don’t see how they get leadership to fundamentally change its mind about major issues.

Previously:

HTTP Status Codes As Area Codes

httpareacodes (via Mark Christian):

Things that are three digits?

  • HTTP response headers.
  • Area codes.

[…]

301: Moved Permanently: Western Maryland

Huge AT&T Data Breach

Zack Whittaker ( Hacker News):

U.S. phone giant AT&T confirmed Friday it will begin notifying millions of consumers about a fresh data breach that allowed cybercriminals to steal the phone records of “nearly all” of its customers, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

In a statement, AT&T said that the stolen data contains phone numbers of both cellular and landline customers, as well as AT&T records of calls and text messages — such as who contacted who by phone or text — during a six-month period between May 1, 2022 and October 31, 2022.

[…]

AT&T’s Huguely told TechCrunch that the most recent compromise of customer records were stolen from the cloud data giant Snowflake during a recent spate of data thefts targeting Snowflake’s customers.

Brian Krebs:

In a written statement shared with KrebsOnSecurity, the FBI confirmed that it asked AT&T to delay notifying affected customers.

[…]

Earlier this year, malicious hackers figured out that many major companies have uploaded massive amounts of valuable and sensitive customer data to Snowflake servers, all the while protecting those Snowflake accounts with little more than a username and password.

[…]

Other companies with millions of customer records stolen from Snowflake servers include Advance Auto Parts, Allstate, Anheuser-Busch, Los Angeles Unified, Mitsubishi, Neiman Marcus, Progressive, Pure Storage, Santander Bank, State Farm, and Ticketmaster.

Brian Krebs:

AT&T’s SEC filing says some cellular site tower information is also among the data accessed by the intruders, which could be used to determine the approximate location of where a call was made or text message sent.

This raises an important question: Was the AT&T customer data stolen from a law enforcement portal set up by AT&T? Sure seems like it.

Joseph Cox:

I’ve also seen a section of the hacked AT&T data. It is incredibly sensitive. The numbers dialed by targets can include apparent family members, businesses, and other places that build a detailed picture of someone’s life. Staggering data breach.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Affinity Six-Month Trial

Jess Weatherbed (Hacker News, Reddit):

Design software developer Serif has launched a new six-month free trial for its Affinity creative suite, which is well regarded as being one of the few viable alternatives to Adobe’s professional design apps. The offer is available for Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Publisher starting today on Mac, Windows PC, and iPad.

Affinity uses a one-time purchase pricing model that has earned it a loyal fanbase among creatives who are sick of paying for recurring subscriptions. Prices start at $69.99 for Affinity’s individual desktop apps or $164.99 for the entire suite, with a separate deal currently offering customers 50 percent off all perpetual licenses.

Previously:

Ricoh ScanSnap iX1600

Ricoh (Amazon):

The newest flagship in the ScanSnap family is 33% faster, giving you more time back in your day. Designed for everyday use, the ScanSnap iX1600 gets documents digitized, organized and sent anywhere—anytime—with minimal effort.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M was the only document scanner that ever worked well for me. I’d been using it for almost 18 years (lately via my 2012 MacBook Pro to run the old software), making it probably the longest serving equipment in my office aside from the desk chair.

Unfortunately, it finally died, with the rollers melting, so that they stick to the paper and no longer turn. There’s some possibility of taking it apart and installing aftermarket rollers, but with unscanned papers stacking up I opted to get a new ScanSnap iX1600.

I’m glad to say that it essentially works the same way as before, just a bit better. The new ScanSnap Home software is ugly and awkward, but you can use it without the cloud features and even lock it down with Little Snitch. As before, you can pretty much ignore the software once it’s configure because you can initiate scans by pressing a button on the scanner itself. It now has a touch-screen so you can switch between different profiles (e.g. receipt, black-and-white document, photo) without even touching the Mac.

It works via Wi-Fi, so I can scan to the Mac and update the firmware without ever connecting a USB cable—which would be inconvenient as it’s on the other side of the room from the Mac. I suppose this means that I can’t control which servers it’s talking to, though…

Scanning itself is much faster. It can optionally use OCR to try to help name the files, e.g. figuring out the vendor and date for receipts. This works surprisingly well, although it’s slow even for tiny documents on an M1 Mac. The scanner will pause for a few seconds before it lets me start scanning the next document. Maybe this limited subset of the OCR functionality runs on the scanner itself?

TWAIN support is still missing. I also wish that it could preview the scan on the device’s own display, since, as mentioned, I don’t have the scanner set up next to the Mac. If previews are not a concern, you can avoid installing the Mac software entirely and just have it save the scans to an SMB share on your Mac.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Previously:

Mac UPS Software

Howard Oakley:

The commonest error in deciding whether to use a UPS is the argument that, because your Mac isn’t left on 24/7, it’s always attended, so should anything go wrong with the power, you’ll be able to deal with it. Even if you’re sat at your Mac, with instant reactions, there’s no way that it can shut down in time to protect it. Whether you use your Mac for half an hour a day or only power it off once a year for cleaning, it still needs a UPS.

Next in the reasons we persuade ourselves to believe is that UPSes are expensive. Yes, many are, but the more expensive ones are designed to keep things like power-hungry servers running for an hour or more. Most Macs are well-protected if the UPS keeps them going long enough to allow an orderly shutdown, a minute or two at most. It’s far better for a Mac to be given that chance than to have no UPS at all.

[…]

Sadly, few manufacturers bother to provide software that supports Macs. CyberPower is one of those few, and although its bundled software looks oddly blurry, it has valuable features that go well beyond the basics reported by Energy Saver settings.

My Tripp Lite UPS continues to work well, but the Energy Saver integration broke with macOS Catalina, and as far as I know it was never fixed.

Howard Oakley:

If you use a wireless keyboard, mouse or trackpad, or have a UPS connected to your Mac, you might wonder how often macOS checks their charge and functional status. The answer is often, typically every 2-5 seconds. You can follow those checks in the log by listing entries for the subsystem com.apple.BatteryCenter.

Howard Oakley:

Unless your Mac has a Battery widget installed, perhaps on its Desktop, Battery Center entries don’t appear in its log. When you do add a Battery widget to the Desktop, though, checks are made every few seconds, and their results written to the log, and those continue even after removing the widget, at least until the next time that Mac is shut down or restarted.

Third-party software isn’t supposed to access private services like Battery Center, so creating an independent utility to perform similar functions would have to capture its own data. However, given access to the log, it’s possible to read Battery Center’s entries there instead.

[…]

This initial version [of Unhidden] does one job: each time you open a new window in the app, it displays the most recent results obtained by Battery Center, across all the devices that it checks.

Previously:

App Intents Dogfooding

Matthew Cassinelli:

Overall, seeing updates to these Reminders actions is a good sign for the Shortcuts ecosystem, as it’s the first signal that Apple is updating their native Shortcuts actions with App Intents-based replacements in iOS 18.

Since the inception of many of these actions in Workflow when Shortcuts was a third-party app, many actions have been built on longstanding external-facing developer APIs (hence actions like “Get Upcoming Reminders”) and then later custom intents from within teams at Apple – they either stayed the same as the Workflow actions, or got piece-by-piece updates for new features each year like Tags in Reminders.

However, as is the nature of intents development, Apple also has tried not to break anything or remove features that are being used in existing shortcuts – but rather than deprecating actions over time, they either have been updated-in-place, added as separate actions (like “Open Smart List”), or simply not implemented in Shortcuts at all.

Now, it appears that we’re seeing the first evidence of an Apple team seeding new actions in betas, hopefully testing and iterating on them, and then likely replacing the Workflow- and custom intents-era actions with modern App Intents actions that can be extended with new features more easily and updated going forward.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

USPS Metadata Surveillance Program

Tim Cushing:

The USPS wasn’t filing its required paperwork tracking government requests for snail mail info. The USPS rarely rejected another government agency’s demand for mail metadata. And the problems weren’t minute. The forms detailing compliance with government demands for data often weren’t being filed until more than two years after those reports were due.

[…]

It wasn’t until 2023 that Congress made a move to shut the program down — citing not only some concerning privacy violations but the lack of evidence showing easy access to weeks or months of mail snapshots was essential to law enforcement investigations. Roughly a year later, that request from Congress has gone nowhere.

[…]

The USPS (quite reasonably) points out there’s no expectation of privacy in the information contained on the outside of mail. And that’s an understandable position to take… to a certain extent. But no postal worker on their own could compile this information on their own despite having access to this information. And even if they could, it could not be obtained in bulk after the fact because the USPS and its employees would need to know what mail to track beforehand to generate these records.

Previously:

The Unofficial Apple AI Weblog

TUAW:

The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) has been a cornerstone of Apple-related journalism since its establishment on December 5, 2004. Acquired by Web Orange Limited from Yahoo IP Holdings LLC in 2024 without its original content, our mission has been rejuvenated to continue providing Apple enthusiasts and tech professionals with authoritative and engaging content. We strive to serve as a comprehensive resource for news, credible rumors, and instructional content that spans the Apple ecosystem and beyond.

Karissa Bell:

The sale, notably, did not include the TUAW archive. But, it seems that Web Orange Limited found a convenient (if legally dubious) way around that.

They scraped archive.org.

Christina Warren:

So someone bought the old TUAW domain name. TUAW was a site that I worked at in college, that has been dead for a decade and that I stopped working for 15 years ago. But now my name is bylined on 1500+ articles alongside an AI-generated photo. Revive the old brand. Fine. But leave my name off of it!

Jason Snell:

They’ve re-used the names of key historic contributors, but generated new bios and photos(!) and claim that new stories are written by these historic contributors.

[…]

After coverage here and elsewhere, the site has changed all the names of real people to fake people. Same bios, same photos, but now fake names. This doesn’t stop the new TUAW from being an AI-generated garbage farm, but at least my friends’ names aren’t attached to the garbage anymore.

Eric Schwarz:

It’s like what happened with iPodlounge/iLounge…cashing in on the name, but just crap regurgitated content.

Previously:

Calling AI a Bubble

Ron Miller (via Hacker News):

[Rodney Brooks] knows what he’s talking about, and he thinks maybe it’s time to put the brakes on the screaming hype that is generative AI. Brooks thinks it’s impressive technology, but maybe not quite as capable as many are suggesting. “I’m not saying LLMs are not important, but we have to be careful [with] how we evaluate them,” he told TechCrunch.

He says the trouble with generative AI is that, while it’s perfectly capable of performing a certain set of tasks, it can’t do everything a human can, and humans tend to overestimate its capabilities. “When a human sees an AI system perform a task, they immediately generalize it to things that are similar and make an estimate of the competence of the AI system; not just the performance on that, but the competence around that,” Brooks said. “And they’re usually very over-optimistic, and that’s because they use a model of a person’s performance on a task.”

He added that the problem is that generative AI is not human or even human-like, and it’s flawed to try and assign human capabilities to it. He says people see it as so capable they even want to use it for applications that don’t make sense.

M.G. Siegler:

Seemingly every investor I talk to these days is struggling with the same basic thing: they believe AI is going to be one of the most transformative technologies of the past several decades – and perhaps ever – but they have almost no idea how to invest in the space. And yet they are investing in the space. At a pace that puts the crypto boom to shame. Because, well, that’s the job.

Katie Balevic (via Hacker News):

Tech companies are spending big on the AI craze, but it will be a while before they have much — if anything — to show for it.

As companies prepare to spend over $1 trillion on artificial intelligence, a Goldman Sachs report examined the big question at hand: “Will this large spend ever pay off?”

That sizable investment will go toward the data centers needed to run AI, the power grid, and AI chips. But shortages of those AI ingredients could lead to disappointing returns for companies.

The report is here.

Edward Zitron:

The report covers AI’s productivity benefits (which Goldman remarks are likely limited), AI’s returns (which are likely to be significantly more limited than anticipated), and AI’s power demands (which are likely so significant that utility companies will have to spend nearly 40% more in the next three years to keep up with the demand from hyperscalers like Google and Microsoft).

[…]

The report includes an interview with economist Daron Acemoglu of MIT (page 4), an Institute Professor who published a paper back in May called “The Simple Macroeconomics of AI” that argued that “the upside to US productivity and, consequently, GDP growth from generative AI will likely prove much more limited than many forecasters expect.” A month has only made Acemoglu more pessimistic, declaring that “truly transformative changes won’t happen quickly and few – if any – will likely occur within the next 10 years,” and that generative AI’s ability to affect global productivity is low because “many of the tasks that humans currently perform…are multi-faceted and require real-world interaction, which AI won’t be able to materially improve anytime soon.”

Dare Obasanjo:

This is a great article from Sequoia which argues the tech industry needs $600B in AI revenue to justify the money spent on GPUs and data centers.

OpenAI is the biggest AI pure play and is at $3.4B ARR. This feels like a bubble unless products worth buying show up.

There is no doubt that there will be a lot of money made from AI. The question is whether it will be enough to support a $3T valuation for Nvidia?

Hemant Mohapatra (Thread Reader, via Hacker News):

So now that Nvidia has far outstripped the market cap of AMD and Intel, I thought this would be a fun story to tell. I spent 6+yrs @ AMD engg in mid to late 2000s helping design the CPU/APU/GPUs that we see today. Back then it was unimaginable for AMD to beat Intel in market-cap (we did in 2020!) and for Nvidia to beat both! In fact, AMD almost bought Nvidia but Jensen wasn’t ready to sell unless he replace Hector Ruiz of AMD as the CEO of the joint company. The world would have looked very different had that happened. Here’s the inside scoop of how & why AMD saw the GPU oppty, lost it, and then won it back in the backdrop of Nvidia’s far more insane trajectory, & lessons I still carry from those heady days[…]

Google Maps Is Killing Timeline for Web

Emma Roth:

Google Maps is changing the way it handles your location data. Instead of backing up your data to the cloud, Google will soon store it locally on your device.

In an email sent to users, Google says you have until December 1st to save all your travels to your mobile device before it starts deleting your old data. Timeline — previously known as Location History — is the feature that tracks your routes and trips based on your phone’s location, allowing you to revisit all the places you’ve been in the past.

But now, instead of tying all of this information to your Google account, the company will link it to the devices you use.

Mahmoud Itani (via Hacker News):

Through a dedicated button on the updated app, you’ll then be able to migrate your existing location history to the on-device database. If you take no action and miss the deadline, Google could purge some or all of your location history when it sunsets Timeline’s web access.

To help users retain their data in the long run, Google Maps has also introduced a new backup feature for Timeline. Users can rely on it to save encrypted copies of their location history on Google’s servers. They can then restore these backups in the Google Maps app when they switch to a new phone.

Pieter Arntz:

As I pointed out years ago, Location History allowed me to “spy” on my wife’s whereabouts without having to install anything on her phone. After some digging, I learned that my Google account was added to my wife’s phone’s accounts when I logged in on the Play Store on her phone. The extra account this created on her phone was not removed when I logged out after noticing the tracking issue.

That issue should be solved by implementing this new policy. (Let’s remember, though, that this is an issue that Google formerly considered a feature rather than a problem.)

Previously:

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

iOS 18: Vehicle Motion Cues

Tim Hardwick:

According to Apple, research shows that motion sickness is commonly caused by a sensory conflict between what a person sees and what they feel, which can prevent some users from comfortably using iPhone or iPad while riding in a moving vehicle.

Vehicle Motion Cues are designed to avoid this sensory conflict with the use of visual elements on the display that indicate real-time changes in motion.

[…]

If you turned on the feature, you should now see the motion cues – roving little dots – around the edges of your iPhone or iPad screen.

I wonder whether this also applies to the CarPlay display.

Previously:

CarPlay at WWDC24

Casper Kessels (April 2024, via Hacker News):

The first version of CarPlay has been available since 2016 and has been a major success. For car industry standards, it was adopted quickly and by almost every carmaker. But since then, the car industry has been changing while the design and functionality of CarPlay have mostly stayed the same.

With lower hardware cost and an increased focus on software, carmakers have invested more in their interiors to set themselves apart. Google jumped on this opportunity by releasing Android Automotive. Unlike Android Auto, Google’s equivalent to Apple CarPlay, Android Automotive runs natively inside the car and any carmaker is free to use it. Google monetizes it by licensing its ‘Google Automotive Services’ to carmakers. This gives carmakers access to Google’s services like Google Maps, Waze, the Play Store, and Google Assistant.

[…]

Thanks to a deep integration with the software stack of the vehicle, CarPlay 2 can control most infotainment functions. It can therefore take over the entire infotainment display, the instrument cluster, and any passenger displays. For customers, it will appear like CarPlay works exactly in the same way but underneath, a lot of custom work is necessary by the carmaker and Apple to integrate. For example, even though most of the computing power still comes from the iPhone, there will be some software engineering necessary on the carmakers’ hardware to ensure that safety-critical information like speed doesn’t disappear when the iPhone crashes.

Apple is fully dependent on the carmaker’s willingness to work with them to implement this. This is why the WWDC keynote was clearly a pitch aimed at carmakers, not consumers. But so far, on the surface, it seems like carmakers have not been eager to implement the new version.

Dave Mark (May 2024):

GM dumped CarPlay. This Bloomberg piece digs into the why and the what of it all.

Lots of great bits here, including what the “Ultifi” (GM’s CarPlay replacement) experience is like.

Spoiler: It’s not pretty.

The CarPlay vs Android Auto vs Android Automotive saga is incredibly important to Apple, and GM is on the front lines.

Malcolm Owen:

The entire situation was an attempt by GM to create its own software team to make a better dashboard experience than CarPlay. One that it could control directly, and potentially capitalize on instead of relying on Apple’s software.

Apple was a threat to become “the iOS of the vehicle,” said GM SVP of strategy and innovation Alan Wexler. “It’s a physical vehicle, but it’s an iPhone you’re driving.”

GM was fine with CarPlay offering entertainment, but balked at Apple’s intention to control more of a vehicle’s functions. Achieving that would mean Apple had more control over how GM could earn digital revenue from its customers.

I don’t want CarPlay taking over the vehicle’s functions any more than I want the vehicle blocking me from using my iPhone for maps and entertainment.

WWDC Session 10112:

Explore the design system at the heart of the next generation of CarPlay that allows each automaker to express their vehicle’s character and brand. Learn how gauges, layouts, dynamic content, and more are deeply customizable and adaptable, allowing you to express your own design philosophy and create an iconic, tailored look. This session is intended for automakers, system developers, and anyone designing a system that supports the next generation of CarPlay.

Khaos Tian:

This explains why next generation CarPlay is never going to happen 😛

No auto manufacturer is going to build their car UI twice just for iPhone…

And this shows why HI shouldn’t do car instrument cluster design 😅

Nilay Patel (Threads):

The result is an approach to CarPlay that’s much less “Apple runs your car” and much more “Apple built a design toolkit for automakers to use however they want.”

[…]

But if you want to integrate things like speedometers and climate controls, CarPlay needs to actually collect data from your car, display it in real time, and be able to control various features like HVAC directly. So, for next-gen CarPlay, Apple’s split things into what it calls “layers,” some of which run on your iPhone while others run locally on the car so they don’t break if your phone disconnects. And phone disconnects are going to be an issue because next-generation CarPlay only supports wireless connections. “The stability and performance of the wireless connection are essential,” Apple’s Tanya Kancheva says while talking about the next-gen architecture. Given that CarPlay connectivity issues are still the most common issue in new cars and wireless made it worse, that’s something Apple needs to keep an eye on.

[…]

Apple’s example here is a vision of multiple colliding interface ideas all at once: a button in CarPlay to control massage seats that can either show native CarPlay controls or simply drop you into the car’s own interface.

Joe Rosensteel (Mastodon):

The two 2024 videos are basically sales pitches and explainers for the vague 2022 announcement. A lot of extra work has happened in two years, but … will anything ever ship with what they keep teasing?

[…]

Ironically car makers are teased with a level of customization that has never appeared on an Apple product in this century, but it’s when working in conjunction with Apple designers, and you apparently have to use the San Francisco family of typefaces? Wild proposition.

[…]

Setting aside the highly polarizing topic of what should be a physical button, and what should be on a screen, there’s no reason to do all the screen work twice. Especially not if it adds to customer confusion over their vehicle controls when their phone isn’t connected to the vehicle.

[…]

In my humble opinion, Next-Gen CarPlay is dead on arrival. Too late, too complicated, and it doesn’t solve the needs of automakers or customers.

Joe Rossignol:

iOS 18 adds contact photos next to names in the Messages app, making it easier to identify conversations at a glance.

[…]

In the Settings app, you can now choose to have Silent mode on your iPhone automatically turn on or off when the device is connected to CarPlay.

[…]

Voice Control is another new accessibility feature that allows you to control CarPlay entirely with Siri voice commands through a connected iPhone.

But will it be able to display the full title of the song that’s playing?

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Previously:

Mac App Impersonation

Jérôme Segura (via Ric Ford):

On June 24, we observed a new campaign distributing a stealer targeting Mac users via malicious Google ads for the Arc browser. This is the second time in the past couple of months where we see Arc being used as a lure, certainly a sign of its popularity. It was previously used to drop a Windows RAT, also via Google ads.

The macOS stealer being dropped in this latest campaign is actively being developed as an Atomic Stealer competitor, with a large part of its code base being the same as its predecessor. Malwarebytes was previously tracking this payload as OSX.RodStealer, in reference to its author, Rodrigo4. The threat actor rebranded the new project ‘Poseidon’ and added a few new features such as looting VPN configurations.

Kseniia Yamburh (via Ric Ford):

As malware researchers in Moonlock, the cybersecurity division of MacPaw, we are always on the lookout for new samples to analyze and protect our users from. One day, we came across a sample with the name CleanMyMac, which caught our attention. However, this sample was not the genuine CleanMyMac, but a malicious impersonation.

We decided to investigate this campaign further and uncovered many more samples with different malware inside, such as Atomic Stealer, PSW Stealer, and AdLoad Adware. These malware can steal users’ passwords and personal data and display unwanted ads on their Macs.

Howard Oakley:

There is a problem common to all products that try to detect malicious software, in false positives. Over the 20 months or so since XProtect Remediator went live, several of its scanning modules have reported what appear to be false positives.

[…]

To our disappointment, Apple Support didn’t appear concerned, and told them that such events don’t get reported to the user unless there’s something that the user needs to do. They were then pointed at a discussion on Apple Support Communities, where the “Best reply” may be familiar to some of you.

[…]

This immediately reveals that the respondent is unable to draw the distinction between ‘classic’ XProtect, the part of Gatekeeper that performs checks on executable code before it’s run, and the newer XProtect Remediator, which scans for telltale signs of malicious software when your Mac isn’t in use.

Previously:

Stack Overflow Links Pushing Malware

Lawrence Abrams (via Hacker News):

Cybercriminals are abusing Stack Overflow in an interesting approach to spreading malware—answering users’ questions by promoting a malicious PyPi package that installs Windows information-stealing malware.

[…]

This PyPi package is named ‘pytoileur’ and was uploaded by threat actors to the PyPi repository over the weekend, claiming it was an API management tool. Notice how the package has the “Cool package” string in the Summary metadata field, indicating it is part of this ongoing campaign.

Previously:

Monday, July 8, 2024

Apple Intelligence for Siri in Spring 2025

William Gallagher:

While many Apple Intelligence features will roll out with iOS 18 during the remainder of 2024, its much-awaited revamp of Siri will wait until iOS 18.4 in 2025.

[…]

Before then, there will be a new design to Siri. That will presumably include how Apple has shown that invoking Siri will bring a flare around the edges of the iPhone screen, instead of the current circle icon.

This is a rumor, but, if true, it’s the first time I can recall a key part of the WWDC announcements being so quickly pushed so far back in the release cycle.

It’s also interesting that the new engine is not tied to the new user interface.

Hartley Charlton:

The more capable version of Siri allows the voice assistant to control actions within Apps, allowing it to understand what is currently on-screen and determine what to do based on context.

That all sounds good, but when are they going to fix the basics?

Previously:

Update (2024-07-09): John Gruber:

If the usual pattern holds, it’s a safe guess that iOS 18.4 will arrive in mid-to-late March.

If generative AI weren’t seen as essential — both in terms of consumer marketing and investor confidence — I think much, if not most, of what Apple unveiled in “Apple Intelligence” wouldn’t even have been announced until next year’s WWDC[…]

Ivory 2.0

Niléane:

Now, in the app’s redesigned Hashtags tab, you can create a list that contains up to four hashtags, and you can even exclude specific hashtags if you’re looking to fine-tune the resulting timeline.

[…]

The other big improvement in Ivory 2.0 is its redesigned share sheet extension for creating posts. It is now fully-featured, with the ability to set the post’s visibility and language, as well as an option to add alternative text descriptions to shared images and videos. When sharing a URL, the share sheet will now show a preview of the link card that will appear as part of your post.

With no way to turn off Universal Links, I still can’t use the Mac version because whenever I work on a document that includes a Mastodon link it will open in Ivory instead of in my browser.

Previously:

Signal for Mac’s “Encrypted” Database

Signal:

Storing messages outside of your active Signal device is not supported.

Messages are only stored locally.

An iTunes or iCloud backup does not contain any of your Signal message history.

This makes it private on iOS because other apps can’t access the message database. But the same design doesn’t work so well with the Mac version.

Mysk:

This is the folder structure of Signal’s local data on macOS. The encrypted database and encryption key are stored next to each other. The folder is accessible to any app running on the Mac.

Why didn’t they store the encryption key in the keychain?

Mysk:

The encryption key used to encrypt the local DB that contains all the secrets and chat history is stored in plain text in a location accessible by any app, process or script started by the Mac user.

It’s very tempting to use Signal’s desktop app. This is particularly useful for activists who can be more productive using a desktop than a mobile phone. Signal doesn’t make it clear that linking a desktop app can render Signal’s “gold standard” for encryption useless.

This seems like a much bigger deal than last week’s ChatGPT story.

Mysk:

I wrote a simple Python script that copies the directory of Signal’s local storage to another location (to mimic a malicious script or app)

[…]

Messages were either delivered to the Mac or to the VM. The iPhone received all messages. All of the three sessions were live and valid. Signal didn’t warn me of the existence of the third session [that I cloned]. Moreover, Signal on the iPhone still shows one linked device. This is particularly dangerous because any malicious script can do the same to seize a session.

Saagar Jha:

I think a lot of people have recently learned something that horrifies them. I do not fault them for that in the slightest. I just also want them to share my terror of this being standard best practice in the industry.

Previously:

Update (2024-07-09): Lawrence Abrams:

A mistake in the process used by the Signal Desktop application to encrypt locally stored messages leaves them wide open to an attacker.

He wrote this in 2018, and there are forum posts older than that referencing the issue. Curiously, a Signal developer offers the explanation that even though they are using an encrypted extension to SQLite and configured it to encrypt the database with a password, it was not their intention to protect the database with encryption:

The database key was never intended to be a secret. At-rest encryption is not something that Signal Desktop is currently trying to provide or has ever claimed to provide. Full-disk encryption can be enabled at the OS level on most desktop platforms.

I don’t understand what the reason was, then. And full-disk encryption is a solution to a different problem; it does not protect the data from other processes on the system.

Matt Henderson:

This is shocking for anyone considering Signal the gold standard in security.

Epic Games Store Temporarily Allowed

Epic Games:

Apple has informed us that our previously rejected Epic Games Store notarization submission has now been accepted.

Eric Slivka (Hacker News):

Apple today said it has approved the third-party Epic Games Store in the European Union, allowing the Fortnite developer to launch its alternative app marketplace in those countries, reports Reuters.

Is running to the EU the new running to the press?

Tim Sweeney:

Now about those 9 to 16 day TestFlight app approval delays…

App Review Guidelines:

5.2.5 Apple Products: Don’t create an app that appears confusingly similar to an existing Apple product, interface (e.g. Finder), app (such as the App Store, iTunes Store, or Messages) or advertising theme.

Malcolm Owen:

Epic had defended itself, insisting it used the same naming conventions employed across different platforms. Epic also said it followed standard conventions for buttons in iOS apps.

Tim Sweeney:

Apple is now telling reporters that this approval is temporary and are demanding we change the buttons in the next version - which would make our store less standard and harder to use.

We’ll fight this.

Matthew Connatser:

If Epic is representing Apple’s position accurately, this would be a very strange reason to reject a third-party storefront. It’s unclear why Epic needs to use significantly different language than is used in the App Store, not to mention that the online souk is just one of many storefronts in the digital world where the words “install” and “in-app purchases” are used.

Is Apple’s position that it’s “confusingly similar” if it says “Epic Games Store” in large friendly letters but the buttons have the same titles and colors as in the App Store? Or are they complaining about specific pixels in the design? If so, are Epic’s buttons on other platforms copyright infringements of the App Store?

Nick Heer:

As far as I know, there are no screenshots of the version of Epic Games’ store submitted to Apple. Maybe it is designed in a way that duplicates Apple’s App Store to the point where it is confusing, as Apple argues. […] Regardless, it seems like a bad idea for Apple to be using its moderate control over alternative app stores are distributed to litigate intellectual property disputes. Perhaps when trust in the company’s processes is healthier, it would be less objectionable. But right now? If Apple wants to give competition investigators more material, it appears to be succeeding.

John Gruber (Mastodon):

Epic is certainly under no obligation to reveal screenshots of its in-progress iOS games marketplace, but without screenshots, there’s also no reason for anyone to take their own description of the notarization dispute with Apple at face value. Epic Games is an unreliable narrator.

Well, the screenshots were submitted to the EU, and it would look really bad if Epic were found to be lying about this, so what would be the point? My recollection is that Epic has been accurate in its descriptions of its disputes with Apple, whereas Apple has a history of making misleading statements about Epic. Gruber started calling Epic an “unreliable narrator” after Epic claimed that Apple was going to punish its customers who had used “Sign In with Apple.” However, documents from court filings later showed that his sources were wrong and Epic’s version of story and timeline were correct.

Previously:

Friday, July 5, 2024

Dynamic Type on the Web

Craig Hockenberry:

This site now supports Dynamic Type on iOS and iPadOS. If you go to System Settings on your iPhone or iPad, and change the setting for Display & Brightness > Text Size, you’ll see the change reflected on this website.

This is a big win for accessibility: many folks make this adjustment on their device to match their abilities. Just because you can read a tiny font doesn’t mean that I can. It also is a win for consistency: my site’s font size matches the other text that a visitor sees on their device.

The best part is that this improvement can be realized with only a few lines of CSS:

html {
  font-size: 0.9em;
  font: -apple-system-body;
  font-family: "Avenir Next", "Helvetica Neue", sans-serif;
}

Note that his site gets the system sizing but does not have to use the system font.

Previously:

Update (2024-07-08): Jeff Johnson:

The text is kind of small on the Mac.

Craig Hockenberry:

That’s macOS setting a default value that’s too small. (And I cover some mitigation in the post.)

Craig Hockenberry:

I’d like it to be higher. But doing so punishes people on mobile devices who aren’t using Safari. This is what it looks like on Android.

I’m not holding out on this being a standard outside the Apple ecosystem because AFAIK there isn’t a notion of Dynamic Type on other platforms.

The failing here is Apple not implementing it on all of their platforms.

Sequoia Removes Gatekeeper Contextual Menu Override

Jason Snell:

Here’s a thing I noticed today. macOS Sequoia changes how non-notarized apps are handled on first launch. I couldn’t override by doing the control-click > Open > yes really Open dance. Instead, I had to go to the Settings app, to the Security screen, and click there to allow it to open. At which point it asked me AGAIN if I wanted to open it, and then had to put in my password!

I get the impulse about making it harder to socially engineer bad apps from opening, but… this is ridiculous.

Apparently, after the first time of going through System Settings, you can just use the contextual menu like before. But who’s going to figure this out on their own? It’s another take on security through obscurity.

With Mac notarization increasingly difficult to bypass, it becomes even more important that Apple not add a human element to it, like with iOS, where it could be weaponized to “review” apps that aren’t in the Mac App Store.

Meanwhile, the more pressing concern for me is that a significant number of my customers continue to encounter the Gatekeeper bug where it refuses to launch (notarized!) apps because it incorrectly reports them as damaged. The Control-click bypass never worked in this case. I don’t know how to reproduce the bug except that it seems to be related to downloading a new version of an app that had previously been installed.

Jeff Johnson:

Apple keeps twisting the screw to lock down the Mac.

Previously:

Update (2024-07-08): See also: Hacker News.

Epic Games Store Blocked via Notarization

Ben Lovejoy (Slashdot):

Epic Games has accused Apple of deliberately delaying its attempt to launch its own iOS games store in Europe, and has filed a further antitrust complaint with the EU.

Epic Games:

Apple has rejected our Epic Games Store notarization submission twice now, claiming the design and position of Epic’s “Install” button is too similar to Apple’s “Get” button and that our “In-app purchases” label is too similar to the App Store’s “In-App Purchases” label.

We are using the same “Install” and “In-app purchases” naming conventions that are used across popular app stores on multiple platforms, and are following standard conventions for buttons in iOS apps. We’re just trying to build a store that mobile users can easily understand, and the disclosure of in-app purchases is a regulatory best practice followed by all stores nowadays.

Apple’s rejection is arbitrary, obstructive, and in violation of the DMA, and we’ve shared our concerns with the European Commission.

Tim Sweeney:

Epic had supported notarization during Epic v Apple on the basis that Mac’s mandatory malware scanning could add value to iOS. Now it’s disheartening to see Apple twist its once-honest notarization process into another vector to manipulate and thwart competition.

[…]

Gatekeeper review of apps cannot possibly stand under the DMA when they misuse this power to delay competitors, dictate confusing or non-standard user interface designs to competitors, sherlock competitors by sharing pre-release app details with executives and internal teams competing with the app, and introduce potentially many-year delays to fair competition during appeals.

Tim Sweeney:

I can share that, at the top of the Epic Games Store screen that Apple rejected, is a big Epic Games Store logo displaying the text “Epic Games Store”.

Apple says users may confuse this screen with their App Store, whose screens don’t prominently identify itself through the App Store trademark or its logo as our store does.

Ernesto Monasterio:

While I might not agree with everything the EU is asking from Apple, the fact that they’re using notarization as a de facto review process burns all the goodwill I might have towards the folks at Cupertino.

Jeff Johnson:

Funny how Apple will follow the law in Russia and China but flout the law in the EU. Censorship? Fine, great! Sideloading? Hell no!

Previously:

Apple Removes VPN Apps From Russian App Store

William Gallagher (Mastodon):

Apple’s App Store team has been notifying VPN developers that their apps are being removed “per demand from Roskomnadzor.” This the state media watchdog that previously forced both Apple and Google to remove a political app backed by the leader of the country’s opposition.

According to the Moscow Times, the Roskomnadzor regulator based its demand on how the apps include “content that is illegal in Russia.” It also reports that this demand to remove mobile apps follows the regulator’s increasing blocking of VPN services.

Francisco Tolmasky:

Just like when Apple got rid of the HKlive app during the Hong Kong protests. Imagine if there was a way to install apps not through the AppStore. That way the AppStore couldn’t be exploited as a censorship tool by governments. But then Apple might not make every possible cent off the iPhone, so probably not worth it. It’s crazy that Apple is probably happier with Russia’s actions towards the AppStore than Europe’s. No public fit. No press release. Just quiet compliance.

I am seeing some pushback in the form of “What is Apple supposed to do? That’s the law in Russia!” This is a bizarre post-2007 mentality. No one asked “How is Microsoft going to stop Limewire?!” No one thought it was Microsoft’s responsibility to single-handedly defeat piracy. Apple went out of their way to make themselves the sole gatekeeper, thus making themselves a target for manipulation.

Miguel Arroz:

The problem is not Apple complying with foreign laws. They have to, and although that is not true here, in most instances it’s a good thing (I don’t want American companies bullying through European or Canadian laws, for example).

The problem is Apple building platforms that prevent users from violating the law if they so wish. And from the moment authoritarian governments know such a thing is possible, they will leverage it and eventually require it.

Francisco Tolmasky:

It is much harder to write a law requiring an existing open platform become closed. Russia could have theoretically mandated that Microsoft write a new version of Win95 that used a certificate system so apps could only be acquired through a new mandated app store, but… that’s kind of a stretch (and would require considerable imagination). Instead, Apple on their own created a button that can be used for censorship, allowing a gov to simply have to ask to press it.

One way to look at it is that Apple has created a situation where the path of least resistance, the easiest thing for them to do, is to just comply with whatever censorship request is asked of them. That is never a good thing. It’s similar to the argument for end-to-end encryption: you create a situation where it is incredibly difficult (impossible) to comply with a government request, because it is too dangerous to just leave it up to whether can effectively “challenge” the request.

Apple understands this with private messaging. They can do right by their customers and avoid getting involved in these political matters. It’s a win-win, but perhaps that’s only possible because iMessage is a loss leader. End-to-end encryption makes iPhones better, so Apple sells more hardware. But with the App Store and the services strategy, the incentives are not so aligned. There could be a nice decentralized system for getting software, as with the Mac and the Web. But the temptation is too great to mandate that all the roads converge on a single choke point so that they can put a tollbooth on it.

Luke Dormehl:

The apparent trouble with Russia’s secret police and spy agency came up in Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Jobs. Isaacson wrote that Jobs “insisted on talking about” Trotsky, the Bolshevik leader exiled as an “enemy of the people.” Trotsky was later assassinated in Mexico under the orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

“You don’t want to talk about Trotsky,” a KGB agent allegedly told Jobs. “Our historians have studied the situation, and we don’t believe he’s a great man anymore.”

Jobs ignored this advice, according to Isaacson. “When they got to the state university in Moscow to speak to computer students, Jobs began his speech by praising Trotsky,” he wrote.

Previously:

Update (2024-07-08): Matthew Connatser:

“We also know that Google has received similar requests from the Russian regulatory agency and has even notified some proxy services that they might face removal,” Roskomsvoboda claims. “However, it has not taken any action so far.”

Roskomsvoboda believes eight VPN apps are no longer available on the Russian App Store, including popular ones such as NordVPN, Proton, and Private Internet Access.

DOJ Investigating Apple-Google Default Search Engine Deal

Hartley Charlton:

Apple’s deal with Google that makes it the default engine on Safari faces uncertainty as the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit looms, The Information reports.

Chance Miller:

Google pays Apple upwards of $20 billion per year to retain that default status, something the Justice Department says hinders competition in the search engine industry. Notably, Apple is not named as a party in the lawsuit, but the case has led to testimonies from Apple executives such as Eddy Cue.

It seems to me that that the built-in choices of search engines and the inability for users to add custom ones are much bigger deals than which one is the default.

Previously:

Bruce Bastian, RIP

Thomas Claburn:

Bastian helped create the word processing application that became WordPerfect while still a graduate student at Brigham Young University, working with Alan Ashton, his computer science professor.

They formed Satellite Software International (SSI) in 1979 and released an initial version of the software in March 1980 under the name SSI*WP for the Data General minicomputer. It cost $5,500 at the time, according to W. E. Pete Peterson, who wrote a history of the WordPerfect Corporation in the book Almost Perfect.

[…]

Microsoft Windows also debuted in 1985 and its rapid adoption in the years that followed meant WordPerfect had to compete on a new platform. By July 1991, WordPerfect’s share had started to slip and within a few years, Windows and Word had taken over.

[…]

As The Washington Post noted at the time, WordPerfect lost significant market share during the first half of the 1990s due to Microsoft’s strategy of bundling its Word application with other office software and selling them as a suite of applications.

There was a period in the mid-90s when WordPerfect was my favorite Mac word processor. It was not particularly Mac-like; it just worked really well. At the time, one of my issues with Microsoft Word was that the formatting would get all screwed up, and it was really hard to debug it. You couldn’t see which styling and spacing commands were attached to which bits of text. Most of the time, the problem was within a run of whitespace, so everything was invisible and it wasn’t clear where to click. Sometimes you’d have to just delete the whole section and start over. WordPerfect had a mode where you could show all the formatting codes. You could see—and edit—them like pseudo–HTML tags mixed in with the text. This made it easy to see exactly where to put the insertion point. You could even put it between “tags” and start typing to separate two regions that would seem glued together when Reveal Codes was off.

Michael S. Rosenwald:

Highly customizable, with a free customer support line, WordPerfect emerged from a crowded market of upstart word processors as the go-to choice of new personal computer users. (Among its fans was Philip Roth, who used it until he retired in 2012, long after the program was supplanted in popularity by Microsoft Word.)

Curtis Booker (via Hacker News):

Bastian stepped down from his role as chairman of WordPerfect in 1994 and the company was sold to Novell a short time later.

Bastian would go on to focus his time on charitable causes and philanthropy. In 1997, he started the B.W. Bastian Foundation, whose commitment is to only support organizations that fully embrace equality.

Previously:

Thursday, July 4, 2024

ChatGPT Privacy and Mac Sandbox Containers

Tim Hardwick:

OpenAI has issued an update to its ChatGPT app for Mac, after a developer discovered the app was locally storing users’ conversations with the chatbot in plain text.

Pedro José Pereira Vieito told The Verge’s Jay Peters: “I was curious about why OpenAI opted out of using the app sandbox protections and ended up checking where they stored the app data.”

It’s not clear why ChatGPT isn’t sandboxed. It could be that they just chose not to or that it’s relying on an API or functionality that doesn’t work in the sandbox.

As the developer of several non-sandboxed apps, it seems like the right thing to do is to make every app sandboxed, potentially with some extra entitlements that wouldn’t be allowed in the Mac App Store. In other words, run with only the permissions that the app actually needs. However, I have not seen much written about how to accomplish this sort of migration. It’s not always clear what private entitlements are needed or whether they even exist. What will break after migrating the app’s files into a container? What if the customer wants to go back to the previous version of the app? What if something changes in macOS or the sandbox such that the extra entitlements no longer do the job? Until recently, there have been a lot of potential headaches for little apparent benefit (protection against bugs in your app causing damage outside its container to files that it wasn’t intentionally given access to).

Nick Heer:

Virtually all media coverage — including Peters’ article — has focused on the “plain text” aspect. Surely, though, the real privacy and security risk identified in the ChatGPT app — such that there is any risk — was in storing its data outside the app’s sandbox in an unprotected location. This decision made it possible for apps without any special access privileges to read its data without throwing up a permissions dialog.

I’ve seen lots of quoting of Vieito’s statement that macOS 10.14 and later have blocked access to private user data, which I interpreted as saying that there are longstanding protections that ChatGPT should have taken advantage of. However, these protections only applied to certain built-in apps from Apple. With macOS Sonoma, Apple announced that macOS would prompt the user when accessing files inside another app’s container. Thus, while, historically, sandboxing app A would only restrict what A could do, now making A sandboxed could also protect it from app B (whether or not B is sandboxed). macOS Sequoia expands this protection to group containers.

I don’t think I ever saw one of these prompts, so I figured that Apple had at some point backtracked. And, after seeing the above discussion, I wrote a quick test app that accessed files in lots of sandboxed apps’ containers—without generating any prompts. Where’s the protection? The answer seems to be that only containers of newly installed apps are protected from other apps. If you had first installed the app prior to updating to Sonoma, other apps can access its data, same as always. But, with ChatGPT being a new app that requires macOS Sonoma, sandboxing would have offered the protections, such as they are, to everyone.

Miguel Arroz:

Mostly everything stores your data in plain text on your Mac. Data is protected via full disk encryption from anyone who steals your Mac, but not from other apps.

[…]

Everyone seems happy the latest update encrypts stored chats. Haven’t seen anyone asking the obvious, where’s the key? If the key is randomly generated and stored on the Mac’s keychain, I have bad news for you.

Jeff Johnson:

This seems like much ado about nothing. Very little app data on Mac is encrypted on disk at runtime.

Sandboxed apps (e.g., from Mac App Store) can’t access the data anyway. And if you’ve installed a non-sandboxed malware app on your Mac, then frankly you’re screwed no matter what. Non-sandboxed apps can get you in a million different ways. There’s no reliable protection. Be careful of what you install. Plus there are approximately infinity TCC privilege escalation bugs.

And, I think it’s rather easy for sandboxed apps to trick users into granting access that they didn’t intend.

Drew McCormack:

I think the local data storage is the least of your worries with these companies. All that data has to go to the cloud too. That is a much bigger risk IMO.

Joshua Nozzi:

I still don’t see the scandal specific to ChatGPT.

I don’t either. People should be more worried about their Chrome history, for example.

Previously:

Longstanding CocoaPods Vulnerabities

Brandon Vigliarolo:

CocoaPods, an open-source dependency manager used in over three million applications coded in Swift and Objective-C, left thousands of packages exposed and ready for takeover for nearly a decade – thereby creating opportunities for supply chain attacks on iOS and macOS apps, according to security researchers.

[…]

As noted above, the CocoaPods team has patched the issues – and appeared to do so months ago – though specifics weren’t widely known until EVA published its research today.

None of my apps use CocoaPods (or other package managers).

Reef Spektor and Eran Vaknin:

A 2014 migration process left thousands of orphaned packages (where the original owner is unknown), many of which are still widely used in other libraries. Using a public API and an email address that was available in the CocoaPods source code, an attacker could claim ownership over any of these packages, which would then allow the attacker to replace the original source code with their own malicious code.

An insecure email verification workflow could be exploited to run arbitrary code on the CocoaPods ‘Trunk’ server (manages the distribution and metadata of Podspecs), which would allow an attacker to manipulate or replace the packages being downloaded.

By spoofing an HTTP header and taking advantage of misconfigured email security tools, attackers could execute a zero-click attack that grants them access to a developer’s account verification token. This would allow attackers to change packages on the CocoaPods server and result in supply chain and zero day attacks.

Previously:

AirPods Fast Connect Vulnerability

Jonas Dreßler (via Hacker News):

There’s a security vulnerability (CVE-2024-27867) in the firmware of Apple AirPods. Anyone who knows the Bluetooth MAC address (which is somewhat public) can connect to your AirPods and listen to the microphone or play music.

[…]

Fast Connect is a proprietary and US-patented protocol by Apple that creatively uses the “ping” feature of the Bluetooth specification. Its main purpose seems to be reducing the time it takes to establish a connection between two Apple devices from roughly 1 second down to about 0.5 seconds.

[…]

Turns out that Apple (most likely) forgot to do some checks in the separate code paths that implement Fast Connect. Some very important ones: The AirPods forget to check the security level of the connection, i.e. “did the other side actually authenticate itself and turn on encryption?”

So anyone can connect to your AirPods and use the microphone to record your local environment, as well as engage in more creative mischief. This is fixed in a firmware update, but if your AirPods only connect to non-Apple devices you would need to go to an Apple Store to update the firmware.

Chrome’s Entrust Certificate Distrust

Chrome Security Team (via Jeff Johnson, Hacker News):

Over the past six years, we have observed a pattern of compliance failures, unmet improvement commitments, and the absence of tangible, measurable progress in response to publicly disclosed incident reports. When these factors are considered in aggregate and considered against the inherent risk each publicly-trusted CA poses to the Internet ecosystem, it is our opinion that Chrome’s continued trust in Entrust is no longer justified.

[…]

Blocking action will begin on approximately November 1, 2024, affecting certificates issued at that point or later.

Blocking action will occur in Versions of Chrome 127 and greater on Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, Android, and Linux. Apple policies prevent the Chrome Certificate Verifier and corresponding Chrome Root Store from being used on Chrome for iOS.

[…]

We recommend that affected website operators transition to a new publicly-trusted CA Owner as soon as reasonably possible.

Previously:

Translation API in iOS 18 and macOS Sequoia

Joe Rossignol:

In a WWDC 2024 coding video last week, Apple highlighted a recently-introduced API that allows developers to offer built-in Translate app capabilities in their own apps on iOS 17.4, iPadOS 17.4, macOS Sonoma, and later.

Apple:

Discover how you can translate text across different languages in your app using the new Translation framework. We’ll show you how to quickly display translations in the system UI, and how to translate larger batches of text for your app’s UI.

Sequoia still doesn’t bring the Translate app to the Mac, so I’m hoping someone will use this to make a standalone app so that I don’t need to read translations within a tiny popover.

Kyle Howells:

The new Translation API is such a massive disappointment.

It’s a purely SwiftUI API.

Even the programatic API to get back Strings from Strings (no UI) requires you to get a session object via SwiftUI to do so.

[…]

Really hope this isn’t a pattern Apple is going to use going forward in the future.

TranslationSession:

You don’t instantiate this class directly. Instead, you obtain an instance of it by adding a translationTask(_:action:) or translationTask(source:target:action:) function to the SwiftUI view containing the content you want to translate, such as a Text view. When you do, the function passes you an instance of a translation session in its action closure which triggers as soon as the view appears. After you receive this instance, use one of the translate functions to translate one or more strings of text.

Kyle Howells:

I wonder if these sort of horrible API designs are a consequence of Apple building features with SwiftUI natively now?

UIKit allows UI to be presented fairly freely from around your code, due to the view controller hierarchy being easily accessed.

SwiftUI needs an element anchored to a View to do anything.

If that’s true, eventually virtually all APIs will need to be invoked via a method on View and I’m going to really hate the next few years of Apple API releases.

Previously:

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Deleting Messages Attachments Everywhere

Ryan Jones:

Deleting any iMessage media from your device storage (i.e. Mac or iPhone) also deletes it from the cloud forever.

Even when:

  • Messages in the Cloud is On
  • Keep Messages is Forever
  • You’re in local storage management

Apple you gotta clarify these message boxes big time!

The other parts of System Settings ‣ General ‣ Storage are about freeing up local storage on your Mac, so you might think that deleting messages attachments would only delete them locally. This would be really useful because there’s no other obvious way of purging the device’s cache to free up space. The confirmation sheet reinforces this belief by showing an icon of a hard drive and telling you how much storage will be freed. Instead, what you’d think would just evict the files actually deletes them from the cloud and all devices.

This is not the first confusion of this kind: the Keep messages setting in Messages also looks like it might refer to the device, but it actually deletes the messages everywhere. You can have one device set to keep Forever, but it will not actually do that if another device is set to a shorter amount of time.

Previously:

Update (2024-07-04): John Gordon:

I’ve been playing with deleting individual messages in iMessage and seeing what happens on different clients. Wow. It’s kind of a mess. Definitely don’t assume a particular message is always deleted across all devices -- even if’s reported deleted everywhere.

Feature Requests for Death

Greg Pierce:

FB14170572: Add “Date Deceased” field to Contact records

Louie Mantia:

When I worked on iTunes, we briefly discussed inheriting purchased music, but we didn’t build anything for it. Product teams may never prioritize legacy-related features because they’re not glamorous. But a team separate from product design and development could develop a strategy for how a company tackles those issues, with specific proposals for different products.

In addition to birthdate, there should be a deceased date field in Contacts. That data can be used for both memorial purposes and to prevent Siri suggestions about making a posthumous birthday call. There should also be an easy way to archive threads with a deceased loved one in iMessage to preserve those memories. There should be a path to inherit iTunes purchases, even though there are legal differences between a CD and a digital album.

Craig Hockenberry:

Apple should establish a team that deals with the humanity of their products.

[…]

Apple should be awesome at preserving and respecting the memories contained in devices that are inextricably linked to our daily lives and the interactions with people we love.

Previously:

On the Origins of .DS_Store

Arno Gourdol (2006, via Lobsters):

However, we soon started realizing that the Finder backend would be useful outside of the Finder. Therefore, a plan was hatched to someday make it available as a public API. Since I had previously been responsible for naming Icon Services and Navigation Services, we decided to go with Desktop Services (at the time, we were also considering renaming the Finder to “Desktop”). Hence the name of the .DS_Store, for “Desktop Services Store”. We added a “.” in front of it so that it would be considered as an invisible file by Unix OS, including Mac OS.

[…]

There is also an unfortunate bug that is not fixed to this day that result in an excessive creation of .DS_Store file. Those files should only be created if the user actually makes adjustments to the view settings or set a manual location for icons in a folder. That’s unfortunately not what happens and visiting a folder pretty much guarantees that a .DS_Store file will get created.

With early versions of Mac OS X, the file handling APIs behaved very differently from the corresponding operations in Finder. For example, NSFileManager would discard metadata such as resource forks and Finder/Spotlight comments when copying a file, and there was no API (other than AppleScript) for apps to do the latter themselves. These particular issues were eventually fixed, but Desktop Services never became public, and there remains no API for much of the Finder backend or what’s in the .DS_Store files.

Previously:

Update (2024-07-04): See also: Hacker News.

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Figma AI

Emanuel Maiberg (tweet, Hacker News):

The design tool Figma has disabled a newly launched AI-powered app design tool after a user showed that it was clearly copying Apple’s weather app.

Figma disabled the feature, named Make Design, after CEO and cofounder of Not Boring Software Andy Allen tweeted images showing that asking it to make a “weather app” produced several variations of apps that looked almost identical to Apple’s default weather app.

Gleb Sabirzyanov:

So there is no “training” in the components part at all. It uses pre-defined components that Figma team designed. They made complete apps with designs based on existing apps: weather, fitness, etc. If you ask the AI to create a weather app, it would use the weather app components.

It can’t modify components in any way other than changing texts, images and style. They only made the model fill the contents for existing pre-defined components.

John Gruber:

This is even more disgraceful than a human rip-off. Figma knows what they trained this thing on, and they know what it outputs.

Sebastiaan de With:

It just blows my mind how much companies keep self-owning because they think they risk anything being ‘too slow’ in adopting AI. All the fast AI implementations have been bad. Google answers. MS Recall. This Figma AI thing.

Take your time to do it right the first time.

Mitchell Bernstein:

No company, in their right mind, would ever let their employees unknowingly design proprietary ideas in @figma and send those to a server for others to recreate. […] I’ve heard mixed but I believe it’s by default opt in for free users and by default opt out for enterprises.

Nick Heer:

It is consistent to view this clear duplication of existing works through the same lens of morality as when A.I. tools duplicate articles and specific artists. I have not seen a good explanation for why any of these should be viewed differently from the others. There are compelling reasons for why it is okay to copy the works of others, just as there are similarly great arguments for why it is not.

Federico Viticci:

In other words, we’re concerned that, this time, technology won’t open up new opportunities for creative people on the web. We fear that it’ll destroy them.

We want to do something about this. And we’re starting with an open letter, embedded below, that we’re sending on behalf of MacStories, Inc. to U.S. Senators who have sponsored AI legislation as well as Italian members of the E.U.

Sebastiaan de With (Mastodon):

Some career designers were ambiguous about the impact on careers, but many went as far as to assert that designers had nothing to fear: AI, after all, could never replace your job. Unless you were terrible at it.

The problem with that, however, is that in our creative fields by definition, we are all terrible at our work at some point.

The way anyone has achieved success is through a slog. A long, steady swim upstream in a relentless and never-ending yet plentiful river of unpaid or cheap small jobs. I would wager the vast majority of design done every day are exactly these jobs.

Previously:

Update (2024-07-03): Jay Peters:

In a Tuesday interview with Figma CTO Kris Rasmussen, I asked him point blank if Make Designs was trained on Apple’s app designs. His response? He couldn’t say for sure. Figma was not responsible for training the AI models it used at all.

“We did no training as part of the generative AI features,” Rasmussen said. The features are “powered by off-the-shelf models and a bespoke design system that we commissioned, which appears to be the underlying issue.”

Out of their control, just like with Perplexity.

Field, in his own thread, said that the Make Designs feature “is not trained on Figma content, community files or app designs” and noted that “the accusations around data training in this tweet are false.” He said a problem with the company’s approach is that “variability is too low.”

[…]

The key AI models that power Make Designs are OpenAI’s GPT-4o and Amazon’s Titan Image Generator G1, according to Rasmussen. If it’s true that Figma didn’t train its AI tools but they’re spitting out Apple app lookalikes anyway, that could suggest that OpenAI or Amazon’s models were trained on Apple’s designs.

This seems to contradict what Sabirzyanov wrote (above).

Sarah Perez:

Figma CEO Dylan Field says the company will temporarily disable its “Make Design” AI feature that was said to be ripping off the designs of Apple’s own Weather app.

John Gruber:

Field is right to pull the feature but this explanation is sophistry. The feature is clearly fundamentally flawed. It’s not in need of a tweak. It’s in need of being completely scrapped.

Update (2024-07-09): Adam Engst:

I’m just not that bothered by all this. My overall opinions aren’t usually so divergent from my tech journalism peers, but since no one seems to be acknowledging that there are multiple sides to every issue, I want to explain why I’m largely unperturbed by AI and much of the hand-wringing that seems to permeate coverage of the field.

[…]

Many people seem to be worried that AI-generated content will “replace or diminish the source material from which it was created,” as the MacStories letter says. It’s unclear to me what would need to happen for this to be true, at least for genuinely original content. When I write about one of my tech experiences, the only place such a story can come from is my head. I fail to see how my creativity would be diminished by what others do.

[…]

Web publishing requires constantly creating new content—that’s what real people want to read, and while generative AI may make it somewhat quicker to do that, it’s not drastically different from how some websites hire low-paid workers in other countries to churn out unoriginal posts.

“Filter Unknown Senders” in Messages.app

Garrett Murray:

I had no idea the “filter unknown senders” setting for Messages did much more than it implies.

It actually creates a root-level menu that gives you several filter views that are very useful… why isn’t this enabled by default? The filters also properly respect your pins and such, and your chosen view is restored after relaunch.

For example, one of the views is for Unread Messages.

Monday, July 1, 2024

SpamSieve 3.0.5

SpamSieve 3.0.5 is a maintenance release for my Mac e-mail spam filter. It seems to work great with the current macOS Sequoia beta, though I expect another update will be required when Apple releases the AI-enabled beta of Mail later this summer. Unfortunately, Apple tends to make big changes to Mail through August, so we never quite know where we stand until the GM, and a couple times there were even significant changes after that.

Some interesting issues were:

Previously:

Keyboard Shortcut for Contextual Menus in Sequoia

Nathan Manceaux-Panot:

Haven’t seen this mentioned yet: in macOS Sequoia, you can open a context menu by pressing ⌃⏎, for the current selection. Very nice—Windows has had this for ages!

The shortcut is Control-Return. I’m looking forward to this, since I’ve often made the selection using the keyboard and don’t want my fingers to leave it. With BBEdit, LaunchBar, and some other apps, I can already access menu commands from the keyboard, but this will hopefully work everywhere.

Previously:

Update (2024-07-03): Ken Case:

Wait, when did the Apple Style Guide change the terminology for “contextual menus” to “shortcut menus”?

Stainless Steel Battery Case in iPhone 16

Ming-Chi Kuo (tweet, via Hacker News):

Increasing the energy density of the battery cells will increase the battery temperature when running. To avoid overheating the battery, Apple uses the stainless steel battery case for the first time as a thermal solution.

Stainless steel is not as effective as aluminum in dissipating heat, but it is more robust and less susceptible to corrosion, so in addition to dissipating heat, the stainless steel battery case provides better protection for the battery and the iPhone system.

The use of a stainless steel battery case also reduces the difficulty of removing the battery, which will help Apple comply with the European Union’s requirements for mobile phone batteries’ replaceability in the future.

Previously:

Microsoft’s Suleyman on AI Scraping

Thomas Claburn:

Mustafa Suleyman, the CEO of Microsoft AI, said this week that machine-learning companies can scrape most content published online and use it to train neural networks because it’s essentially “freeware.”

Shortly afterwards the Center for Investigative Reporting sued OpenAI and its largest investor Microsoft “for using the nonprofit news organization’s content without permission or offering compensation.”

[…]

Asked in an interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the Aspen Ideas Festival whether AI companies have effectively stolen the world’s intellectual property, Suleyman acknowledged the controversy and attempted to draw a distinction between content people put online and content backed by corporate copyright holders.

“I think that with respect to content that is already on the open web, the social contract of that content since the 1990s has been it is fair use,” he opined. “Anyone can copy it, recreate with it, reproduce with it. That has been freeware, if you like. That’s been the understanding.”

He also refers to robots.txt as a “grey area” that will “work its way through the courts.”

Kali Hays:

OpenAI and Anthropic are two big names found to be ignoring robots.txt, put in place by news publishers to block their web content being freely scraped for AI training data, I learned today.

Sean Hollister (via Dan Moren, Hacker News):

I am not a lawyer, but even I can tell you that the moment you create a work, it’s automatically protected by copyright in the US. You don’t even need to apply for it, and you certainly don’t void your rights just by publishing it on the web. In fact, it’s so difficult to waive your rights that lawyers had to come up with special web licenses to help!

Fair use, meanwhile, is not granted by a “social contract” — it’s granted by a court. It’s a legal defense that allows some uses of copyrighted material once that court weighs what you’re copying, why, how much, and whether it’ll harm the copyright owner.

As Claburn notes, many people have “compromised their rights” by posting their content on social media sites.

I don’t think that training an AI to the point where it can reproduce an article is fair use any more than photocopying a whole book or using a camera to record a movie is. But, as a practical matter, it seems like the AI companies are going to keep scraping and no one is going to stop them, except for the big names that will make licensing deals.

Previously: