Jason Snell returns to the show to discuss the biggest threads from WWDC 2022 — in particular, Stage Manager and the M2 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook “Pro”. No sports talk (unless you count soccer).
Brought to you by:
I’ve written about this — e.g. here and here — but because I consider it one of the single most important things to know about iOS, I should write about it more often. Even if you’re not the sort of person who typically shares iPhone tips with your friends and relatives, this is one that you should spread the word about.
The problem is this: if you use Face ID or Touch ID on your device (and you almost certainly should), what happens if law enforcement (or anyone else for that matter) takes your device and physically forces you to unlock it biometrically? There is some legal precedent supporting the notion that police can force you to do this, but can’t force you to provide them with a passcode or passphrase.
Here are two essential things everyone should know.
The first is hard-locking. When you hard-lock your iPhone or iPad, it enters a mode that requires the device passcode to unlock. With recent iPhones and iPads, you enter this mode the same way that you turn off the device: by pressing and holding the power button and either of the volume buttons for about two seconds.1 You’ll know when you’ve pressed the buttons long enough because there’s haptic feedback.2 This takes you to the screen where you see a slider to power down the device, and on iPhones, where you can initiate an Emergency SOS call or view the device owner’s Medical ID (if they have one). The important thing to note is that you don’t have to do anything on this screen to hard-lock your device — once you’ve gotten to this screen, the device is already hard-locked and will require the passcode to unlock. You can’t use Face ID or Touch ID again until the passcode has been entered. This is important because it means you can easily hard-lock your iPhone without even looking at it, or removing it from your pocket or purse. That you can do this surreptitiously is very much by design.
Just press and hold the buttons on both sides. Remember that. Try it now. Don’t just memorize it, internalize it, so that you’ll be able to do it without much thought while under duress, like if you’re confronted by a police officer. Remember to do this every time you’re separated from your phone, like when going through the magnetometer at any security checkpoint, especially airports. As soon as you see a metal detector ahead of you, you should think, “Hard-lock my iPhone”.
The second thing is to know your rights. Never ever hand your phone to a cop or anyone vaguely cop-like, like the rent-a-cops working for TSA. If they tell you that you must, refuse. They can and will lie to you about this. If you really need to hand it over, they’ll take it from you. And they won’t get anything from it, because you’ll have already hard-locked it, and you’ll know that you cannot be required to give them your passcode.
You can also do the same thing by quickly pressing the side button alone five times. On older iPhones (iPhone 7 and earlier), rapidly pressing the side button five times will immediately initiate the SOS phone call to emergency services; on iPhone 8 and later it just takes you to the same lock screen as when you press and hold the side button along with a volume button. I find the press-and-hold method easier to remember. I think of it as squeezing my iPhone for a moment to protect its contents. ↩︎
This haptic feedback/confirmation only occurs if “Vibrate on Ring” is turned on in Settings → Sounds & Haptics. I feel like this haptic feedback should occur regardless of this setting. ↩︎︎
Kathleen Parker, opining for The Washington Post four years ago, on the cusp of Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court:
What new justice would want to be that man or woman, who forevermore would be credited with upending settled law and causing massive societal upheaval? As for other conservative justices, only Clarence Thomas would likely vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the most important voices in this discussion, echoed the thoughts of close-to-the-court sources, who told me that neither Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. nor Neil M. Gorsuch would likely want to wade into that swamp and weigh in on a Roe v. Wade reversal.
The headline: “Calm Down. Roe v. Wade Isn’t Going Anywhere.”
This, from the same columnist who wrote on 4 November 2016, “Calm Down. We’ll Be Fine No Matter Who Wins.”
(Via Jay Rosen, who observes, “That scene from Shawshank comes to mind: ‘You don’t seem to be a very good thief. Maybe you should try something else.’”)
Jay Peters, writing for The Verge:
For the Fortnite groups I talked to, the Creator Codes can be an inefficient way to get revenue, since they have to find ways to convince people to enter the code. In some maps I’ve played, though, there’s a prompt right at the beginning that lets you use the code with just a couple button presses. But creators don’t get much of the share of what’s purchased. In Fortnite, creators earn 5 percent of the value of in-game purchases made using their Creator Code, Epic says on its website.
In an FAQ, Epic spells out a couple examples of how the payouts might work — and explicitly cautions creators to “expect modest results”:
Q: Will This Program Make Creators Rich?
A: Please expect modest results. The amount you earn scales with the number of players who choose to support you. A Fortnite example: If your in-game supporters spend 50,000 V-Bucks in-game, then you would earn $25 USD. An Epic Games Store example: if your supporters purchase $100 of games, you’ll earn $5 (at the base Epic-funded rate).
Sounds like we have a solution to Epic’s years-long complaint about Apple and Google taking a 15–30 percent cut of in-app transactions. They should follow Epic’s lead and take a 95 percent cut instead. Support a creator, indeed.
Say hello to Tailscale SSH — and say goodbye to managing SSH keys, setting up bastion jump boxes, and unnecessarily exposing your private production devices to the open internet. Never deploy an infrastructure bastion again.
Rina Torchinsky, reporting for NPR on an issue that is now top-of-mind for women across the United States:
For those second-guessing their period-tracking app, Ford says there’s a risk vs. convenience calculation that’s different for each user. It depends in large part on where you live and what the laws are.
“If I lived in a state where abortion was actively being criminalized, I would not use a period tracker — that’s for sure,” she says.
But for those who choose to log their data online, there might be some options that aren’t as risky. Ford says that apps built with a nonprofit model could offer more privacy. Hong says paid apps could be better because they’re less likely to track users, since they don’t need to collect advertising data. Hong also advised users to read Apple’s privacy nutrition labels, which are designed to show users how their data is used in simpler terms.
Apps that store data locally are also preferable, Greer explained, because when data is stored locally, the user owns it — not the company.
The article, unfortunately, does not mention the iOS Health app specifically, but should. Apple’s Health data is only accessible on the user’s device(s). From Apple’s support documentation on health records and privacy:
By default, iCloud automatically keeps your Health app data, including health records, up to date across your devices. To disable this feature, open iCloud settings and turn off Health. iCloud protects your health records data by encrypting it both in storage and during transmission. If you’re using iOS 12 or later and have turned on two-factor authentication for your Apple ID, health records are encrypted using end-to-end encryption through iCloud. This means only you can access this information, and only on devices where you’re signed in to iCloud. No one else, not even Apple, can access end-to-end encrypted information.
In other words, it’s not merely a policy that Apple will keep your health data — all of it — private on iCloud. If you’re using two-factor authentication for your iCloud account — and you most definitely should be — it’s mathematically secure via end-to-end encryption. Apple not only won’t hand it over in the face of a demand from law enforcement in a state where abortion has been criminalized, they can’t.
I don’t mean to glibly suggest that Apple Health is a panacea for this dilemma. It’s certainly worth worrying about which third-party apps you grant access to your Health data, for one thing. And for another, data stored on-device is still accessible to law enforcement if they have possession of the device and can unlock it. But it’s a distinction worth noting. HealthKit was designed from the ground up to be cryptographically secure in this way — a fundamental difference from cloud-based period tracking services that are only now working on “anonymous” modes.
You can check which apps have access to what Health data in Settings → Health → Data Access & Devices.
Ronald Brownstein, writing for The Atlantic:
All of this is fueling what I’ve called “the great divergence” now under way between red and blue states. This divergence itself creates enormous strain on the country’s cohesion, but more and more even that looks like only a way station. What’s becoming clearer over time is that the Trump-era GOP is hoping to use its electoral dominance of the red states, the small-state bias in the Electoral College and the Senate, and the GOP-appointed majority on the Supreme Court to impose its economic and social model on the entire nation — with or without majority public support. As measured on fronts including the January 6 insurrection, the procession of Republican 2020 election deniers running for offices that would provide them with control over the 2024 electoral machinery, and the systematic advance of a Republican agenda by the Supreme Court, the underlying political question of the 2020s remains whether majority rule — and democracy as we’ve known it — can survive this offensive.
My thanks to Tailscale for sponsoring last week at DF. Tailscale is the easiest way to create a peer-to-peer network with the power of Wireguard. SSH, VNC, RDP? All made simple with Tailscale installed.
No additional hardware to manage. No complicated firewall rules. And completely free for personal use.
There’s a lot to read regarding today’s 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, making official what we’ve known was about to happen since a near-final draft leaked in early May. I humbly suggest starting with the dissent, written by all three dissenting justices, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Their dissent begins on page 148 of the PDF decision.
Some highlights. P. 3 (page 151 of PDF):
Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest. If that happens, “the views of [an individual State’s] citizens” will not matter. Ante, at 1. The challenge for a woman will be to finance a trip not to “New York [or] California” but to Toronto.
The lone rationale for what the majority does today is that the right to elect an abortion is not “deeply rooted in history”: Not until Roe, the majority argues, did people think abortion fell within the Constitution’s guarantee of liberty. The same could be said, though, of most of the rights the majority claims it is not tampering with. The majority could write just as long an opinion showing, for example, that until the mid-20th century, “there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain [contraceptives].” So one of two things must be true. Either the majority does not really believe in its own reasoning. Or if it does, all rights that have no history stretching back to the mid- 19th century are insecure. Either the mass of the majority’s opinion is hypocrisy, or additional constitutional rights are under threat. It is one or the other.
As an initial matter, note a mistake in the just preceding sentence. We referred there to the “people” who ratified the Fourteenth Amendment: What rights did those “people” have in their heads at the time? But, of course, “people” did not ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. Men did. So it is perhaps not so surprising that the ratifiers were not perfectly attuned to the importance of reproductive rights for women’s liberty, or for their capacity to participate as equal members of our Nation. Indeed, the ratifiers — both in 1868 and when the original Constitution was approved in 1788 — did not understand women as full members of the community embraced by the phrase “We the People.” In 1868, the first wave of American feminists were explicitly told — of course by men — that it was not their time to seek constitutional protections. (Women would not get even the vote for another half-century.) To be sure, most women in 1868 also had a foreshortened view of their rights: If most men could not then imagine giving women control over their bodies, most women could not imagine having that kind of autonomy. But that takes away nothing from the core point. Those responsible for the original Constitution, including the Fourteenth Amendment, did not perceive women as equals, and did not recognize women’s rights. When the majority says that we must read our foundational charter as viewed at the time of ratification (except that we may also check it against the Dark Ages), it consigns women to second-class citizenship.
So how does that approach prevent the “scale of justice” from “waver[ing] with every new judge’s opinion”? It does not. It makes radical change too easy and too fast, based on nothing more than the new views of new judges. The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.
And its poignant conclusion (p. 60):
One of us once said that “[i]t is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much.” For all of us, in our time on this Court, that has never been more true than today. In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles.
With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent.
Keep the faith.
Patience Haggin, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+):
Four Democratic lawmakers called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, alleging the companies engage in unfair and deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of mobile-phone users’ personal information.
Apple and Google “knowingly facilitated these harmful practices by building advertising-specific tracking IDs into their mobile operating systems,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan sent on Friday.
This strikes me as deeply misguided in several ways. For one thing, it doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the Identity for Advertisers (IDFA) was created to replace immutable unique device IDs, which advertisers were using previously for tracking. Second, with Apple’s recent Ad-Tracking Transparency (ATT) initiative, which clearly has put more control over tracking into users’ hands, I don’t see why it makes any sense to lump Apple and Google together on this, other than performative virtue signaling that one is staunchly against the entire “Big Tech” boogeyman complex.
Both companies have recently taken steps to limit the collection of user data through these mobile-ad identifiers — a string of numbers and letters built into iOS and Android, the respective mobile operating systems of Apple and Google. Users of both operating systems now have a way to opt out of having their identifier transmitted to apps. Apple last year introduced a new version of its software that requires each app to ask the user for permission to access the device’s identifier, and Google is planning to adopt new privacy restrictions to curtail tracking across apps on Android smartphones.
“Until recently, however, Apple enabled this tracking ID by default and required consumers to dig through confusing phone settings to turn it off. Google still enables this tracking identifier by default, and until recently did not even provide consumers with an opt-out,” said the letter, which was signed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.); Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.); and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D., Calif.). “These identifiers have fueled the unregulated data broker market by creating a single piece of information linked to a device that data brokers and their customers can use to link to other data about consumers.”
So Apple has done the pro-privacy thing and made access to this identifier more clear to users, and Google intends to do similar. This, after creating IDFA in the first place to keep the ad industry from using immutable unique device identifiers for tracking. So the point of this FTC investigation would be what, exactly?
What a fucking day for four Democrats to signal that their attention is out in left field.
Shot: MKBHD has a nice short preview look at Nothing’s first phone, which is debuting in a few weeks. There are some aspects of its design that are clearly iPhone-inspired — the basic shape, flat sides, button shapes even. But there are other aspects that are clearly like nothing else — the clear back and light-up “glyph” interface for custom notifications while the phone is face down. I dig the Nothing aesthetic, so I was thinking maybe this might be my next Android “see how the other side lives” devices.
So much for that idea.
On this day twenty years ago I registered the flyingmeat.com domain. I had no idea what I was doing back then, only that I loved coding, I loved sharing what I worked on, and indie companies were undisputedly cool.
Twenty years later I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I still love coding and sharing what I make, and indie companies are still the best. [...]
However I’m not going to let this opportunity pass without a little bit of fun, so I’ve put all my apps on sale for $20. Acorn? Normally $39.95, now $20. Retrobatch Pro? Normally $49.99, now $20. Retrobatch Pro Upgrade? Normally $19.99, now $20 (Yes, we raised the price. No, it makes no sense to purchase it).
Here’s to 20 more years. Both Acorn and Retrobatch are indispensable to my workflows.
Sad local note. Michael Klein, writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Rick Olivieri, 57, a grandson of cheesesteak inventor Pat Olivieri and the former owner of the popular Rick’s Steaks at Reading Terminal Market, died Sunday, June 12, at his Drexel Hill home after a 10-year battle with early onset frontotemporal dementia.
“He fought it for every minute,” said his wife, Debi, who met Mr. Olivieri in summer 1984, shortly after she took a job at the Bassetts turkey stand a few aisles away from Olivieri Prince of Steaks, where Mr. Olivieri had worked for his father, Herb, a son of Pasquale “Pat” Olivieri of Pat’s King of Steaks fame. (Pat’s, at Ninth and Wharton Streets for 90 years, is operated by Frank Olivieri, his cousin.)
Rick’s was, hands-down, the best cheesesteak I’ve ever had. First, each sandwich was grilled fresh — your steak only started grilling after you ordered. This meant lines were long at lunchtime, but the sandwiches were impeccable. Second, Rick’s used really good steak — a special cut of ribeye from a local butcher here in Philly. Third — and this is key — they were reasonably portioned. There are a lot of good cheesesteak joints here, but most of them pack way too much meat into each sandwich. Rick’s used exactly six thin slices on each sandwich — just right.
Lastly is the fact that Rick was always there, seemingly always manning the grill himself. I ate at Rick’s dozens of times. There might have been someone else manning the grill once.
Last week I wrote about a change in MacOS 12.4 that upset many polyglots — as part of a company-wide effort to decouple national flags as icons to denote languages, the Input menu in MacOS now uses two letter codes instead (“US” for U.S. English, “GB” for British, etc.). As I wrote in an update to that post, the new policy does make sense for Apple — national flags carry political connotations that languages alone do not — but it’s unfortunate for users accustomed to scanning the menu for colorful icons at a glance when switching.
Two third-party developers have come to the rescue, with similar apps that restore the “pick a flag to change input sources” functionality:
Both apps serve the same fundamental purpose: they add a system-wide menu item that shows a flag icon to denote the current input language. Open the menu, and you can choose another input source language, as configured in the Keyboard panel in System Preferences.
Keyboard Switcheroo is a bit more polished. It lets you choose between the traditional flat flags, as previously used in the system’s built-in Input menu, the emojis for those flags (which are a bit larger and wavy instead of flat), or a custom image. Colorful Input Menu Flags only uses the emoji icons. Keyboard Switcheroo also lets you edit the languages shown in the menu directly within the app — no need to go to System Preferences.
Dan Moren, writing at Six Colors:
After almost a decade, I guess it’s time to pack in my posters, stickers, and Tim Cook and Craig Federighi phone call scripts for the “Bring Mail Merge back to Pages!” campaign and declare victory. Because, yes, Mail Merge has returned to Pages.
The feature was originally included in Apple’s word processing software, but got the axe in 2013’s version 5.0, when Apple redesigned its iWork suite to give even footing across the iOS, iPadOS, and macOS platforms. In the interim, Mail Merge remained possible only via workarounds like Sal Soghoian’s Pages Data Merge app.
Version 12.1, released today, brings a brand new implementation, however, which lets you populate a template document either from your contacts or a spreadsheet.
Two discrete thoughts on this. First, nine years is a long time, but Apple seemingly remains very committed to the iWork suite. They added some cool new features in all three apps this week.
Second, the fact that workarounds like Soghoian’s Pages Data Merge were even possible in the interim shows the essential nature of good automation/scripting support in serious apps. Automation isn’t so much about letting all users script apps, because we all know most users aren’t scripters. But automation lets the users who are scripters provide solutions for the whole community of users.
Jason Kottke, six weeks ago:
Does what I do here make a difference in other people’s lives? In my life? Is this still scratching the creative itch that it used to? And if not, what needs to change? Where does kottke.org end and Jason begin? Who am I without my work? Is the validation I get from the site healthy? Is having to be active on social media healthy? Is having to read the horrible news every day healthy? What else could I be doing here? What could I be doing somewhere else? What good is a blog without a thriving community of other blogs? I’ve tried thinking about these and many other questions while continuing my work here, but I haven’t made much progress; I need time away to gain perspective.
So. The plan, as it currently stands, is to take 5-6 months away from the site. I will not be posting anything new here. I won’t be publishing the newsletter. There won’t be a guest editor either — if someone else was publishing here, it would still be on my mind and I’m looking for total awayness here.
Six weeks in and I miss his words dearly, but I’m happy for him. They say you should hydrate before you get thirsty. I suspect the same is true for taking sabbaticals — you should take one before you know you need one. That’s hard to figure out, though.
A friend once asked me what’s been the longest stretch between posts on DF since I started. I told him the truth: I don’t know.
Update: Well, now I know, thanks to a nifty Ruby script from DF reader Henrik Nyh. I took a 12-day break around Christmas in 2003. Since I started the Linked List (shorter link posts) in 2004, the longest gap is 8 days, from 29 December 2019 to 6 January 2020. The longest stretch between feature articles is 50 days, from 22 September to 11 November 2015.
Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:
The handy new feature can be found in the Settings app under Apple ID → Password & Security → Automatic Verification. When enabled, Apple says iCloud will automatically and privately verify your device and Apple ID account in the background, eliminating the need for apps and websites to present you with a CAPTCHA verification prompt.
Apple recently shared a video with technical details about how the feature works, but simply put, Apple’s system verifies that the device and Apple ID account are in good standing and presents what is called a Private Access Token to the app or website. This new system will offer a better user experience for tasks such as signing into or creating an account, with improved user privacy and accessibility compared to CAPTCHAs.
No more unpaid work helping Google train its autonomous vehicle systems? I’ll believe it when I see it.
Update: Color me more optimistic today than yesterday: two of the draft spec’s authors are from Google, so maybe they will go all-in for this.
No additional hardware to manage. No complicated firewall rules. Free for personal use, but don’t take our word for it:
“Tailscale is the most insane piece of software I have ever used. It’s literally so good” —Twitter user @ennochian_
The most impactful change to come out of W.W.D.C. had nothing to do with APIs, a new framework or any hardware announcement. Instead, it was a change I’ve been clamoring for the last several years - and it’s one that’s incredibly indie friendly. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, I’m of course talking about iCloud enabled apps now allowing app transfers. [...]
When my last app, Spend Stack, was acquired — it took nearly four months to get settled. This was an experienced buyer who usually had things done and dusted in one week. Why did it take so long? Because I didn’t just sell Spend Stack, I had to sell my entire LLC, Dreaming In Binary, which I had owned for many years to that point. Instead of transferring the app, I had to manage a slew of logistical hurdles that neither I, or the acquirer, wanted to otherwise.
This one might deserve a non-sarcastic finally.
Emily Baker-White, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
For years, TikTok has responded to data privacy concerns by promising that information gathered about users in the United States is stored in the United States, rather than China, where ByteDance, the video platform’s parent company, is located. But according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users — exactly the type of behavior that inspired former president Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app in the United States.
The recordings, which were reviewed by BuzzFeed News, contain 14 statements from nine different TikTok employees indicating that engineers in China had access to US data between September 2021 and January 2022, at the very least. Despite a TikTok executive’s sworn testimony in an October 2021 Senate hearing that a “world-renowned, US-based security team” decides who gets access to this data, nine statements by eight different employees describe situations where US employees had to turn to their colleagues in China to determine how US user data was flowing. US staff did not have permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own, according to the tapes.
Like the proverbial stopped clock being right twice a day, the Trump administration was right on this one. TikTok should have been — and still should be — banned in the U.S. unless and until ByteDance sells the whole thing to a western company. It’s as bonkers today to let China run a popular media service as it would have been to allow the Soviet Union to run a U.S. TV network during the Cold War.
Ian Kullgren, reporting for Bloomberg Law:
Apple store workers near Baltimore voted for a union Saturday, becoming the first organized store in the US in a landmark decision that could change the face of the tech giant’s retail operation.
As of 8:30 p.m., 65 workers who voted at the Towson, Md., store had sided with the union, outnumbering anti-union votes 2 to 1. The bargaining unit includes about 100 workers and is affiliated with the International Association of Machinists.
The decision could spark a wider unionization movement among Apple store workers, similar to the first Starbucks union vote last year that has since prompted nearly 300 other stores to file for elections.
My thanks to Rows for sponsoring this week at DF. Rows reinvented spreadsheets to let you build data-rich spreadsheets that look beautiful and modern. Rows uses the same logic as traditional spreadsheets like Numbers, Excel, and Google Sheets, but built for the way people work today.
Rows offers more than 40 integrations with platforms like Google Analytics, Twitter, Stripe, Salesforce, and public databases like LinkedIn. Forget about adding and updating your data manually - you can even connect your custom API and build your own tools. All without code.
Rows has also revolutionized how we share and collaborate in spreadsheets. You can turn them into interactive dashboards, automated reports, or financial models that work and look great on any device. Thousands of people have already upgraded their spreadsheets to Rows. Get started for free today.
Sometimes it is fun to live in interesting times.
Speaking of ADA winner Andy Allen and (Not Boring) Habits:
How’d we do it? Rather than hide the screws, I’d like to pull our app apart and show you how the pieces come together. Let me strip off the sugarcoating and share a little secret about habit tracker apps: they’re little more than a glorified checkbox. The interaction is simple: every day you open the app and hit the checkbox to record a completed habit. [...]
In trying to get a particularly tricky habit to stick, I tried dozens of apps and nothing worked for me. Recording an action felt like yet another chore. None could approach the most basic satisfaction of simply crossing out an item on a list.
Could you design a simple action that felt as satisfying and infuse it with as much symbolism? Were we about to redesign the checkbox?
I think you know where this is headed.
I can’t say enough good things about the Not Boring suite of apps — both what they’re trying to do and how well they accomplish those goals. All fashion is cyclical, and the return of depth of texture to UI design is inevitable. The Not Boring suite is trailblazing one particularly opinionated path forward.
Buried at the end of The Financial Times’s report on Apple Pay Later last week (syndicated here at Ars Technica):
Apple said its decision to go it alone was in part taken to avoid sharing personal data with third parties. The company will not charge fees for late payments, in line with Klarna and Affirm, but will restrict access to further short-term credit.
Makes me wonder what Klarna and Affirm et al. are doing with customer data for BNPL purchases. From a Fast Company story on BNPL companies last month:
Until now, the dominant narrative explaining BNPL’s success is that consumers — particularly, younger ones — are hungry for financing options that are less predatory than credit cards with their 15% average APR. But there is more to the story. Due to privacy changes, most notably the tracking restrictions that Apple made available to iPhone users in April 2021, retailers have not been able to target customers through platforms like Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, as they had before. Nor can they definitively attribute an e-commerce sale to a digital ad. BNPL companies, thanks to their increasingly robust apps and email lists, can solve both those problems. Moreover, they have an advantage over social media and digital advertising in understanding consumers’ credit, and, by extension, their buying power. Even as they undercut credit cards, BNPL companies are, by design, amplifying consumer spending. Consumers can still get a fair deal with BNPL products, provided they stay within their budgets and pay on time. But they should understand who BNPL companies are actually working for.
Spoiler: the retailers.
In its early days, in the mid-2010s, BNPL had a relatively simple job. By offering to break a purchase into monthly payments at the point of sale, BNPL could reduce cart abandonment, a common problem for larger-ticket items, especially those being sold by startup brands such as Casper Sleep and Peloton. Leading BNPL players claim that they can increase checkout conversion rates by 20% to 30%. “We are in the business of bringing [merchants] new customers, increasing their cart size, increasing their conversion at point of sale,” Affirm cofounder and CEO Max Levchin said last year.
Apple Pay Later appears to simply be in the business of allowing users to split purchases into multiple payments, interest-free, with complete privacy.
Michael Tsai has his usual wide-ranging roundup of links on the controversy surrounding Apple’s decision to limit Stage Manager support to M1 iPads (2021 iPad Pros and this year’s 5th-generation iPad Air):
As a result, Stage Manager requires an M1 iPad. I honestly don’t understand his argument. I don’t think it’s that pre-M1 iPads couldn’t support virtual memory, since even the A12Z in the DTK did. That processor also had great performance running more simultaneous apps than iPadOS supports. Stage Manager is also supported on older Macs with Intel processors — and older graphics — that are less capable than recent-but-not-M1 iPads.
The controversy surrounding this boils down to people thinking Apple is doing this to get people who own older iPads to buy new ones just to get Stage Manager. I can’t prove it, but that doesn’t pass the sniff test to me. That’s just not how Apple rolls. But, clearly, this is the single most controversial news from last week.
Then he talks about needing fast flash storage for the virtual memory, which only the M1 iPads have, but PowerPC Macs were using spinning hard drives for virtual memory 20 years ago. Surely those were much slower.
Virtual memory on Macs back in the spinning hard drive era was ridiculously slow. In today’s world, when you see the spinning beachball cursor, it usually means some app on your Mac is wedged and needs to be force quit. 20 years ago, we’d see the spinning beachball cursor all the time and you just needed to wait for the system to catch up and return control to you. A lot of the time that was because of virtual memory swap with spinning hard disks.
He also says that Stage Manager is a “total experience that involves external display connectivity.” Why is an external display a requirement when most M1 iPad users don’t even use one?
Given the uproar surrounding this M1 requirement for Stage Manager, I wonder if Apple will reconsider over the summer, and perhaps do something like support Stage Manager on more iPads, but only on the built-in display, and make external display support the part that requires an M1 iPad.
But I can see what Apple is thinking by drawing a hard line with M1 iPads: they want to deliver Stage Manager for iPad without a slew of asterisks regarding which aspects of it work on which devices. As it stands with developer beta 1, an iPad either supports all of Stage Manager (including support for driving up to 6K external displays, and up to 8 apps), or none of it.
Happy to (once again) see a bunch of apps I either use regularly or am very familiar with win this year:
One sour taste from this year’s winners: not one of them is a Mac app.
What a great breakdown from Jomboy. These games within the game are why I love baseball.
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
Here’s how this works: When Move to iOS requests WhatsApp data, it gets an encrypted bundle that Apple can’t read. That bundle is sent to the iPhone via peer-to-peer networking, like everything else in the migration process. When a user taps on the WhatsApp icon on the home screen on the iPhone, the app is downloaded and installed from the App Store. When they log in to WhatsApp (with the same phone number as the old phone), they’ll then be able to unlock and import the transferred bundle of data.
Interestingly, the infrastructure to enable this change is already enabled in both iOS 15.5 (the currently shipping version) and in the current version of the Move to iOS app in the Google Play Store. What’s changed today is that WhatsApp has flipped the switch on the server side to allow this feature to begin rolling out slowly, first to people opted into the WhatsApp beta testing environment over the next week, and then eventually to everyone on the service.
If this doesn’t sound like a big deal, think again. Until now, when WhatsApp users switched from Android to iPhone, they lost their entire message history, because there was no way to transfer it. WhatsApp is almost incomprehensibly popular worldwide — perhaps with as many as 2 billion users. It’s not a stretch to think that this alone has been keeping untold millions of Android users from switching.
Today is Flag Day here in the U.S., so when better to mention this unpopular change in MacOS 12.4 last month, as described in a question on StackExchange’s AskDifferent site:
I just upgraded to macOS Monterey 12.4 and now the flags, primarily the one for the current input source, is gone from the menu bar and was replaced with a country code.
I find the colored flags much easier to work with, also when quickly switching between inputs via a shortcut. How do I get back the flags?
The question includes screenshots showing the difference. For many years — decades? — the Input Source menu bar item that lets you switch between keyboard layouts for different languages has used colorful flag icons to denote those languages. Starting in MacOS 12.4, these flag icons were replaced by grayscale icons denoting two-letter codes like “US” (U.S. English), “GB” (British), etc.
This may sound like no big deal, but I heard from a slew of DF readers upset by the change. I’m not sure what Apple was thinking with this change. Is it an attempt to address the fact that some languages/layouts don’t truly map to a nation (e.g. Hebrew != Israel)? Or is this purely an aesthetic decision — a design choice that the icons in this menu should be monochromatic?
If it’s the latter, this is a mistake. Colorful icons are much easier to scan. Update: A little birdie tells me this change is the direct result of a companywide effort not to denote languages using country flags. I do see the sense of that, but it’s unfortunate it makes it harder to scan the menu at a glance.
The Bundeskartellamt has initiated a proceeding against the technology company Apple to review under competition law its tracking rules and the App Tracking Transparency Framework. In particular, Apple’s rules have raised the initial suspicion of self-preferencing and/or impediment of other companies, which will be examined in the proceeding.
Apple introduced the App Tracking Transparency Framework for third-party apps with its updates iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5 in April 2021. It establishes certain preconditions for user tracking as defined by Apple by third-party apps. Advertisers or app publishers, for example, can use tracking to display targeted advertising on websites and apps or to track and use user data for other purposes. These options can be particularly relevant to providers of third-party apps in case their business models rely on apps which are available free of charge, but financed through advertising.
Keep in mind that in Germany, big publishing companies like Axel Springer are pushing back against Google’s stated plans to remove third-party cookie support from Chrome. The notion that if a company has built a business model on top of privacy-invasive surveillance advertising, they have a right to continue doing so, seems to have taken particular root in Germany.
I’ll go back to my analogy: it’s like pawn shops suing to keep the police from cracking down on a wave of burglaries.
Back to the Bundeskartellamt (boldface added):
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt: “We welcome business models which use data carefully and give users choice as to how their data are used. A corporation like Apple which is in a position to unilaterally set rules for its ecosystem, in particular for its app store, should make pro-competitive rules. We have reason to doubt that this is the case when we see that Apple’s rules apply to third parties, but not to Apple itself. This would allow Apple to give preference to its own offers or impede other companies. Our proceeding is largely based on the new competencies we received as part of the stricter abuse control rules regarding large digital companies which were introduced last year (Section 19a German Competition Act - GWB). On this basis, we are conducting or have already concluded proceedings against Google/Alphabet, Meta/Facebook and Amazon.”
I think this is a profound misunderstanding of what Apple is doing, and how Apple is benefiting indirectly from ATT. Apple’s privacy and tracking rules do apply to itself. Apple’s own apps don’t show the track-you-across-other-apps permission alert not because Apple has exempted itself but because Apple’s own apps don’t track you across other apps. Apple’s own apps show privacy report cards in the App Store, too.
Apple’s own advertising offerings — Search Ads — have indeed grown significantly post-ATT, but that’s not proof of self-serving. It’s at least plausible that the basic gist of what’s going on is something like this:
If you want to argue that Apple engaged in this entire ATT endeavor to benefit its own Search Ads platform, that’s plausible too. But if Apple actually cared more about maximizing Search Ads revenue than it does user privacy, wouldn’t they have just engaged in actual user tracking? The Bundeskartellamt perspective here completely disregards the idea that surveillance advertising is inherently unethical and Apple has studiously avoided it for that reason, despite the fact that it has proven to be wildly profitable for large platforms.
Apple could have made an enormous amount of money selling privacy-invasive ads on iOS, but opted not to. Instead they developed a series of complex technologies, some of which incur substantial costs (e.g. iCloud Private Relay), and took on both Facebook and Google to change the industry in a way which generates much less advertising revenue than Apple would have earned by just joining in on the surveillance advertising party.
I’d go so far as to describe the fundamental foundation of the surveillance ad industry as cheating. App Tracking Transparency has effectively cut down on cheating, and thus, all ad platforms that have never engaged in cheating have benefitted. ATT hasn’t completely levelled the playing field, but it’s moved the field closer to level than it was before. The heretofore cheaters are griping that their advantage has been taken away.1
Germany, of course, is familiar with the competitive advantages systematic cheating can accrue. ↩︎
Did you know that with macOS Ventura, Clarus the Dogcow has at long last returned home? Recently, while doing something else, I accidentally hit Cmd+Shift+P which opened the Page Setup dialog. I was greeted, surprisingly, with a new high-resolution version of the classic Clarus icon that I’d never seen before. I looked at it briefly, and then closed the dialog and went back to whatever I was doing before. I had assumed that because I’d been in a 3rd-party app at the time, that the Clarus icon was just some easter egg the developer had left. But a little while later, I got to thinking. What were the chances that someone went to the trouble of customizing the Page Setup dialog, of all things, just for an easter egg? Zero, it turns out. That dialog shows Clarus on the page preview in every app.
Well, I have a new favorite feature in MacOS 13 Ventura.
Update 2: Dr. Drang: “I’m not sure where this idea came from, but I’m guessing it was someone who sold ink cartridges.”
Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS) today announced that the Apple TV app will be the exclusive destination to watch every single live MLS match beginning in 2023. This partnership is a historic first for a major professional sports league, and will allow fans around the world to watch all MLS, Leagues Cup, and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches in one place — without any local broadcast blackouts or the need for a traditional pay TV bundle.
From early 2023 through 2032, fans can get every live MLS match by subscribing to a new MLS streaming service, available exclusively through the Apple TV app. In addition to all of the match content, the service will provide fans a new weekly live match whip-around show so they never miss an exciting goal or save, and also game replays, highlights, analysis, and other original programming.
Proof that Apple is getting serious about sports. (Via Jason Snell.)
Didn’t make the keynote, but there is (unsurprisingly) a tvOS 16 beta, and while you can see why it didn’t make the keynote, there are some interesting new features. Clearly, though, Apple’s least-loved platform at the moment.
Lance Ulanoff, in a detailed interview with Craig Federighi and Alan Dye regarding the new lock screen features in iOS 16:
“From a Design Team perspective, our goal was to create something that felt almost more editorial, and to give the user the ability to create a Lock Screen that really … ends up looking like a great magazine cover or film poster but doing it in a way that’s hopefully really simple to create, very fun, and even with a lot of automation there,” said Dye. [...]
Instead of a set collection of filters you can apply to images, Apple is using that segmentation knowledge to offer up a bespoke set of looks.
“These styles are so much more than filters,” said Dye. “We’re actually using segmentation, tonal values, all of our scene understanding to really help us determine how we can intelligently offer a variety of treatments for each photo. Which is also really cool because it’s very much Apple at its best. Design and engineering technology all working together to offer something, really, I think, quite beautiful.”
Instead of eight or a dozen set filters, you might only be offered two styles for a photo, and they’re unlikely to be the same two if you chose a different Lock Screen photo. Dye told us that if the system doesn’t think the photo will look great, it won’t suggest it, a point of care and attention that helps guide the user towards more visually arresting Lock Screens.
It’s rough in developer beta 1, but I’m pretty sure this is my favorite new feature in iOS 16.
Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch:
“It’s only the M1 iPads that combined the high DRAM capacity with very high capacity, high performance NAND that allows our virtual memory swap to be super fast,” Federighi says. “Now that we’re letting you have up to four apps on a panel plus another four — up to eight apps to be instantaneously responsive and have plenty of memory, we just don’t have that ability on the other systems.”
It was not purely the availability of memory that led Apple to limit Stage Manager to M1 iPads though.
“We also view stage manager as a total experience that involves external display connectivity. And the I/O on the M1 supports connectivity that our previous iPads don’t, it can drive 4K, 5K, 6K displays, it can drive them at scaled resolutions. We can’t do that on other iPads.”
Graphics performance, too, was a limiter.
“We really designed Stage Manager to take full advantage [of the M1]. If you look at the way the apps tilt and shadow and how they animate in and out. To do that at super high frame rates, across very large displays and multiple displays, requires the peak of graphics performance that no one else can deliver.
“When you put all this together, we can’t deliver the full stage manager experience on any lesser system,” Federighi says. “I mean, we would love to make it available everywhere we can. But this is what it requires. This is the experience we’re going to carry into the future. We didn’t want to constrain our design to something lesser, we’re setting the benchmark for the future.”
Good interview that really digs into the why of Stage Manager, especially for iPad.
As for the “only for M1 iPads” things, the key thing to glean from this is that it’s not just that M1 iPads have more RAM, but also the hardware pieces to enable virtual memory swap on an iOS device for the first time. You usually don’t hear nerdy comp-sci terms like “virtual memory swap” in the morning keynote or in the main press release for the platform — that sort of stuff is usually reserved for the afternoon State of the Union. But “swap” made it into the morning keynote because it’s a big deal.
Rasmus Larsen, writing for FlatpanelsHD:
Reviewers, calibrators and certification bodies typically use a 10% window for HDR testing, which simply means that it takes up 10% of the screen. In this window multiple steps from black to white as well as a set of colors are measured. Samsung has designed its TVs to recognize this and other commonly used window sizes, after which the TV adjusts its picture output to make measurements appear more accurate than the picture really is. When using a non-standard window such as 9% (everything else equal), the cheating algorithm can be bypassed so the TV reveals its true colors.
This is deliberate cheating, an orchestrated effort to mislead reviewers.
Vincent Teoh of HDTVTest first identified and documented the issue on Samsung’s S95B QD-OLED TV. FlatpanelsHD has since identified and documented the issue on Samsung’s QN95B ‘Neo QLED’ LCD TV where it gets even worse.
Jason Koebler, reporting for Vice:
The Texas Department of Public Safety has asked the state’s Office of the Attorney General to prevent the public release of police body camera footage from the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde in part because, it argues, the footage could be used by other shooters to determine “weaknesses” in police response to crimes. [...]
“Revealing the marked records would provide criminals with invaluable information concerning Department techniques used to investigate and detect activities of suspected criminal elements; how information is assessed and analyzed; how information is shared among partner law enforcement agencies and the lessons learned from the analysis of prior criminal activities,” the department wrote in a letter to the Office of the Attorney General that asked the office to prevent the release of the public records. “Knowing the intelligence and response capabilities of Department personnel and where those employees focus their attention will compromise law enforcement purposes by enabling criminals to anticipate weakness in law enforcement procedures and alter their methods of operation in order to avoid detection and apprehension.”
Translation: The bodycam footage will further reveal the cowardice and ineptitude of the police, so we’re begging you to let us suppress it.
As Darth notes, the footage is mostly going to show the school parking lot.
Apple, in a statement to Rene Ritchie:
Stage Manager is a fully integrated experience that provides all-new windowing experience that is incredibly fast and responsive and allow users to run 8 apps simultaneously across iPad and an external display with up to 6K resolution. Delivering this experience with the immediacy users expect from iPad’s touch-first experience requires large internal memory, incredibly fast storage, and flexible external display I/O, all of which are delivered by iPads with the M1 chip.
A lot of folks with 2018 iPad Pros and 2020 iPad Airs are pretty upset about this move, especially given the fact that the Apple silicon DTK ran on an A12Z. My guess is that the company just wasn’t happy with the performance of Stage Manager on those older iPads.
If Stage Manager ran well on older iPads, Apple would enable it on them. It might just come down to RAM — the M1 iPads start at 8 GB, but older iPad Pro models start at just 4 (2018 with A12X) or 6 GB (2020 with A12Z).
My thanks to Retool for sponsoring this week at Daring Fireball. Programming hasn’t fundamentally changed in a long time. Building an app usually means searching for the right component library, debugging dependencies, rewriting a lot of boilerplate code, and figuring out where to deploy. Everything but solving the problem at hand.
Retool is a new approach, unifying the ease of visual programming with the power and flexibility of real code. Retool can connect to any database or API. Drag-and-drop a UI while simultaneously live-programming it. Deploy instantly and scale as you grow.
Watch their demo videos and try not to be impressed. Retool looks fun. But it’s being used for serious work: Plaid uses Retool to manage integration product support. Amazon uses Retool to handle GDPR requests. You, too, can use it to manage users and orders, analyze data, or build any other business-critical web application, fast.
Special guests Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak join me to discuss the news from WWDC 2022, in front of a live audience at the new Apple Developer Center at Apple Park.
Brought to you by:
Watch it on the biggest screen you can — this is the first time the show was mastered and available in 4K. My sincere thanks to everyone at Apple who helped make this happen. Extra special thanks to my friends at Sandwich, once again, for their remarkable work producing the video — what a joy it is to work with them.
Cricket, writing at Tech Reflect:
While Apple was busy transitioning to Intel, I was working on the software team responsible for Dock, Exposé (later Mission Control), and Dashboard (now deceased). We did a lot of experimenting with new interface concepts; one was a radical new way to manage apps and windows. It effectively made the existing Exposé irrelevant as well as the Dock as a way of managing running apps and windows.
It never became an approved project, but I continued to live on it for many months until it just stopped working with newer versions of hardware and software. By then, our team had moved on to other things.
At WWDC 2022, I was very excited to see Apple announce a new feature for macOS and iPad called Stage Manager. It’s a radical new way to manage windows and likely makes much of Exposé and the Dock functionality irrelevant. Sound familiar? Well, it turns out it looks familiar too!
What a fun story.
Back in February, Basic Apple Guy wrote this terrific post, proposing that System Preferences on MacOS ought to be renamed Settings, to match iOS/iPadOS/WatchOS/tvOS, and redesigned from the ground up to follow iOS’s scrolling-list layout. And then he went further and designed a few detailed mockups to show what he was thinking.
I was going to link to it back then, with a comment along the lines of “This sounds like a fine idea in theory, and his mockups do look great, but I think in practice it’d be a bad idea.” But then I thought maybe I should go into detail about why I think it would be a bad idea. And, well, I never got around to turning my notes from that into an actual article — I wound up not even linking to Basic Apple Guy’s piece until now.
Anyway, Basic Apple Guy’s suggestion/prediction turned out to be spot-on. In MacOS 13 Ventura, System Preferences has been replaced by Settings, and it’s not merely a name change, it’s a complete redesign with an iOS-style layout. Joe Rossignol at MacRumors and William Gallagher at AppleInsider have good pieces illustrating the new design.
From what I’ve seen in Ventura developer beta 1, I wish I’d just written that short “sounds like a fine idea in theory but a bad idea in practice” post back in February. But, after bringing this up during The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2022 on Tuesday, hearing Craig Federighi’s take has me more open-minded.
This is absolutely delightful:
Pixel icons have a rich history on the Mac. MacPaint was a raster graphics editor released as part of the original Macintosh in 1984, and its icons were playful, simple and recognizable to people around the world. Many of the defining icons for modern drawing and design tools — such as the paint brush, lasso, and hand tool — were originally created for MacPaint by Susan Kare, one of the original designers for the Mac.
Kare designed these icons with the monochromatic limits of the first Mac display in mind, using a grid-lined notebook to map out each pixel. While we’re no longer limited by hardware, you can explore those same design principles to help you create fun, interesting, and visually stunning icons. Begin the challenge
We’re inviting you to create an app icon at pixel level using only black and white colors on a 48×48 pixel, 32×32 pixel, or 16×16 pixel canvas. You may design for every size, for two sizes, or just one size. You can draw your icon on paper or using your favorite program; we’ve also provided a pixel grid for download.
Can’t wait to see the results.
Here’s a neat little session from WWDC:
Meet the expanded San Francisco font family
Discover the latest additions to San Francisco — the system font for Apple platforms — and find out how they can provide more control and versatility when designing interfaces. In addition to weights and optical sizes, San Francisco now supports three new width styles: Condensed, Compressed, and Expanded. We’ll also take you through the linguistic expansion of San Francisco and learn more about the feature-rich Arabic system font families: SF Arabic and SF Arabic Rounded.
Wish I could say I predicted this but I have to credit my pal Craig Hockenberry.
The signage and badges here at Apple Park for WWDC are using these new variants, and they all look great.
I don’t have time to watch this now, but I sure will tomorrow.
My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring last week at DF. Kolide believes that the supposedly “average person” is the key to unlocking a new class of security detection, compliance, and threat remediation. So do the hundreds of organizations that send important security notifications to employees from Kolide’s Slack app.
Kolide knows that organizations can dramatically lower the actual risks they will likely face with a structured, message-based approach. More importantly, they’ll be able to engage end-users to fix nuanced problems that can’t be automated.
Nothing like a good AppleScript mystery to get the weekend off to a celebratory start. If you have two or more windows open in an application — let’s say TextEdit, just for the sake of example — and run this AppleScript:
tell application "TextEdit" to activate
That’s it. That’s the whole script. What I expect to happen, and what I believe should happen, is that TextEdit becomes the active application and all of its windows come forward. That’s what happens when you click on an app’s Dock icon, or switch to it using Command-Tab — all of the app’s open windows come forward.
On MacOS 12 Monterey (and apparently MacOS 11 Big Sur), what happens instead is that TextEdit becomes the active application but only its frontmost window comes forward.
Again, this has nothing to do with TextEdit specifically — it’s true for any scriptable Mac app. This seems like it must be a bug, but it’s now been around for two major releases of MacOS, so maybe it’s a bizarre change in intended behavior? If anyone knows what’s going on here, let me know.1 I asked on Twitter earlier today and the best answer was a Fletch reference from Andrew Laurence. Helpful, no. Funny, always.
The irony here is that I stumbled upon this apparent bug while trying to activate an app (Safari) while bringing only one specific open window forward, like this:
tell application "Safari" to tell window 1 to activate
I thought it was working, because Safari activated and only window 1 was brought forward. But when I changed the AppleScript call to:
tell application "Safari" to tell window 2 to activate
it was still Safari’s frontmost window, and only that window, that came forward. It turns out you can put any integer you want after
window, even if it doesn’t refer to a valid index number for a window, and it will compile and run:
tell application "Safari" to tell window 1138 to activate
and the front window of that app will come forward. Effectively, it’s just telling the app to activate, even inside a tell block for a window, even if the window doesn’t exist. All ball bearings nowadays, indeed.
Yes, of course I filed a radar, or a “feedback”, or whatever we’re calling them nowadays: FB10029990. ↩︎