Apple Archive

Apple bows to Russian censorship once more, removes VPN apps from Russian App Store

A few weeks ago, I broke the news that Mozilla had removed several anti-censorship Firefox extensions from its store in Russia, and a few days later I also broke the news they reversed course on their decision and reinstated the extensions. Perhaps not worthy of a beauty prize, as a Dutch saying goes, but at least the turnaround time was short, and they did the right thing in the end. Well, let’s see how Apple is going to deal with the exact same situation. Novaya Gazeta Europe reports that bowing under pressure from the same Russian censors that targeted Mozilla, the company has removed a whole slew of VPN applications used by Russians to evade the stringent totalitarian censorship laws in the warmongering nation. Apple has removed several apps offering virtual private network (VPN) services from the Russian AppStore, following a request from Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media regulator, independent news outlet Mediazona reported on Thursday. The VPN services removed by Apple include leading services such as ProtonVPN, Red Shield VPN, NordVPN and Le VPN. Those living in Russia will no longer be able to download the services, while users who already have them on their phones can continue using them, but will be unable to update them. ↫ Novaya Gazeta Europe Apple has a long history of falling in line with the demands from dictators and totalitarian regimes, and Russia is no stranger to telling Apple what to do. Earlier this year, Apple was ordered to remove an application developed by the team of the murdered opposition figure Alexey Navalny, and of course, Apple rolled over and complied. Much like Apple’s grotesque suck-up behaviour in China, This stands in stark contrast to Apple’s whining, complaining, and tantrums in the European Union. It seems Apple finds it more comfortable to operating under dictators than in democracies.

Apple II graphics: more than you wanted to know

The Apple ][ is one of the most iconic vintage computers of all time. But since Wozniak’s monster lasted all the way until 1993 (1995 if you could the IIe card, which I won’t count until I get one), it can be easy to forget that in 1977, it was a video extravaganza. The competitors– even much bigger and established companies like Commodore and Tandy– generally only had text modes, let alone pixel-addressable graphics, and they certainly didn’t have sixteen colors. (Gray and grey are different colors, right?) ↫ Nicole Branagan If there’s ever anything you wanted to know about how graphics work on the Apple II, this is the place to go. It’s an incredibly detailed and illustrated explanation of how the machine renders and displays graphics, and an excellent piece of writing to boot. I’m a little jealous.

Apple first company to be found violating DMA

Today, the European Commission has informed Apple of its preliminary view that its App Store rules are in breach of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), as they prevent app developers from freely steering consumers to alternative channels for offers and content. In addition, the Commission opened a new non-compliance procedure against Apple over concerns that its new contractual requirements for third-party app developers and app stores, including Apple’s new “Core Technology Fee”, fall short of ensuring effective compliance with Apple’s obligations under the DMA. ↫ European Commission press release File this in the category for entirely expected news that is the opposite of surprising. Apple has barely even been maliciously compliant with the DMA, and the European Commission is entirely right in pursuing the company for its continued violation of the law. The DMA really isn’t a very complicated law, and the fact the world’s most powerful and wealthiest corporation in the world can’t seem to adapt its products to the privacy and competition laws here in the EU is clearly just a bunch of grandstanding and whining. In fact, I find that the European Commission is remarkably lenient and cooperative in its dealings with the major technology giants in general, and Apple in particular. They’ve been in talks with Apple for a long time now in preparation for the DMA, the highest-ranking EU officials regularly talked with Apple and Tim Cook, they’ve been given ample warnings, instructions, and additional time to make sure their products do not violate the law – as a European Union citizen, I can tell you no small to medium business or individual EU citizen gets this kind of leniency and silk gloves treatment. Everything Apple is reaping, it sowed all by itself. As I posted on Mastodon a few days ago: The EU enacted a new law a while ago that all bottle caps should remain attached to the bottle, to combat plastic trash. All the bottle and packaging makers, from massive multinationals like Coca Cola and fucking Nestlé to small local producers invested in the development of new caps, changing their production lines, and shipping the new caps. Today, a month before the law goes into effect, it’s basically impossible to find a bottle without an attached cap. I don’t know, I thought this story was weirdly relevant right now with Apple being a whiny bitch. Imagine being worse than Coca Cola and motherfucking Nestlé. ↫ Thom Holwerda Apple is in this mess and facing insane fines as high as 10% of their worldwide turnover because spoiled, rich, privileged brats like Tim Cook are not used to anyone ever saying “no”. Silicon Valley has shown, time and time again, from massive data collection for advertising purposes to scraping the entire web for machine learning, that they simply do not understand consent. Now that there’s finally someone big, strong, and powerful enough to not take Silicon Valley’s bullshit, they start throwing tamper tantrums like toddlers. Apple’s public attacks on the European Union – and their instructions to their PR attack dogs to step it up a notch – are not doing them any favours, either. The EU is, contrary to just about any other government body in the Western world, ridiculously popular among its citizens, and laws that curb the power of megacorps are even more popular. I honestly have no idea who’s running their PR department, because they’re doing a terrible job, at least here in the EU.

iOS and iPadOS 18 can format external drives

I can’t believe this is considered something I need to write about, but it’s still a very welcome new feature that surprisingly has taken this long to become available: iOS and iPadOS 18 now allow you to format external storage devices. Last year when I began testing iPadOS 17 betas, I noticed the addition of options for renaming and erasing external drives in the Files app. I watched these options over the course of the beta cycle for iPadOS 17 to see if any further changes would come. The one I watched most closely was the “Erase” option for external drives. This option uses the same glyph as the Erase option in Disc Utility on macOS. In Disc Utility on the Mac, in order to reformat an external drive, you first select the “Erase” option, and then additional options appear for selecting the new format you wish to reformat the drive with. When I saw the “Erase” option added in the Files app on iPadOS, I suspected that Apple might be moving towards adding these reformatting options into the Files app on iPadOS. And I’m excited to confirm that this is exactly what Apple has done in iPadOS 18! ↫ Kaleb Cadle It was soon confirmed this feature is available in iOS 18 as well. You can only format in APFS, ExFAT and FAT, so it’s not exactly a cornucopia of file systems to choose from, but it’s better than nothing. This won’t magically fix all the issues a lot of people have with especially iPadOS when it comes to feeling constrained when using their expensive, powerful tablets with detachable keyboards, but it takes away at least one tiny reason to keep a real computer around. Baby steps, I guess.

Apple won’t release its new AI features in the EU because they don’t comply with EU privacy and competition laws

Apple has announced it’s not shipping three of its tentpole new features, announced during WWDC, in the European Union: Apple Intelligence, iPhone Mirroring, and SharePlay Screen Sharing. Ever since the introduction of especially Apple Intelligence, the company has been in hot water over the sourcing of its training data – Apple admitted it’s been scraping everyone’s data for years and now used it to train its AI features. This will obviously have included vasts amounts of data from European websites and citizens, and with the strict EU privacy laws, there’s a very real chance that such scraping is simply not legal. As such, it’s simpler to just not comply with such stricter privacy laws than to design your products with privacy in mind. As Steven Troughton-Smith quips: How many EU-based sites did Apple scrape to build the feature it now says it can’t ship in the EU because of legal uncertainty? ↫ Steven Troughton-Smith Other massive corporations like Google and Facebook seem to have little issue shipping AI features in the EU, and have been doing so for quite a while now. And mind you, as Tim Cook has been very keen to reiterate in every single interview for the past two years or so, Apple has been shipping AI features similar to what they announced at WWDC for years as well, but it’s only now that the European Union is actually imposing regulations on them – instead of letting corporatism run wild – that it can no longer ship such features in the EU? Apple is throwing its users under the bus because Tim Cook is big mad that someone told him no. As I keep reiterating, consent is something Silicon Valley simply does not understand.

Apple WWDC 2024: the 13 biggest announcements

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote has come to a close — and the company had a whole lot to share. We got our first look at the AI features coming to Apple’s devices and some major updates across the company’s operating systems. If you missed out on watching the keynote live, we’ve gathered all the biggest announcements that you can check out below. ↫ Emma Roth at The Verge Most of the stuff Apple announced aren’t particularly interesting – a lot of catch-up stuff that has become emblematic of companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft when it comes to their operating systems. The one thing that did stand out is Apple’s approach to offloading machine learning requests to the cloud when they are too difficult to handle on device. They’ve developed a new way of doing this, using servers with Apple’s own M chips, which is pretty cool and harkens back the days of the Xserve. In short, these server are using the same kind of techniques to encrypt and secure data on iPhones, but now to encrypt and secure the data coming in for offloaded machine learning requests. The root of trust for Private Cloud Compute is our compute node: custom-built server hardware that brings the power and security of Apple silicon to the data center, with the same hardware security technologies used in iPhone, including the Secure Enclave and Secure Boot. We paired this hardware with a new operating system: a hardened subset of the foundations of iOS and macOS tailored to support Large Language Model (LLM) inference workloads while presenting an extremely narrow attack surface. This allows us to take advantage of iOS security technologies such as Code Signing and sandboxing. ↫ Apple’s security research blog Apple also provided some insight into where its training data is coming from, and it claims it’s only using licensed data and “publicly available data collected by our web-crawler”. The words “licensed” and “publicly available” are doing a lot of heavy lifting here, and I’m not entirely sure what definitions of those terms Apple is using. There are enough people out there who feel every piece of data – whether under copyright, available under an open source license, or whatever – is fair, legal game for ML training, so who knows what Apple is using based on these statements alone. From Apple’s presentations yesterday, as well as any later statements, it’s also not clear when machine learning requests get offloaded in the first place. Apple states they try to run as much as possible on-device, and will offload when needed, but the conditions under which such offloading happens are nebulous and unclear, making it hard for users to know what’s going to happen when they use Apple’s new machine learning features.

Troubling iOS 17.5 bug reportedly resurfacing old deleted photos

iOS 17.5 seems to be experiencing a rather nasty bug that raises some very, very concerning questions about what Apple thinks “delete” really means. After updating their iPhone, one user said they were shocked to find old NSFW photos that they deleted in 2021 suddenly showing up in photos marked as recently uploaded to iCloud. Other users have also chimed in with similar stories. “Same here,” said one Redditor. “I have four pics from 2010 that keep reappearing as the latest pics uploaded to iCloud. I have deleted them repeatedly.” “Same thing happened to me,” replied another user. “Six photos from different times, all I have deleted. Some I had deleted in 2023.” More reports have been trickling in overnight. One said: “I had a random photo from a concert taken on my Canon camera reappear in my phone library, and it showed up as if it was added today.” ↫ Tim Hardwick at MacRumors A report a few days later says that even on devices that have been wiped and sold, photos seem to be reappearing. This is even scarier than photos reappearing on devices you’re still using today – just think of all the iOS devices you’ve had and sold that might still be in use today. Users all over could be looking at old photos you took that you thought weren’t only deleted, but also wiped when you sold the devices in question. Apple has not said anything yet, but it further illustrates just how untrustworthy companies like Apple really are. Even taking into account it might take some time (minutes? An hour?) for a delete request to propagate through iCloud’s server network, there’s obviously no way photos that were supposedly deleted years ago are resurfacing now – especially when entire device wipes are involved, and any new user isn’t even logged into the same iCloud account. I hope for everyone involved – the users, that is, I don’t give a rat’s ass about Apple – that this isn’t very widespread, because the last thing any of us needs is old nude photos reappearing on random people’s devices. What a mess.

Apple geofences third-party browser engine work for EU devices

Apple’s grudging accommodation of European law – allowing third-party browser engines on its mobile devices – apparently comes with a restriction that makes it difficult to develop and support third-party browser engines for the region. The Register has learned from those involved in the browser trade that Apple has limited the development and testing of third-party browser engines to devices physically located in the EU. That requirement adds an additional barrier to anyone planning to develop and support a browser with an alternative engine in the EU. ↫ Thomas Claburn at The Register If any normal person like you and I showed the same kind of blatant disregard for the law and authorities like Apple does in the EU, we’d be ruined by fines and possibly end up in jail. My only hope is that the European Commission goes through with its threats of massive fines of up to 10 or even 20 percent of worldwide turnover.

iOS 17.5 and other Apple updates arrive with Bluetooth tracker notifications and more

Apple has released the latest updates for virtually all of its actively supported devices today. Most include a couple handfuls of security updates, some new features for Apple News+ subscribers, and something called Cross-Platform Tracking Protection for Bluetooth devices. The iOS 17.5, iPadOS 17.5, macOS 4.5, watchOS 10.5, tvOS 17.5, and HomePod Software 17.5 updates are all available to download now. ↫ Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica You know where to get them.

Apple II DeskTop currently testing 1.4 alpha releases

Disassembly and enhancements for Apple II DeskTop (a.k.a. Mouse Desk), a “Finder”-like GUI application for 8-bit Apples and clones with 128k of memory, utilizing double hi-res monochrome graphics (560×192), an optional mouse, and the ProDOS 8 operating system. ↫ Apple II DeskTop GitHub page The goal of this project is to reverse-engineer Apple II DeskTop, and fix bugs and enhance it in the process. I didn’t actually know that the Apple IIgs initially shipped with this instead of the 16 bit GS/OS, which is the operating system I personally associate with the IIgs. Apple II DeskTop was largely 8 bit, and built on top of ProDOS 16, and didn’t really take full advantage of the IIgs hardware. It wasn’t until version 4.0 of the system software that the IIgs switched over to GS/OS. The latest release is v1.4-alpha9, released a few days ago. Apple II DeskTop is still entirely compatible with Apple II machines and clones from before the IIgs, as well, and it runs in emulators, too. We actually already covered this project a few years ago, but a reminder that this exists never hurt anyone.

How I tricked iOS into giving me EU DMA features

In iOS 17.4, Apple introduced a new system called eligibilityd. This works with countryd (which you might have heard about when it first appeared in iOS 16.2) and the Apple ID system to decide where you physically are. The idea is that multiple sources need to agree on where you are, before giving you access to features such as those mandated by the Digital Markets Act. ↫ Adam Demasi The way Adam Demasi managed to convince Apple his very much Australian iPhone in Australia was, in fact, a European Union iPhone in the European Union was by making sure not a single wireless signal managed to escape the device. He had to disable location services, insert an Italian SIM, set up a pfSense Wi-Fi router using the regulatory country of Italy, and go into his basement where there’s no mobile signal. Between all these steps, the phone was reset multiple times. And then, and only then, did the iPhone think it was in the European Union, with all the benefits that entails. Demasi has no idea which of these steps are actually needed, but the process of figuring this all out is ongoing, and more information is sure to be discovered as smart people sink their teeth into the process by which Apple determines where an iPhone is from.

Apple’s mysterious fisheye projection

If you’ve read my first post about Spatial Video, the second about Encoding Spatial Video, or if you’ve used my command-line tool, you may recall a mention of Apple’s mysterious “fisheye” projection format. Mysterious because they’ve documented a CMProjectionType.fisheye enumeration with no elaboration, they stream their immersive Apple TV+ videos in this format, yet they’ve provided no method to produce or playback third-party content using this projection type. Additionally, the format is undocumented, they haven’t responded to an open question on the Apple Discussion Forums asking for more detail, and they didn’t cover it in their WWDC23 sessions. As someone who has experience in this area – and a relentless curiosity – I’ve spent time digging-in to Apple’s fisheye projection format, and this post shares what I’ve learned. ↫ Mike Swanson There is just so much cool technology crammed into the Vision Pro, from the crazy displays down to, apparently, the encoding format for spatial video. Too bad Apple seems to have forgotten that a technology is not a product, as even the most ardent Apple supporterts – like John Gruber, or the hosts of ATP – have stated their Vision Pro devices are lying unused, collecting dust, just months after launch.

Apple wouldn’t let Jon Stewart interview FTC Chair Lina Khan, TV host claims

Before the cancellation of The Problem with Jon Stewart on Apple TV+, Apple forbade the inclusion of Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan as a guest and steered the show away from confronting issues related to artificial intelligence, according to Jon Stewart. ↫ Samuel Axon at Ars Technica Just when you thought Apple and Tim Cook couldn’t get any more unlikable.

The Apple Jonathan: a very 1980s concept computer that never shipped

In the middle of the 1980s, Apple found itself with several options regarding the future of its computing platforms. The Apple II was the company’s bread and butter. The Apple III was pitched as an evolution of that platform, but was clearly doomed due to hardware and software issues. The Lisa was expensive and not selling well, and while the Macintosh aimed to bring Lisa technology to the masses, sales were slow after its initial release. Those four machines are well known, but there was a fifth possibility in the mix, named the Jonathan. In his book Inventing the Future, John Buck writes about the concept, which was led by Apple engineer Jonathan Fitch starting in the fall of 1984. ↫ Stephen Hackett So apparently, the Jonathan was supposed to be a modular computer, with a backbone you could slot all kinds of upgrades in, from either Apple or third parties. These modules would add the hardware needed to run Mac OS, Apple II, UNIX, and DOS software, all on the same machine. This is an incredibly cool concept, but as we all know, it didn’t pan out. The reasons are simple: this is incredibly hard to make work, especially when it comes to the software glue that would have to make it all work seamlessly. On top of that, it just doesn’t sound very Apple-like to make a computer designed to run anything that isn’t from Apple itself. Remember, this is still the time of Steve Jobs, before he got kicked out of the company and founded NeXT instead. According to Stephen Hackett, the project never made it beyond the mockup phase, so we don’t have many details on how it was supposed to work. It does look stunning, though.

How Apple plans to update new iPhones without opening them

Unboxing a new gadget is always a fun experience, but it’s usually marred somewhat by the setup process. Either your device has been in a box for months, or it’s just now launching and ships in the box with pre-release software. Either way, the first thing you have to do is connect to Wi-Fi and wait several minutes for an OS update to download and install. The issue is so common that going through a lengthy download is an expected part of buying anything that connects to the Internet. But what if you could update the device while it’s still in the box? That’s the latest plan cooked up by Apple, which is close to rolling out a system that will let Apple Stores wirelessly update new iPhones while they’re still in their boxes. The new system is called “Presto.” ↫ Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica That’s a lot of engineering for a small inconvenience. Just the way I like my engineering.

Sources: iOS 18 lets users customize layout of home screen app icons

While app icons will likely remain locked to an invisible grid system on the Home Screen, to ensure there is some uniformity, our sources say that users will be able to arrange icons more freely on iOS 18. For example, we expect that the update will introduce the ability to create blank spaces, rows, and columns between app icons. ↫ Joe Rossignol at MacRumors It’s 2024 and iOS’ Springboard is slowly catching up to the Palm OS launcher. I’m drowning in the innovation here.

Digital wallets and the “only Apple Pay does this” mythology

I hope what you take away from this post is that while Apple Pay is a great way to pay for things and that Apple did a great job mainstreaming digital wallets like this, what they do is not unique in the industry. DPANs are great for making it harder to track one person’s purchases across multiple merchants and they make customers less at risk in the event of a data breach of payment card info. ↫ Matt Birchler The gist of the article is that all the things Apple claims are unique about Apple Pay are really not unique at all, and quite a few things Apple touts are just flat-out lies, such as merchants being unable to know what you buy or people being unable to track you when you use Apple Pay. Other digital wallets, from Google, Samsung, and others, work in the exact same way Apple Pay does, and even banks and similar companies implement their payment systems the way Apple Pay does. It’s a case study in how Apple’s marketing and PR bloggers manage to perpetuate a myth solely because so many people just assume it must be true. Apple wouldn’t lie, right?

Doctorow on the antitrust case against Apple

The foundational tenet of “the Cult of Mac” is that buying products from a $3t company makes you a member of an oppressed ethnic minority and therefore every criticism of that corporation is an ethnic slur. Call it “Apple exceptionalism” – the idea that Apple, alone among the Big Tech firms, is virtuous, and therefore its conduct should be interpreted through that lens of virtue. The wellspring of this virtue is conveniently nebulous, which allows for endless goal-post shifting by members of the Cult of Mac when Apple’s sins are made manifest. ↫ Cory Doctorow An absolutely brilliant response to the DoJ lawsuit from Cory Doctorow. You notice this “Apple exceptionalism” a lot right now because of the new laws in the EU and now the lawsuit by the US DoJ. Apple products being better is posited as a fact, a law of the universe, and as such, any claims, either through lawsuits or legislation, that Apple is doing something wrong, illegal, or anticompetitive are by definition false. Things that, according to them, make Apple products “superior” can simply not be illegal. You also notice this a lot when it comes to the existence of Android. People who don’t like being locked in or have issues with Apple’s behaviour can just switch to Android, right? The thought that there are real, monetary costs to switching from iOS to Android – costs driven up by Apple’s very behaviour – is irrelevant to them, because in the eyes of the tech pundit, everyone’s rich. What we’ll be discovering over the course of the DoJ lawsuit – a course that will take us years – is that the general public cares a lot less about Apple as a company than Apple tech pundits think it does. People have iPhones not because they love Apple, but because their previous phone was an iPhone, because of network effects, or a bit of both. I doubt the average (in this case) American gives a rat’s ass about Apple, and are much more worried about the fact they have to live paycheck-to-paycheck in a dysfunctional shell of a democracy while being told the economy is doing just great.

An Apple district manager’s Macintosh Portable in 1989-91 (featuring GEIS AppleLink and a look at System 7.0 alpha)

A few months ago I introduced you to one of the more notable Apple pre-production units in my collection, a late prototype Macintosh Portable. But it turns out it’s not merely notable for what it is than what it has on it: a beta version of System 6.0.6 (the doomed release that Apple pulled due to bugs), Apple sales databases, two online services — the maligned Mac Prodigy client, along with classic AppleLink as used by Apple staff — and two presentations, one on Apple’s current Macintosh line and one on the upcoming System 7. Now that I’ve got the infamous Conner hard drive it came with safely copied over, it’s time to explore its contents some more. ↫ Old Vintage Computing Research I wonder just how rare it is to find old internal presentations from a company like Apple. It seems like something that doesn’t happen very often, so it’s great to see this archived and documented.

Apple walks back decision to disable home screen web apps in the EU

Following the release of the second beta version of iOS 17.4, it emerged that Apple had restricted the functionality of iOS web apps in the EU. Web apps could no longer launch from the ‌Home Screen‌ in their own top-level window that takes up the entire screen, relegating them to a simple shortcut with an option to open within Safari instead. The move was heavily criticized by groups like Open Web Advocacy, which started a petition in an effort to persuade Apple to reverse the change, and it even caught the attention of the European Commission. Now, Apple has backtracked and says that ‌Home Screen‌ web apps that use WebKit in the EU will continue to function as expected upon the release of iOS 17.4. ↫ Hartley Charlton at MacRumors A welcome move, but they will still be restricted to opening using WebKit instead of any other engine Europeans will be allowed to install. With criticism of Apple’s DMA plans mounting, and pressure on the European Commission to not approve Apple’s plans increasing, all of this might change over the coming months, still.