The best moment of this year’s WWDC keynote was a straightforward demo of a macOS feature, Universal Control. The idea is simple enough: it allows you to use the keyboard and trackpad on a Mac to directly control an iPad, and even makes it simple to drag and drop content between those devices. What made the demo so impressive is how easy and seamless it all seemed. In a classic Apple move, there was no setup required at all. The segment happened so fast that it even seemed (incorrectly, as it turns out) like the Mac was able to physically locate the iPad in space so it knew where to put the mouse pointer. I mean, none of this stuff is new or technologically impressive, but as usual, Apple manages to make it easy, intuitive, and look and feel good and nice. I’d love to have something as straightforward and integrated like this in Linux.
Yesterday, during the Apple event, the company, as always, kept talking about they value privacy, and how privacy is a “fundamental human right”. A noble statement, of course, but it seems Apple does not consider people from China, Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines to be “humans”, because fundamental, tent pole privacy features announced yesterday will not be available to the humans living in those countries. Apple on Monday said a new “private relay” feature designed to obscure a user’s web browsing behavior from internet service providers and advertisers will not be available in China for regulatory reasons. The feature was one of a number of privacy protections Apple announced at its annual software developer conference on Monday, the latest in a years-long effort by the company to cut down on the tracking of its users by advertisers and other third parties. Privacy is a “fundamental human right”, but apparently not as fundamental as Apple’s right to make even more money.
Apple previewed macOS 12, iIOS 15 and iPadOS 15 yesterday. From MacRumors, one of the few remaining truly good Apple news websites: Apple today announced macOS 12, which it’s calling macOS Monterey. The new version of macOS is gaining features like Universal Control, AirPlay to Mac, and Shortcuts for Mac. Apple said that macOS Monterey’s updates will help users get more done and work more fluidly across Apple devices. And iOS 15: Apple today previewed iOS 15, the company’s next major update for the iPhone, featuring new video calling capabilities, improvements to Messages, user statuses, a smart notification summary, and more. and iPadOS 15: Apple today unveiled iPadOS 15, its next-generation operating system for iPad that introduces a slew of new features like widgets on the Home Screen, an iPhone-style App Library, new multi-tasking features, and more. Here’s a rundown of what to expect. There’s no major tent pole features or drastic overhauls – instead, there’s a lot of smaller features and new additions that really do add up to what seem like three pretty major operating system releases. There should be something for everybody in here, but I do wonder which maniac approved the new tab bar design in Safari, because that behaviour should be a crime against humanity.
Of the highest 1,000 grossing apps on the App Store, nearly two percent are scams, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. And those apps have bilked consumers out of an estimated $48 million during the time they’ve been on the App Store, according to market research firm Appfigures. The scale of the problem has never before been reported. What’s more, Apple profits from these apps because it takes a cut of up to a 30 percent of all revenue generated through the App Store. Even more common, according to The Post’s analysis, are “fleeceware” apps that use inauthentic customer reviews to move up in the App Store rankings and give apps a sense of legitimacy to convince customers to pay higher prices for a service usually offered elsewhere with higher legitimate customer reviews. Apple likes to claim the App Store is needed to keep people safe, but that simply is a flat-out lie. The App Store is filled to the brim not only with obvious scams, but also a whole boatload of gambling applications designed specifically to trick children into spending money. In fact, these “games” make up a huge proportion of the App Store’s revenue. Apple earns top dollar from every scam or disturbing gambling app on the App Store, so there’s a huge conflict of interest here that in and of itself should be enough reason to take control over iOS away from Apple. iOS users should have the freedom to install and use an application store that does not prey on their children and promotes scams.
Blockbuster report by The New York Times on Apple and Tim Cook gladly making endless concessions to please the Chinese government. Nothing in here is really new to most of us, but it’s startling to see it laid out in such detail, and sourced so well. For instance, when it comes to Chinese people, privacy is apparently no longer a “fundamental human right“: Inside, Apple was preparing to store the personal data of its Chinese customers on computer servers run by a state-owned Chinese firm. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has said the data is safe. But at the data center in Guiyang, which Apple hoped would be completed by next month, and another in the Inner Mongolia region, Apple has largely ceded control to the Chinese government. Chinese state employees physically manage the computers. Apple abandoned the encryption technology it used elsewhere after China would not allow it. And the digital keys that unlock information on those computers are stored in the data centers they’re meant to secure. This means zero privacy for Chinese Apple users, as Apple has pretty much ceded all control over this data to the Chinese government – so much so Apple’s employees aren’t even in the building, and Apple no longer has the encryption keys either. And on top of this, it turns out Apple is so scared of offending the Chinese government, the company proactively censors applications and other content in the Chinese version of the App Store, removing, censoring, and blocking content even before the Chinese government asks for it. “Apple has become a cog in the censorship machine that presents a government-controlled version of the internet,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Asia director for Amnesty International, the human rights group. “If you look at the behavior of the Chinese government, you don’t see any resistance from Apple — no history of standing up for the principles that Apple claims to be so attached to.” Apple even fired an App Store reviewer because the reviewer approved an application that while not breaking a single rule, did offend the Chinese government. That is how far Apple is willing to go to please its Chinese government friends. Apple isn’t merely beholden to China – it’s deeply, deeply afraid of China. How many more concessions is Tim Cook willing to make, and how many more Chinese rings is he willing to kiss?
iOS 14.5 is a major update with a long list of new features, including the ability to unlock an iPhone with an Apple Watch, 5G support for dual-SIM users, new emoji characters, an option to select a preferred music service to use with Siri, crowd sourced data collection for Apple Maps accidents, AirPlay 2 support for Fitness+, and much more. The update also introduces support for AirTags and Precision Finding on the iPhone 12 models, and it marks the official introduction of App Tracking Transparency. There are a long list of bug fixes, with Apple addressing everything from AirPods switching issues to the green tint that some users saw on iPhone 12 models. A big update for such a small version number, and a lot of good stuff in there. Apple also released macOS Big Sur 11.3, which is a smaller update than the iOS one, but still contains some nice additions such as better touch integration for running iOS apps on the Mac and improved support for game controllers.
Apple has announced a new, redesigned 24-inch iMac, featuring an M1 chip, a 4.5K display, and a range of color options, as well as an improved cooling system, front-facing camera, speaker system, microphones, power connector, and peripherals. These look pretty good, but they come with the same limitations as all the other identical M1 Macs – 8 GB of RAM standard with a maximum of a mere 16 GB, lacklustre graphics chip, no high refresh rate displays (in 2021!), barely any ports, zero expandability, and Linux/BSD support will always remain problematic and years behind the curve. Good processor, but at what cost?
Entire servers can now be marked as NSFW if their community “is organized around NSFW themes or if the majority of the server’s content is 18+.” This label will be a requirement going forward, and Discord will proactively mark servers as NSFW if they fail to self-identify. Discord previously allowed individual channels to be marked as NSFW and age-gated. The NSFW marker does two things. First, it prevents anyone under the age of 18 from joining. But the bigger limitation is that it prevents NSFW servers from being accessed on iOS devices — a significant restriction that’s almost certainly meant to cater to Apple’s strict and often prudish rules around nudity in services distributed through the App Store. Tumblr infamously wiped porn from its entire platform in order to come into compliance with Apple’s rules. There’s two things happening here. There’s the tighter restrictions by Discord, which I think are reasonable – you don’t want minors or adults who simply aren’t interested in rowdier conversations to accidentally walk into channels where people are discussing sex, nudity, or porn. Labeling these channels as such is, while not a panacea, an understandable move, also from a legal standpoint. I still think sex and nudity are far, far, far less damaging or worrisome than the insane amounts of brutal violence children get exposed to in movies, TV series, games, and the evening news, but I understand American culture sees these things differently. Then there’s Apple’s demands placed on Discord. This is an absolutely bizarre move by Apple on so many levels. First, the line between porn and mere nudity is often vague and nebulous, such as in paintings or others forms of art. This could be hugely impactful to art communities sharing the things they work on. Second, Discord is primarily a platform for close-knit groups of friends, and if everyone in your friend group is over 18, there’s going to be discussions and talk about sex, nudity, porn, and other things adults tend to talk about from time to time, just as there are in real life. None of these two – art and casual conversation – are criminal, bad, or negative in any way. And third, and this is the big one, these restrictions Apple is placing on Discord do not apply to Apple’s own applications. iMessage serves much the same function as Discord does, yet there’s no NSFW markers, 18+ warnings, or bans on such content on iMessage. Other platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and the damn web through Safari, provide access to far vaster collections of the most degenerate pornography mankind ever wrought, and yet, Apple isn’t banning them either. This just goes to show that, once again, that iPhone isn’t really yours. Apple decides how you get to use it, and you’re merely along for the $1000 ride. Android may have its problems, but at least I don’t have Tim Cook peeping over my shoulder to see if I’m looking at something he deems lewd.
Over the past few years, Apple seems increasingly willing to cooperate with authoritarian governments, uninterested in protecting its own users, and unwilling to actually standup for human rights in broad terms, as often portrayed by its marketing department or direct statements from CEO Tim Cook. The company is quick to position itself as a prominent human rights advocate in the corporate world, especially regarding issues like user privacy and security. Although, as Ole Begemann has aptly pointed out, this is increasingly disingenuous to the point of deliberately deceiving its customers and the general public. There are even (unconfirmed) reports that the lack of end-to-end encryption that Ole criticizes is actually due to willful coordination and cooperation with the FBI. And like most companies in the industry, Apple employs a highly problematic supply chain, which makes its human rights crusade seem even less authentic. A good overview of Apple’s and Tim Cook’s incredibly close ties with genocidal, totalitarian regimes, and how the company seems to have zero issues selling out their users as long as they’re not in the west. I guess for Apple and Tim Cook, western lives simply matter more.
Nobody designs for small iPhone devices anymore. Why do I say this? Well, if you’ve been rocking the iPhone SE 2020 you would know. What I’m saying is there a lot of UI glitches from apps running on iPhone SE. That does not look like a pleasant user experience.
According to the report, citing a source within the Ministry, Apple struck a deal with the government that will show users a prompt when first configuring a device in Russia to pre-install apps from a list of government-approved software. Users will have the ability to decline the installation of certain apps. The new legislation is an amendment to the existing “On Consumer Protection” law that will require the pre-installation of software on all devices sold in Russia, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and smart TVs. The pre-installed software will include antivirus and cartographic apps, social media apps, and “Public Service” apps for payments and civil services. Apple bending over backwards to please Putin’s totalitarian regime will open the (back)door to countless other governments – western or not – demanding the same thing. As always, it seems Apple only cares about privacy and user experience if they can pull the wool over the eyes of gullible westerners – but as soon as the choice comes down to money or values, Tim Cook is jumping at the opportunity dump his proclaimed values in a ditch by the side of the road. Speaking of bending over backwards to please totalitarian regimes and dumping proclaimed values in a ditch by the side of the road, Tim Cook will attend the Chinese government’s China Development Forum, despite the ongoing Uighur genocide and crackdown on the democratic rights of the citizens of Hong Kong. Classy move, Tim, but then, anybody with even a modicum of pattern recognition skills is not surprised by your never-ending quest to please dictators.
This is an early attempt at microarchitecture documentation for the CPU in the Apple M1, inspired by and building on the amazing work of Andreas Abel, Andrei Frumusanu, @Veedrac, Travis Downs, Henry Wong and Agner Fog. This documentation is my best effort, but it is based on black-box reverse engineering, and there are definitely mistakes. No warranty of any kind (and not just as a legal technicality). To make it easier to verify the information and/or identify such errors, entries in the instruction tables link to the experiments and results (~35k tables of counter values). Amazing work, but the fact this kind of work is even needed illustrates just how anti-consumer these new Macs really are.
Thanks to Twitter, here’s an interesting footnote in computing history. As A/UX development was winding down, Apple was working on another project called the Macintosh Application Environment. This was an emulator that allowed users to run Mac software under Sun’s Solaris or Hewlett Packard’s HP-UX. A great deal of A/UX technology went into the design of this ill-fated product. This page is a pictorial tribute to the Macintosh Application Environment, running under Solaris 8 on an Ultra 10 workstation. If you want to try the MAE, you’ll need a Sun box running Solaris 9 or below – The software does not appear to work under Solaris 10. This is absolutely fascinating, and I had no idea this existed.
Mobile app developer Kosta Eleftheriou has a new calling that goes beyond software development: taking on what he sees as a rampant scam problem ruining the integrity of Apple’s App Store. Eleftheriou, who created the successful Apple Watch keyboard app FlickType, has for the last two weeks been publicly criticizing Apple for lax enforcement of its App Store rules that have allowed scam apps, as well as apps that clone popular software from other developers, to run rampant. These apps enjoy top billing in the iPhone marketplace, all thanks to glowing reviews and sterling five-star ratings that are largely fabricated, he says. I’ve been saying it for ten years: the application store model is fundamentally broken, because the owner of the application store benefits from people gaming and cheating the system. In this case, Apple profits from every scam application or subscription sold, and since the App Store constitutes a huge part of Apple’s all-important services revenue, Apple has no incentive to really tackle issues like this. Here’s what going to happen, based on my immutable pattern recognition skills: there will be more press outcry over this developer’s specific issue until Apple eventually sends out a public apology statement and sort-of addresses this specific issue. American tech media – which are deeply embedded in Apple’s ecosystem and depend on being in Apple’s good graces – will praise Apple’s response, and claim the situation has been resolved. Their next batch of review units and press invites from Apple are on their way. And a few weeks or months later, another developer suffers from the same or similar issues, rinse, repeat. The problem is not individual App Store rules or App Store reviewers having a bad day – the paradigm itself is fundamentally broken, and until the tech industry and us as users come to terms with that, these repetitive stories will keep popping up, faux press outrage and all.
Apple’s second computer — its first to have a case — launched in 1977, and that boxy beige Apple II was soon everywhere: in classrooms, living rooms and offices. At the vanguard of a generation of personal computers to come, it featured a particular and carefully-chosen beige. But what did that look like? Those first machines — the ones that have escaped landfills anyway — have shifted in color over 40 years. The documented public record is sketchy and confused. But I stumbled upon a way to investigate what Apple Beige was like. Fascinating bit of sleuthing, and a fun read to boot. Maybe not the most important aspect of computer history, but every bit of information we can preserve is worth it.
Apple is back under the spotlight over labor conditions in its supply chain following an explosive report from The Information on Thursday that revealed new details about the company’s reluctance to cut ties with suppliers who violate its ethics policies. According to the report, Apple learned in 2013 that Suyin Electronics, a China-based company that (at the time) made parts for its MacBooks, was employing underage workers, and despite telling Suyin to address the issue or risk losing business, Apple discovered additional workers as young as 14 years old during an audit just three months later. But rather than immediately cutting ties with Suyin for violating its supply chain ethics policies — which prohibit child labor and which Apple claims are the “highest standards” — Apple continued to rely on the company for more than three years, according to The Information. Any company – and their executives – knowingly and willingly using child labour, slave labour, or forced labour anywhere in the world should be tried as if they are committing these heinous acts in their home countries. The body of evidence that Apple is fully aware of its extensive use of child labour and forced labour in e.g. China’s Uighur concentration camps is extensive, and the fact Tim Cook can get away with this without ever having to face the consequences is disgusting. Tim Cook’s fellow Americans get life sentences for less. Of course, Apple is far from the only company guilty of this – just look at Nestle or Nike, for instance – but being the largest company in the world with the biggest, most arrogant mouth about how “ethical” they are should be the first to end up in court.
Corellium, a mobile device company that supports iOS, this week won a significant victory in its legal battle against Apple. Apple last year sued Corellium for copyright infringement because the Corellium software is designed to replicate iOS to allow security researchers to locate bugs and security flaws. According to The Washington Post, a Florida judge threw out Apple’s claims that Corellium had violated copyright law with its software. The judge said that Corellium successfully demonstrated that it operates under fair use terms. A very unlikely victory, considering the massive financial means difference between these two companies. A good one, though – this was just the world’s largest corporation being annoyed a small upstart made their products look bad by giving security researchers the tools they need to find bugs and security flaws in iOS. Being annoyed your forced Uighur-labour brand might get tarnished should not be grounds for a legal case.
I know all this because I remain a hopeless computer tinkerer who happened to come across a Quadra 700 around the start of 2020. Unlike my road test of the IIsi for Ars back in 2018, the Quadra 700 presented a tantalizing opportunity to really push the limits of early 90s desktop computing. Could this decades-old workhorse hold a candle to the multi-core behemoths of the 2020s? The IIsi turned out to be surprisingly capable; what about the Quadra 700 with its top-shelf early ‘90s specs? The Quadra 700 is such an enticing machine. Clean, elegant, and capable for its time, I’d love to play around with one today.
On Youtube I watched a Mac user who had bought an iMac last year. It was maxed out with 40 GB of RAM costing him about $4000. He watched in disbelief how his hyper expensive iMac was being demolished by his new M1 Mac Mini, which he had paid a measly $700 for. In real world test after test, the M1 Macs are not merely inching past top of the line Intel Macs, they are destroying them. In disbelief people have started asking how on earth this is possible? If you are one of those people, you have come to the right place. Here I plan to break it down into digestible pieces exactly what it is that Apple has done with the M1. It’s exciting to see x86 receive such a major kick in the butt, but it’s sad that the M1 is locked away and only a very, very small number of people will get to see its benefits.
The new M1 MacBooks are fast, beautiful and silent and the hype is absolutely justified. There’s still a lot to do on the software-front to catch up, and the bugs around older iOS Simulators are especially problematic. All of that can be fixed in software and the whole industry is currently working on making the experience better, so by next year, when Apple updates the 16-inch MacBook Pro and releases the next generation of their M chip line, it should be absolutely possible to use a M1 Mac as main dev machine. For the vast majority of people, it’s going to be very hard to resist these new Macs. They’re just so far ahead of the competition in performance, power draw, battery life, and noise (or lack thereof) that any x86-based laptop just can’t compete, unless they go hardcore in on price. I’d love to have one to test and review here for OSNews, but financially that’s not in the cards for now.