Apple Archive

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.

Apple silicon: a little help from friends and co-processors

So far in this series, I have looked in broad terms at how the CPU cores in Apple silicon chips work, and how they use frequency control and two types of core to deliver high performance with low power and energy use. As I hinted previously, their design also relies on specialist processing units and co-processors, the subject of this article. ↫ Howard Oakley Another excellent read from Howard Oakley.

Apple intentionally kills web applications for EU users in iOS 17.4 onward to spite its EU users

With the second beta of iOS 17.4, Apple disabled much of the functionality of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the European Union. There was some speculation that it could be a temporary change or a bug related to some of the updates to the app ecosystem in Europe, but Apple has confirmed that PWAs were intentionally removed and won’t be returning. ↫ Juli Clover at MacRumors When users in the European Union install iOS 17.4, all functionality regarding progressive web apps will be removed from iOS. This means that when you pin a PWA on your iOS home screen, instead of it opening ‘like an application’, so without any browser chrome but with additional other odds and ends to make it feel more like a native application, it’ll just open inside the full browser instead. It’s typical Apple behaviour – vindictive and petty. Their stated reasoning – it was too hard and too much work to implement this for engines other than WebKit – is a bunch of utter nonsense, since Apple had no issues with developing like 600 new APIs and a whole bunch of new complex frameworks and administrative layers just to support their malicious DMA compliance to ensure they wouldn’t lose a single cent of protection money when a developer wants to distribute an application outside of the App Store. PWAs were the only way you could get an application-like experience on your iPhone from something not controlled, owned, and monetised by Apple, so it had to go to force developers to choose either of Apple’s new, maliciously DMA compliant monetised distribution options in the EU. Every time this company does anything, it’s just… Slimy, scummy, sleazy, and anti-user.

Apple Vision Pro review: magic, until it’s not

A number of reviews for Apple’s new VR headset have been published, but the only one I think is worth reading is, surprisingly, the one published by The Verge. Both the written and video review are excellent, and go into every possible little detail of the new device. Nilay Patel concludes: The basic gist is that the Vision Pro is simply cumbersome and unpleasant to use, exactly what many people have been suspecting since the day it was unveiled. I’ve been asking a very simple question on Mastodon nobody has been able to answer yet: is there anything you do on your phone, laptop, or desktop, that the Vision Pro can do better, easier, quicker? Now that the reviews are here, not even the people using it can provide an answer. And think about that last point in the list above. It’s a private computer that’s always looking at your hands.

Apple to allow sideloading, alternative application stores, alternative browser engines, lower costs, and more on iOS, but only in the EU

In order to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act, Apple has announced a set of sweeping changes to iOS and the App Store in the European Union. First and foremost, starting with iOS 17.4, users in the European Union will be able to download and install applications from outside of the App Store. On top of that, alternative application stores will become possible as well. When a developer submits an application to Apple, the developer can choose to distribute the application through the App Store, alternative application stores, or both. Apple will not charge a commission on installations from outside the App Store, and it will also allow alternative payment processors, over which Apple will also not charge any additional fees. Apple will, however, charge something called a “Core Technology Fee”. Under the new terms, apps distributed through the App Store which choose to use an alternative payment system will pay a 17 percent commission (rather than 30 percent) on digital goods and services. This commission rate falls to 10 percent for any apps that currently qualify for Apple’s reduced “small business” rate. The additional 3 percent fee then applies for developers who choose to use Apple’s payment processing system. The company is also introducing a new type of fee for particularly popular apps. The new Core Technology Fee will charge developers €0.50 (around 54 cents) per annual app install; however, this fee only kicks in after a million annual installs in the EU. Apple estimates that over 99 percent of developers will either “reduce or maintain the fees they owe to Apple” under the new business terms and that “less that 1 percent” of developers would pay a core technology fee. ↫ Jon Porter at The Verge Overall, developers in the EU will be paying a lot less to Apple than developers in the US and elsewhere, while also gaining more options of distributing their applications outside of the App Store. I’m already seeing some serious rumblings in Apple developer circles over on Mastodon, where US-based developers are not happy these serious cost reductions will only apply to EU developers. The only kink in the cable is this “Core Technology Fee”, though, as the total bill for that nebulous cost can balloon quickly. Apple will still check applications outside of the App Store for safety, security, and privacy, though, with a system very similar to how macOS handles applications outside of the Mac App Store right now through a new – to iOS – notarisation system. This notarisation will not check applications for quality (because as we all know, the App Store is a beacon of quality) or content (hello emulators!). Another major change coming to iOS is the availability of browsers other than Safari. Right now, even if you think you’re using an alternative, non-Safari browser on iOS, you’re really just using a skin on top of a hobbled version of Safari. In the EU, starting with iOS 17.4, non-WebKit browser engines like Firefox’ Gecko or Chrome’s Blink can come to iOS, and live as equal citizens on your iOS device. Furthermore, NFS on iOS will be opening up in Europe, giving European users the ability to use services other than Apple Pay and Wallet with NFC, and even set them as default. Apple is also allowing game streaming services to come to iOS, and this change happens to be available worldwide instead of being restricted to just the EU. These are sweeping changes to how iOS and the App Store works, but much to the chagrin of US-based users and developers in my Mastodon timeline and elsewhere, they’re exclusive to the European Union. It’s unclear if Americans can import EU devices to gain access to these new features, or if they need EU-based Apple IDs. Let the grey market provide.

iOS 17.3, macOS 14.3, watchOS 10.3, tvOS 17.3 released

Apple yesterday released iOS and iPadOS 17.3 as well as watchOS 10.3, tvOS 17.3, and macOS Sonoma 14.3 for all supported devices. iOS 17.3 primarily adds collaborative playlists in Apple Music, and what Apple calls “Stolen Device Protection.” Collaborative playlists have been on a bit of a journey; they were promised as part of iOS 17, then added in the beta of iOS 17.2, but removed before that update went live. Now they’re finally reaching all users. When enabled, Stolen Device Protection requires Face ID or Touch ID authentication “with no passcode fallback” for some sensitive actions on the phone. ↫ Samuel Axon at Ars Technica This last feature is something you should probably turn on right away, as it serves as a reply to Joanna Stern’s investigation into an apparently common way iPhones would get stolen to gain access to users’ Apple accounts.

Apple AirDrop leaks user data like a sieve. Chinese authorities say they’re scooping it up.

Chinese authorities recently said they’re using an advanced encryption attack to de-anonymize users of AirDrop in an effort to crack down on citizens who use the Apple file-sharing feature to mass-distribute content that’s outlawed in that country. According to a 2022 report from The New York Times, activists have used AirDrop to distribute scathing critiques of the Communist Party of China to nearby iPhone users in subway trains and stations and other public venues. A document one protester sent in October of that year called General Secretary Xi Jinping a “despotic traitor.” A few months later, with the release of iOS 16.1.1, the AirDrop users in China found that the “everyone” configuration, the setting that makes files available to all other users nearby, automatically reset to the more contacts-only setting. Apple has yet to acknowledge the move. Critics continue to see it as a concession Apple CEO Tim Cook made to Chinese authorities. ↫ Dan Goodin at Ars Technica The most damning aspect of this story is that Apple has been aware of this vulnerability in AirDrop since 2019, and has not addressed it in any way. The use of AirDrop by dissidents in China to spread critique of the Chinese government has been well-known, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to conclude that Apple has been weary of closing this security vulnerability in order to not offend China – as further evidenced by the sudden changes to AirDrop as mentioned above. What’s going to be interesting now is what Apple is going to do about this. Are they going to finally address this security hole, and thereby risking offending China? Will it fix the hole, but only in non-totalitarian countries? Will it just leave it open? Whatever they do, they’ll end up offending someone.

Apple releases iOS 17.2 and macOS 14.2

Today, Apple pushed out the public releases of iOS 17.2, iPadOS 17.2, macOS Sonoma 14.2, watchOS 10.2, and tvOS 17.2. iOS 17.2 and iPadOS 17.2’s flagship feature is the new Journal app, which Apple teased when it first introduced iOS 17 earlier. The app mimics several existing popular journaling apps in the App Store from third-party developers but leverages data from your Photos, workouts, and other Apple apps to make journaling suggestions. Other features include the ability to tap a “catch-up arrow” to scroll to the first missed message in a conversation in Messages, the ability to take spatial video photos for later viewing on Vision Pro, and several tweaks and additions to the Weather app. ↫ Samuel Axon for Ars Technica Makers of journalling applications for iOS are not going to be in a good mood today, I reckon.

Evaluating M3 Pro CPU cores: general performance

Evaluating the performance of CPUs with identical cores is relatively straightforward, and they’re easy to compare using single- and multi-core benchmarks. When there are two different types of core, one designed primarily for energy efficiency (E), the other for maximum performance (P), traditional benchmarks can readily mislead. Multi-core results are dominated by the ratio of P to E cores, and variable frequency confounds further. In this series of articles, I set out to disentangle these when comparing core performance between Apple’s original M1 Pro and its third-generation M3 Pro chips. This first article explains why and how I am investigating this, and shows overall results for performance and power use under a range of loads. Articles like these will help you make an informed decision about whether or not your workloads can benefit from moving from an M1/M2 to an M3.

How Apple’s developers reflashed Mac ROMs in the ’90s

After I wrote about the possibility of programmable Mac ROM SIMMs in Quadras a couple of months ago, I suspected that there had been a way for developers at Apple in the 68k Mac era to reflash the ROM in their Macs during development, just like BIOS updates on PCs. The reason I believed this is because the ROM SIMM socket in the Quadras brought out pins for 12V (VPP) and write enable (/WE). I had verified that the write enable pin was going into the memory controller chip in several Mac models, so I was pretty confident that in-system programming was possible. As luck would have it, multiple people pointed out to me that an Apple internal utility used for ROM flashing had been uploaded to the Macintosh Garden. It was recovered from a prototype PowerBook 520 purchased in 2020. Of course, I had to download this utility and figure out how it works. I honestly cannot believe it’s taken this long for such a tool to become available one way or the other. Classic Macs are incredibly popular in the retro community, and being able to reflash the ROMs like this is incredibly useful. It took some work and disassembly, but Doug Brown got it working.

What has changed in CPU cores in M3 chips?

If you read the initial reviews of Apple’s new M3-based Macs, you’d be forgiven for thinking little had changed in their CPU cores, apart from a rejigging of numbers and an increase in the maximum frequency of their P cores. As my MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Pro arrived three days early, this article presents a tentative first look at what has changed in their CPU cores, and from that, how you might choose the right chip for your next Apple silicon Mac. Like Apple, I’m going to make comparison between M1 and M3 chips, as in most respects discussed here, M2 CPU cores didn’t change as much from those in the M1, and I’ve had and tested four different M1 models. As the introduction suggests, there’s more here than many seem to think.