Apple Archive

Apple introduces new accessibility features

Apple today previewed software features for cognitive, vision, hearing, and mobility accessibility, along with innovative tools for individuals who are nonspeaking or at risk of losing their ability to speak. These updates draw on advances in hardware and software, include on-device machine learning to ensure user privacy, and expand on Apple’s long-standing commitment to making products for everyone. These are all good, truly helpful features. Apple’s long been the choice for people with disabilities, and their lead in this field is something others should follow.

Has Apple sounded the last POST?

Power-on self-tests (POST) are widely used in electronics, and one of the oldest features of personal computers. Every model of Mac in the past has had its own POST routines, some that have become famous because of the sounds that result, or what’s displayed, from the sight of a Sad Mac to the sound of a car crash. So what happens when an Apple silicon Mac fails its POST? Does it even run them? I never stopped to think about this. The answer is interesting in that it’s not definitive.

Apple announces Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for iPad with subscription models

Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the ‌iPad‌ will each be available for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year, with a one-month free trial. Final Cut Pro requires an ‌iPad‌ with an M1 chip or newer, while Logic Pro requires an A12 Bionic ‌iPad‌ or newer. The apps will be available on the App Store starting on Tuesday, May 23. It’s great seeing Apple bring professional applications to tablets. The more choices we have, the better, and between desktops, laptops, and tablets, tablets have always felt left out. Let’s hope Xcode is next.

Apple’s foray into mental health is going to make everything worse

Behavioral health interventions are notoriously difficult. They require a grasp of psychology, sure, but they also require a certain amount of flexibility because people’s lives are complicated. Apple’s ham-handed approach to physical health has been bad enough — the idea it is now going to approach mental health does not fill me with confidence. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who won’t mind letting Apple toy with their emotions. But we’ve got a lot of evidence now that too much screen time is linked to bad health — and for Apple, its entire business is getting you to spend more time with its software and gadgets, not less. This is a great article, and highlights the problems that stem from tech bros trying to be doctors, or in this case, even psychologists and therapists. Health interventions require a personalised approach, and blanket one-size-fits-all attempts are generally suboptimal. A person with weight issues who happens to perform a physically intensive job will require a different approach than someone with similar weight issues who has a desk job. A generic “move!” on your Apple Watch a few times a day won’t really help either of those people. This gets even more problematic with mental health issues. A great example of just how counterintuitive health information can be comes from myself – I have a severe anxiety disorder and related mental ailments, and I’ve been trying to learn to live with it since I was a child (there’s probably a genetic element, since similar disorders run in my family). Through a combination of extensive behavioural, cognitive, and physical therapy, a lot of scientific studying with my doctor and other specialists into what, exactly, is wrong inside my brain and body to gain a crystal clear insight into how anxiety fluctuates in my body during the day and what internal and external stimuli affect it, and to cap it off a very small dose of daily anxiety medication (it took me almost two decades to come around to taking medication), I now have my mental health issues well under control. That being said, I will always have these problems. I manage them every day, and they’re never gone, like someone with chronic back problems, even if I seem completely “normal”. Passively and actively, throughout every day, I manage my anxiety, make sure I keep it in check, and recognise the earliest possible warning signs, all made just a little bit easier by my medication. When I emigrated to Sweden four years ago to live together with my now wife, we went to IKEA, about a 90 minute drive away on the border with Finland. Since trips like that generally increase my anxiety considerably, I had a few rough days leading up to it, but during the car ride, I finally managed to overcome it and settle down. As we parked, everything was back to my normal levels – a change in venue from e.g. car to destination often works as a “reset button” of sorts – and we were ready to shop and eat meatballs. And then my smartwatch pinged me in the IKEA lobby. Despite me feeling entirely normal with for me acceptable levels of anxiety, it started telling me I was experiencing the highest level of “stress”. Even though I did not feel any stress whatsoever, such a small thing can be enough to send me into a downward spiral of a panic attack – which I actually do not have very often, maybe once a year or so. Due to having just emigrated thousands of kilometers away to the Arctic, leaving family and friends behind, I was obviously already susceptible, and this stupid digital piece of crap on my wrist telling me I was “stressed” was all it took to trigger a massive panic attack. I’m used to always having a heightened level of anxiety and associated vitals compared to others, but this watch didn’t know that. It just had some basic data programmed in about what is “normal” for someone of my stature, gender, and age, and didn’t take my personal situation into account at all – because it couldn’t. There are countless little indicators, both internal and external, that come into play in a situation like this, and a smartwatch has no way of learning or disseminating such information. It takes a dumb, standardised, generalised shotgun approach in determining if its wearer is “stressed”, actual, real-world stress levels in the moment be damned. This is why I am incredibly weary of Apple”s rumoured plans to enter the realm of mental health with its Apple Watch. As the linked article details, it’s already not doing a great job at managing people’s physical health, and I am genuinely afraid of what effects such a crude approach will have on people’s mental health. Shotgun mental health notifications are going to make people obsessive, they’re going to give people anxiety, they’re going to give people panic attacks, they’re going to give people depressive episodes, they’re going to disturb people’s sleep, they’re going to worsen or even cause eating disorders, and much more. Mental health is not something you should leave to Silicon Valley tech bros – you should leave it to your doctor, trained medical personnel, licensed psychologists and therapists, other specialists, and science, not to a glorified wrist calculator.

Apple’s fight against iPhone sideloading was pointless at best, harmful at worst

If Apple had very quietly allowed sideloading a few years ago, that would have removed the antitrust threat – while the overwhelming majority of iPhone owners would have continued to get their apps from the App Store, just as they always have. The percentage of iPhone owners who will ever sideload an app is vanishingly small, so Apple has spent a lot of time and energy fighting a battle that is completely pointless Worse, by fighting the issue so loudly and for so long, Apple has actually given the issue way more publicity than it would ever have received otherwise. It has turned what would otherwise have been a boring technical detail covered only by the Apple press into a mass-media news story. Apple has effectively contributed to its portrayal as a bad guy, with zero benefit to the company. Right on the money – and I’m glad it has transpired this way. I doubt we’d ever have gotten this far without Apple continuously trying to stop it.

What app developers actually think about the EU vs Apple debate on third-party app stores

Under the European Union’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to increase competition, large online platforms, including Apple, must open up their devices to third-party app stores. While the consensus is that this provision of the law is good for users and even Apple, it’s unclear how the regulation will affect application developers. The question is what do app developers think about these new regulations? Will they actually be beneficial to EU based developers and what will be the short and long term impact on the EU’s app market? We spoke with a few to find out. In short, they’re actually interested in the effects of this legislation, because sideloading and alternative application stores on iOS will give developers more options, and these options will in turn put pressure on Apple to lower its fees as well. Competition is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Size matters: an exploration of virtual memory on iOS

I ran into an odd out-of-memory problem the other day when attempting to debug an iOS app on device. The app consistently crashed shortly after launch, preventing me from investigating the bug. To unblock myself, I learned a lot about the iOS virtual memory implementation and journaled my findings (including a fix!) here. Nothing to add – exactly what it says on the tin.

Apple might be getting into VR at the worst possible time

The Verge: In other words, the impressive PSVR 2 hasn’t been as popular as Sony may have hoped, Meta Quest Pro sales barely scratch the surface of the Quest 2’s nearly 20 million units sold, and the ByteDance-owned Pico is struggling, too. There have already been some signs that high-end VR isn’t taking, especially Meta’s decision to cut the Quest Pro’s price from $1,500 to $1,000 just over four months after the product first launched. But given that Apple’s headset is rumored to cost around $3,000 — double the Quest Pro’s starting price — the iPhone maker could have a steep road ahead as it tries to get traction for its headset. I have my sincerest doubts about consumer VR/AR goggles, but at the same time – it’s generally not a good idea to bet against Apple.

A brief history of APFS in honour of its fifth birthday

This article is a year old, but I came across it and want to highlight it anyway. On 27 March 2017, Apple made one of its biggest corporate gambles. When it rolled out iOS 10.3 that day, the installer silently converted the storage in each iPhone and iPad to the first release of Apple’s new file system, APFS. Had a significant percentage of conversions gone wrong, Apple would have had a disaster on its hands, particularly as it didn’t admit to doing this until WWDC just over two months later, when it announced that APFS was coming to macOS 10.13 High Sierra that September. The conversion of god knows how many iPhones and iPads to APFS, entirely silently, is one of those moments where Apple really flexed its engineering muscle. Since file systems are a bit of an archaic topic these days, I find that Apple really isn’t getting the recognition it deserves for this silent migration to APFS.

Apple, Foxconn convince Indian state to loosen labor laws

Apple and its manufacturing partner Foxconn were among the companies behind a landmark liberalization of labor laws in the Indian state of Karnataka last month, according to three people familiar with the matter. Their successful lobbying for new legislation means two-shift production can take place in India, akin to the two companies’ practices in China, their primary manufacturing base. The law gives the southern state one of the most flexible working regimes in India as the country aims to become an alternative manufacturing base to China. “We do the right thing, even when it’s not easy.”

Customizing the startup chime on a 1999 G3 iMac

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember back in 2012 when I changed the startup sound on my Power Mac G3 (Blue and White). That was a fun introduction to the Forth programming language. I had to reverse-engineer just enough of Apple’s firmware update script to understand what was going on. Recently, Aidan Halpin, a reader of this site, asked me if I could do the same kind of startup sound customization on his iMac. This particular iMac is officially known as the “iMac (Slot Loading)” and has a model identifier of PowerMac2,1. As you can guess from the name, it has a slot-loading CD-ROM drive unlike the original iMac that had a laptop-style tray-loading drive. By the way, Aidan’s iMac is special because it has a PowerPC G4 processor soldered onto the logic board instead of the original G3. He sent me Apple’s last firmware update for this model: iMac Firmware Update 4.1.9. I went to work looking at the update contents to see if I could figure out how to modify the chime the same way I did with my Power Mac G3. I thought it would be fun to take everyone along for a ride and show exactly what was involved in changing the sound. And of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without also sharing the code for the utility I created to inject the new chime into the firmware update file. This is an insane amount of work for something that doesn’t really matter in the end. I love it.

iPhone 15 USB-C cables without MFi badge may have data transfer and charging speed limits

Apple’s iPhone 15 series will officially only support USB-C accessories that have been certified by Apple’s own Made for iPhone (MFi) program, potentially limiting the functionality of accessories not approved by Apple, an established leaker has now claimed. So you’re getting USB-C, but not really. Leave it to Apple to milk even something as mundane as this.

What is the Apple YACC?

Has anyone ever heard of the Apple YACC, or YACCintosh? it was a 68010 prototype mac intended to do colour in 1986. Weirdly enough someone managed to find the ROMs *and* the PALS for it, but no schematics have turned up yet. All of the stuff is on bitsavers. I do not know what to add here. This seems to be one of the most obscure – if not the most obscure – Apple efforts out there, as there are virtually zero references of it online.

Source code for the Apple Lisa released

Happy 40th Birthday to Lisa! The Apple Lisa computer, that is. In celebration of this milestone, CHM has received permission from Apple to release the source code to the Lisa software, including its system and applications software. Access the code here. More of this please.

Emulating an iPod Touch 1G and iPhoneOS 1.0 using QEMU

Around a year ago, I started working on emulating an iPod Touch 1G using the QEMU emulation software. After months of reverse engineering, figuring out the specifications of various hardware components, and countless debugging runs with GDB, I now have a functional emulation of an iPod Touch that includes display rendering and multitouch support. The emulated device runs the first firmware ever released by Apple for the iPod Touch: iPhoneOS 1.0, build 3A101a. The emulator runs iBoot (the bootloader), the XNU kernel and then executes Springboard. This is quite impressive.

It might be time for Apple to throw in the towel on the Mac Pro

The Mac Pro is one of the few remaining Intel Macs with no Apple Silicon replacement ready to go, even though we’re a little past the two-year deadline that CEO Tim Cook originally set for the transition in summer 2020 (and to be fair, it has been a hard-to-predict couple of years). Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that Apple continues to work on a new version of the Mac Pro, alongside other as-yet-unreplaced Intel Macs like the higher-end Mac mini and the 27-inch iMac, but that a planned “M2 Extreme” chip that would have powered the Apple Silicon Mac Pro has “likely” been canceled. Waiting for news in the face of uncertainty isn’t new to Mac Pro holdouts; it has been a constant for the last decade-plus. It has been a very long time since the Mac Pro was updated on anything close to a predictable cadence, especially if you don’t count partial refreshes like the 2012 Mac Pro tower or the addition of new GPU options to the 2019 model. And each of the last two updates—the “trash can” Mac Pro in 2013 and the reforged “cheese grater” version from 2019—have reflected a total shift in design and strategy. At this point, I’d like Apple to decide: either commit to a consistent strategy or vision for the Mac Pro and its place in the lineup or retire it. It sure has been a rough time for Mac Pro buyers. The reality of it is that desktop PCs – Apple or otherwise – just aren’t really all that popular anymore compared to laptops, and this probably doubly counts for the very high end. Selling Mac Pros by the thousands simply doesn’t make a whole lot of sense compared to the numbers Apple’s other computers are shipping at.

Apple considering dropping requirement for iPhone web browsers to use WebKit

As part of a larger story about Apple’s plans to allow third-party app stores on the iPhone and iPad in EU countries, Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman claimed that Apple is also considering removing its requirement for iPhone and iPad web browsers to use WebKit, the open source browser engine that powers Safari. Well, well, well. The EU might actually force Apple to turn iOS into a real operating system.

Apple is reportedly preparing to allow third-party app stores on the iPhone

The Verge, reporting on a paywalled story from Bloomberg: Apple is planning to let users install alternative app stores on iOS, according to a report from Bloomberg. The shift would be a remarkable change from the company, which has famously only allowed iPhone and iPad users to download apps from the App Store. The plans are reportedly being spurred on by the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which is meant to enact “rules for digital gatekeepers to ensure open markets” when its restrictions become a requirement in 2024, according to a press release. The law means that Apple will not only have to allow third-party app stores but sideloading as well, where users can install software downloaded from the web. Apple executives have previously called the ability to sideload software “a cybercriminal’s best friend” in response to the act. I’m glad at least one government is doing something to address the blatant abuse of power in the tech industry. This is a major concession by Apple, and one that will have massive consequences. Users will regain a lot of control over their Apple devices, and developers harmed by Apple’s random and opaque “rules” and application thereof will now have alternatives to explore. On top of that, this will force the App Store to compete on merit, something it has never had to do before, and it will enable applications Apple would never allow to come to iOS. And of course, if you’re not interested in any of this – don’t add any third party stores, and don’t sideload. If this is tied to EU Apple hardware, there’s going to be a thriving grey market of people importing EU Apple devices into the US.

Apple adds end-to-end encryption to iCloud device backups and more

End-to-end encryption is coming to most of iCloud with a new optional feature called Advanced Data Protection, according to Apple’s announcement on Wednesday. Previously, 14 data categories within iCloud were protected. This new feature brings that count to 23, including photos, notes, voice memos, reminders, Safari bookmarks, and iCloud backups of the contents of your devices. Not everything is encrypted in this way, though. Critically, calendar and mail are untouched here. Apple says they are not covered “because of the need to interoperate with the global email, contacts, and calendar systems.” Good step, and something every cloud provider ought to be offering.