Apple Archive

Tim Cook pretends to care about privacy in Time op-ed

Tim Cook, in an op-ed in Time Magazine: In 2019, it’s time to stand up for the right to privacy—yours, mine, all of ours. Consumers shouldn’t have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives. This problem is solvable—it isn’t too big, too challenging or too late. Innovation, breakthrough ideas and great features can go hand in hand with user privacy—and they must. Realizing technology’s potential depends on it. That’s why I and others are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation—a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer. Last year, before a global body of privacy regulators, I laid out four principles that I believe should guide legislation. If Tim Cook and Apple really cared about privacy, they wouldn’t have thrown 1.2 billion Chinese under the bus by handing over iCloud data to the Chinese government, and by sheepishly refusing to even mention “China” when it comes to Apple’s thin veneer of “privacy first”. Apple’s complete cooperation with the Chinese government makes it very clear that Apple is all too eager to roll over and disregard its privacy chest-thumping the second their own bottom line is at risk. And lest we forget – China is a totalitarian, repressive regime that doesn’t shy away from torture and concentration camps. How many Chinese Apple users have ended up in prison – or worse – because Tim Cook only cares about your privacy if you’re western?

Samsung Smart TVs adding support for iTunes video content and AirPlay 2

Samsung today announced that it has worked with Apple to integrate iTunes movies and TV shows, as well as AirPlay 2 support, into its latest smart TVs. The features will roll out to 2018 models via a firmware update this spring and will be included on new 2019 models. iTunes movie and TV show access will come via a new dedicated app for Samsung’s TV platform, available in over 100 countries.  Apple pretty much had to do this, since it’s unreasonable to expect people to buy relatively expensive Apple TV devices to be able to watch iTunes content on their TVs. Several other platforms tend to be built right into TVs or can be added with cheap dongles like the Chromecast, and Apple couldn’t compete with that. Apple has announced that iTunes content will also become available on TVs from other brands.

Dayna MacCharlie

After a tweet from Paul Rickards about a product called MacCharlie, I just had to dive a bit deeper, and I found this short article on Low End Mac.

Although PC compatibility isn't a big deal since Apple's transition to Intel CPUs in 2006, there is a long history of PC emulation and DOS cards that let Macs run PC operating systems and software. Dayna's MacCharlie was the first solution to the "problem" of PC compatibility.

Introduced on April 2, 1985, MacCharlie was taken by many to be an April Fools joke. MacCharlie was essentially a DOS PC that clipped to a Macintosh. The MacCharlie device had 256 KB of RAM, a double-sided 5-1/4" floppy drive, and a "keyboard extender" that added all of the "missing" keys from a PC keyboard to the Mac's keyboard. MacCharlie could be expanded to 640 KB of RAM (the most PCs of that era could handle) and by adding a second 5-1/4" floppy drive, which is the configuration of MacCharlie Plus.

I've always been fascinated by products like this. I used to have a Sun Ultra V, and one of the products I most wanted to have was one of those x86 expansion cards that basically added an entire Intel PC to an UltraSPARC machine so you could run DOS and DOS programs on your SPARC machine. Similar products have been available for other kinds of non-x86 workstations, and it's still something I want to experience at some point.

Secure boot in the era of the T2

Enabled by the T2 chipset, new generations of the Macbook Pro and the iMac Pro aim to mitigate many software and hardware-based attacks against the very first pieces of code executed during the initial boot process. By ditching the flash memory chip containing Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware and using chipset functionality typically reserved for server architectures, the T2 is able to dynamically provide and validate UEFI payload contents at runtime.

We have spent considerable time looking at the T2 and have written a paper that outlines the technical details of what actually happens when the power button is pressed. The T2 is a great first step in the right direction, but there is still room for improvement when it comes to the secure boot process on an Apple T2-enabled device.

Security at the expense of user ownership and repairability. Pick your poison.

iSH: an iOS Linux shell for your iPhone or iPad

Have you ever wanted to run a Linux shell on your iOS device to transfer files, write shell scripts, or simply to use Vi to develop code or edit files? Now you can, with a project called iSH that is currently available as a TestFlight beta for iOS devices.

iSH is a project that aims to bring a Linux shell to iOS devices using a usermode x86 emulator. iSH is built on the Alpine Linux distro, which is designed to have a small footprint, be secure, and easy to use with little or no distracting bells and whistles.

Neat and useful project. Let's hope it eventually gets approved for App Store distribution.

Apple walks Ars through the iPad Pro’s A12X

Apple's latest iOS devices aren't perfect, but even the platform's biggest detractors recognize that the company is leading the market when it comes to mobile CPU and GPU performance - not by a little, but by a lot. It's all done on custom silicon designed within Apple - a different approach than that taken by any mainstream Android or Windows device.

But not every consumer - even the "professional" target consumer of the iPad Pro - really groks the fact this gap is so big. How is this possible? What does this architecture actually look like? Why is Apple doing this, and how did it get here?

After the hardware announcements last week, Ars sat down with Anand Shimpi from Hardware Technologies at Apple and Apple's Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller to ask. We wanted to hear exactly what Apple is trying to accomplish by making its own chips and how the A12X is architected. It turns out that the iPad Pro's striking, console-level graphics performance and many of the other headlining features in new Apple devices (like FaceID and various augmented-reality applications) may not be possible any other way.

During Apple's event last week, the company didn't even mention Intel once, and profusely made it very clear just how much faster the A12X is compared to all other laptops - even its own - that obviously all run on Intel (or AMD) processors. It seems like with this exclusive Ars Technica article, Apple is continuing its A12X marketing blitz, which all just further solidifies that Intel's days inside Apple's Macs are almost over.

Apple blocks Linux on new Macs with T2 security chips

People have found out that you can only install macOS and Windows 10 on Apple's new Macs equipped with the T2 security chip.

By default, Microsoft Windows isn't even bootable on the new Apple systems until enabling support for Windows via the Boot Camp Assistant macOS software. The Boot Camp Assistant will install the Windows Production CA 2011 certificate that is used to authenticate Microsoft bootloaders. But this doesn't setup the Microsoft-approved UEFI certificate that allows verification of code by Microsoft partners, including what is used for signing Linux distributions wishing to have UEFI SecureBoot support for Windows PCs.

Right now, there is no way to run Linux on the new Mac hardware. Even if you disable Secure Boot, you can still only install macOS and Windows 10 - not Linux. Luckily, Linux users don't have to rely on Macs for good hardware anymore - there are tons of Windows laptops out there that offer the same level of quality with better specifications at lower prices that run Linux just fine.

Apple raises prices, and profits keep booming

Since Apple introduced the iPhone 11 years ago, smartphones have become ubiquitous, and the market for them is saturated. To maintain growth, Apple has employed a shrewd strategy: Charge more for the devices.

Journalists and analysts have explained how Apple is doing that by dividing the number of iPhones sold in a given quarter into the revenue Apple earns from them to calculate the average selling price.

That's not going to be so easy anymore.

But after those figures were reported, Luca Maestri, Apple's chief financial officer, said in a conference call that the company would no longer disclose how many iPhones, iPads or Mac computers it sold. As a result, journalists and analysts will no longer be able to track how Apple's swelling prices are improving its profits.

Here's the problem for Apple: iPhone sales have flatlined, and Mac and iPad sales have consistently been going down for a while now. Since Tim Cook's Apple has been unable to find the next big thing (after the iPod and iPhone), the only way to maintain growth is to increase the average selling price. Sell less units, but charge more for each unit sold.

This strategy is working - for now. This gravy train ain't infinite, though, and there's only so many price hikes you can pull off before you reach a ceiling.

Apple updates iPad Pro

Apple today revealed the all-new iPad Pro, with an edge-to-edge LCD "Liquid Retina" display, slimmer bezels, no Home Button, Face ID, and a magnetic attachment support for the new Apple Pencil. The new 11-inch iPad Pro has the same footprint as the previous 10.5-inch iPad Pro, but now with a bigger display thanks to the slimmer bezels. The 12.9-inch version is actually smaller than the previous 12.9-inch model but with the same screen size.

These look like solid updates, but if you're smart, wait until next year when the new iOS release is announced - it's bound to have a number of iPad-focused improvements that will really tell you where Apple wants to take the iPad. Right now, these new iPad Pros offer little over existing iPad Pros other than spec bumps, but once iOS 13 has been detailed, we'll have a far better grip on what these new iPad Pros can do.

New MacBook Air, Mac mini hands-on

Apple led today's event by talking about two of its most-loved devices: the MacBook Air and the Mac mini. While Apple customers may have loved these devices since their debuts, Apple hasn't shown them much love over the past couple of years.

That changed today with the introduction of the new MacBook Air (which includes updates like a Retina display, Touch ID, and Apple's butterfly keyboard) and a new Mac mini (which got a big spec bump with quad- and hexa-core processors). Today's event brought the biggest hardware changes that both devices have seen in a long time, and yet they still have a lot in common with their predecessors - and that's a good thing.

The new MacBook Air and Mac Mini are very welcome and much-needed spec bumps - they hadn't been updated in years - but especially the MacBook Air almost feels like a practical joke. It uses low-power don't-call-them-Atom processors that run at 5W and are only dual-core, with base 8GB of RAM - and Apple charges €1350 for said base model, which needs to push a lot of pixels for that new Retina display. Back when the previous generation MacBook Air was new, it was a good deal at its around €1000 price point, but this new one is impossible to justify. The new Mini has the same pricing problem, but at least offers full power processors and a bit more configurability.

These are incredibly expensive computers for the paltry performance they offer - especially since they're tasked with running macOS - but I'm sure they'll still sell well, since performance hasn't really been the Mac's strong point these last few years anyway. These expensive, underpowered Macs are the new normal.

Tim Cook demands Bloomberg retracts spy chips story

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an interview with BuzzFeed News, went on the record for the first time to deny allegations that his company was the victim of a hardware-based attack carried out by the Chinese government. And, in an unprecedented move for the company, he called for a retraction of the story that made this claim.

I have zero reason to believe anything Apple or Tim Cook says on this matter. Apple is utterly and wholly dependent on the Chinese government, and assuming the Bloomberg story is 100% accurate, I doubt Tim Cook would openly side with Bloomberg and thus openly attack the Chinese government. Xi Jinping can literally make or break Apple - the American company cannot build its iPhones anywhere else, as not only would it take an utterly massive hit in its margins, it would take years - possibly even decades - to train the amount of staff needed to build that many iPhones. Apple simply has no choice but to bend over backwards for the Chinese government, which is why Apple readily hands over all of its Chinese customers' data to the Chinese government.

That being said, this doesn't automatically mean the Bloomberg story is 100% accurate. I don't believe in crazy conspiracy theories - conspiracy theories are dumb - about coordinated leaks by the Trump administration to discourage American companies from building their products in China. The Trump administration is wholly and utterly inept at doing anything and is held together only by a common desire to oppress women and minorities and sack America before the curtain falls, so I doubt they could even arrange a single secret meeting with Bloomberg journalists without Trump incoherently tweeting about it or somebody resigning over it.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, and only time will tell where, exactly, that middle lies.

Interface Hall of Shame: QuickTime 4.0 Player

Let me take you back to 25 May, 1999.

One look at QuickTime 4.0 Player and one must wonder whether Apple, arguably the most zealous defender of consistency in user interface design, has abandoned its twenty-year effort to champion interface standards. As with IBM's RealThings, it would seem that appearance has taken precedence to the basic principles of graphical interface design. In an effort to achieve what some consider to be a more modern appearance, Apple has removed the very interface clues and subtleties that allowed us to learn how to use GUI in the first place. Window borders, title bars, window management controls, meaningful control labels, state indicators, focus indicators, default control indicators, and discernible keyboard access mechanisms are all gone. According to IBM's RealThings, and apparently to Apple, such items and the meaningful information they provide are merely "visual noise and clutter". While the graphical designer may be pleased with the result, the user is left in a state of confusion: unable to determine which objects are controls, which are available at any point in the interaction, how they are activated, where they may be located, and how basic functions can be performed.

Looking back, QuickTime 4.0 Player really signaled the end of proper GUI design at Apple. Up until that point, Apple had refined what became known as Platinum to a T - it was a beautifully consistent, logical, easy to use, and pleasant to look at UI. After introducing the world to 'brushed metal', Apple slowly slid downhill - and they've never been able to recover.

Fascinating to look back and read articles such as these, almost 20 years later.

Cops told ‘don’t look’ at iPhones to avoid Face ID lock-out

As Apple continues to update its iPhones with new security features, law enforcement and other investigators are constantly playing catch-up, trying to find the best way to circumvent the protections or to grab evidence. Last month, Forbes reported the first known instance of a search warrant being used to unlock a suspect's iPhone X with their own face, leveraging the iPhone X's Face ID feature.

But Face ID can of course also work against law enforcement - too many failed attempts with the 'wrong' face can force the iPhone to request a potentially harder to obtain passcode instead. Taking advantage of legal differences in how passcodes are protected, US law enforcement have forced people to unlock their devices with not just their face but their fingerprints too. But still, in a set of presentation slides obtained by Motherboard this week, one company specialising in mobile forensics is telling investigators not to even look at phones with Face ID, because they might accidentally trigger this mechanism.

The security mechanisms on modern phones are complex legal problems for law enforcement, and one example in the article highlights just how far law enforcement is willing to go: UK police enacted a fake mugging to steal a suspect's phone as he was using it, so it would be unlocked. The officers then proceeded to endlessly swipe so it wouldn't lock itself.

Crazy.

What developers say about the Apple TV a gaming console

Early in the platform's life-long before the release of the Apple TV 4K - which has very attractive specifications for game development - Apple lifted the requirement that games support its controller. But the first impression had already been made. And even if developers could release games that required a controller, the lack of a controller bundle for games-minded Apple TV buyers meant that developers couldn't feel confident they'd find a large audience that could play their games.

But there's more going on here than just controller support. To find out more, we talked to the people who would have the most complete perspective on the Apple TV's video game credentials.

Apple doesn't understand games. It never has, and I doubt it ever will (at least, in the near future). People often like to point at iOS as a successful gaming platform, but I don't count the endless string of gambling apps designed to prey on children and other willing people to really be games. If your gaming platform isn't even popular enough for Minecraft, you don't have a gaming platform.

Apple’s secret repair kill switch hasn’t been activated – yet

Even though the Mac line has grown less repairable over time, fixers have still managed to develop techniques for performing essential screen and battery repairs - until now. According to an internal Apple service document, any Mac with an Apple T2 chip now requires the proprietary 'Apple Service Toolkit 2 (AST 2) System Configuration Suite' (whew, that's a mouthful!) to complete certain repairs. This issue has received extensive coverage, but we wanted to perform some lab testing before we took our shot. Let's break down what all this means first.

This is inevitable - Macs have becoming ever more closed and less repairable for years now. This sucks - but at the same time, nobody is forcing you to buy a Mac. There are countless premium Windows and Linux laptops out there that are just as good, and even many non-premium Windows laptops are more than good enough replacements.

AnandTech’s iPhone XS review

AnandTech's iPhone XS review and benchmarks have been published, and it looks like Apple is leaping even further ahead in performance compared to Qualcomm's offerings.

The Apple A12 is a beast of a SoC. While the A11 already bested the competition in terms of performance and power efficiency, the A12 doubles down on it in this regard, thanks to Apple's world-class design teams which were able to squeeze out even more out of their CPU microarchitectures. The Vortex CPU's memory subsystem saw an enormous boost, which grants the A12 a significant performance boost in a lot of workloads. Apple's marketing department was really underselling the improvements here by just quoting 15% - a lot of workloads will be seeing performance improvements I estimate to be around 40%, with even greater improvements in some corner-cases. Apple's CPU have gotten so performant now, that we're just margins off the best desktop CPUs; it will be interesting to see how the coming years evolve, and what this means for Apple's non-mobile products.

On the GPU side, Apple's measured performance gains are also within the promised figures, and even above that when it comes to sustained performance. The new GPU looks like an iteration on last year's design, but an added fourth core as well as the important introduction of GPU memory compression are able to increase the performance to new levels. The negative thing here is I do think Apple's throttling mechanism needs to be revised - and by that I mean not that it shouldn't throttle less, but that it might be better if it throttled more or even outright capped the upper end of the performance curve, as it's extremely power hungry and does heat up the phone a lot in the initial minutes of a gaming session.

Say about Apple, the iPhone, and iOS what you will, but there's no denying that Apple is cranking out absolutely stunning SoCs that run circles around the competition - and it's been doing that every single year. We're at the point where one really has to wonder what, exactly, Qualcomm is doing - or is not doing - to be as far behind as they are.

iPhones sold in China to use specific China-made NAND

So this is an interesting underreported story from February 2018 - as it turns out, iPhones sold in China will soon use specific NAND chips made by a specific Chinese company that won't be used in iPhones sold outside of China.

Apple is in talks with state-backed Yangtze Memory Technologies to buy NAND flash chips from it, a move that will mark the U.S. giant's first purchase from a Chinese memory chipmaker and a huge boost to the local sector.

Whether Apple is under any pressure to buy from Chinese makers is unclear. Afterall, China has been known to apply pressure on foreign technology companies that want to operate within the country. One thing is for sure, Chinese deals will help Apple grow its business there, according to an industry executive.

As such, the earliest that the deal could come into fruition will be 2019 but industry sources say it is more likely to be after 2020 before Yangtze Memory can produce enough of the components at a standard that Apple requires. Apple will use these chips in new iPhone models and other products for sale in the Chinese domestic market specifically, according to two people familiar with the matter.

So, Apple has already handed over the iCloud data of its Chinese customers to the Chinese government through a government-owned datacenter company, and soon, iPhones sold in China will use China-specific NAND chips that won't be used in iPhones outside of China. With yesterday's Bloomberg story fresh in our minds, is it really that far-fetched to assume these China-specific NAND chips are unsafe, or perhaps even have a backdoor in them that weakens on-device encryption?

There is no way that the Chinese government would somehow exempt Apple from aiding in government surveillance, and these seemingly unrelated news stories all seem to suggest that Apple is, indeed, doing so.

iOS 12: the MacStories review

With iOS 12, Apple wants to rectify iOS' performance woes, proving to their customers that iOS updates should never induce digital regret. Perhaps more notably though, iOS 12 doesn't have a single consumer feature that encapsulates this release - like Messages might have been for iOS 10 or the iPad for iOS 11. Instead, iOS 12 is a constellation of enhancements revolving around the overarching theme of time. Apple in 2018 needs more time for whatever the next big step of iOS may be; they want iOS users to understand how much time they're spending on their devices; and they want to help users spend less time managing certain system features. Also, funnily enough, saving time is at the core (and in the very name) of iOS 12's most exciting new feature: Shortcuts.

iOS 12 isn't Apple's Snow Leopard release: its system changes and updated apps wouldn't justify a "No New Features" slide. However, for the first time in years, it feels as if the company is happy to let its foot off the gas a little and listen to users more.

Will the plan work?

Federico Viticci's iOS reviews have become one of my favourite things about new iOS releases. They are detailed, thorough, fun to read, and lovingly crafted. So, after you're done updating your iOS devices - iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12 have all been released today - grab yourself a coffee or tea and enjoy.

x86 finds its way into your iPhone

In one of my several lives, I'm supposed to be a vulnerability researcher working on baseband exploitation. As every vulnerability researcher knows, being up to date with recent developments is of utmost importance for the success of your job. So of course, after Apple announced its new, shiny, big, bigger and biggest line of iPhone smartphones, I downloaded some OTA firmwares from ipsw.me and started to look into the new baseband firmware.

What I discovered sent a shiver of horror down my spine, the kind of horror that only playing Doom at nighttime, alone in your room, without lights, can produce. Bear with me and I'll tell you what I found...

So the baseband processor inside the iPhone XS is a tiny x86 processor. That's not really all that meaningful or impactful, but I find it deeply fascinating nonetheless.