Apple Inc dropped plans to let iPhone users fully encrypt backups of their devices in the company’s iCloud service after the FBI complained that the move would harm investigations, six sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. The tech giant’s reversal, about two years ago, has not previously been reported. It shows how much Apple has been willing to help U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, despite taking a harder line in high-profile legal disputes with the government and casting itself as a defender of its customers’ information. This once again just goes to show Apple’s privacy chest-thumping is nothing but marketing and grandstanding. This is effectively a backdoor for government agencies to use, and if the “good guys” can use it, so can the bad guys. On top of that, this neatly ties into Apple handing over iCloud data to the Chinese government – data that is most certainly being used by the Chinese regime in, among other things, its genocide of the Uyghurs. I prefer a company that’s open and honest about what data it collects and uses and why – Google – over a company that purposefully tries to muddy the waters through marketing and grandstanding – Apple. The devil you know and all that.
Yesterday saw the release of the new Mac Pro, finally replacing the trash can and moving back to a tower-based design. It has had a somewhat mixed response, with many people taking issue with the high prices, ranging from $6000 to over $52000. There have been those seeking to defend the prices and write off the complaints, but I don’t believe these arguments take into account the larger picture. All in all, the Mac Pro is a powerful machine. For certain workflows it is even worth the cost. But the problem is that Apple has priced out a huge swathe of the professional market by making its lower end Mac Pros prohibitively expensive for what is frankly underwhelming hardware. The base model Mac Pro is, indeed, a terrible purchase, and some of the upgrade options are downright laughable – to get anything even remotely resembling a decent GPU, you’re asked to spend $2400, which is insane. Anybody who isn’t spending their boss’ money shouldn’t buy this machine. That being said – the interior design and layout of the new Mac Pro is beautiful. I can’t believe that we’re still dealing with kilometers of fiddly cabling and ugly, gamery ATX motherboards that have become ever more cumbersome to deal with, while Apple can design and build such a neat, clean, and tidy system.
Every month, thousands of perfectly good iPhones are shredded instead of being put into the hands of people who could really use them. Why? Two words: Activation Lock. And Macs are its next victim. “We receive four to six thousand locked iPhones per month,” laments Peter Schindler, founder and owner of The Wireless Alliance, a Colorado-based electronics recycler and refurbisher. Those iPhones, which could easily be refurbished and put back into circulation, “have to get parted out or scrapped,” all because of this anti-theft feature. With the release of macOS Catalina earlier this fall, any Mac that’s equipped with Apple’s new T2 security chip now comes with Activation Lock—meaning we’re about to see a lot of otherwise usable Macs heading to shredders, too. While I understand the need for security features such as these – who doesn’t – it should definitely be possible to save these devices from the shredder. It’s such a waste of perfectly good hardware that could make a lot of less-privileged people around the world a whole lot happier.
Overall I am impressed with the PureDarwin project and have enjoyed conducting my research around it. They have achieved a lot, considering that the project is funded by community donations and run by volunteers. It definitely isn’t a production-ready system, but for developers it has the potential to come in very useful. The PureDarwin team have been able to successfully install MacPorts in PureDarwin, allowing many software packages such as Apache HTTPd, Git and even XFCE to be installed. Unfortunately this is non-trivial to achieve without strong networking support, but it shows the potential use cases of PureDarwin. The problem with Darwin is that you’re always confined to Apple’s whim; the company has a history of delaying Darwin code dumps after new macOS releases for a long time, not including any ARM/iOS code for almost a decade, and the releases themselves don’t really have a commit history and comments – they’re just big code dumps. I guess Darwin is interesting from an enthusiasts’ perspective, but as far as Apple goes, they don’t really seem to care all that much about it, other than scoring the occasional good press.
Apple Inc. is overhauling how it tests software after a swarm of bugs marred the latest iPhone and iPad operating systems, according to people familiar with the shift. Software chief Craig Federighi and lieutenants including Stacey Lysik announced the changes at a recent internal “kickoff” meeting with the company’s software developers. The new approach calls for Apple’s development teams to ensure that test versions, known as “daily builds,” of future software updates disable unfinished or buggy features by default. Testers will then have the option to selectively enable those features, via a new internal process and settings menu dubbed Flags, allowing them to isolate the impact of each individual addition on the system. If the many issues with and complaints about iOS 13 are to be believed, this seems like a much needed intervention.
Yesterday, Trump visited a six year old factory where Mac Pros are being assembled, and Tim Cook appeared in a Trump campaign ad. After Mr. Trump departed the factory, he tweeted, “Today I opened a major Apple Manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high paying jobs back to America.” About the only thing that’s true in this tweet is that the factory is located in Texas. First, Trump didn’t open the factory – it’s been in use for six years now. Second, it’s not major at all – it only assembles the Mac Pro with about 500 employees. Third, it won’t bring any jobs back because it’s been open for six years already. Lastly, it isn’t an Apple factory – it’s owned by another, independent company. Cook stood next to him, and didn’t correct Trump at all. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump called Mr. Cook a “very special person” because of his ability to create jobs. He turned to Mr. Cook and said, “What would you say about our economy compared to everybody else?” Mr. Cook replied, “I think we have the strongest economy in the world.” “Strongest in the world,” Mr. Trump said. The president then took questions on the impeachment inquiry and launched into a tirade against “the fake press.” Mr. Cook stood silently nearby. John Gruber, longtime Apple blogger and one of the most outspoken defenders of Apple’s policies: I’ve been on board with Cook’s stance on engaging Trump. Participating in Trump’s technology council does not imply support for Trump. Engaging Trump personally, in private phone calls and dinners, does not imply support. But appearing alongside Trump at an Apple facility in a staged photo-op is implicit support for Trump and his re-election. A low moment in Apple’s proud history, and a sadly iconic moment for Tim Cook. I hope avoiding those tariffs is worth it. History rarely bestows consequences on companies cooperating with the far right and nazi extremists. IG Farben’s directors were all released by the US within only a few years, and IG Farben still exists today in the form of several highly profitable companies, namely Agfa, BASF, Bayer and Sanofi. Volkswagen was founded by a Nazi labour union, produced what would become the Beetle for Nazi Germany, built military vehicles during the war using 15.000 slaves from concentration camps, and still exists today as one of the biggest automobile conglomerates in the world. IBM aided the Nazi regime in the organisation of the Holocaust, while in the US, it orchestrated the concentration camps where Japanese Americans were held. Meanwhile, Henry Ford’s antisemitism and nazi sympathies are well-documented, and Ford, too, is one of the largest automobile makers in the world. Point is, there’s zero risk for Cook to openly associate himself with someone like Trump. Extremists will praise him, centrists will excuse it away, and the rest will condemn Cook, but keep buying iPhones and Macs anyway – and Tim Cook knows it. In a corporatocracy, companies and their leaders are untouchable.
The updated 16-inch MacBook Pro features a larger display with slimmer bezels than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which it has replaced in Apple’s notebook lineup. The display has a resolution of 3072×1920 pixels with up to 500 nits of brightness. The notebook features an updated “Magic Keyboard” that does away with the unpopular butterfly mechanism, returning instead to a more reliable scissor mechanism with 1mm key travel, along with Intel’s latest 9th-generation processors with up to 8 cores. It also has up to 64GB of RAM and up to 8TB of SSD storage. Above the keyboard, the Touch Bar lives on, but the 16-inch MacBook Pro marks the return of a physical Esc key. In line with the latest MacBook Air, the Touch ID sensor has also been separated from the Touch Bar. It took them 4 years, but Apple finally remembered how to make a keyboard. Aside from the new MacBook Pro, Apple also announced the new Mac Pro will be available in December.
Apple today announced a comprehensive $2.5 billion plan to help address the housing availability and affordability crisis in California. As costs skyrocket for renters and potential homebuyers — and as the availability of affordable housing fails to keep pace with the region’s growth — community members like teachers, firefighters, first responders and service workers are increasingly having to make the difficult choice to leave behind the community they have long called home. Nearly 30,000 people left San Francisco between April and June of this year and homeownership in the Bay Area is at a seven-year low. 2.5 billion dollar sure does sound like a big number. But wait a second – rewind to the middle of last year: For years, Apple has held billions of dollars of cash overseas and insisted it won’t bring it home until the US gives it a better deal on the taxes it would have to pay to repatriate the funds. As of 2017, that cash pile had grown to an astonishing $252 billion. Now that lawmakers have passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut that primarily benefits corporations and the wealthy, Apple sees its chance to go forward with bringing that cash home before anyone changes their mind. According to Apple’s announcement, it’ll pay a one time tax of $38 billion. If Apple had paid the previous tax rate of 35 percent, its bill would have come out to around $88 billion. Now, that money can go into making the company even larger and providing more cash to hold overseas until Uncle Sam cries uncle again. Apple got a massive tax cut of 50 billion dollars just last year, so this 2.5 billion dollar represents 5 percent of said tax cut. Such generosity.
You’ve got to hand it to Apple when it comes to saying the loud part loud and the quiet part quiet. The company has spent the last few years cranking up an enormous services business that’s growing by double digits quarter after quarter and generated nearly 50 billion dollars in the past 12 months—yet it tries very hard to emphasize that making customers happy comes first. This week, Apple launched its subscription video streaming service, Apple TV+, and also released its quarterly financial results. In the regular phone call with Wall Street analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook tried very hard to get investors excited about Apple’s opportunities to make lots of money while not making it seem like Apple’s lost its soul in the process. The goal of services companies is to trick you into signing up for as many different confusing services as possible, so that you forget about them or find it too burdensome to cancel them. Apple has already gone well down this path, and instead of tiptoeing around it all the time out of fear of pissing off Tim Cook, I wish the media would just flat-out say it: it’s sleazy. It’s not illegal or wrong or anything like that – but that doesn’t make it any less sleazy.
Over the past few months, I have been trying to get up to speed on the Apple developer ecosystem, as part of working on my rewrite project. This means I have been learning Swift (again), SwiftUI, and (barely) the iOS and macOS APIs. It has been terrible. The number of parts of this ecosystem which are entirely undocumented is frankly shocking to me. There’s an entire website dedicated to keeping track of just how undocumented Apple’s APIs are.
iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 Catalina have been unusually buggy releases for Apple. The betas started out buggy at WWDC in June, which is not unexpected, but even after Apple removed some features from the final releases in September, more problems have forced the company to publish quick updates. Why? Based on my 18 years of experience working as an Apple software engineer, I have a few ideas. Interesting look at the inner workings of Apple and how they may contribute to Apple’s recent struggles.
During the last week, the reality that US companies often bend the knee to China has been thrown into the spotlight. Apple, one of the biggest US tech companies, has appeased China by hiding the Taiwan flag emoji and ignoring US lawmakers when choosing to ban a Hong Kong protest safety app. Now it’s been discovered that Apple, which often positions itself as a champion of privacy and human rights, is sending some IP addresses from users of its Safari browser on iOS to Chinese conglomerate Tencent – a company with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Apple admits that it sends some user IP addresses to Tencent in the “About Safari & Privacy” section of its Safari settings which can be accessed on an iOS device by opening the Settings app and then selecting “Safari > About Privacy & Security.” I’m sure the genocidal totalitarian surveillance state that is China won’t be abuse this information at all. They pinky-promised to Tim Cook, who was busy telling his company not to make any TV shows critical of China – in line with the rest of Hollywood.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has sent an email to employees with a lengthier explanation for why the company chose to remove HKmap.live from the App Store yesterday. Similar to Apple’s statement last night, Cook claims that the app — a crowdsourced mapping tool that’s become useful amid the ongoing protests in Hong Kong — was being misused in ways that could threaten public safety. Tim Cook’s email is riddled with nonsense, so I’ll let people more knowledgeable than me debunk this weak excuse of an explanation as to why Apple is bending over backwards to please a brutal communist genocidal dictatorship. The claims made by Cook simply don’t hold up, he again refuses to cite which Hong Kong laws are being broken, and countless of Apple’s own services are being used for the same purposes as HKmap.live. Will iMessage be removed next? AirDrop? Tim Cook is a coward.
Apple has removed HKmap.live, a crowdsourced mapping app widely used by Hong Kong residents, from the App Store. The app and accompanying web service has been used to mark the locations of police and inform about street closures during the ongoing pro-democracy protests that have engulfed Hong Kong this year. Apple initially rejected HKmap.live from the App Store earlier this month, then reversed its decision a few days later. Now it has reversed its reversal. Tim Cook is a coward.
News organization Quartz tells The Verge that Apple has removed its mobile app from the Chinese version of its App Store after complaints from the Chinese government. According to Quartz, this is due to the publication’s ongoing coverage of the Hong Kong protests, and the company says its entire website has also been blocked from being accessed in mainland China. The publication says it received a notice from Apple that the app “includes content that is illegal in China.” I’ve been highlighting Apple’s and Tim Cook’s hypocrisy for years now, but I’ve always felt like a man screaming into the void. It’s interesting to see the media finally waking up to just how much their innate love for Apple and Tim Cook has allowed the wool to be pulled over their eyes.
Chinese state media on Tuesday accused Apple Inc of protecting “rioters” in Hong Kong and enabling illegal behaviour, after the US-based technology giant listed on its app store an application that tracks police activity in the city. Apple had previously rejected the app, called HKmap.live, but reversed its decision on Friday and made the programme available for download from the iOS App Store on Saturday, according to the program’s developer. It will be interesting to see if Apple bows to Chinese pressure and removes the application. Apple already bows to Chinese censorship, so I wouldn’t be surprised.
The change, first discovered by iOS Developer Hiraku Wang, means that users with an iOS device region set to Hong Kong will see one less flag on the emoji keyboard than if the region is set to anywhere else in the world (other than China mainland, which also hides this flag). Notably, the emoji 🇹🇼 Flag: Taiwan is still supported by iOS in Hong Kong. As of iOS 13.1.2, released last week, this is now hidden from the emoji keyboard but remains available by other means. Geopolitics on your emoji keyboard.
Apple has banned an app that allows people in Hong Kong to keep track of protests and police activity in the city state, claiming such information is illegal. “Your app contains content – or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity – that is not legal … specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement,” the American tech giant told makers of the HKmap Live on Tuesday before pulling it. Apple has made defense of citizens’ rights a key differentiator in its technology and painted itself as a business that will stand up to unreasonable requests by the authorities who wish to use its technology to bypass current laws – in the US at least. That Cupertino chose to ban the app without discussing the issue with the app’s developers and has given a very limited, and quite possibly incorrect, explanation as to why, has infuriated many. Is anybody really surprised by this? Apple is entirely beholden to the genocidal, oppressive, totalitarian Chinese regime, and they care more about money than they do about human lives, as was recently evidenced by their entirely tone-deaf response to the iPhone 0days that were used to aid in the Uighur genocide. Insular American and European media and Apple bloggers aid in maintaining this facade, and are complicit in Apple’s unwavering support of the murderous Chinese regime. Day in day out, Apple shows its true face, and every single time, American and European media and westerners act all surprised. When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
When consumers fire up the latest iPhones for the first time in the coming weeks, they’ll find the device brimming with Apple Inc.’s home-grown apps, already installed and set as default programs. This prized status isn’t available to outside software, making it hard for some developers to compete, and that’s catching the eye of lawmakers probing potential antitrust violations in the technology industry. Aside from possible antitrust issues, it’s just a user-hostile setup designed not to bring the best possible user experience to users, but merely to boost Apple’s own applications and services. Not being able to set your own default applications and link handlers in 2019 is entirely indefensible.
Riley Testut, an iOS app developer who has for years worked on mobile video game emulation, just released a project that has the potential to shake up the entire iOS ecosystem. He calls it AltStore, and it’s an alternative to Apple’s App Store that distributes software Testut says may “push the boundaries of iOS.” In particular, it supports Testut’s own Nintendo emulator, called Delta, which will let anyone with an iPhone or iPad play Super Mario and other classics. Also, it doesn’t require you jailbreak your iOS device. Anyone can download AltStore right now. I definitely appreciate the work put into this, and it seems quite slick and usable. It’s been in the works for years, and in a blog post, Testut explains in more detail how it all works. AltStore is a fully native, sandboxed iOS application that allows you to sideload apps by essentially “tricking” your phone into thinking it’s installing apps that you made yourself, when really they can be any apps whatsoever. Since this is an actually supported installation method by Apple, it’s far less fragile than other distribution methods in the past. Similarly, since there’s no single enterprise certificate to revoke (because technically every user now has their own developer certificate using this process), Apple can’t simply shut it down with the press of a button like they have with some 3rd party app stores (until they receive a new certificate in a week or so, of course). To bypass several restrictions put in place by Apple to limit the use of this developer feature, you need to run an AltServer on your PC or Mac, which bypasses these restrictions and pushes new applications to your device using WiFi. It’s quite clever. While I don’t share The Verge’s rather optimistic view that this “has the potential to shake up the entire iOS ecosystem”, it does seem like a very simple and easy way to bring iOS a few steps closer to Android when it comes to being a full, complete operating system.