Apple Archive

The iPad Pro as main computer for programming

In the summer of 2017, I wanted to know what it would be like to use an iPad Pro as my main computer. I found out that it can actually work, thanks to an iOS app called Blink, an SSH replacement called Mosh, iOS 11 and running stuff on a server.

You could argue the title is a tad bit misleading - there's a lot of thin client DNA in his setup - but it's an interesting look at how to achieve this, nonetheless.

The new MacBook keyboard is ruining my life

I was in the Grand Central Station Apple Store for a third time in a year, watching a progress bar slowly creep across my computer's black screen as my Genius multi-tasked helping another customer with her iPad. My computer was getting its third diagnostic test in 45 minutes. The problem was not that its logic board was failing, that its battery was dying, or that its camera didn't respond. There were no mysteriously faulty innerworkings. It was the spacebar. It was broken. And not even physically broken - it still moved and acted normally. But every time I pressed it once, it spaced twice.

"Maybe it's a piece of dust," the Genius had offered. The previous times I'd been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem - a misbehaving keyboard - Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn't believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. "Hold on," I said. "If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don't you think that's kind of a problem?"

The keyboard on the MacBooks and MacBook Pros is an unmitigated disaster. In pursuit of thinness nobody else is looking for, Apple severely crippled its most important Mac product line - and that's even without taking the Touchbar into account.

Apple: a semiconductor superpower in the making

Industry sources and analysts suggest that Apple is keen to expand its semiconductor capabilities further. They say the company is interested in building core processors for notebooks, modem chips for iPhones, and a chip that integrates touch, fingerprint and display driver functions.

Apple is building ARM laptops. The interesting question is whether they'll run iOS or macOS.

My money's on the former.

Apple switches from Bing to Google

Consistency is Apple's main motivation given for switching the results from Microsoft's Bing to Google in these cases. Safari on Mac and iOS already currently use Google search as the default provider, thanks to a deal worth billions to Apple (and Google) over the last decade. This change will now mirror those results when Siri, the iOS Search bar or Spotlight is used.

"Switching to Google as the web search provider for Siri, Search within iOS and Spotlight on Mac will allow these services to have a consistent web search experience with the default in Safari," reads an Apple statement sent this morning. "We have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible."

Interesting move. The only logical move, of course - Bing is terrible - but still interesting if you look at the relationship between Apple and Google.

Dive into the details of iOS 11: is Apple still detail-oriented?

The unfinished feeling in iOS 11 mostly comes from UI and animation. UI elements in iOS are quite inconsistent, mixing a variety of UI elements, which might look quite similar but introduce a disconnected feeling for UX. The inconsistency of those elements majorly stems from those UI element updated in iOS 11, such as Large Title and new Search Bar. In my opinion, those newly introduced elements, which might be unfamiliar and new even to Apple engineers, have caused many inconsistent UI experience in iOS 11.

Many of you will look at this and consider it a bunch of whiny nonsense, but the problem with Apple being lax on details is that it turns into a case of monkey see, monkey do. Third party developers will become lax as well, leading to an overall degradation of UI quality and consistency. This is the last thing iOS, which has never exactly been a visually consistent operating system to begin with, needs.

People go nuts because the ports on the bottom of a Samsung phone - which you effectively never look at - aren't aligned, yet, ever since iOS 7, Apple has basically been winging its iOS UI design and polish.

Something about grading on a curve.

iOS 11 on the 2017 iPad Pro 12.9″ convinced me it’s the future

iOS 11 has been released, and if you have an iPhone or iPad, you should really update right now. It's a big release, and especially iPad users will get to enjoy an overhauled user experience on their tablets. If you're not convinced, be sure to read the only two reviews you need: the one by fervent and enthusiastic (his enthusiasm for the iPad is infectious, in a good way) iPad user Federico Viticci, and the Ars Technica review written by Andrew Cunningham.

I've been using the betas on my 2017 iPad Pro 12.9", and it truly transforms how you use the iPad, to the point where I can use mine comfortably for work (translating, posting OSNews stories - like this one - and so on). No macOS or Windows laptop is as responsive and fluid as this iPad Pro, and the battery life of this machine is so good, it's probably illegal in 12 US states. Unlike macOS or Windows, I don't have to spend time fighting with iOS 11 to get it to do what I want, like fidgeting with windows, or anxiously managing battery life because otherwise I won't get through a day, or manage applications. And trust me, there's no PC - not even my own €4000 monster PC - that is as fluid and responsive as this iPad Pro.

The iPad Pro with iOS 11 is the truest realisation yet of it just works.

I'm not going to claim this is for everyone, or that you should ritually sacrifice your ThinkPad and run to the Apple Store and get the iPad Pro. However, after a few months of use, there's no way I'm ever going back to a traditional laptop. That being said - my only complaint about the 2017 iPad Pro 12.9" is an odd one: it's not a mobile device.

I am a sit down behind my desk kind of person. I work and compute behind a desk, with a large display at eye height and a comfortable chair. The iPad Pro isn't suited for this kind of work, as it forces you to look down, which due to back problems I cannot do for longer periods of time. What I really want is a small iOS box I can hook up a display, keyboard, and mouse to. Apple already makes such a box - the Apple TV - so I know they can do it. Mouse and keyboard support is probably coming to iOS over the coming years, and with the Mac Mini languishing, it feels like they might be working on just such a box.

I'd easily pay €500-700 for such a machine.

I know stating iOS is a great general purpose computing platform tends to be controversial - I myself have been skeptical about this very thing for years - but iOS 11 and the iPad Pro have utterly convinced me. This is the platform I want for laptop and desktop computer use. Windows and macOS feel like the past now.

What the iPhone X borrowed from the Palm Pre

I have become the unofficial standard bearer for webOS, the operating system created by Palm for the Pre and its successive devices. It was a wildly innovative and smart foundation for a smartphone done in by performance problems, mediocre hardware, and most of all by US carriers who acted as kingmakers for other companies.

So as the bearer of a thoroughly-tattered banner, I’ve been hearing a lot of people ask what I thought about the iPhone X and how it borrows many of the ideas first introduced by Palm. Here’s what I think: it’s great, and also it’s silly compare the state of tech in 2017 with the state of tech in 2009. Just because Palm did some stuff first doesn’t take away from Apple is doing them now. Context matters, and our context today is very different.

WebOS had some great ideas, but on a technical level, the operating system was a mess. It was a major battery hog, slow, and basically nothing more than a tech demo made in WebKit on top of a largely unmodified Linux kernel, running on mediocre hardware. WebOS wasn't a product worthy of the Palm name.

Apple’s A11 Bionic SoC is kind of insane

With the iPhone X revealed, we really have to start talking about its processor and SoC - the A11 Bionic. It's a six-core chip with two high-power cores, four low-power cores, and this year, for the first time, includes an Apple-designed custom GPU. It also has what Apple calls a Neural Engine, designed to speed up tasks such as face recognition.

Apple already had a sizeable performance lead over competing chips from Qualcomm (what Android phones use) in single-core performance, and the A11 blasts past those in multicore performance, as well. Moreover, the A11 also performs better than quite a number of recent desktop Intel chips from the Core i5 and i7 range, which is a big deal.

For quite a few people it's really hard to grasp just how powerful these chips are - and to a certain extent, it feels like much of that power is wasted in an iPhone, which is mostly doing relatively mundane tasks anyway. Now that Apple is also buildings its own GPUs, it's not a stretch to imagine a number of mobile GPU makers feeling a bit... Uneasy.

At some point, these Apple Ax chips will find their way to something more sizable than phones and tablets.

Apple introduces iPhone 8, iPhone X

Apple held its iPhone event today, but since the three major leaks got everything right - read our previous items on the leaks to get the full details - there's really not much to add here, other than the pricing for the new iPhones. The 'regular' iPhone 8 will be about €50 more expensive this year, so take that into account when planning your upgrade. The iPhone X (pronounced "ten" by Apple, "ex" by people with good taste), however, carries a very hefty pricetag, especially in Europe and the UK - the base 64GB model is $999 in the US, and a staggering €1159 in Europe (and an equally staggering £999 in the UK).

I think it's definitely a nice looking phone, and can certainly hold its own against other small-bezel phones from Samsung, LG, and others (especially others), but especially outside of the US, that's one hell of a price tag. Going over the magic €1000 mark feels like crossing a psychological threshold from high-end brand new smartphone territory into high-end brand new laptop territory, and that's a tough pill to swallow.

The additional problem here is that the iPhone 8 simply looks outdated compared to all the minimal bezel phones of this year, and certainly so next to the iPhone X in stores for the iOS users among us. I'm up for contract renewal, and since I'm the kind of person to switch platforms about once a year, I was definitely interested in switching to iOS again by buying the iPhone X. However, that €1159 price tag is way, way beyond the outer limit of my comfort zone.

iOS 11 GM leak confirms D22

9to5Mac is reporting on a leak of the iOS 11 GM release, which details quite a few things about the new iPhone we could only rumour and guess about up until now.

Here we go. W're digging through the iOS 11 GM we received this evening to unpack what we can learn about the D22 'iPhone 8' and the rest of the lineup ahead of Apple's big unveiling on Tuesday. It looks like the infamous HomePod leak left a few surprises for us after all.

The first discovery is a stunning set of new wallpapers coming with iOS 11 and the first look at the LTE Apple Watch. Next up: new and confirmed features coming to the OLED iPhone.

This is a major leak, and confirms several of the final details regarding the iPhone Pro or iPhone X or whatever the more expensive iPhone will be called. The leak confirms the removal of any form of home button - phyisical or virtual - replacing it with a gesture-based UI, as we talked about before. The power switch will also gain some new features, allowing you to set it up to control things like Siri and Apple Pay. iOS 11 also comes with animated animal emojis, which is a sentence that makes me sad. Among many more things I could link to, the leak also reveals how Face ID - the replacement for Touch ID - will work, and how to set it up.

The HomePod leak, the recent Bloomberg story by Mark Gurman, and now this GM leak basically leaves nothing left to the imagination - aside from the name and perhaps pricing. Update: and we have the name too: iPhone X. Apple listened to me (this is a joke).

Bringing back the iPhone headphone jack – in China

Remember when Scotty Allen built his own iPhone from parts bought in Shenzhen? This time around, he ups the ante and adds a headphone jack to an iPhone 7. He had to design his own custom circuit board, have it printed, and build it into his iPhone 7. It's an amazing project, and it's an incredibly interesting 30 minute video.

I've spent the past four months in Shenzhen, China, modifying an iPhone 7 to add a fully functional headphone jack. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time anyone has done anything like this.

In April, I decided to finally upgrade my iPhone 6s to an iPhone7 to get better camera quality for the videos I was shooting when I was out on adventures in the industrial markets and manufacturing world. But I was super annoyed that it doesn't have a headphone jack! I already have headphones I really liked, and I didn’t like the idea of having to keep track of an adapter just to use them.

So I figured I'd add my own - after all, how hard could it be?

It turns out, really really hard. But possible.

He sent the circuit board he designed and built to Apple, and open sourced all the schematics needed so those with the right tools and expertise can build it at home.

Apple finally openly supports net neutrality

Apple finally has something to say about net neutrality. In its first comment to the FCC about proposed upcoming rollbacks to net neutrality rules, Apple writes:

Our deep respect for our customers' security, privacy, and control over personal information extends to our customers' broadband connectivity choices. We work hard to build great products, and what consumers do with those tools is up to them - not Apple, and not broadband providers. Apple therefore believes that the Federal Communications Commission should retain strong, enforceable open internet protections that advance the following key policy principles:

The comment's a good - albeit late - start, but it does leave some wiggle room, as it, for instance, doesn't advocate for keeping internet traffic under Title II. Apple is, at the very least, in good company, as a staggering 98.5% of all comments to the FCC were in favour of maintaining the United States' current strong net neutrality rules.

Apple to replace iPhone home button with gestures

Mark Gurman has a major scoop about the next iPhone:

Apple Inc. plans to transform the way people use its next high-end iPhone by eliminating the concept of a home button and making other adjustments to a flagship device that's becoming almost all screen, according to images of the new device viewed by Bloomberg News and people familiar with the gadget.

The home button is the key to the iPhone and the design hasn't changed much since it launched in 2007. Currently, users click it to return to the starting app grid that greets them multiple times a day. They hold it down to talk to the Siri digital assistant. Double click it and you get multitasking where different apps screens can be swiped through like a carousel.

Apple is preparing three new iPhones for debut next month. One of the models, a new high-end device, packs in enough changes to make it one of the biggest iPhone updates in the product's decade-long history. With a crisper screen that takes up nearly the entire front, Apple has tested the complete removal of the home button - even a digital one - in favor of new gesture controls for tasks like going to the main app grid and opening multitasking, according to the people and the images.

I don't really dwell too much on iPhone rumours, but this one is an exception because one, it's about a major change to the core user interaction model of iOS and the iPhone, and two, I happen to know this rumour happens to be accurate.

The removal of the home button and replacing it with what is effectively a gesture area is probably the single-biggest user interface change in iOS since the day it was released, and it also happens to be yet another step in the enduring quest Android and iOS are on to become more like webOS. Steven-Troughton-Smith (go support his work!) showed a number of mockups to give a better idea of what it's going to look like.

Replacing the iconic home button with a gesture area is actually a pretty fundamental shift in the interaction model of iOS. It seems to indicate that Apple is confident enough that users are well-versed in touch interfaces enough to start "hiding" important, crucial interactions - like going back to the homescreen - behind gestures that are clearly less discoverable than that huge home button. Google did something similar - but far less consequential - by removing the "drawer" button in Android's dock with a swipe-up gesture.

If this trend persists, it would seem Apple's (and to a lesser extent, Google's) engineers think that the touch paradigm is old and established enough to be more abstract, which opens up a whole slew of other possibilities. Up until now, undiscoverable gestures were generally used for more power-user oriented interactions, but with this next iPhone, they will be used for basic, cornerstone iOS interactions.

The Apple IIe design guidelines

Just a scanned PDF version of the Apple IIe design guidelines.

This guide is divided into two parts. Part I contains recommendations to softqare, firmware and hardware designers who want their products to work smoothly with the Apple IIe, as well as the Apple II and II Plus. These recommendations pertain to the interface between Apple II Series computers and the products that are to work with them.

Part II pertains to the interface between software products and their human users. The recommendations in this section of the guide apply to designers of software for Apple IIIs as well as Apple IIs. The user interface guidelines derive from the experience of countless Apple II and III users, as observed by more than a dozen computer and teaching professionals. These guidelines should make it easier for both programmers and users to create and benefit from the tools that Apple computers put at their disposal.

An awesome read.

iOS 11 has a ‘cop button’ to temporarily disable Touch ID

Apple is adding an easy way to quickly disable Touch ID in iOS 11. A new setting, designed to automate emergency services calls, lets iPhone users tap the power button quickly five times to call 911. This doesn't automatically dial the emergency services by default, but it brings up the option to and also temporarily disables Touch ID until you enter a passcode. Twitter users discovered the new option in the iOS 11 public beta, and The Verge has verified it works as intended.

It's sad that we live in a world where our devices need features like this, but I commend Apple for doing so.

HyperCard now available on the The Archive

On August 11, 1987, Bill Atkinson announced a new product from Apple for the Macintosh; a multimedia, easily programmed system called HyperCard. HyperCard brought into one sharp package the ability for a Macintosh to do interactive documents with calculation, sound, music and graphics. It was a popular package, and thousands of HyperCard “stacks” were created using the software.

Additionally, commercial products with HyperCard at their heart came to great prominence, including the original Myst program.

Flourishing for the next roughly ten years, HyperCard slowly fell by the wayside to the growing World Wide Web, and was officially discontinued as a product by Apple in 2004. It left behind a massive but quickly disappearing legacy of creative works that became harder and harder to experience.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Hypercard, we’re bringing it back.

HyperCard is a lot of fun to play around with - I have an iBook G3 with OS9 and HyperCard installed, to play with - and this makes it far more accessible. Good work!

Apple’s silence in China sets a dangerous precedent

Farhad Manjoo, in The New York Times:




A year ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation made an extraordinary demand of Apple. To get inside a dead terrorist's iPhone, law enforcement officials wanted the company to create a hackable version of the software that runs all iPhones.

To many legal experts, it wasn't obvious that Apple had a winning case against the request. But facing great legal and political opposition, Apple took a stand anyway. Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive, argued that the company had a financial and moral duty to protect its users' privacy and security. He made clear that Apple would obey American law - but only after trying to shape the law.

The fight paid off. On the eve of a courtroom showdown, the F.B.I. rescinded its request. It is worth underlining this point: When Apple took a public stand for its users' liberty and privacy, the American government blinked.

Yet in China over the weekend, when faced with a broad demand by the Chinese internet authority, it was Apple that blinked.

Apple openly and publicly buts heads with the US government but not with the Chinese government because of one very simple reason: Apple is more dependent on, and beholden to, China than on and to the US. Virtually everything Apple sells is made in China, and Apple has nowhere else to go.

For a company that always tries to strive for control, it really low-waged itself into a corner.

Right and wrong

Earlier today, John Gruber linked to this piece, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the superior orders defense. Gruber later followed up with a more detailed article, and wondered what I think Apple should do.

Too many people reacting to this story think that it's about Apple deciding to acquiesce to this particular demand regarding VPN apps. It's not. The real issues are two-fold:

  • Should Apple being doing business in China at all?
  • Should the App Store remain the only way to install apps on iOS devices?

Neither of these are simple topics, and I would (and am about to) argue that neither question has a clear-cut "this is the right thing to do" answer.

Nonsense. In both of these cases, it's very "clear-cut" what "the right thing to do" is.

  1. No.
  2. No.

Since the App Store question is obvious - my computer, my rules, my software, get out - let's move on to the China question. The only reason this issue is supposedly not "clear-cut" is because we live in a society that values money over people. People like John Gruber argue that Google's advertising practices and data collection are bad and evil, but in one breath argue that it's okay for Apple to buddy up to totalitarian regimes like the ones in China or Saudi-Arabia that have complete and utter disregard for human rights because it's good for Apple.

You can certainly make that argument - and each and every one of us uses products that either depend on or are made in totalitarian regimes - but don't try to justify it or claim there's no clear right and wrong here. Collaborating with such regimes is clearly wrong, period. No ifs, buts, or maybes, and by buying products made in China or by putting Saudi-Arabian oil in our cars we are all complicit, whether we like it or not.

We like to make it seem as if right and wrong are cloudy, nebulous concepts, but in reality, they rarely are. The only thing that's cloudy and nebulous is our own cognitive dissonance and the twisting, contorting, and justifying we - as a society - do to solve it.

A2osX: multitasking operating system for the Apple IIe

A2osX is a cooperative, event-driven multitasking kernel (meaning it is applications that are responsible to give back control to kernel). Its principal goal is to collect all "genius" 65c02 pieces of code ever written here and there, concentrated in the same environment (including IP Stack & HTTPD/TELNETD..., GUI & graphical tools...). "Complete working place", no needing any more to reboot to switch between tons of diskettes!

A2osX is designed to work on any "stock" 128k Apple //e, with no additional hardware.

The Apple II turned 40 this year and it still has a lot of life left in it.

Apple removes apps that help Chinese evade censorship

China appears to have received help on Saturday from an unlikely source in its fight against tools that help users evade its Great Firewall of internet censorship: Apple.

Software made by foreign companies to help users skirt the country's system of internet filters has vanished from Apple's app store on the mainland.

Profit over people is entirely normal for large corporations like Apple. They rarely choose the other way around.