Apple this week celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day by announcing new accessibility features that will be available later this year with iOS 16 and other software updates. However, while we wait for those updates, the company has been promoting accessibility tips that anyone can take advantage of. One of the new accessibility features teased by Apple this week is called “Door Detection,” and it uses the LiDAR scanner on supported iPhone and iPad models to help users understand how far away they are from a door. It can also read signs and symbols around the door. For Apple Watch users, a new option will mirror the watch’s screen on the iPhone so that people with physical and motor disabilities can interact with features such as ECG, Blood Oxygen, and Heart Rate. Also, live captions are finally coming to FaceTime on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple’s dedication to accessibility is second to none in the operating system market, and that’s the reason virtually every single visually impaired person I’ve ever seen uses an iPhone. This certainly isn’t something that makes them tons of money, and it also isn’t something that’s easy to design and implement, so hats off to Apple for placing accessibility high on the list. Making sure everyone – regardless of ability – can use modern devices should be the norm, not the exception.
In late 2020, Apple debuted the M1 with Apple’s GPU architecture, AGX, rumoured to be derived from Imagination’s PowerVR series. Since then, we’ve been reverse-engineering AGX and building open source graphics drivers. Last January, I rendered a triangle with my own code, but there has since been a heinous bug lurking: The driver fails to render large amounts of geometry. Spinning a cube is fine, low polygon geometry is okay, but detailed models won’t render. Instead, the GPU renders only part of the model and then faults. A very deep dive into the cause and fix for this bug, and on top of that, some sleuthing to figure out where it comes from. A very fun and interesting read.
It’s the end of an era: Apple is officially discontinuing the iPod touch. The company says that the device will be available only “while supplies last.” This also means that the “iPod” brand is officially retired, as the iPod touch was the last iPod in Apple’s lineup. It’s the end of an era for a product that was once one of the most popular gadgets in the world. The iPod was one of the most iconic product lines in recent history, and now, it’s something nobody ever even talks about anymore. Apple was willing to cannibalise its own iPod success with the iPhone, and it paid off.
Apple today launched the Self Service Repair Store, allowing iPhone customers in the United States access to parts and manual that they can use to repair their own devices. The new store enables repairs of iPhone SE, iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 components, including display, battery and camera replacements. Apple also said it will launch Mac self-service repairs later this year. A good start.
CPUs in Apple Silicon chips are different, as they contain two different core types, one designed for high performance (Performance, P or Firestorm cores), the other for energy efficiency (Efficiency, E or Icestorm cores). For these to work well, threads need to be allocated by core type, a task which can be left to apps and processes, as it is in Asahi Linux, or managed by the operating system, as it is in macOS. This article explains how macOS manages core allocation in all Apple’s M1 series chips, in what it terms asymmetric multiprocessing (AMP, although others prefer to call this heterogeneous computing). This design has now also made its way to x86 with Intel’s 12th Gen processors.
I’ve extended James Friend’s in-browser Basilisk II port to create a full-featured classic 68K Mac in your browser. You can see it in action at system7.app or macos8.app. However, none of these setups replicated the true feel of using a computer in the 90s. They’re great for quickly launching a single program and playing around with it, but they don’t have any persistence, way of getting data in or out of it, or running multiple programs at once. macintosh.js comes closest to that — it packages James’s Basilisk II port with a large (~600MB) disk image and provides a way of sharing files with the host. However, it’s an Electron app, and it feels wrong to download a ~250MB binary and dedicate 1 CPU core to running something that was meant to be in a browser. I wondered what it would take to extend the Basilisk II support to have a macintosh.js-like experience in the browser, and ideally go beyond it. There’s countless of these, but this is definitely one of the nicer ones. It won’t be long before we move from running classic operating systems in local emulators, to just firing up a tab and booting up whatever we feel like playing around with today. I certainly won’t miss manually creating VMs or fiddling with purpose-built emulators.
In its day QuickTime was bigger than Apple itself, so widely known that many who used it on their PCs weren’t even aware that it was an Apple product. As one of the first extensible frameworks for multimedia, from 1991 onwards it was at the forefront of computer audio and video. When the MPEG-4 format was standardised in 1998, it was based on QuickTime. For several years, sales of QuickTime-based products for Windows far exceeded those for Macs. Then, with the release of Catalina in October 2019, QuickTime was dead, leaving few Mac users now able to name its successor, AV Foundation (or AVFoundation, if you prefer), which had been introduced back in 2011. For all intents and purposes, it died. Good riddance.
Apple is experiencing a widespread outage today, with a wide range of the company’s services and apps down or experiencing issues currently. Affected services and apps include the App Store, iCloud, Siri, iMessage, iTunes Store, Apple Maps, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness+, Apple TV+, Find My, FaceTime, Notes, Stocks, and many others, according to complaints across Twitter and other platforms. Apple’s developer website is also inaccessible due to server issues. Another great day to be a Linux user.
Apple is adding “one last chip” to the M1 processor family. The M1 Ultra is a new design that uses “UltraFusion” technology to strap two M1 Max chips together, resulting in a huge processor that offers 16 high-performance CPU cores, four efficiency cores, a 64-core integrated GPU, and support for up to 128GB of RAM. It looks like Apple is using a chiplet-based design for the M1 Ultra, just like AMD is doing for many of its Ryzen chips. A chiplet-based approach, as we’ve written, uses multiple silicon dies to make larger chips and can result in better yields since you don’t need to throw a whole monolithic 20-core chip out if a couple of cores have defects that keep them from working. This is a beast of a chip, and it fits in this neat little new Mac, called the Mac Studio. Apple also unveiled a new, more “affordable” monitor, but I’m not sure a monitor that maxes out at 60Hz in 2022 is worth €1779.
At 7.7×7.7×1.4 inches, the Mac mini is a tiny desktop. When the form factor debuted in 2010, it was pretty impressive. But 12 years later, with mini PCs like the Intel NUC measuring 4.6×4.4×1.5 inches, the Mac mini doesn’t feel all that mini anymore. As it turns out, the PC is packing some extra baggage, and by getting rid of some of those parts—like an overly powerful internal power supply unit (PSU)—an enthusiast has been able to rebuild the system with a 28 percent reduction in volume while allegedly keeping the same performance as the original machine. Since I’m no archeologist who specialises in prehistoric measurement “systems”, I have no idea what those weird, alien measurements mean, but the pictures and video are clear: this is a really tiny M1 Mac Mini now. And the “enthusiast” is Quinn Nelson, all-around good guy.
For women who assembled iPhones at a Foxconn plant in southern India, crowded dorms without flush toilets and food sometimes crawling with worms were problems to be endured for the paycheck. But when tainted food sickened over 250 of the workers their anger boiled over, culminating in a rare protest that shut down a plant where 17,000 had been working. Just in case you thought Apple (and other companies, of course) wouldn’t exploit poor people of colour in countries other than China. Good on these women for standing up for their rights, which is at least something they can do that their counterparts in totalitarian China cannot.
In an extensive paywalled report based on interviews and purported internal Apple documents, The Information revealed that Tim Cook personally forged a five-year agreement with the Chinese government during a series of in-person visits to the country in 2016. The need to push for a closer alliance with the Chinese government reportedly came from a number of Apple executives who were concerned about bad publicity in China and the company’s poor relationship with Chinese officials, who believed that Apple was not contributing enough to the local economy. Alleged internal documents show that Cook “personally lobbied officials” in China over threats made against Apple Pay, iCloud, and the App Store. Cook set out to use a “memorandum of understanding” between Apple and a powerful Chinese government agency called the National Development and Reform Commission to formally agree to a number of concessions in return for regulatory exemptions. The 1,250-word agreement was written by Apple’s government affairs team in China and stewarded by Cook as he met with Chinese officials. It was already well-known that Tim Cook and Apple were closely cooperating with the Chinese regime, but it seems they even went as far as begging and groveling to work with the Chinese regime in incredibly close ways. Mind you, that same regime Apple is so keen to closely cooperate with and please is currently executing a genocide to ethnically cleanse China. I’ve heard all the spineless corporatist excuses a million times. “Apple is just following Chinese law!” No. “Vote with your wallet!” No. “It’s not illegal so who cares if they aid a genocidal regime!” No. We throw minorities in jail for carrying a few grams of drugs, but we let corporations and executives who plot and scheme with genocidal regimes run free. Is that justice? We have devolved into a society where we just accept this – and that worries me just as much as all the other existential threats we’re facing.
The Self Service Repair program will give customers who are comfortable with the idea of completing their own repairs access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and manuals, starting with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups. The scheme will be introduced in phases, adding more repairs and supported devices over time. This is a major win for right-to-repair, and I’m very happy Aplpe caved to regulatory, shareholder, and public pressure. Momentum behind right-to-repair has been growing for years now, and it’s satisfying to see it bear fruit. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see if there’s any catch – insane NDAs, crazy high prices, little to no stock – but if not, this could be a model for other companies to follow.
For the M1 Pro, Apple promises 70 percent better CPU performance and twice the graphics performance compared to the M1. While the basic architecture is still the same on the M1 Pro, Apple is upping the hardware here in a big way, with a 10-core CPU that offers eight performance cores and two efficiency cores, along with a 16-core GPU with 2,048 execution units. The new chip also supports more RAM, with configuration options up to 32GB (although, like the M1, memory is still integrated directly into the chip itself, instead of user-upgradable) with 200GB/s memory bandwidth. In total, the M1 Pro has 33.7 billion transistors, roughly twice the number of transistors that the M1 has. But Apple isn’t stopping there: it also announced the even more powerful M1 Max, which has the same 10-core CPU configuration, with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores. But the M1 Max doubles the memory bandwidth (to 400GB/s), RAM (up to 64GB of memory) and GPU (with 32 cores, 4,096 execution units and four times the GPU performance of the original M1). The M1 Max features 57 billion transistors, making it the largest chip that Apple has made yet. The new chip also means that you can connect up to four external displays to a single device. These are absolutely bonkers chips for in a laptop, and Apple once again puts the entire industry on notice. There’s nothing Intel, AMD, or Qualcomm can offer that comes even close to these new M1 Pro and Max chips, and Apple even seems to have managed to get within spitting distance of a laptop RTX 3080. It’s hard to fathom just how impressive these are. The laptops they come in the new 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro, with a new design that, for some reason, includes a notch even though there’s no FaceID. Apple is easily the best choice for most people when it comes to laptops now, since anything else will be just as expensive, but far, far less performant with far worse energy use.
It’s a symptom of what insiders say are deeper organizational problems that have left the health group without clear direction and struggling to mesh Apple’s hardware-oriented culture with the practices of the medical business. People at Apple Health said that they saw colleagues face retribution for disagreeing with superiors and that concerns have been expressed on more than one occasion about the way health data is used to develop products. The situation has gotten so serious that some employees have lodged complaints with Apple’s most senior executives, including Cook and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who oversees the health effort. Success tends to hide problems.
Apple’s iPhone component design seems to be limiting the SoC from achieving even better results, especially the newer Pro models, however even with that being said and done, Apple remains far above the competition in terms of performance and efficiency. Overall, while the A15 isn’t the brute force iteration we’ve become used to from Apple in recent years, it very much comes with substantial generational gains that allow it to be a notably better SoC than the A14. In the end, it seems like Apple’s SoC team has executed well after all. Apple’s SoC still rules the roost, and while there’s performance gains the A15, it’s in efficiency that the new SoC really shines.
Apple’s remote work struggle is emblematic of a deeper shift taking place inside the company. Since 1976, the tech giant has operated in largely the same way: executives make decisions about how the company will function, and employees either fall in line or leave. What choice do they have? Apple is currently worth $2 trillion, making it the most valuable company in the world, as well as one of the most powerful. Over the past few months, however, that culture has started to erode. As workers across the tech industry advocate for more power, Apple’s top-down management seems more out of touch than ever before. Now, a growing number of employees are organizing internally for change and speaking out about working conditions on Twitter. Success tends to hide problems.
In public, Apple claims it supports legislation to combat climate change. Jackson, now Apple’s VP for Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, released a statement asserting that “the urgent threat of climate change is a key priority” for the company. Jackson called on Congress and the Biden administration to take “urgent action” to pass “climate policies that quickly decarbonize our electric grid.” Specifically, Jackson said Apple supports “the enactment of a Clean Energy Standard (CES) that would decarbonize the power sector by 2035.” However, now that said standard is actually on the verge of being implemented, Apple, behind closed doors, is changing its tune. The goal of the Clean Energy Standard in the reconciliation package would be to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. It’s the precise policy that Jackson said Apple supported in her statement. Given this stance, you might be surprised that Apple is part of a “massive lobbying blitz” to kill the reconciliation package and its Clean Energy Standard. Why, then, is Apple now suddenly fighting the very standard it was championing? The ads focus on the funding mechanism for the package, which includes increasing the corporate tax rate by a few percentage points — from 21% to 26.5%. The rate would still be far lower than the 35% corporate tax rate in place prior to the 2017 tax cuts. In 2020, Apple had $67 billion in profits and an effective tax rate of 14.4%. Ah, of course. Apple wants to be regarded as an environmentally responsible company, but only if it’s free and doesn’t cost them anything. Apple’s hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Apple has released new versions of all of its platforms, with only the Mac lagging behind for now. There’s iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, HomePod 15, and tvOS 15. As usual, Apple’s device support for new updates is excellent and stretches back quite far, so pretty much every one of you who is an iOS users will be able to enjoy these new releases. You know where to find them.
Apple, in a statement to various news outlets: Last month we announced plans for features intended to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them, and limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material. Based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others, we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features. Good step, but it should be scrapped entirely. Let’s hope this is not just a case of Apple waiting for the storm to blow over, to then sneak it into a random point release.