Apple Archive

Apple blocks Google and Facebook from running its internal iOS apps

Apple has now shut down Google’s ability to distribute its internal iOS apps, following a similar shutdown that was issued to Facebook earlier this week. A person familiar with the situation tells The Verge that early versions of Google Maps, Hangouts, Gmail, and other pre-release beta apps have stopped working today, alongside employee-only apps like a Gbus app for transportation and Google’s internal cafe app. “We’re working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon,” says a Google spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. Apple has not yet commented on the situation. There are two sides to this story. One the one hand, I’m glad Apple is taking measures and revoking some of these companies’ developer rights. These kinds of privacy-invading apps are a terrible idea, even if people get paid for them, and no platform should allow them. On the other hand, though, I would much rather have such tactics be wholly illegal on a national level, since leaving such decisions in the hands of easily corruptible corporrations – see Apple and China – is a recipe for disaster.

Apple was warned about alarming FaceTime eavesdropping bug last week

Yesterday, a worrying and invasive bug that allowed callers to secretly listen in on unknowing recipients through Apple’s FaceTime app quickly made news headlines. It was discovered that people could initiate a FaceTime call and, with a couple short steps, tap into the microphone on the other end as the call rang — without the other person accepting the FaceTime request. Apple said last night that an iOS update to eliminate the privacy bug is coming this week; in the meantime, the company took the step of disabling group FaceTime at the server level as an immediate emergency fix. However, new information suggests that Apple has already had several days to respond; the company was tipped off about it last week. Back on January 20th, a Twitter user tweeted at Apple’s support account clearly outlining the gist of the FaceTime bug: “My teen found a major security flaw in Apple’s new iOS. He can listen in to your iPhone/iPad without your approval.” The parent’s teenager had discovered the problem one day prior on January 19th, according to tech entrepreneur John Meyer, who has been in contact with them. CNET has identified the tipster as Michele Thompson, whose 14-year-old son first encountered the flaw while setting up a group FaceTime call with friends to coordinate strategy during a game of Fortnite. This article is definitely worth a read, since it illustrates very well just how negligent Apple has been with this issue. The mother of the boy who discovered the flaw is a lawyer, and through proper letters and other means, she informed Apple of the major security flaw through all the various channels Apple offers. Apple wasn’t very forthcoming, and despite knowing about the issue, didn’t do anything about it until yesterday, when the company disabled Group FaceTime and promised a fix would come “later this week”.

A tiny screw shows why iPhones won’t be ‘assembled in USA’

But when Apple began making the $3,000 computer in Austin, Tex., it struggled to find enough screws, according to three people who worked on the project and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. In China, Apple relied on factories that can produce vast quantities of custom screws on short notice. In Texas, where they say everything is bigger, it turned out the screw suppliers were not. Tests of new versions of the computer were hamstrung because a 20-employee machine shop that Apple’s manufacturing contractor was relying on could produce at most 1,000 screws a day. Manufacturing at the kinds of scales Apple operates at is infinitely more complex than most people seem to think. It’s easy for a president to spout some rambling nonsense about building iPhones in the US to get people riled up, but if you can’t even produce enough screws for a low-volume product like the Mac Pro, you really have no business in the production of technology products.

The iPhone SE is the best minimalist phone right now

Earlier this week, Apple began selling refurbished versions of the iPhone SE, its nearly three-year-old, 4-inch smartphone modeled after the iPhone 5S, at a $100 discount. It was the second round of recent sales after an initial batch sold out the previous weekend. And like any budget-adverse tech journalist with an impulse buying compulsion, I felt this was the appropriate moment to hop on the backup phone bandwagon. So I bought one. My dad has an iPhone SE, and he loves it. There’s so few – if any – phones out there that combine modern specifications with a small form factor, and the SE, too, is starting to get a bit long in the tooth. I would love for Apple to update the SE with more modern specifications, and for Android phone makers to tap this market, too.

25 years ago: RAM Doubler debuts

Adam Engst, writing for TidBITS: First up—check out this piece I wrote from the 1994 Macworld Expo San Francisco: “RAM Doubler” (10 January 1994). Developed by Connectix, RAM Doubler was one of the most magical utilities of the early days of the Macintosh. As its name suggested, RAM Doubler promised to double the amount of usable RAM in your Mac, and amazingly, it generally delivered. That was a big deal back in 1994 because RAM was shockingly expensive—$300 for an 8 MB SIMM at a time when I had 20 MB in my Centris 660AV. For $50, RAM Doubler would double whatever you had: 8 MB to 16 MB, or 20 MB to 40 MB. It was astonishing. I know of RAM Doubler because I heard about it in the past 15 years or so, but since I did not grow up with Macs at all, I have sentimental connection to it whatsoever. Still, such iconic pieces of software always deserve to be remembered.

Emulator project aims to resurrect classic Mac apps and games without the OS

Want to be able to run classic Mac OS applications compiled for the Motorola 68000 series of processors on your ever-so-modern Mac OS X machine? Or maybe you’d rather run them on a Raspberry Pi, or an Android device for that matter? There’s an emulation project that’s trying to achieve just that: Advanced Mac Substitute (AMS). Emulators of older computer platforms and game consoles are popular with vintage game enthusiasts. But emulators also could be attractive to others with some emotional (or economic) attachment to old binaries—like those with a sudden desire to resurrect aged Aldus PageMaker files. Definitely a very cool project.

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.