Tuesday, August 18, 2015

OnHub isn't a Router

Today Google announced an expensive wifi router ($200).  Supposedly "finally a simple router."  Ok.

The correct take on this? An easy-to-update Internet-of-Things bridge, to bridge from ethernet to the various other radio protocols used by door locks, thermostats, security systems, etc.

Monday, August 10, 2015

iOS 9b5 notes

Still a little bit buggy, but getting there.  Some apps that crashed at startup now work for me (in fact, I now have no apps that crash at startup).  Status bar now reappeared in Reeder.


  • still a bit laggy.  This is most noticeable when the device thinks I picked it up in landscape and takes its time rotating, in multiple steps, to portrait. Seemingly every time I pick up the phone.
  • Mail is flaky, particularly on my iPad Air 2.  Stray attachment icons floating around the message view, even in messages without attachments (killing mail and restarting solves).
  • Battery usage is a bit high still. Burning about an extra 10-20% of battery in a day, at least on my iPhone 6+.
  • News app still a little slow to show me new materials. Sometimes you have to tap between tabs to get it to load new material.

HTC, HTC, HTC... (This is what happens when the user is not the customer)

HTC stored images of users' fingerprints as world-readable files.  This isn't even the problem.  The real problem is: why were they storing images of fingerprints at all?  If you are going to store them, you had damned well better one-way hash them and store the hashes instead.  In fact, you should only be storing hashes of feature vectors, not of the prints themselves.  You should only ever compare hash-to-hash, not fingerprint-to-fingerprint. You can do this using graph comparison algorithms instead of image comparisons.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Finally: beta users can't leave misguided app reviews

It's always been the case that Apple-related forums have been filled with non-developers seeking guidance on how to install iOS betas on their primary devices.  But especially now, with Apple adopting the "Public Beta" model and with them allowing more or less full access to the developer betas without the annual $99 fee, nonsense app reviews have proliferated.

These fall into two categories:

1) people who don't understand that the reason an app doesn't function properly is because they are running a beta version of the operating system.

2) people who blame the developers for not updating the app to function properly with the beta version of the operating system (something that is usually not even possible).

This has been something developers have been wanting almost since the early days of the App Store.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Much nicer task switcher in iOS 9b4

Now, when an activity is available via Handoff, instead of showing up as a blank white screen in the "carousel" of apps, there is a tab at the bottom of the screen that when dragged upward drags up the appropriate app and activity.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Seriously - Macs are Going to ARM

Now comes word that Intel is delaying the 10nm node and the "tick tock" is broken.  Good reader, do you really need any more data to believe that Macs are going to get ARM'd?

Source: Ars Technica
More on the inevitable Mac transition to ARM: AppleNews.Zone

Monday, July 13, 2015

Microsoft Office for Mac 2016

Office 2016 is available for Office 365 subscribers.  I've been using the preview for some time, and have made heavy use of Word 2016 for the last few days.  A couple observations:


The new interface will be the first thing you notice.

Word 2016

Word 2011

It remains a cross between Office of old and the Windows version of Office, providing a ribbon experience in addition to traditional menus.

Note that above I've used the built-in preferences to use the traditional color scheme, otherwise the ribbon/menu area would be the same blue color found in the iOS versions of Office.


It's buggy. Using Word with documents containing lots of annotations and track changes is an exercise in frustration, with parts of the screen going blank, inability to figure out which comments connect to which text, etc.  Office 2011 was quite buggy for a year after introduction, and it's looking like I will have to keep two versions of Office in my toolbox once again for quite awhile.

More later.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Ah ah ah

Apple Co-Designing Accessory Packaging?

Today comes word that Apple is revamping another aspect of its retail Apple Stores by only carrying third party accessories sold in packages co-designed by Apple.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

More on the Safari Controversy

Further to an earlier posthere's another article from a web developer whining that Safari doesn't support his favorite new standards-based googads.

Here's a choice bit:

"It’s holding the mobile web back, as the web isn’t better than the lowest common denominator, and by having a dominant mobile platform where the web only is being updated once a year, and by one vendor, it simply slows down the distribution of new features, which ultimately slows down the innovation on the web."
This emblematic of the fundamental flaw in this line of reasoning.  The mobile web can never be more than the lowest common denominator, which is exactly why Apple doesn't focus its efforts on non-user-facing features.  Apple wants you writing native apps which can take advantage of Apple's value added hardware features and Cocoa stack.  Apple has no interest in developing an ecosystem of apps that run just as well on a $100 Android phone as on an iPhone 6+, which take no advantage of Apple's hardware features, which don't integrate with HealthKit and HomeKit and Apple Watch, which aren't searchable with Siri, etc.  Because if that's the dominant ecosystem, what's the point of buying Apple hardware?

So good luck with that petition, folks.

Apple Music: Interface Mess - Interstitial 5

The fun continues on the desktop.

Above we have iTunes 12.2 on Mac OS X (happens to be running on El Capitan).  We have a more complete set of tabs, text only, including My Music and "Playlis..." That ellipsis was certainly necessary, huh?  Note that here we have the options spelled out, without any icons.

Again "New" means something closer to "Explore" than "New."

Above we have a playlist suggested by Apple Music. One of the songs is grayed out. Why? I have absolutely no idea. But it means the song won't play.

Here we have a desktop version of the "wall-of-text" menu.  But here we at least have icons, making its little easier to figure out what's going on. Except that the same icon is used for multiple things, repeatedly (e.g. "New Station from Artist" and "Go to Artist.")

Here we have two different "Add To" options. The top bottom one provides a submenu listing various playlists and denies where the song can be sent. 

So much redundancy and inconsistency...

Two of these things are not like the others:

And this is what it looks like after clicking "More Artists":


Here's a good use of whitespace: 

Apple Music: Interface Mess - Interstitial 4

The "Downloading 30 songs" belongs where, exactly?

Whining About Apple Web Standards Compliance is the New Whining About Lack of Flash

Link:  World Shocked that Android Developer Misunderstands Apple's Priorities

People, it's simple:

1) Customers don't care about esoteric web standards
2) Apple does not benefit from you porting your shitty Android App to a multi-platform web app
3) Customers prefer native apps to web apps
4) Apple is driven by what customers want
5) If you have to post a follow-up article stating that discussions about your article being linkbait are "boring," your article was linkbait. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Apple Music: Interface Mess - Interstitial 3

My Music Tab, artist view. Why is it that when "My Music" is selected (within the My Music section - so we have "My Music" selected twice, once at the bottom in the tab bar, and once in the selector in the middle. Argh), we see just albums (from our library) but when we click on All we see "Top Songs" then "Top Albums" then "Albums?"

All this inconsistency makes my head hurt.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Apple Music: Interface Mess - Interstitial 2

Now we're hiding useful functions behind long-presses.  Are there any other built-in apps that use long presses? Will this function be replaced with Force Touch when that becomes available?  And, again, what's with the wall-of-text menu?

I didn't know this function existed, but I'm glad I finally figured out how to tell Apple Music I really have no interest in seeing any suggestions involving either Nickelback or Kelly Clarkson...

Apple Music: Interface Mess - Interstitial 1

As long as I'm ranting about Apple Music, how do you explain the following to normal user:

Do I like the track or not? What's the purpose of the star ratings? And the heart? Why are there two ratings systems that don't interact with each other?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Apple Music: Interface Mess

Yes, the service called "Apple Music" encompass many disparate features but by jamming everything into a single app Apple has managed to create a confusing mess.  While Apple will have its defenders, claiming that the interface isn't "that complicated," my real world observation of people who are not CPU designers or app developers, struggling to figure out how to use the Music app on iOS, is anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

Apple Music: Family Sharing Troubles

I'll report more fully on Apple Music in the future, but here are some preliminary thoughts on how it interacts with Family Sharing.

Up until now, my family has generally shared a single iTunes Apple ID, and has used Apple Match.  We have a "server" in the house with around 8,000 songs on it, mostly ripped from our collection of CDs (we had a lot of CDs, because we are old).

Apple Match allowed each of us full access to any song on that server.  I did not realize this, but apparently Apple Match would not work if different family members were using different Apple IDs, all linked under Family Sharing; only songs bought on iTunes would be available on each device in that case.

Since a big part of Apple Music is music discovery - the service suggesting playlists based on individual music preferences - it seemed a good idea to finally switch my family to using Family Sharing for iTunes.  My classic rock/classic rock/rock/rock/alternative/alternative doesn't mix well with my kid's pop/pop/hits/hits and my wife's classic rock/classic rock/rock/rock/alternative/country/pop/hits/

We had already been using Family Sharing for iCloud; iOS allows you to use a different ID for iTunes/music than you use for everything else iCloud-related, and we had taken advantage of that.

So I thought this would be simple; just go to Settings | iTunes & App Store and click on "Apple ID: ..." and enter the same Apple ID we had been using for other iCloud functions.

This worked fine on my kid's iPhone, but on my wife's iPad all hell broke loose.  Apple Music kept insisting that we start a new free trial for her; it failed to understand that she was under the Family Sharing plan I had already set up on my own device.

After much experimentation, the following procedure solved this problem:

1) Go to Settings | iTunes & App Store and sign out
2) Go to  Settings | Music and uncheck Apple Music
3) Kill the settings app and Music app (by double-tapping the home button and swiping both apps upward)
4) Go to Settings | iTunes & App Store and log in the family-member Apple ID
5) Go to Settings | Music and check Apple Music.
6) Launch Music

Though this solved that problem, we next realized that none of the music in our personal collection was available on either my wife's or kid's devices.  This despite "iCloud Music Library" being turned on for each device.

After some more research, I discovered that iTunes Match does not share personal music (i.e. music not purchased on the iTunes store) among Family Sharing members; presumably the same is true for iCloud Music Library.

This is a bit of a pain since not all of our music is available on Apple Music (e.g. The Beatles).

If we figure out a solution, we'll let you know.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What is the NY Times Talking About?

This morning the NY Times published an article entitled "Apple Can Skate by Taylor Swift, but Not Product Missteps."  I challenge you to explain to me what the heck Brian X. Chen is talking about.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

iOS 9 Trick: Request Desktop Site

In iOS 9, press and hold the reload icon in the URL bar to get a "request desktop site" pop-up.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Privaris Patents: U.S. 8,327,152

Among the patents assigned from Privaris to Apple is U.S. 8,327,152, assigned on Oct. 14, 2014. The patent is entitled "System and methods for assignation and use of media content subscription service privileges."

The gist of this patent is that one can use biometrics to authenticate users and allow sharing of digital media based on this authentication. Among other things, this allows sharing of media among authorized users, from one device to another.

For example, here is claim 13:

13. A non-transitory processor-readable medium storing code representing instructions to cause a processor to perform a process, the code comprising code to:
authenticate, at a first personal identification device, a biometric input of a first user based on a biometric template of the first user stored at the first personal identification device, the first personal identification device storing a first certificate having a plurality of subscription privileges associated with the first user;
generate, at the first personal identification device, a second certificate associated with a second user based on the first certificate, the second certificate having at least one subscription privilege from the plurality of subscription privileges associated with the first user; and
send the first certificate and the second certificate from the first personal identification device to a second personal identification device associated with the second user such that the second user is permitted to access media associated with the at least one subscription privilege of the second certificate from a media provider based on the first certificate and the second certificate.

The first limitation after the preamble discusses authenticating, using biometrics, a first user. Presumably this would including something like using Touch ID to log into an iPhone.

The next limitation, discusses creating a certificate for a second user based on information relating to the first user. Conceivably this could include creating a certificate based on Family Sharing, for example. So if a parent uses Touch ID, the parent can generate permissions for a child to receive and use digital media (such as a song from Apple Music, one would imagine).

The final limitation involves sending the information about the authorized user (e.g. the parent) and the second user (e.g. the child) to another device (e.g. a child's iPad) and allowing that other user (the child) to use the media (i.e. play the song).

One could also imagine allowing sharing of media with friends (presumably some sort of time-limited loan) and various other situations.



Apple obtains a biometric patent portfolio

Interesting.  I'll take a look at the patents and report anything interesting.

Source: Apple Obtains Touch ID-Related Patents From Biometric Security Firm Privaris [MacRumors]

Thursday, June 25, 2015

iOS 9 adds "save as .pdf"

Dan Moren noticed that there's a "Save as PDF" feature in the iOS 9 beta.   Yet another reason Apple should take care of my wish-list item and add an iOS version of the Preview .app.   Opening in iBooks is Not Ideal.  (Yes, there are third party apps available in the App Store, but including nice built-in functionality that syncs to the desktop with iCloud would do a lot to make iOS a real workflow competitor to Mac OS, while at the same time simplifying things).

Original story at sixcolors.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

TV Hackers

Today on TV I learned that if you use linux and know the difference between KDE and Gnome you are a hacker.

Nonetheless, show was worth watching.

iOS 9 preview: Spotlight Search

A long, long time ago there used to be an operating system known as PalmOS.  It was used in things like PDAs (smartphones without phones) and, eventually, smartphones.

One great feature of this OS is that it had a built-in global search functionality.  You could search for any term, and not only would built-in programs (what we used to call "apps") be searched, but the contents of third party software would be searched as well.  In other words, if I wrote an app that had access to a bunch of information, I could search from the "home screen" and see results pop up from my own app.

Good times.

It took 8 major OS revisions, but this type of functionality is finally coming to iOS in the upcoming iOS 9.

Monday, June 22, 2015

More Stuff Taylor Swift Should Demand From Apple

Ms. Swift, if you are taking requests, here are some ideas:

  1. Return of the 17" MacBook Pro.  For, you know, um, musicians.
  2. Take the media server functions out of iTunes and put them in a separate daemon. For, you know, um, musicians.
  3. A new modern file system on the Mac. For, you know, um, musicians.
  4. Siri on Mac OS, for, you know... yeah, musicians.
  5. Keyboard mode for Siri, so we singers don't have to strain their vocal cords.
  6. Apple TV update with 4K and apps.  For example, music apps.
  7. Paid updates in the app store. (Throw that in for the developers).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Feature: Why Macs will Get ARM'd - Interstitial 2 - Bitcode

In previous posts, I addressed how Apple's complete ownership of the development stack is moving it inexorably into a position where it is free to do anything it wants with respect to the CPU architecture and instruction set, all transparently to customers and developers.

Some previous entries in this continuing series:

A continuing exploration of the likely future of the Mac:

Part I: Why Apple is Motivated
Part II: Why ARM is a Better Solution for Apple
Why Macs will Get ARM'd - Interstitial 1 - The A8 Datapoint

As I've stated before in various forums, Apple's complete control of the development and distribution stack would enable them to create ARM processors that need not hew completely to the ARM architecture or instruction set.

The vast majority of programmers targeting Apple devices code in either Swift or Objective-C, two languages that Apple essentially controls.  This has allowed Apple to add various language features that it finds beneficial to supporting its products.

Apple also controls the IDE, namely Xcode, which allows it to easily add meta-programming features like storyboard interfaces and the like.

Apple also controls the compiler, LLVM, which is designed to compile the (mostly) human-readable Swift or Objective-C to an Intermediate Representation, and then the Intermediate Representation is turned into the actual assembly language instructions needed for the target device.

Finally, Apple designs its own processors (the A- and S-series) for its watches and phones.

If Apple wants to add some hypothetical new hardware capability, like the ability to treat data streams as fully encrypted up until loaded into the on-chip data cache, and they want to add new instructions to do so, there's nothing stopping them.

Up until now, however, each time they added an instruction set variant to the mix, Xcode was forced to output fatter and fatter binaries, to target each possible device that the code could run on.

Enter the App Store and Bitcode.

For iOS 9, Apple has announced "Slicing."   The general idea is that instead of the developer uploading complete fat binaries containing object code executable on each target device, only the LLVM intermediate representation, or "bitcode," is uploaded to the App Store.  Then, when a customer wants to buy or download an app, Apple's App Store back end provides the appropriate executable, compiled by Apple, for that device.

This is a huge development.  Taken to its logical conclusion, this new capability allows Apple to change its CPU in any manner it wishes, at any time, whether or not the changes are compatible with previously compiled software.  This may also be the first step to the eventual ARM'ification of Mac, as well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

iOS 9 - best new feature

Full report coming soon, but so far I'm loving the new CoreSpotlight APIs.  Great to finally be able to search "FRCP 21" and have Spotlight provide a link that opens directly into my app onto the right content...