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Nerding out about Apple stuff and all things Apple Inc. related.
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Apple appleinsider.com

How Apple could kill CAPTCHAs

AppleInsider explains Apple’s new Private Access Tokens (PAT) tech announced at WWDC:

Using a new HTTP authentication method called PrivateToken, a server uses cryptography to verify a client passed an iCloud attestation check.

When the client needs a token it contacts an attester — in this case, Apple — which performs the process using certificates stored in the device’s Secure Enclave.

I’ve been waiting for someone to kill CAPTCHAs for us, but this will be an Apple-only solution for now:

The company is working to help make Private Access Tokens a web standard, but there is no mention of tokens working on Android or Windows. People on those platforms may have to put up with CAPTCHAs, for now — or wait for Microsoft’s and Google’s work on the matter.

I believe this is the draft of the standard that they’re referring to. Cloudflare also has a nice article on their work in this space.

Apple apple.com

Apple's M2 announcement makes your M1-based laptop suddenly "feel sluggish"

Built using second-generation 5-nanometer technology, M2 takes the industry-leading performance per watt of M1 even further with an 18 percent faster CPU, a 35 percent more powerful GPU, and a 40 percent faster Neural Engine.1 It also delivers 50 percent more memory bandwidth compared to M1, and up to 24GB of fast unified memory.

I pity the fool who upgraded last Fall and can think of zero good reasons to spend another pile of cash at the Apple Store right now no matter how hard he tries to drum up literally any valid reason why that would be a wise decision but if he could think of one he totally would do it and now maybe he’s just waiting for someone else to come up with some sort of justification for doing exactly that. I pity that fool 😉

Linux asahilinux.org

Linux on Apple Silicon

Asahi Linux is a project and community with the goal of porting Linux to Apple Silicon Macs, starting with the 2020 M1 Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro.

Our goal is not just to make Linux run on these machines but to polish it to the point where it can be used as a daily OS. Doing this requires a tremendous amount of work, as Apple Silicon is an entirely undocumented platform. In particular, we will be reverse engineering the Apple GPU architecture and developing an open-source driver for it.

Asahi Linux is developed by a thriving community of free and open source software developers.

Yes, please!

Apple ifixit.com

iFixit tears down the new MacBook Pro

These teardowns are always an enjoyable read. This one is particular interesting because of the large upgrade this year’s line of pro laptops is and how Apple appears to be returning to form with their design decisions. Here’s the lede:

We’ve still got a long way to go with disassembly, but this new MacBook Pro has, at the very least, the first reasonably DIY-friendly battery replacement procedure since 2012.

iFixit tears down the new MacBook Pro

Raspberry Pi github.com

Turn a Raspberry Pi into an Airplay server

This is a wrapper script that simplifies deployment of RPiPlay, which does the heavy lifting. How well does it work?

Screen mirroring and audio works for iOS 9 or newer. Recent macOS versions also seem to be compatible. The GPU is used for decoding the h264 video stream. The Pi has no hardware acceleration for audio (AirPlay mirroring uses AAC), so the FDK-AAC decoder is used for that.

Both audio and video work fine on a Raspberry Pi 3B+ and a Raspberry Pi Zero, though playback is a bit smoother on the 3B+

Axios Icon Axios

Apple makes app store concessions to settle developer suit

From Axios:

Apple said Thursday it will relax some App Store rules in order to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by U.S.-based developers over its store terms.

…Apple will let developers communicate with users about alternative payment methods outside of the App Store. It will also set up a $100 million fund for small developers and make some other changes to its practices, but it’s keeping its overall commission structure.

This settlement is not yet approved by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

Swift swift.org

Apple releases a collection of Swift data structure implementations

Karoy Lorentey with the announcement:

The Swift Standard Library currently implements the three most essential general-purpose data structures: Array, Set and Dictionary. These are the right tool for a wide variety of use cases, and they are particularly well-suited for use as currency types. But sometimes, in order to efficiently solve a problem or to maintain an invariant, Swift programmers would benefit from a larger library of data structures.

We expect the Collections package to empower you to write faster and more reliable programs, with less effort.

This joins the Swift Algorithms and Swift Numerics packages in what is becoming a valuable, open source resource for Swift developers around the world to use.

Go roland.zone

Benchmarking the M1 with the Go standard library

We are in a time where the open source tooling and developer story around Apple’s new M1 chip is all over our feeds. Among these was this interesting benchmark. It even highlights where a somewhat older Intel can still beat the M1, such as highly optimized crypto. In general, if your code relies on the Go parts more than native optimized code the M1 looks like a performance win.

Juli Clover macrumors.com

Apple's M1 chip is outperforming the 16-inch MacBook Pro

Juli Clover via MacRumors.com on Apple’s M1 chip performance:

When compared to existing devices, the M1 chip in the ‌MacBook Air‌ outperforms all iOS devices. […] In comparison to Macs, the single-core performance is better than any other available Mac, and the multi-core performance beats out all of the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro models, including the 10th-generation high-end 2.4GHz Intel Core i9 model.

No, we don’t normally link up Mac performance benchmarks. In fact, I think this is a first. But we’ve been nerding out in #applenerds on Slack…and we’re just days away from the “Future of Mac” episode on The Changelog — so, the performance and benchmarks of the M1 chip are on my mind.

Keep in mind that the M1 is Apple just getting started with Mac chips. Look at the image below and you will see the M1 is running at 3.2 GHz — a faster clock speed than all other Macs on the list.

Apple's M1 chip is outperforming the 16-inch MacBook Pro

Apple samcurry.net

We hacked Apple for 3 months: here’s what we found

Six white-hat hackers spent a few months on Apple’s bug bounty program:

There were a total of 55 vulnerabilities discovered with 11 critical severity, 29 high severity, 13 medium severity, and 2 low severity reports. These severities were assessed by us for summarization purposes and are dependent on a mix of CVSS and our understanding of the business related impact.

This is a report of their findings: how they did it, vulnerabilities found, and how Apple responded to each one.

Max Braun Medium

PiSight brings back Apple iSight

Max Braun thinks today’s webcams are boring, so he brought back a classic. Max took an Apple iSight and retrofitted it with a $5 Raspberry Pi Zero, which “fits the iSight’s dimensions almost perfectly.”

The PiSight actually works like you’d expect it to. Just plug in the USB cable and the camera will show up in your video conferencing app of choice. The image quality is quite good, possibly better than the built-in camera of today’s MacBooks.

The best part is you can do this too because Max made all the plans available as open source.

Just in case you’re not completely taken aback by the absurdity of this project and are now considering building your very own PiSight, rest assured that I’m making everything available as open source.

The GitHub repo has a list of parts and where to get them, the 3D-print-ready model of the frame, and the source code. I’m thinking it should be possible to get the total cost down to under $150. I had to spend a bit more than that because I needed to experiment and opted for higher-end materials.

PiSight brings back Apple iSight

Browser London Icon Browser London

Apple’s move to ARM could reshape the development landscape

James Blizzard, writing for Browser London:

in my view, a number of factors are converging to make change ever more likely. Namely, the huge scale of cloud computing providers, Apple’s plans to migrate their laptop products to ARM-based processors, and the opening up of the educational space to include ARM-based systems.

There are some great thoughts from James in this article. From my vantage point, ARM is well-positioned for the short/medium-term, but RISC-V might just disrupt that for the long-term. One small piece of evidence: how Apple positioned this transition to Apple Silicon instead of to ARM.

Apple github.com

A virtual Apple Macintosh with System 8 (running in Electron)

First things first… does it actually work?!

Yes! Quite well, actually - on macOS, Windows, and Linux. Bear in mind that this is written entirely in JavaScript, so please adjust your expectations. The virtual machine is emulating a 1991 Macintosh Quadra 900 with a Motorola CPU, which Apple used before switching to IBM’s PowerPC architecture in the late 1990s.

Ok, cool. Does it run my favorite game?!

The short answer is “Yes”. In fact, you’ll find various games and demos preinstalled, thanks to an old MacWorld Demo CD from 1997. Namely, Oregon Trail, Duke Nukem 3D, Civilization II, Alley 19 Bowling, Damage Incorporated, and Dungeons & Dragons.

There are also various apps and trials preinstalled, including Photoshop 3, Premiere 4, Illustrator 5.5, StuffIt Expander, the Apple Web Page Construction Kit, and more.

A virtual Apple Macintosh with System 8 (running in Electron)

InfoQ Icon InfoQ

How Apple plans to address the systemic issue that made iOS 13 so buggy

iOS 13’s rollout was soooo buggy. Most notably: backgrounded apps were routinely being killed for no reason. What was to blame?

…Apple top executives Craig Federighi and Stacey Lysik identified iOS daily builds’ instability as the main culprit for iOS 13 bugs. In short, Apple developers were pushing too many unfinished or buggy features to the daily builds. Since new features were active by default, independently of their maturity level, testers had a hard time to actually use their devices, which caused Apple’s buggy releases.

Here’s how they plan to address the problem:

Federighi suggested leaving all new features disabled by default, so testers can ensure no regressions make it into the latest build and avoid being impaired by new bugs. New features shall be enabled on-demand by testers using a new internal Flags menu, making it possible to test each new feature in isolation.

How did it take Apple to the end of 2019 before they discovered feature flags? I hope it helps 🤞

Joseph Cox vice.com

This legit-looking iPhone lightning cable will hijack your computer

It looks like a legit cable from Apple. It works like a legit cable from Apple. BUT….

Joseph Cox writing for Vice Motherboard:

I plugged the Apple lightning cable into my iPod and connected it to my Mac, just as I normally would. My iPod started charging, iTunes detected the device, and my iPod produced the pop-up asking if I wanted to trust this computer. All expected behaviour.

But this cable was hiding a secret. A short while later, a hacker remotely opened a terminal on my Mac’s screen, letting them run commands on my computer as they saw fit. This is because this wasn’t a regular cable. Instead, it had been modified to include an implant; extra components placed inside the cable letting the hacker remotely connect to the computer.

Apple github.com

Turn a MacBook into a touchscreen with $1 of hardware

We turned a MacBook into a touchscreen using only $1 of hardware and a little bit of computer vision. The proof-of-concept, dubbed “Project Sistine” after our recreation of the famous painting in the Sistine Chapel, was prototyped by Anish Athalye, Kevin Kwok, Guillermo Webster, and Logan Engstrom in about 16 hours.

See that thing at the top of the laptop? It’s a mirror that’s redirecting the webcam downward to do the detection. How they detect a touch is (at least in principle) simple:

Surfaces viewed from an angle tend to look shiny, and you can tell if a finger is touching the surface by checking if it’s touching its own reflection.

Turn a MacBook into a touchscreen with $1 of hardware

Wired Icon Wired

The clever cryptography behind Apple's 'Find My' feature

In upcoming versions of iOS and macOS, the new Find My feature will broadcast Bluetooth signals from Apple devices even when they’re offline, allowing nearby Apple devices to relay their location to the cloud… it turns out that Apple’s elaborate encryption scheme is also designed not only to prevent interlopers from identifying or tracking an iDevice from its Bluetooth signal, but also to keep Apple itself from learning device locations, even as it allows you to pinpoint yours.

WIRED with a fascinating explanation of an utterly fascinating scheme.

Chris Welch The Verge

How hard it is to compete with Apple's App Store?

Apple launched a new section to their website for the App Store. According to The Verge, this new page titled “Principles and Practices” is believed to be a defensive response to recent criticism of the App Store.

Chris Welch writing for The Verge:

Apple’s new site puts a big spotlight on the App Store’s unrivaled success and reach, but in some ways, it also brings more attention to how difficult it can be to compete against Apple.”

Apple from “Principles and Practices”:

Since the launch of the App Store, an entire industry has been built around app design and development, generating over 1,500,000 U.S. jobs and over 1,570,000 jobs across Europe.

We’re proud that, to date, developers have earned more than $120 billion worldwide from selling digital goods and services in apps distributed by the App Store.

84% of apps are free, and developers pay nothing to Apple.

Mozilla Icon Mozilla

“Privacy. That’s iPhone” — made us raise our eyebrows

For all our #applenerds out there — a key feature in iPhone has Mozilla worried. According to Ashley Boyd, VP of Advocacy at Mozilla, this key feature is making “their latest slogan ring a bit hollow.”

Each iPhone that Apple sells comes with a unique ID (called an “identifier for advertisers” or IDFA), which lets advertisers track the actions users take when they use apps. It’s like a salesperson following you from store to store while you shop and recording each thing you look at. Not very private at all.

You can turn the feature off, but “most people don’t know that feature even exists.” Mozilla has an idea of “privacy by default” though…

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