87 stories

‎Achoo: HTML Source Viewer for iOS Safari 15

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Speaking of nifty new Safari extensions from Christian Selig, Achoo is an iOS 15 Safari extension that gives you a good “View Source” command for inspecting (and editing) the code for any web page. $1, cheap!

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9 days ago
Or you get “Web Inspector” which also lets you inspect CSS and the console, and it is free. What is everyone doing with just HTML source?
5 days ago
This is for iOS. I don't believe there's an easy web inspector on iOS Safari.
5 days ago
There is, it's called "Web Inspector", it's in the App Store. There is also SourceWeb but the inspector itself lives in an external app which doesn't always connect properly to its extension.
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The Safari 15 fight isn’t over (for Mac and iPad) ↦

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A Safari 15 Tab Bar

The design of Safari 15 on the iPhone has gone to a better place, but Stephen Hackett reminds us that trouble on the Mac and iPad remain:

The ordering of the UI elements at the top of the screen… divorces the tab — which includes the name of the current webpage — from the webpage itself. Maybe everyone at Apple prefers their bookmarks in the Sidebar instead, but for those of us who are used to the more traditional location, having the Favorites Bar split the tab and its content makes skimming what tabs are where more work than it should be.

To make matters worse, it’s hard to tell at a glance which tab is active and which is inactive. Previous versions of Safari didn’t struggle with this, but Apple has seem to fit to bring the age-old “which iPad app has focus” problem to the browser. Using the Monterey beta, I almost always end up trying to tab to or away from the wrong tab because I can’t quickly register which one is active when looking at the tab bar.

I think Apple has improved the legibility of the selected tab a bit in recent betas, enough that it’s usable, but it’s not as good as it could be.

As to the placement of the Favorites Bar — there’s really no excuse. It breaks the entire metaphor of tabs by placing non-tab-specific content beneath tabs, and divorces the tabs from the URL bar. I’d like to believe that this is a design oversight that Apple will correct at some point, but my fear is that Apple simply doesn’t think the Favorites Bar is a relevant feature in a world where you can browse your favorites from a Safari Start Page.

I like the Start Page a lot, and on the iPad I frequently navigate to favorite sites via the Start Page. But on the Mac I use the Favorites Bar all the time. It’s a valid and valuable Safari feature, and it deserves better than the bad placement it has in the current Safari 15 betas.

Go to the linked site.

Read on Six Colors.

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52 days ago
The bookmarks bar belongs below the tabs as by default it changes the content of the active tab.

Move the tabs and tab groups to the top where they belong.
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Not important enough: 1Password abandons its native Mac app

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If you can’t move the preferences window because it’s fake, you might be running an Electron app like 1Password 8.

I’ve used AgileBits’s 1Password for more than a decade. I’ve recommended it to friends and family alike. Over time, password management has become more common, and this fall’s operating-system updates will improve Apple’s built-in password management so much that it’s all most people will ever need.

That said, 1Password offers many features Apple doesn’t, and the company has become increasingly active in competing in the enterprise space, with an influx of investment to help it grow rapidly.

Which brings us to this week, when AgileBits announced the beta version of 1Password 8 for the Mac—and walked into a storm of criticism from Mac users. You see, AgileBits chose to build the new version of its Mac app using Electron, a system based on web technologies that’s used by numerous cross-platform apps, including Slack, Skype, and Discord.

I think it’s fair to say that most users don’t care about the tools that a developer uses to write the apps we use. But using a system like Electron does have consequences: Electron apps have a reputation for being slow, eating up a lot of system memory, and—perhaps most offensively—failing to behave like proper, “native” apps on whatever platform they operate.

Just as there are good and bad Catalyst apps, there are good and bad Electron apps. I’m sure that the very best Electron app isn’t as good a Mac app as one written using Apple’s AppKit frameworks—but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be good. And AgileBits has pointed out that it’s using Rust, a robust programming language, to power everything except the user interface, so performance should be more than you’d expect from “just a web app.”

I’m going to withhold judgment of 1Password 8’s interface, mostly because it’s still in beta and I’m sure AgileBits is going to get plenty of feedback about all the ways it fails to measure up to the standards of Mac users. I hope they’re listening and will adjust accordingly.

What’s really causing all this consternation, I think, isn’t 1Password moving to Electron. Electron is a bit of a bogeyman. The root problem is this: 1Password, originally a Mac-forward software developer, has simply decided that the Mac isn’t important enough.

I know that those are harsh words, and that the people at AgileBits would argue with them. But in a blog post by Michael Fey, AgileBits’s VP of Engineering for Client Apps, the company laid out its entire development strategy. It’s a post meant to explain what the company is up to and tamp down a lot of angry hot takes (and probably should’ve been posted the moment it announced the Mac beta).

Fey’s post clearly spells out AgileBits’s priorities. Android and iOS apps are built with native platform frameworks in order to create the best app experience possible on mobile. For iOS, AgileBits decided to use Apple’s new SwiftUI framework rather than the venerable UIKit, in order to skate “to where the puck was going.” Their plan was to use SwiftUI on the Mac, too. In doing so, AgileBits was buying into the vision Apple has for SwiftUI as a tool to build interfaces across all of Apple’s platforms. Unfortunately, it seems that SwiftUI didn’t measure up on the Mac:

Despite the fact that SwiftUI allowed us to share more code than ever between iOS and macOS, we still found ourselves building separate implementations of certain components and sometimes whole features to have them feel at home on their target OS.

I have to read this as a (gently stated) indictment of the current state of SwiftUI. AgileBits was willing to put in the extra work for iOS, because it’s an important platform and SwiftUI is clearly the future there. But implementing it on the Mac required a lot of duplicate work—and what’s worse, SwiftUI apps aren’t compatible with older versions of macOS. AgileBits was planning on covering the older versions with an Electron version, but once it decided the SwiftUI implementation for the Mac was too much work, it pulled the plug—and now plans to ship an Electron version to all Mac users.

I appreciate that AgileBits was originally planning two separate Mac implementations. That’s a sign that the company cared enough to expend extra resources to have a good experience on the Mac, rather than doing what it did to Windows users in deciding Electron was good enough.

And yet as a longtime Mac user, I find AgileBits’s decision-making process incredibly sad. Because as Fey’s post makes clear, at no point did the company consider keeping the Mac-only version of 1Password alive. AgileBits, once a major Mac developer, decided (for legitimate business reasons, of course) that the Mac’s not a platform that deserves its own bespoke app. Or as Fey put it:

We could support as many versions of macOS as we wanted using Apple’s AppKit framework, but that meant adding another frontend toolkit to the mix.

Translation: The Mac’s important, but not important enough to build a version of the app that only works there.

I get it. 1Password has to cover Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and the web. The Mac is a small platform compared to Windows, and “desktop” is a small platform compared to “mobile.” If I were an engineering manager asking for resources for a bespoke Mac app, I would have a hard time justifying it, too.

And yet, here we are. A banner Mac app and app developer has abandoned a platform-native app for the same web-app wrapper it’s using on Windows. Even if it’s the best Electron app you’ve ever seen, it won’t be the same—and more than that, it says something painful about the future of Mac software.

Apple shares the blame, though. If today’s SwiftUI was truly the One True Tool to unify Apple’s platforms that it’s meant to be in the future, the Mac version of 1Password would be presented in SwiftUI. And perhaps in a year or two, that will happen—after all, the SwiftUI version of 1Password is right over there on iOS, ready to make the move when it’s feasible.

Just because these are decisions made with the cold, hard reality of business priorities and budgets and the current state of developer tools doesn’t make me any less sad, though. A long-running and beloved Mac app is getting thrown in the trash and replaced with a web app. It’s not the first—and unfortunately, it won’t be the last.

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66 days ago
"A banner Mac app and app developer has abandoned a platform-native app for the same web-app wrapper it’s using on Windows."

Pretty sure the web-app wrapper is new to version 8 on Windows as well. Previous versions were native apps on Windows too.
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★ Facebook: Free as in Bullshit

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Facebook’s ad, helpfully transcribed (and photographed) by MacRumors:

Apple vs. the free internet

Apple plans to roll out a forced software update that will change the internet as we know it — for the worse.

Take your favorite cooking sites or sports blogs. Most are free because they show advertisements.

It’s an unfortunate quirk of the English language that free as freedom and free as in beer are very different meanings of free. But when you see an ad headlined “Apple vs. The Free Internet” most people would jump to the conclusion that this is about free as in freedom.

Not Facebook. They’re arguing about free as in beer.

There’s nothing “forced” about the software update Facebook is talking about either, which is I think is going to be iOS 14.4. It’s actually quite interesting that Apple does not force software updates, or perform them in a sneak hard-to-disable-or-detect manner. What’s “forced” isn’t the software update, but Facebook’s compliance with new rules that they firm

Apple’s change will limit their ability to run personalized ads. To make ends meet, many will have to start charging you subscription fees or adding more in-app purchases, making the internet much more expensive and reducing high-quality free content.

Are we talking about apps or websites? This is a very short ad — I haven’t omitted a word in my blockquoted text — to suddenly go from “cooking sites or sports blogs” to “in-app purchases” without explaining how you got there. But it just goes to show how Facebook has nothing to stand on here.

Apple clearly has no control over anything related to the advertising on websites, other than whatever privacy controls are built into Safari. Apple isn’t limiting the ability of apps on iOS to show personalized ads, either. They’re also not limiting the ability of ad-tracking technology to track users. What they’re doing is giving users awareness of and control over that tracking. In broad terms, changing tracking from opt-out to opt-in.

This may well have the effective of diminishing the effectiveness of personalized advertising. If so, so be it! The information used for tracking belongs to the users whose behavior and interests is being tracked, not to Facebook and the companies, no matter how small and noble, who advertise with them.

Beyond hurting apps and websites, many in the small business community say this change will be devastating for them too, at a time when they face enormous challenges. They need to be able to effectively reach the people most interested in their products and services to grow.

Here come the coronavirus water works. Boo-fucking-hoo. I give some credit to Facebook for putting it so plainly that they’re claiming they need to invade our privacy without our awareness or permission.

Forty-four percent of small to medium businesses started or increased their usage of personalized ads on social media during the pandemic, according to a new Deloitte study. Without personalized ads, Facebook data shows that the average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% in their sales for every dollar they spend.

Well if Facebook says so, it must be true. If only anyone could remember a time when advertising wasn’t based on privacy-invasive tracking, we could know whether there were any successful small businesses back then.

This whole ad reads more like an ad for Apple’s privacy initiatives than against them. Apple’s response to this campaign is simply to show the very simple easily-understood opt-in dialog box that Facebook is objecting to. Apple’s entire statement:

We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not.

It’s illustrated with this example permission dialog:

Example ad tracking permission dialog for Facebook.

That’s what Facebook is objecting to. Given that their privacy nutrition label looks like this, you can almost sympathize.

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304 days ago
"In broad terms, changing tracking from opt-out to opt-in."

Given that the option given is "Ask App not to Track" I'd say this is still very much a case of opt-out.

We also already know what happens when you "ask" not to be tracked. Nothing. Browsers already tried that.
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Can Thieves Crack 6-Digit iPhone Passcodes?


Henrique Prange, on Twitter:

Stop using 6-digit iPhone passcodes! Do you think I am overly paranoid? Keep reading.

Last week, a friend of mine had his iPhone stolen. What follows is the sequence of events that started as an unfortunate event and ended up with $30,000 in unauthorized wire transfers, $2,500 spent on the AppStore, and accounts of multiple services compromised. […]

So, how could the wrongdoers do all of that in less than 5 hours? After considering many options, the only reasonable explanation is they cracked the 6-digit passcode on the stolen iPhone using some kind of device like the GrayKey.

The passcode gave them access to the keychain. They searched for the iCloud credentials, disabled the Lost Mode, and turned off the Find My.

This is an interesting but alarming story. Did the thieves crack his 6-digit passcode with a [GrayKey] or GrayKey-like device? Impossible to say. But it’s worth thinking about it. We know GrayKey exists, and if it exists, thieves could have it. It’s also easier for a would-be thief to snoop a target entering a 6-digit passcode than an alphanumeric passphrase.

I mention this in the wake of the aforelinked piece on Face ID vs. face masks because months ago, when I first started grocery shopping while wearing a mask, I switched my iPhone from an alphanumeric passphrase back to a 6-digit passcode for convenience. I did so thinking, basically, that even though a 6-digit passcode is less secure, anything truly dangerous like disabling Find My iPhone requires my iCloud password as well.

It simply never occurred to me that if a thief (or law enforcement, or any adversary) has the device passcode, and your iCloud password is in your keychain, they can get your iCloud password from your keychain. All you need is the device passcode to access all of the passwords in iCloud keychain. Try it — you can.

So I’m back on an alphanumeric passphrase, inconvenience while wearing a mask be damned. Remember too: you don’t need to make an alphanumeric device passphrase long or complicated to make it very secure — a 6-character alphanumeric passphrase would take on average 72 years to crack by brute force because it takes 80-milliseconds for the secure enclave to process each guess.

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419 days ago
Allowing access to the keychain using just the passcode is obviously a mistake...

It should need a proper password. Could use the iCloud password, maybe in combo with the passcode
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★ My 2019 Apple Report Card

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Last week Jason Snell published his annual Six Colors Apple Report Card for 2019. This year 65 voters (hand-selected by Snell) graded Apple in 12 areas. I was one of them, and, like last year, thought it only fair to publish my grades and remarks here at Daring Fireball. Comments in [brackets] are additional commentary I wrote now, and were not included in what I submitted to Snell.

Mac: D

This was a hard score for me to assign.

My first thoughts went to hardware. We’ve got an amazing new Mac Pro that rekindles the era of workstations that offer the best performance money can buy. The best CPUs, the best SSDs, the best RAM (up to 1.5 TB!). And it’s a tremendous design accomplishment — there aren’t even any cables inside the machine. We also have a new 16-inch MacBook Pro that I think is the best notebook Apple has made in 5-6 years. It fixes everything wrong with the 15-inch MacBook Pros that preceded it — especially the keyboard.

Everything isn’t perfect on the hardware front. The iMac Pro is now two years old. It’s a great machine but it hasn’t been touched in two years. That’s not pro. You can say it’s Intel’s fault because the iMac Pro is based on a line of Xeon CPUs that haven’t been updated in two years, but it’s Apple’s name on the box. The buck stops with Apple. And while the 16-inch MacBook Pro now has a totally new, totally great keyboard, it’s the most expensive model in the lineup and none of the other MacBooks have that keyboard. Yet, we all presume, but the fact is, if you buy a MacBook Air today — the best-selling, most-popular MacBook — you are not getting a good keyboard. So all things considered, I’d say a B for Mac hardware.

Then I think about software. And that means thinking about MacOS 10.15 Catalina. And those thoughts are not good. Off the top of my head I’m hard pressed to think of anything in Catalina that’s an improvement over 10.14 Mojave, and I can think of a lot of things that are worse. I get it that security and convenience are at odds, and it’s a difficult job for Apple to find the balanced sweet spot between the two. But Catalina clearly bends too far in the direction of security. By design, it’s just too inconvenient, with apps generating system-level alerts prompting for permission for things as rudimentary as being able to see the files on my desktop — sometimes when those apps are in the background, and I know that at the moment the alert appears those apps are not trying to read files on my desktop. But why in the world is the desktop treated as some sort of sensitive location?

Back in 2007 Apple ran a “Get a Mac” commercial mocking Windows Vista for this exact same sort of overzealous permission nagging. That’s exactly what Catalina feels like.

If Apple has somehow determined that typical users need these sort of permission alerts, fine, but there should be a single switch for expert users to toggle to effectively say “I trust all of the software on my Mac”. Call it “Pro Mode”, call it “Developer Mode”, call it “Expert Mode”, whatever. But I don’t know a single expert Mac user who is not seriously annoyed by the heavy-handed security design of Catalina. Not one. Every single expert user I know is annoyed. That is a bad place for MacOS to be. MacOS 10.16 needs a serious course correction to fix this, and if 10.16 goes the opposite way — growing even more heavy-handed in restricting professional Mac users from just using their machines as they want and expect to — I genuinely fear for the future of the Mac as a platform for serious computer users. Which is crazy considering that Apple just unveiled Mac Pro workstation hardware that can cost upwards of $50,000.

And there are bugs in Catalina. Lots and lots of bugs. About one out of ten times that I open my new 16-inch MacBook Pro, the display contrast is horribly wrong. [Not sure if I’m on a lucky streak or if this actually got fixed, but I haven’t seen this issue in over a week.] I can “fix” it by either turning the display brightness way down and then back up, or by closing the lid and reopening it. But I’ve been using Mac laptops for 20 years and I’ve never once had an issue like that. Another paper-cut bug: turn off toolbars in Finder windows and a few minutes later, the toolbars will reappear. There are always bugs in new OS releases, and we always complain that the state of Apple’s software is too buggy. But no one can convince me that Catalina is not abnormally buggy, even now, months after release.

And then there’s Catalyst. Don’t get me started.

If I could give Mac hardware and software separate scores, I’d give hardware a B and software an F — not one thing about Mac software got better in 2019 and everything that did change made it worse. Where’s the Tylenol?

iPhone: B

2019 was a stellar year for iPhone hardware. I love all the iPhone 11 models. I’ve been an avid hobbyist photographer for 20 years and I happily shoot over 95 percent of my photos using my iPhone. Everything about the iPhone 11 cameras is great, from the hardware to the Camera app software. I love the new ultra-wide angle lens in all of the 11 models, and I think Apple made the right call using the ultra-wide as the only additional lens on the regular iPhone 11 (as opposed to the telephoto). My one and only significant gripe is that there’s only one size for the non-Pro iPhone 11. There ought to be a smaller one.

iOS 13 is a very good release. Shortcuts are proving to be the most exciting power-user feature in the history of iOS as a platform. Sharing sheets are better than ever too. I think the overall look is getting a bit dated, though. A fair amount of Z-axis depth has been restored since the visual reboot in iOS 7, but it still feels obsessively “flat”. And parts of Apple’s iOS software feel designed only to look good, as opposed to actually be good from an interactive standpoint.

[I think my Mac remarks made me grumpy — I wrote them before anything else for my report card. If I were grading the iPhone in 2019 today, I’d bump it up to an A.]

iPad: D

iPad hardware is wonderful. It seems like iPad Pro hardware is on a roughly 18-month refresh schedule, so there was nothing new in Pro hardware in 2019, but the current models are so good in every regard that that’s just fine. And the consumer models offer the best bang-for-the-buck of any computers Apple has ever sold, period. Just like with the Mac, I’d give iPad hardware an excellent score on its own, an A.

But to say that I’m not a fan of iPadOS is an understatement. I wish there were a switch to force iPadOS to back to the pre “multitasking” days when the iPad interaction model was “just a big iPhone” — where every app was full screen and there was no drag-and-drop. I only ever accidentally drag things like links, and I find iPadOS’s concept of “windows” to be baffling. [Turns out there sort of is such a mode in Settings → Home Screen & Dock → Multitasking.] Getting the split-screen and Slide Over stuff to work is utterly unintuitive. It’s not the sort of thing you can figure out on your own just by using it, which is how the Mac user interface works. You have to know in advance how iPadOS split-screen stuff works. Just consider the fundamentals: if you want to launch an app you just tap it on the home screen or in the Dock. So far so good. But if you want a second app next to the first one, you have to drag the icon for that app out of the Dock? Why in the world would dragging an app icon launch an instance of an app? Forget about the Mac — what other platform in the world works like that? Put instances of Safari in two different “windows” — say, one split-screened with Notes and another in a “window” of its own. Then, using a hardware keyboard, Command-Tab to Safari. Which one comes forward? Toss a coin. It’s madness. I’m glad Apple started branding iOS and iPadOS separately. One of them is very cohesive, the other is incoherent. The iPadOS multitasking emperor has no clothes. I wish I could run iOS on my iPad Pro.

Apple Watch: B

Steady as she goes. I love my titanium Series 5.

[I think Apple could do a much better job with watch face design. I’m not talking about allowing third-party watch faces, which, if I were in charge of Apple Watch, I wouldn’t allow either. I’m talking about Apple’s own watch faces, the only ones we can choose from.]

Wearables: A

Regular AirPods remain great and AirPods Pro are my favorite headphones ever.

Apple TV: D

No new hardware and the new Apple TV app is confusing. I’d be fine with a hardware update that did nothing but include an altogether new remote control — but a price drop would be good too. The overwhelming majority of my non-sports TV watching is done via Apple TV, and that damn remote is a daily nuisance.

Services: B

This was the year of Services for Apple — they even had a dedicated Services event. I think they mostly nailed it. The original TV series I was interested in were all good to great (The Morning Show, For All Mankind, Servant), and I think the “start with a whole year for free with the purchase of any iPhone, iPad, or Mac” promotion is just what the doctor ordered for a new service with a very limited library of content.

I’m still wary of Apple entering the credit card business, period, but I use my Apple Card for all Apple Pay purchases (to get the 3 percent cash back). Daily cash back is a great feature, and Apple’s 4 percent cash back promotion for Apple Store purchases during the holiday gift season was undeniably a great deal.

I’ll keep beating the drum that iCloud storage tiers are too small, though — especially the 5 GB free tier.

HomeKit/Home: C

I’ll give this whole a category a “meh”. We use it at home, mostly to control smart window shades and lights, but I think for most people, if you haven’t even really looked into it yet, I’d say you’re not missing much. I feel like Apple still hasn’t gotten close to making HomeKit truly compelling.

Hardware Reliability: A

This sort of thing is highly subjective, but everything new I’ve used this year has been rock solid.

Software Quality: C

The saving grace is iOS, by which I mean iPhone’s iOS. See my comments on Mac and iPad and Apple TV above. I’d go with a B for iOS and D for the others.

Developer Relations: C

From what I’ve seen from developer friends, App Store review times are truly excellent now — a complete change from before the reorganization that put App Store review under Phil Schiller. But when an App Store review does hit a snag, it can go completely dark (from the developer’s perspective) for a week or longer. There’s still much room for improvement here. And I continue to believe Apple should lighten up on allowing apps to at least link to websites where content purchases can be made.

Social/Societal Impact: C

It’s good for the entire world that Apple is a staunch supporter of LGBT and racial equality, serious environmentalism, privacy as a human right, and true user-controlled encryption as an aspect of privacy.

It’s an absolute disgrace that Apple allowed Donald Trump to use the Mac Pro assembly plant in Austin as the backdrop for an event to promote his re-election. I called it “a low moment in Apple’s proud history, and a sadly iconic moment for Tim Cook” when it happened, and feel just as strongly two months later. Trump is a liar, a crook, and his administration has proven to be a menace to everything Apple stands for: LGBT and racial equality, the environment, and privacy as a human right.

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621 days ago
"We’ve got an amazing new Mac Pro that rekindles the era of workstations that offer the best performance money can buy."

Intel Xeon and AMD Radeon graphics, neither offering the best performance money can buy...
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