Apple’s MacBook Pro TouchBar and Safari

When I bought a new MacBook Pro last year, I was catching up to a new interface element that had been around for a while, but that I had never used: the TouchBar. This bar replaces the function keys with a set of dynamic “buttons,” allowing you to control certain things on your Mac. You can adjust volume and brightness, and different apps provide different virtual buttons on the bar.

There’s one app where it’s is really useless: Safari. On my MacBook Pro, with Safari frontmost, I have six tabs, but the TouchBar only shows two of them; that’s because the other four are “pinned tabs,” that are minimized at the left of the tab bar. There’s no way to use the TouchBar to access those tabs. (I’ve tried to scale the image so it looks about the same as what I see.)

Touch bar

And even if I did want to use the TouchBar to access different Safari tabs, there’s nothing on the TouchBar that helps me see what the tabs contain. Okay, I can see that the one on the left is Facebook, but what if I have a lot more tabs open?

Touch bar2

I would have expected the TouchBar to display favicons, which would at least give a better idea of which sites are open in each tab. It’s clear that an option to do this would make it a lot more usable.

Welcome to Apple – A one-party state – Tortoise

A secretive culture – bordering on paranoia – was first fostered by Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, and then by his successor Tim Cook, who took over in 2011.

Apple employees typically sign several non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) per year, use codenames to refer to projects, and are locked out of meetings if they fail to obtain the appropriate documentation, former workers told us.

“Secrecy is everything at Apple,” one ex staffer said. “Many employees don’t like Apple Park [the company’s new headquarters] because it has very few private offices. Confidentiality on projects and the ability to step behind a closed door is vital.”

Another recent ex-employee said that security was weaponised across the company, with internal blogs boasting about the number of employees caught leaking and NDAs required even for non-sensitive or mundane projects. The employee described how they were once asked to read a negative story about the company and then identify the Apple insider suspected of leaking information.

This is the first part of a story that looks at Apple “as if it is (sic) a country.” An interesting approach, given the size of these big companies. Apple’s market valuation “is roughly equal to the national net worth of Denmark, the 28th wealthiest country in the world.” I’m not sure what that means; it’s not like Apple’s market valuation is a fixed asset, it is subject to the whims of the stock market. However, I do agree that “It has as many users as China has citizens. Its leader has a close relationship with the US president and other heads of state. In all but name, this is a superpower, wielding profound influence over our lives, our politics and our culture.”

I have mixed thoughts about Apple. On the one hand, I make my living writing about the company, and Apple is most certainly the least bad of the big tech firms. However, I’ve long been irked by Apple’s tax avoidance, which, while technically legal under US law, deprives countries where Apple makes money of their share of taxes on products and services the company sells. And it’s skanky; they stash money in the Cayman Islands and other offshore locations.

As for the internal security, it’s important to understand how much trade secrets are worth. Apple may be a bit more obsessed with security, but I sign several NDAs with clients and vendors who show me products and software every year.

I do know, from contacts in the company, that there is severe compartmentalization, which prevents people from knowing much about what others are doing, and it does seem, especially with the latest operating system releases, that this has contributed to a number of serious bugs. But any company this size is going to suffer from a lack of communication; perhaps Apple has just gotten too big to be manageable.

The truth, however, is that it represents what Apple has become: a secret garden with tremendously high walls. Most people who try to peer over the edge are summarily pushed back. Apple is a part of the world but also apart from it. It is Maoism for individualists.

Yes, the company is a “secret garden.” So is Boeing. So is Ford. So is any big company where intellectual property is how they make their living. As for “Maoism for individualists,” I don’t even know what that means.

A lot of this article is true, and much of it is not surprising for a company the size of Apple. Some of the article is just a timeline of the company’s history, skewed toward the negative. I’ll be interested to see what’s next in the series, and more interested to see what this site has to say about other companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

Source: Welcome to Apple A one-party state

The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism – The Guardian

Apple devices have gradually simplified in appearance over time under designer Jony Ive, who joined the company in 1992, which is why they are so synonymous with minimalism. By 2002, the Apple desktop computer had evolved into a thin, flat screen mounted on an arm connected to a rounded base. Then, into the 2010s, the screen flattened even more and the base vanished until all that was left were two intersecting lines, one with a right angle for the base and another, straight, for the screen. It sometimes seems, as our machines become infinitely thinner and wider, that we will eventually control them by thought alone, because touch would be too dirty, too analogue.

The Guardian publishes an excerpt from a forthcoming book about minimalism; not the music, but the lifestyle. This excerpt covers two topics: Marie Kondo’s decluttering cult, and Apple’s design philosophy.

For the former, whose method is uncreatively called KonMarie, I like to say that you can’t spell KonMarie without “con.” For our minimal Marie has ventured into the sale of Goop-worthy useless objects, such as, for $75, a tuning fork a quartz crystal. “Marie uses a tuning fork in her everyday life to help her to reset – and she’s never without a crystal. Striking the fork against a crystal creates pure tones that are believed to help restore a sense of balance.”

As for Apple, yes, their products are minimalist, but I think that the approach that the millennial writer takes shows a bit of ignorance of the history of the design of computing devices, and of other electronic devices. Much of the minimalism in Apple devices is a result of miniaturization. We have thin devices because we can; because displays don’t need to be the massive, bulbous CRTs of yore. We have fewer buttons and knobs because we don’t need them. And, Jony Ive, at Apple, was following in the footsteps of his great influence Dieter Rams, whose ten principles for good design were Ive’s guide. Discussing Apple design without looking backward to the history of design, especially of electronic devices post-war, is useless.

The transistor radio I had when I was in my early teens was minimalist compared to radios that preceded it; the Walkman I had in 1980 was minimalist compared to boom boxes. The car I drive is minimalist compared to the fin-adorned Chevys of the 1950s. Minimalism in design is a long trend. What is different is that the word is used now to market devices (though I don’t ever recall hearing anyone at Apple utter that word), and perhaps that is just a recognition that the term has become mainstream.

Source: The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism | Life and style | The Guardian

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 113: Mac Pro costs the same as Tesla Cybertruck

Apple has released the new Mac Pro, along with updates for all its operating systems this week. Google Chrome gets a serious update, Google Maps gets incognito mode, and the Ring doorbell leaks some location data allowing journalists to create heat maps of Ring-protected homes. Plus an AirDrop vulnerability, a tweet with an iPhone decryption key, and more.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

Many App Store and iTunes customers no longer receiving email receipts for purchases – 9to5Mac

“An odd annoyance has emerged among many App Store and iTunes users. Over the last several weeks, many Apple customers have reported that they are no longer receiving email receipts for purchases they made via the App Store or iTunes.”

I’ve been having the same problem. And this is a problem, because I need receipts for software that I purchase for my business. In fact, I had forgotten about this until seeing the article this morning, and went and got a bunch of receipts re-sent.

The biggest issue with this, however, is that without receipts I won’t see any unauthorized purchases, if, by chance, someone managed to compromise my account, or if I was billed for something I didn’t buy.

The article explains how to view your purchase history, but you can do so more quickly by clicking this link: https://finance-app.itunes.apple.com/purchases.

Source: Many App Store and iTunes customers no longer receiving email receipts for purchases – 9to5Mac

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 112: Twitter Trickery, Charging Insecurity, Cryptocurrency Malware, and More

We follow up on our Black Friday purchases, then talk about some Twitter trickery, some Russian rigidity, some charging insecurity, some location confusion, and some new Mac cryptocurrency malware.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

Apple says it cares about the climate. So why does it cost the earth to repair my Macbook? – The Guardian

“My beloved MacBook Air was only two years old when it died. It had seemed perfectly healthy the night before, but when I tried to turn it on in the morning there was no response.

Panicked, I rushed to the nearest Apple store. A ‘Genius’ told me gently to give up hope: there had been an electrical failure; it was a goner. Apple could repair it, the Genius said, but it would cost at least $600 (£460) and take weeks; in the end, it would be cheaper just to buy a new one. So, with a lot of grumbling, that is what I did.”

This brief article on The Guardian seems quite problematic. The journalist had a failure on her MacBook Air. It’s not clear what the cause was. She obviously did not have AppleCare, which covers the device for three years Given that the Sale of Goods act in the UK protects you for six years, and the journalist could probably have found this out, she’s making broad statements without really understanding her options.

What I wonder is whether she might have spilled something on the laptop, which would render any remedy under the Sale of Goods act null.

It’s a shame when a publication like The Guardian publishes these short, uninformed blog posts, whereas these “journalists” could actually do some “investigation” to find out a bit more about the situations and their rights.

Source: Apple says it cares about the climate. So why does it cost the earth to repair my Macbook? | Arwa Mahdawi | Technology | The Guardian

The chain of trust in Apple’s devices

A lot of computer security is based on trust. Your devices verify that you are, indeed, an authorized user, through the use of user names and passwords. And your devices trust services and servers, through a series of certificates and “trusted third parties” who work through a cascading system of verification and authentication.

If you use Apple devices, the company has its own chain of trust that allows you to use multiple devices in concert. Each link of this chain is carefully designed to ensure its reliability, and each link also enhances other links in the chain. This can seem complex, but when you break it down into its component parts, it’s a lot easier to understand.

In most cases, you don’t need to know how all these elements work together, but it can be good to be aware of how Apple ensures the security of your devices, your accounts, and even your payment methods.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 110: Black Friday Safe Shopping Advice

It’s Black Friday again, either the day we release this episode if you’re in Europe, or next week, if you’re in the US. It’s the day when you can get some good deals on things you need, discounts on things you don’t need, and, if you’re not careful, you could get scammed. We discuss some best practices for buying new and used on Black Friday, and warn you about buying a used iPhone.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

Apple iOS 14: Features, Changes, Testing After iOS 13 Bugs – Bloomberg

“Apple Inc. is overhauling how it tests software after a swarm of bugs marred the latest iPhone and iPad operating systems, according to people familiar with the shift.

[…]

When the company’s iOS 13 was released alongside the iPhone 11 in September, iPhone owners and app developers were confronted with a litany of software glitches. Apps crashed or launched slowly. Cellular signal was inconsistent. There were user interface errors in apps like Messages, system-wide search issues and problems loading emails. Some new features, such as sharing file folders over iCloud and streaming music to multiple sets of AirPods, were either delayed or are still missing. This amounted to one of the most troubled and unpolished operating system updates in Apple’s history.”

Yep. I still have problems with Mail, on my iOS devices and my Macs, along with many other issues. And, with Apple’s support being so unreliable, I still can’t use CarPlay with my iPhone.

Source: Apple iOS 14: Features, Changes, Testing After iOS 13 Bugs – Bloomberg