The Good-Graces Edition Saturday, October 12, 2019

Tech Companies That Assist China And ICE Can Stop Pretending Their Products Are Neutral Now, by April Glaser, Slate

The blowback to Apple’s decision has been swift—a rare black eye for a brand that usually only encounters criticism when its new devices are too boring. But unless Apple is able to substantiate its claims about the app being used to facilitate violence—so far, it hasn’t—this appears to be a case of the company giving in, days after the NBA was pilloried for doing the same, to a Chinese government on which it is now deeply reliant. Apple has a multibillion-dollar business in China, makes its phones there, and, like other corporations, generally doesn’t want to piss off the country’s leaders. But coming from a company that has fought for civil liberties at home—remember Apple’s stand for user privacy in the face of the FBI’s demand that it unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone?—its actions in Hong Kong are jarring.


Yes, all markets require a level of privacy in order to operate. You can’t know the political leaning of everyone you buy a sandwich from. Vendors can decide what they do or don’t want to disclose or ask of their customers. But when they do know, they have no obligation to proceed with that business. Activists and tech critics sometimes use the word complicit when talking about companies that look the other way when their inventions are causing harm. Assistive might be more accurate. Providing database and web services—even just email—to a cruel immigration regime assists in the cruelty. Censoring an app that’s popular with protesters because the Chinese government doesn’t like it may be harming those protesters. These companies can do what they want with the software they sell. But they should stop pretending that what they sell is neutral.

Apple Told Some Apple TV+ Show Developers Not To Anger China, by Alex Kantrowitz and John Paczkowski, Buzzfeed

In early 2018 as development on Apple’s slate of exclusive Apple TV+ programming was underway, the company’s leadership gave guidance to the creators of some of those shows to avoid portraying China in a poor light, BuzzFeed News has learned. Sources in position to know said the instruction was communicated by Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of internet software and services, and Morgan Wandell, its head of international content development. It was part of Apple's ongoing efforts to remain in China’s good graces after a 2016 incident in which Beijing shut down Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movies six months after they debuted in the country.

Tech Companies Didn’t Plan For Chinese Censorship, by Caroline Haskins, Vice

The consensus is that American companies should not censor the demonstrations in Hong Kong, but it’s less clear exactly how we can prevent these companies from engaging in censorship.

Ryan Calo, a professor of digital law and privacy law at the University of Washington School of Law, said that tech companies need to say, clearly and publicly, "when they will engage in censorship, if at all, at the behest of another nation."

Apple Safari Browser Sends Some User IP Addresses To Chinese Conglomerate Tencent By Default, by Tom Parker, Reclaim The Net

Ultimately this means that only users who are aware of this “Fraudulent Website Warning” setting and have disabled it can be sure that their IP addresses aren’t being logged by Tencent or Google when using an iOS device.

Not-So-Good Upgrades

Mail Data Loss In macOS 10.15, by Michael Tsai

I don’t know whether these are due to Mail bugs or to other factors such as problems on the Mac or with the mail server. But my advice is to hold off on updating to Catalina for now.

Fixing iPadOS 13’s Glacial Performance On The iPad Air 2, by Adam Engst, TidBITS

When Randy called Apple, the support agent said that the problem was a known issue with the iPad Air 2, and that Apple did not yet have a fix. However, the workaround was to reset the iPad Air 2 entirely (using Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings, and restore from a recent backup.


iPadOS Review: The iPad Is Dead, Long Live The iPad, by Samuel Axon, Ars Technica

With iPadOS, I believe Apple seeks to further explore the middle ground between the quick-task-oriented iPhone and the heavy-focus, power-user-oriented Mac. But there's a tension here, because the original pitch that made the iPad so popular was the notion that it's easier to use, more intuitive, and less overwhelming than using a laptop. There was a place in users' hearts, minds, and wallets for a simpler kind of computing. Apple has definitely compromised that minimalist goal here.

That ease of use and simplicity is still here in some cases, though. Many changes, like the home screen updates, add more powerful functionality while trying to avoid compromising the minimalism that was core to the platform’s initial concept. In some cases, this feels like a negative compromise. In others, it works quite nicely.

CarPlay For iOS 13 Review On A Big Screen: The Difference Is Incredible, by Danny Zepeda, iMore

When Apple redesigned CarPlay for iOS 13, it knew it had to fit in the big displays that cars offer now and will offer moving forward. Its answer to this via the Dashboard was masterful, and using it on an expansive display was a joy.

With Catalina, The Mac Leans On Apple’s Other Devices, by Dan Moren, Macworld

Apple’s devices have always played well with each other; that’s a big part of the company’s appeal. But with Catalina, we see that the future is going to, more than ever, be about the ways each of Apple’s products can fill in the gaps for the overall ecosystem, bringing it all together as a unified whole.


How Two Developers Made A Living With Awful Games, by Ben Reeves, Game Informer

Half a decade after the release of the iPhone, the mobile market was awash with clones, reskins, and other low-effort shovelware. In some cases, the clones were actually making more money than the originals, which famously happened to number-based puzzle game Threes in 2014. Schwartz and Scott felt that it was nearly impossible for the average game developer to get noticed without a million-dollar marketing budget. As young indie developers struggling to pay the rent, Schwartz and Scott were growing disillusioned.

Then they had a crazy idea. If the system had stopped working for them, maybe they could just work the system.


Apple Launches In-House Studio With 'Band Of Brothers'/'The Pacific' Follow-Up, by Lesley Goldberg, Hollywood Reporter

Apple is officially launching its own internal studio, making the series the first that it will own in-house. Apple's Worldwide Video heads Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht will also oversee the unnamed studio in a move that brings them back to their roots as head of Sony Pictures TV.


As former studio chiefs at Sony TV, Van Amburg and Erlicht are well-versed in the importance of having an internal studio that not only oversees production but owns the programming. Producing its programming in-house will monetize Apple's content and eliminate having to pay expensive licensing fees to such outside studios as Warner Bros. TV.

Bottom of the Page

Bug! Bugs! I see bugs everywhere!

The Podcast app on Catalina is the worst. Buttons are going missing everywhere. The selection highlight occasionally goes missing on the sidebar. Clicks sometimes don't register. And the whole navigation continues to baffle me.


The apps in my Dock are sorted in alphbetica order. So now my music app is in a different position. On the other hand, I usually switch apps on my Mac by typing into Spotlight, and "it" still brings up the Music app, so all's well. (Apple did that for the transition from iCal to Calendar too. Typing "ic" still bring up Calendar on Catalina. At least for me.)

Oh, and I have to update all my iTunes-related Applescripts.


Why are the Shortcuts colors so muted in iOS 13? And I did have to spend a few minutes figuring out how to change the colors of my shortcuts.


Speaking of colors: I am not used to the new icon color for "Find My", which replaces the spot previouslly occupied by Find My Friends on my iPhone home screen.

Launching the Find My app and switching to the Devices screen essentially reminds me of how much money I've given to Apple over the years.


Thanks for reading.