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MacOS Server, Adieu

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Andrew Cunningham, writing last week for Ars Technica:

Apple announced today that it is formally discontinuing macOS Server after 23 years. The app, which offers device management services and a few other features to people using multiple Macs, iPhones, and iPads on the same network, can still be bought, downloaded, and used with macOS Monterey. It is also still currently available at its normal $20 retail price but will no longer be updated with new features or security fixes.

Cunningham has a good rundown of its history, and Michael Tsai, as ever, has a good roundup of links. I don’t have much to add, but we should all pour one out for Mac OS X Server.

The thing to remember is that in the 1990s, it was industry-wide conventional wisdom that no one could put a consumer or prosumer interface in front of Unix. People who were already using NeXTstep would scream from the rooftops “We already have it” but no one could hear them. Mac OS X brought Unix to the masses. But Mac OS X Server went even further, and didn’t just use Unix as an under-the-hood implementation detail of the modernized Mac operating system, but put a Mac-style interface in front of a lot of Unix-as-fucking-Unix server features.

The shift to “cloud computing” was inevitable. Yes, there’s nothing magic about “the cloud” — they’re all just computers. But before cloud computing teams and companies really needed their own servers. Mac OS X Server — and its long-gone hardware counterpart, the Xserve — enabled small teams to do remarkable things for the time, without the expertise of a Unix guru sysadmin on staff.

Mac OS X Server was never a significant factor in Apple’s financials. But it was a huge factor in re-establishing the company’s credibility with creative people — people with taste — who understand and demand technical excellence.

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28 days ago
Man, the businesses full of Sun, HP, and SGI workstations I supported in the mid to late 90s sure would have been confused by these comments. That was no longer true by the 2000s, but the 90s?
28 days ago
All those still existed into the mid-2000s, they were just overshadowed by Windows XP having complete consumer dominance. Even then, I liked the Sun workstations more than generic XP boxes.
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HomePods Are Appreciating in Value

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Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge:

I thought it was really strange when Apple kept selling the original $299 HomePod months after it got discontinued. But now, it’s starting to make sense — not only are some people still willing to pay a premium for the somewhat smart speaker, they’re willing to pay more than Apple charged for it.

We took a look at eBay sales numbers after spotting 9to5Mac editor-in-chief Chance Miller’s tweet, and we soon discovered it wasn’t just a joke: on average, an Apple HomePod fetched $375 this past week. That’s 25 percent more than Apple charged.

I don’t think it’s strange or incredible that HomePods are fetching $375 on eBay. They’re wonderful devices, and there does not exist any competing product with even vaguely the same sound quality at anything near their price. People who think HomePods are overpriced peers to Alexa and Google voice dinguses have no idea how good HomePods sound, especially when paired.

What’s strange and somewhat incredible is that Apple discontinued them without a replacement.

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35 days ago
But what Apple used to excel at and either forgot or just got wrong in this case is that amazing hardware isn't worth much without the corresponding software. And Siri just isn't as good or useful as the competition.
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Food for thought. . .


Source: Too Much Coffee Man

The post Life appeared first on The Big Picture.

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52 days ago
I sure hope that last PLAY gets to repeat at least a few times.
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★ The D.O.J. Goes After Google’s ‘Communicate With Care’ Program

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Jon Brodkin, writing for Ars Technica:

The US Department of Justice and 14 state attorneys general yesterday asked a federal judge to sanction Google for misusing attorney-client privilege to hide emails from litigation.

“In a program called ‘Communicate with Care,’ Google trains and directs employees to add an attorney, a privilege label, and a generic ‘request’ for counsel’s advice to shield sensitive business communications, regardless of whether any legal advice is actually needed or sought. Often, knowing the game, the in-house counsel included in these Communicate-with-Care emails does not respond at all,” the DOJ told the court. The fact that attorneys often don’t reply to the emails “underscor[es] that these communications are not genuine requests for legal advice but rather an effort to hide potential evidence,” the DOJ said. [...]

CCing lawyers is a common practice, but the DOJ says Google took it to an “egregious” level. “Google’s institutionalized manufacturing of false privilege claims is egregious, spanning nearly a decade and permeating the company from the top executives on down,” the DOJ said.

Without commenting on Google’s program or the specifics of the DOJ’s accusations, the broader issue makes me think about the nature of digital communication. Pre-email, business communication between colleagues was typically either in-person (not recorded), on the phone (not recorded), or via printed memoranda and reports (recorded, on paper). During a legal inquiry, printed memos could be subpoenaed or subject to discovery, and phone records could too. But telephone records only show who called whom, when, and for how long. The content of phone calls wasn’t (and still isn’t) recorded.

Email corresponds directly to the form of printed memos. That’s even where email lingo like “CC” and using a “Subject” line comes from. (“CC” originally stood for “carbon copy”, which is how those copies were actually made — using carbon paper.) Emails are seemingly just like paper memos, only digital. But, because email is so much more profoundly convenient to use, both to send and receive, it quickly became more casual. Psychologically, using email for work feels a lot more like face-to-face conversations or phone calls. Many people with office jobs send thousands of emails per year at work. Only a maniac sent out thousands of printed memos per year pre-email.

I don’t think you have to be doing something immoral or on shaky legal footing to want to communicate with colleagues privately, without fear of those communications being exposed in future legal inquiries. Any sort of strategic deliberation is something you’d naturally want to remain forever private. So I get the basic desire. But I think a loose policy of just cc’ing company attorneys on we-want-this-to-remain-private emails is a poor strategy. The emails are still there. And the DOJ and state attorneys general can look at this behavior, see that the lawyers aren’t really involved in the discussions, and raise a stink about it, as they have with Google. Whatever the contents of those emails, this “Communicate With Care” program looks shady.

Last year, writing about a Phil Schiller email that was made public through discovery in the Epic v. Apple lawsuit, I asked a question in a footnote:1

It really has all been email, too. Unless I’m missing something, not one piece of communication entered into evidence — from either Apple or Epic — has been anything other than an email message. Not one message from iMessage or any other messaging service. I find that very surprising. Do Apple executives never use iMessage to discuss work? Nor Epic’s? If anyone with legal expertise can explain why this is, let me know.

I got a few answers from readers. Basically, there’s little that would stop either side in a lawsuit from demanding access to private messages from services like iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, etc. In criminal investigations, of course, law enforcement often does attempt to obtain such messages — law enforcement tries to obtain everything. But in many civil proceedings there’s an unspoken gentleperson’s agreement not to pursue such messages through discovery, being deemed too broad, too personal, too invasive. Technically, there’s a big difference between these services and email. Email is stored unencrypted on a server. The aforementioned messaging services are end-to-end encrypted. You’d have to get them from the individual parties’ devices — presuming they weren’t deleted.

So what I don’t get about Google’s “Communicate With Care” policy is why it involves email at all. Why not a policy recommending against using email, period, for anything deemed confidential? I get that Google is in a uniquely awkward position regarding post-email messaging services, but how about just using a service other than email that’s end-to-end encrypted? Or discussing all such matters in person or over voice? Part of me thinks this “Communicate With Care” policy at Google is just arrogant, but more than that, I think it’s just foolishly stubborn. If you don’t want it discovered, don’t put it in email.

On the other hand, as Eric Schmidt himself once advised, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

  1. Speaking of footnotes, post-publication, a friend pointed me to at least one iMessage exchange that was entered into evidence in Epic v. Apple — exhibit PX-0276, between Apple employees Herve Sibert and Eric Friedman. I can’t find a link online, but it was part of a trove of evidence that was briefly hosted on Box.com during the trial. I’ll host a copy of the PDF here. It doesn’t strike me as particularly interesting in and of itself, but it does show that at least one iMessage exchange was entered into evidence. ↩︎

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62 days ago
I used to work for a former competitor of Google's, and their policy for certain types of communication (legal and patents were two I remember) was just that: don't use email. Pick up the phone, or meet in person. (Direct IM would have probably been OK too, but I don't think Legal was comfortable officially recommending that.)
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Apple TV App on Android TV and Google TV No Longer Lets Users Buy or Rent Movies

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Rasmus Larsen, writing for FlatpanelsHD:

The Apple TV app arrived on Google TV in early 2021 and on Android TV in the summer of 2021, complete with Apple TV+ access, channels, and the ability to rent and purchase iTunes movies directly on the device.

The latest app update has removed the option to rent and purchase movies on Android TV and Google TV devices. The two buttons have been replaced by a new “How to Watch” button which states: “You can buy, rent or subscribe in the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, and other streaming devices.” [...]

It is unclear why Apple has downgraded its app on Android TV and Google TV but it could be related to commission rates.

I can confirm via, as they say, sources familiar with the matter, that this is entirely about Apple and Google not being able to reach mutually agreeable terms on in-app payment commissions. Until this update, Apple had been running on an exemption not to use Google’s IAP. The exemption expired, so Apple TV on Android TV is now “reader only”. Apple TV on Amazon’s Fire platform has long been “reader only” as well for the same reason: Apple would rather not sell or rent any content at all on these platforms than do so while paying Google/Amazon the commissions they demand.

Ben Lovejoy, commenting on FlatpanelsHD’s report at 9to5Mac:

If so, it would be ironic at a time when Apple is defending its own App Store commissions against developer complaints and antitrust investigations around the world.

I don’t think Apple going read-only on these platforms is ironic at all. Apple is doing on these platforms what all developers can choose to do on Apple’s platforms: if they don’t like the commission rates, don’t sell anything.

What’s hypocritical is Apple offering a “How to Watch” button, with a simple clear explanation of how you can buy or rent new content to watch on Android TV by making the purchase on a different device. That’s not allowed on Apple’s own platforms — Apple has a rule against explaining the rules.

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65 days ago
It's not ironic at all, except that it is totally ironic.
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★ The 2022 iPad Air

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The iPad family has sort of settled in to a consistent lineup for a few years, with five models. Three of them are distinctive:

  • iPad, no adjective: the low cost one ($330 starting price)
  • iPad Mini: the small one ($500)
  • iPad Pro 13-inch: the big one, with the best specs ($1100)

If you want the cheapest, smallest, or biggest iPad, your decision is easy. But in the middle — where most people’s needs, desires, and budgets reside — choosing between the 11-inch iPad Pro and 10.9-inch iPad Air is not so easy. For one thing, they’re almost exactly the same size. What I call the “13-inch” iPad Pro above is officially 12.9 inches. I have never understood why Apple doesn’t want to call that “13 inches”. Go look at a ruler: a tenth of an inch (~2.5mm) is negligible.

But I do get why Apple wants to call the iPad Air’s size 10.9 inches instead of rounding that up to an even 11: side-by-side with the iPad Pro, you can see that the iPad Air has a slightly thicker bezel surrounding its thus slightly smaller display. But while their display sizes are slightly different, their case dimensions are effectively identical. The only difference is that the Air is 0.2mm thicker — close enough that they both fit the same Magic Keyboard, just different enough that Apple makes separate Smart Folio covers for each. But practically speaking, they’re the same size.

As usual, Apple’s online “Compare” page is exemplary for examining their differences. Here’s a link to the Compare page listing three iPads: the new 5th-generation iPad Air (which I’ve been testing since last week), the 3rd generation 11-inch iPad Pro (which debuted in May last year), and the now-discontinued 4th-generation iPad Air (which debuted in October 2020). I’ve also saved a PDF of this three-way comparison for posterity.

Most of the differences between the new iPad Air and last year’s iPad Pro — and the differences between the new iPad Air and the 2020 iPad Air — are easily discerned from that page. Highlights, to my thinking: the iPad Pro has Face ID, and the new iPad Air still has Touch ID on the power button; only the iPad Pro display supports ProMotion;1 both support 5G cellular networking but only the iPad Pro supports mmWave (a.k.a. ultra wideband). The iPad Pro has four speakers, in including sets on opposite sides of the display, but the iPad Air still only two, both on the same side. In landscape this means the Air only has speakers on one side of the display; in portrait, only on the bottom.

On the flip side, the iPad Air comes in fun colors — my review unit is blue and everyone here at DF HQ agrees it’s comely. The iPad Pro only comes in silver or space gray.

But what isn’t quite as discernible are the differences in price. The iPad Air base model starts at $600 and the iPad Pro at $800, but that’s not a gigabyte-to-gigabyte comparison. Here’s the full pricing table:

2022 iPad Air 2021 iPad Pro 11″
64 GB $600
128 GB $800
256 GB $750 $900
512 GB $1100
1 TB $1500*
2 TB $1900*
Cellular +150 +200

* These models come with 16 GB of memory; the others all come with 8 GB.

Once again, the iPad Air and iPad Pro only share a single storage tier: 256 GB, and at 256 GB, the price difference is just $150. (The extra $50 charge for cellular networking on iPad Pro is the price you pay for mmWave support. Those Qualcomm modems aren’t free and Apple isn’t eating the cost.)

If you really need or want 1–2 TB of storage and/or double the RAM, your choice is made for you, but you’ll pay at least double the price of the 256 GB iPad Air. If not — and the vast majority of iPad users, even serious ones, should do just fine with 256 GB of storage and the default 8 GB of RAM — the question is whether the iPad Pro is worth $150 extra.

For me, Face ID alone is worth $150. I use my iPad in a Magic Keyboard frequently, perhaps even a majority of the time. It’s my kitchen computer. And I find using Touch ID on the power button somewhat awkward when the iPad Air is in the Magic Keyboard. But the Magic Keyboard is a $300 peripheral. It’s not a niche product but it’s certainly not for everyone. iPads are fundamentally handheld tablets, and handheld, the iPad Air’s Touch ID instead of Face ID is much less of a difference. I still decidedly prefer Face ID, though. Touch ID on the iPad Air makes it feel easy to unlock. Face ID on the iPad Pro makes it seems like it wasn’t even locked in the first place.

Overall, when you look at the specs as they stand today, it seems like there should be just one 11-inch iPad Air or Pro. But that’s just the result of the tick-tock pattern of Apple’s iPad refresh cycle. None of the models in the iPad family are on annual refresh cycles like iPhones are. Because all new iPhones — SE models excepted — debut alongside each other every September, the overall iPhone product matrix makes sense continuously. With most iPad models getting updated roughly every 18 months, but with the iPads Pro and iPad Air on opposite sides of the calendar, the comparisons are never quite aligned. Right now, with the brand-new iPad Air upgraded to the same M1 chip that’s in the iPad Pro, it looks like there’s little reason for the 11-inch iPad Pro to exist. Apple could add a few higher-capacity storage options for the iPad Air, add Face ID, and make it the one and only “11-inch” mid-to-high-end iPad.

But wait until later this year, probably October, and if the iPads Pro get refreshed — as one would expect not just from the rumor mill, but by looking at Apple’s historic pattern — all of a sudden the differences between the iPad Air and iPad Pro should be much more profound. And then a year later in the fall of 2023, there will likely come a 6th-generation iPad Air that will significantly close the gap again. That’s how it goes. Or at least that’s how it’s been going for the last few cycles.

Right now, though, the new iPad Air is a lovely device. And if your iPad usage is such that you really don’t need more than 64 GB of storage, at $600 (or $750 with cellular2), it’s a veritable bargain.

My biggest gripe remains unchanged from all recent iPad models: the front-facing camera placement is awkward when the iPad is oriented in landscape, but landscape is how the iPad is oriented when it’s in a Magic Keyboard or propped up using a folded Smart Folio cover — and those are the natural ways to use an iPad for a video chat at a desk or on a counter. It’s a great camera (and the M1 has an excellent image signal processor), but horizontally, you wind up with a high-quality image of yourself from a bad angle. The camera is too low and off to the side. If you look at the camera you’re not looking at the screen, and if you look at the screen the camera makes it look like you’re not looking at the screen. I don’t know what the solution to this problem is, but Apple hasn’t found it yet.

  1. Someday this may change, but to date, the only devices that support ProMotion literally have “Pro” in their names: iPad Pro, iPhone Pro, and MacBook Pro. ↩︎

  2. My review unit was provided with cellular service from Verizon, using the eSIM. It was the easiest, fastest, least confusing cellular setup I’ve ever experienced. ↩︎︎

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69 days ago
I don't understand why the basic iPad gets dismissed as the "low cost one" that Gruber seems to think won't be of interest to his readers. I just looked at the comparison page for it against the Air to make sure I wasn't missing something, and I still don't get why the Air is worth nearly 2x the money. The Air has a variety of incremental improvements over the basic iPad but individually or collectively they don't seem worth 2x to me.
64 days ago
I’m looking at buying a new iPad to replace an aging iPad Pro 10.5” and the cheapest iPad seems like it would be as great of a replacement as the pro, provided I don’t mind Touch ID over Face ID. And I use Touch ID on my phone, so I’m already on the finger biometric bandwagon.
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