Bloomberg: “Apple to Reveal New Home-Grown Apps, Software Features at WWDC”

On Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is planning to unleash a slew of new apps, features and development tools at its annual software conference next month. To improve its devices and strengthen its connection to customers, the consumer technology giant will continue to walk a fine line between wooing outside app makers while also competing against them. 

– Mark Gurman

On iOS: It seems like the iOS 11 debacle paid off – Apple focusing one more time on performance improvements for a major iOS update is great news. I’m also thrilled by the revamped Health app and the improved Home app. To me, health and automation is the future, and Apple continues to improve their vision of it. Next year’s AR improvements seems to indicate that the “Apple AR Glasses” might be released in the near future. Also: multi-user support for HomePod! 🙂

On watchOS: Finally! The App Store is coming to the Watch itself! No more shrinked down App Store as a tab on the Watch app. And new Watch faces! I hope that by next year we will get 3rd-party Watch faces on the now-on-device App Store…

On macOS: Marzipan coming (officially) to developers is the salvation of the platform. macOS has suffered bugs for the past years (like allowing root login with no password? Seriously?) and the Mac App Store is a disaster. This year, Apple focused on the roots of macOS (apparently as a two-year effort, Mojave being a transition version) and Marzipan will allow the Mac platform to tap into the iPad’s vibrant app ecosystem. I just hope that Apple really improved UIKit to support macOS’ UI/UX (basically multi-window support and mouse input).

This year’s WWDC sounds really exciting: all of this is just reports from various sources and we still have to see all of this working in front of us, on our own devices. We, developers, will sure have a lot of work to do.

Link to the article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-06/apple-wwdc-2019-ios-13-macos-10-15-watchos-6-tvos-features

Recode: “Anki is shutting down”

On Recode:

In a teary all-hands meeting on Monday morning, CEO Boris Sofman told his staff they would be terminated on Wednesday and that close to 200 employees would be paid a week of severance, according to people familiar with the matter.

– Theodore Schleifer

Farewell, Anki. It’s disappointing to see that company close. IMHO, Cozmo was a great product and it was almost mainstream, it wasn’t that hard to find one at a tech shop or even in some malls as a christmas gift.

Link to the article: https://www.recode.net/2019/4/29/18522966/anki-robot-cozmo-staff-layoffs-robotics-toys-boris-sofman

Concept: watchOS 6

Link: https://www.behance.net/gallery/78721721/watchOS-A-New-Horizon

There are really interesting ideas, like the new Activity rings or the scheduled Watch faces.

Not sold on the idea of folders in Carousel (Carousel on watchOS is like SpringBoard on iOS: it manages the apps’ life cycles, and so much more). I barely use the grid view, aka the “cloud of apps”, and I don’t like the list view.

But there’s one thing. One little and silly thing. That my body is ready for…

… and it’s A SIMPSONS WATCH FACE

Digitimes: “AirPods 3 said to be launched by year-end 2019”

On Digitimes:

Apple is reportedly set to release its third-generation AirPods for sales by the end of 2019, with the new wireless earphones to incorporate a noise cancellation function.

Aaron Lee, Taipei; Willis Ke

Sounds way more useful than the “Hey Siri” feature from the AirPods “2” (more like AirPods 1.2 to me IHMO). The double-tap gesture was enough for today’s Siri. If Apple really improves Siri to the way that it finally becomes useful, except for setting timers and text dictation, then I’ll be more than happy to put those weird-shaped wireless headphones into my ears and talk to Siri all day hands-free.

Sadly, this report does not indicate when, or if, the AirPods will gain the rumored heart rate reading capability and a new black finish.

Link to the article: https://www.digitimes.com/news/a20190424PD208.html

Thoughts on Apple Watch’s Leather Loop band

The Watch isn’t only for tech enthusiasts, it’s also designed to be a desirable piece of jewelry.

When Apple introduced the original Watch to the world, on September 9th, 2014 (it wasn’t available until April 24th, 2015), along with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Pay, they made it clear that the device wasn’t only another electronic gizmo that the customer would have to charge every night, but also a lifestyle product, with health & fitness features and a fashion-oriented marketing.

The Watch was originally curated into 3 collections: the somewhat affordable Apple Watch Sport, the classic-looking Apple Watch and the unapologetically expensive Apple Watch Edition. Each collection was made of a different material (Series 7000 Aluminum, 316L Stainless Steel & 18-Karat Gold) and intended for different budgets. Of course, all the Watches shared (and still share) the same band swapping mechanism, so any band can fit on any Watch (as long as it’s for the right case size, 38/42MM or 40/44MM for the current Series 4).

The three distinct collections. Now the Edition is gone, and there is no separation between Sport and classic anymore. It’s just Watch.

Like there was 3 materials for the case, they also designed bands in 3 materials: plastic (sorry, fluoroelastomer), leather and metal (nylon bands were released in 2016). At first, I was interested in the Apple Watch with Milanese Loop, but reason did prevail and I preordered a Sport model with a blue band, mainly for budget reasons. I actually left work earlier on Friday, April 24th, 2015 because I was one of the happy few who received their preordered Watch on Release Day.

The Leather Loop was released alongside the first gen Watch, but I wasn’t interested in it: I wasn’t a fan of the available colors, I found it bulky and it wasn’t just good looking to my eyes. By the end of 2015 I bought the Milanese Loop and wore it on my Sport Watch, and when the Series 3 came out I finally jumped on the Stainless Steel train. And boy that Milanese Loop really shines with a Stainless Steel Watch.

Now, here I am, in 2019. Apple released new Watch models (Series 2 with GPS and dual-core processor, Series 3 with LTE and Series 4 with ECG, fall detection, new design and 64-bit processor), refreshed their bands twice a year, for fall and spring (again, fashion). I am used to wearing a Stainless Steel Watch, with nylon and sport bands. The Milanese Loop is reserved for fancy occasions. I was getting some interest in the Leather Loop, mainly due to the new colors, but I had yet to see one in person (the closest Apple Store is at a 2 hours drive, so I don’t frequently go there).

Last weekend I went to an Apple Store, and asked a salesman for a try-on. The overall experience is nice: the staff is friendly and they are willing to help. At first I tried a Leather Loop on their demo Watch, but the band was too long (it was the Large one). Since I have relatively small wrists, it looked kinda bad. The person brought me a Medium one, still in its box, and opened it for me to try it with my own Watch: it was a perfect match.

I bought it.

The band reminds me of the Milanese Loop: with its magnetic closing, they share the same overall experience: wrap it around your wrist and because it is magnetic, you can adjust it very precisely. The feeling is not the same though, the Milanese Loop has a metallic, cold feel on your wrist, when the Leather Loop is lighter and warmer. And it looks just fantastic with a Stainless Steel Watch!

Apple Watch (Series 4, Stainless Steel, 44MM) with Leather Loop (Cape Cod)

Conclusion: I now have another bracelet that can be wore for fancy occasions. But if someone at Apple reads this, please: A slightly larger Modern Buckle band for the 42/44MM Watch would be to die for.

9to5Mac: “BlackBerry Messenger shutting down next month”

On 9to5Mac:

In a blog post, Emtek announced that it will shut down the consumer version of BlackBerry Messenger on May 31st. The company says that while it tried make BBM a reality in 2019, users have simply moved on to other platforms

– Chance Miller

Woooooaaaaaa! This is mind-blowing! BlackBerry Messenger was still a thing in 2019!

Link to the article: https://9to5mac.com/2019/04/18/blackberry-messenger-shutdown/

TechCrunch: “Facebook now says its password leak affected ‘millions’ of Instagram users”

On TechCrunch:

Facebook  has confirmed its password-related security incident last month now affects “millions” of Instagram users, not “tens of thousands” as first thought.

– Zack Whittacker

I wonder how anyone can still trust Facebook. They track you around the web. They store data that they are not supposed to. They sell your data. They target you with ads. They can’t even securely store passwords. It’s astonishing. I can’t even.

They released a device called “Portal” with video calling capabilities on November 8th, 2018. And now rumor has it that they are developing a Siri or Alexa-like competitor. Welcome to 1984.

Link to the article: https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/18/instagram-password-leak-millions/

9to5Google: “Samsung Galaxy Fold display issues emerge just 48 hours after first outing”

On 9to5Google:

Over the past hour, journalists from The Verge, Bloomberg, and CNBC all shared issues they encountered with the Galaxy Fold review units they received on Monday.
According to Dieter Bohn, a small “bulge” appeared on the crease of the Galaxy Fold that’s “enough to slightly distort the screen.” Besides being able to feel the lump, there are “telltale lines of a broken OLED” after just normal usage by The Verge.

– Abner Li

Once again, this is why Apple is not launching a foldable iPhone: the technology behind Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is neat but it’s not ready for prime time yet. It’s not being the first that really matters, it’s being the best.

Link to the article: https://9to5google.com/2019/04/17/samsung-galaxy-fold-broken/

GNU/Linux doesn’t deserve to be popular on desktop computers, and it’s OK

Don’t get me wrong: GNU/Linux is a great operating system, I use it daily along with macOS and Windows, there are marvelous distributions out there, and it is widely used by companies of all sizes for mission-critical tasks because it is known for its general stability and openness. It even runs on supercomputers. But when it comes to its popularity for the average, day-to-day users, these are the most frequently encountered problems:

  1. Fragmentation – The strength of GNU/Linux is also its weakness: There are plenty of different distributions of GNU/Linux available. Different kernels, different packaging methods, different user interfaces. When you’re an advanced user, having the liberty of choosing, or maybe even creating, an operating system that fits your needs is wonderful. As an average user, this means that there are too many choices, too many compromises to make. On the other side, that computer you saw at the mall earlier was running Windows 10 Home. Period.
  2. Politic – The GNU/Linux philosophy is not all about software. It is also highly political. As a consumer, the holy war between closed and open sourced software is definitely not your primary concern when you want a computer to download movies, browse Facebook and play games during your after-work time and on rainy weekends.
  3. Compatibility – What is the common point between the latest AAA game with dithyrambic reviews and that nice little indie software you saw on Twitter? Chances are that they won’t work out of the box on GNU/Linux. Software editors are targeting the most installed operating system globally, and it happens to be Windows. Same goes with drivers, hardware manufacturers will target Windows first. Cruel. And macOS is no exception.

These are reasonably easy to solve problems, and the solution would be to unite forces behind a common Linux-based operating system packed with open source software that could be considered as the state-of-the-art product that the open source community can build, with different forks for marginal use cases. IMHO, a distribution like Ubuntu from Canonical could fill that void. Unfortunately, it appears that the open vs closed source war is not enough: there are conflicts inside the open source community itself. Revolving around one major distribution seems impossible. The greater good is not the priority, and it’s a shame.

To me, GNU/Linux does not deserve to be popular on the desktop. They had their chance and now the desktop war is over. But it is not a fatality. There is a new playground coming, and it’s just around the corner.

In the Post-PC era, Linux (as a kernel) is the great winner. It powers Google Android, and Google Android powers the vast majority of the smartphones all over the globe. It even runs on televisions, cars and watches. How did Google do that? They took Linux, built their open source operating system around it (AOSP), added their closed source layer (Google Play Services) and pushed it on the market. Smartphone manufacturers and carriers saw the opportunity of jumping into the Android wagon: engineers could create drivers to make Android compatible with their hardware, add preinstalled apps and customize the user interface to the extreme (and I’m stressing the word extreme here). Have an agreement with Google? Your device can also access the proprietary but important stuff, like the Play Store, that your users will expect to find on their smartphone. And at each iteration, the system is getting better and better. Google built the reference Linux-based operating system for mobile devices, and forks exist for different use cases, like building custom ROMs for unsupported devices, running it on x86 computers or focusing on user privacy. And it worked.

So what’s the next big thing? It’s the Internet of Things. Connected cameras. Connected thermostats. Connected plugs. Connected locks. Connected wearable trackers of all kinds. Connected medical implants. They all are collecting data to be stored and analyzed on cloud computing platforms. Even if Linux is a natural candidate to lead this revolution, considering how well it performed in the Post-PC era and after gaining enough flexibility into supporting many hardware platforms, Microsoft, after their Windows Phone debacle in the smartphone market, is preparing its revenge with Windows 10 for IoT. These new connected objects will have to be easy to use, eco-friendly and highly secure to ensure that the customer’s private life is as safe as possible.

The war just begun.

Thoughts on Xserve

As you may or may not know, I manage servers both at work and at home (among other things). I’m currently running ESXi on a HPE ProLiant server at home, hosting several GNU/Linux VMs. In fact, this website is hosted on The Server(TM) as I call it.

As a die-hard Apple fan, I’ve tried Mac OS X OS X macOS Server on several occasions on an old 2009 Mac mini that has been my main computer, a media server and finally a small server. In this order. This machine family is profoundly versatile by nature, and I guess those uses are among the most common out there.

When Apple announced that they retired the Xserve and replaced it with “Server” versions of the Mac mini and the Mac Pro, I was still in high school, still trying to figure out what I would be doing for a living. The Xserve was as much as a curiosity as it was abstract to the end users like I used to be. Now that I’m in that wonderful world of technologies, I sometimes think about the Xserve.

Sure, it looked like a server that you could see in those Shutterstock photos of server rooms (with an Apple logo, ok ok). Maybe it wasn’t the sexiest computer Apple has ever made, but after using macOS Server, and comparing it to Windows Server and GNU/Linux server-oriented distributions, I guess that it was more about the user’s (or in this case, the administrator’s) experience than the external design, and allowing him to manage it with no to minimal effort.

Servers can be frustrating, and somewhat disturbing. Apple’s approach when they bring something to the market is easy to understand: take a concept, improve it, make it desirable and then release it. Always put the customer first. Always simplify his experience with the product. Hide the technology behind the product. This is Apple’s DNA: don’t be the first, be the best. And IMHO, there is still a need for a Xserve-like machine to this day that could benefit from this DNA:

  • There are people in startups, small and even medium companies out there that use Apple computers as their work machines. They could enjoy a real server that is dead simple to administer for things like LDAP for centralized authentication and Backups, because if you don’t do backups you don’t deserve a computer. And Time Machine makes it easy and automatic. All they want is a machine with enterprise-grade capabilities, a reasonable learning curve and designed with security in mind ;
  • Apple provides a MDM solution through macOS Server’s Profile Manager. In medium to large companies that have a fleet of iPhones and/or iPads, having an in-house MDM provided directly by Apple is a plus. But the lack of an easily rackable server with redundant power supplies and a dedicated lights-out management system (like iLO in the HPE terminology) is a no-no ;
  • There are advanced customers that want a “local iCloud”, like ownCloud, because they want to manage the security of their data by themselves while having the liberty of accessing the before-mentioned data from virtually anywhere. A dedicated server with everything required to run a local instance of iCloud would satisfy their needs.

Unfortunately, Apple is sending some frightening signals. The server configurations of the Mac mini and the Mac Pro no longer exist, and they are removing advanced features of macOS Server like DHCP, DNS and LDAP. At this point, they should rename macOS Server to Apple Configurator Pro or whatever (calling something “Pro” is so in today) and go with it.

Maybe the new modular Mac Pro will be our savior. Wait and see.