It Just Works

My first Apple product was an iPod Mini. I still vividly remember being hooked by the design and functionality of such a tiny, sexy device. My next Apple product was a Powerbook G4. Those two products started a long journey of buying and loving Apple products. iPhoto. iPhone. iPad. iWork. I bought them all, and I loved them all. One phrase always kept me coming back for more: “It just works”. After coming from devices that always felt buggy and half-finished it really did feel just like that. Everything, well, just worked.

Fast forward to today, 2014. Zoom in to me. I’m typing this on a Macbook Pro. In my pocket is the iPhone 6. Three metres away sits a Mac Mini. On the surface, nothing has changed. The problem is, it feels like everything has changed. In short while Apple’s hardware continues to impress me, their software has gone downhill at a rapid pace. iPhoto is an unusable mess with the volume of photos I now have. Aperture has been discontinued and is badly lagging behind in terms of both performance and features. iTunes takes forever to launch, and is bloated mess of way too many features and functions. iCloud is still a mess that I wouldn’t dream of storing my important data in. iOS 7 crashed so often that I became intimately familiar with the Apple logo that appeared every time it did. iOS 8 fixed the crashing, but introduced thousands of little paper cut like bugs. I used to install updates from Apple the second they came out, now I wait a few days to see if they are actually any good.

If you think this is just my experience, let’s take a quick recap of the last few weeks of Apple news:

  • iOS 8.0.1 was released, with bugs that prevented iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners from connecting to the cell network, and using Touch ID.
  • Users trying to fix iOS bugs, reset the settings on their devices. This had the fun, unexpected consequence of wiping their iCloud documents, and syncing those deletions to all their other devices.
  • Apple released HealthKit as part of iOS 8, only to pull it, and any apps that supported it due to bugs.
  • Apple ‘fixed’ HealthKit as part of iOS 8.0.2, but my Twitter timeline is still full of people complaining about bugs. By all accounts, and going by the iOS 8.1 change log released today, it’s nowhere near ready for prime time.

On the developer front recently:

  • iTunes Connect is still amazingly buggy, and Apple managed to make it more so while developers were submitting their iOS 8 updates. I saw so many automated rejections, upload errors and bugs fill my timeline.
  • Xcode still crashes for me, at least once or twice a day.
  • Apple bought TestFlight, much to our delight, only to reveal that their answer to ‘beta testing’ is to let us distribute to 25 people that have administration rights over our apps. Do you want your beta testers to be able to change your app prices, descriptions, screenshots and to be able to pull apps from the store? Yeah me neither. The alternative is to submit your app for app review, before you’re allowed to distribute it to beta testers. Really Apple? Did I mention that the review queue is currently 9 days long and growing? Thank Thor that HockeyApp still exists.
  • Size classes, Apple’s answer to ‘how on earth are we going to deal with the new screen sizes’ lack even the most basic functionality required to do that. The iPhone 6 Plus has it’s own size class, in landscape, but in portrait orientation? Every single iPhone ever made is treated the same way. That’s right, you can’t lay out a different UI for the 3.5″ iPhone in portrait than you can for the 5.5″ monstrosity of a 6 Plus. How Apple missed this basic developer requirement is baffling to me.
  • Swift, the language we were all amazed by in June, has turned out to be a bag of hurt for anyone that jumped into it headfirst. It’s clear that it too wasn’t ready for prime time. I would have happily waited another year or two, especially if Apple built some major apps using it first. As it is we’re beta testing it for them, even after the 1.0 release.

Tim Cook keeps telling us that ‘Only Apple’ could do the amazing things it does. I just wish that Apple would slow down their breakneck pace and spend the time required to build stable software that their hardware so desperately needs. The yearly release cycles of OS X, iOS, iPhone & iPad are resulting in too many things seeing the light of day that aren’t finished yet. Perhaps the world wouldn’t let them, perhaps the expectations are now too high, but I’d kill for Snow iOS 8 and Snow Yosemite next year. I’m fairly confident I’m not alone in that feeling.

Apple People, This is Why Others Hate You

Have you, Apple Fan, ever wondered why some people on the Internet seem to have an irrational hatred of you? Don’t worry, Rusty swings both ways, allow him to mediate and explain.

Let’s start with well known Apple Developer, Wil Shipley

Yes…except no. The IFA Trade Show was scheduled long before Apple announced anything, and is where manufacturers announce things like this. Let’s not even get into how ridiculous it is to actually assume that the wearables category was started by an Apple rumour. People actually think that. You probably do too. Please stop for a second and think that one through.

Next up is my favourite Apple PR Representative Blogger, John Gruber:

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 10.05.40 am

John thinks Motorola is so ashamed of an issue that he created, and won’t stop talking about, that they tried to photoshop it out. Except they didn’t. I’ve also lost count of the amount of times he’s called it a ‘flat tire’ on his blog. Anyone would think he’d been handed this as some kind of talking point. His circle maths is also way off, but I’m not even going to bother trying to correct it here.

Finally, I have one more person to call out. You dear reader, you. You see if the rumours are true Apple will be launching a 4.7″ and 5.5″ set of phones next week. They will also demo some new software. My Twitter stream will fill up with people telling me how this is revolutionary, and how only Apple could do this. A few parts of it no doubt will be, but in most respects someone, somewhere will have done all of these things before Apple. The fans of said platform will only hate you more for being ignorant of this fact. So by all means get excited, but remember that other companies also do great things. Sometimes even first. Sometimes even better.

Security By Deflection

Not sure if you read the news, but some celebrities had their nudie photos stolen. Apple posted their response today, you can read it here.

It contains choice phrases such as :

“a practice that has become all too common on the Internet”

I could write entire blog posts about how that level of blame deflection is beyond patronising. I’m not going to though, because they end with this:

“To protect against this type of attack, we advise all users to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification.”

Strong passwords and two-step verification. Makes perfect sense right? Except Apple forgets to mention that there’s no such thing as two-step authentication for your iCloud photos, or even access to your iCloud account. Here’s what’s actually protected:

Then, any time you sign in to manage your Apple ID at My Apple ID or make an iTunes, App Store, or iBooks Store purchase from a new device, you’ll need to verify your identity by entering both your password and a 4-digit verification code, as shown below.

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5570

In other words, enabling two-step authentication would do nothing to ‘protect against this type of attack’. I store a lot of things in my iCloud account, and it’s also able to wipe most of the devices I use. I expect more from Apple, we all should. Here’s a specific example of why that is:

That’s right, someone can wipe an entire iPad, on an account I enabled two-step authentication on. They can also track all my devices. They can read my email. Peruse my calendar. Get all my photos. In my case as a developer they can remove all my apps from sale, or change their descriptions. I care about all those things far more than someone stealing money from my credit card. That’s the whole reason I enable two-step authentication for all my important online accounts.

I hope Apple takes this opportunity to lift their game security wise. Blaming hackers is one thing, doing more to protect us all is entirely another.

The Rumoured iOS Screen Fragmentation

In a previous post I covered the widely held myth that is Android screen size fragmentation from a developer perspective. Consider it required reading before you proceed.

Today famed Apple blogger John Gruber, posted his thoughts on what the iPhone 6 could look like when it launches. He suggests that both the rumoured 4.7″ and 5.5″ models might exist, and takes a guess at their screen resolutions:

- 4.7-inch display: 1334 × 750, 326 PPI @2x

- 5.5-inch display: 2208 × 1242, 461 PPI @3x

John Gruber, Daring Fireball, Conjecture Regarding Larger iPhone Displays

The whole post is worth a read, so off you go. I was interested in taking the same 1x (or 1pt/1dp as it’s also known) diagram we drew for Android, and redrawing that for iOS in light of this post. It would look like this:

ios

Remember our Android one looked like this:

screen_resThis comes from these 4 screen sizes:

  • 320×480 @1x iPhone 4
  • 320×536 @1x iPhone 5
  • 375×667 @1x iPhone 6, 4.7″
  • 414×736 @1x iPhone 6, 5.5″

What does this mean in practice? It means iOS developers will now have to do more work than their Android counterparts in order to support the increased variation in iOS screens. The best tools for that exist in iOS 8, which also makes it likely a lot of apps will go iOS 8 only to avoid the manual layout pain. It’s not all bad news though, this might actually result in better large screen iOS apps vs their Android counterparts. This is because on the 5.5″ iPhone there would be more content being shown, rather than everything just being bigger.

All of the above is based on rumours though, so we all have to wait until September to see what actually happens.

 

The Church of GTFO

“That’s good to know, but what did Rusty think of them?”
“Rusty?”
“Yeah”
“He said he’d happily hire them”
“Well that’s all I need to know, that guy really doesn’t abide fools”

Do you ever hear something about yourself, that makes you realise there’s a part of you, that you didn’t even know existed? The above is a conversation I overheard almost a decade ago now when two people were discussing whether or not to hire a recent applicant. The Rusty was me, but I don’t abide fools? What does that even mean? That one overheard conversation made me aware of just how many things in my life I hold up to a critical light, and discard when they don’t hold up to careful examination.

I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian by my mother from a young age. As I grew up I became really involved in the Church. Eventually I became a youth leader, organising events for hundreds of young people, giving regular sermons from the platform, I became everything expected of a young man in that organisation. Then came the day they asked me to take on the role of ‘Area Leader’. That day made me stop, and examine everything I believed in. I know it sounds funny in hindsight, but I hadn’t ever taken the time to think it through before that. What I believed was true, because it was true. Everything I heard in the Church was true, because everyone else affirmed it to be true. Well it was, until I spent time critically examining everything I believed in. Like a house made of cards, it all collapsed, unceremoniously and silently to the floor. This, as far as I was concerned, left me with only one thing I could do. I explained to everyone that I no longer believed, and wished them well with their endeavours. Being a fundamentalist church 99% of them immediately stopped talking to me, but that is a story for another day.

I’m not here to keep telling you my life story, and in truth I have no regrets. I met some great people and to this day I have no fear whatsoever of public speaking, since I did that from a young age. I share the above story because as much as I hate to admit it, a lot of people treat Apple and Google like their own personal churches. They think their company is better than all others, that whatever they do should be viewed in a different light to everything else. They have common wisdoms and sayings that they repeat over, and over, and over again. They surround themselves in a virtual echo-chamber of like minded attendees and repeat the sayings of Gruber, Nickinson et al. And should you dare to challenge them on those beliefs? You get the same reaction I did when I explained to my former church friends why I’d become an atheist. I’m not going to stretch this analogy to breaking point, it is just an analogy after all. I don’t recall hearing of anyone praying to Marco to watch over them while they sleep. My point is simply that from time to time, it helps to stand back and consider things a bit more objectively. Perhaps we all view life through various lenses and being aware of at least some of them, could be a good thing.

I recently went to Google I/O, I switched to using an Android phone and I’m wearing an Android Wear watch. I talk about all of those things not because I’ve had some miraculous conversion to the church of Google, but simply because I find them interesting. When I write about my experience, it’s not to convert you. I honestly don’t give a damn what phone you have in your pocket or which laptop you use. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I, like most geeks, am one of those people that try to steal glances at people’s phones when they pull them out in public. What’s on her home screen? Does he have a weird case? Is that a crack? OMG not a screen protector, WHY would you do that to a screen?!

Honestly I’m just tired of people who identify with one and only one company. While you’re talking to them, they are too busy figuring out how to counter what you’re saying to listen. Please stop. Companies aren’t churches, they aren’t sports teams. If I use a Google phone and an Apple laptop there’s no contradiction there. Technology is absolutely amazing. Sometimes I feel like most people I meet are so busy taking sides that they aren’t stopping to appreciate the innovation and wonder being delivered by so many companies today. Taking snarky pot shots at products is so easy, heck even I do it occasionally. Stopping to actually marvel and enjoy them, well that’s much harder.

I tried to convey some of this on the latest episode of Pragmatic. I mostly failed, but if you’re out of podcasts, go listen: http://pca.st/Zwvi.

House of Cards, Gruber Edition

I just read the most interesting post I’ve read all year. It was two sentences long. Allow me to share it with you:

It looks like Motorola’s designers tried to draw as much attention as they could to the 360’s stupid flat-tire display shape.

The only way this could get funnier would be if it doesn’t even ship until after Apple announces their wrist wearable thing next month.

- John Gruber, Daring Fireball, 8th August 2014

Now most people think this is interesting because it reveals ‘secretly’ or ‘accidentally’ that Apple’s wearable is coming next month. That’s not the interesting part at all, it’s stated blatantly and purposefully in the post. And that kids, is the interesting part. Ponder that last sentence for a few minutes, if you will. Consider how and why it got posted to Daring Fireball.