Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for April, 2020

As a Lawyer, Christopher Wray Defended End-to-End Encryption; As FBI Director, He Opposes It

Nicole Perlroth and Adam Goldman, New York Times:

As recently as last month, Christopher A. Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was pushing tech companies like Facebook to give law enforcement access to what he called “warrant-proof encryption.”

[…]

But a new wrinkle surfaced in the government’s arguments late Wednesday, after court documents in a separate matter between WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, and NSO Group, an Israeli spyware maker, revealed that Mr. Wray’s law firm previously argued in favor of strong end-to-end encryption while representing WhatsApp in a sealed 2015 case involving the Justice Department.

Neither the Times nor CyberScoop have published a copy of this court filing in their reports, and PACER still indicates that these filings are sealed. It remains a mystery to me why journalists do not share their copies of these documents, thereby requiring that anyone interested in their contents has to go spelunking through PACER.

“Director Wray cannot comment on the scope of his prior representation of WhatsApp or the legal advice he provided to the company,” the F.B.I. said in a statement. “Like all other lawyers, his duty of loyalty was to his client, and he did not put his personal views ahead of his clients’ interests or allow them to affect the legal work he did for clients. Today, as director of the FBI, his duty is to act in the best interests of the American people.”

It does not surprise me that Wray’s position as a lawyer was absolute and in favour of his client; it is frustrating now to read his unambiguous, inflexible remarks as a public official. It is dishonest — and he knows that.

Apps Versus APIs

Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell, and Alauna Safarpour, Washington Post:

Nearly 3 in 5 Americans say they are either unable or unwilling to use the infection-alert system under development by Google and Apple, suggesting that it will be difficult to persuade enough people to use the app to make it effective against the coronavirus pandemic, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds.

[…]

Among the 82 percent of Americans who do have smartphones, willingness to use an infection-tracing app is split evenly, with 50 percent saying they definitely or probably would use such an app and an equal percentage saying they probably or definitely would not. Willingness runs highest among Democrats and people reporting they are worried about a covid-19 infection making them seriously ill. Resistance is higher among Republicans and people reporting a lower level of personal worry about getting the virus.

Despite reservations about the technology, 59 percent of smartphone users said they would “be comfortable” using such an app, if they tested positive for covid-19, to anonymously alert others that they may have been exposed and should seek testing.

It is good to hear that people are skeptical of the privacy bonafides of major tech companies. But there are two problems with this study:

  1. The question that was asked of those polled was phrased inaccurately (emphasis mine):

    Apple and Google have proposed creating a smartphone app that would tell users whether they have been physically close to someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The app would rely on people anonymously reporting if they have been diagnosed in the app. If this smartphone app were available today, would you definitely use it, probably use it, probably not use it or definitely not use it?

    They have not proposed creating an app; they have proposed a framework that would allow a special category of app to be built on top of.

  2. The followup question of whether respondents would self-report made reference to the same hypothetical Apple-and-Google-developed app.

To be clear, the poll asked whether people would use an app made by Apple and Google to get notifications about possible exposure — even though they are not making an app — and the Post concluded that the underlying reporting system would not be used by a majority of Americans, even though that’s not what they asked about. It is not fair to expect people to understand the difference between an app and APIs for developers, but it is a critical factor in deciding what this poll reports.

The good news is that only public health agencies will be allowed to use the exposure API that is currently in the developer beta, and the eventual system-integrated framework. 57% of individuals polled by the Washington Post and University of Maryland responded that they trusted those agencies compared to 43% for tech companies. Users will associate the apps with those agencies, not with the big tech API that powers them.

Via Shoshana Wodinsky of Gizmodo:

That 41 percent of folks in the do-not-adopt category have every reason to be skeptical. Between the potential for Google to share covid-19 consumer health data to private pharmaceutical firms through its dedicated coronavirus site, Apple’s dragnet of consumer health data, and the sheer fact that most of what we think of as “health data” is entirely exempt from U.S. privacy laws, well, it just doesn’t sound pretty. But the sheer fact of the matter is that these companies (and many others) are doing what they can to snag people’s health data, whether they download one of these exposure notification apps or not.

It’s important that Wodinsky pointed out how much information is exempt from the U.S.’s already paltry laws protecting individual privacy rights in commercial contexts.

However, calling Apple’s Health app a “dragnet” is an exaggeration: it is only a central database for individual apps to tap into; if you are not using any other health apps or fitness devices, it serves only as a glorified pedometer; and, most importantly, all of that data is encrypted at the same standard as the most sensitive stuff on your iPhone. It is not, by any stretch, “Apple’s dragnet of consumer health data” any more than iCloud Keychain is “Apple’s dragnet of user passwords”.

The White House Gift Shop Is Unconnected to the White House

Rachel Olding, the Daily Beast:

In a sales pitch that absolutely no one has asked for, the White House Gift Shop is selling COVID-19 commemorative coins, emblazoned with slogans like “World vs The Unseen Enemy” and “Everyday HEROES Suited Up.” As the deadly virus continues to kill thousands of people and cripple daily life for most Americans, the privately-run White House store is asking buyers to fork out $100 (reduced from $125!) to commemorate the “historic moment.”

This is exactly the kind of thing that I was thinking of when I wrote that anyone can claim to be an official U.S. government website. The White House Gift Shop sells completely insane collectable coins while giving the impression that it is a government project — there’s even a “USA.gov” logo in the footer. But it is a private company, unaffiliated with the real White House Historical Association shop.

Apparently by Design, iPhone SE Owners Cannot Use Haptic Touch Features With Notifications

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

With Haptic Touch-enabled devices like the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, long pressing on a notification in the Notification Center or the Lock screen brings up interactive options based on the app sending the notification. An Apple News notification, for example, brings up options for reading the full story, sharing a story, or saving for later, while an email app might offer options to reply and delete an incoming message without needing to open the app.

In our testing, we were not able to long press on a notification to view these interactive options, as the long press functionality did not work. We also tried on an iPhone 8, which the iPhone SE is based on, but we were able to get the rich notifications to work on that device, which has 3D Touch.

This is such a bizarre and seemingly arbitrary limitation. There is no reference to it in the iPhone user guide, and it is the only iPhone model with either 3D Touch or Haptic Touch where this specific interaction and no other is not present.

Web Bullshit Has Expanded Into Virtual Reality

Leigh Beadon:

I wonder if website operators even *know* that their sites are constantly requesting access to people’s virtual reality devices. Why does @CNN want permission to use my Oculus? Why does @teespring? Who knows, they don’t say, they just pop up a request.

I found my ability to investigate this tweet was hampered by a few key problems: I do not own a VR headset and, despite an Apple knowledgebase article laying out the steps to get SteamVR working with Final Cut Pro, the SteamVR app appears to only be available for Windows. Also, it is unlikely that many people will see such a warning in the near future, as VR headset ownership remains pretty rare.

Nevertheless, I pulled copies of both the CNN and Teespring homepages and all linked files to take a look. I only found one file in common: a script powering and tracking Bing Ads on both sites. After deobfuscating the file, I did not find a reference to the WebXR API that would allow access to a VR headset. In short, I could not figure out where that request could be coming from.

Even so, it is extraordinary that some script — probably provided by a third party in a way that neither CNN nor Teespring can control — may request access to a user’s VR headset. I contend that functionality like this should not be available to websites at all. But, if it must, it ought to be referenced from the same domain space as the website and be explicitly activated by the user.

Update: As of April 30, Steam officially dropped VR support for MacOS.

Assorted Updates on Contact Tracing and Exposure Notification Apps

Darrell Etherington and Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch:

Apple and Google have provided a number of updates about the technical details of their joint contact tracing system, which they’re now exclusively referring to as an “exposure notification” technology, since the companies say this is a better way to describe what they’re offering. The system is just one part of a contact tracing system, they note, not the entire thing. Changes include modifications made to the API that the companies say provide stronger privacy protections for individual users, and changes to how the API works that they claim will enable health authorities building apps that make use of it to develop more effective software.

[…]

As we reported Thursday, Apple and Google also confirmed that they’re aiming to distribute next week the beta seed version of the OS update that will support these devices. On Apple’s side, the update will support any iOS hardware released over the course of the past four years running iOS 13. On the Android side, it would cover around 2 billion devices globally, Android said.

This story was reported on Friday, so “next week” means that iOS developers will first be able to take advantage of the exposure notification API in the coming days — and, likely, as soon as tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there is a worldwide implementation difference in contact tracing and exposure notification apps. As reported last week, the French government is seeking to create a centralized system; a press release from telecom giant Orange yesterday confirmed the team behind what is being called the “StopCovid” app.

Australia’s government launched its own app, as reported by Amy Remeikis for the Guardian:

The app, based on source code from Singapore’s Tracetogether software, maintains a log of bluetooth connections a person’s phone makes with the phones of those they have come into contact with, making it easier for health authorities to trace potential Covid-19 carriers in the case of a positive diagnosis.

For the app to be successful, just under half the population would need to carry it on their phones.

Because the app was released before the availability of iOS and Android APIs specifically for this purpose, the app requires users to keep the app open at all times. If the system kicks it out of background tasks, it is no longer effective.

Troy Hunt:

Next is the permissions requested and it’s only Bluetooth and notifications. Some people have been concerned about location tracking – note that access to geolocation is *never* requested so #covidsafe will never be able to access it (this is controlled at the operating system).

[…]

The negativity I’m seeing is almost entirely based on unsubstantiated speculation and a general distrust of government as opposed to any tangible, impactful evidence.

The U.K.’s NHS is also rolling its own app. Leo Kelion, BBC News:

Like the authorities in many other countries, NHSX has opted to use wireless Bluetooth transmissions to keep track of each qualifying meeting, and has said that the alerts will be sent anonymously, so that users do not know who triggered them.

It has opted for a “centralised model” to achieve this — meaning that the matching process, which works out which phones to send alerts to — happens on a computer server.

[…]

This approach puts the UK at odds with Switzerland, Estonia and Austria’s Red Cross, as well as a pan-European group called DP3T, which are pursuing decentralised designs.

Germany previously favoured a centralized model, similar to that being developed in France, but switched over the weekend to a decentralized configuration. Douglas Busvine and Andreas Rinke, Reuters:

Germany changed course on Sunday over which type of smartphone technology it wanted to use to trace coronavirus infections, backing an approach supported by Apple and Google along with a growing number of other European countries.

[…]

Germany as recently as Friday backed a centralised standard called Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), which would have needed Apple in particular to change the settings on its iPhones.

When Apple refused to budge there was no alternative but to change course, said a senior government source.

Apple would need to change its approach to backgrounding and killing apps. That would increase power consumption and would instantly be abused by unscrupulous developers, like Facebook and Uber, that have a history of meddling with background termination. The APIs being created by Apple and Google surely allow less visibility into the spread of the virus, but the tradeoff is their energy efficiency and verifiable kill switch.

Joe Miller and Leila Abboud, Financial Times:

Christian Miele, president of the Federal Association of German Startups, criticised the government’s decision.

“We have an extremely well-positioned digital industry in Germany,” he said.

“It is time that this is noticed by all political sides and that these experts are trusted in their own country.”

[…]

A perceived tie-up with US tech giants could further deter users with particular privacy concerns.

“It’s really the question of do you trust the government or do you trust Apple and Google?,” Julian Teicke, chief executive of Berlin start-up WeFox, told the Financial Times.

An extremely cynical impression of public officials and institutions is not an attitude shared by many people in Europe — or Canada, for that matter.

GDPR’s First Two Years Have Been Marked by Lots of Complaints and Limited Resources

Adam Satariano, New York Times:

The law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R., created new limits on how companies can collect and share data without user consent. It gave governments broad authority to impose fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s global revenue, or to force changes to its data-collection practices. The policy served as a model for new privacy rules in Brazil, Japan, India and elsewhere.

But since the law was enacted, in May 2018, Google has been the only giant tech company to be penalized — a fine of 50 million euros, worth roughly $54 million today, or about one-tenth of what Google generates in sales each day. No major fines or penalties have been announced against Facebook, Amazon or Twitter.

The inaction is creating tension within European governments, as some leaders call for speedier enforcement and broader changes. Privacy groups and smaller tech companies complain that companies like Facebook and Google are avoiding tough oversight. At the same time, the public’s experience with the G.D.P.R. has been a frustrating number of pop-up consent windows to click through when visiting a website.

It seems bizarre to treat the total number of punishments issued as a barometer for a law’s effectiveness. Surely a regulation’s primary purpose is to change behaviour, particularly as GDPR was passed two years before it went into effect. Indeed, it seems as though this law has made some headway: tech companies now offer ways for users to download personal data — something that was never possible before and is increasingly important — users can now revoke permissions, and companies of all types have been forced to reevaluate how much personal information they collect. The New York Times itself changed its ad policies in the E.U., and total penalties assessed have been in the range of hundreds of millions of Euros. The law is, to some extent, working — and those cookie consent forms are broadly illegal.

But it is frustrating to read how poorly resources have been allocated to GDPR investigators, particularly in Ireland, where big tech companies have historically situated their E.U. headquarters for tax avoidance reasons. For what it’s worth, I doubt any officials could have successfully revealed the rats’ nest of data harvesting technologies in two years, but it sure is not helped by insufficient funding and corporate obfuscation tactics.

MacBook Pro Exhibits Different Problems Depending on Which Side’s Thunderbolt Ports Are Used for Charging

David Murphy, Lifehacker:

Yes, you read that headline correctly. There is apparently a “right” way and a “wrong” way to connect devices to a MacBook with Thunderbolt/USB-C ports on both sides. Doing it wrong can affect your computer’s performance.

Adam on Stack Exchange:

High kernel_task CPU Usage is due to high chassis temperature caused by charging. In particular Left Thunderbolt port usage.

Solutions include:

  • Move charging from the left to the right side. If you have a second charger then plug it in on the right side. Avoid plugging everything on the right side (see last paragraph below).

[…]

Note that high temperature on the right side appears to be ignored by the OS. Plugging everything into the two right ports instead of the left raised the Right temperatures to over 100 degrees, without the fans coming on. No kernel_task either, but the machine becomes unusable from something throttling.

Apple support:

One of the functions of kernel_task is to help manage CPU temperature by making the CPU less available to processes that are using it intensely. In other words, kernel_task responds to conditions that cause your CPU to become too hot, even if your Mac doesn’t feel hot to you. It does not itself cause those conditions. When the CPU temperature decreases, kernel_task automatically reduces its activity.

Michael Tsai:

Again, it seems like Apple’s notebooks aren’t designed with enough thermal headroom.

It seems like there are two distinct bugs occurring here:

  1. For some reason, using the left-side Thunderbolt ports to charge a MacBook Pro will cause the CPU to run hot, triggering kernel_task to also use a lot of CPU cycles, which speeds up the fans and makes the Mac unusably slow.

  2. Charging using the right-side Thunderbolt ports also makes the Mac run hot, but kernel_task does not take over the CPU and fans are not running at high speed — which they normally would be at this kind of internal temperature. This means that the CPU’s performance will be automatically throttled to guard against overheating.

Is this a thermal headroom problem? Apple tends to operate within fairly tight tolerances in their notebooks; I remember my mid-2007 15-inch MacBook Pro would frequently drift above 100°C while doing CPU-intensive tasks. High temperatures do not appear to be new, but performance degradation while charging is something I’ve never heard of before.

Update: Howard Oakley:

Your Mac’s thermal sensors are monitored by a sub-system named Core Duet, which together with the SMC manages its internal environment and services. When a process runs away and takes over the cores, or any of the internal thermal sensors registers an abnormally warm temperature, Core Duet responds with a set of actions to try to keep it cool. These include its active cooling system of fans, which are run up to speed to blow cooling air over the most sensitive components, and easing off CPU load. Where possible that slows processor speed, and blocks any runaway processes by occupying the CPU with kernel_task.

So kernel_task’s high load isn’t a cause of the problem, it’s part of the normal cooling response.

It’s problematic that charging a MacBook Pro from the left side — particularly while using other accessories on the same side — warms it up enough to trigger kernel_task. I think it’s even more concerning that using the right-hand ports for charging will warm it equally but kernel_task won’t be triggered, thereby failing to adequately cool the system.

Bloomberg: Macs With Apple-Designed Processors Coming Next Year

Today’s report from Mark Gurman, Debby Wu, and Ian King at Bloomberg builds upon a 2018 Bloomberg story: Apple is working on Macs and a version of MacOS running on ARM processors of its own design, and it aims to release the first one next year.

That’s all fascinating, but this report fails to answer what is perhaps the most obvious question about ARM-powered Macs:

Despite a unified chip design, Macs will still run the macOS operating system, rather than the iOS software of the iPhone and iPad. Apple is exploring tools that will ensure apps developed for older Intel-based Macs still work on the new machines. The company also has technology called Catalyst that lets software developers build an iPad app and run it on Mac computers.

Moving macOS from Intel’s chip architecture to an Arm-based design will be a technical challenge. Microsoft Corp. stumbled with a similar effort.

Ignore the Catalyst red herring. Catalyst apps have been running on Intel since MacOS Mojave, and no report that I have seen — including this one — indicates that it is related to this processor transition. Instead, let’s focus on the overall concept of running MacOS on ARM.

When Apple transitioned the Mac from PowerPC to Intel processors around fourteen years ago,1 it added a feature to Mac OS X called Rosetta which translated most typical binaries across system architectures. Some applications ran fine, but most were kind of slow, and a few specific categories of PowerPC code did not run at all through Rosetta.

For its part, Microsoft has been shipping Windows 10 for x86 — Intel and AMD — and ARM architectures since 2017. There is an x86-to-ARM translator built into the system, but it faces similar limitations; perhaps most notably, it is so far incapable of running 64-bit applications, which is kind of necessary for MacOS.

It is perhaps foolish of me to say that I expect an ARM-based Mac to feature some kind of Intel translator or emulator, but I would be shocked if it did not. There are over 100 million active Mac users out there compared to 36 million in 2008, a number that was surely even lower when Apple announced the Intel switch in 2005. Yet, this report sheds no light on that critical mystery, and I am aching to find out.


  1. Holy shit.

    Also, for what it’s worth, the Mac has now run on Intel for a few years longer than it did on PowerPC. ↩︎

Porsche Introduces CarPlay Upgrade Kits for Models Dating Back to 1963

Porsche:

The Porsche Classic Communication Management is a further development of the previous radio navigation system for classic Porsche sports cars. Like this system, the new PCCM fits exactly in the 1-DIN slot which was standard in sports cars for many decades. The PCCM is operated via two rotary knobs, six integrated buttons and a touch-sensitive 3.5-inch display. Like the predecessor model, it includes a navigation function with “Point of Interest” search in an enhanced version. Route guidance optionally takes place as a simple arrow representation in a 2D or 3D view. The corresponding map material is provided on a separate SD card, which can also be ordered in the Porsche Classic online shop or through a Porsche centre.

[…]

911 models of the 996 generation and Boxster models of the 986 generation which were built in the 1990s could already be optionally equipped with a Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system in 2-DIN format. For these sports cars, Porsche Classic has developed the Porsche Classic Communication Management Plus (PCCM Plus) system, which features a high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen with optimised display. The haptic and visual design of the PCCM Plus is based on the adjacent components such as air vents or pushbutton switches. The PCCM Plus can thus be integrated seamlessly into the ambience of the classic sports cars. The peripheral components already installed in the vehicle such as amplifier, loudspeakers or antenna can still be used. The navigation displays in the instrument cluster are also still supported.

I have never read a Porsche press release before this one, but this feels so quintessentially Porsche — I love it. Even the name of this aftermarket system fits the company’s reputation: “Porsche Classic Communication Management”.

I’ve never seen anything like this before. Sure, you can get aftermarket stereos that support CarPlay, but never an integrated product for fifty year old cars. It’s about €1,500 for the model suitable for 911s from 1963 until 1998, and €1,600 for more recent models. This is just terrific.

The Next Generation Wi-Fi Standard Is Called 6E Because the Wi-Fi Alliance Cannot Commit to a Naming Scheme

Chris Duckett of ZDNet in October 2018:

In a mysterious outbreak of common sense, the Wi-Fi Alliance has dumped the traditional 802.11 naming scheme for Wi-Fi technologies and is pushing ahead with a naming scheme based on numbers.

Under the scheme, 802.11ax becomes Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 5 represents 802.11ac, and Wi-Fi 4 is 802.11n.

Jacob Kastrenakes of the Verge today:

In a few months, there’s going to be a lot more Wi-Fi to go around. The Federal Communications Commission voted today to open up a plot of spectrum in the 6GHz band for unlicensed use — the same regulatory go-ahead that lets your router broadcast over the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. That means there are now more open airwaves — a lot more — that routers can use to broadcast Wi-Fi signals. Once the new spectrum is officially opened for business later this year, that should translate to faster, more reliable connections from the next generation of devices.

[…]

Devices are expected to start supporting 6GHz Wi-Fi by the end of 2020, so its implementation isn’t far away. When it arrives, expect to see it branded under the name “Wi-Fi 6E.”

The understandable and friendly numbering scheme lasted a year and a half. Now we’re back onto mysterious combinations of numbers and letters. Glad the Wi-Fi Alliance cleared that up.

French Government Representatives Object to Apple’s On-Device Processing of Contact Tracing Records

Helene Fouquet, Bloomberg:

Apple’s operating system prevents contact-tracing apps using its Bluetooth technology from running constantly in the background if that data is going to be moved off of the device, a limit designed to protect users’ privacy. That limitation is standing in the way of the type of app that France wants to build, Digital Minister Cedric O said.

[…]

The Google-Apple system relies on smartphones’ Bluetooth connections and will allow users to keep their data on their handsets. However, France and the European Union want to feed the data to a central server, managed by state health services, which would alert users if they come into contact with a person infected by Covid-19.

Any system that sends data to a centralized location is inherently less secure and is vulnerable to “mission creep,” enabling a form of surveillance on users, according to a letter on Monday from 300 academics in more than two dozen countries, which endorsed Google and Apple’s approach.

It isn’t every day that a country in the European Union is asking for weaker privacy protections. Bizarre — and somewhat hypocritical. However, it is vital that Apple and Google do not reverse their stance on on-device processing of contact tracing records.

Alex Hern, the Guardian:

Digital contact tracing will fail unless governments build the technology in a way that respects user privacy, a group of nearly 300 experts have warned.

[…]

The joint letter, signed by academics from 26 countries worldwide, highlights the potential that digital contact tracing has in helping prevent a resurgence of Covid-19 as countries come out of lockdown, but cautions that the effectiveness is no excuse for riding roughshod over privacy protections – and is, in fact, closely entwined with them.

The contact tracing systems that have been created in response to this pandemic are surely well-intentioned and will likely be of some help. But they must also be destroyed — or, at least, put on ice — as global health improves. There needs to be an independently verifiable way for us to confirm that these massive efforts have come to an end.

Update: Alex Hern:

I don’t agree with France’s demands for more data for their contact tracing app but I don’t agree with the prevailing California view that it’s hypocritical to ask. “Governments, not tech companies, should be in charge of vast databases of personal data” is a coherent position.

I regret using the word “hypocritical” to describe the French government’s request, even though it was blunted with “somewhat”. Perhaps “ironic” is a better choice. Regardless, Hern is correct: in a democracy, there is a vast difference in our control over the collection and use of personal data by governments compared to that of companies.

Add Markdown Shortcuts in MarsEdit

I have used MarsEdit for years but, for whatever reason, I have never tried to bind the standard shortcuts for bold and italics to Markdown formatting. Manton Reece shares a great tip on how to do just that, and I imagine you could do the same for other shortcuts.

Huawei Keeps Implying That DSLR-Created Photos Were Shot on Its Phones

Ben Schoon, 9to5Google:

Huawei is currently running a contest for its fans in China to promote the Huawei P40 Pro. On Weibo, a video was shared that included a bunch of stellar photos that Huawei claimed had been shot on its smartphones. One Weibo user, though, noticed that one of the images looked pretty familiar. After doing some digging, he found the exact photo on 500px — a photography-sharing platform — complete with data on what actually took the shot.

Long story short, this stunning photo wasn’t shot on a Huawei P40 Pro. Instead, it was shot on a Nikon D850 DLSR camera which costs over $3,000 on its own.

Schoon points to a South China Morning Post story illustrating two examples in the same video of implying DSLR images were shot on a Huawei smartphone, and Jamie-hua, the Weibo user, actually pointed to at least three additional examples of misrepresentation.

Matt Birchler:

Look, Huawai has responded every time saying that they technically never said that the photos were taken on their phones, but the context these photos were displayed heavily implied that was the case. Huawai phones can take some great photos, so I really can’t fathom why the company’s marketing does this year after year after year.

This is par for the course for Huawei. But it is particularly embarrassing for Leica, which has offered its storied name to the cameras on Huawei’s smartphones and which Huawei credits in its marketing materials as “co-engineering” the cameras in its phones. It must be awkward to see those phones and, by extension, their Leica-branded cameras promoted in a photography context with images from more capable, more expensive, non-Leica-branded DSLRs.

Telecom Industry Falsely Credits Reversal of Net Neutrality Laws in the United States for Internet Stability Under Strain

Telecom industry representatives and lobbyists have begun lining up behind the narrative that a lack of net neutrality legislation in the United States explains why it has so far fared well under increased use. For example, here’s an excerpt from a piece published by the American Enterprise Institute from Roslyn Layton:

While our lives have been upended by the coronavirus outbreak, many have transitioned to working, studying, receiving healthcare, and living the rest of life from home — all over broadband networks. Traffic is up 75 percent or more on many US networks, but they are still performing. Hundreds of communications providers have signed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, a commitment that broadband and telephone services run for the next 60 days without late fees or termination due to unpaid bills. We should thank our lucky stars that Title II net neutrality regulations were repealed by the FCC in 2017. In doing so, the US avoided the fate of much of Europe today, where broadband networks are strained and suffering from a lack of investment and innovation.

Has Layton arrived at these claims independently? It’s hard to say. Her bio on the AEI website mentions that she worked for the FCC during the administration change from 2016–2017, and that she is vice president at Strand Consulting. Strand, it turns out, is a telecom lobbying organization based in Denmark.

Karl Bode, TechDirt:

[…] This entire narrative is fantasy — built almost entirely off of the EU simply asking various streaming companies to throttle certain services in an abundance of caution. There remains no evidence that this was due to any serious problems, and, at the same time, there’s been no evidence that US networks have measurably outperformed their EU counterparts (indeed, many of the companies that throttled services in the EU did so in the US as well). Investment at many US ISPs actually dropped post net neutrality repeal. And there’s literally no indication that US networks are somehow “more robust” than the EU because the FCC decided to ignore the public and obliterate its own authority at the behest of the telecom lobby. It’s just not a supportable claim.

It is a small mystery why ISPs in Canada and the E.U. have been able to maintain reliable networking infrastructure.

Sarcasm aside, there is nothing that U.S.-based ISPs have done to shore up their networks that would be impeded by well-crafted net neutrality legislation, like that which was overturned by Ajit Pai’s FCC. Meanwhile, AT&T is taking advantage of an increased audience for streaming media by announcing that HBO Max, which it owns, will be free for many internet and phone subscribers when it launches at the end of May.

Reviews of the Magic Keyboard for iPad

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:

The Magic Keyboard offers a lovely, backlit deck that holds its own against the 16” MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air for best portable keyboards. The key travel is excellent — in between the two laptops in my opinion — and the feel is tight, responsive and precise. This is a first class typing experience, full stop.

[…]

This is not the case that artists have been waiting for. This case does not rotate around backwards like the keyboard folio, meaning that you’re going to be popping it off the case if you’re going to draw on it at all. In some ways the ease of removal feels like an Apple concession: “Hey, we couldn’t fit all this in and a way to position it at a drawing angle, so we made it really easy to get it loose.” It works, but I hope that more magic happens between now and the next iteration to find a way to serve both typing and drawing in one protected configuration.

Dieter Bohn, the Verge:

The trackpad is good. That’s really the TL;DR of it. It is fairly small, of course, and if you’re used to the capacious trackpads on MacBooks, it will probably feel absolutely tiny. On the 12.9-inch unit I am reviewing, it’s almost exactly the same size as the trackpad on my Surface Pro — so it felt familiar to me, at least.

But the Magic Keyboard’s trackpad is better than the Surface’s because it lets you click anywhere on the trackpad, not just in the middle or at the bottom. It’s also smooth, accurate, and there’s zero lag on iPadOS.

John Gruber:

The hinge was way stiffer than I expected. I mean like “What the hell is going on here?” stiff, “Is there some sort of packaging attached that I neglected to remove?” stiff — which, needless to say, was not what I was expecting at all. And I knew the iPad-as-laptop was going to be top-heavy, but not this top-heavy. But where I say expecting I really mean hoping for. What I was hoping for was something approximating the feel and experience of a MacBook — a little more top heavy, a little stiffer at the hinge to accommodate that extra top-heaviness — but basically I wanted an iPad-as-laptop that feels like a MacBook Air.

[…] Once I let go of my preconceptions, I fell in love. This took all of 15 minutes. I went from that “I don’t like the way this thing feels at all” first impression to “I can’t wait to start raving about how great this thing is” in 15 minutes. The iPad Magic Keyboard is to iPad-as-laptop accessories what AirPods were to earbuds: a game changer.

If you want two thousand words perfectly describing the unique qualities of the hinges in the Magic Keyboard — and you do — Gruber’s review is one you must read.

Bohn and Gruber both highlight the lack of a function row on the keyboard, which sadly limits some functionality. You cannot, for example, adjust the keyboard backlight brightness in an immediate way — you must go into Settings, and then into a sub-sub-sub-level menu to get the slider. I find that I rarely need to adjust the backlight level of, say, my MacBook Air’s keyboard; but, when I do, I expect that control to be right there. So, that kind of sucks, particularly because when you do connect a keyboard that has a function row, iPadOS makes pretty good use of it for system features.

The overall impressions of this keyboard-and-trackpad case are very positive from all the reviews I read and watched. There are areas where it appears to be more limited than reviewers hoped; Marques Brownlee specifically called out the restricted range of viewing angles, which makes it less ideal for using with the Apple Pencil. As a way of making the iPad more of a laptop when it ought to be while still allowing it to be a full tablet when that’s more appropriate, it looks far better than any prior work by either Apple or a third party.

Update: Two more good reviews; first, from Craig Mod:

The trackpad registers gestures flawlessly. iPadOS responds as instantaneously as performing the same gestures on the surface of the screen. And with iPad Pro’s 120hz screen refresh rate, it feels remotely tactile in a pleasing way — as if the trackpad and on-screen events were tethered by some organic link above and beyond electric blips.

And one from Federico Viticci:

Which brings me to the point I believe most people are not seeing when comparing the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard to other laptops or tablets. The Magic Keyboard is an accessory that fully embraces Apple’s modular approach to the iPad Pro: it enables a reliable, functional laptop mode while at the same time encouraging you to detach the iPad at any time and use it as a tablet when you no longer need a keyboard and trackpad.

When I read this part of Viticci’s review, I was reminded of that slide Apple used to show in their iMac-related keynotes illustrating the advantages of an all-in-one computer.

The iPad turns this concept on its head because it is both a self-contained all-in-one computer and a modular platform. You can just use an iPad if you want, with no external accessories, and you’ll be fine most of the time for most applications. But you can also add a pencil for artistic and precision applications, or add a Magic Keyboard if you want a better long-form writing experience. Yet it never looks or feels like that tower PC in Apple’s slideshow because all of its accessories connect without wires and are held in place with magnets. There is never a need to “eject” an accessory; it can simply be removed. Most importantly, the magic rectangle of the iPad is entirely independent of its add-ons. It is a more elegant and refined approach to modularity.

MacOS and iOS Frequently Do Not Prioritize User-Created Data in Search

Chris Hynes:

All across macOS and iOS, when you search for something, the ordering of results in most cases is:

  • A top hit (unclear how this is generated)

  • Suggestions (unclear how this is generated)

  • Your own data that you spent valuable time entering

[…]

I don’t know if this is a macOS or iOS specific thing, but it’s a trend on those platforms in recent years that is very frustrating. It’s hard enough finding things on the internet but once you find them, it should be easy to find them again.

Not only does this seem like backwards logic, it’s a system that prioritizes network-based suggestions, and updates those suggestions as you type — but not quite at the same speed as you can type. Unless you have an extremely fast connection and everything is working perfectly, those suggestions are a moving target.

Despite these drawbacks, I have long kept these network-based suggestions switched on because I assumed I was using them. Eventually, however, I decided to run a little experiment: a couple of months back, where possible, I turned them off in Safari and Look Up on my Mac. Look Up is now fast and almost never displays a loading indicator. Safari’s address bar, on the other hand, still has a mysterious Top Hits section at the top that loads in bursts. So, if you tap the down arrow key while typing and a new Top Hit pops in, the selected row jumps all the way back up to the top.