Notes

iOS 9 Makes Room for Updates

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica, reports on another new space saving feature that will improve iOS 9 adoption on storage starved devices.

iOS 9 is implementing some changes to make things easier on owners of 8GB and 16GB iPhones and iPads. We've already taken a look at App Thinning, a collection of technologies that will reduce the amount of space downloaded apps take up. And Apple also says it has reduced the amount of free space needed to install OTA software updates—the main iOS 9 update needs about 1.3GB, compared to 4.6GB for iOS 8.0.

Today, the company sent out its first update for the iOS 9 developer beta, and iOS developer Kaleb Butt noticed yet another feature—if you don't have the required free space, the operating system will offer to delete apps to make room for the update. It will then automatically re-download them when the update is complete.

In the words of David Smith, a prominent iOS developer:

This reduction in the space requirement (and other things Apple is doing on this front) make me think iOS 9 adoption to be even faster than iOS 8’s. I’m starting to feel much more comfortable with being aggressive about dropping iOS 8 support and fully embracing the new stuff in iOS 9.

Features like Delta Updates, App Thinning, and Intelligent OTA Updates are making iOS more attractive for everyone. Users will appreciate a more seamless upgrade experience while getting more storage out of their devices. Developers will appreciate the rapid adoption of the latest iOS 9 APIs and features. And Apple will appreciate the opportunity to increase iOS marketshare by selling low storage devices at an affordable price more people can afford.

Wayne's World for Radio

PodcastMy friend Stephen Hackeet looks back at WWDC 2005 Keynote, where Steve Jobs introduced Podcasting to the world.

Apple today announced it is taking Podcasting mainstream by building everything users need to discover, subscribe, manage and listen to Podcasts right into iTunes 4.9, the latest version of its award winning digital music software and online music store. iTunes users can now easily subscribe to over 3,000 free Podcasts and have each new episode automatically delivered over the Internet to their computer and iPod.

“Apple is taking Podcasting mainstream by building it right into iTunes,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Podcasting is the next generation of radio, and users can now subscribe to over 3,000 free Podcasts and have each new episode automatically delivered over the Internet to their computer and iPod.”

What might have started as the hottest thing in amateur radio, is now the preferred delivery mechanism of audio and video content for millions of people. Apple played a huge part in making the hardware/software, and getting the word out. But a legally blind individual, spoken word delivered in the form of audio podcasts are my preferred way of getting the news. My thanks to Stephen Hackett, Myke Hurley, Leo Laporte, Arron Mahnfke, and every other podcaster out there for making the content available.

El Capitan's Unnamed Features

PencilsDavid Pogue, writing for Yahoo Tech, reveals 18 El Capitan features Apple didn't mention in the WWDC Keynote. These are my favorites:

Auto-hide menu bar. If you like, you can make the Mac’s menu bar disappear until you move your mouse to the top of the screen. It’s the way the menu bar works in full-screen mode now—but in El Capitan, you can have it work that way even when you’re not in full-screen mode, for a little extra screen space.

As a long time Mac user, by favorite new feature is the Auto-hiding Menu bar. Sure, you have been able to hide the Menu bar in the past using hacks, but never before has it been a supported system feature.

Another feature long time Mac users will notice is the overhauled Disk Utility.

Disk Utility. Apple gave its 800-year-old disk-maintenance program, Disk Utility, its first overhaul in ages. Not only does it now show what’s eating up your disk space, but it no longer has a Fix Permissions button (a time-honored troubleshooting button in times of glitchiness). Apple says that OS X now fixes permissions automatically every night, and every time you install a program.

Disk Utility hasn't seen this big an overhaul since Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, when it was combined with Disk Copy to form the utility we have today. Power users who still want to Repair Permissions manually can continue to do so by running this Terminal command. diskutil repairpermissions disk0s2

Of course every user will appreciate a new box of colors…

New Color Picker. The Color Picker dialog box, a longstanding element of many visually oriented programs, has had a makeover, too. The Crayon picker, for example, is now the Colored Pencils picker. And the most often-used colors get their own swatches right at the top, so you don’t have to keep remembering “the blue I’ve been using is three down and four across in the color grid.”

So much for the end of skeuomorphism.

The Title Bar has long since been a secret button on the top of every Macintosh window. Now you have a choice in determining its behavior.

New title-bar option. You can now specify what happens when you double-click a window’s title bar: either zoom (enlarge) it or minimize it.


I am pretty sure this next feature was added specifically for Windows users who can't get the "click-n-wait" timing right to rename files and folders using a one button mouse in the Finder.

“Rename” in the shortcut menu. When you right-click a file or folder icon, the Rename command is now one of the choices.


Speaking of Windows users…

File copy resume. If you were copying some files, but had to shut down your Mac or put it to sleep, OS X is now smart enough to resume the copying next chance it gets.

Windows 8 customers have had access to some of the most advanced file copy controls in recent memory, and now it's the Mac's turn to catch up.

OS X El Capitan is scheduled to be released later this year. I have partitioned my MacBook's SSD in anticipation. But until then I look forward to discovering all of the additional features Apple didn't show on stage.

WIndows 10 Drops the DVD

DVD PlayerEarlier this month, Microsoft announced the system requirements for Windows 10, the next major version of their desktop operating system. Along with the specs Microsoft included a list of features that will be deprecated from previous versions of Windows, including Desktop Gadgets, Solitaire, and device drivers for USB Floppy Drives. Apple is currently in the process of deprecating its own Dashboard desktop gadgets, but the features from Microsoft's list that stood out the most to me were:
  • If you have Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro with Media Center, or Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center and you install Windows 10, Windows Media Center will be removed.
  • Watching DVDs requires separate playback software.
You may remember, Apple killed their own media center solution, Font Row, with the release of Mac OS X Lion in July 2011. But the ability to play DVDs has been part of the Macintosh operating system since the release of Mac OS 8.1. Both Apple and Microsoft pay a licensing fee to include this feature in their software, and I can only assume Microsoft's deprecation of DVD playback is in response to this license fee.

I find it funny that Microsoft and not Apple is the company removing DVD playback from their operating systems. After all Apple is the company that just completed the migration away from optical media in all but one of its Macs, while Microsoft still ships Windows on millions of PCs with DVD drives. I guess as long as Apple keeps shipping a USB Superdrive, the DVD Player will remain part of the Mac OS.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Phil SchillerIf you have not watched the full video from Tuesday night’s live audience episode of The Talk Show, with special guest Phil Schiller, stop what you are doing now and head on over to Daring Fireball.

The whole interview is a "noteworthy gift." John gets answers to the top questions currently plaguing the Apple community, while Phil humanizes the company he has been with for over 25 years.

My favorite part is fifty-six minutes and fifty-two seconds in, when Phil begins answering John's questions about the new MacBook, and in doing so reveals what kind of company he wants Apple to be.

Phil Schiller:

But again, be careful what you ask for. Because what the design team first envisioned when we started working on MacBook was to say, "If all we do is incremental, slight change—where's the excitement, and where's the value of Apple pushing things forward? We need to take bold risks. If people don't like it, well they can keep buying the MacBook Air, they can keep buying the MacBook Pro—but why don't we design a product that's around this wireless world, that has, really, no physical connection that you need. You can get by without ever needing that. Wouldn't that be a better world?"

And in doing that, we realized "Yeah, but we do need to charge it, so let's go create this one port that can charge, and be USB, and be your video out, and that way, if you need to connect, you can—you're not giving that up—but this is really designed..." And if you do that, how far can you push it? How thin can it get, how light can it get, how aggressive a design can it be?

And I think if... I'm in my job for one reason: because I'm a customer like all of you. I love these products. I love this company. I want this company to be the best Apple can ever be. And one of the ways it can be the best Apple can ever be is to take bold risks, and try to think of new things that others aren't willing to do.

I remember that—I mean, this is all the same mentality. I remember when we took out the floppy. Oh, I'm sure many of you all do too. It's the exact same thinking!I sat in the room with friends of mine who worked at... other companies in Texas and other places, and they literally said, "Oh my god, I'm so jealous. We can't do that. We can't do that! We can't take the risk. Because if the world is going to be risk-averse, and doesn't want us to take away anything... Then, y'know, if Dell doesn't have a floppy but Toshiba does, they'll just buy the Toshiba, they're all the same—except if you're missing one thing, no one will buy your stuff!

"You're so lucky. You make something where your customers give you the opportunity to try something in a completely different way, and they listen to you and they try it. And if you have to adjust and make an external drive for a couple of years, great, you'll do it, but you get to make that change and move on."

That's the embodiment of this new MacBook: Which is, take a bold risk; maybe some people will think it's not perfect for them yet, but for a surprising number of people, it's already their future laptop. The customer satisfaction is off the charts on it. Customer demand is great. Does anyone here have a new MacBook and love it?

Read the full transcript of the interview on iMore.

System Requirements

System ProfileriOS 9 is compatible with every iPhone shipped since the iPhone 4s, and every iPad shipped since the iPad 2. But key iOS 9 iPad productivity features like Slide Over, and Picture in Picture only work on the latest devices, and Split View only works on the iPad Air 2. Being able to run the latest operating system, doesn't mean getting the most out of the latest operating system anymore.

David Sparks:

One of the reason people don’t buy new iPads is because the older ones are still working just fine. Split View requires an iPad Air 2 or whatever other new and shiny thing Apple releases later this year. This is the first time I’m aware of since Siri that you’ll need to update an iPad to get a feature. Moreover, split view is a really handy feature. I expect this will result in many existing iPad users updating hardware.

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9To5Mac:

With iOS 9, developers can cutoff younger devices in a way that was not previously possible. Although iOS 9 runs on every device that runs iOS 8, app developers are free to specify more restrictive compatibility requirements.

In fact, with iOS 9, developers can choose to make their apps exclude any non-64 bit architecture. This means all iPod touch models, all iPhones before the iPhone 5s and all iPads before the iPad Air will not be able to install apps where developers have required 64-bit CPUs.

Frederico Viticci:

While Slide Over will be available on older iPad models, the more useful and versatile Split View will only be available on the latest iPad Air 2. Will that slow adoption among users stuck on older iPad models, or will it push people who want to do more on an iPad to buy a new one?

iOS 9 offers improvements almost any iPad customer can enjoy —better performance, an extra hour of battery life, and smaller app sizes. But if you want to have the best multitasking experience, and the latest apps, you need more than the basic system requirements — you need a new iPad.

MultiPadding

iPad"Dr. Drang compares the original multitasking features of the 1980's Macintosh, with the new multitasking features in iOS 9.

The Switcher was essentially just like running several single-tasking Macs; you switched from one application to another, but the current application always had control of the entire screen. With the MultiFinder—first as an option, then as the standard interface—several applications could be on the screen at the same time, which led, and still leads, to confusion among new and casual users. Hell, even old hands occasionally lose track of which application is active.

Until iOS 9. This fall, the iPad will graduate to an interface that can show two apps at a time. As important, I think, is the way multitasking is being handled. Unlike Mac users, iPad users won’t be dumped immediately into a multitasking environment. Those who prefer to use and see only one app at a time can continue to do so—the multitasking interface will stay out of their way and won’t confuse them.

'Old hands' like Dr. Drang and myself have been alienated by the slow progression of the iPad. We have been using Macs for decades and have become accustom to powerful features like multitasking to get our work done. The fact we sometimes struggle to admit, is that multitasking is confusing for most people.

Apple made this realization early on, and treated the iPad as an opportunity to get things right. Instead of piling on new features, Apple added features gradually in a way that wouldn't confuse its customers. Despite my feelings of alienation, Apple made the right choice. The iPad is a better product today, because of the features Apple didn't include the day before.

App Thinning

ApplicationsAndrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica, about 'App Thinning' iOS 9's most important feature for users of storage starved devices.

iOS 8 wasn't kind to users of 8GB and 16GB iPhones and iPads. Its over-the-air updates required multiple gigabytes of free space, and installing it reduced the amount of free space available on your device. It brought with it the iPhone 6 Plus, which introduced a new "3x" asset size that made apps even larger than they already were. Luckily, iOS 9 should help.

App Thinning takes advantage of three technological advances in Apple's App Store in order to give third-party apps a diet upon delivery. Developers will have to choose which diets, if any, Apple should apply to their apps. Not all App Thinning diets will be compatible with all apps.

The first, App Slicing, is the most significant. Each iOS app binary you download contains a whole bunch of code for a whole bunch of devices—assuming it's an up-to-date, universal iOS app that supports the iPhone 6 Plus and runs on 32-bit and 64-bit devices, the app contains assets for literally every supported iOS device whether your device needs all that code or not.

Say you have an iPhone 5C, which uses a 32-bit CPU and a GPU that doesn't support the Metal API. Download a modern universal game, and that binary includes 64-bit code, iPad and "3x" iPhone 6 Plus assets, and Metal API code that it doesn't need. It only needs the 32-bit code, "2x" iPhone-sized assets, and the OpenGL graphics code. App Slices will let your device download just the chunks your device needs.

In order to slice their apps, all developers have to do is tag the apps assets for compatibility with different devices. Devs will still upload complete versions of their apps to the App Store just as they do now, and the App Store does the work of compiling and delivering device-specific versions of those apps.

The second feature is a bit more complicated. On-Demand Resources (ODRs) are chunks of apps that are only downloaded when they're needed and are cleared from your device when you're done with them. Apple has lots of details about the implementation of ODRs on its developer site, but the basic pitch is that you don't need to be using all the assets in your app at any one time.

For example, in a game with multiple levels, Apple suggests that your app only really needs to have the data for the level you're on and the levels immediately following it, not necessarily levels you've already beaten. For an app with a tutorial, it might download the assets for that tutorial the first time you use it but delete them from your device after it's clear that you're not going to need the tutorial again. An app with in-app purchases could decline to download those assets until you actually make the purchases.

While coding their apps, developers who want to use ODRs will have to assign tags to different chunks of code. More work for the developer, but with the the reward of extra storage for consumers who like big games, or sequential apps that can be easily broken into chapters.

The final piece of the puzzle is something Apple calls "Bitcode." When developers upload apps to the App Store, they'll no longer be submitting pre-compiled binaries, but an "intermediate representation" of those apps that is compiled on demand depending on the device you're downloading it to. This enables some of the App Slicing functionality—it determines whether your device downloads a 32-bit or 64-bit binary.

Bitcode also allows for Apple to implement compiler improvements without requiring developers to resubmit their applications. Bitcode is required for Apple Watch apps, but is an optional default for iOS. It will be interesting to see if any developers have reservations about submitting their apps in a "intermediate representation," and what kind of bugs new compilers could introduce.

From Fat Binaries to application bundles and the App Store, it is amazing how powerful and complex Apple's application delivery system has become. App Thinning is just the next advancement in a long line of technologies designed to make our software easier to use.

Outrigger

Christopher Phin, writing for Macworld, looks at "Outrigger," the case used for the Power Macintosh 7200, 7300, 7500, 7600 and Power Macintosh G3 (Desktop), and how it compares to modern Macs.

These days, Apple’s computers—whether they’re designed to sit on a desk, rest on your lap, slip into your pocket or be strapped to your wrist—are for the most part sealed boxes. Even if you can crack the cases to get to the chips and circuit boards inside, increasingly you can’t then do anything (except perhaps regret whatever course of action led you to tear apart some hitherto functioning hardware), since Apple has started soldering components to the motherboard.

This is in stark contrast to earlier incarnations of the company. Apple, after all, was born out of the culture of the Homebrew Computer Club, where tinkering wasn’t so much encouraged as necessary, and for a long time that culture fundamentally underpinned and informed even the supposedly “home” computer market of non-geeks.

I cut my teeth on a Power Macintosh 7200 during the last days of the desktop publishing revolution. If you have never seen the Outrigger in action, make sure to watch the video.

Fax Modems as Packing Material

Landon Dyer, on Newton management's nearsighted decision to stockpile MessagePad accessories at time when the Newton wasn't selling very well.

Also, many Newton Fax modems. Many, many of them. God only knows how many he ordered. There could well have been more Newton Fax modems than there were Newtons to plug them into.

One of our developer support folks (Bob E) found out that it was possible to order a palette of surplus Apple products delivered to your office. Hey, the stuff had no hope of being sold, so if someone had a use for it . . . Bob ordered a big palette of Fax modems, and when he shipped stuff off to developers (hardware, manuals, etc.) he would pour in some Fax modems as packing material.

I seem to recall a video of Newton employees setting up hundreds of Newton Fax Modems as dominos, but I can't find a link to the clip anywhere.

Brian Latimer shares the Newton domino clip I couldn't find.