What I’ve read recently – December 18, 2020

Each week I post links to a few articles that I’ve read and found deserving of sharing.

Links

My Hunt for the Original McDonald’s French-Fry Recipe | Atlas Obscura

This is a fun read especially if you’re old enough to have eaten the original McDonald’s French-Fry as I did.

From Julia Child to Paul Bocuse to James Beard, some of the biggest names in food history are also people who have professed their love for the same french fry—a french fry that, in no exaggerated manner, birthed an empire. A french fry that no one has eaten in more than 30 years.

McDonald’s original french fries were cooked in beef tallow. For that fact, they were bullied out of production by a well-funded, well-intentioned businessman and self-proclaimed health advocate named Phil Sokolof, who unknowingly dethroned what many fans claim was the greatest french fry to ever meet mass production. “The french fries were very good,” Child said in a 1995 interview, “and then the nutritionists got at them … and they’ve been limp ever since … I’m always very strong about criticizing them, hoping maybe they’ll change.”

Why use a HIPAA-compliant password manager

Bitwarden is officially HIPAA-compliant, after receiving a HIPAA Security Rule Assessment Report from AuditOne in December 2020. This acknowledgement adds to our other notable regulatory compliance including GDPR, CCPA, SOC 2, SOC 3, and Privacy Shield.

iOS 14 users report missing notifications from Messages app – 9to5Mac

A bug resulting in missing text message notifications is continuing to affect iPhone users with iOS 14. While the issue appeared to at first to be exclusive to the iPhone 12 series, it appears to be affecting nearly any iPhone model running iOS 14 — and the early signs are that iOS 14.3 doesn’t fix the problem either.

Anti-tracking rules will be enforced, Federighi warns developers – 9to5Mac

Apple’s software engineering SVP Craig Federighi has warned that developers must follow the company’s anti-tracking rules, or else their apps will be removed from the App Store…

The new App Tracking Transparency rules were initially meant to be part of iOS 14, but were delayed after protests by Facebook and advertisers. They are now expected to come into force during the summer, at which point apps will have to display a privacy pop-up asking permission to enable ad-tracking.

Federighi issued the warning in uncompromising terms during an interview with the British newspaper the Telegraph.

Apple launches recall program for iPhone 11 display with touch issues – 9to5Mac

Apple today announced another Replacement Program, this time for iPhone 11. According to the company, some iPhone 11 users are experiencing problems in which the display stops responding to touch.

Ecosia now a default search engine option on iOS, iPadOS, macOS | AppleInsider

Ecosia is a search engine that promotes privacy first and plants trees around the world, and with Mondays updates, it is now available as a default search engine setting on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Cloudflare and Apple design a new privacy-friendly internet protocol – TechCrunch

Engineers at Cloudflare and Apple say they’ve developed a new internet protocol that will shore up one of the biggest holes in internet privacy that many don’t know even exists. Dubbed Oblivious DNS-over-HTTPS, or ODoH for short, the new protocol makes it far more difficult for internet providers to know which websites you visit.

Apple doubles down on iOS App Tracking Transparency

According to Craig Federighi, The aim of ATT is “to empower our users to decide when or if they want to allow an app to track them in a way that could be shared across other companies’ apps or websites”.

With Apple requiring developers to share privacy details needed for the new privacy labels on December 8 iOS App Tracking Transparency (ATT) has made its way into the news again thanks to the hysteria of adtech and with particular criticism coming from Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

Apple has used a speech to European lawmakers and privacy regulators to come out jabbing at what SVP Craig Federighi described as dramatic, “outlandish” and “false” claims being made by the adtech industry over a forthcoming change to iOS that will give users the ability to decline app tracking.

It’s good to see Apple standing strong on ATT to protect the privacy of its users.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to Craig Federighi’s speech.

Toggle Control Center with a keyboard shortcut in Big Sur

I installed Big Sur on my 2015 MacBook Pro the other day. One area that I wanted to customize was the menubar. There is so much blank space between the icons, it’s a gigantic waste of space and looks awful. Even after installing Bartender 4 to organize my menubar I wanted to move some items to the Control Center for better organization.

Now that I have items in the Control Center, that used to be visible in the menubar, I’ll be accessing Control Center more frequently. Rather than clicking Control Center, I wanted a keyboard shortcut to toggle it open and closed. I did this with a Keyboard Maestro macro.

Credit maxwellj02 for the apple script:

tell application "System Events"
    tell process "Control Center"
        tell menu bar item "control center" of menu bar 1
            click
        end tell
    end tell
end tell

By the way, my Big Sur install went perfectly and I haven’t had any issues.

Instapaper Mac app falls short

On November 11 Instapaper announced that a Mac app is available in the Mac App Store, thanks to Apple’s Catalyst technology. As a long-time Instapaper user, I was excited to hear this. Now that I’ve used the app for a few days it’s nothing more than a basic reader and lacks almost all the features the website and iOS apps have.

You can’t highlight text, add notes, copy text, copy article links, delete articles from the article view, and the share sheet is non-functional.

The app in its current state is useless to me. Let’s hope the developer gets the app on par with the iOS apps and website.

Thoughts on Reeder 5 and iCloud feed sync

With Reeder 5, the option to sync your RSS feed via iCloud instead of using a third-party sync service such as Feedly or Feedbin was added.

iCloud Feeds

Sync all your feeds and articles with iCloud. Reeder 5 comes with a built-in RSS/Feeds service which will keep everything in sync on all your devices. Of course, this is optional. You can still just use one of the many third-party services supported by Reeder

I wanted to try iCloud feed sync thinking I could cancel my free Feedly account. I’ll share a couple of issues that I experienced and ultimately sent me back to using the free version of Feedly. First off I found iCloud feed sync to be much slower than Feedly. In addition to being much slower often times feeds timed out and didn’t sync.

Reeder 5 supported third-party services

Feedbin, Feedly, Feed Wrangler, FeedHQ, NewsBlur, The Old Reader, Inoreader, BazQux Reader, and FreshRSS.

Back to a MacBook

I wrote a while back about going iPad first when iPadOS 13 was released with keyboard and trackpad support. I had turned my 2015 MacBook Pro (MBP) off and put in a drawer to never be turned on again hoping this would work out.

Well, it lasted about 60 days and then I got my MBP out of the drawer it had been sitting in, turned it back on and slowly started transitioning back to my it.

The trouble with iPad was that I spent more time fighting it than loving. It was just too hard to get things done as fast and efficiently as I can on my MBP. I have so many automations with Alfred, PopClip, Keyboard Maestro, and Hazel that make doing things on the Mac so fast and easy that just can’t be duplicated on the iPad. So, I gave it up.

In fact, I’m not sure that I even need or want an iPad. A couple of weeks ago I put it in the same drawer that I had put my MBP in and didn’t even miss it. I found that between my MBP and iPhone 11 I can do all that I need or want to do.

All that said, I just finished watching Apple’s One More Thing event where they introduced the new Apple Silicon 13” MacBook Air, 13” MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini with the new M1 chip. These devices are incredible and what I’ve been waiting for. I’ll be ordering a new MacBook Air as soon as I decided whether to get 8 or 16 GB of unified memory.

UPDATE: iOS 14 has Zuckerberg/Facebook running scared

I’ve been working on an article about the iOS 14 privacy feature that has Facebook and other advertisers running scared. Facebook acknowledged that Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 could lead to a more than 50% drop in its Audience Network advertising business. (Doesn’t that just break your heart)

Today to my disappointment, Apple is holding off on introducing the default feature until early next year to allow developers more time to make the necessary changes to their apps. I guess this makes everything I’ve written all for naught. Oh, well.

By the way, did you know that you can manually limit targeted advertising and reset your identifier? If you do this an app will still be able to access your IDFA but it makes it much harder to build a profile on you. I reset my identifier once a month.

The advertising identifier on an Apple device does not identify you personally, but it can be used by advertisers to create a profile about you. If it’s never reset, that profile increases in detail, allowing advertisers to target ads to you based on your Internet activity.

Epic and Apple

I’m guessing you’re aware of what’s going on between Epic and Apple. It’s been the big story in tech news for a few weeks. Yesterday Apple terminated Epic’s App Store account, as threatened, following a legal dispute between the companies. This is headed for the courts and is going to be playing out over the next several months.

I’m enjoying watching this battle. Its two big tech companies fighting it out over a lot of money. I do tend to side with Apple on this because of the brazen and calculating way Epic has brought this on them self.

The Apple pundits have differing opinions on who’s right or wrong but I like Jason Snell and David Sparks take on this kerfuffle.

Jason Snell:
Epic versus Apple? I’m rooting for the users

The thing is, I don’t really back all the actions of either party in this kerfuffle. Instead, I’m squarely on the side of the people who use technology. Let’s leave aside the tech giants. What are the outcomes that would most benefit regular users?

So who am I rooting for in this case? I’m hoping that the judges, along with the legislators and regulators, don’t get distracted by the sight of two large, profitable companies squabbling in court and lose sight of the most important party in this case—the people who use these products every day.

David Sparks:
Apple’s Troubles and MacSparky Coverage — MacSparky

Lately, Apple has been dealing with several percolating problems. Governments, at home and abroad, are interested in their business practices. Troubles between the United States and China are now threatening Apple’s business in one of its biggest markets. Big and small developers are now finding ways to exert pressure against the existing App Store model.

I have had several readers/listeners write in asking me to cover these topics more, but to be honest, I’m just not that interested.

I am much more concerned about all of the families that have lost loved ones and all of the people out of work due to this pandemic than the troubles of a $2 trillion company.

Is an iA Writer subscription coming to an App Store near you?

The two most popular markdown writing apps on Mac and iOS are iA Writer and Ulysses. Ulysses is a subscription and iA Writer is a purchase. When Ulysses went subscription many users got pissed, me included, and moved to iA Writer. I got over being pissed at Ulysses and today I use both apps.

Not surprising, iA Writer is now going to be transitioning to a subscription / paid choice (I’m guessing) with their next major update.

Here are the details:

Subscription or no subscription? That’s not the Question. – iA

Talking about subscriptions in public is a delicate matter. Apple is jealously watching what developers say. Competitors are watching and trying to get ahead of the game. Customers are watching and might get worried: What are they planning!? McKinsey suggests that you could offer both subscriptions and paid options in the transition from paid to subscription.

This is not where we are going. We believe in the choice and we want to bring the choice to buy or subscribe to all platforms. Customers like the choice, and we like it. Clearly, after seven years of offering free updates, there will be a new version of our apps at some point. And even though Apple doesn’t offer upgrade discounts, this, next to offering a choice, is exactly what we want to do. We just have to find a way around the hurdles. But we have lots of other things planned, that we can’t talk about yet. It won’t be a simple move from paid to a choice between paid and subscriptions. It will be even better.

Maybe subscriptions are not the best fit for productivity software. But, as laid out above, some do prefer subscriptions, especially if they are reasonably lower than buying the apps. In that sense, subscriptions will allow you to charge a fair price for your app and not compete in the race to the bottom. But if you offer the choice, you offer customers the opportunity to decide for themselves how they support you.