Hopes for WWDC 2022

Judgement
(Judgement by Christopher Parsons)

Apple’s Word Wide Developer Conference starts tomorrow and we can all expect a bunch of updates to Apple’s operating systems and, if we’re lucky, some new hardware. In no particular order, here are some things I want updated in iOS applications and, ideally, that developers could hook into as well.

Photos

  • The ability to search photos by different cameras and/or focal lengths
  • The ability to select a point on a photo to set the white point for exposure balancing when editing photos
  • Better/faster sync across devices
  • Enable ability to edit geolocation
  • Enable tags in photos

Camera

  • Working (virtual) spirit level!
  • Set burst mode to activate by holding the shutter button; this was how things used to be and I want the option to go back to the way things were!
  • Advanced metering modes, such as the ability to set center, multi-zone, spot, and expose for highlights!
  • Set and forget auto-focus points in the frame; not focus lock, but focus zones
  • Zone focusing

Maps

  • Ability to collaborate on a guide
  • Option to select who’s restaurant data is running underneath the app (I never will install Yelp which is the current app linked in Maps)

Music

  • Ability to collaborate on a playlist
  • Have multiple libraries: I want one ‘primary’ or ‘all albums’ and others with selected albums. I do not want to just make playlists

Reminders

  • Speed up sync across shared reminders; this matters for things like shared grocery shopping! 1
  • Integrate reminders’ date/time in calendar, as well as with whom reminders are shared

Messages

  • Emoji reactions
  • Integration with Giphy!

News

  • When I block a publication actually block it instead of giving me the option to see stories from publications I’ve blocked
  • It’d be great to see News updated so I can add my own RSS feeds

Fitness

  • Need ability to have off days; when sick or travelling or something it can be impossible to maintain streaks which is incredibly frustrating if you regularly live a semi-active life

Health

  • Show long-term data (e.g. year vs year vs year) in a user friendly way; currently this requires third-party apps and should be default and native

Of course, I’d also love to see Apple announce a new MacBook Air. I need a new laptop but don’t want to get one that’s about to be deprecated and just don’t need the power of the MacBook Pro line. Here’s hoping Apple makes this announcement next week!


  1. In general I want iCloud to sync things a hella lot faster! ↩︎
Link

‘Glass Time’ Shortcut

man people woman iphone
Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Like most photographers I edit my images with the brightness on my screen set to its maximum. Outside of specialized activities, however, I and others don’t tend to set the brightness this high so as to conserve battery power.

The result is that when we, as photographers, as well as members of the viewing public tend to look images on photography platforms we often aren’t seeing them as their creator(s) envisioned. The images are, quite starkly, darker on our screens than on those of the photographers who made them.1

For the past few months whenever I’ve opened Glass or looked at photos on other platforms I’m made an effort to ensure that I’ve maximized the brightness on my devices as I’ve opened the app. This said, I still forget sometimes and only realize halfway through a viewing session. So I went about ensuring this ‘mistake’ didn’t happen any more by creating a Shortcut called ‘Glass Time’!

The Shortcut is pretty simple: when I run it, it maximizes the brightness of my iOS device and opens the Glass app. If you download the Shortcut it’s pretty easy to modify it to instead open a different application (e.g., Instagram, 500px, Flickr, etc). It’s definitely improved my experiences using the app and helped me to better appreciate the images that are shared by individuals on the platform.

Download ‘Glass Time’ Shortcut


  1. Of course there are also issues associated with different devices having variable maximum brightness and colour profiles. These kinds of differences are largely intractable in the current technical milieu. ↩︎

Solved: Connected Meross Smartplug to Eero 6 Pro

I helped set up some Meross smartplugs that were being used to automate home functions. What follows is how I was ultimately able to connect them to an Eero 6 Pro router.

The Problem

When opening the Home application on an iPhone or iPad, and scanning the QR code that was on the smartplug, I received errors that the process could not be completed. I tried resetting the phone, letting the Apple iOS devices linger for up to 5 minutes to complete the connection, and resetting the home hub to see if that would help. In no case were these measures successful.

The Solution

I connected the smartplugs to the Eero 6 Pro network (and Apple Home app) by modifying some of the router’s settings as well as not using the QR code to set up the device.

Specifically I:

  1. Opened the Eero app and temporarily disabled the 5Ghz radio and turned off the WPA3 experimental feature.
  2. Activated airplane mode on the iOS device I was using to connect the Meross plugs to the Home app.
  3. Performed a hard reset on the Meross plugs (this involved holding the power button for 15 seconds. I heard a ‘click’ sound when it reset). I checked to ensure that that the LEDs were blinking between amber and green colours.
  4. Reconnected the iOS device to the Eero 6 Pro router. This ensured that it would establish a 2.4Ghz connection.
  5. Opened the Home app on the iOS device. I then selected ‘Add Accessory’ and, then, the ‘More options…’ link.
  6. In the new options, I saw one that read as a smart plug, and another that had Meross in its name. I choose the one with Meross and then entered in the 8 digit code above the QR code on the smartplug when prompted. I did not connect using the QR code/camera.

The Meross smartplug subsequently connected to the network. As a note, I had to wait up to 30 seconds before it finished its setup.

Meross Smartplug Firmware Update

With the Meross smartplugs connected to the network I updated their firmware. To do so, I:

  1. Downloaded the Meross app and create an account.
  2. Linked the plugs to the account by tapping the ‘ ’ icon in the Home panel in the Meross app, granted the application permission to scan your local network, and then added the switches.
  3. Once they were added, I navigated to the ‘Account’ panel and selected ‘Firmware update’ under ‘System’. I then followed the on-screen instructions to update the plugs.

By the conclusion of this I managed to join the Meross smartplugs to the Eero 6 Pro network, as well as updated their firmware. Hope that this helps to solve any problems you’re encountering with them!

Aside

2021.10.14

I’m liking the incremental update to the Photos application on iOS and iPadOS in the newest release of the operating systems. The ability to easily add titles to my photos and also access the EXIF metadata helps to maintain a (slightly) more organized photo library. Access to this information also makes it easier to share out photos straight from the Photos app, since I can copy the title of an image as part of sharing it.

However, I’m still missing the ability to create Smart Folders. Specifically I want to be able to have folders that are accessible, on iOS devices, and which sort based on the camera that took a given set of images. It’s been in MacOS for a very, very long time and it’s nuts that this kind of feature parity hasn’t been reached between operating systems.

I haven’t seen evidence that the newest version of iOS has fixed the green flare issue (which I first encountered when reviewing my iPhone 11 Pro). I know it was in an earlier beta but haven’t yet seen it implemented in a production release.

The Roundup for May 21-June 22, 2019 Edition

(Tap! by Christopher Parsons)

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


So Apple has announced all the big changes forthcoming in iOS 13. While lots are great and exciting, the update still won’t bring baseline feature parity between MacOS and iOS core applications. The result is that serious users of consumer MacOS applications can’t fully transition to iOS or iPadOS. What’re just two baseline things that are missing, from my self-interested perspective?

1. Smart lists in Apple Music & Apple Photos

I get that smart lists may not be everyone’s deal, but self updating lists are pretty important in how I manage and organize data. To give an example, I use smart lists in Photos to determine what camera I used to take which photo. Does this matter for lots of people? Probably not, now that smartphones have colonized the photography business. But for someone like me who wants to know such metadata, the absence of it is noticeable.

2. Detailed information about photographs in Apple Photos

I don’t know why, it you can’t check aperture, shutter speeds ISO, or other basic camera features in Apple Photos, in iOS 12 or 13. Nor can you create a title for a photograph. Again, as someone who takes tens of thousands of photos a year, and reviews them all to select a rarified thousand or two ‘keepers’ each year and titles many of those kept, I really want to record titles.1 And it drives me nuts that I can’t.

I get that there are a lot of pretty amazing things coming in iOS 13. But can’t these pretty table-stakes things come along? These aren’t ‘Pro’ features: there’re the baseline features that have been available on consumer apps in MacOS for years. You shouldn’t need to own and use a Mac to enjoy these capabilities.


Inspiring Quotation

“Society is not some grand abstraction, my friends. It’s just us. It’s the words we use, which are the thoughts we have, which determine the actions we take.”

– Umair Haque

Great Photography Shots

I really appreciate some of the great shadows that come out in these shots over at Mobiography.

(‘lines and shadows‘ by @arpixa)

(‘Shadow casting‘ by @poetry fish)

(‘Untitled‘ by @lasina)

(‘On the dark side‘ by @jawdoc2)

(‘ RED ‘ by @dviviano)

(‘high light reverie‘ by @chasread)

Music I’m Digging

Having figured out the problem of songs not being added to my ‘Songs I Love’ lists, my monthly lists are going to be a lot more expansive than those in the past. My May 2019 list clocks in at around 5 ½ hours, with a mix of hip-hop, rap, pop, and a bit of alternative and rock.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Lawfare – Avril Haines, Eric Rosenbach, and David Sanger on U.S. Offensive Cyber Operations // This is an insightful, and nuanced, consideration of the equities which are taken into account when the United States engages in different classes of cyber operations. While the title of the podcast is focused on offensive cyber activities, the same logics can clearly be applied to defensive activities such as those linked with vulnerabilities equities processes or development of activities intended to mitigate harms emitted from foreign adversaries.
  • Lawfare – Jim Scuitto on ‘The Shadow War’ // While Scuitto doesn’t necessarily talk about anything excitingly novel in the summary of his book, he does an absolutely terrific job in summarizing the high-level threats to American (and, by extension, Canadian and Western) national security. From submarine threats, to space threats, to cyber, the threat landscape is remarkably different today as compared to twenty years ago. In terms of responses or solutions, key to the American approach is reconsidering and re-engineering the responses to aggressive actions. Clearly American responses have failed to dissuade actors such as Russia and China in certain spheres, such as aggressive military engagement and cyber espionage and propaganda, and so more directed cyber-based activities meant to expose the corruption of foreign leaders might represent the next logical step for the U.S. military establishment.

Good Reads

  • When the Hard Rains Fall // Welsh has done a terrific job in both outlining the policy and financial and scientific causes that lead to serious, and dangerous, flooding in Toronto while marrying it with superb storytelling. Not only does the article provide a huge amount of information in an impeccably understandable format, but the graphics that accompany the piece in certain sections are almost certain to elicit an emotional reaction. Stories like this demonstrate why it’s important to pay for investigative reporting, while also showcasing how contemporary technologies can improve narratives for clarity and impact.
  • ‘Botanical Sexism’ Could Be Behind Your Seasonal Allergies // In an ironic turn, when trees were routinely planted in urban environments in the 1960s, males of the various species were chosen on the basis that they wouldn’t promote litter by dropping seeds. However, these trees expel significant amounts of pollen which has had the effect of creating ‘pollenpocalypse’ events that both severely aggravate seasonal allergies and leave vast swathes of pollen coating the city.
  • Female Spies and Their Secrets // As in so many fields, women’s contributions to the intelligence and security services were largely erased from history as men replaced them. However, newly recovered and disclosed histories are showcasing the role(s) that women played throughout the second world war to lead underground resistances and otherwise facilitate Allied intelligence efforts.
  • Your threat model is wrong // Robert Graham’s abrasive and direct writing is refreshing, especially when he writes about phishing: “Yes, it’s amazing how easily stupid employees are tricked by the most obvious of phishing messages, and you want to point and laugh at them. But frankly, you want the idiot employees doing this. The more obvious phishing attempts are the least harmful and a good test of the rest of your security — which should be based on the assumption that users will frequently fall for phishing.”
  • After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown // In the United States, some big box stores are attempting to (and succeeding in) reduce their property tax bills by arguing their stores should be valued at millions of dollars less than their current valuation. The result is that small towns, many of which invested in significant infrastructure projects to lure these stores, are at risk of having to reduce their services or defer additional investments that are less-focused on the company in question. Activities like this, combined with the general massive reduction in corporate taxes following the US government’s taxation changes under President Trump, threaten the very ability of small and large towns and cities to invest in infrastructure for the betterment of their residents.
  • The Secret to This Brazilian Coffee? Ants Harvest the Beans // In another instance of how weird and amazing the ecosystems of the earth are, ants that have inhabited an organic coffee farm in Brasil are affecting the taste of the beans in the process of removing the fruit around the beans to feed to their young. Apparently, this has effects on the acidity and taste of certain stronefruits, while also showcasing the interdependence of organic beings in the same ecosystem.
  • How To Make A Relationship Last // The guidance in this piece spoke to me, and reflect how I personally view long- term relationships and choice. Cage nicely summarizes that challenges of continuously choosing to stay in love, and in doing so provides a good set of instructions for others to follow and innovate upon.
  • How To Be A Leader — For Someone Who Hasn’t Been A Leader Before// This is really, really good and quick advice for someone who holds a leadership role, or is about to assume one. They key bits that stuck out include: put others before yourself, act as a role model instead of a boss, and be transparent about where you have weaknesses and work with your team to make sure they’re covered off. In effect, leadership under this model involves being humble, supportive, and aware of the need to improve the life and lots of your team.

Cool Things

  1. Ok, what I really want is to be able to add a title to a photo in Apple Photos on iOS, and then when I export the photo to, say, Instagram for the title to be automatically updated. But I realize I shouldn’t dream of such ‘exceptional’ capabilities and so will settle for adding titles manually in iOS and Instagram. Like an animal.
Aside

2018.3.29

The only thing I want in today’s iOS release is for Apple Notes to not hang and freeze constantly. It was only with iOS 11.2 that I started running into issues so I’m hopeful they’ll have fixed whatever went wrong last update.

Link

Cellebrite can unlock any iPhone (for some values of “any”)

An update by Ars Technica on Cellebrite’s ability to access the content on otherwise secured iOS devices:

Cellebrite is not revealing the nature of the Advanced Unlocking Services’ approach. However, it is likely software based, according to Dan Guido, CEO of the security firm Trail of Bits. Guido told Ars that he had heard Cellebrite’s attack method may be blocked by an upcoming iOS update, 11.3.

“That leads me to believe [Cellebrite] have a power/timing attack that lets them bypass arbitrary delays and avoid device lockouts,” Guido wrote in a message to Ars. “That method would rely on specific characteristics of the software, which explains how Apple could patch what appears to be a hardware issue.”

Regardless of the approach, Cellebrite’s method almost certainly is dependent on a brute-force attack to discover the PIN. And the easiest way to protect against that is to use a longer, alphanumeric password—something Apple has been attempting to encourage with TouchID and FaceID, since the biometric security methods reduce the number of times an iPhone owner has to enter a password.

This once again confirms the importance of establishing strong, long, passwords for iOS devices. Sure they’re less convenient but they provide measurably better security.

Link

Serious Vulnerabilities (Probably) Found in All iOS Devices

From Forbes:

The Israeli firm, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sun Corporation, hasn’t made any major public announcement about its new iOS capabilities. But Forbes was told by sources (who asked to remain anonymous as they weren’t authorized to talk on the matter) that in the last few months the company has developed undisclosed techniques to get into iOS 11 and is advertising them to law enforcement and private forensics folk across the globe. Indeed, the company’s literature for its Advanced Unlocking and Extraction Services offering now notes the company can break the security of “Apple iOS devices and operating systems, including iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iPad Pro and iPod touch, running iOS 5 to iOS 11.” Separately, a source in the police forensics community told Forbes he’d been told by Cellebrite it could unlock the iPhone 8. He believed the same was most probably true for the iPhone X, as security across both of Apple’s newest devices worked in much the same way.

If Cellebrite has, indeed, found a way of compromising all iOS devices then they’ve accomplished a pretty impressive task. I have to wonder whether the vulnerabilities emerged from studying the iBoot leak or their own software or hardware research. Assuming Cellebrite’s claims are legitimate they serve to underscore the position that government’s shouldn’t introduce backdoors or vulnerabilities into devices given that doing so will only exacerbate the existing problems associated with securing devices. Security is designed to add friction, not totally prevent an unauthorized party’s actions, and deliberately reducing such friction will put all users at greater jeopardy.

Aside

2018.1.27

iOS is still incredibly janky. Since updating to iOS 11 I’ve had to periodically do full device resets in order to stop podcasts from trying (and failing) to download in perpetuity; there’s no other was I’ve found to stop the process and, if I don’t, the battery drain rate is approximately 10-15% per hour, when the device is just sitting idle. And on a device that only has wireless service (no mobile data connection) I have to turn the wireless radios on and off about once per week to get Siri to actually take requests. Without a doubt this version of iOS is the worst I’ve ever had to muddle through…

Aside

Watching someone switch from Android and to iOS for the first time is a really interesting experience. The ease of wirelessly transferring data between operating systems (and devices!) and automatic installation/configuration of apps like they’re set up on their iPad is pretty magical. The near-automatic warning that they’re out of iCloud space and thus need to pony up a monthly payment to Apple is the only jarring part of the experience so far; Apple really needs to increase the default amount of storage provided to at least 10GB or so.