The flub at Dub Dub

Sat Jun 15, 2019

Every June, like clockwork, along comes allergies and WWDC (colloquially known as “Dud Dub” in Apple parlance - a horrible moniker which reminds of George W. Bush).

If you’re jaded and don’t care anymore - I get it, but I always look forward to seeing what’s coming up on the software roadmap. It’s easy to forget that Apple used to charge for software updates on the Mac and even on the iPod. Free updates are always welcome, and despite the conspiracy theories, I don’t believe Apple ever willfully intends to slow down the hardware with them.

There was a lot crammed into the keynote - with an expanding portfolio of devices, Apple didn’t want to leave any product out. As a result, there wasn’t an overarching theme - just a barrage of software improvements, many weirdly addressing, point-by-point, criticisms from product reviews on major tech sites such as The Verge.

There was also a big product reveal - the new Mac Pro, a ridiculous beast of a machine for…who exactly? Who actually needs a 28-core CPU and 1.5 terabytes of RAM?

Not anyone who is starting a home business and needs to get up and running on a shoestring. Not even the hobbyists who like to build overclocked PCs and brag about their liquid-nitrogen cooling systems. No, the Mac Pro is for the major players - such as an established video production company with a bottomless IT budget.

Nothing epitomizes this divide more than that infamous moment when Apple lost the crowd and sparked off an unfortunate wave of media coverage that somewhat overshadowed an otherwise excellent keynote.

Let’s be honest - no ordinary individual would be happy paying a thousand bucks for a monitor stand. To suggest otherwise speaks to the insane position of wealth and privilege that permeates the Apple spaceship campus. So, yeah, they deserve flak for that one.

Not to say I wasn’t gobsmacked when I saw how you could edit three 8K streams simultaneously and apply special effects in real time without any rendering. Insane - but it’s nothing more than a fantasy for anyone but the one percent.

Millions of iPhone users, however, have iOS 13 to look forward to - coming this fall. I’m relieved that my iPhone 6S will get it, but feel the nip of obsolescence at my heels. Apple dropped support for the iPhone 6 this year. Does that mean my 6S won’t get iOS 14 next year? Five years is a good run and a lot more than Android phones get, so I guess I can’t complain. I just hope 2020 brings a worthy successor.

One of the most hyped iOS announcements is silly, trendy, but fun: dark mode is coming. The reason I kind of like dark mode is that, despite requiring almost no engineering effort, it puts UI designers in the front seat and let’s them go nuts.

So, in celebration of fun UI design, I’m proud to announce that now supports dark mode! As of today, this feature is only supported in Safari when turning dark mode on in macOS Mojave. But dark mode support for websites on other operating systems and browsers will be here soon.

To implement dark mode in your website, you simply need to add the media query prefers-color-scheme to your CSS files, then come up with a style that works. Astute readers may also notice that, in the interests of readability, I’ve switched from a serif font to a sans-serif font. A small tweak, but a big change for a text-heavy site!

Interestingly, iOS 13 isn’t coming to iPads this year. Instead, Apple has forked iOS and created a new operating system - it’s called iPadOS. With a new home screen and new multitasking tweaks in the UI, iPadOS is a very good start to making the iPad more of a productivity tool. It’s just a start though and needs some more time to mature.

Unfortunately for me, Apple has dropped support for my iPad Air. I’ve been drooling over the newer iPads, but wasn’t planning on replacing mine at all. I don’t really use it for more than watching YouTube videos anyway. And there’s no way I could go all in and use the iPad as my primary computer at this point. As nice as they are, they don’t match the MacBook Pro in terms of sheer possibility just yet. I wouldn’t even be able to deploy this blog!

Without any more security updates, I’ll just have to be careful about what I do on my iPad from now on. There is always an increased risk when using old software of course.

Other OS updates at WWDC included the debut of macOS Catalina, where iTunes has finally been dismantled into a bunch of separate apps. WatchOS 6 looks good, and finally gets its own app store, but mostly I can’t believe the Apple Watch has been around for four years already. I’m still not that interested in buying one, but would probably love it as a gift, if that makes sense. And tvOS will support both Xbox and Playstation 4 controllers, which is a great idea, but I’d rather just play games on my actual PS4, thanks.

One of the most compelling new features to come out of WWDC is squarely focused on what Apple does best: privacy. When signing up on a new website or app, you will soon be able to sign in with Apple instead of with Facebook or Google. I, and many others, have never trusted those other guys but convenience and privacy together is a big win for users.

The option to generate a fake email for each sign-up is really smart, but has been done before. I’ve been sporadically using Blur for this, but honesty - I trust Apple more and would use email masking all the time if it was backed by a reputable company.

Notch watch

Before I go, here’s a second installment of my ongoing segment dedicated to the obliteration of the notch. In the previous segment, it seemed that the OnePlus 7 Pro was really onto something with its beautiful display and motorized pop-up selfie camera.

This time, it is the Chinese company Xiaomi claiming to have developed the ultimate notch killer. The information comes In a series of tweets from Alvin Tse and Wang Xiang.

They’re going for the Holy Grail and developing an under-the-display camera. According to Xiang’s tweet, a small part of the display can become transparent when a picture is taken to let light into the camera. We’ll see - messing around in an R&D lab is one thing, scaling it up for production is another.

Another sign we’ve got to check our expectations: Introducing this concept in tweets is deliberately casual.

As I mentioned last year, Samsung is also working on an Under Panel Sensor (UPS).

One would hope that Apple is taking note and is also working on their own solution. Face ID adds a lot more sensors up there besides from the selfie camera, so they have their work cut out for them. But it would be a mistake for Apple to dig their heels in and commit to the notch for the next decade.

Anyway, it’s good to see that the notch is widely recognized as a compromise, not a design feature to be celebrated or embraced or whatever.

Now what are we going to do about the ugly square camera bump that’s coming into vogue…

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