Apple World Wide Developer Conference 2021

If that title is too long for you, Apple’s developer conference is more often known as:

WWDC

Apple WWDC21 event promo on the Apple website.

Once the domain of geeky programmers, systems analysts, security gurus, and hardware engineers, the WWDC has grown into a world-wide event, with programmers and developers and news reporters and average Janes and Joes attending at massively attended events in the San Francisco Bay area.

This year, like 2020, WWDC will be a virtual event, broadcast from a variety of locations, mostly in and around the Apple campus in Cupertino, CA. You can attend the event by either logging into the apple developer site (if you are a developer), or the Apple website at:

https://www.apple.com/apple-events/

Or, if you have an Apple TV, use that to display the keynotes and sessions on your flat-screen TV. (If you still have a tube TV, it probably won’t work).

What to expect:

  • A look at forthcoming iOS and iPadOS advances;
  • A look at forthcoming Apple Watch advances;
  • A look at forthcoming Apple TV advances (maybe?);
  • A look at the next version of the macOS operating system;
  • Possibly a hardware surprise, such as a more powerful MacBook, a bigger iMac, an iPad that doubles as a drone, computerized coffee cups that are inexplicably called “CoffeePods,” a flying Apple Car that doubles as a riding mower — who knows?

The keynote begins at 10 am Pacific Time on Monday, June 7. While there is almost no chance the keynote will put you to sleep, you have the option of playing Keynote Bingo to keep you alert:

https://keynotebingo.github.io/

There is a non-trivial chance we will talk about the WWDC at the next Strait-Mac meeting on June 15.

Apple May 25 security updates

On May 25, Apple released a mass of “Product Security Updates.” These cover most of their most commonly used devices and some specific pieces of software.

  • APPLE-SA-2021-05-25-1 iOS 14.6 and iPadOS 14.6. An update to all currently supported iPhones and iPads. There are currently about 1.8 billion iOS and iPadOS devices.
  • APPLE-SA-2021-05-25-2 macOS Big Sur 11.4. This is a comprehensive update to Apple’s current operating system for the Macintosh.
  • APPLE-SA-2021-05-25-3 Security Update 2021-004 Mojave. This is a partial update to macOS Mojave 10.14. Though it doesn’t result in a version number change, the update covers a long list of potential vulnerabilities and stability issues.
  • APPLE-SA-2021-05-25-4 Security Update 2021-003 Catalina. This is a partial update to macOS Catalina 10.15. Like the Mojave update, it doesn’t result in a version number change, but just the index to the update covers several pages.
  • APPLE-SA-2021-05-25-5 Safari 14.1.1. This update specifically brings Safari (and the underlying WebKit infrastructure used by many other pieces of Mac software) up to Safari 14.1.1 on macOS Catalina and macOS Mojave. This update is also bundled into the macOS Big Sur 11.4, iOS 14.6 and iPadOS 14.6 updates mentioned above.
  • APPLE-SA-2021-05-25-6 watchOS 7.5. This is an update to all currently supported Apple Watches.
  • APPLE-SA-2021-05-25-7 tvOS 14.6. This is an update to all currently supported Apple TV 4K and HD devices. Among other things, it offers support for the new Apple TV Remote.
  • APPLE-SA-2021-05-25-8 Boot Camp 6.1.14. Boot Camp is not used by many Macintosh users, but it allows you to partition your boot drive and install Windows on it.

If you have a device that uses any of these operating systems, it is strongly recommended that you update the device immediately.

And — if you have an older device that cannot support these updates, remember that your device is vulnerable to attack.

April 20, 2021: A virtual meeting vanishes

Based on notes by Kathleen Charters

The April 20 meeting was supposed to be about macOS security, but we never got that far. The Q&A (Question & Answer) session started at 6:30 p.m., as usual. We had a steady stream of questions about Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event and, just as the session was winding down, the Zoom session crashed.

Or so it seems: it turns out that Wave Broadband had cut the host’s TV, telephone and Internet connectivity, for some odd reason. Meanwhile, meeting participants apparently continued chatting away in a disembodied Zoom session, wondering where the host had gone, before giving up.

But before that happened, there were…

Questions & Answers

Q: The “Spring Loaded” event had some small iMacs, but nothing with a bigger screen, to replace the Intel-based 27″ iMacs?

A: This is not too surprising. Right now the entire world is experiencing an IC (Integrated Circuit) shortage, and it has stalled computer, phone, auto, boat, aircraft, etc., production. Apple has an unusually robust supply chain, yet it is still probably easier for them to confidently ship lower-end machines than more complex high-end machines.

As the Apple Silicon Macs are a new technology, it makes good sense to get a bunch of machines out to as many people as possible as soon as possible, and that is easier to do with a lower-end machine. Mac users keep Macs for a long time; most SMUG members have machines that have been out of production for quite a while. Convincing Mac users to move away from their trusted Intel-based machines to an Apple Silicon-based machine is easier if it is a lower-priced Mac mini, MacBook, or iMac.

Also: while the new M1-based iMacs have “only” 24-inch screens, those screens are amazing. The Intel-based 27-inch iMacs have displays sporting 5120 x 2880 pixels; the new M1-based iMacs have displays sporting 4480 x 2520 pixels. That’s a lot of pixels in a smaller form factor, and at a lower price. Plus: you can use the connectors on the back of the new iMacs to hook up another screen using Thunderbolt, if you really want more screen acrage.

The power supply for the new iMacs are not embedded in the machine itself, but in an external, fairly small power brick. And the power brick also has an Ethernet plug, which means one less cord coming out of the back of the iMac. Quite clever.

Q: You have one of the new Apple Silicon Mac minis. Do you find it a good replacement for your previous Mac?

A: For me, no. I purchased the M1 Mac mini specifically as a “science experiment,” to explore the new Apple Silicon technology and see if it was compatible with what I’ve been using for the past 15 years. I also wanted to use it to offload some processes (rendering video, crunching large files) that otherwise would tie up my Intel-based iMac.

And there are some things I do that absolutely require an Intel processor. I run Windows 10 on a virtual machine (using Parallels) on my iMac. Running Windows absolutely requires an Intel processor, since it is not an “emulation” of Windows but a virtualization of Windows. I have run a whole bunch of Mac applications on the M1 Mac mini, just to see if they work, and haven’t really found anything that failed. I’ve tried a bunch of Mac Intel-specific programs, and the M1 Mac mini transparently loads Rosetta 2 (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211861) and then runs them. And quickly, too.

So no, I haven’t replaced my Intel iMac with my M1 Mac mini, as they have different purposes.

Q: Was there anything else you heard that you liked?

A: The new iPad Pros are impressive, both the 11-inch and the 12.9 inch versions. The 11-inch version appeals to me simply because it is easier to tote around, but the screen on the 12.9-inch version made Kathleen and I both go “Whoaaaaa…” It uses a new LCD backlighting technology that is utterly astounding, and we can’t wait to see it in person rather than just on a webcast. You should be able to see the screen outside in daylight, which is almost impossible with previous iPads, and the color fidelity should be without parallel.

Aside from the screens, the new iPads have essentially the same M1 processor as the new Macs, and are appropriately fast. They use USB-C/Thunderbolt connectors, and can support external storage devices, and also external screens.

The iPad Pros also have LIDAR capability, which I had thought of as just a curiosity, but they showed several architecture, engineering, drawing, and game applications that took advantage of LIDAR to do real-time texture mapping and object mapping, placing people and objects into other environments in real time. This would have cost millions of dollars just a few years ago.

Probably the least impressive introduction was a new color iPhone 12: it is purple. That’s it. No new functions, just a purple body. Since I like purple, I thought this was excellent.

More technically impressive are Apple Air Tags. (See https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2021/04/apple-introduces-airtag/) Recent changes to Find My on the iPhone, iPad and Mac have included a new category, Items, in addition to the existing People and Devices. Attach an AirTag to an item (such as a purse, wallet, briefcase, suitcase, set of keys, coat, or anything else you might be inclined to misplace), and you can then track it down with your iPhone or iPad or Mac by telling Find My to go find the item. If it is nearby, the Find My app will draw arrows to guide you to the object, or you can trigger the AirTag to make a sound. If the AirTag is out of range, Find My will indicate the last spot where it was in range, which often will be where you left the item. You can have the AirTags engraved, for free, with an emoji or name or something. Unlike many similar tags by other companies, AirTags have user-replaceable batteries; batteries should last for a year.

The Apple TV 4K announcement was a collection of incremental improvements. The new Apple TV has a more powerful chip, and a new Siri remote with more buttons (you can, for example, now control sound and power on the TV, and have better navigation). The Apple TV 4K now supports XBox and Playstation wireless controllers for playing games, and, as the name suggests, supports 4K TV, including 4K video shot with newer iPhones. But the neatest trick was the ability to calibrate your TV by holding your iPhone up to the screen and having the Apple TV shower it with photons to get the right color balance. If you’ve ever tried to calibrate a TV, you will find this heavenly.

Apple also made some changes to the Apple Credit Card. Spouses, for example, can now both get credit scores based on their purchases, rather than just one person getting a rating. And a new family plan allows children over 13 (or elderly who want financial independence but with some limits) to make purchases on an Apple Credit card, but subject to parental controls.

Q: Apple mentioned subscription podcasts. What are these?

A: Most podcasts are free, but some of the more elaborate ones are supported by advertising embedded in the podcasts. There are also subscription podcasts that require you to pay up front, just like a newspaper subscription, but these are not currently supported by Apple’s podcast application. Apple’s infrastructure is set up to support free podcasts, and it does an excellent job: it is the largest podcast hub in the word.

By adding support for a subscription model, Apple can now also support commercially produced podcasts by news and media companies, celebrities, etc.

And then, in mid syllable, Internet connectivity vanished and the Zoom session crashed.

You can watch Apple’s webcast (it is only an hour) by streaming it from their website, https://www.apple.com/apple-events/april-2021/

Apple event: Spring Loaded

Apple has sent out an invitation to attend, virtually, an event on April 20, at 10 a.m. PT. The only thing they’ve released is this logo,

Apple event: Spring loaded
Apple event: April 20, 2021

which is obviously designed to look like a spring coiled into something similar to the Apple logo.

There is also a link to a page on Apple’s website,

https://www.apple.com/apple-events/

which says nothing at all, other than inviting you to stop by on April 20 at 10 a.m.

Speculation

  • A new iPad Pro. The current iPad Pro has face recognition, several cameras, a nifty pen (that they call a Pencil and you have to pay extra to get it, but it is nifty), speech synthesis, lots of storage and RAM, etc. There isn’t much left to add except possibly: it hovers in the air! it floats in the water! you can play 3D games on it, just like in the first Star Wars movie! (Wookie not included.)
  • A new iPad mini. The iPad mini falls in a useful space between the size of an iPhone and the size of an iPad. The mini is just about the size and weight of a paperback book, and I used one of the earlier iPad minis as my reading library of choice for years.
  • Air Tags. The Find My app included on the Mac, iPhone and iPad was recently modified with a new option to find “Items.” This is sort of spelled out on an Apple documentation page, https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211331 — except that Apple (so far) has no tags or widgets that use this capability. Presumably, third-party suppliers will make such tags or widgets, but Apple might, too.
  • A new Apple TV. While the Apple TV is quite spiffy, the Year of COVID has revealed that it could be more. Maybe.
  • New Macs. So far, three computers with Apple Silicon CPUs have been released, the new Mac mini, one MacBook Pro, and a new MacBook Air. But it would make sense to add some larger MacBook Pros and iMacs and whatnot.
  • Apple Aircar. For years, industry pundits have been talking about a forthcoming Apple Car. But this is Apple; I’ve been predicting an Apple Aircar. It will fly through the air with the greatest of ease, and park in a standard driveway, no airport required. It will run on batteries, and can be recharged using a USB-C charging cable. True, it takes about a day to recharge unless you get the optional charging station. For some reason, it also offers the Apple Pencil as an option.

The Strait Macintosh User Group will meet that evening, and we will probably gossip about what was presented.

iPhone 12 and pacemakers

Apple published a safety alert concerning all models of the iPhone 12 (iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max) for those users that might have a “medical device,” which is a generic way of saying: a pacemaker. These new phones include a ring of magnets that allow them to automatically latch on to MagSafe chargers for Apple iPhones. You can read the Apple alert here:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211900

If you would prefer a much more technical explanation, see this abstract from the Heart Rhythm Journal,

https://www.heartrhythmjournal.com/article/S1547-5271(20)31227-3/fulltext

This doesn’t appear to be significantly different from past recommendations by phone manufacturers to carry the devices away from implanted health devices. The new wrinkle seems to be the ring of magnets for MagSafe technology, combined with the NFC (Near Field Communications) capabilities of MagSafe.

iPhone and COVID-19

Apple and Google collaborated in the spring of 2020 (long, long ago) to create a “passive” COVID-19 exposure system, which was released on May 20. It is “passive” in that, once it is turned on, you really don’t have to do anything for it to work. But – you do have to turn it on.

It also requires— because this is the United States and instead of one government, we have over 50 — that a given state set up the necessary infrastructure to handle the tracking. The tracking is entirely anonymous, and the only person who gets notified of your exposure is — you.

You can read more about Apple and Google’s work on this innovative system in Wikipedia’s article on Exposure Notification.

Requirements:

  • You need an iPhone
  • It needs to have a current version of iOS
  • You need to turn on Exposure Notifications (go to your iPhone Settings > Exposure Notifications)

Exposure Notification

There are just a few settings, essentially telling your phone to accept notifications, and to verify that you are in Washington State (or wherever you happen to be).

Settings under Exposure Notification

Virginia was the first state to support Exposure Notifications. Since then, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, the District of Columbia — and Washington State — have added support.

How it works: your phone will use near-field communications (NFC), a very low-power radio signal, to take note of other phones that you come near. If at some future date the owner of one of those other phones reports a COVID-19 exposure, the Exposure Notification system will alert you. All of this is done anonymously, and voluntarily. Obviously, in order for the technology to work, literally millions of people need to turn on the notifications, and then also share that they’ve had a COVID-19 diagnosis, if they do get a positive test.

You can read about Washington’s program, called WA Notify, on the Washington State Department of Health website.



Addendum: WA Notify was announced on Monday, November 30. Within 24 hours, more Washington State residents had opted in to the notification system than any other state. By Friday, December 4, more than a million residents were using the system.

Ideally, notifications should be activated on at least 70% of all mobile phones in the state — Android and iPhone — for peak effectiveness. Ask your friends, neighbors, relatives, coworkers, and others to participate. When it comes to the pandemic, the entire planet is in this together.

Drive-in WiFi hotspot finder

Washington State has been working on improving access to the Internet, in part as an incentive to growing the local economy and, more recently, as a means of helping residents work, shop, and attend school remotely during the pandemic. One key initiative is adding more public WiFi hotspots.

The state now has an interactive map for finding WiFi hotspots:

Clallam public WiFi hotspots, from the Washington State interactive hotspot location finder.

On the one hand, Clallam County, in particular, is not heavily covered by WiFi hotspots. On the other, it has more than one might expect, given that the county is decidedly not urban.

Sorry, no WiFi hotspots at Lake Crescent or Hurricane Ridge or Dungeness Spit. The eagles and elk and seagulls need to do more lobbying.

Apple special event: speed

Apple sent out an invitation today to a special event on October 13, 2020, 10 a.m. Pacific Time.

This is the sum total of what they are revealing at this time:

Possibilities:

  • Apple will announce its long-awaited hovercar.
  • Apple will announce the launch of its own space venture, competing with Space X, and Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic.
  • Apple will announce its surprise entry into competitive bicycle racing.
  • Apple will announce its own gigabit-per-second Internet service.
  • Apple will announce a really fast computer using Apple Silicon.
  • Apple will announce it has purchased the rights to a 1994 film featuring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and Dennis Hopper.
  • Apple will do something else.

You should be able to watch the event on any Internet-connected Apple device, but if you have an Apple TV, I highly recommend watching it on your big screen TV.

Apple special event: September 2020

Apple is hosting a special event on Wednesday Tuesday, September 15, 2020, at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. They’ve not released one shred of information on the topic. The logo for the event,

Infinite loop Apple logo

is an infinitely-looping ribbon that forms the Apple logo. This is also a nice pun on the formal address for Apple’s old headquarters, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California.

Speculation, based on next to nothing, suggests it might be focused on a new Apple Watch and a new iPad Air. Exactly how a looping blue ribbon relates to watches or iPads is unknown. It is also speculated that Apple will announce formal release dates for macOS 11 Big Sur, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14.

You can watch the event by going here:

https://www.apple.com/apple-events/

or by using your Apple TV and the Apple Events app to watch it on your TV.

Free book on Zoom

Take Control Books, a highly recommended vendor of electronic books on “things computer,” and “things Macintosh” in particular, has a free new book: Take Control of Zoom Essentials. Given how much of life this year is spent in Zoom conferencing, this book is highly recommended.

It is essentially a condensed version of their longer, more comprehensive (and not free) book, Take Control of Zoom. The longer book is far more detailed, and recommended for those who want to host Zoom meetings, or use Zoom for teaching, consulting, or business.

Some of the topics covered in Take Control of Zoom Essentials:

  • What Zoom Can Do
  • Get Set Up with Zoom
  • Upgrade Audio and Video
  • Improve Your Video
  • Look Sharp
  • Identify Yourself
  • Join a Meeting
  • Adjust the View
  • View a Shared Screen
  • Interact in a Meeting
  • Stay Safe in a Meeting
  • Share Your Screen

The book is available in PDF (Acrobat), ePub (Apple Books), and Mobi (Kindle) formats. And — free.