Tuesday, Oct. 8th 2019
Jason Snell at Six Colors / macOS Catalina review: New era ahead, proceed with caution
Sometimes software upgrades just fuzz together, all part of a continuum of changes over time. Others are more momentous, when there’s a clean break from what has come before. After a few years of fuzzy updates, macOS Catalina is one of those clean breaks.
If you need to upgrade but have one key app you just can’t live without, consider making a disk image of your existing Mac (even better, make it a fresh install with just your important apps) and using it in an emulator such as VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop.
This is the promise of Mac Catalyst: That iOS developers who have been more or less locked out of the Mac for the past decade (unless they learn an entirely different set of development skills and build alternate versions of their apps) will now finally have access to that platform.
I've tried dabbling with Cocoa/AppKit, but it has never really clicked in the same way that UIKit has. I'm excited for Catalyst. Plus, being independent as a single designer and developer (and tech support and book keeper and well, everything) it doesn't make sense for me to work on and update a separate mac and iOS app.
Despite this initial rush of interest, it feels like it’s going to take months, if not years, for us to see just how Mac Catalyst might change the Mac and the software that we use on them every day.
It's a helluva lot more difficult than just "checking a box in Xcode" as Apple is advertising.
Then there’s the interesting problem that Mac Catalyst apps are entirely separate from their iOS equivalents when it comes to the App Store. For a lot of developers with existing iOS apps, that’s a dealbreaker, since they want the option of letting their existing iOS customers use the Mac version without re-buying. A shared store may be coming, but it’s going to be a while.
This is a huge hurdle and complication for me. This has to be addressed.
Some developers will probably be tempted to stop at this point, but to make an iPad app really feel native on macOS, additional time will be needed to polish them for an environment without a touchscreen present.
I can't emphasize enough how different a touch vs cursor based interface is.
John Voorhees at Mac Stories / macOS Catalina: The MacStories Review
The Mac isn’t in crisis, but it isn’t healthy either. Waiting until the Mac is on life support isn’t viable. Instead, Apple has opted to reimagine the Mac in the context of today’s computing landscape before its survival is threatened. The solution is to tie macOS more closely to iOS and iPadOS, making it an integrated point on the continuum of Apple’s devices that respects the hardware differences of the platform but isn’t different simply for the sake of difference.
Anyone who has browsed through the Mac App Store in the last few years would agree that the mac is probably in need of something to change. But there's also a lot of great things about the Mac that make it amazing. I have a lot more thoughts as well about the expectations of bespoke software on iOS (probably mostly driven by design orgs…) and the exact opposite expectations of consistency and similarity on macOS.
Catalina is a cold splash of water in the face of users accustomed to small incremental changes to macOS in recent years. What makes Catalina different from updates in years past is Apple’s renewed commitment to the Mac.
I really hope so. I love the mac. The richness and robustness of Mac OS 10.3 and 10.4 is what really piqued my interest in being a software designer.
Catalina is a careful balancing act between the old and new. One of the most successful advances by Catalina is the breakup of iTunes. I expected far more of the legacy features to be shed from the app than actually were.
I think it's going to be a relatively slow transition, but I think when we look back in five to ten years it will be shocking how different apps on 10.14 Mojave looked and felt (hopefully for the better…).
These reviews are pretty meaty and I highly suggest you give them a read. There's a lot of great information about new features and theory about the future of the mac.
In the near future I'd like to do a quick roundup and design review of Catalyst apps. I don't think anyone has really solved the transition from touch to cursor based interface (re: Windows Metro). I'll be watching for any successful Catalyst apps.
Monday, Aug. 12th 2019
The US Navy will replace the touchscreen throttle and helm controls currently installed in its destroyers with mechanical ones starting in 2020
The move comes after the National Transportation Safety Board released an accident report from a 2017 collision, which cites the design of the ship’s controls as a factor in the accident.
The NTSB report calls out the configuration of the bridge’s systems, pointing out that the decision to transfer controls while in the strait helped lead to the accident, and that the procedures for transferring the controls from one station to another were complicated, further contributing to the confusion. Specifically, the board points to the touchscreens on the bridge, noting that mechanical throttles are generally preferred because “they provide both immediate and tactile feedback to the operator.” The report notes that had mechanical controls been present, the helmsmen would have likely been alerted that there was an issue early on, and recommends that the Navy better adhere to better design standards.
This makes sense. But also, bad UI, whether physical or software is just bad UI.
Following the incident, the Navy conducted fleet-wide surveys, and according to Rear Admiral Bill Galinis, the Program Executive Officer for Ships, personnel indicated that they would prefer mechanical controls.
This user research would have been helpful before the accident.
Touchscreens weren’t the only issue in the collision: the report calls out that several crew members on the bridge at the time weren’t familiar with the systems that they were overseeing and were inexperienced in their roles, and that many were fatigued, with an average of 4.9 hours of sleep between the 14 crew members present. The report recommended that the Navy conduct better training for the bridge systems, update the controls and associated documentation, and ensure that Navy personnel aren’t tired when they’re on the job.
There's also that…
See also: Wikipedia: Boeing 737 Max worldwide grounding
Wednesday, July 10th 2019
Video conferencing provider Zoom has pushed out an emergency patch to address the zero-day vulnerability for Mac users that could potentially expose a live webcam feed to an attacker, launching you into a Zoom video chat you’d never intended to launch. The move is a surprise reversal of Zoom’s previous stance, in which the company treated the vulnerability as “low risk” and defended its use of a local web server that incidentally exposed Zoom users to potential attacks.
Zoom says it used the local web server to make its service faster and easier to use — in other words, saving you a few mouse clicks. But the server also creates the rare but present possibility that a malicious website could activate your webcam by using an iframe, getting around Safari’s built-in protections.
Second, when Zoom is installed on a Mac device by the user, a limited-functionality web server that can only respond to requests from the local machine is also installed on the device to help launch Zoom meetings. This is a workaround to a change introduced in Safari 12 that requires a user to confirm that they want to start the Zoom client prior to joining every meeting. The local web server enables users to avoid this extra click before joining every meeting. We feel that this is a legitimate solution to a poor user experience problem, enabling our users to have faster, one-click-to-join meetings. We are not alone among video conferencing providers in implementing this solution.
My hope is that someone at Zoom got a call from someone at Apple today, indicating that the click-to-confirm Safari feature is intended to be used and that bypassing it is not cool.
Part of Zoom's response below. Basically: an update to Safari (probably for security?) added an extra click to joining a meeting. So Zoom added a whole damn, undisclosed, running webserver to your computer to Save You A Click. And it isn't sorry.
It's weird to me that Zoom is using UX as a scapegoat for a “feature” that turned into a large security vulnerability. Especially when Apple has been pretty clear about how the UX for this interaction should work through Safari's click-to-confirm.
I would further argue that good UX includes clarification of intent and system status especially when it even remotely concerns anything with video or audio functionality.
Apple has now taken things one step further and pushed out a silent macOS update that removes the web server, reports TechCrunch. The update is deployed automatically, so users don't have to manually apply it in order for it to take effect.
Zoom told TechCrunch it was "happy to have worked with Apple on testing this update" …