Good Reads for June, 2019

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a handful of fantastically formatted, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes they’ll be postulation on Apple’s strategies for its hardware and software platforms, unanswered questions about recent major Apple product reveals, or detailed explanations on how Apple is pushing the privacy and security boundaries with one of their latest features. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • MacStories kicks us off this month with their piece telling us about the differences between Catalyst and SwiftUI. While there’s a lot to be said for Apple revealing two major methods of building apps at the same WWDC, the two are actually very separate in what they’re supposed to do. The dichotomy between Catalyst and SwiftUI, as explained by John Vorhees, gives us some idea of where this is all headed, even if that that future has only just begun.

So, if Catalyst isn’t fully automatic and SwiftUI is the future of UI development across all Apple’s platforms, why introduce Catalyst now? The answer lies in a product realignment of the Mac and iPad relative to each other and the rest of Apple’s product line that’s designed to address weaknesses in both platforms’ software ecosystems.

  • WWDC also delivered for anyone hoping for anyone wanting a sneak peek at the Mac Pro. Launching later this year, the new Mac Pro is Apple’s most powerful — and perhaps more importantly, most expandable — desktop they’ve ever made, returning to a tower form-factor complete with cheese-grater vent design. But although we received the marketing spiel and promises of performance, the devil will be in the details, and there are many unanswered questions. Some of which will be answered once we can actually buy the thing, and others that will be answered once people have had a poke around the innards for themselves. Jon Alper tells us everything there is to know about the new Mac Pro from a hardware perspective, and asks some questions along the way.

The Mac Pro 2019 seems to have delivered exactly as we’d never have dared hope for; an extremely flexible, fast, customizable machine remarkably free of compromises in any axis you care to measure, including price. […] This is the fastest, the most configurable, flexible, accessible, repairable and upgradable Mac ever made.

  • If you read Wired’s piece earlier this month on how Apple’s new Find My feature works, particularly when your devices are offline, you would you have at least a high-level overview of how multiple devices leverage public key cryptography to let you find your lost, offline devices. The cryptography engineering blog takes this problem, and, referencing the 1950s TV show Lassie, give us a solid example and more details about how brilliant Apple’s solution to this problem really is.

The good news is that Apple claims that their system actually does provide strong privacy, and that it accomplishes this using clever cryptography. But as is typical, they’ve declined to give out the details how they’re going to do it. Andy Greenberg talked me through an incomplete technical description that Apple provided to Wired, so that provides many hints. Unfortunately, what Apple provided still leaves huge gaps. It’s into those gaps that I’m going to fill in my best guess for what Apple is actually doing.

  • The Atlantic’s Ian Bogost has a piece on the surprising greatness of the Macintosh SE, 30 years after it was introduced. The Macintosh SE was truly from a different era, when computing was in its infancy and people didn’t have the equivalent of always-connected supercomputers in their pockets. It came from a time when computing was much more simple than it is today, when the web was barely a thing, and when you could make real choices about the computing you wanted to do, instead of being forced to use computers and the internet all the time.

A computer was a tool for work, and diversion too, but it was not the best or only way to write a letter or to fritter away an hour. Computing was an accompaniment to life, rather than the sieve through which all ideas and activities must filter. That makes using this 30-year-old device a surprising joy, one worth longing for on behalf of what it was at the time, rather than for the future it inaugurated.

  • Last but not least, Riccardo Mori has a lengthy annotated transcription of origins of the Apple human interface, a lecture delivered by former Apple employee Larry Tesler and Apple employee number eight Chris Espinosa at the Computer History Museum in October of 1997. There’s a video of the lecture available online, uploaded by the Computer History Museum, but Mori’s annotations add something a little extra.

Being extremely interested in the subject myself, and seeing how apparently little thought is being given today to the subject, I wanted to quote a few selected excerpts from the talk, just to show what kind of hard work creating a user interface was back in the day when the Apple Lisa was being developed. It turns out that isolating this or that bit was futile, as the whole talk is made up of such cohesive, engrossing discourse. So I chose to transcribe it almost entirely, and add a few personal remarks here and there.

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