Good Reads for May, 2019

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a selection of excellently emotive, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be pieces giving us sneak peek of what the future of iOS apps will look like, cases for how one popular Apple product is terrible for the environment, a story of two tech giants squeezing out the little players, or a deep dive on how Apple puts security features to the test in a relentless pursuit of privacy. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • In just a few short days, we should have a much better idea of what Apple’s plan for the future of its software platforms will be. Marzipan is how Apple are going to have iOS apps run on the Mac, and thanks to some digging from well-known developers, we now have a decent idea of what that future looks like, and how the transition will go. Craig Hockenberry gives us the past, present, and future of iOS apps on the Mac by telling us what to expect from Marzipan.

What I’m going to focus on today is how this new technology will affect product development, design, and marketing. I see many folks who think this transition will be easy: my experience tells me that it will be more difficult than it appears at first glance.

  • Regardless of what you think of AirPods, one thing is for sure: they are taking over the world. You can see AirPods everywhere now, and even though they might not fit your ears perfectly, perhaps you own a pair anyway, just because of how convenient wireless headphones are, and/or how nice AirPods are to use. But status symbol or not, Vice says that AirPods are a tragedy, due to their inherent disposability and the long-lasting effect they will have on the environment long after you’re dead and buried. What happens when your AirPods stop holding as much of a charge as they used to? What happens to your old AirPods when you upgrade to a new set? Nothing good, as it turns out. See also: Will Oremus’ piece on what happens to AirPods when they die.

But more than a pair of headphones, AirPods are an un-erasable product of culture and class. People in working or impoverished economic classes are responsible for the life-threatening, exhaustive, violent work of removing their parts from the ground and assembling them. Meanwhile, people in the global upper class design and purchase AirPods.

  • The Verge has a piece on how Apple and Amazon entered into a business agreement that has meant the near-total obliteration of the third-party Mac resale market on Amazon Marketplace. What was once a thriving business venture for those that had the time and inclination to repair and refurbish Macs is now no more, thanks to either Apple or Amazon clamping down on third-party Mac sales. While it’s unclear from the piece which of Apple or Amazon is to blame here, and while this is mostly a US-centric issue due to the pervasive nature of Amazon as an online storefront there, you can certainly see the effect of what happens when two of the world’s largest companies decide to make life difficult for small independents.

By cutting this deal, Apple and Amazon benefit while knocking out millions of dollars worth of business for small sellers. For Apple, the move to sell on Amazon and its aftermath highlight the company’s long-standing adversarial relationship with repair providers and resellers. Even those within the confines of Apple’s strictly controlled network have faced byzantine restrictions to acquiring proper equipment.

  • The Independent has a behind-the-scenes look at how Apple tests its security features, which are a key component of its privacy-focused message that the company has been giving to customer for years now. Looking behind the curtain reveals insights into the kinds of stress tests Apple puts their hardware through before putting it into the hands of millions, as well as quotes from Apple senior management who say that privacy is a focus at the beginning of any new product process, not at the end.

Those chips are here to see whether they can withstand whatever assault anyone might try on them when they make their way out into the world. If they succeed here, then they should succeed anywhere; that’s important, because if they fail out in the world then so would Apple. These chips are the great line of defence in a battle that Apple never stops fighting as it tries to keep users’ data private.

  • OK, so it wasn’t technically published in May 2019. But despite its original publish date of May, 2012, Ars Technica’s look back at Apple’s Hypercard technology gives us a glimpse at what things were like before the internet. Hypercard is turning 32 later this year, and even though Apple eventually killed it off because it wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, the fact that it was so close to what we now know as the internet is something to take notice of.

HyperCard allowed you to create "stacks" of cards, which were visual pages on a Macintosh screen. You could insert "fields" into these cards that showed text, tables, or even images. You could install "buttons" that linked individual cards within the stack to each other and that played various sounds as the user clicked them, mostly notably a "boing" clip that to this day I can’t get out of my mind. You could also turn your own pictures into buttons.

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