Good Reads for October, 2019

Every month, we’ll be bringing you a handful of jokingly juxtaposed, if slightly longer, reads about the wonderful world of Apple. Sometimes these will be timelines of Apple service launches, reasonable explanations of recent Apple software quality issues, or deep-dives on all the ways the camera in the latest iPhone is the best one ever. All I know is, bring your own Instapaper account, because this is Good Reads.

  • It feels like we’ve been talking about Apple’s streaming video service for so long, and this weekend, all of the rumours finally came to a head as Apple finally launched Apple TV+. There are now a few dozen episodes of a handful of TV shows available to watch, stream, and download, all of which represent Apple’s first foray into the world of original programming. Reviews are mixed, but it’s early days yet for something that’s been years in the making. The Hollywood Reporter takes us a look at the long, bumpy road to Apple becoming a content creator in its own right.

Apple executives have acknowledged entertainment isn’t their expertise. "We don’t know anything about making television," senior vp software and service Eddy Cue, the architect of the company’s TV+ strategy, told audiences at South by Southwest in 2018. "We know how to create apps, we know how to do distribution, we know how to market. But we don’t really know how to create shows."

  • By now, you’ve probably read about, or had the displeasure of experiencing, the plethora of reported issues affecting Apple’s latest software releases. The verdict is in, and iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 Catalina are the buggiest releases in years, with seemingly basic functionality broken. It’s all very unusual, given Apple’s previous software releases for the past few years have been mostly high quality. A piece over at Tidbits from a former Apple software engineer of 18 years gives us some insights into the very real reasons why iOS 13 and macOS Catalina have as many bugs as they do.

iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 Catalina have been unusually buggy releases for Apple. The betas started out buggy at WWDC in June, which is not unexpected, but even after Apple removed some features from the final releases in September, more problems have forced the company to publish quick updates.

  • With the arrival of macOS Catalina, popular iPad-as-Mac tablet and wireless display app Astropad was Sherlocked by Catalina’s Sidecar feature. What came as a shock to the Astropad team now makes for a nice introspective blog post, with the Astropad/Luna Display take on what to do when you get Sherlocked by Apple containing a bunch of great take-home advice for any small startup enjoying a modicum of success in their chosen niche. There’s very little you can do to stop one of the biggest companies in the world from muscling in on your territory, but there’s plenty you can do from preventing that from being the be-all and end-all.

But now that the Sidecar dust has settled, I want to share our experience with other players in the Apple ecosystem. My intent is two-fold: On a personal level, it’s therapeutic to reflect on how this has impacted our work. But more importantly, my hope is that by candidly sharing our story, I can pass along some of the painful insights we learned along the way — like how you can prevent getting sherlocked, and what to do if it happens to you.

  • The Halide blog has a great technical discussion on some of the software pipeline changes that make this year’s iPhone cameras the best ones yet. While there are some nice hardware changes (they have a piece on that, too) that contribute to the whole package, all the magic happens in software. Nearly every aspect of Apple’s software computational photography has been improved in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, all of which contributes to better photos than ever before.

You might’ve noticed two things from Apple’s iPhone announcement event and our blog post: the hardware changes seem fairly modest, with more attention directed at this generation’s software based processing. It’s true: The great advances in camera quality for these new iPhones are mostly to blame on advanced (and improved) software processing.

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook’s interview with People tells us about Cook’s plan to come out as gay, including what how he pitched the idea to Apple’s board of directors. That was five years ago, and Apple is now more supportive of minorities than ever before. Apple recently signed a petition in favour of DREAMers, it’s making strides in the often-overlooked area of supplier responsibility, and supports young children in their decision to come out.

What he was doing was much more complex. Cook, 59, had decided to publish a column where he would share with the world that he was gay, making him the first, and until then only, leader of a Fortune 500 company to come out of the closet. Five years later, speaking slowly and with a slight smile, he says: "I have not regretted it for one minute. Not at all."

  • This month’s bonus piece is not really about Apple (they never are), but you should read this piece about Sayonara Wild Hearts, one of the most publicised Apple Arcade launch titles. Sayonara Wild Hearts has a great feature that I know a lot of people wish videogames had, in that if you fail a part a few times, you can skip it and continue with the rest of the experience. While other games might let you pick your own difficulty level, there’s no other difficulty levels in Sayonara Wild Hearts, so what it does by allowing players to graciously admit defeat lines up nicely with the game’s overall undertones of love and acceptance.

Sayonara Wild Hearts’ utter confidence is thus all the more admirable. With its intense fuschias and magentas, magical girl-esque transformations and aesthetics, pretty and girly pop music, and queer subtext, its identity is a proud antithesis to toxic misconceptions regarding videogames, difficulty, skill, and gender.

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