Breaking: Third-Party Twitter-Apps in June August

Once again Twitter is about to do what we’ve come to expect from the company. From Apps of a Feather:

Third-party apps open a network connection to Twitter and receive a continuous stream of updates (hence the name). For push notifications, this connection is done on the developer’s server and used to generate messages that are sent to your devices. For timeline updates, the stream is opened directly on your mobile device or desktop computer.

This streaming connection is being replaced by an Account Activity API. This new infrastructure is based on “webhooks” that Twitter uses to contact your server when there’s activity for an account. But there are problems for app developers…

This change, currently poised to happen after June 19th August 16th, 2018, means two main things: push notifications will no longer arrive and timelines won’t refresh automatically anymore. Currently there’s no way for third-party developers to fix these things. Twitter has yet to give third-party developers access to the new Account Activity API. But even if they should get access in time to fix their applications, things like push notifications will be inherently limited, essentially rendering them useless:

With access we might be able to implement some push notifications, but they would be limited at the standard level to 35 Twitter accounts – our products must deliver notifications to hundreds of thousands of customers.

Facebook Portal to become Echo competitor

Alex Heath writing for Cheddar:

Facebook is about to jump into the consumer hardware business in a big way with a video chat device named “Portal,” which will put it in direct competition with Amazon’s hugely popular line of Echo voice-controlled devices, Cheddar has learned.

The device is designed to work in the home and represents Facebook’s first serious foray into selling consumer hardware, people familiar with the matter said. Rather than position the device as a smart assistant akin to Amazon’s Echo speakers, Facebook intends to pitch Portal as a way for families and friends to stay connected through video chatting and other social features.

I’m sure people, especially in Germany, will have some feelings about Facebook selling a device with a camera and phone for your home. Then again, people are for some reason buying Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home. Despite being around one of the Echo devices and watching people interact with it on a daily basis, I still fail to see why I’d want one of these.

99% of the things they are used for can even be done with Siri on your wrist or phone. Free bonus: you won’t become the product in the process.

Terminal for iOS: A local terminal for your iPhone and iPad

There have been plenty of apps for iPhone and iPad that allow you to connect to a remote server, via ssh for example. I use a mix of Termius and Prompt for these. But now there’s a new, if simple, app in town that gives you a local shell on your iOS device.

The simple yet properly named app called Terminal by Louis D’hauwe currently only includes some basic commands, so you won’t (yet?) find your whole collection of tools. In it’s current status it feels like a great start with hopefully many more features to come in future updates, mostly the mentioned toolbox you can find on most Linux/Unix machines.

Terminal is a free download on the App Store. You can also find the source on GitHub which gives me even more hope that new features will be added quickly.

Using iCloud.com to upload your photos – or why you really shouldn’t even try

I recently found myself in a situation where I had to use iCloud.com to upload photos (and video, but more on that later). I had to use the website, because it wasn’t my data and the person only had a very old Windows PC and no Mac. I figured the iCloud website would be a perfectly viable way to get those files (only around 10 GB in total) into the cloud to be accessible on an iPhone and iPad.

I started my process on the PC (yes, it’s running Windows Vista 🤷‍♂️), trying to use the iCloud application that supposedly allows for automatic upload from a pre-defined if you so choose. That didn’t work once, even for the smallest of JPGs, which may or not be because of the age of said PC and numerous other possible reasons. Also: Debugging something like this on a Windows machine that takes 30+ seconds to open an Explorer window isn’t very high on my „Favorite Things To Do”-list.

After that path was a dead end and I couldn’t (read: didn’t want to) diagnose why, I tried using Chrome and Internet Explorer which gave me repeated errors while trying to upload more than a few files at once. After all it might also be related to Windows, Chrome or IE or any mix of these.

I even tried to copy the files to an SD card and use the Lightning to SD card adapter to re-import photos to the iPhone and iCloud Photos. Just copying files on to the card wasn’t – as I expected – enough. I probably had to create the whole folder structure to make it appear like the files just came from a camera. But that way I wouldn’t get albums or at least make it very hard to recreate them.

So I went to copy the files to a thumb drive, which took ~30 minutes for 10 GB to an otherwise very fast USB stick. After that I copied them to an older 2013 MacBook Pro, only to find out iCloud.com really is a really horrible way to get anything done. The same errors persisted, although not as permanent – sometimes I could get 20 or 30 photos to upload at a time before it would error out. Other times it would just silently fail and while the browser pretended it was still chugging along. It’s not a matter of upload speed, I can get a solid upload of 20+ Mbit/s out of this line.

Also note that the website states that you can add photos and videos. However if you try to upload anything else than a JPG file, it will give you an error. Videos taken with an iOS device fail as well as screenshots created on an iPhone or iPad. I’m not yet sure how I’ll get those files into Photos on the iPhone, I might upload them to iCloud Drive and see if I can add them from there to Photos on the device itself.

My very last resort would be adding a new user to my Mac and use Photos to eventually get everything uploaded. This would mean however adding someone else’s account to my Mac which I’m not sure I – or the other person – feel comfortable with.

This whole process goes to show that moving from a world of Macs or PCs to just iOS devices is still a giant pain. iCloud.com is just horrible. If this was a website managed by Google or Dropbox, I expect completely different results. It would just work. Uploading files to the internet doesn’t require some black magic. It’s just feels painful if a company like Apple isn’t capable to make it work.

Apple could give its Files.app the ability to read thumb drives or – heck – SD cards that didn’t come straight from a camera. Instead, you have to jump through hoops in this brave new „Post-PC world”.

Temporarily fix the macOS High Sierra bug that gives full admin access

Using macOS High Sierra? Make sure to give your root user a password, because of this serious security issue:

Update: Check the Mac App Store for Apple’s official fix. It’s being automatically pushed to your Mac as well.

Comparing the dual lens system on iPhone X and iPhone 7 Plus

Dan Provost compared the camera systems in the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X:

I created a test to hopefully get a rough idea of how much light is required before an iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X decide to switch to their respective telephoto lenses in 2X mode. I placed an object (in this case, an old Rolleiflex camera) on a white backdrop, and flanked it on both sides with two LED studio lights. I set up the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X on tripods (using the Glif, natch) and positioned them to keep the framing as similar as possible. Then, starting from a completely dark room, I slowly raised the light levels and observed when the lens switched on each camera.

Dan shows the comparison of the two devices in a short video.

Apple delays HomePod until Early 2018

Apple just released a statement about the upcoming HomePod:

We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.

Originally scheduled for December this means Apple will miss the upcoming holidays. The question is why did Apple announce it so early, in June 2017, even with a supposed launch in December. Did they run into issues with the production, the hardware or software itself?

The limitations of Face ID

Rene Ritchie put together a list of things Face ID currently has issues with:

There’s been so much effusion and so much FUD written about Face ID, Apple’s new biometric facial identity sensor — for iPhone X that it’s been hard to sort fact from fiction. Apple did a pretty good job setting expectations at the September event but there’s never enough time to cover everything.