wwrite 4.2.0 and wwriteLite 4.2.0 are now available

New versions of my two apps, wwrite and wwriteLite have been released. There are some big changes with these versions.

wwriteLite now requires iOS 12.2, but with this requirement you get some new features, and who does not like new features. The biggest of these is a New “Distraction Free Mode” on the iPad. Distraction Free Mod” removes the file list and status bar, which will allow you to focus on just your writing and not worry about everything else. While you are feverishly typing, if you do need to save, you can do so with the new “File Info” panel. This panel will allow you to rename your file, see your character and word count, change the template for the file, or even turn off Distraction Free Mode should you need to focus less on your writing. 

The File Info panel is available when you are using the normal typing mode. If you are a keyboard warrior, you can also use the key combination of command + I to bring up the panel.

Sometimes you create a template and realize that you no longer need the template, you can now delete a template. When you do this if any files are using the template, the file will be changed to not use a template.

While navigating throughout the app you may notice that there is a bit more consistency with how things are managed, this was intentional and makes it easier to find what you are looking for. For instance, all of the “Template” options are available in the “Customize Templates” screen. The same goes for Archives, you can create, email, and delete an archive all from the Archives screen.

There were a couple of bugs fixed in this release too. The first is when you were choosing your favorite app icon the application was crash. This was definitely not intended behavior, so that has been fixed. Some links and ad parameters were not able to be updated without an app update, this has been fixed as well. Regarding ad parameters, these were not updating properly at launch, this has been rectified. The last fix which you will not see is with localization. This has been completely re-worked so any future localizations will be easier.


There are more changes than just that though. I have moved the entire website to its own domain, which has all of the information on it. That domain is wwrite.app.

If you already have wwrite or wwriteLite, you can update for free. wwriteLite is the free ad-based version of wwrite. Both are available in the App Store now.

wwrite Logo
 
wwriteLite Logo

Apple releases minor updates to the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Today Apple released an update to some of MacBook Pro laptops. Specifically, the MacBook Pros with Touch Bar. These are minor updates, and are only updates of the processors. There is also a change surrounding the keyboard, but more on that in a bit.

The 13-inch MacBook Pros with Touch Bar have gotten a processor bump. You now get an 8th generation 2.4GHz quad-core Core i5 processor with 128GB of eDRAM. You can configure a 2.8GHz quad-core Core i7 with 128GB of eDRAM. The remainder of the items like the memory, video card, and storage all remain the same as the previous models.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro models has two different tiers. The less expensive tier comes with a 9th Generation 2.6GHz six-core Core i7 processor. The improvement with the processor comes with the L3 cache, which has 33% more, at 12MB. The more expensive tier comes with a 9th Generation 8-core 2.3GHz Core i9 processor with 16MB of L3 Cache. This is an increase of 77%, up from 9MB.

Both of these 15-inch are configurable with an 8-core 2.4GHz Core-i9 processor. The remainder of the items like memory, video card, and storage remain the same as the previous models.

Apple indicates that these new processors are twice as fast as the previous quad-core models, and 40% faster than the 6-core models.

The Keyboard

I am going to quote Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch:

Today, however, they told me they’re taking three explicit steps to help with the keyboard situation:
  1. The MacBook Pro keyboard mechanism has had a materials change in the mechanism. Apple says that this new keyboard mechanism composition will substantially reduce the double-type/no-type issue. Apple will not specify what it has done, but doubtless tear-downs of the keyboard will reveal what has been updated.
  2. Though Apple believes this change will greatly reduce the issue, it is also including all butterfly keyboards across its notebook line in its Keyboard Service Program. This means that current MacBook Pros and even the models being released today will have keyboard repairs covered at no cost, in warranty and out of warranty.
  3. Apple tells me that repair times for keyboards have been longer than they would like. It is making substantial improvements to repair processes in Apple Stores to make repairs faster for customers with issues.

Closing Thoughts

These new MacBook Pros are available for order today. The processor updates are minor ones, but it is good to see Apple keeping the processors up to date. More importantly, I think it is good to see Apple taking real action with the keyboards. Will this new keyboard ultimately fix the problems that have been occurring with the MacBook Pros? We will not know for a while, or until Casey Johnston tries out the new MacBook Pros and see if she has any issues, because she seems to be the one who has the most experience with the problematic keyboards.

Source: Apple and TechCrunch.

New Notarization requirements for macOS 10.14.5

At the 2018 Apple World Wide Developer Conference, a new feature of macOS was unveiled, called Notarization. To quote my macOS Mojave for Users, Administrators, and Developers book:

The concept of Notarized apps mimics the real-world concept of a notary. A notary witnesses the fact that a document has been signed by someone, or multiple parties. zed apps use a notary service that is hosted by Apple that verifies that the application is indeed signed by the developer.

The Notary service will also perform some additional checks on the application. These include security checks that verify the application is doing what it indicates as well as the check for private API usage, similar to Mac App Store apps. However, it should be noted that using the Notary Service is not the same as app review. These checks are merely security related and are only performed to notarize your application.

At the announcement of Notarization, Apple announced that Notarization would be available for developers in the summer of 2018, but would be required for all apps in a “future release”. With the release of macOS Mojave 10.14.5 there has been a step towards notarization being required, but this is just for some apps, not all apps. You will need to notarize your apps if the following applies:

  1. If you are a developer who is creating a Developer ID for the first time.
  2. If you are creating a new kernel extension.
  3. You are updating a kernel extension

Notarization is a security mechanism, not an App Store review. Instead, it is a way of being able to assure that malicious code cannot be injected into your app. Notarizing a macOS app provides more than just peace of mind for end users, but also for you as the developer. One of the additional benefits of Notarization is that the Notarization service will keep an audit trail of each release version of your app. Should the worst occur and your private signing key get compromised, and malicious software be released, you can work with Apple to revoke those apps that you did not authorize and then release a new version of your app.

These are just some first steps in requiring notarization. It would not surprise me if notarization will be required for all apps starting with the next release of macOS, macOS 10.15. This is even hinted at by Apple’s own page:

Beginning in macOS 10.14.5, all new or updated kernel extensions and all software from developers new to distributing with Developer ID must be notarized in order to run. In a future version of macOS, notarization will be required by default for all software.

The phrase “In a future release” most likely means with the next major release, macOS 10.15. Notarization, while it may seem inconvenient, the process can easily integrate into your workflow and will protect everyone involved. I am sure many developers will not like the fact that they will have to notarize apps, but ultimately it will make things better in the long run.

Source: Apple developer site.

Apple forces changes for some Parental Control apps

On Friday, April 27th, 2019, the New York Times posted a story that claims that Apple is crippling competitors to its Screen Time feature, by either forcing changes or removing apps altogether.

The story provides some information from several developers regarding that their applications have been pulled and that their businesses have been shutdown and/or the apps they have created had to be modified because “Apple began purging apps that offered similar services.”

According to one developer,

“They are systematically killing the industry,”

In response to story, Apple has provided its reasoning for the requesting changes, and if the apps were not updated, removing the apps.

Part of Apple’s statement says:

We recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store, and we did it for a simple reason: they put users’ privacy and security at risk. It’s important to understand why and how this happened. Over the last year, we became aware that several of these parental control apps were using a highly invasive technology called Mobile Device Management, or MDM. MDM gives a third party control and access over a device and its most sensitive information including user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions, and browsing history. We started exploring this use of MDM by non-enterprise developers back in early 2017 and updated our guidelines based on that work in mid-2017.

As some quick background, Apple unveiled its Screen Time feature on June 4th, 2018 at their World Wide Developer Conference. The feature is part of iOS 12, which was released on September 19th, 2019.

My Thoughts

I am sure that some will argue that this is Apple abusing its dominant position. However, I do not think this is the case, given that some of the parental control apps were using Mobile Device Management to provide the significant access. As Apple states, third parties have FULL CONTROL OVER YOUR DEVICES. This cannot be understated. For some of these apps, if you install an MDM certificate and agree, that third-party developer now has access to everything on your device. So when Apple says they are requiring the changes due to privacy and security, I think they are being honest about it.

There is a line from the New York Times article from a developer whose app was removed. The reason that the developer received was: “Your app uses public A.P.I.s in an unapproved manner, which does not comply with guideline 2.5.1 of the App Store Review Guidelines”.

Section 2.5.1 of the App Store Review Guidelines states, as of this writing, “Apps should use APIs and frameworks for their intended purposes and indicate that integration in their app description.”. It is the first half of that statement that many developers seem to be reason why they were asked to make changes and/or why their apps were removed from the App Store.

It is only my guess, but it seems to me that the developer was using MDM to provide additional settings, then they were in violation of the rule. The reason they were in violation is because MDM is only to be used by businesses and schools to control devices that they own and provide to users of their company or students. MDM is not designed to allow developer access to end-user devices.

Even though these developers were in violation, it does not seem as though Apple made it clear that the developer’s use of MDM was the reason why their app was being removed.

What Apple Can Do

There are a few different ways that Apple can change things to make robust apps available in the store.

Specifically regarding parental control apps, Apple could provide more granular controls both within the Screen Time section, within the Settings app, as well as allowing developers access to configure these settings. However, I can see the significant reluctance for this to occur. Allowing applications access to change when applications are available, could allow a developer to programmatically limit access to apps, possibly without the user’s consent; which would not be a good situation. If there is no interface for developers, it would honestly not surprise me if there are additional settings with the next release of iOS, possibly with more granular control.

I also do think that Apple could be a bit more explicit when communicating with developers. I understand not wanting to provide exact steps for having applications come into compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines, as there are exceptions to each rule. I also get that indicating exactly how to fix an app might come off as a way of exerting excessive control and explicitly dictating how applications should be created. Even with that, additional information provided to developers can go a long way.

In this case of the removed apps, something along the lines of “The application’s use of MDM certificates violates the App Store guidelines, because MDM is intended for business or school usage”, or something along those lines could have gone a long way to making it clear as to why the apps were being removed.

Closing Thoughts

I think that use of MDM by companies does need to come to light. One of the arguments of the story is that once Apple introduced Screen Time that competing apps were being targeted and removed. However, I do not think this is the case. I take Apple at its word that the reason that they removed the apps was because they were violating user’s privacy and/or abusing the MDM certificates.

The New York Times story does state that some of the developers were contacted in August of last year, about needing to change their apps. Apple likely began looking into these some of the apps, that utilized MDM certificates, after it came to light that Facebook and Apple were violating the use of MDM certificates by doing the same thing. And if Apple is going to revoke Facebook’s and Google’s MDM certificates, then there is no reason why they would not do the same thing for smaller developers.