“It Should be Intimidating” with Riley Testut

App developer, sideloader, and emulator enthusiast Riley Testut teaches Max all about the delicate dance of stretching Apple’s rule and guidelines. It’s going to be a big year for both Apple and Riley as we speculate what 2023 will bring to light.

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If a Tree That Was Never Announced Falls in a Forest Does It Make a Sound? – Daring Fireball

★ If a Tree That Was Never Announced Falls in a Forest Does It Make a Sound? by John Gruber for Daring Fireball

More John Gruber input on the Apple AR/VR headset. Sounds like the external battery is gospel for gen one. More interesting is Gruber’s understanding about the outward facing display and the requirement for external headphones:

My understanding is that there is no front-facing screen, but that Apple’s team had long joked about such an idea, and perhaps someone who heard the joking mistook the idea as real and passed it along to Ma. It sure sounds like a joke to me, but maybe my understanding is wrong. Unless I’m forgetting something, Gurman has never reported on a front-facing screen. (Also, the headset has built-in headphones — why in the world would a $3,000 gadget that goes around your head need external headphones?)

Kinda kills my most of my headline from last week. The headphones bit feels mute to me. I don’t recall reports saying there were no built-in speakers, but rather that the only option for headphones would be AirPods. Currently in the Rumor Mill, that stands.

Anyway. Something is definitely coming from Apple from this team this year, and I get the sense the company thinks it’s going to be something special. If true, that means it will likely also not be what most people outside the company are expecting. Outsiders inevitably base expectations on the current state of the art. But the iPhone was not an iPod phone. Apple Watch was not a Fitbit with a higher price. If Apple is still Apple, this first headset should be much more than a slightly nicer version of VR headsets as we know them.

I’m inclined to agree with Gruber. The real pinch hitter for Apple is their marriage of hardware and software. That union is vital for immersion in VR.

Two days in a row now, Apple has made hardware announcements. New M2 chips, Macs, and now the revival of the HomePod. They seem to be clearing the deck. It won’t be long now until a spring event invite hits the press’ inbox.

Apple’s Outward Focus to VR

Knee-Jerk Reactions and Thoughts Regarding The Information’s Latest Report on Apple’s Upcoming Headset by John Gruber for Daring Fireball

Apple Will Talk Up Its Mixed-Reality Headset in 2023 But Not Much Else by Mark Gurman for Bloomberg

2023 is going to be a big "VR from companies that Max likes." PS VR2 is a whopping six weeks away and Apple is heavily rumored to make their VR/AR headset debut this year.

Last week, The Information had a report1 on the new product line from Apple and Gruber gave his aptly named knee-jerk response to said report. Since then, Mark Gurman also wrote some news about the impending headset. Procrastination wins again?

I recommend you read both articles for yourself, but I wanted to comb through this smattering of news and comment on it myself. Let’s hop to it.

[Gurman] Up until fairly recently, Apple had aimed to introduce the headset in January 2023 and ship it later this year. Now the company is aiming to unveil it this spring ahead of the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, I’m told.

Sounds like March-April is the event timing, looking back at previous spring events. I agree the headset has to be unveiled before WWDC this year. Announcing new hardware and a new OS at WWDC would rob the event of all other conversation.

[Gurman] Apple has already shared the device with a small number of high-profile software developers for testing, letting them get started on third-party apps. The device’s operating system, dubbed “Borealis” inside the company, will be publicly named xrOS

I like Borealis. I don’t care for xrOS. It feels odd in the lineup—macOS, iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, and xrOS. I had to look up what "XR" represented in the VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality, and MR (mixed reality) space. Apparently, it just encompasses all three of those.

[Gurman] With the current plan, Apple could introduce the device to consumers — likely under the name Reality Pro…

It seems strange to me for Apple to introduce a "Pro" named device before a non-pro version. I don’t think the company has ever done that before (they have!2). Now to pivot to Ma and Gruber.

[Ma] For example, the headset will use small motors to automatically adjust its lenses, ensuring that the wearer has the best possible viewing experience. A physical dial on the headset will allow users to quickly toggle between complete immersion in VR and the ability to see their surroundings.

[Gruber] A “digital crown” -like dial for switching between AR and VR jibes with what I’ve heard, too.

While this sounds elegant, the crown is going to have to be placed in an easy to access spot on the device, possibly even larger than the digital crown on the Apple Watch and AirPods Max. Tapping around looking for a dial with the headset on your face won’t be a good experience, especially if you are trying to transition between AR and VR. I find myself running my fingers along the side of my Quest 2 looking for the headphone jack or the power button.

If the dial allows for a blended, smooth transition, that’ll be neat. If it acts more like a switch, how is that any better than double-tapping the side of the Quest 2 for pass-through mode?3 The Quest 2’s (and PS VR2’s) black-and-white pass through isn’t exciting; it’s functional. With Apple tackling both realities, they need to have color.

[Ma] As of last year, the headset used an external battery pack tethered by cable as opposed to a battery integrated into the headband. The design choice has been controversial among Apple’s engineers given the company’s preference for cable-free designs.

[Gruber] …I’m in no way prejudging Apple’s headset — which I know very little about — but a battery pack tethered via a cable sounds to me like a deal-breaker. Either Ma is wrong, Apple is about to jump the shark, or this device is going to be so utterly compelling that a tethered battery is worth the hassle.

Cables are the most cumbersome element of engaging with VR. The Quest 2’s wireless nature is its most compelling feature. Being able to go in and out by just putting on and taking off the headset is the lowest barrier to entry and Apple should be striving for integrated power.

The trade off for a cable is raw power. PS VR1 required one cable that split into two from the headset into a processor pox that split the HDMI signal and had it’s own dedicated power. Now PS VR2 has one single cable. That is tremendously enticing, since the PlayStation consoles for both those headsets handled the actual game rendering power. Apple attaching a battery back, while would increase single run usage, isn’t bumping up the technical chops of the headset itself.

[Ma] Apple’s headset is also expected to be far more expensive than most of the company’s other devices, as well as other VR headsets: It has discussed pricing it around $3,000 or more depending on its configuration, according to four people with knowledge of the conversations.

[Gruber] It was widely reported in the run-up to the iPad’s debut that it would start at $1,000, but in fact started at just $500. But even if off by a factor of 2, $1,500 would be pricey. If it really does cost $3,000, I don’t think that’s a deal-breaker, but it’d be a sign that the platform is still years away from large-scale adoption.

$3,000 is a hard no for me at launch. $1,500 is a big ask (and my wife would probably say no). If these are the prices in play, Apple’s headsets won’t be adopted on a large scale by general consumers at the start, like Gruber says.

[Ma] The headset has inward-facing displays for each eye and a large outward-facing display on the front of the device. The external display can show the facial expressions of the person wearing the headset, along with other types of imagery, to people around the user, which is meant to reduce the isolation users might otherwise feel when wearing the device.

It’s an interesting idea to try and combat the odd feeling folks around the headset user may feel, but I fail to see how this helps the wearer. Eye-tracking is becoming a standard feature in VR headsets.4 So far, the feature has been targeted at user input and experience (navigating UI, foveated rendering, accurate facial representation in-game, etc.). I’m not sure if focusing efforts on the outward-facing experience should be a primary focus. Comfort for the non-user would come with more and more people using VR/AR devices.

[Ma] Third-party bluetooth wireless headphones won’t work well with the headset as this results in too much lag between what users see on the screen and what they hear. There also isn’t an audio jack on the device to plug in wired headphones.

[Gruber] Wait, is Ma writing for The Verge or for The Information?

I appreciate the joke, but a headphone jack is tremendously helpful for immersion. Audio lag can pull you right out of VR. Why be averted to a wired headset when there is reportedly a battery pack attached via cable? Since third-party wireless headphones are reportedly too janky, this only leaves AirPods. The noise-cancelling on the Pro and up line of AirPods will be great. This does add another $129-549 on top of the $3,000, which is chump change at that entry price.

To avoid just pasting a wall of text, Ma reports Apple sees videoconferencing and 3D models as the killer apps of the device, not a focus on games. Games are the focus of VR right now. I’ve heard videoconferences are dope in VR, far superior to a webcam and Zoom, but no one is going to pay $3,000 for a Teams meeting. You can barely get me to cooperate with a 2D Teams meeting, when Teams decides to even work.

This gives me major Apple Watch Series 0 vibes. It’ll unlock you hotel room. It’ll control your house. You can make calls. Apple didn’t have the laser focus on Fitness that the Watch has now. Sounds like a lot of throwing pasta at the wall and seeing if it sticks.

[Gruber] …the fundamental question remains: What’s the point? Think back to Steve Jobs’s presentation announcing the original iPad — the nut of the whole keynote was Jobs explaining where the iPad might fit between an iPhone and MacBook. If it didn’t serve some tasks not just a little but a lot better than either an iPhone or Mac, there was no point to the iPad. The same is true for this headset. And if it costs $3,000 and/or requires a tethered battery strapped around your waist, the “this better be an awesome experience” bar is raised even higher.

[Gurman] While Apple still has many kinks to work out with the device —involving hardware, software and services, as well as how it will be marketed and sold — the company is banking on the product as its hot new introduction for this year.

It feels like the headset is coming in hot, which is a strange feeling for a device that has reportedly been in the works for seven years. The iPhone came in hot, but the vision was clear. The iPad, like Gruber mentioned, was presented as a device that fit between and complimented the iPhone and Mac. The Watch started as an extension of the iPhone and evolved into a health-focused piece of hardware.

Where does the "Reality Pro" fit in the lineup of existing Apple products? What will compel a person choose to interact with Messages or Mail or FaceTime on the headset instead of any of the other major products? Why a reportedly strong focus on the outward experience instead of the user experience? It sounds like Apple isn’t quite sure either. I hope they figure it out here in the next few months.

1. The Information is a pay-walled site. If you do not have a subscription, MacRumors had a summary, which Gruber also linked too.

2. Turns out they did introduce the MacBook Pro line before the MacBook. The Pro was introduced in February 2006 and the regular MacBook was released in May 2006.

3. In defense of a physical dial, I have never gotten the double tap to work on my Quest 2.

4. I am eager to experience it first hand with PS VR2 next month.

Resident Evil Village on Mac Review – Digital Foundry

Resident Evil Village on Mac Review: MetalFX Upscaling Challenges DLSS! by Oliver Mackenzie for Digital Foundry on YouTube

The accomplishment of MetalFX upscaling on the M1 lineup here is impressive. I wonder what Apple will be able to offer developers when the inevitable Apple Silicon Mac Pro hits shelves. Capcom proves that the Mac can be a place to game now. I hope other developers take notice and time to port their games to Apple Silicon.

A dad took photos of his naked toddler for the doctor; Google flagged him as a criminal

A dad took photos of his naked toddler for the doctor. Google flagged him as a criminal” by Kashmir Hill for The New York Times (Apple News+ Link for The Seattle Times republication)

In December, Mark received an envelope in the mail from the San Francisco Police Department. It contained a letter informing him that he had been investigated as well as copies of the search warrants served on Google and his internet service provider. An investigator had asked for everything in Mark’s Google account: his internet searches, his location history, his messages and any document, photo and video he’d stored with the company.

Abby and I were already conscious of the consequences of sharing pictures of children. It’s something we’ve discussed with our own little girl on the way. An angle I never considered was a risk of being flagged for producing CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material).

I think back to Apple’s plan for assisting with finding CSAM on devices that they detailed and then delayed last year. John Gruber’s thoughts on this New York Times story do a good job explaining the two main methods companies use to flag CSAM—hashes against known material and AI to discover new material. Throw in to the mix server-side or on-device scanning, which was the crux of discussions surrounding Apple’s proposed method last year.

The on-device vs. on-server debate is legitimate and worth having. But I think it ought to be far less controversial than Google’s already-in-place system of trying to identify CSAM that isn’t in the NCMEC known database.

Now I am even more aware that the photos I take of my kid could harm them and myself. This is a difficult and delicate issue. I certainly will not by sharing photos via tele-medicine, if asked.

Mark did not remember this video and no longer had access to it, but he said it sounded like a private moment he would have been inspired to capture, not realizing it would ever be viewed or judged by anyone else.
“I can imagine it. We woke up one morning. It was a beautiful day with my wife and son, and I wanted to record the moment,” Mark said. “If only we slept with pajamas on, this all could have been avoided.”

A Touching Goodbye for iPod – Daring Fireball

Daring Fireball: A Touching Goodbye for iPod by John Gruber for Daring Fireball

Apple, today, announcing that the last remaining iPod model — the iPod Touch — is now discontinued and available only while supplies last…

The iPod was the first Apple product I owned. I suspect many folks share that experience. I remember using my friend’s first-generation iPod Nano to showcase why I should be allowed to get an iPod. I totally misunderstood what turning the playhead into a diamond meant. I figured it was a style choice rather than the UI design for scrubbing. 😬

Later I would get a blue second-generation iPod Nano that I rocked through high school, until I was given an iPod Classic for Christmas. I remember watching Avatar: The Last Airbender at driver’s ed and listening to a leaked rip of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in the stock room of Kmart. Lately, I’ve missed having a device solely dedicated to music/media.

One more bit from John, before his own memories:

I suspect most people reading this news will experience two thoughts, simultaneously:

That’s a shame, I loved the iPod.

Wait, they were still selling the iPod Touch?

John’s suspicion was spot on when I told my dad that the iPod line was discontinued. He had no idea one was even for sale.

iPhone 13 Pro Camera Review: Tanzania — Austin Mann

iPhone 13 Pro Camera Review: Tanzania by Austin Mann

We’ve spent the last week in southern Tanzania, exploring this vast natural habitat and capturing all its beauty with the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera. As I watched Apple’s keynote about this year’s iPhone release, I was most excited about the new macro capability, increased telephoto zoom, and Cinematic mode.

Boarding my flight, I reminded myself of the answers I’m looking for:

How will this new tech make our pictures and videos better?

I learned about Austin and his iPhone reviews two years ago with the iPhone 11 and its low-light photography capabilities. These reviews immediately entered the echelon of what I consider essential reading/viewing when new iPhones come out. I cannot believe these were shot on an iPhone. Simply incredible.

Delta 1.3 Thoughts & Impressions

I’ve been on a bit of a journey with my game collection over the past year or so. Kickstarted by my Super NT, I’ve been chasing after preserving and digitizing my physical game collection. From the Game Boy to the Wii, I’ve found solutions for backing tons of my games up. A natural side effect of all this has been finding new ways to play my games.

Personally, I have been and am a proponent of real hardware, followed by hardware emulation, and then software emulation. Through all this archiving, my monkey brain has come around on emulation on the whole. With my save data and my digitized copy of a game, I am wholeheartedly accepting of emulation now.

So on Connected 357: I Need My Hands, Especially in the Summer when Federico Vitcci talked about his journey to play the Metroid games before Dread, he landed on using Delta on iOS.

Delta is a game emulator from Riley Testut for iOS that can be installed on iPhones through Riley’s alternative app store, aptly titled AltStore.

I had installed AltStore before. I used it to run Dolphin on my iPhone, thanks to Snazzy Labs. I never kept up with it. Now that my collection is backed up, I thought it’d be fun to see what Delta offered. I reinstalled AltStore and Delta this past week and have been delighted by Riley’s work.

The very first element I noticed was how Delta feels. This has a beautiful design that employs plenty of native iOS features. Riley has implemented Peek & Pop, haptic feedback for the on-screen buttons, shortcuts, and more. I’m not sure how much, if any, of the code is Swift or SwiftUI, but Delta has that native iOS feel that is polished, and what I would consider essential.

The set-up was simple, but did have some hiccups along the way. Delta created a folder in my iCloud drive. It actually created six; Delta, then Delta 2-6. The data lives in “Delta 3,” but I’m worried the app will be confused if I delete the other five folders and just drop the “3” from the folder name. I migrated all of my game ROMs into the folder and then began importing.

Delta automatically categorized the ROMs by platform. It even found art for some of the games. Most however, did not have any art. Thankfully, this is easily remedied with a Force Touch (or long press) on the game and selecting “Change Artwork.” I picked “Game Database” and picked the art I preferred. I do wish Delta was better at finding the art to begin with, but I am super happy I can use whatever art I’d like for the games.

Importing save data is just as easy with a Force Touch and selecting “Import Save Data, then you navigate to the data in Files and import. You can also sync your ROMs and save data. I hooked up Dropbox and Delta began syncing the data right away. This easily allows me to manage the save between Delta, my MiSTer, and the physical cartridge.

Actually playing the games is simple. Just tap and go. A beautiful controller skin pops up with the game above, when the iPhone is in a vertical orientation. Flipping the device sideways displays a transparent layout over the game. For touch-based controls, they work quite well. Riley has implemented wonderful haptic feedback to help simulate a real button press. The buttons are spaced well and I don’t find myself making many accidental presses. The down sides revealed themselves when I needed to press more than 3 or 4 buttons at once. Like in Metroid: Zero Mission, if I want to run to the right, aim up or down on the diagonal and shoot missiles, that is a 4 button combo and my two thumbs can’t pull it off. The loss of proper shoulder buttons, etc. is heavy.

Thankfully, bluetooth controllers can be synced up! This really helps with NES through GBA games. I was even able to connect a real N64 controller to my phone and play with it! I did have some issues getting some buttons to work. I am not sure if this is Delta, the iOS 15 beta, or the 8bitDo SN30 Pro itself. For example, the “Start” button would not work with “pause” or “start” , which is kind of the standard. This resulted in up on the D-Pad being “start” for Super Mario 64.

Now for the real reason to install Delta — to play games! From the NES up through the GBA, the games look and run nicely. I’m not sure at what scale they are running at; there are no settings to adjust output. But on an iPhone Xs Max in my hands, I’m not sure that matters. The OLED screen is brighter and clearer than any official GameBoy screen. Pixels are sharp and the emulation appears to run accurately, at least to my eye.

I am excited to compare it to the Analogue Pocket later this year, since they are both handheld devices, and the Pocket’s resolution is close to my iPhone Xs Max with a superior pixel density. I also wish there were some filters that we could use – gridlines, CRTs, etc.

The best system to emulate in Delta has to be the Nintendo DS. With touch being an integral part of the DS, the iPhone makes for a perfect emulation device. The DS screens are close and look wonderful on an iPhone with the gorgeous layout designed by Riley. Touch just makes sense.

Now, the DS was designed with a stylus in mind, not pudgy fingers, and that can be felt in Delta. Elite Beat Agents is tougher with my index finger tapping along instead of the tiny stylus every DS came with. This could be mitigated with a capacitive stylus – or even the Apple Pencil when iPad support comes to Delta someday.

The DS emulation also runs into similar “too many buttons and too few fingers” problems. This is more situational though. Metroid Prime Hunters? That seems to be quite playable since touch was essentially take up one hand at all times. Phantom Hourglass? Very doable. Even the slower-paced Pokémon games are easy to control. Super Mario 64 DS on the other hand, is a bit more finicky. I haven’t figured out how to “close” the DS, which is essential in some games, like Phantom Hourglass. I’d assume there is a way, I just haven’t found it yet (Update: Found it! Simply sleep & wake the phone itself, very slick).

This is, by far, the easiest way to play DS games today, outside of real hardware. Even using homebrew on the 3DS to keep my collection accessible digitally is a far more involved process. The same goes for playing my games on the Wii U, where you have to use a PC to package the game up in a special format. I can’t see myself wanting to pick up and play a DS game any other way.

Delta is a wonderful app. I have been completely won over and it has earned a spot right on my home screen. I can’t think of higher praise when it comes to an iOS app; I’m pretty picky.If you’d like your collection in your pocket, there’s no better app.

WWDC 2021 Predictions

Nothing like a last minute prediction post. With the initial keynote kicking off in just three hours, I wanted to get five predictions out in the open before Tim Cook walks on stage/outside/etc. to either crush my dreams or send them soaring.

  1. Apple’s Home Strategy is clarified. homeOS announced.
  2. iOS and iPadOS gain clearer, more accessible user customization (a la the great widget boom of 2020).
  3. New Apple Hardware and Silicon are not announced.
  4. iPadOS lacks redesigned external display support.
  5. iMessage gets wild.

Some slight elaboration and thoughts on my predictions.

Apple’s home strategy is scrambled. The HomePod is dead; long live the HomePod Mini. The new Apple TV 4k and HomePod Mini have thread radios, which seem to be the future of home device connectivity. The Home app is messy, if not convoluted. Apple’s home plans need to be refocused and executed and I think that can start with software, before announcing any new or substantial hardware.

The widget customization boom last year took everyone by surprise, I think. I have non-tech friends that have stellarly designed Home Screens. I think Apple ought to and will lean into giving developers and customers better, clearer tools for leveraging that customization.

The M1 is truly exciting. Whatever is next, that can drum up its own fervor at a different event. If Apple announces new hardware, specifically a new chip, that will be the dominate topic coming out of WWDC, not the software. This is a developer’s conference. I say Apple lets the software shine and let the hardware talk later.

I simply think new and proper external display support will be a mid-iPadOS 15 upgrade, like cursor support was for iPadOS 14.

By wild I just mean better features and more customization. iMessage (in)famously helps lock people into the platform. Give people more incentive to keep their conversations there instead of WhatsApp, GroupMe, Facebook Messenger, etc. Tout security and privacy alongside colorful backgrounds, better group messaging, and personality.

No matter what happens in a few hours, WWDC is always a great kickoff to summer. With E3 next week, it is definitely the most wonderful time of the year.

Dolphin Emulator Ported Natively to Apple’s M1 Processor

Dolphin Emulator – Temptation of the Apple: Dolphin on macOS M1: by JMC47 and Maylmilae for the Dolphin Blog via John Gruber at Daring Fireball

The blog post is technical, but there is a short section with two charts that is insanely clear cut: Apple’s M1 processor is wicked fast, powerful, and efficient.

How does the M1 hardware perform when put up against some of the beasts of the GameCube and Wii library? We also included data from two computers featured in Progress Reports previously for comparison.

There’s no denying it; macOS M1 hardware kicks some serious ass. It absolutely obliterates a two and a half year old Intel MacBook Pro that was over three times its price all while keeping within ARM’s reach of a powerful desktop computer. We were so impressed, we decided to make a second graph to express it.

The efficiency is almost literally off the chart. Compared to an absolute monstrosity of a Desktop PC, it uses less than 1/10th of the energy while providing ~65% of the performance. And the poor Intel MacBook Pro just can’t compare.

Gruber quoted that final line as well. 

To put this is in perspective (and to wrap my head around it), the M1 they are testing is the M1 MacBook Air with the 7-core GPU. The lowest end of the M1 line, costing $999. And the M1 is the consumer-level processor as Apple makes this transition from Intel/x86 to Apple Silicon/ARM. This is only the beginning of macOS with the power of ARM.

The PC the MacBook Air was tested against had an Intel Core i9 9900K processor with the brand new, top of the line Bitcoin mining (and gaming) GPU from Nvidia, the RTX 3090. Those two alone cost $1875~. You’d still require a motherboard, power supply, case, RAM, cooling, monitor, and a hard drive. Casually clicking around PC Part Picker, trying to match certain specs where I could (to help the PC out!), the equivalent build would cost nearly $3000!

Again, the Dolphin team was able to get the performance above on a 13’’ laptop with no fan and 7-integrated GPU cores.

Holy smokes! I cannot wait to get my own Apple Silicon-based Mac and see Apple’s professionally aimed chipset in the coming year. Wow.