The personal blog of Stuart Breckenridge

Google Assistant Meets Siri  

This is the best opening paragraph on Macrumors:

Google has updated its Assistant app for iOS to support Siri Shortcuts, enabling users to invoke Google’s virtual assistant using Apple’s virtual assistant, without even having to launch the app.


SG Transit v2.0.0  

At the end of August, I started rewriting SG Transit with the following goals:

  • Better Performance
  • Siri Integration
  • Apple Watch Support

As I progressed, the following goals were added:

  • Rich Notifications
  • New UI
  • Additional LTA Data Mall API Functionality

All of this is now available in v2.0.0, which was released today.

Better Performance

SG Transit now uses Core Data instead of parsing large amounts of JSON each time the app is launched. This has improved performance of nearby bus stops, bus arrivals, and bus routes.

Siri Integration

SG Transit integrates deeply with Siri. You can add any bus stop to Siri, using your own voice command, ask Siri for the latest arrivals at that stop, and the results will be presented by Siri without opening the app.

Similarly, if you regularly check a bus stop at a particular time of day, Siri will learn about this behaviour and surface this as a suggestion to you via the lock screen.

Apple Watch Support

SG Transit Mini — SG Transit’s little brother — supports bus arrivals either using nearby stops or favourite stops. More features will come in future releases.

Rich Notifications

MRT & LRT service alerts and traffic alerts are delivered to the app as rich notifications. Simply pull down on the notification to see details like traffic incident locations.

Traffic notifications are configured by type (e.g. Heavy Traffic) and time (e.g. Afternoon 12:00 - 17:59).

New UI

The look-and-feel of the app (and icon) is completely new. It’s minimalist. but at the same time shows more information. For example, in v1 you could only see the the wheelchair, load, and bus type of the next bus, but in v2 you can see this information for the next three arrivals.

The tab bar has also seen some small changes with the introduction of haptics, animations, and, well, the removal of text.

Finally, you may have noticed from the screenshots above that the app has a brand new typeface: Hermes Maia.

Additional LTA Data Mall API Functionality

v2 introduces a brand new traffic tab. This includes traffic incidents, traffic cameras, and car park availability.

Bonus - Ad Removal

Ads have been removed from SG Transit. Instead, I intend to support development through in-app purchases. The first of these is cosmetic: the Alternative Icon Pack.


Chrome 69 Removes Trivial Subdomains  

The recently released Chrome 69 inexplicably hides “trivial” subdomains, e.g. “www”. It’s such an ill conceived change that it will likely confuse end users. For example, https://citibank.com.sg and https://www.citibank.com.sg are not the same website, though in the address bar they look the same.

What’s worse is that it’s badly implemented.

Comment 5:

Why is www hidden twice if the domain is “www.www.2ld.tld”?

Comment 8:

“subdomain.www.domain.com” displays as “subdomain.domain.com”.

Stupidity in the extreme.


Five Eyes Attorneys General on Encryption  

The Attorneys General of the Five Eyes1 have a released a statement entitled Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption. The outstanding sentence:

The Governments of the Five Eyes encourage information and communications technology service providers to voluntarily establish lawful access solutions to their products and services that they create or operate in our countries. Governments should not favor a particular technology; instead, providers may create customized solutions, tailored to their individual system architectures that are capable of meeting lawful access requirements.

In other words, the Governments of the Five Eyes are encouraging big technology companies to create backdoors of their choosing to weaken the encryption in their products in order to establish a lawful access solution.

This will not work. Bad actors, which the statement fails to mention, will work overtime to exploit such a solution. That, in turn, will put all sorts of data — from financial to communications — at risk.

  1. Which is beginning to sound more like a magician’s guild. ↩︎


Group FaceTime Pulled from Initial Release of iOS 12  

Juli Clover, for Macrumors:

Apple today removed Group FaceTime from the latest iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas, which were released this morning, and has instead decided to release the feature at a later date.

One of the key features of iOS 12 and macOS Mojave, Group FaceTime is designed to allow up to 32 people to chat together at one time via FaceTime audio or FaceTime video.

[…]

In release notes for both macOS Mojave and iOS 12, Apple says the feature has been removed from the initial releases of macOS Mojave and iOS 12 and “will ship in a future software update later this fall.”

It’s disappointing that Group FaceTime will miss the 12.0 cut, but if the feature isn’t ready then it should, quite rightly, be held back. That said, looking back at the iOS 11 announcement at WWDC 2017, Apple Pay Cash, Messages in iCloud, and AirPlay 2 were also pulled from the retail release and shipped later. Perhaps it’s time we treat WWDC announcements as feature sets that will be made available throughout the lifecycle of a major iOS release, rather than with the initial retail release of the software.



SG Transit v1.1.4  

A small patch has been released for SG Transit. It contains minor fixes and accessibility enhancements.

Fixes:

  • Resolved an issue when sorting by Service Number or Arrival Time

New Accessibility Features:

  • Accessibility hints added to bus stop arrivals
  • Dynamic type now supported throughout the app

Performance Updates:

  • Drawing bus routes is a little bit faster

Other changes:

  • The distance a bus is from a bus stop is now localised instead of always being denoted in metres.


Banks Continue to Assist Victims as Fraudulent iTunes Transactions Continue to Appear

Nurul Aziliah Aripin, for Channel News Asia:

Banks in Singapore said they have responded with measures to assist victims after a series of fraudulent Apple iTunes transactions affected dozens of account holders.

The victims reported that hundreds to thousands of dollars were wiped from their debit accounts and charged to their credit cards from banks including Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), DBS and HSBC.

Even though the focus of the fraudulent transactions appears to be iTunes, at least one person has reported that they didn’t even have a credit card linked to their iTunes account:

“The shocking thing is, I don’t even have any credit or debit card details saved on my own iTunes account,” said Mr Lim. “Apple/iTunes was not even aware of the fraudulent transactions (in my account) until I informed them.”

It’s a worrying breach of credit card security for multiple banks in Singapore, at the same time.


European Commission Fines Google €4.34bn

The European Commission’s ruling on Google’s antitrust behaviour with regards to Android (via The Guardian):

Google has prevented device manufacturers from using any alternative version of Android that was not approved by Google (Android forks).

In order to be able to pre-install on their devices Google’s proprietary apps, including the Play Store and Google Search, manufacturers had to commit not to develop or sell even a single device running on an Android fork.

The Commission found that this conduct was abusive as of 2011, which is the date Google became dominant in the market for app stores for the Android mobile operating system.

The fine, €4.34bn, is sizeable1. What interests me the most, however, is the impact this will have on the Android ecosystem. If bigger handset manufacturers create multiple forks of Android it’ll fragment the ecosystem even more than it is now. That wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing for consumers.

  1. It’s the largest fine ever imposed! ↩︎


Apple to Discontinue Photo Printing Service

Benjamin Mayo, for 9to5Mac:

Apple is discontinuing its Photo Print Products service, which has been integrated into iPhoto since its launch in 2002. The service expanded from simple prints, to albums, photo books, and calendars. It stayed around on the Mac when iPhoto was replaced with the Photos app a couple of years ago, but the service never made the leap to iOS.

Later this year, Apple will stop offering the service altogether. A new message in macOS 10.13.6 Photos app says that final orders for Apple’s built-in service must be placed by September 30, 2018.

This is hugely disappointing. For years I’ve been using the printing service for photo books and birthday cards, complete with custom typography, and they’ve always turned out really well. I’ve not tried any of the other third-party services that are recommended, but it seems I’ll have no choice but to give them a go.