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#1620: OS updates, AssistiveTouch for iOS shortcut palette, Photos album sharing bug

Last week, Apple released minor updates for its current round of operating systems, along with security updates for macOS 10.15 Catalina and macOS 11 Big Sur. After nearly a decade, Josh Centers revisits the AssistiveTouch feature of iOS and iPadOS to show how—beyond its accessibility uses—you can employ it as a handy palette of custom shortcuts. Finally, Josh points out a bug in Photos that could cause you to share an album with people other than those who you intend. Notable Mac app releases this week include Audio Hijack 4.0.4, macOS Big Sur 11.6.8 and Security Update 2022-005 Catalina, Safari 15.6, Ulysses 27.2, DEVONthink 3.8.5, iFinance 5.0.4, and 1Password 8.8.

Josh Centers 12 comments

iOS 15.6, iPadOS 15.6, macOS 12.5 Monterey, watchOS 8.7, tvOS 15.6, and HomePod Software 15.6

Even though much of Apple’s development work is devoted to polishing the betas of its next-generation operating systems, the company found time to release minor updates for its current operating systems: iOS 15.6, iPadOS 15.6, macOS 12.5 Monterey, watchOS 8.7, tvOS 15.6, and HomePod Software 15.6.

Happily, Apple doesn’t call out any of the security fixes as being actively exploited in the wild, so we recommend waiting a week or so to install these updates to see if they have any side effects. Unless, of course, you’re watching live sports in the TV app.

iOS 15.6 and iPadOS 15.6

In iOS 15.6, the TV app offers more control over live sports broadcasts like pause, rewind, fast-forward, and restart. It also offers a few specific fixes for:

  • Safari tabs reverting to the previous page
  • A Settings bug that would erroneously show a device’s storage as full
  • Braille devices slowing down or not responding when navigating text in Mail

iPadOS 15.6 includes an additional fix for a bug that could prevent the sixth-generation iPad mini from detecting chargers and other USB-C accessories.

Release notes for iPadOS 15.6

iOS 15.6 and iPadOS 15.6 include 37 security fixes.

macOS 12.5 Monterey

Like iOS 15.6, macOS 12.5 Monterey adds additional control options to live sports in the TV app and a fix for the Safari tab issue. It includes 50 security fixes.

macOS 12.5 Monterey release notes

watchOS 8.7, tvOS 15.6, HomePod Software 15.6

The remaining updates are even more minimal unless you’re a Chinese or Japanese-speaking HomePod user:

  • watchOS 8.7 has unspecified improvements and 26 security fixes.
  • tvOS 15.6 has vague update notes and 27 security fixes.
  • HomePod Software 15.6 adds Siri voice recognition support for Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese. There are no security notes.
Josh Centers 5 comments

Photos Bug Could Share Albums with the Wrong People

Photos for the Mac has a strange bug that could cause you to share an album with people other than those who you intend. Let me show you how to replicate the bug so you can avoid it.

Open Photos and find Shared Albums in the sidebar. Hover the pointer over Shared Albums, and click the + button that appears to open the popover to create a new shared album.

Sharing album in photos

Enter a name for the shared album. Then, click in the Invite People field and start typing a contact’s name. As you type, Photos automatically suggests entries from your contacts. So far, so good.

Photo sharing suggestions

But let’s say you inadvertently hit the wrong key and press Delete to fix it—perhaps typing andy when your contact goes by andrew. As long as there are any autocomplete suggestions showing, instead of deleting the last character you typed, as you’d expect, Photos adds the top suggestion to the invite list! Which is exactly the opposite of what you wanted to do.

Andy Affleck added to a shared album

In essence, Photos is interpreting the Delete key as the Return key, which is very, very wrong. If you failed to pay attention, you could end up sharing your album with all sorts of unintended people.

But it gets worse. Let’s say you know about the bug and need to remove an inadvertently added contact before creating the album. Imagine that, instead of pressing Delete to delete the last character you typed, you decide you want to start over entirely. If you do that by double-clicking the name you’re typing and pressing Delete, Photos will freeze hard. You’ll have to Control-click the Photos icon in the Dock and choose Force Quit to recover.

The only way you can back out of entering a contact once you’ve started is to press Escape to dismiss the suggestions, then select the text that’s showing, which you can do with a double-click or a drag. Once the text is selected, pressing Delete removes it properly.

Selecting contact text in Photos

If you’ve ended up with the wrong contacts at the bottom of the Invite People field, removing them is also fussy. Clicking a contact to select it and pressing Delete does nothing, nor does positioning the insertion point next to a contact and pressing Delete or Forward Delete. The only way to delete a contact from the Invite People field is to click the little downward-pointing arrow next to the contact’s name and choose Remove Subscriber.

Remove Subscriber

Apple has reportedly known about this bug for at least two years. Adam tested all this with me and was able to replicate my results. Plus, Julio Ojeda-Zapata also told us that the bug still exists in the version of Photos in the macOS 13 Ventura public beta. Here’s hoping Apple fixes it before the final release of Ventura later this year.

Josh Centers 13 comments

Use AssistiveTouch for Customizable Shortcuts on the iPhone and iPad

I’ve long been a fan of the AssistiveTouch feature in iOS (and I have receipts to prove it: see “Work Around a Broken iPhone Button with AssistiveTouch,” 24 July 2013). AssistiveTouch creates a virtual button that opens a menu giving those with limited dexterity one-touch access to common functions that may otherwise be difficult to use, like Control Center and the App Switcher, both of which require finicky gestures.

But AssistiveTouch has come a long way since I wrote about it nearly a decade ago, offering many more features and customization options. Most intriguing, AssistiveTouch can now trigger shortcuts, letting you turn it into an always-accessible menu of whatever quick actions you can create in Shortcuts. In that respect, it’s much like the Back Tap accessibility feature Adam wrote about a couple of years ago, but with a visual interface instead of the sometimes funky double or triple tap requirement (see “iOS 14’s Back Tap Feature Provides Interaction Shortcuts,” 24 September 2020).

AssistiveTouch Basics

You can find AssistiveTouch settings in Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch. Turn on AssistiveTouch there, and a circular button appears on your screen, floating above everything else. You can drag the button around as needed to keep it out of your way. In a nice touch, if you have the AssistiveTouch button anywhere on the bottom of your screen where it would get in the way of typing, it shifts to the left of the dictation key when you open the onscreen keyboard.

The AssistiveTouch button

Tap the AssistiveTouch button, and a menu appears.

AssistiveTouch menu

The Notification Center, Control Center, Home, and Siri buttons are self-explanatory, but Device and Custom require additional explanation:

  • Device: Tapping this button provides access to a grab bag of system settings, like screen locking and rotation, muting, and volume control. Tapping the More button offers additional functions like the App Switcher, taking screenshots, Emergency SOS, restarting, Reachability, additional gestures, Apple Pay, and shaking the device. (Shaking the device lets you undo an action, though you can turn that off in Settings > Accessibility > Touch if it annoys you.)
    AssistiveTouch device menus
  • Custom: The Custom button provides an interface that lets you simulate finger gestures like pinch and rotate, double tap, and long press. Tap a gesture, and a dark dot appears on your screen. Drag it to a place on the screen, and iOS will simulate the gesture at that spot. For instance, if you select Long Press and drop the dot over an app icon, its contextual menu appears. You can create custom gestures in Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch > Create New Gesture.

Note that the AssistiveTouch button also appears on the Lock screen, although some commands may require you to unlock the device before they execute.

Make the AssistiveTouch Button Disappear, Mostly

The primary drawback of AssistiveTouch is that it slaps a big button on your screen, and wherever you put it, it’s certain to get in the way at some point. Fortunately, you can now make it far less distracting.

Go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch > Idle Opacity, where you can adjust the Idle Opacity slider all the way down to 15% to make the AssistiveTouch button nearly invisible when you’re not using it.

AssistiveTouch opacity

Customize the AssistiveTouch Menu

Useful though the contents of the AssistiveTouch menu are, they may not fit your needs. You can change what’s presented in the menu by default. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch > Customize Top Level Menu. Tap any of the icons to see a long list of actions you can use instead of the default action.

Options available in AssistiveTouch

For instance, if you don’t need help triggering Siri but have trouble double-pressing the side button to bring up Apple Pay, you could tap Siri, choose Apple Pay from the list, and tap Done. Note that all your shortcuts are listed at the bottom, so you can assign a shortcut to any slot on the menu.

By default, the AssistiveTouch menu shows six icons. You can tap the + and – buttons to add and remove icons, for a total of anywhere from one to eight. Be careful here—if you remove an icon and then add it back, its functionality will be cleared, and you’ll have to reprogram it manually.

Customizing the AssistiveTouch menu
The AssistiveTouch menu defaults to six icons (left). You can tap the minus (–) to remove icons (center), but if you add an icon back with plus (+), it will come in blank and must be reassigned.

Don’t worry if you mess up. Tap the Reset button below the icon customization interface to restore all the AssistiveTouch defaults. Beware that this button resets both the menu and all AssistiveTouch settings other than any custom gestures you’ve created.

Customize the AssistiveTouch Button

I realize I’ve rather buried the lede here, but now that you know what the AssistiveTouch button does and how you can customize its menu, the real excitement comes when you discover that you can attach custom actions to a single tap, double tap, or long press of the button instead of just using the AssistiveTouch menu.

Open Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch. Under Custom Actions, there are three settings: Single-Tap, Double-Tap, and Long Press. Tap one and choose an action to change it. The options are the same as when you’re customizing menu options, which means that you can do anything that it provides or that you can create in Shortcuts.

There are tons of interesting possibilities here. I’m experimenting with using a single tap of the AssistiveTouch button to open the Camera app, a double tap to set a HomeKit scene, and a long press to open the AssistiveTouch menu. That way, a single tap lets me quickly open the Camera without fumbling with Control Center, making it easier to capture snapshots of my kids being cute. I can double-tap the button to turn my lights off. And I can still access the plethora of commands available in the AssistiveTouch menu by pressing and holding the button.

So there you have it—a subtle, always-available button to which you can attach three or more actions. What do you plan to do with it?

Watchlist

Audio Hijack 4.0.4 No comments

Audio Hijack 4.0.4

Rogue Amoeba has issued Audio Hijack 4.0.4, updating the audio-recording workflow app’s Audio Capture Engine (ACE) to version 11.8.3 with improved audio capture reliability. ACE includes a workaround for issues with FaceTime volume, improves handling of poorly implemented Audio Units, and reduces CPU usage in many common audio flows. The Audio Hijack update also substantially improves the performance of the Recordings list found in each session, adds visual enhancements for better legibility throughout the app, updates the Recording Inspector to show in-progress recordings better, and makes multiple fixes and improvements to ensure that block popovers behave optimally. ($64 new with a 20% discount for TidBITS members, free update, 32.1 MB, release notes, macOS 10.14.4+)

macOS Big Sur 11.6.8 and Security Update 2022-005 Catalina 1 comment

macOS Big Sur 11.6.8 and Security Update 2022-005 Catalina

Apple has released macOS Big Sur 11.6.8 and Security Update 2022-005 for macOS 10.15 Catalina. The updates patch 29 security vulnerabilities in both Big Sur and Catalina, covering such usual suspects as ImageIO, the kernel, Intel Graphics Driver, and Spotlight. You can download these updates using Software Update on Macs running Big Sur or Catalina. It’s worth waiting a week or so before installing to make sure these updates don’t introduce any bugs; if you notice any problems after updating, please let us know in the comments. (Free, various sizes, macOS 11 and 10.15)

Safari 15.6 No comments

Safari 15.6

Apple has released Safari 15.6 for macOS 11 Big Sur and 10.15 Catalina with patches for Safari Extension, WebKit, and WebRTC vulnerabilities. You can download Safari 15.6 only via Software Update. (Free, various sizes, release notes, macOS 10.15+)

Ulysses 27.2 No comments

Ulysses 27.2

Ulysses has issued version 27.2 of its eponymous writing app, a maintenance update with bug fixes and improvements for the macOS edition. The release adds the Command-Delete keyboard shortcut to delete table rows and columns, improves table cell layout when using multi-stage input such as Pinyin, fixes handling of links and images inside tables when using Markdown files, makes minor improvements to PDF/DOCX table export, resolves a crash when searching sheet contents, and fixes a bug when stepping through search results. ($5.99/$49.99 monthly/yearly subscription from the Mac App Store, in Setapp, free update, 33.3 MB, release notes, macOS 10.15+)

DEVONthink 3.8.5 No comments

DEVONthink 3.8.5

DEVONtechnologies has released DEVONthink 3.8.5 with improvements and fixes for the document and information manager. The update enables you to create links more easily in Markdown documents with a Link To contextual menu command, adds a new command to help verify if item links in a document are valid, improves right-to-left writing direction support when exporting as a website or Markdown, enhances the appearance of rich text documents in Dark mode, updates the Mail plug-in for the macOS 13 Ventura public beta, brings improved and revised multi-threading of Dropbox support, fixes an issue with automatic Wiki linking in Markdown documents related to some MathJAX equations, and ensures that the Info inspector updates after changing exclusions via AppleScript. ($99 new for DEVONthink, $199 for DEVONthink Pro, and $499 for DEVONthink Server with a 15% discount for TidBITS members; free update; release notes; 136 MB; macOS 10.14+)

iFinance 5.0.4 No comments

iFinance 5.0.4

Synium Software has released version 5 of its iFinance financial management app, a major upgrade that brings a completely redesigned user interface and improved iCloud sync. iFinance 5.0 connects to banks in the US and Canada via Plaid and to banks in France, Spain, and Austria via FinTecSystesm (both require a paid subscription); adds a new setup assistant; improves the display of categories and associated transactions; enhances the management of stocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies and other investments; and is optimized for the new M1 and M2 Macs.

Synium subsequently released a few quick maintenance updates to fix various bugs, bringing it to version 5.0.4. Normally priced at $39.99, iFinance 5 is discounted by 50% to $19.99 at the Mac App Store for a limited time—and the purchase gives you access to the iOS and iPadOS versions. ($39.99 new from the Mac App Store, free update, 40.7 MB, release notes, 10.15+)

1Password 8.8 No comments

1Password 8.8

AgileBits has issued 1Password 8.8 with improved importing of passwords from CSV and 1Password Unencrypted Export (1PUX) files. The password manager also adds connectivity with the Arc Web browser, makes selecting a vault more accessible via the keyboard, increases the font size for one-time passwords to match the size of other text fields, resolves an issue that could cause the app to crash when trying to sync after changing your account password, and fixes a bug that caused the keyboard shortcuts to copy item fields to your clipboard would copy the field values from the previously viewed item. ($35.88 annual subscription from AgileBitsTidBITS members setting up new accounts receive 6 months free, free update, 2.9 MB installer download, release notes, macOS 10.15+)

ExtraBITS

84 comments

Facebook Change Ensures Tracking by Preventing URL Stripping

Many sites add parameters to marketing campaigns for tracking purposes. Along with the UTM parameters that you’ve likely seen at some point, notable examples include the Facebook Click Identifier (fbclid), Google Click Identifier (gclid), and Microsoft Click Identifier (msclkid). Whenever we put links in TidBITS, we remove all unnecessary parameters to prevent our readers from being further sucked into the social media sausage machine. More important, Brave has automatically stripped tracking parameters from URLs since 2020, and Mozilla just added URL stripping to Firefox 102.

So much for that. According to Martin Brinkmann at ghacks.net, Facebook has changed its URL scheme to prevent Brave, Firefox, and others from stripping URL parameters. Instead of using parameters that can be identified and removed, Facebook now combines the page address with the tracking parameters in an encrypted blob. Remove that blob from a Facebook URL and anyone who clicks will end up on Facebook, but not at the desired page.

Considering this move in the light of yet another insightful condemnation of social media, we encourage everyone to focus on real people in the real world and avoid social media like the corrosive pestilence that it is.

6 comments

Ars Technica Tracks Mac Update Lifespans

Long ago, we published “Apple’s Planned Obsolescence Schedule” (2 November 2011), an attempt to determine the number of years different versions of macOS and iOS maintained backward compatibility. Over at Ars Technica, Andrew Cunningham has now taken a swing at the topic from a different direction, trying to determine how many years Macs receive macOS updates and if that’s changing over time. He shows that the number of years that Macs received updates fell from 1999 through 2004, increased until about 2012, and then dropped again through the end of the data in 2016. The first dip matches the transition from PowerPC to Intel chips, and it seems likely that the recent downturn is related to the move to Apple silicon. The question is if the chart will start to trend back up once Intel chips have joined 68000 and PowerPC processors in the depths of Mac history. Interestingly, the average Mac receives 7 years of macOS updates from the date it’s introduced, plus another 2 years of security updates.