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How Apple’s security system broke some Mac apps

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Feb 28 2017 update

Apple has responded quickly to address this issue. Their Developer ID page, which I believe is brand new, specifically addresses provisioning profiles and their relationship to the Developer ID certificate. Here’s what they say (emphasis added):

For apps that utilize advanced capabilities with a Developer ID provisioning profile
Gatekeeper will evaluate the validity of your Developer ID certificate when your application is installed and will evaluate the validity of your Developer ID provisioning profile at every app launch. As long as your Developer ID certificate was valid when you compiled your app, then users can download and run your app, even after the expiration date of the certificate. However, if your Developer ID provisioning profile expires, the app will no longer launch.

That section addresses the crashes seen in PDFpenPro and 1Password: It is now documented that an expired provisioning profile will prevent your app from launching. That’s not necessarily good news…but the good news is that this will, going forward, be a much rarer event:

To simplify the management of your Developer ID apps and to ensure an uninterrupted experience for your users, Developer ID provisioning profiles generated after February 22, 2017 are valid for 18 years from the creation date, regardless of the expiration date of your Developer ID certificate.

So any app that uses a provisioning profile created after February 22nd of this year will not crash due to an expired provisioning profile—even if the developer does nothing and lets their Developer ID certificate expire—until February 22, 2035. That’s effectively forever in the world of a macOS app (it’s longer than macOS/OS X itself has existed, in fact.)

Thanks, Apple, for the quick response! We’re leaving the original article posted as a non-techie overview of the Developer ID system; keep reading if that’s of interest to you.

Recently, some well-known Mac apps, including 1Password, PDFpenPro, and Soulver, had a big problem: They all failed to launch. Nothing had changed with these apps (i.e. no updates had been released), and yet they simply stopped working.

So what happened? All three of these apps (and probably some others we haven’t heard from yet) contained an expired code signing certificate. That expired certificate prevented the apps from launching, though no developer would have expected that, based on Apple’s own documentation. And an expired code signing certificate can’t just be renewed to extend its expiration date (like you would a driver’s license); it needs to be replaced with a new non-expired certificate, which requires distributing an update to the app.

Follow me now, if you wish, for a somewhat deep dive into the world of code signing, as I attempt to explain—from a consumer’s perspective yet with a developer’s hat on—what is code signing, why these apps broke, why the breakage wasn’t expected, and other related questions and answers.

Update: AgileBits has a very detailed blog post that covers this issue in even more depth—well worth the reading time.


App Store reviews: Of one-way streets and sidewalks

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Yesterday, I had an interesting (to me, that is) discussion about App Store reviews with Smile Software‘s Jean MacDonald (@macgenie) and Unmarked Software‘s Mark Munz (@mmunz) on Twitter (I’m @petermaurer, of course). It started with me trying to reach a user who had left an App Store review, including a suggestion that prompted me to believe he’d be interested in testing a beta build I had just completed.

So I took to Twitter, mentioned the name he had given in the review, and asked him to contact us. No result, as usual. From there, the following conversation unfolded…


A short year, indeed

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

On this day in history, one short year ago, Many Tricks re-opened for business with Rob firmly in control of public relations and the business side of things. Rob already looked back at his first year as an indie software guy recently, and since he usually does things very thoroughly, there’s not a lot I can add to that. That’s a good thing, too, since I’ve been having slight difficulties with typing recently. So I have two excuses to keep this short, but I still want to make a couple of remarks.

Work has never been more fun, and it’s never been more economically sound than during this past year. Although Rob’s and my discussions about both important decisions as well as negligible matters of taste can be exhausting, there hasn’t been a single instance when I wasn’t convinced that the energy spent there would ultimately yield a better result. It’s downright comical how different we are in almost every aspect of daily computer usage, but this helps us keep an open mind and come up with solutions that work not just for us, but for lots of users as well.

Speaking of users, what more could we hope for than customers who consider our support life-affirming? If anyone benefits more from Rob’s work than I do, it’s you, the customers. And you seem to be very aware of it, judging from the amount of positive feedback I see in the occasional support ticket I read.

So in case any fellow indie developers read this, here’s my advice: If you haven’t done so already, find yourself a Rob. (No, you can’t have mine.) Even though you won’t be able to act quite as spontaneously as you did before, you’ll find that you’ll actually feel more independent. Your customers will be happier. You’ll be able to move faster when confronted with somewhat unexpected events like this year’s pre-Lion Mac App Store opening. You’ll be more efficient, because you can concentrate on things you’re good at. And just in case you like money, you’ll make more of that, too.

Anyway, it’s been a great year. Rob already said so in the anniversary blog post I linked to above, but it bears repeating: Thank you everyone! And thank you Rob, for making a career choice that must have seemed incredibly risky to a family man. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve never felt better about being an indie developer than I do these days, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Happy Anniversary to me!

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

One year ago today, I started working at Many Tricks. It’s astounding to think a year’s gone by already, as it seems like it was just a few weeks ago that Peter and I were working on getting the web and support sites up and running. But the reality is quite different, and time has been flying due to everything we’ve done in the last year:

  • Relaunched the main site.
  • Added a new support site.
  • Released one entirely new product (Time Sink).
  • Released major updates to four products (Desktop Curtain, Leech, Usher, Witch).
  • Released 47 minor updates across all our apps.
  • Rewrote help in all apps (except Butler, which will happen with Butler 5).
  • Created video walkthroughs for many of our apps, with more in the works.
  • Posted 70 items to our blog.
  • Managed to get six programs in the Mac App Store, with a seventh (a totally new app) pending.
  • Sent 5,057 emails

So much for the numbers…what this post is really about is what the last year has been like for me, personally.


A Butler named Alfred

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Preface: The following is not strictly company or product news. So if you’re the kind of visitor who feels his time is wasted whenever we show up in your RSS reader without providing cold, hard info, please feel free to skip this rather lengthy blog entry.

There’s a new kid in town, as the Eagles once put it so aptly. A new Mac {hot key/web search/iTunes control/what have you} utility that attempts to make a Mac user’s life easier and more productive. The name is Alfred, and from what I see on its product page, it seems to be a well-designed application.

And in a lot of ways, it’s, shall we say, a tribute to Butler—even more so than You Control, for instance, ever was. Now, I’m not complaining about that. On the contrary, I feel honored, and I can see why a Butler-related theme is a somewhat obvious choice for that kind of application. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the lack of significant Butler updates over the last few years were part of the motivation that brought the aforementioned new kid to fruition, much like a temporary lack of updates for Riccardo Ettore’s otherwise excellent TypeIt4Me was one of the key reasons for me to create Textpander (which, of course, is known as Smile Software’s TextExpander these days).

So despite what people might think, I have no issue whatsoever with their decision to create an application that shares a lot of its functionality with Butler, and outfit that with a name and an icon that remind me of Butler as well. If anything, I consider this new competitor a wake-up call. Yes, it’s high time for Butler to evolve. And trust me, we love the honorable sportsmanship that’s customary in the Mac software world.

But there’s one thing that got to me, and that’s the one thing they couldn’t possibly have been aware of.

The name.


Behind the scenes at Many Tricks, Part 2

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Welcome back to the second part of our behind-the-scenes look at the tools of Many Tricks’ trade. In the first part, we discussed how we create our applications and manage our online activities. In this part, we’ll discuss how we keep the business running and some general Mac applications we use every day.

Behind the scenes at Many Tricks, Part 1

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

By most any measure, Many Tricks is not a big company—there are only two of us, and we’ve only got a handful of products. Complicating this relatively-simple small business, though, is the fact that we are separated by 5,327 miles (according to Google Earth), and nine clock hours.

Given our small size and geographic separation, we need to work efficiently individually, and doubly so during those few hours each day when our schedules overlap (typically from about 5:00am to 12:00pm, west coast USA time). So what tools do we use to keep in touch, to manage our web site, and to run the business? Keep reading for a behind-the-scenes look at the apps that keep Many Tricks humming.

As this post turned out much longer than either of us expected, we’ve broken it into two parts. This first part covers the tools we use to create our apps and handle our online activities; the second part will discuss running the business side of the company and general Mac tools that aren’t directly related to any of the prior categories.