iMessage Reverse-Engineered for Android Users →

The folks behind Beeper — in partnership with a high-school student — have reverse-engineered Apple’s iMessage system and have shipped it in an Android app. Here’s a bit from the Beeper blog:

Now you can send and receive blue bubble texts from your phone number. As soon as you install Beeper Mini, your Android phone number will be blue instead of green when your iPhone friends text you. It’s easy to join iPhone-only group chats, since people can add your phone number instead of your email address. All chat features like typing status, read receipts, full resolution images/video, emoji reactions, voice messages, editing, un-sending, and more are supported.

Unlike every other attempt to build an Android app like this (including our first generation Beeper app), Beeper Mini does not use a Mac relay server in a data center. Instead, the app connects directly to Apple servers to send and receive end-to-end encrypted messages. Encryption keys never leave your device. No Apple ID is required. Beeper does not have access to your Apple account. Learn more about how Beeper Mini works.

Jacob Kastrenakes at The Verge has more:

Other services — including Beeper’s previous iMessage implementation — would relay messages through a Mac hosted in the cloud. That poses real security problems, as recently exemplified by Sunbird and its Nothing-branded spinoff, Nothing Chats. Nothing’s app was launched and pulled in just four days after serious security issues were discovered; Sunbird pulled its app shortly thereafter.

Beeper Mini avoids some of those problems because it’s operating in a fundamentally different way. Its developers figured out how to register a phone number with iMessage, send messages directly to Apple’s servers, and have messages sent back to your phone natively inside the app. It was a tricky process that involved deconstructing Apple’s messaging pipeline from start to finish. Beeper’s team had to figure out where to send the messages, what the messages needed to look like, and how to pull them back down from the cloud. The hardest part, Migicovsky said, was cracking what is essentially Apple’s padlock on the whole system: a check to see whether the connected device is a genuine Apple product.

Quinn Nelson has a video up about the app and the open-source project that is powering most of it. He shows it running on a laptop running Linux, which is wild:

Reverse engineering is protected in the United States, but Apple may still make moves to shut this down. One could argue that this project isn’t worth the company risking the bad PR that would come with squashing Beeper Mini, but time will tell. The fact that Beeper charges $1.99/mo for the app may end being a liability in the long run.

Sponsor: TextExpander →

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It’s that easy!

Check out TextExpander and say goodbye to repetitive typing.

The Future of Castro →

After the very bad week the Castro app had, there’s a new blog post up sharing more details:

First and foremost, we sincerely apologize for the app downtime and any distress it has caused. Initially, we had believed it was a quick backend fix, but unfortunately, the issues turned out to be more complex than anticipated, requiring extensive work.

During this time, there were rumors circulating about Castro’s future. We want to make it clear that any communication or publication regarding the app’s future is not official and does not represent Castro’s views.

While it is true that we have experienced departures within our company, we want to assure you that we are actively working with a lean dedicated team to address these challenges. We apologize for any unnecessary panic that may have arisen from these conversations.

We believe in transparency with our community and want to share with you that we are actively seeking a new home for Castro with new owners. Our goal is to continue providing you with the app you love, but with even better features and improvements.

Castro on the Outstro?

Jason Snell:

Castro has been a popular iOS podcast app for many years, but right now things look grim.

The cloud database that backs the service is broken and needs to be replaced. As a result, the app has broken. (You can’t even export subscriptions out of it, because even that function apparently relies on the cloud database.) “The team is in the progress of setting up a database replacement, which might take some time. We aim to have this completed ASAP,” said an Xtweet from @CastroPodcasts.

What’s worse, according to former Castro team member Mohit Mamoria, “Castro is being shut down over the next two months.”

John Gruber:

I always appreciated Castro — it’s a well-designed, well-made app that embraced iOS design idioms. But as a user it just never quite fit my mental model for how a podcast client should work, in the way that Overcast does. I wanted to like Castro more than I actually liked it.

As a podcast listener, I’ve always been in the same boat, and like Gruber, I have nothing but respect for the people who have worked on Castro over the years. I respect opinionated indie apps, even if they aren’t for me.

As a podcast network owner, I’ve had a front-row seat to Castro’s entire history. It’s never accounted for a large number of downloads when it comes to shows on Relay, but I know users who love Castro really love it, despite the lack of an iPad app and other oddities.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen the number of support requests I’ve fielded for Castro users climb, and as some on Reddit have experienced, the wait time for hearing back from Castro staff has gotten longer and longer.

It looks like the app is slowly coming back to life now, but it took days for Castro to publicly acknowledge the issue, and of this writing, the team hasn’t updated their X thread in two days.

I honestly don’t know if the rumors of Castro’s demise are true, but an outage like this — coupled with poor communication — certainly doesn’t give me much hope for its longterm future. That really stinks.

Update: Castro now says everything is back online.

On Flashing 90s Mac ROMs →

Doug Brown:

After I wrote about the possibility of programmable Mac ROM SIMMs in Quadras a couple of months ago, I suspected that there had been a way for developers at Apple in the 68k Mac era to reflash the ROM in their Macs during development, just like BIOS updates on PCs. The reason I believed this is because the ROM SIMM socket in the Quadras brought out pins for 12V (VPP) and write enable (/WE). I had verified that the write enable pin was going into the memory controller chip in several Mac models, so I was pretty confident that in-system programming was possible.

As luck would have it, multiple people pointed out to me that an Apple internal utility used for ROM flashing had been uploaded to the Macintosh Garden. It was recovered from a prototype PowerBook 520 purchased in 2020. Of course, I had to download this utility and figure out how it works.

Apple Looks Back at 2023 Across Podcasts, Books & Music

It’s been a busy morning for Apple’s content teams.

Up first, we have the top shows from Apple Podcasts. All I want is to see Ungeniused will crack these lists one day!1

Over in Apple Books, there’s a new Year in Review feature that I think is really pretty neat:

Today, Apple Books unveiled the top books and audiobooks of 2023 and launched Year in Review, a new in-app experience that helps readers to celebrate the titles, authors, and genres that defined their year. With Year in Review, users can view personalized reading highlights about the books and audiobooks they enjoyed in 2023, including their total time spent reading, the longest book or audiobook they read, the series they completed, their most-read author and genre, and their highest-rated book — all presented in a simple and engaging experience with visuals that are easy to share.

Year in Review can also show you how many minutes you spent reading in the app, and how many books you made it through, all in a shareable graphic to flex on your Instagram followers. I dig it.

Lastly, as noted by Hartley Charlton at MacRumors, Apple Music Replay 2023 is now live as well. Unlike Podcasts and Books, the Music app doesn’t have this feature built-in, and this experience lives on the web at Here’s Charlton with more:

Users can watch a custom Highlight Reel at the top of the Replay webpage before diving into more detailed information and expanded listening insights. The highlight reel presents a series of social media-style animated cards that show musical highlights from the past year based on your listening history. Relevant music plays in the background for each card. The highlight reel is viewable on desktop browsers, but it appears to be primarily designed for mobile devices.

After the highlight reel, users can scroll down to see featured sections with more informative breakdowns of their top albums and playlists from the past year. Users can add their Apple Music Replay 2023 playlist to the Music app at the bottom of the page.

  1. This story is one of Apple’s new “QUICK READ” posts on Apple Newsroom. They do have a URL, but you have to click the little paperclip icon on the pop-up to grab it, assuming your content blocker didn’t hide it. The link the webpage puts on your clipboard is a short URL made for sharing on social media. At least it expands into a more usable (and more stable?) URL in the browser.

    I really wish everything on Apple’s press site acted like a normal webpage.