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A feed by Jason Snell and Dan Moren
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-22 19:56, modified at 19:57
This year Samsung plans to release a smartphone with a foldable OLED display. Is this technology that Apple would use in future iPhones, and if so, how? We also discuss Apple’s new videos that highlight the iPad Pro, and Jason tries to explain NBC Universal’s interesting new streaming service announcement.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-22 14:32
Target, Taco Bell, Hy-Vee supermarkets in the Midwest, Speedway convenience stores and Jack in the Box are the latest merchants to support Apple Pay, the most popular mobile contactless payment system in the world that lets customers easily and securely pay in stores using their iPhone and Apple Watch. With the addition of these national retailers, 74 of the top 100 merchants in the US and 65 percent of all retail locations across the country will support Apple Pay.
Target has been one of the big Apple Pay holdouts, since it was first part of the CurrentC/MCX consortium, and then seemed to want to push customers towards using its own proprietary system, which never really took off.
It’s also one of increasingly few big stores in my area that doesn’t take Apple Pay, so it’s nice to see it get onboard with contactless payments. The future’s almost here!
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-20 15:41, modified at 15:43
It looks like the display industry’s equivalent of the personal jet pack or flying car might actually be arriving from the future into the present. The flexible OLED display, long demoed but never sold, is coming to TVs (from LG) and smartphones (from Samsung, among others). In a smartphone market that has consistently gone ape for larger and larger displays, phones that double in size once they’ve left your pocket could be a game-changer.
(Or not. Until these phones exist, we won’t know if consumers are clamoring for a phone that can be expanded to be a miniature tablet—but it’s not a bad bet.)
Samsung has been the center of attention in the foldable smartphone discussion, but there’s another major player, one rarely discussed when it comes to this topic: Apple. Would Apple consider releasing an iPhone with a foldable display? And if so, under what conditions?
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-18 13:31
Apple’s not a company that’s ever been afraid to kill off its products. At the height of the iPod mini’s popularity, Steve Jobs famously axed it in order to introduce the iPod nano. The underperforming iPod Hi-Fi got the hook, and in recent years we’ve said goodbye to both the AirPort line and most of the iPods.
But when a product lies fallow for many years, sitting without an update, it hangs in that liminal space between life and death, leading many to wonder whether it still has a future. Is it ready to shuffle off this mortal coil or could it be rescued from the edge of the abyss? The Mac mini, MacBook Air, and even the Mac Pro have seen this kind of revival in recent months, and just in the last week, two Apple products thought to have run out of time have been the subjects of rumored returns, hinting that perhaps death isn’t what it used to be for the company.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-18 00:07, modified at 00:10
I think there is literally nobody more qualified on this planet to write about Nike’s new Bluetooth-connected self-lacing basketball shoes than Matthew Panzarino, who is a shoe fiend and the editor of TechCrunch. Panzer’s got the details:
Why does the world need a self-lacing shoe? Haven’t you heard of Velcro? How will you tie your shoes when the Wi-Fi is down?
That’s the gist of the instant response I got when I mentioned the new Adapt BB, a shoe from Nike with, yes, powered laces that tighten to a wearer’s foot automatically. The shoe is an evolution of the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, which is itself a commercialization of the Air Mag — a self-lacing vanity project that realized the self-lacing shoes mocked up for Back to the Future II.
The reality is that this shoe solves a problem for pro basketball players today, but it also suggests a future where your shoes tighten automatically, when you put your feet in them, monitor your movement and send data back to your smartphone or other device, and automatically adjust fit based on how you’re moving and even if your feet are swelling.
This article’s a deep dive that does a great job at explaining what this shoe is for today and what it means for the future of footwear. I expected nothing less of Matthew Panzarino.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-17 18:33
Troy Hunt, who maintains the Have I Been Pwned? database, has a blog post on the latest data breach, dubbed “Collection #1”, which contains 773 million records. That makes it the largest breach after Yahoo’s two billion-level incidents.
Let’s start with the raw numbers because that’s the headline, then I’ll drill down into where it’s from and what it’s composed of. Collection #1 is a set of email addresses and passwords totalling 2,692,818,238 rows. It’s made up of many different individual data breaches from literally thousands of different sources.
So, that’s a lot of passwords. It’s worth checking HIBP to see if your email or password has been compromised. (Users of 1Password’s most recent version can use the Watchtower feature, which is now integrated directly with HIBP.) But chances are at least some of your older accounts are in there, so it’s a great time to 1) update your old passwords; 2) start using a password manager if you’re not already; and 3) enable two-step/two-factor authentication wherever it’s available.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-17 15:30
This week, on the irreverent tech show sometimes called “Two and a Half Co-Hosts,” we run through a veritable laundry list of topics, including the huge number of iPhone battery replacements, Apple’s United business, streaming service news from NBC and Netflix, and Roku’s brief flirtation with InfoWars. Then Lex leaves and Dan and John can get down to the real business of discussing the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-17 13:20
Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken to the pages of Time magazine to argue for comprehensive digital privacy legislation:
Meaningful, comprehensive federal privacy legislation should not only aim to put consumers in control of their data, it should also shine a light on actors trafficking in your data behind the scenes. Some state laws are looking to accomplish just that, but right now there is no federal standard protecting Americans from these practices. That’s why we believe the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse, requiring all data brokers to register, enabling consumers to track the transactions that have bundled and sold their data from place to place, and giving users the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all.
Cook and Apple have, of course, made privacy one of their major selling points over the last several years, especially as data breaches and privacy intrusions have become regular occurrences. So there’s obviously a vested interest for the company to push such legislation: it’ll hurt its competitors much more than it will hurt Apple itself.
But, be that as it may, it also has the benefit of being the right thing to do. The other month I came home from vacation to find a note that my application for a credit card had been rejected—a credit card I had, of course, never applied for. 1 But what’s worse than that is that there is nothing remotely shocking about that news to anybody reading this site: we’ve all either been the victim of people trying to steal (or successfully stealing) our identity or know someone who’s been a victim, and it’s largely due to these kinds of personal data breaches.
I’d argue, to take a step further, that simply protecting our information isn’t enough. Put simply, the federal identity system needs to be overhauled. Relying on a nine-digit “secret” number—or worse, knowledge of easily obtainable information like your birth date or mother’s maiden name—to establish your identity is a dangerously outmoded concept that might have been fine in the early 20th century, but it’s far from sufficient these days. A more secure cryptographic-based system is a must in this day and age.
They failed because I put freezes on all my credit accounts after the Equifax leak of 2017. ↩
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-16 18:09
This week, on the 30-minute tech podcast that talks the tech and walks the…walk, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Shelly Brisbin and Ish ShaBazz to discuss Apple products we’d like to see revived, our favorite underdog technologies, the future tech we’re still waiting for, and Apple’s upcoming AirPower and iPhone battery cases.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-16 17:30, modified at 17:32
Much has been written—a lot of it by me, admittedly—about how Apple’s commitment to let iOS developers bring their apps to macOS in 2019 has the potential to dramatically change the Mac. But adding iOS apps to the Mac might not be where Apple stops. What if the company uses macOS 10.15 (or, dare I suggest, macOS 13?) to further unify the interfaces of its platforms?
For all the discussion about whether iOS apps running on an app can possibly live up to the platform’s interface standards, it’s entirely possible that this year, Apple will choose to redefine what it is to be Mac-like in a way that turns iOS and macOS into a continuum of interface decisions that are all, for lack of a better phrase, “Apple-like.” Longtime Mac users might chafe, but iOS users might welcome it. As someone who is both, I am not sure where I fall, but it’s worth considering just what Apple might do to make the Mac more closely resemble iOS.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-16 14:20
Short piece from Daniel Oberhaus at Motherboard about a former church in Barcelona, Spain that is now home to a supercomputer:
From the outside, Torre Girona Chapel at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona looks like any one of the thousands of old churches that can be found throughout Spain, with a large cross mounted on the roof and a rose window perched above the entrance. Step through the chapel doors, however, and you won’t find any religious iconography or a congregation in prayer.
Instead, you’ll find the 25th most powerful supercomputer in the world: the MareNostrum 4.
Totally seems like the kind of thing that would show up in a William Gibson or Neal Stephenson book.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-15 21:33, modified at 21:36
Apple has brought back the bulge. The company is now selling battery cases for the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max models. These cases support Qi charging and it’s the first time Apple has made a battery case for larger phones. As Juli Clover at MacRumors reports:
Available in black or white, each Smart Battery Case is priced at $129 and is designed to add extra battery life to the iPhone. The cases are similar in design to the past battery case option Apple offered for the iPhone 7, with a bump at the back to house a battery pack.
If you desperately need more battery life out of your iPhone, these may be the cases to get. The previous models, released for the iPhone 6 and 7, were generally considered a cut above other battery cases because of secret software sauce added by Apple.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-15 14:24
IT consultant (and Six Colors member) Tom Bridge shares this story about how his Apple Watch’s ECG feature helped his doctors diagnose a condition:
As soon as the tele-doc came on screen, the nurse rotated my phone and put it up to the camera to show the doctor the rapid rhythm from half an hour earlier.
“Oh, that’s an SVT,” he said immediately.
I didn’t see what it had to do with Ford’s Special Vehicle Team, but he clarified that he meant Supraventricular Tachycardia. They wanted to make sure labs were taken, and that nothing abnormal in my blood work showed a more troubling cause. But the diagnosis was there in an instant, thanks to my wrist watch.
There’s been some hemming and hawing about the health features of the Series 4 Apple Watch, with some concerned that it leads to people seeking costly medical attention when they don’t need it, but this also isn’t the first story I’ve heard about someone whose Apple Watch actually helped them capture important data.
Having the ability to deploy this kind of technology to people everywhere is a hugely powerful tool, and there’s a reason that Apple is pushing health as one of their big growth areas.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-14 23:47, modified at 23:50
The details in the ongoing Apple-Qualcomm spat continue to amaze. This, via Shara Tibken of CNET:
Apple wanted to use Qualcomm’s 4G LTE processors in its newest iPhones, but the chipmaker wouldn’t sell to it, Apple’s operating chief testified Monday… [Jeff Williams] said he contacted Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf to get him to sell chips to Apple. When Qualcomm refused, Apple had to call Intel’s CEO at the time, Brian Krzanich, to ask him to supply all modems needed for the iPhone instead of only half the volume.
Think about it. As fierce competitors with outstanding patent lawsuits against one another, Apple and Samsung continued to work together as partners on other fronts. This Apple-Qualcomm situation seems several levels more poisonous. And Apple will get to 5G later than other major phone-makers as a result. 1
5G roll-outs are going to be slow, so in the end it probably won’t be a huge functional loss for iPhone buyers, but it’s a major marketing loss for Apple at a time when scrutiny of iPhone sales will be at an all-time high. ↩
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-14 20:01, modified at 20:02
This week we officially open 2019 iPhone Rumors season, as the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple may be adding more cameras to the back of this year’s high-end iPhone. Will this restore bragging rights to the members of the Max Club? Also, it was a smart-devices Christmas at the Snell house, as Jason took delivery of a smart lock and a Roomba.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-13 21:44, modified on 2019-01-14 01:56
Back in 2016 I, er, noted that people sure use screenshots from the Notes app a lot when posting long items on Twitter. That observation let me weirdly fulfill a lifelong dream by getting me quoted in Sports Illustrated.
Anyway, Twitter’s got 280 characters now and it doesn’t really matter—Notes is still king, as Lindsey Weber notes in the New York Times:
Notes, a free app that is preloaded onto Apple devices for the purpose of storing personal memories and to-do lists. In recent years… it has become the medium of choice for celebrity mass communication.
I love that people work around text limitations by finding stock apps and using the built-in screen shot feature to avoid Twitter’s intentional limitations. Users will find ways around limitations. They’re very clever! 1
When the iPhone was first released it didn’t have a screen-shot feature. Who needs that feature other than tech journalists, right? Turns out it’s everyone. For unexpected reasons.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-11 18:08
This week, on the 30-minute tech show that always knows what year it is, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Quinn Rose and Aleen Simms to discuss the smart home gadgets we want, what platforms could replace YouTube, Apple’s opportunity in Services, and AirPlay 2 and iTunes on third-party TVs.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-10 18:05
This week on the irreverent tech show that occasionally takes a week off, the team is reassembled once again for the first episode of 2019. And there’s been a surprising amount of Apple news so far, from an iPhone sales shortfall to deals with smart TV manufacturers. Not that that’s going to stop us from talking about the big news: the year of Linux on the iPad.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-09 23:14, modified on 2019-01-10 02:18
The moment we were headed down the freeway toward the Golden Gate Bridge and began to wonder if we’d remembered to lock our front door, I resolved to buy a Smart Lock. I’d been skeptical about replacing our front-door deadbolt with an Internet-connected gadget since I’d first heard of the Smart Lock category a few years ago, but in that moment I saw the perfect use case. By the time we got home, I’d ordered one.
My front door has a deadbolt and a separate door latch—one that doesn’t lock, which means every time we’ve come and gone since we got the door six years ago, we’ve had to manually lock the deadbolt. (Our previous door had a deadbolt and a knob that you could set to lock when closed. That backstop saved us from a lot of second-guessing.)
The lock I bought is the $300 Yale Assure SL YRD256, which works with HomeKit and other smart-home tech via the bundled Connected by August module and gateway. (It’s also the current Wirecutter pick.) It was an easy swap-out replacement for my existing deadbolt. I did the replacement in less than half an hour, using nothing more than a screwdriver.
Gone was the old traditional key lock above my door latch on the outside; instead, there’s now a black glass keypad. On the inside of the door, there’s now a small box attached to the door with a manual deadbolt control (i.e., you turn it and the lock slides open or closed) at the bottom. It’s bigger than what was there before, but isn’t overwhelming.
Out of the box, the lock works using Bluetooth LE. To attach it to a local network for HomeKit and Alexa integration, you need to add an extra piece—the August Connect adapter, which plugs into an electrical outlet and needs to be positioned within Bluetooth range of the lock as well as in range of your home Wi-Fi network. I spent an extra 30 minutes trying to find the ideal place for the adapter, as my closest outlet to the door didn’t seem to be picking up its Bluetooth signal. In the end I rebooted the lock (rebooting my front door lock is apparently something I can do now) and everything started working fine.
On its own, you can unlock your door by entering a number on the touchscreen, whether you have a phone or not. I was able to configure the lock via the August app on my iPhone, generating a guest code to give to my mother when she visited us.
But entering in a multi-digit code to get in your front door is hardly the 21st-century convenience I’m looking for. So the Yale lock cleverly takes advantage of Bluetooth LE to automatically unlock the door when I return home. In order to avoid unlocking my front door every time I walk past it, the auto-unlock system uses your iPhone’s location services to pay attention to when you leave the immediate area around your house. Once you leave the vicinity and then return, the lock looks for the presence of your iPhone via Bluetooth, and the moment it sees it, it unlocks the door.
In theory this is a magical process that makes your front door unlock for you as you walk up to it. That happens to me probably a majority of the time, but other times I’ll stand at the door for a couple of seconds before it opens. It’s still better than getting out my keys and unlocking the door—especially if you drive a car with a keyless ignition, because you won’t have your keys in your hands.
One quirk I’ve noticed is that when my wife and I both return home together, we’ll often enter the house and lock the door behind us, only to have the door unlock a moment later. It seems like the lock recognizes one of us first, unlocks the door, and a few moments later (after we’ve come inside) detects the second person’s phone and thinks they’re separately returning home. The software really should be smarter than that.
Then again, even if the door unlocks a second time, it’s not that big a deal. The lock will automatically lock itself after a configurable delay that I’ve set to two minutes. (This solves the issue of not remembering if you locked the door before leaving the house. You can also put a few fingers on the glass pad when you’re leaving and the door will lock itself immediately.)
What’s more, the August app can show you, from anywhere in the world, the current status of your door—whether it’s open or closed (via a small sensor you screw into the doorframe near the lock) and whether it’s locked or unlocked. (There’s also an activity log, so you can see every time someone comes in or out of your house—and who it is, if they’ve used a personalized keycode or device. One morning I expressed to my daughter how impressed I was by the fact that she got home at precisely her curfew time—as revealed by a peek at the front-door activity log.)
Because this is a HomeKit device, I can lock or unlock the door manually via the Home app or Home button in Control Center, or even via Siri. (I’ve disabled the ability to unlock the door via Alexa or my HomePod because theoretically that would allow someone to stand outside and shout “Hey Assistant, unlock the front door!”, which is not a good idea.) I haven’t yet tied locking or unlocking events to other HomeKit functions, but the option is there—if you want to set a light to turn on or off when the door is locked or unlocked, for example.
Beyond no longer worrying about if our door is locked or unlocked, the biggest change in my family’s life since the new lock was installed is the removal of our front door keys from our keychains. I used to bring a key with me when I went for a run or took the dog for a walk, but it’s not necessary anymore. If we’ve got our iPhones, the lock will sense our presence and open, and if we don’t, we can still punch in our keycodes and enter that way.
The lock is powered by AA batteries which apparently take a very long time to run down, and if you end up locked out of a house with a dead battery, there’s a little spot at the bottom you can use to jump-start the whole thing with a nine-volt battery. (We have a back and side door that we can use in emergencies, which feels like a better fallback than stashing a nine-volt battery in your Hide-A-Key.)
Is a Smart Lock necessary? Certainly not. But after resisting the entire category for a long time, one moment of clarity pushed me over the edge from a Smart Lock skeptic into a Smart Lock owner. I have to admit I still chuckle every time I walk up to my front door and hear it unlocking itself before I get there. But the peace of mind in knowing that our front door is locked—whether we remembered to lock it or not—made it worth it for my family in the end.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-09 20:37
Apple doesn’t officially participate in the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but this year it’s all over the show. That’s because Apple has been cutting deals with major TV manufacturers to embed support for AirPlay 2 (and in at least one case, the iTunes movie and TV stores) in their 4K HDR televisions, and CES is when TV manufacturers make big announcements.
I’ve heard from some people who are baffled about why Apple would make it so that people aren’t forced to buy an Apple TV in order to get access to Apple’s video content. Those people are, quite frankly, thinking about an Apple that no longer exists, namely one that’s committed to making money on high-margin hardware sales.
For the last three years, ever since Apple turned the spotlight on its Services revenue line in January 2016, Apple has been gearing up to offset slowing iPhone growth with a new category that can bring the kind of revenue growth that pleases Wall Street. Services is Apple’s fastest growing revenue category, on a constant upward trajectory that is unmatched by any other part of its business.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-08 00:13, modified at 00:17
When people ask me what features of BBEdit I use, I can mention Markdown tools and syntax support, which I use for writing stories like this one. But the other thing I use BBEdit for is a bit more esoteric and hard to describe—something I call “text munging”, for lack of a better word.
Text munging takes many forms, but generally it happens when you’ve got a bunch of text in one format and you need to get it into a different format. I’ve used BBEdit to transform the source pages of websites, to format a mailing list properly, and more. Today I used it to generate a podcast feed out of a chunk of HTML. And while I realize that’s not a task most people will do, perhaps this article can serve as a little bit of inspiration for some future moment when you find yourself in desperate need of a fast way out of an intractable text situation.
First, a little bit of backstory: One of my favorite podcasts in the ’00s was TV Talk Machine, a podcast hosted by Tim Goodman, then the TV critic at my local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle. The show, co-hosted by culture writer Joe Garofoli, very rapidly became more like a comedy podcast, with endless funny voices and “characters”, wacky listener letters, and a complete lack of professionalism that brings to mind my current favorite podcast, The Flop House.
The original TVTM ran from 2007 through 2010, and then Tim left the Chronicle and that was the end of it. I brought the guys back together for a few reunion shows recorded in the Macworld podcave, but the run was over. Later, in 2014, Tim and I brought back the TV Talk Machine as a more serious podcast about television, though we kept the same cheesy Apple stock theme song, “Broadcast News Short.” We’ve done 200 episodes now.
As a part of the 200th episode festivities, I thought I’d take all the archival episodes of the TVTM, which I downloaded from the Chronicle website years ago and posted (with links) on a page on The Incomparable, and bundle them up in an RSS feed so that any fans of the old show could take a nostalgia trip and listen to them in their podcast player of choice.
So that’s my starting point—an HTML fragment containing the episode number, name, download URL, post date, and run time of the classic episodes of TV Talk Machine. What I need to generate is a valid podcast RSS feed. To do this, I used BBEdit a lot and Microsoft Excel a little. Text munging. It’s a thing.
The first step was to take that HTML fragment and turn it into something more regular. The original consisted of a couple of hundred paragraphs that looked like this:
<p>1: <strong><a href="https://www.theincomparable.com/podcast/tvtmclassic-20070221.mp3">Chronicle TV critic's new podcast</a></strong><br/><em>(02/21/2007, 32:43)</em></p>
I used BBEdit’s Find feature, with Grep pattern-matching turned on, to turn this into tab-delimited text:
Grep is a funny language, but basically I’m searching for the individual patterns in each paragraph and, using parentheses, grabbing the pieces I value—
(.*?) is grep for “match everything until you reach the end”.
On my first attempt, I tried to use the Replace field to transform each item immediately into an RSS entry, for use in my hand-built feed. But I discovered a serious problem with that approach—namely that dates in RSS feeds must be in the RFC822 format, so while all my podcast entries have dates like
02/21/2007, in the feed they need to be formatted as
Wed, 21 Feb 2007 00:00:00 GMT.
I could use a few search-and-replace tricks to convert the first format into something resembling the second, but… how do I look up the day for 200 arbitrary dates? (Let’s leave aside how ridiculous it is that the RSS feed spec wants you to specify the day, not just the date, for every entry.)
This is going to take a second tool—Microsoft Excel, which lets you format dates in all sorts of arbitrary ways. I need to get my data into a format Excel understands, so I’m just going to convert this HTML into tab-delimited text, ready to be imported into Excel. Hence the very simple replace statement below it, which is just repeating the five items I’ve captured in parentheses, separated by tabs.
The result of this search-and-replace job is a file that has nearly 200 lines that look like this:
1 https://www.theincomparable.com/podcast/tvtmclassic-20070221.mp3 Chronicle TV critic's new podcast 02/21/2007 32:43
Now we’re getting somewhere. Next up, I import this text file into Excel—being sure to mark the date column as dates and the run times as text (because otherwise it’ll try to transform it into AM/PM times).
I use Excel and BBEdit together a lot. BBEdit is great for massaging text, but sometimes I need to perform actions on a single segment of a document. Excel lets me copy a whole column out, paste it into BBEdit, make changes, and then paste it back in to Excel—and save it back to a tab-delimited text file.
In this case, though, I actually need Excel’s date-formatting abilities. I select the column with all my MM/DD/YY dates, open Excel’s Format Cells dialog, and paste in the Custom date format
ddd, dd mmm yyyy hh:mm:ss—in other words, that pesky RFC822 date format.
And wouldn’t you know? Excel immediately converts all of my dates into the proper format, including the proper days of the week. Then I save the whole thing and re-open it back in BBEdit. It’s time to convert this tab-delimited text into RSS entries, but first I need to use the Reverse Lines text filter to edit the document so that the most recent entry is at the top and the oldest is at the bottom—because that’s generally how RSS feeds work.
Then it’s finally time for another mega search-and-replace, based on a sample RSS feed item I copied from an existing podcast:
This one’s grabbing those tab-delimited segments and then rewriting them into an
item block, the standard format for a single podcast episode in an RSS feed.
The result looks more or less like this:
Suffice it to say, this is a feed item that—when pasted into a podcast feed template—allowed me to serve up a long-dead podcast. I had to do a little clean-up—most notably staggering the posting times manually for episodes released on the same day, so that they’d appear in proper numerical order.
What I’m saying is, you never know when you’ll need to do a bunch of ridiculous search-and-replace jobs, complete with a round-trip to Excel (or another similar spreadsheet) for some custom date formatting. But once a month or so I find myself ping-ponging between BBEdit and Excel until I’ve taken a twisted pile of text and turned it into something that is organized exactly the way I need it to be.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-07 20:52
The new year starts with a bang, as Apple misses its iPhone sales forecast and announces surprising partnerships with Samsung and other TV makers in advance of the launch of its new video service. We discuss these earth-shattering issues in detail, not to mention Jason’s world-exclusive trial of a new iPad Pro keyboard.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-07 18:13, modified at 18:15
Here’s a great piece by Ben Thompson about how Apple missed its mark on iPhone sales:
Secondly, thanks in part to the lack of information, this miss is catnip for confirmation bias: everyone has their pet theory about what Apple is doing wrong or how they will ultimately fail, and it has been striking the degree to which this revenue warning has been breezily adapted to show that said critics were right all along (never mind that many of those critics trotted out the exact same explanations in 2013 and 2016).
The whole thing is great. The smell of confirmation bias is strong, but there are lots of underlying reasons why Apple should’ve predicted this better.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-07 15:09, modified at 18:13
Samsung’s not the only new Apple partner on the block; following hot on the heels of that announcement, TV makers Vizio and LG have announced that their TVs will soon support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, including streaming in 4K and HDR.
Unlike the Samsung announcement, however, there’s no mention of an iTunes app here. Not to say one might not appear eventually, but at the present, the distribution of that may be more gradual.
This continues to be a smart way for Apple to broaden the reach of its services. I think it’s realized that while plenty of people watch content on their iPads or iPhones, there’s still a large market of people who prefer to watch video on those big screen TVs they bought, and most of those people are not buying Apple TVs—especially when more and more already have their HDTV’s built-in apps. Rolling out AirPlay 2 is an easier option to get any content from your iOS device onto a big screen TV. And with Apple’s streaming service likely to be announced later this year, the company’s laying the groundwork for the easiest way to get its shows into your living room.
Updated on 1/7/19 at 1:13pm Eastern.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-06 18:33, modified at 18:36
The question about whether Apple would allow its video services (and presumably its new video streaming service) on other people’s devices has been answered. Samsung announced Sunday that it’s going to support iTunes and AirPlay 2:
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. announced today it will offer iTunes Movies and TV Shows and Apple AirPlay 2 support on 2019 Samsung Smart TV models beginning this spring. Support on 2018 Samsung Smart TVs will be made available via firmware update. In an industry first, a new iTunes Movies and TV Shows app will debut only on Samsung Smart TVs in more than 100 countries. AirPlay 2 support will be available on Samsung Smart TVs in 190 countries worldwide…
“We look forward to bringing the iTunes and AirPlay 2 experience to even more customers around the world through Samsung Smart TVs, so iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favorite content on the biggest screen in their home,” said Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services at Apple.
I would expect to see Apple made deals with other TV vendors eventually (I don’t know if Samsung’s got some sort of exclusivity period or if they just got to be the first vendor to announce support), and it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple’s stuff ends up on standalone streaming boxes this year too, so that Apple can reach the largest possible audience with its services.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-05 23:38
Zoë Smith’s husband switched to the Mac, which gave her the unique opportunity to witness someone discovering the platform for the first time:
I’ve been a Mac user since the IIsi. I know those features above inside-out… But to see it through a new Mac user’s eyes is to see a vast enormity of mistakes not made. It is to perceive a clarity of intention through design, maintained over decades of updates.
A bunch of great details in this one.
[Via Marina Epelman]
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-04 23:29, modified at 23:37
I was going to note GarageBand’s 15th birthday with a brief piece, but Stephen Hackett beat me to it:
At Macworld 2004 — 15 years ago this weekend — Steve Jobs introduced GarageBand. I’ve watched this keynote section before, but in reviewing it this week, I was struck by how underrated it is. I think it’s in the top handful of Jobs performances on stage.
I agree, it’s a keynote worth revisiting if you’re into that sort of thing. I was in the front row for this one, and one of my very favorite Keynote moments of all time is when John Mayer plays the opening guitar part from “Message in a Bottle” by the Police. I laughed, but I’m not sure anyone around me got the reference.
(Using John Mayer to demo GarageBand was a really smart decision. He’s a skilled musician and Apple fan who seemed absolutely delighted to be on stage taking direction from Steve Jobs.)
Two years after GarageBand was released, Apple embraced the new medium of podcasting with a bunch of new podcast-related features, which have since been abandoned. But for years (and perhaps still to this day) GarageBand became the go-to app for people starting out making podcasts. I edited my podcasts on GarageBand for many years, and just because GarageBand doesn’t explicitly support podcasts anymore doesn’t mean you can’t use it—I even wrote an article about how to make it work better.
As Stephen points out, GarageBand has changed dramatically over the years. Today it’s basically a light version of Logic—a few minor feature enhancements would make it an even better tool for podcast editing—and also runs on iOS.
Perhaps most impressively, GarageBand comes free with every Mac, so any kid out there who dreams of being a musician (or podcast editor) has instant access to a solid, free multitrack audio editor and a bunch of loops and sound effects.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-04 20:40, modified at 20:43
You may not have realized it, but for the first time in decades works began entering the public domain annually on January 1. Over at Motherboard, Caroline Haskins sorts through where you can find them:
Basically, 2019 marks the first time a huge quantity of books published in 1923—including works by Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, and Robert Frost—have become legally downloadable since digital books became a thing. It’s a big deal—the Internet Archive had a party in San Francisco to celebrate. Next year, works from 1924 will enter the public domain, and so-on.
So, how do you actually download these books?
The short version: Online catalogs have many of the books available now, and more will be arriving in short order. The newly free works include ones by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, Robert Frost, Kahlil Gibran, Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence, Carl Sandburg, Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, Virginia Woolf, and E.E. Cummings.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-04 20:35, modified at 20:38
I realised six months ago as I was using my Mac, using the menus, that I need these things — menus — in Codea. I was trying to solve a problem that has been solved for decades.
So I set out to make the best menus I could make for iOS.
The result looks good, feels good, and doesn’t feel alien on iOS. It’s an interesting data point when considering all the potential changes Apple could make to the Mac and the iPad in 2019.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-04 20:29, modified at 20:33
Steven Sinofsky, formerly of Microsoft, has a good Twitter thread about Apple’s iPhone pricing issues:
Pricing not only says who can afford your product but also establishes a brand, determines channel, & more. Many say Apple is a luxury brand; certainly they focused on that. Clearly more recently prices have gone up in real terms….
At MS we always reminded ourselves that you don’t sell 300M of something at one every day low price. Most all energy was to maintain price floor. AMAZINGLY Apple managed to sell over 200M of something per year at pretty much one every day high price, then increased price.
Apple’s got a lot of difficult choices to make with the iPhone, and the changes in iPhone pricing and strategy the last two years had to have been difficult ones. It’ll be interesting to see how the company adapts to the changing smartphone market in 2019 without doing lasting harm to its most valuable and profitable product line.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-04 13:20
All anybody is likely to be talking about for the next week or so is Apple’s admission that it’s going to miss its guidance for the first quarter of 2019. We won’t get any more information until the company’s next quarterly financial results, due out on January 29, and the winter is genuinely a dreary time for any other significant Apple news.
So, yeah, let’s jump right in. The water’s fine.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-03 22:27, modified at 22:31
We live in the age of the smartphone. Over the past decade-plus, billions of people around the world have come to rely on powerful computers that fit in their pocket and give them constant access to a global high-speed network of information. I believe it’s a revolutionary moment in human history.
But while we will spend the rest of our lives in the world of the smartphone, that heady first decade of expansion—from the day the first iPhone shipped in mid-2007—is over. And all the companies that capitalized on that decade (most notably Apple and Samsung) are still coming to grips with the next, mostly boring, phase in the life of the smartphone industry.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-03 16:22, modified at 16:23
I’m on the record with my hopes and dreams for the Mac in 2019; for my money, it’s going to be a huge year of change on the Mac side. But what about on iOS, home of Apple’s two best-selling products, the iPhone and iPad?
Not to worry. I’ve got hopes and dreams there too. There’s much to do, so let’s dive in.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-02 21:38, modified at 21:46
Tim Cook in a statement to Apple investors:
Today we are revising our guidance for Apple’s fiscal 2019 first quarter, which ended on December 29… Based on these estimates, our revenue will be lower than our original guidance for the quarter.
I can’t remember Apple doing this recently. It means Apple is missing its previous revenue guidance of between $89 and $93 billion—down to $84 billion, which is a miss that’s $5 billion below the lowest end of its previous guidance. That’s a big miss. It means Apple will be down $4 billion from the year-ago holiday quarter.
At the core of the shortfall, apparently, are “fewer iPhone upgrades than we had anticipated.” Apple also blames issues in the slowing Chinese economy and changes to the phone subsidization model.
But there’s no doubt that this is going to be, as Cook writes, a “challenging quarter,” and the fact that it missed guidance means that it’s also one that took Apple by surprise. That’s not a great look. While Cook’s statement points out that the other portions of Apple’s business seem to be doing great—“revenue outside of our iPhone business grew by almost 19 percent year-over-year”—the fact is, the iPhone makes up nearly two-thirds of Apple’s business. When the iPhone is hurting, so is Apple.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-02 18:20
This week, on the 30-minute tech show that’s ringing in the new year, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Jean MacDonald and John Voorhees to discuss our most anticipated tech of 2019, how we’re reviewing our social media positions, technology-related New Year’s resolutions, and the prospective future of the iPad mini. Plus, the movies we’re most looking forward to this year.
Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-01 08:06, modified at 08:07
In this special New Years Day episode, we look back at the biggest trends of 2018, review some stories you might have missed along the way, and make a few bold predictions for 2019.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-31 18:53, modified on 2019-01-07 18:10
As 2018 draws to a close, it’s a time for looking back at all the various things that we saw and did over the last twelve months. We’ve gone ahead and picked our favorites of the year, whether they be books, board games, TV shows, music, or otherwise, in order to share them with you, dear readers. (Bear in mind that not all of these things necessarily came out in 2018, but this was at least the year that we experienced them.) And for more picks from Jason and Myke Hurley, be sure to listen to today’s awards episode of Upgrade.
Captain Sonar - Imagine a team version of Battleship with a dose of The Hunt for Red October, where you’re working together with the rest of your submarine crew to track down a rival submarine and sink them. That, in a nutshell, is Asmodee’s Captain Sonar which sees you take one of four positions—Captain, Radio Operator, First Mate, and Engineer—as you attempt to locate the other sub, crewed by its own four-person team. It’s fun and frenetic and plays well with a large group, which is often a tough niche to fill.—Dan Moren
Codenames Duet - Codenames has been one of my favorite board games of recent years, and if I had one complaint about it, it’s that it doesn’t play well with fewer than four players. Fortunately, that’s solved in Codenames Duet, a two-player co-op variant of the game. The premise is the same: you’re trying to identify certain agents in the field by giving clues to their codenames. But now you’re working together with your partner, switching off turns in giving and guessing clues. It also scales up to a larger group, which is nice. —DM
Just One - This cooperative word game requires one player to guess a word based on clue words provided by the rest of the players. The twist is that if any clues are repeated, they’re not presented to the guesser—which tends to make the clues far less obvious and the guessing and clue-crafting harder. It’s less competitive than Codenames, but depending on who is playing, sometimes that’s all for the best.—Jason Snell
Red Dead Redemption 2 - One of my most anticipated games of the last several years arrived this fall, and I’m still working my way through its epic, expansive world. It’s a game that embraces the best elements of its predecessor, itself one of my favorite games of all time, and not only broadens its horizons, but also takes a surprisingly different turn. While it’s not without the hard edges of the previous entry in the series, RDR2 presents a story that is surprisingly more touching and less bleak, living up to the “redemption” angle. But mostly it’s about enjoying the beautiful scenery while riding around on your horse. —DM
Sea of Thieves - My main regret with Sea of Thieves is that I didn’t get to play it more. When the game first launched, it was a fun romp but in a world that felt a bit empty. In the intervening months, Rare has amped up the available tasks and storylines, adding more to do and fleshing out the world. But at its core, this remains a game about teaming up with your friends to sail a pirate ship, collect loot, and occasionally battle other pirates as well. With a full complement of four players, it is a rambunctious good time, puncutated with moments of heart-pounding adventure. Just like all pirate adventures should be! —DM
Alto’s Odyssey - This is quite simply the best game I’ve played on any platform in recent years. A sequel to the snowboarding game Alto’s Adventure, this one switches in sand for snow, adds a bunch of additional tricks and accomplishments, and provides even more beautiful backgrounds and music. Can a game be tense and soothing at the same time? This one can. I am not a person who invests huge hours in individual games, but I found myself launching Alto’s Odyssey on my iPad again and again until I had finished every accomplishment, unlocked every character, and mastered every bit of tricky desert terrain. And immensely satisfying and beautiful game. —JS
The Consuming Fire - I’ve long been a fan of John Scalzi’s work, and so it really wasn’t a surprise when I devoured his latest sci-fi series, The Interdepency. I read the first book, The Collapsing Empire, over the summer, and was happy that the second book came out later in the year. Scalzi’s books are page turners, and the complicated web of intrigue and politics that he weaves throughout these books, set in a galactic empire that is facing an existential crisis, is a lot of fun. There’s plenty of humor and some colorful characters along the way, and my only disappointment is that it’ll be another year before the conclusion arrives. —DM
Typeset in the Future - Dave Addey’s web essays about the design and typography of fictional future worlds in film have always captivated me. This hardcover book is a lavish production, a coffee-table book of design and art direction that takes you into the worlds of classic movies from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “Wall•E”. If you love design and type and science fiction films—and I do—this is a surefire winner. —JS
Flowers of Vashnoi - A new Vorkosigan story by Lois McMaster Bujold is always a treat, especially when it arrives unexpectedly, as this novella did. 1 The story mainly follows Miles’s wife Ekaterin as she makes a suprising discovery amidst the radiation-fueled landscape of Vorkosigan Vashnoi. If you’re already a Vorkosigan fan, you’ll definitely want to pick this up—and if you’re not, might I suggest that it’s time to jump in? —DM
The Calculating Stars - Mary Robinette Kowal’s story of a woman who is dedicated to being the first female astronaut, set in an alternate-history version of the early space race, is my favorite book of the year. It’s got great characters, a fun setting, and appropriately depicts both the marvels and societal ills of the mid-20th century. There’s also a sequel, released a couple of months later, The Fated Sky, about a mission to Mars, that’s also excellent.—JS
The Exphoria Code - While I try not to write too much about the works of friends, I would be remiss if I did not point you towards our good pal Antony Johnston’s latest novel. Shocking as it may be to you, I love spy novels, and Antony has written a great one. Brigitte Sharp is an engaging and clever heroine, who uncovers a mysterious plot that seemed prescient when I read it earlier this year, and had, by the end of the year, become all too real. If you like a good technothriller that you can’t put down, definitely find yourself a copy. —DM
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter - This was my surprising discovery of the year. I don’t know if I would ever have picked up Theodora Goss’s novel if it weren’t nominated for a few awards, but I loved it. It’s a story set in 19th century London featuring a bunch of women from literature who are traditionally portrayed as, or related to, monsters. The main character is Dr. Jekyll’s daughter, and she’s joined by Mr. Hyde’s daughter (her sister), the Bride of Frankenstein, Rapaccini’s Daughter, a puma woman uplifted by Dr. Moreau, and several more! In style it’s very much like a Sherlock Holmes mystery, which is why it’s only appropriate that the great detective and Dr. Watson are also characters in this novel. It’s fun and fantastic and I couldn’t put it down. —JS
Invincible - I can’t let this year go without tipping my cap to my favorite comic of the last decade, Robert Kirkman’s Invincible. It’s a celebration of the classic comic-book teen superhero, with the twist being that the story never, ever hits the reset button like other comics do. The comic’s lead character grows up and has a family and deals with his changing relationship with his parents… and also has to fight alien invaders, deal with galactic politics, and fend off would-be cyborg dictators back on Earth. It’s wide-screen and ridiculous and human and I loved every one of its 144 issues. I’ll miss it, but what a satisfying ride. —JS
Counterpart - This show is on a network you’ve probably never watched and don’t have access to (though now the first season’s on Blu-Ray and iTunes), and it’s a shame because this is my favorite TV show on the air right now. Starring J.K. Simmons in a spectacular acting performance, this is a show that’s a cold-war-style spy drama mixed with a science fictional element that transforms it into something more philosophical, confronting its characters with the sum of the choices they’ve made in their lives. And if you can manage to avoid the premise going into the first episode, you will be rewarded with a surprising twist.—JS
The Good Place - This half-hour comedy from Michael Schur is the best show on network TV (it’s on Netflix elsewhere). Every time you think you’ve figured out what the show’s central plot and premise are, it throws you a curveball. It’s funny and stupid and at the same time, one of the most profound shows on television. In three short seasons it has risen high on my list of the best TV shows of all time. This is a hall of famer. —JS
Legends of Tomorrow - Who would have thought a TV show that was this bad in its first season would turn out to be such a delight a few years down the road? And yet, Legends has become one of my most anticipated shows each week. Somehow, they’ve managed to nail the madcap adventures, build a rapport between the characters that is truly delightful, and just embrace an off-the-wall wackiness that deems nothing—murderous unicorns, giant plush doll gods, and serial killer puppets—too weird to try. If you gave up back in the dour Hawkpeople days, you owe it to yourself to check it out from season two (it really amps up about halfway through there). —DM
Patriot - What a bad title for such a great show. I tell everyone who will listen that the real title of this show should be “Sad Spies.” It’s about a man who has to do any number of awful things in the course of his job as an American covert operative, and while he performs admirably at the tasks set out for him, it’s destroying him inside. So he (inappropriately) makes up folk songs about his missions. He’s falling apart and getting stoned in Amsterdam when his dad calls him back to perform a new mission, involving industrial piping and an attempt by Iran to gain a nuclear weapon. Though the spies are sad, the show is hilarious, too. It’s one of the strangest shows I’ve ever watched, but I loved both seasons, which are available on Amazon Prime Video. —JS
Star Trek: Discovery - It took the latest entry in the storied sci-fi franchise a while to find its, er, space legs, but it managed to get there. This is truly a modern Star Trek in every way, shape, and form, and while it may not be everybody’s cup of Earl Grey, hot, I think it’s done a great job of not only bringing it back to the medium that best serves it, but also telling a very different kind of story than the ones we’ve seen so far. Season 2’s premiere is right around the corner, so if you’re going to catch up on Season 1, you better dive in right quick. —DM
Detectorists - A gentle and lovely British comedy that just completed its third and final season. (All three are on Hulu and Acorn; the first two are also on Amazon Prime Video.) Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook play Lance and Andy, two average guys who spend their off hours wandering through fields with their metal detectors, looking for treasure. The stakes are low, or at least they’re real-life stakes—jobs, family, friends, frenemies—with the occasional hope of finding a gold coin. This show is pure comfort television. I don’t re-watch a lot of TV, and I’ve re-watched Detectorists twice. (It helps that there are only 19 episodes.) —JS
The Expanse - What a wealth of riches when we have more than one great sci-fi series out there. I have rapidly digested every Expanse novel as it came out, and while it took me a little while to warm up to the TV show, by the time this year’s season 3 came out, I was all in. (It helped that it covered one of my favorite parts of the books.) Thankfully, Amazon stepped in to save the show when Syfy cancelled it, which means that a Season 4 should come out in the not too distant future, fingers crossed. —DM
The Magicians - I liked the first two seasons of this series, based on the books by Lev Grossman, but the show made a quantum leap in quality in its third season, with three or four of the best single TV episodes I saw all year. It’s a ridiculous fantasy story about a world in which magic is real and the students of a mythical magic academy are extremely screwed up young adults. Imagine “Harry Potter: The College Years”, except something has gone horribly wrong. In season three, there’s a quest for seven magical keys that drags the characters into a sentient sailing ship, a dormitory that’s simultaneously hell and the stage of a musical production number, and a side quest into living a good life and building a home and family and getting old and dying. Seriously. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a TV show get this much better this fast. —JS
Ant-Man and the Wasp - Black Panther got more (well deserved) critical attention and Infinity War sucked more of the air out of the room, but for my money, Ant-Man and the Wasp was the most fun MCU movie of 2018. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne finally gets the leading role she deserves, Paul Rudd’s hapless Scott Lang is note perfect, and Michael Peña’s Luis deserves an Oscar. But my favorite thing about this movie was showing how well small stakes stories can work, presenting another truly compelling and yet totally distinct villain from Michael B. Jordan’s performance as Killmonger in Black Panther, and giving an opportunity for the hero to truly be heroic. —DM
Black Panther - What a spectacular achievement. It’s hard to simultaneously be a ridiculous superhero epic and engage in serious questioning of global power systems, and “Black Panther” does it. Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is probably the best Marvel movie villain, not because of flashy powers or costumes—he doesn’t have them—but because his ideas challenge the assumptions of the hero, are not wrong, and ultimately change the hero’s path. Oh, and amid all that it’s a largely nonwhite cast with heavy and deep African influences in art direction and design, and Wakanda’s Afro-Futurist capital may be my favorite sci-fi film city in years, and it was an enormous hit worldwide. Wakanda Forever? Yeah. Sounds about right. —JS
Crazy Rich Asians - Probably the surprise sleeper hit of the year, and one of the few movies I saw in the theater that didn’t have superheroics. But it’s cute! It’s fun! The main characters have a ton of chemistry, and even if it does turn to cliché at some points, you’ll still come out of it having had a good time. Plus, it’s one of two things on my list that has a prominent role for Michelle Yeoh, who is having a year. (Also, between Ocean’s 8 and this, a good year for Awkwafina.) —DM
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - A lot has been said about how good this movie is. It’s really good. Especially so for die-hard Spidey fans, but honestly, I think good for anybody who wants a refreshing take on superhero stories. In particular, I love how it’s an origin story that doesn’t feel like an origin story. Absolutely beautiful art, a kickass soundtrack, and plenty of laughs. Plus, so many easter eggs that I need to go back and watch it really really soon. —DM
A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships - The 1975 is an English alt-pop band that heavily mixes 1980s music styles into a modern context. Their latest album is ridiculously all over the place stylistically and I love the ride. The despondent “Love It If We Made It” fits 2018 like George Michael’s “Praying For Time” fit 1990. —JS
Solo: A Star Wars Story - Shocking! Dan likes a Star Wars score. But the entry for this year’s film isn’t by the venerable John Williams, though it does have a central score that he composed. John Powell does a great job of taking Williams’s themes, building on and enhancing them, and turning them into a rollicking great score. If you do not want to commit some sort of space heist after listening to this, then you may be dead inside. —DM
Love Is Dead - Scottish band CHVRCHES has a completely different sound from The 1975, but what they have in common is an 80s sensibility applied to modern music. The tracks on their new album got the most plays of anything I listened to this year. I won’t dive deeper than this, but if you’re interested you can always check out my favorite songs of 2018 Apple Music playlist.
Apple Watch Series 4 - Probably my favorite Apple device of the year. The larger screen and thinner profile really do make a significant difference, I really like the amount of information that gets packed into the new watchfaces, and it’s got an ECG built in, which is a little nuts. That’s not to say it’s perfect: the weird way that Apple has fragmented complications is frustrating, third party apps still feel a little like second class citizens, and why oh why can’t we have the time always show up on the display? Still, it’s clearly the best Apple Watch yet by a big margin. —DM
TCL 65R617 - This year I bought a 65-inch 4K HDR television, and you know what? I have no regrets. It is big and beautiful and 4K HDR movies look fantastic and even non-4K stuff just looks great on this screen. The built-in Roku software plays nice with my Logitech Harmony remote system, so I can pop over to TiVo or Apple TV or a game console with one button press. —JS
WeMo Mini Smart Plug - I’m not sure I could advocate for any other smart home switch. It’s compact, it works with HomeKit and the Amazon Echo, and lets you monitor power consumption in addition to remotely turning it on and off. Perfect for an air conditioner, lights, or a Christmas tree. Plus, did I mention it’s cheap? —DM
HeroForge - After backing this service’s Kickstarter way back in 2014, I finally ordered a couple of these 3D-printed custom minis, and I am delighted. The company has continued to add customizable options for its figures, as well as improving their materials, and the result is that you can legit get miniatures of your game characters, designed just the way you want them. If I told 12-year-old me this, he would definitely have freaked out, and that’s a win in and of itself. (Some day I have no doubt you’ll be able to get these custom minis in color, and that will be truly fantastic, but it’s probably a few years off.) —DM
Iceland - I got to spend ten days or so in Iceland this year, and it was amazing. Beautiful, desolate landscapes; amazing glaciers; and fascinating culture and history. I can’t recommend it enough. We couldn’t go the whole way around the island, which I regret, and I didn’t manage to catch sight of the auroras, so, well, I guess I’ve got to go back. —DM
Tea - I drank a lot of tea this year, and while some steadfast favorites stay in the mix, I discovered a couple new ones that I thought I’d pass along. Firstly, my go-to cup for the mornings is Kenya Lelsa tea, which is a mild, malty black tea that I find eminently drinkable. (Also it didn’t hurt that my first bag arrived with Star Trek: Discovery-themed labeling; thanks, New Mexico Tea Company!) Secondly, my fiancée is fond of Rooibos herbal tea in the evenings, and I’ve developed an appreciation for it as well—to my palate, it’s the closest herbal tea to black tea. New Mexico Tea’s Root Beer Rooibos is particularly good and yes, it really does have a (not overpowering) root beer flavor to it! —DM
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-31 09:00
As the year comes to an end, it’s time for the Fifth Annual Upgradies! Myke and Jason discuss their favorites of 2018, take the input of more than a thousand Upgradians, and hand out awards in numerous categories! Only the finest will walk away with the most coveted of titles: Upgradies Winner.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-28 19:24, modified at 19:25
iPads with new shapes usually require new accessories. While I’ve been writing on my new iPad Pro with Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of a new version of my go-to travel keyboard for iPad, from Brydge. It’s a Bluetooth keyboard that’s designed like the bottom half of a laptop, with a couple of clips into which you slide the iPad Pro.
While the new $170 Brydge 12.9 Pro keyboard isn’t yet shipping, the company sent me a prototype to use for a week. It’s going to be hard to send it back and wait for the final version to ship in early spring. It’s the same great laptop-style experience, in a new smaller design that’s shaped like the new iPad Pro itself.
When I write about the Brydge keyboard, the question I get most often is, “Why turn your iPad into a laptop instead of getting a laptop?”
To steal a phrase from John Siracusa, my favorite thing about the iPad is that it’s a naked robotic core—in this case, a 12.9-inch touchscreen and powerful computer all in a single metal and glass slab. I can pair that device with other accessories to make it into anything I want.
If I’m working at my kitchen counter, I’ll stick it in a stand resembling an iMac foot and pair it with a USB or Bluetooth keyboard. If I’m looking for something relatively thin and light that still lets me type when I need to, I can add the Smart Keyboard folio. If I want to just sit on the couch and look up actors on IMDB while reading Twitter, I’ll use it completely unadorned. In moments, a single iPad Pro can be a desktop or laptop or tablet.
And sometimes I want my iPad Pro to be a full-on laptop, one I can use in my lap with the same kind of stability as I’d find on a MacBook Pro. And I want to set the display—in this case, the iPad itself—at whatever angle I want. When I’m done, I can turn my iPad back into a tablet instantly just by pulling it out of the Brydge Keyboard. 1
This is the configuration I use to work at my local cafe, and it’s generally what I travel with. Again, it’s easy to pull my iPad out and use it a tablet most of the time—and I do—but when it’s time to get down to writing, the Brydge Keyboard comes out and my iPad becomes a laptop.
When you think about it, a laptop is a little like a sandwich. 2 It’s got a top part and a bottom part and they go together. A sandwich where the top and bottom pieces of bread don’t match would be inconceivable! So Brydge’s challenge in designing the Bryge 12.9 Pro (and its $150 11-inch counterpart, which I didn’t get to test) is to match the design language of the new iPad Pro.
The result is solid. The front curves are round, and the edges are straight. When the iPad is closed against the keyboard, the two sides meet harmoniously, looking like some sort of weird new Apple laptop. As on previous Brydge keyboards, the anodized aluminum of the keyboard has been matched to the color of the iPad.
To attach the iPad to the Brydge 12.9 Pro, you slide it into two hinged clips covered with rubber padding. As with previous models, it takes a little practice to get the feel right. My main concern once the new iPad Pro was unveiled was if Brydge would be able to design a clip small enough to only cover the iPad’s much smaller bezels that also held the iPad securely. I’m happy to report that the answer is yes—there’s enough room and once the iPad is attached, the connection feels solid.
The clips are the same size front and back, meaning you can remove the iPad, flip it around, and insert it back into the clips to use the Brydge as a “movie mode” stand, or even fold it down and use it as a double-thick, double-weight tablet. (I don’t really see the appeal, but Brydge says that some customers requested it.)
In a nice touch, the Brydge 12.9 Pro comes with a slight indentation at the bottom of the wrist-rest space (below where a trackpad would be, if it had a trackpad). This creates a natural lifting point to open the “laptop”, which was sometimes tricky on the previous models.
As with previous Brydge keyboards, when you open the iPad, the bottom edge of the clips are below the flat bottom of the keyboard case, so the keyboard will slope up slightly—and if it’s on your lap, you’ll notice those clips, though it doesn’t affect in-lap stability.
Brydge recently updated its previous-generation keyboards and so far as I can tell, that technology has been brought forward into this keyboard. The keys are backlit, full-sized and offer a good amount of travel, more than you’ll get on a modern Apple laptop. The reduction in the size of the iPad hasn’t hurt the keyboard at all, since the previous 12.9 keyboard had empty space to the left and right of the keys. And unlike Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio, the Brydge 12.9 Pro has a full function row, letting you adjust brightness (of both the iPad and the keyboard’s backlighting) and volume, control media playback, and access the home screen or lock the iPad.
I wrote numerous articles—including this one—on the Brydge 12.9 Pro, and it was an enjoyable experience that wasn’t appreciably different from how I used the previous-generation model. Using the iPad Pro in a Brydge 12.9 Pro keyboard gives you what you’d expect from a MacBook—except, in my opinion, the Brydge’s keys are better. (The key layout too, since the arrow keys are a true inverted T, so it’s easy to orient by feel.)
The reduced size of the keyboard also means it weighs less than the previous generation. This model weighs 635g (1.4 pounds), essentially identical to the weight of the iPad itself. When joined with the iPad, you’ve got a 2.8-pound 13-inch laptop—lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. (The previous-generation 12.9-inch Brydge keyboard weighed 715g, meaning the pair together weighed 3.2 pounds. This is better.)
One difference is the charging port on the Brydge 12.9 Pro, which has been updated to be a USB-C plug for obvious reasons. I tend not to use backlighting and didn’t get a chance to test battery life on this model, but in general I’ve found that Brydge’s keyboards last a long, long time between charges. Occasionally I remember to charge my keyboard and it never runs down. I’d imagine that this model will perform similarly. (Brydge says that you will be able to plug in a USB-C cable to the iPad and the keyboard and type using the USB-C connection, though that feature wasn’t enabled on the device I tested.)
In a twist, Brydge is adding protection for the iPad’s back surface. The company says it’s making a leather magnetic cover that will snap on the back of the device, offering scratch protection. It’s a nice idea, though I have stowed past iPad Pros in bags while attached to Brydge keyboards, and they’ve never experienced any harm.
Another way this keyboard resembles the iPad Pro it’s paired with is in terms of pricing—both sizes of Brydge Pro keyboards cost $20 more than their previous-model counterparts. But I will point out that both of these sturdy, anodized aluminum laptop keyboards are still cheaper than their Apple Smart Keyboard Folio counterparts.
Whether the Brydge 12.9 Pro keyboard will be the right choice of accessories to pair with your iPad Pro’s naked robotic core really depends on how you plan on using it. I have spend a couple of decades writing on laptops, and expect a stable laptop-style typing surface that can sit in my lap or on a desk or table.
While the Smart Keyboard Folio is more stable in a lap than its predecessor, it’s not as stable as the Brydge 12.9 Pro, nor is it as enjoyable to type on. It’s lighter, I’ll grant you, and if I needed to carry an iPad keyboard everywhere I went, I’d probably give the Smart Keyboard Folio strong consideration.
For me, however, the appeal of writing on a laptop keyboard that’s solid and stable in my lap is just too great. And that’s why I’ll be excited to use this new Brydge keyboard when the real version ships early this spring.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-28 16:46
This week, on the irreverent tech show where one co-host is missing, Dan and John discuss old movies, what you could get with your arcade tickets, authority figures they’ve disappointed, and, oh yeah, probably some technology stuff too.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-28 13:50
Seems like just yesterday I was running down what to look for in 2018, but the Earth has made it around the sun once again, which means that we’re once again poised to embark upon a new year of Apple news.
While there are some things that we can always reasonably expect from Apple in any given year—a new iPhone, probably at least one iPad revision, and some new Macs—2019 is unusual in that we already have several strong indications of announcements to expect from the company. Here’s a quick look at several things that I’m keeping an eye over the next twelve months.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-27 16:26, modified at 16:27
2019 is shaping up to be a big year for the Mac, and I don’t just mean a year where there are a bunch of new Mac models released, along with a macOS update, like almost every other year. This could be the year that everything changes. It’s potentially the most tumultuous year since the transition from the original Mac OS to Mac OS X.
So here’s my annual mix of prediction and wishcasting for the Mac in the coming year.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-25 07:01, modified at 07:06
It’s the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most remarkable photograph ever taken, Earthrise. Stephen Hackett and I covered Apollo 8 in detail on Liftoff earlier this month, and photographer Bill Anders has just written about it at Space.com. You can also see a pretty great short film about it.
In what was at that time the biggest television broadcast in terms of audience ever, the crew described the moon as they orbited it, and then ended the broadcast with a reading from Genesis and, finally, with this:
And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas - and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.
The crew fired their engine to leave lunar orbit and return to Earth on Christmas Day from behind the moon, out of radio contact with the rest of humanity. When they finally saw the Earth again, Jim Lovell broke radio silence to declare, “Please be informed there is a Santa Claus.”
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-24 19:51, modified at 19:57
I was honored to be asked back on The Talk Show this week to talk about, well, a little bit of everything:
Special guest Jason Snell returns to the show. Topics include BBEdit’s 25th anniversary, the saga of Word 6 for Mac in the 1990s, Mac iOS user interface differences (including an extensive discussion of Mojave’s craptacular “Marzipan” apps, and a few varying theories on what those apps portend), Photos on Mac and iOS, and, of course, keyboards.
Only three hours long. Short show.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-24 05:34
Then it was, as Myke and Jason began their preparations for the Christmas holiday, that they were visited by three ghosts, representing the spirit of Apple past, present, and future.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-24 01:41, modified at 01:44
Katie Floyd is leaving Mac Power Users this month, and I was honored that she requested me as one of her final guests. The episode has just been posted:
Jason Snell returns to tell us about his iMac Pro, how he uses his Mac mini, Jason’s move towards iOS, being an avid reader, making time for it all, and a few of his favorite picks.
I’ve added the episode to my appearances podcast feed.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-23 22:37
For Apple, 2018 feels like the calm before the storm. The company is working hard to boost its recurring services revenue while it deals with increasingly flat iPhone sales figures. The Mac soldiers on, but in 2019, it will become capable of running apps originally built for iOS — a seismic change that may redefine what it means to use a Mac (or an iPad, for that matter).
Here’s a look at some of Apple’s successes and failings in 2018, with an eye toward where the company is headed in the year to come.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-21 17:07, modified at 17:10
I was on the PayPod podcast this week to discuss Apple Pay in some detail. It’s a podcast that’s about payments, not Apple tech, and it’s always interesting to have conversations about what Apple’s doing from very different perspectives.
But what’s Apple Pay really all about? How is adoption going? Where is Apple Pay expanding to? Our guest this week is Jason Snell, who is a long time tech writer and podcast host, who is the senior editor for Six Colors, a site all about Apple and other technology companies. He had a tremendous amount to share about Apple Pay and the tech giant behind it.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-21 16:44, modified at 16:55
A few Six Colors readers have pointed out that Setapp, the Mac app subscription service, has sent out an email indicating that the iPhone management utility iMazing will be leaving the service as of Dec. 27.
As I wrote two years ago when SetApp launched, losing content is a risk you take when you sign up for any subscription service, whether it’s “Battlestar Galactica” on Netflix or an app you use in Setapp:
My biggest concern with Setapp is my concern about the content on any subscription service—namely, that it can disappear at any time. If a developer removes their app from Setapp, you’ll be allowed to keep it, but you won’t receive any updates and can’t reinstall it. That doesn’t feel good, though I’m not sure it’s much different from the fact that any operating-system update can break compatibility with apps and force users to buy compatibility updates. It’s tough being a software user—nothing is forever.
Setapp says it’s adding a “substitute app” with similar functionality, and of course, the existing app will remain on users’ Macs—it just won’t ever be updated. And presumably iMazing is going to launch a new version with a different pricing model on its own.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-21 16:00
Previously, Apple issued its annual transparency report—the document which says how may times the company has handed over customer data to governments around the world—as a lengthy PDF. This year all the data is presented in a much more easy-to-read form, with terms clearly laid out, simple graphs, and additional information about special cases. Much of the information is downloadable in CSV form as well, which can be pretty helpful to journalists and others who want to crunch the numbers on their own.
One thing that struck my attention were the Financial Identifier Requests. These seem to largely cover cases involving iTunes Gift Card fraud, which I find a fascinating type of crime; these gift cards have become almost a shadow currency.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-21 13:59
If there’s one thing about 2018 on which we can all agree it’s that it’ll be over soon. For Apple, this has been another blockbuster year filled with new products, major strategic moves, and more than a few decisions that have left us scratching our heads. (AirPower? Why?)
In advance of this year drawing to a close, it’s the perfect time to look back at what just might prove to be the most significant actions that Apple has taken in the past 12 months.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-20 21:28, modified at 21:29
So I’m reading a New York Times story by Alan Yuhas about how a journalist at Der Spiegel was fired for fabricating stories on a “grand scale”. It’s what you’d expect. These things don’t happen often, but they’re a black eye for journalism when they do. This guy, Claas Relotius, admitted that he invented quotes and fabricated characters for major articles he wrote. It’s pretty disgusting.
But in that story there’s a hyperlink to a Medium post by Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn that is just fantastic. Anderson and Krohn live in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, a rural town that was profiled by Relotius in a story headlined “In a small town: The small town of Fergus Falls in Minnesota is typical of the rural America that made Trump president. Who are the people who live there? A month with the people who pray for Donald Trump on Sundays.”
In their Medium post, the pair provide (in excruciating detail) the “top 11 most absurd lies (we couldn’t do just 10)” generated by Relotius, including the city administrator who has never seen the ocean or had a girlfriend (he’s lived with his girlfriend for three years and the post includes a picture of the pair together with the ocean in the background); the coal plant employee who doesn’t exist but resembles a local UPS driver; the windowless diner whose windows overlook the coal plant; and the utterly fabricated local geography, including a forest that doesn’t exist and a city slogan (“home of damn good folks”) that is nowhere to be found.
Amazing. Kudos to Anderson and Krohn for detailing it all.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-20 20:57, modified on 2018-12-23 18:55
This is a bizarre story. Many people who visited Iran, Cuba, or other countries embargoed by the United States are reporting that they received an email Wednesday that Slack was deactivating their accounts.
Slack claims that this is part of an “update” that allows it to use geolocation to detect where its users are using the service. However, it seems that the company is being overzealous, literally banning individuals who dared to use a corporate Slack instance while visiting family in places such as Iran. And, it appears, Slack is doing so unnecessarily, as Russell Brandom at The Verge points out:
Since 2014, US sanctions have included a general license for personal communications tools, described in the license as “fee-based services incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Intemet, such as instant messaging, chat and email, social networking, sharing of photos and movies, web browsing, and blogging.” That clause is generally understood to include services like Slack.
An Oxford researcher interviewed by Brandom said that Slack’s decision was either “incompetent… or racist”:
“Detecting an Iranian IP address on a paid account (which is presumed to be for business) login as a violation of sanctions is a wrong interpretation of these regulations,” [Oxford researcher Mahsa] Alimardani says. “At best it’s over-regulation to prevent any sort of misunderstanding or possible future hassle with [the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control].”
As Brandom points out, the heavy hand of sanctions enforcement can lead companies like Google and (apparently) Slack to ban widely rather than be caught in even a narrow violation. Ironically, people who were banned by Slack have been complaining on Twitter, a service that hasn’t chosen to kick them off.
[Update: Slack has apologized.]
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-20 20:46
If you read this site regularly you know I have an, er, enthusiasm for mechanical keyboards. It wasn’t always this way, but about three years ago I (re)discovered the delights of typing on a keyboard with mechanical switches and a pleasing clicky noise and now I’m kind of ruined.
Anyway, I’ve tried a lot of keyboards over the last few years, but I realized that I haven’t yet described my current choice for writing when I’m at my desk. It’s the Vortex Race 3. (The switches are my preferred Cherry Brown style, but other keyswitches are also available.)
This is the rare mechanical keyboard that’s civilized to come with a set of alternate keycaps for Mac users (Command and Option rather than Win and Alt), as well as a few variant color keycaps for modifier keys and the arrow keys. (It’s also got a Mac keyboard mode, so all the keys work properly without any remapping required.) The keycaps feature very pleasant capital letters dead center, and come in shades of gray. I’ve swapped in a red Esc key, yellow arrow keys, and a blue Enter key.
The Race 3 is a “75% keyboard”, which means it doesn’t have a number pad, but it does have dedicated arrow keys and a function-key row. (My previous desktop mechanical keyboard, the Leopold FC660M, lacked the function row.) It’s got an anodized aluminum base that doesn’t wrap around the bottom of the keys, so they “float” above the board. It’s a nice effect and sure makes it easy to extract crumbs and other detritus from the keyboard from time to time.
My only real complaint about the Race 3 is that it fits so many small keys around the arrow keys that I find it hard to orient properly. I’m hoping to solve this problem by installing some switch blockers, which will replace keys I don’t need with blank spaces that my fingers can use to orient my hands properly.
Meanwhile, I’ve repurposed my Leopold keyboard and have been using it when I work on my iPad at the bar top in my kitchen. I still miss that upper row of function keys, but it’s an enjoyably clicky keyboard that is powered just fine by the new iPad Pro (via a USB-C to USB-A adapter, of course).
Who knows what next year will bring? Probably more keyboards. It’s a good bet. But for now I’m really enjoying the Vortex Race 3.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-20 20:27
2018 ends with a lot of grim dystopia type stuff involving social media services and the synergy power of media companies and internet providers. Meanwhile, Apple takes the unlikely step of lowering its ecosystem walls and adding Apple Music to Amazon Echo devices. We’re going to need a lot of fuzzy puppies for this one.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-19 19:31
This week, on the 30-minute tech show that sometimes falls on a co-host’s birthday, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Jeremy Burge and Heidi Helen Pilypas to discuss our relationship with the troubled social network that is Facebook, what smartphone features from other platforms we’d like to see on iOS, how we decorate our office, and what we use to keep track of our wishlists. Plus, a holiday-themed bonus topic, naturally.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-19 14:54, modified at 15:53
Here we are, another 525,600 minutes gone by, and it’s time for an annual look into the crystal ball to try and catch a glimpse of the things I’d like to see from Apple in 2019. But before we unpack a nice, fresh crystal ball, it’s time to take this grimy old crystal ball and smash it into a million pieces.
Or to put it another way, this is my annual opportunity to review my hopes and dreams for the Mac and the iPhone and iPad in 2017 and see which ones came true in 2018—and which ones were crushed flat by the steamroller of fate.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-18 21:08
I have a confession to make: I bought a second HomePod.
In my defense, it was just sitting on Target’s website, tempting me with that $100-off discount that’s popped up a few times over the past month. In the end I couldn’t resist the lure of a stereo pair, especially having heard one while in the Apple Store a few weeks back.
But, having set up the second HomePod and configured the stereo pair—and generally being delighted with the sound—I’ve come across one of the surprising shortcomings of having two HomePods: they’re not yet a full replacement for the old-school computer speakers on my desk. Because although you can send audio from iTunes to a stereo pair of HomePods, the combined pair is not recognized by the OS overall. Instead, the Sound output just shows me two separate AirPlay speakers called “Office.”
It’s kind of a head scratcher, too, since both iOS and tvOS seem to handle the HomePod stereo pair just fine, and iTunes doesn’t balk at it either. (Rogue Amoeba’s excellent Airfoil doesn’t currently support HomePods configured in a stereo pair either, but says that it’s exploring it “for the future.”)
Given AirPlay 2’s delayed rollout, I’m not too surprised that there are still gaps in the implementation, but it remains most disappointing. Having invested a not insignificant amount of money in this audio solution, it would certainly be nice if it were at least as capable as a decade-old set of wired speakers, but at the moment, it looks like I’m going to have two sets of stereo speakers on my desk.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-18 19:11, modified at 19:16
Chaim Gartenberg at The Verge writes about the latest update to Launch Center Pro, which adds support for NFC scanning:
…even at their most elegant, the tags still send you through a series of jumps to your final destination. Tapping a tag pops up a notification on your phone, tapping the notification brings you into Launch Center Pro, and only then will Launch Center Pro launch the action it’s supposed to be doing, whether that’s sending a text, playing a song, opening a website, or any of the other myriad options possible.
I’m not surprised. Apple’s next step in iOS automation needs to be improving the flow of automated tasks. I appreciate the security concerns around scanning NFC tags, reading bar codes, running Shortcuts, and the rest—but right now there are too many barriers that slow down the usability of this stuff. It all takes too many taps and displays too much visual clutter. (Not to mention that we need the ability to fire off Shortcuts at intervals or specific times.)
Step one was getting this stuff up and running. Step two is making it feel a bit more magical.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-17 20:41, modified at 20:42
This week we try to understand Apple’s plans to build a “Netflix for magazines” inside of Apple News, Jason confesses his love for the new Apple Pencil, and we celebrate the season with a special Myke at the Movies about “Miracle on 34th Street”.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-17 15:42, modified at 15:44
This is some next-level stuff:
Hi all, I built a Spotify player for my Macintosh SE/30:
[via John Siracusa]
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-16 17:17
Michael O’Connell of The Hollywood Reporter reports that Apple’s forthcoming video service will not have the football pulled out from under it:
The tech giant, which has not-so-quietly been amassing a strong roster of talent and original productions that is said to start rolling out in 2019, has completed a deal with DHX Media to create series, specials and shorts featuring iconic Charles M. Schulz characters such as Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the entire Peanuts gang. DHX, the Canadian-based kids programming giant that acquired a stake in the Peanuts franchise in 2017, will produce all of the projects.
As HBO’s deal with “Sesame Street” suggests, the battle of the future of television isn’t all about dark and gritty prestige dramas; it’s also about getting family- and kid-friendly content into these services, especially with the launch of Disney+ on the horizon.
People my age have a deep, abiding love for Charlie Brown and the gang. The oldest toy I have is a plush Snoopy. Every holiday season we cart out A Charlie Brown Christmas and crank the Vince Gauraldi Trio on the… well, I guess this year it’ll be on the HomePods.
Anyway, what I’m saying is, I hope this deal works out for Apple, DHX, and kids of all ages.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-16 00:10, modified at 00:12
When Charles Barkley’s mother, Charcey Glenn, passed away in June 2015, Barkley’s hometown of Leeds, Alabama, came to the funeral to pay respects. But there was also an unexpected guest.
Barkley’s friends couldn’t quite place him. He wasn’t a basketball player, he wasn’t a sports figure, and he wasn’t from Barkley’s hometown…. He was my dad.
“You know, it was obviously a very difficult time,” Barkley told me recently. “And the next thing I know, he shows up. Everybody’s like, ‘Who’s the Asian dude over there?’ I just started laughing. I said, ‘That’s my boy, Lin.’ They’re, like, ‘How do you know him?’ I said, ‘It’s a long story.’ “
This is an almost unbelievable and surprisingly affecting story about a suburban dad’s unlikely relationship with a legendary basketball player and announcer.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-14 16:47
Apple has started notifying Apple Music artists that it is removing the ability for artists to post content to Apple Music Connect, and previously posted Apple Music Connect content is being removed from the For You section and Artist Pages in Apple Music. Connect content will still be viewable through search results on Apple Music, but Apple is removing artist-submitted Connect posts from search in May.
Social has never been one of Apple’s strengths, but bless their heart, they keep trying.
Nobody’s got a good handle on why some social networks thrive and others never get off the ground—and that’s probably because there isn’t a reason. It’s like the idea of “being cool”—the harder you try, the less you are.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-14 13:18
Apple’s well known for its centralized approach, not just in terms of hardware and software, but also in geography. The company has previously pushed hard to locate as many of its non-retail employees as possible in its hometown of Cupertino, in large part because of its belief that its employees work better on physically proximate teams. Look no further than its enormous new home base, Apple Park, which opened there earlier this year.
But this week, the company announced that it would be expanding its footprint in several U.S. cities outside the Bay Area, most notably in Austin, Texas, where it already has its largest non-Cupertino presence, but also in a few other key locations. In particular, Apple projects that in the next three years it will exceed 1000 employees in three cities: Seattle, San Diego, and Culver City.
Given the size and profitability of Apple’s business, it’s no surprise that it would want to hire aggressively, but this does seem to go against the company’s previous ethic of bringing its employees together in a single place. So there must be something significant about these specific locations it’s chosen, something that Apple can get in them that it can’t necessarily get in Cupertino. Something like, say, attracting talent in certain key fields.
Out of idle curiosity, I took a cursory cruise through the company’s job listings for these locations, in the hopes it might provide some tea leaves about where Apple is putting its bets over the next few years.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-13 22:56, modified at 22:58
iOS developer Becky Hansmeyer has written up a log of her iPad Pro impressions, good and bad:
Um, so, yeah. A bunch of great iPad Pro reviews/impressions have trickled out over the past few weeks—so many in fact that I was hesitant to even write my own. I agree with much of what has already been expressed: the hardware is great, the software has numerous pain points, and the answer to “can this device replace your laptop?” is the same as it’s always been, which is “yep, maybe, probably not.” Yep for a ton of people that use computers for light work and entertainment, maybe for professionals in certain fields or with particular priorities and workflows, and probably not for the rest.
This is a really solid look at the good and bad of the current iPad Pro models, right down to the functional-but-super-boring Smart Keyboard Folio. I’m so glad Becky decided to write this, despite all the other articles on the subject.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-13 19:54, modified at 19:55
This week on Download Jason is joined by Casey Liss, Florence Ion, and Stephen Hackett. Google’s CEO gets grilled by Congress; Instagram gets a new product leader; Apple does a bunch of stuff; and Supermicro defends itself against Bloomberg. Plus, we honor the 50th anniversary of the “Mother of all Demos”, Casey hasn’t seen “My Cousin Vinny”, we try to save journalism and fail, and a puppy emerges from a box!
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-13 19:43, modified at 19:44
This week, on the irreverent ninja show with a tech problem, we discuss Dan’s new earbuds that he doesn’t like, what the heck is going on with Qualcomm and Apple, and the utter inanity of watching congress question a tech CEO. Plus, Lex wants to know what we’re listening to and John is annoyed by Apple News.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-13 17:25
I probably used the original Apple Pencil for no more than an hour, total, during its entire existence. I don’t draw. I avoid writing by hand whenever possible. My penmanship is awful. The moment my teachers began accepting printed essays, I stopped writing them in longhand. I have never had a good relationship with pens and pencils; why should the Apple Pencil be any different?
And yet… something funny happened upon the release of the new 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models with the second-generation Apple Pencil. I gave the new Pencil a try. And I’ve used it more in the past five weeks than in the three years that I kept the original Apple Pencil… well, it’s around here somewhere, if I can find it, but it’s probably not charged, anyway.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-12 22:42, modified at 22:47
Google is apparently shutting down its nearly nine-year-old Fusion Tables data tool in a year, the company announced:
Notice: Google Fusion Tables Turndown
I will admit that I have never heard of this product. That said… has “turned down”/”turndown” now entered the Silicon Valley vocabulary? Is “to sunset” no longer euphemistic enough for shutting something off? Will Fusion Tables still operate, but at a much quieter volume? Is Fusion Tables getting a mint on its pillow and its comforter tweaked at a jaunty angle?
[via Travis Estell]
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-12 20:21
This week on the 30-minute tech podcast that will be there for you, time after time, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Kathy Campbell and Joe Dugandzic to discuss whether self-driving cars are getting closer, the people we’d hire to do technical work, headphones we use regularly, and what it would take for smart home tech to go mainstream.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-12 19:40, modified at 20:07
Apple is apparently working on its own, in-house developed modem to allow it to better compete with Qualcomm, according to several new Apple job listings that task engineers to design and develop a layer 1 cellular PHY chip — implying that the company is working on actual, physical networking hardware. Two of the job posts are explicitly to hire a pair of cellular modem systems architects, one in Santa Clara and one in San Diego, home of Qualcomm. That’s alongside several other job postings Apple has listed in San Diego for RF design engineers.
There’s nothing inherently shocking about this report, which derives originally from The Information (paywall). Apple’s M.O. for the last several years has been to move more and more of its technology in house.
Historically, Apple has used a mix of modems from Intel and Qualcomm in iPhones. In the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the company even used chips from both companies interchangeably, leading to some frustrations with Intel modems that were considered inferior to the Qualcomm counterparts.
However, as relations between Apple and Qualcomm deteriorated, iPhones have recently switched exclusively to Intel-powered modems. But it certainly seems obvious that such a situation couldn’t last, given Apple’s inclination to control every single part of its devices. (See also CPUs, graphics hardware, and even power management chips.)
But building up, testing, and deploying such chips at the enormous scale that Apple needs is bound to take some time, so don’t expect an Apple modem in next year’s iPhone. But perhaps you might see one in 2020…hey, just in time for a 5G iPhone, maybe.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-12 18:30, modified at 18:31
Microsoft rolled out a new set of updates to Office 365 customers on the Mac that adds support for Dark Mode in Mojave across all its apps, as well as support for Continuity Camera within PowerPoint.
Many Mac apps are gaining support for Dark Mode, which is great—but the prevalence of black-on-white content still makes it a place I don’t like to spend much time. When future versions of Safari support Dark Mode stylesheets, things will improve somewhat.
There needs to be more thought applied to those giant content areas in apps like Word, Excel, and yes, Numbers and Pages, too. I get that for a true WYSIWYG experience for building a document you’re going to print, you need to see things in black on white—but how about a toggle option? This especially goes for Excel, which I really don’t need to see in the equivalent of print-preview mode when I’m working.
The bottom line: Until all the apps I use give me a way to view their interfaces and content in a light-on-dark context, I don’t think I can use Dark Mode in Mojave.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-12 18:24
Gerry Smith of Bloomberg reports about Apple’s plans to re-launch the Texture content-subscription app within Apple News:
The tech giant is preparing to relaunch Texture, an app it agreed to buy in March that offers unlimited access to about 200 magazines. The company plans to make it a premium product within Apple News, which curates articles and comes preinstalled on iPhones, according to people familiar with the matter. A new version could be unveiled as soon as this coming spring, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public.
As the article describes, the challenge here is that a lot of publications are making it work with their own premium subscription models. But there’s probably a second tier of publications that could see added revenue if they embraced Apple’s all-you-can-eat subscription approach.
It’s unclear if Apple can drive enough subscriptions to this service to provide enough revenue to make a bunch of other media businesses successful, though. My gut feeling is that it can’t, but it’s possible we’re heading for a hybrid model where dedicated subscribers pay news sources directly, while less loyal news grazers buy a Texture (or Apple News) subscription in order to browse widely without hitting a paywall.
And of course, this whole thing is going to be yet another bit of subscription revenue that adds to Apple’s ever-growing Services revenue line.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-12 00:32, modified at 00:40
The war between Qualcomm and Apple keeps heating up, as the New York Times reports:
A two-year legal battle between Apple and its chip supplier, Qualcomm, reached a new level of contention on Monday when Qualcomm said a Chinese court had ordered Apple to stop selling older iPhone models in China.
What’s peculiar about this ruling is that it only covers old models—the iPhone 6S/Plus, 7/Plus, 8/Plus, and iPhone X. Apple says it’s appealing the ruling. Perhaps more strangely, the patents being contested here are not the wireless patents that are at the core of Apple’s dispute with Qualcomm:
The ruling in China involved two Qualcomm patents. One lets consumers adjust and reformat the size and appearance of photographs. The other manages applications using a touch screen when viewing, navigating and dismissing applications, Qualcomm said.
Clearly Qualcomm’s using some questionable software patents to make trouble for Apple in order to force it to settle and pay Qualcomm what it says Apple owes. I’ve seen reports that say these patents aren’t even relevant on iOS 12, but Qualcomm’s general counsel told the Times that this wasn’t the case.
Qualcomm’s attacks on Apple have become more frequent and are getting uglier. Back to the Times:
Qualcomm has tried to put pressure on Apple by claiming patent infringement and other misdeeds, such as accusations that Apple stole proprietary Qualcomm software and shared it with Intel. Apple said Qualcomm had failed to provide evidence of any stolen information.
Qualcomm has also resorted to an aggressive public-relations campaign against Apple. It enlisted the firm Definers Public Affairs to publish negative articles about Apple on a conservative website and to start a false campaign to draft Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, as a presidential candidate, presumably to make him a target of President Trump.
The Definers story is particularly sleazy. As a non-lawyer I can’t speak to the validity of the claims made on both sides of this case, but it’s clear that Qualcomm has decided to play hardball—whether out of desperation or confidence, I don’t know.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-11 15:41, modified at 19:07
Computer hardware maker Super Micro Computer Inc told customers on Tuesday that an outside investigations firm had found no evidence of any malicious hardware in its current or older-model motherboards.
It seems pretty clear by now that Bloomberg—either knowingly or unknowingly—published a story that was demonstrably false. There has been no corroborating evidence from any other source or publication, and Apple, Amazon, and officials from both the U.S. and UK governments have all said there is nothing to back up the allegations.
This is extremely damaging for Bloomberg’s credibility, especially as the publication has made no move to retract the article, offer a correction, or indeed say anything publicly about the story. I certainly wouldn’t put any stock in anything that it reports in the information security realm—and perhaps not in technology in general—until it explains exactly how this story got published.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-10 20:23
As with most of Apple’s major software releases, iOS 12 contained a slew of new features—often more than any one person would find themselves using regularly. But one new ability that I have found myself actually using over the past few months was Downtime. This subset of the Screen Time feature lets you define times where your access to certain apps is restricted. However, I ended up turning Downtime off the other week, because it lacked one specific feature: the ability to temporarily disable it.
Let me clarify: While you can override the Screen Time/Downtime restrictions on an app-by-app basis (or, in the case of Safari, a site-by-site basis), there’s no overall control for it other than navigating into Settings and turning Downtime off in the Screen Time section.
That bit me the other week as I was traveling for vacation. Normally, I had Downtime set to run until 7 a.m., around the time I usually get up. But because of our trip to Mexico, we had to leave for the airport at around 5:30 a.m. Now, I do have some apps whitelisted for Downtime (and iOS automatically whitelists things like Phone and Messages), and you can, as I said, override individual apps either for a day or for fifteen minutes. Usually if I find myself waking up before Downtime turns off, I don’t mind popping into a couple apps and telling it to ignore my restrictions.
But if I’m going to be up for a full hour and a half before my limit expires and I need to a) hail a ride to the airport, b) make sure I can access my boarding pass, and c) do all the other time-wasting stuff I do while waiting for a really early flight, well, I don’t want to spend the time overriding those apps one at a time. So I went with the nuclear option and turned the whole feature off.
Then, of course, the issue was that I kept forgetting to turn it back on. As a result, I realized only now, a week after we got back, that I’m not even using Downtime anymore. Which is a shame, because it’s not a bad feature; it’s just inconvenient, in more ways than it’s probably intended to be.
So my proposal is this: treat it a little more like Do Not Disturb. If I wake up before my scheduled Do Not Disturb window expires, I can always use the notification on the lock screen to tell it to turn off DND, and thus receive any suppressed notifications. Downtime should have its own equivalent: “disable until this evening,” for example. A button in Control Center would also work.
I realize that some people use Downtime as enforcement on their kids’ devices and, as such, it requires the Screen Time passcode to disable. But that’s fine; iOS should still prompt you for a passcode if you’re trying to disable it for the day. (And if you’re managing Downtime for your kids via Family Sharing, then there should be the ability for you to remotely override it for their devices in similar situations.)
I’m actually fairly optimistic that a feature like this could make it into a future version of iOS, perhaps even as soon as next year. The Do Not Disturb improvements in iOS 12 are a good example of how Apple refines a feature after it’s been in use amongst the general public, and I’m hoping for a similar refinement to Downtime. In the meantime, at least I’ve finally remembered to turn it back on.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-10 20:12
Are Apple’s recent aggressive promotional deals for iPhone an indicator that its aggressive pricing strategy isn’t working, or is this all part of a larger strategy? Are the old rules giving way to a whole new set of Apple strategies? We also discuss WarnerMedia’s strange streaming strategy and Jason’s attempt to merge Shortcuts with ancient Web APIs.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-08 20:00
Consult the lawgiver’s scrolls and watch out for talking dolls! It’s a madhouse! A madhouse! And also, the 50th anniversary of “Planet of the Apes.” Join us as we explore the world of spaceman Taylor (Charlton Heston) and his long journey through an empty desert into a land populated by officious orangutans, plucky chimpanzee scientists, and wry yet violent gorillas. Does it hold up? Why did such a dark vision generate kids’ lunch boxes and multiple sequels and spinoffs? And what are the intricacies of Ape Law?
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-08 16:14, modified at 16:17
This week, a lot of the focus of the tech industry was on Hawaii, of all places. That was where Qualcomm was putting on a three-ring circus (or was it a luau?) in service of the forthcoming rollout of 5G cellular networks, highlighting the company’s strong position as a provider of 5G-capable chips for smartphones, namely the newly announced Snapdragon 855.
Meanwhile, it looks like the iPhone will be sitting out the initial the 5G rollout, with reports suggesting that Apple won’t have a 5G-compatible iPhone until 2020, because Intel can’t supply the modem chips in time and Apple hasn’t spoken to Qualcomm since their band broke up last year.
Catastrophe! How can Apple survive without 5G iPhones until 2020?
Here’s how: The same way the company survived being way behind on 3G and LTE technologies, both of which it embraced long after its competitors did.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-08 01:29, modified on 2018-12-09 17:56
This week I got a little envious of Matthew Cassinelli, who was proudly posting how he’s building all these Shortcuts on iOS that let him do cool stuff involving automatically posting things to his blog.
His blog, you see, is WordPress—and there’s a WordPress app with Shortcuts support. Through nobody’s fault but my own, this site is built on Movable Type 4, the ancient blogging tool that I know by heart, which explains why I still use it when it’s woefully out of date.
So I don’t have fancy iOS apps or even fancy iOS-friendly web templates. If I want to post a story from my iPad, I end up loading a page template that was designed years before the iPad was a glimmer in Steve Jobs’s eye and pasting and tapping and zooming.
But wait, I thought. Movable Type has an external posting interface, a web API that lets apps like MarsEdit post into it. And I wondered if I might be able to figure out how to build a Shortcut that did all the interfacing with my blogging software’s ancient API and allowed me to post stories from my iPad without using the Movable Type web interface.
I got stuck a couple of times along the way—thanks to Matthew Cassinelli himself for giving me a couple of pointers, and to MarsEdit author Daniel Jalkut for reminding me of the best way to encode web content in CDATA statements so that an XML parser will accept it—but in the end, I made it happen. I now have two different Shortcuts that post directly into my Movable Type setup.
The first one, which lets me post the latest episodes of my podcasts to the site, is a total knockoff of Cassinelli’s, so I’ll suggest you read his post for inspiration. The item yesterday highlighting this week’s episode of Download was posted from this Shortcut.
The second one is built around my current iOS text editor of choice, 1Writer. In 1Writer I’ve created a very basic custom action that runs this URL:
All this action does is tell a specific Shortcut named Post to Six Colors to run, and passes along a single item as input—the name of the current file I’m working on. The shortcut picks up the baton, loads that file from my Stories folder in Dropbox, parses it, asks a couple of questions, and sends the result to Movable Type.
Along the way I had to dig up a Jay Allen post that detailed an obscure Movable Type preference that I had to change in order to control whether a post sent by this method would automatically go live or be saved as a draft, to be published later. In the post, Allen wrote “I expect this to garner interest from about three or four people in the entire world”—and that was written fifteen years ago.
Yet somehow, there I was on a December day in 2018, sitting in my local Starbucks working on an iPad, and once I read Allen’s post I logged in to my server (via Panic’s Prompt app), edited the mt.cfg settings file with
vi, and—just like that—the whole thing worked perfectly.
Who knows how many people in the world this will garner interest from, but the larger point is that if there’s a web API, you can probably control it via Shortcuts! Below, I present how I use Shortcuts to post content to Movable Type via the XML-RPC API in annotated form.
You can also view the Shortcut here.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-07 14:24
Over the many decades of its existence, Apple has faced a lot of challenges. There was the company’s battle against IBM early in the PC era, the seeming dominance of Windows during the 1990s, and even the worry that the company itself might cease to exist in the dark days of 1997.
Lately, though, it seems as though the challenge for Apple might simply be that it’s ahead of its own game. Rumors of slow iPhone XS and XR sales are hard to substantiate, with the company stepping back from providing information on how many smartphones it is selling. But it does seem clear that the amazing growth of previous years is leveling off somewhat, whether because the new phones are more expensive or haven’t wooed customers away from their current phones.
The iPhone is, of course, a huge chunk of Apple’s business. In the most recent quarter, it accounted for 59 percent of the company’s revenue. Even if sales do start slowing or, eventually, declining, the company’s still going to be selling plenty of iPhones for years to come. But every product has a lifecycle—just ask the iPod—and Apple is all too aware of that. That’s just one reason that the company has worked hard to position itself for the future.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-07 06:07, modified at 06:08
Qualcomm rolls out 5G cellular networking at a Hawaiian resort; Tumblr bans sexual imagery and nudity; Apple fails emoji biology; and streaming services consider inserting ads into paused video.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-06 22:48, modified at 22:51
I had been planning to write an article on this topic—and I still probably will, eventually—but Federico Viticci has done a marvelous job in detailing all the ways he works on his iPad, most notably with stands and keyboards:
One of my favorite aspects of working on the iPad is the flexibility granted by its extensible form factor. At its very essence, the iPad is a screen that you can hold in your hands to interact with apps using multitouch. But what makes iPad unique is that, unlike a desktop computer or laptop, it is able to take on other forms - and thus adapt to different contexts - simply by connecting to a variety of removable accessories. The iPad can be used while relaxing on a couch or connected to a 4K display with a Bluetooth keyboard; you can work on it while waiting in a car thanks to built-in 4G LTE, or put it into a Brydge keyboard case and turn it into a quasi-MacBook laptop that will confuse a lot of your friends who aren’t familiar with iPad Pro accessories.
I’m happy to have been mentioned in the article in a few places as an influence. Thanks, Federico!
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-06 22:32, modified at 22:40
The big story from Microsoft land is that the company is throwing in the towel on doing its own web rendering engine and embracing the Chromium open-source project, which is what powers Google Chrome. The new version of Microsoft’s new Edge browser will be based on Chromium and—most interestingly for Mac users—it will run on the Mac. As Tom Warren of The Verge reports:
Microsoft now wants to collaborate with Apple, Google, and everyone else who also commits changes to Chromium. “If you’re part of the open-source community developing browsers, we invite you to collaborate with us as we build the future of Microsoft Edge and contribute to the Chromium project,” says Belfiore. “We are excited about the opportunity to be an even-more-active part of this community and bring the best of Microsoft forward to continue to make the web better for everyone.”
Chromium is itself a fork of WebKit, the rendering engine used by Apple in Safari. What this means is that the Web should become more compatible across devices and browsers than it has ever been before because all the major vendors will be using browsers that are rooted in WebKit (and originally KHTML. Eventually the lives of Web developers should become easier.
Microsoft adopting Chromium also suggests that Google might now have some serious browser competition. Microsoft Edge will have the opportunity to compete with Chrome on browser features without being different in terms of HTML compatibility. (Presumably Chrome and Chromium will become better citizens of Windows as well.)
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-06 16:20
This week, on the irreverent tech show that spends a surprising amount of time talking about amphibians, we touch on some hot button issues, including Tim Cook’s speech at the Anti-Defamation League and Tumblr’s ban on adult content. Fortunately we round it all out with lighter fare as Dan considers switching to Apple Music because of its upcoming Echo integration, while John doesn’t budge at all on smart speakers.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-05 17:59, modified on 2018-12-08 19:13
Just how big is Amazon’s announcement last week that Apple Music is coming to echo devices? It all depends on if you see it as saying something larger about how Apple is prioritizing its subscription services compared to its traditional focus on making money by selling hardware.
The cold war between Amazon and Apple seems to be thawing at last. Amazon’s Prime Video app finally arrived on Apple TV late last year. Apple devices are widely available on Amazon thanks to a new deal between the two companies. And now there’s this new wrinkle, in which Amazon will become the second third-party speaker vendor (after Sonos) to offer support for Apple Music.
The potentially larger wrinkle is the idea that Apple’s stated quest to rapidly grow its Services revenue line—encompassing the App Store, iCloud, Apple Music, and more, it’s been growing every quarter for the last few years—might finally have overridden its decades-long focus on making money by selling hardware with large profit margins.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-05 17:53
This week, on the 30-minute tech show that never goes on vacation for long, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests James Thomson and Rosemary Orchard to discuss Apple Music coming to Amazon Echoes, the celebrity tech PSAs we’d like to see, what tech knowledge we’d grant instantly, and our large (or small) collections of iPhone cases and Apple Watch bands. Plus, a special travel-related bonus topic.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-05 02:21, modified at 03:59
I love reading comics on my iPad Pro. The iPad is the best thing to happen to comics since four-color printing. Now that the new iPad Pro models are out, I thought it was worth revisiting the current state of the art in iPad comics to see where things stand.
Comixology, owned by Amazon, is the leading digital comic-book storefront. Because it’s an Amazon property, you have to buy comics on the Comixology website and then switch to the app to download them. It’s an extra step, but it’s easy to buy comics in Safari and then read them in the app.
If you prefer in-app purchases, Apple will sell you comics inside the Books app, though I find Comixology’s reading experience superior in almost every way. (Books wants to pan back and forth across comic book spreads, which I just don’t like - I prefer to see just the current page I’m reading.)
Amazon’s Kindle app will also let you read comics, and it uses the same technology as Comixology, so it’s a good reading experience, other than needing to buy comics via the web. I prefer using Comixology for comics and Kindle for books—Comixology’s organizational system is built around comics, so it works better if you buy a lot of individual issues or collections in a series. But if you’re a heavy Kindle user and don’t read too many comics, reading in the Kindle app could be more convenient.
Marvel Unlimited is Marvel Comics’ subscription service, featuring more than 20,000 digital comics including old stuff from the catalog and new issues released between six and twelve months after initial release. At $69 per year I think it’s a spectacular deal if you’re a Marvel fan—it’s easy to read $69 worth of comics in a single sitting. The app was pretty rocky when it started out, but it keeps getting better.
Chunky Comic Reader is an independent comic reader app that you can load up with comics in CBR, CBZ, and PDF formats. It’s got spectacularly good network integration—you can add comics directly into Chunky from most cloud services as well as local file servers and even remote FTP servers. It has a bunch of friendly reading features, including the ability to automatically crop blank page borders to fit more comic on screen and dynamically calculate a background color that matches the color of the comic page.
Where do you get comics for Chunky Comic Reader? While piracy is definitely what comes to mind, there are actually lots of legal ways to get digital comics. I’ve bought numerous Humble Bundles of comics, as well as indie comics, that offer PDF and CBR/CBZ downloads as options. And while it’s not widely known, Comixology will let you download the comics from many independent publishers as DRM-free files. (Go to My Books on the Comixology website and click Backups for a list of your downloadable comics.)
While I’m not an ongoing subscriber of DC Comics’s new DC Universe service, which bundles TV shows, movies, comics, and a bunch of other stuff into a single $75 annual (or $8/month) subscription. It’s a much smaller selection of comics than Marvel offers, but if you’re a DC fan it won’t take much—again, a few comics a month and the occasional TV series—to make it worthwhile.
Apps need to be updated to take advantage of the displays on the new iPad Pros. The 12.9-inch model’s display is the same size as the old one’s, but it’s got curved corners and a Home indicator at the bottom of the screen. The 11-inch model is a completely different aspect ratio, plus it has the curved corners and Home indicator.
The whole point of reading comics on these new iPads is to take advantage of those screens, and the good news is that most apps have been updated for the new hardware. However, some quirks remain.
Comixology fades out the Home indicator when you’re reading, as is only proper, but still doesn’t display pages all the way to the bottom of the screen—so there’s wasted space down there unless you zoom in. Chunky fills the entire screen from top to bottom—but doesn’t fade out the Home indicator, so a wide black horizontal bar hovers over the bottom of the page. DC Universe does the right thing and displays the pages top to bottom and fades out the Home indicator. Marvel Unlimited and Kindle haven’t yet been update, which is a bummer—especially on the 11-inch model, which can really take advantage of the extra space.
I’ve been a user of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro since the first generation, and that hasn’t changed with this new third-generation model. I like the larger screen for multitasking, for reading, for watching video, and for reading comics. The size is especially great for reading two-page spreads, which are too small to be readable without zooming on smaller displays.
That all said… if there’s an ideal comic-reading iPad, it’s the new 11-inch model. That new aspect ratio, which is taller when held vertically, gives comics far more room to breathe. And the device is thin and light enough to be held comfortably with one hand while reading, which isn’t really the case with the larger model. I’m sticking with my 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but the size increase on the smaller model makes it a much closer thing.
I can’t advocate buying a $799 iPad Pro just to read comics—if you don’t use an iPad for anything else, maybe consider the sixth-generation iPad?—but evaluated just as a reading device, the 11-inch iPad Pro is the best combination of screen size and weight.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-03 19:44, modified at 19:45
Break the shrink wrap and lift off the lid! It’s time to get together with friends and family to play some games. In this second Incomparable Board Game Draft, we’re allowing all sorts of tabletop (non-roleplaying) games. The result: 21 more games you might want to consider playing this holiday season—some classics, some brand new.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-03 18:19, modified at 18:20
John Siracusa joins Jason to discuss the future of Apple’s ARM processors and how they might change the Mac, Apple Music coming to the Amazon Echo and what that might mean about the future of Apple’s forthcoming TV service, whether they’re using their TiVos as much as they used to, and the prospects for an Apple-built external touchscreen display.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-01 08:22, modified on 2018-12-04 05:14
[Update: This is the last day for the sale, so get ‘em now or regret it for.. a while.]
Apologies for this filthy commerce, but I know some people enjoy getting or giving tech related gifts for the holidays, and right now we—Jason, Dan, and our affiliated entities—are selling a bunch of new stuff. Consider this the Comprehensive Merch Wrap-Up Post.
Six Colors — This site gets to go first. The Six Colors t-shirt is back on sale through December 3.
The Incomparable — There’s a bunch of stuff on sale in The Incomparable Shop. Shirts now on sale are: the Spoiler Horn, Skeletor, the Zeppelin, and the Robot. There’s also a new Robot Hoodie, a Zeppelin hat, and a Robot pin.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-30 19:32, modified at 20:05
On this week’s episode of Accidental Tech Podcast, the hosts rolled a bunch of the hot topics of the moment into one - namely, how the iPad Pro compares to laptops and the potential Mac future of Apple’s custom-built processors.
John Siracusa mentioned that he had built a few charts based on the price of various Apple devices as well as their GeekBench 4 processor scores. The stats definitely show some interesting quirks in Apple’s product line-up — most notably that the iPad Pro kills the Macs in terms of the price/performance ratio.
You might say it’s not fair to compare these devices because the iPad Pro is a computer but not a PC. But even if you don’t buy the fact that the iPad Pro is perhaps the best value in terms of processor performance in Apple’s mobile product lineup today, you’ve got to admire the power of that eight-core A12X Bionic processor. The only MacBooks that can beat it right now in overall score are the two fastest 15-inch MacBook Pro models.
(For those who are concerned that only measuring multi-processor scores is unfair because so many software tasks aren’t multithreaded and have to push a single processor core to the limit—don’t sweat it. The iPad Pro still comes out on top in all the single-core versions of these measurements.)
More starkly, it’s clear from the above chart that Apple’s chip design team is killing it, because all four of the top items on the chart are iPads. Of course a MacBook comes with a keyboard and a trackpad and the iPads don’t! It’s not a perfect comparison. But it’s still interesting, when you start to consider what Apple could do with their own processors inside Mac laptops.
With apologies to FiveThirtyEight, I also whipped up this scatter chart, showing current models, charting their benchmark scores against their prices.
The real thing to measure in this chart is height above the trend line. And by that measure, the 2018 iPad Pro is way ahead. Meanwhile, the Touch Bar MacBook Pro models all retain a fairly consistent height above the trend line. (And the less said about the 12-inch MacBook, the better.)
You can’t measure the overall value of a product with a price/performance chart. Size and weight matter (for some). Compatible software matters. Screen size matters. There’s a lot that goes into a computer purchase, which is great, because otherwise you could replace me with a spreadsheet and call it a day. But it’s still fun to look at charts and graphs and ponder the ramifications.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-29 17:19, modified on 2018-12-08 19:14
You might have missed it between all the turkey brining and Black Friday sales, but last week The Information reported that Apple has considered making a tiny AppleTV “stick” similar to those made by competitors like Amazon and Roku.
Up to now, Apple has been steadfast in holding the line on Apple TV pricing. When the company introduced the Apple TV 4K, it didn’t even drop the price on the fourth-generation model—they’re still both for sale, at starting prices of $149 and $179 respectively.
Compare that to the competition: You can buy a Fire TV Stick for $40 and a 4K version for $50, and comparable devices from Roku cost $30 and $40, respectively. Yes, these sticks are underpowered compared to Apple’s box—Roku’s Apple TV equivalent box is $100—but no matter how you measure it, Apple’s not competitive in the TV box market when it comes to price.
That’s Apple for you. It’s never been the low price leader. The difference is that in 2019 Apple’s going to be launching a new video streaming service, featuring more than a billion dollars in content that it’s been buying for more than a year now. And while people will be able to watch that stuff on their iPads and iPhones and Macs, it won’t be easily accessible on a TV without an Apple TV.
We are in an era where Apple is trying very hard to grow its services revenue, from the App Store to iCloud to Apple Music to, yes, this new video service. The question is, is the growth of Apple’s video service important enough to abandon high margins and prices of hardware products like Apple TV? According to The Information, Apple has at least thought about it.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-29 01:44, modified at 01:46
Taylor Soper at GeekWire reports on a surprising Amazon Web Services announcement today:
Amazon Web Services chief and big sports fan Andy Jassy on Wednesday in Las Vegas unveiled a first-of-its-kind global autonomous racing league… The league features AWS DeepRacer, a 1/18th scale radio-controlled, self-driving four-wheel race car designed to help developers learn about [machine learning]. It features an Intel Atom processor; a 4-megapixel camera with 1080p resolution; multiple USB ports; and a 2-hour battery.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-29 01:42, modified at 01:44
Longtime app developer David Barnard details all the ways you can cheat to get ahead on the App Store:
The App Store is an incredible marketplace that has generated tens of billions in revenue while empowering billions of people around the world to do amazing things with these magical little computers we carry around in our pockets. But I do think the overall success of the App Store has blinded Apple to the need for various course corrections over the years. And as the financial incentive to build and maintain great niche apps dries up, the beautiful and diverse forest of apps that is the App Store will slowly start to look more like the unkempt Play Store.
His examples—there are ten of them—are all painful. All of these items should be at the top of the to-do list for Apple’s App Store team.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-27 19:46, modified at 19:47
[The newest version of my ebook about Photos for Mac and iOS, Take Control of Photos, has just been released. A lot of the research I did for this story came out of working on that book. If you use the Photos app a lot, consider buying the book.]
For many years, Apple let you use iPhoto and then Photos to create designs with your photos, upload those designs to Apple’s servers, and then take delivery of custom-printed objects in a few days’ time. My family creates annual calendars and frequently creates books, too. These physical products are great ways to keep our photos in view throughout the year, even when we aren’t staring at a device.
Unfortunately, Apple has gotten out of the business of producing books and calendars. Instead, it’s allowed third-party services to create special apps and make them available for download in the Mac App Store. These free apps allow you to create projects based on your Photos library and order them from right within Photos. (Sure, you could just build books by uploading photos to a website. But in my opinion, building on your Mac from your existing library of images and using a native app is a superior experience.)
Apple started in leaning into extensions last year, but with its official announcement that it’s getting out of this category, a few other companies have finally jumped in. The result is that there are two apps—available for free from the Mac App Store—that are worth checking out if you’re interested in printing photo books or calendars from within Photos for Mac. They are Mimeo Photos and Motif. (Unsurprisingly, the companies behind both apps seem to have been past suppliers for Apple’s book-printing services… so this is their way of staying in the game.)
Given what they’re designed to do, it’s not surprising that these apps are more similar than they are different. Both let you build books from different design templates. You add photos to a project by dragging them from the main Photos view to the project’s icon in the sidebar. You can view all the photos in your project or just see the ones you haven’t used yet—a very useful feature, since you want to avoid duplicates and make sure all the good photos get in. Both extensions let you select the number of photos on a page and choose from a bunch of different layouts. And doing Apple’s original implementation one better, both will let you perform free-form adjustments of the sizes of photos on any page, if you think you can do a better job than the pre-formatted templates can.
Both apps offer predesigned templates, so you don’t have to create your books from scratch. Mimeo definitely wins when it comes to volume: Mimeo’s template picker offers more than 50 options (including versions of Apple’s old templates), while Motif is limited to 14.
The apps also have their differences. If you’re someone who wants the ultimate in customizability, Mimeo shines. You can add or remove photo boxes, resize them at will, drag them anywhere on the page, and even send them to the front or back, so if you want to have a complex design with overlapping images, you can do it. (Mimeo will also let you run photos across the center spread of the book.) Mimeo’s interface puts thumbnails of all your pages at the bottom of the screen, with a toolbar at the right that slides out drawers of your photos and lets you select layout preferences.
There are no drawers in Motif, which places your project’s photos in a strip across the bottom and lets you toggle between a single-spread view and a set of project thumbnails via a pair of toolbar buttons. This is a better interface decision, since I’m the kind of person who builds books page by page and wants access to all of my project photos at all times. You get access to layout options by clicking a small icon beneath a page. Motif provides templates for between one and nine photos on a page. (Mimeo has templates for one to four photos, and then a “5+” category with a few different layout options for many more photos.)
If I had to sum up the differences between the apps, I’d say that Motif feels more modern and is easier to use, since it puts project photos (rather than page thumbnails) on the main interface and isn’t reliant on a bunch of slide-out drawers to access photos and layout controls. While Motif offers more layout flexibility than Apple’s old tools did, if you want to have ultimate control, Mimeo will give it to you.
You can try them both and see for yourself, if you like. But at this point I’d recommend that most people start with Motif, because of the streamlined interface. (Most people don’t need their book-building tool to be a miniature QuarkXPress.)
Now we come to the other part of the equation: Actually printing the books! I built annual retrospective books for 2016 and 2017 with Motif and Mimeo, respectively, and then ordered them so I could see how good the final product was.
Both companies had exactly the same prices for the product I bought, a hardcover 11 × 8.5-inch book: $30 for the first 20 base pages, and $1 for each additional page. (These prices seem at least competitive with web-based services; when I checked Shutterfly, it was selling this same format for $28 for the first 20 pages, and $1.11 for each additional page.)
The quality of both books was quite similar. I slightly preferred the spine on the Motif book, which felt a little more flexible, so it was easier to open to a spread and not have to press down hard to get the pages to lay flat. I was also disappointed with the paper cover of the Mimeo book, which I ordered with a black background. All around the edges, presumably where the paper had been trimmed, and at all folds of the paper cover, there’s a visible white cracking pattern. Ugly.
Both companies provided a paper dust jacket for my hardcover books, which I was able to design within Photos. Mimeo let me add a photo to the inside of the dust jacket, which was a fun touch that Motif didn’t bother with. (If you take the dust jacket off, you’ll find the same images on the actual hardcovers of both books.)
My family still makes a custom calendar every year based on photos we took during each month of the previous year. (So my January 2019 calendar image is from January 2018, and so on.) The good news is that this tradition will be able to live on beyond the death of Apple’s own built-in calendar tools. Both Mimeo Photos and Motif also offer calendar-creation features that use layout tools adapted from the same ones they use for building books.
Mimeo Photos has the edge over Motif on the calendar front. It’s got more available template themes and offers the capability to customize individual dates portion on the calendar, with text or photos, which is fun. (Unfortunately, it won’t let you drop photos on the overflow dates from the previous or following months, which was always something I did with Apple’s old calendar.)
I haven’t ordered calendars from either company, so I can’t speak to the output quality, but my guess is that it will be similar, just as it is with books. And both companies are selling 12-month calendars for the same price, $20.
So while I prefer Motif for book building, I prefer Mimeo for calendars. But I think you can’t go wrong with either option. If you use Photos and are despairing over the moment you’ll need to build a book or calendar without Apple’s tools, don’t worry: Both of these apps will do a good job.
[Take Control of Photos features a whole lot more about how to use the Photos app on macOS and iOS.]
Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-27 01:43, modified at 01:44
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments involving a class-action lawsuit against Apple on Monday, and reports from observers suggested that the court is inclined to allow the lawsuit against Apple to proceed in lower courts.
The iPhone users are seeking massive damages from Apple, complaining that the company is violating federal antitrust laws by requiring the users to buy apps exclusively from the App Store. But as it comes to the justices, the case is about whether the iPhone users can bring their lawsuit at all: Apple contends that they cannot, because it is only selling the apps at the prices set by app developers. After 60 minutes of debate, there seemed to be at least five votes to allow the case to move forward, with only Chief Justice John Roberts appearing to be a clear vote for Apple.
The lawsuit alleges that Apple is in violation of federal antitrust laws because it requires apps to be sold through the company’s own App Store and takes a 30 percent commission from the purchases. The Supreme Court is deciding if specific aspects of antitrust law apply, which would mean that iOS app buyers would have standing to sue.
While it’s possible that the case could eventually hit Apple with a huge judgment and possibly force the company to change its policy about third-party apps, there’s a long way to get to that point. If the Supreme Court rules in the favor of the plaintiffs, the lawsuit would proceed at a lower level of the federal court system. In that trial, the plaintiffs would have to address many other issues, including the idea that the App Store constitutes a monopoly, given that the iPhone represents a minority of the smartphone market and alternatives are readily available.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-26 20:33, modified at 20:34
Where does iOS go from here? This week Myke and Jason discuss the top 10 iPad features for iOS 13 they’d like to see. Also, Myke at the Movies returns, as Myke watches “My Neighbor Totoro” for the first time.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-25 16:54, modified at 16:55
This month a viral Twitter post taught us all a valuable lesson about just how intuitive phone interface aren’t: Apple has let iPhone users move a text-editing cursor around on screen for a few years, but outside of the tech press nobody seemed to get the memo.
Yes, it’s hard to make interface features on touchscreens obvious. (I wonder a bit about why Apple isn’t more aggressive in using the built-in Tips app to teach people how to use features of its devices.) But it’s a learning opportunity, too! And with that, I present nine other simple iPhone features that maybe escaped your attention.