by Jason Snell & friends

Apple Watch: Coming in September ↦

This week my More Color column at Macworld is about the future of the Apple Watch:

“The Apple Watch is available on April 24,” Apple CEO Tim Cook declared on stage during Apple’s March media event, officially setting the launch date for Apple’s highly anticipated new product. And yet when you consider all the facts, it’s hard not to conclude that the Apple Watch truly arrives this fall, and its first six months have been merely a prologue.

I wear my Apple Watch every day, and I enjoy it. The fitness features have made me more active, and I enjoy being able to see notifications from my iPhone and responding quickly when I feel the need. But as with so many new Apple products, the early users are on the shakedown cruise, before all the regular passengers come aboard. This was true with the iPod and the iPhone, and it feels true about the Apple Watch, too.

Read the rest at Macworld


Apple’s moving on up, to SoMa ↦

Apple’s decided to lease some space in San Francisco proper:

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) reached an agreement to rent about 76,000 square feet of office space in the South of Market neighborhood’s 235 Second St., several real estate sources in San Francisco and Silicon Valley said.

It’s not exactly ironic, but that building—which largely is leased out by CBS Interactive (and is apparently still the main CNet offices)—is actually just a few blocks down Second Street from the Macworld headquarters. That would have been handy a couple years back. Oh, how times change.

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Ads via the DeckAds via the Deck


Tip: Force-quitting a runaway Mac process remotely

We’ve all probably encountered a problem like this: you’ve gotten up to get a snack or take care of something around the house (or office), returned to your desk and realized that your Mac is behaving oddly—frozen, perhaps, or simply very sluggish. Too often that means shutting down the whole computer, but that can be disruptive or, if you have unsaved data, worse. Depending on exactly what has your Mac locked up, however, there could be another way.

Yes, it’s our old friend Terminal. In order for this tip to work you’ll need to have previously enabled Remote Login in the Sharing preference pane. You’ll also need to have another Mac handy, or an iOS device with an SSH app; I recommend Panic’s excellent Prompt.

First things first: open up Terminal on OS X or your SSH client on iOS and connect to the troublesome Mac. From the command line, you can enter this:

ssh [username]@[computer].local

Username is your OS X account’s “short name” (the name of your home directory) and computer is your computer’s name, as specified under the Sharing pane. So, for example, if my username were dan on my computer Athas, I’d write:

ssh dan@Athas.local

When prompted, enter your password1—depending on just how locked up your Mac is, this might take a while. (In some cases restarting is faster, but if you’ve got unsaved work, this method may still be preferable.)

Eventually a command line for the remote computer should appear (usually prefixed with the name of the computer) and the current directory. In the previous example, I should see something like this:

Athas:~ dan$

As the movie hackers say: “we’re in.”

Okay, now to figure out what’s got your computer grinding away. As you probably know, the probable culprits include a program using excessive CPU or one that’s eating up too much memory. If you were sitting at your computer, you could pull up Activity Monitor and look—of course, if you could do that, you wouldn’t need to resort to this whole rigmarole.2

Fortunately, Activity Monitor has a command-line analog: top.

By itself, top shows you a live, updating table of the processes running on your computer, along with some overall stats on memory consumption, CPU usage, and so on. Here’s an example:

top

Most of that probably looks like gibberish, but don’t worry too much: with a little extra garnish, top can also help us pick out our offending apps.

The -o switch lets you specify what to sort the processes by. If you want to sort by CPU usage, for example, you’d issue this command:

top -o CPU

Memory usage, however, is a little trickier. Sorting by MEM might seem the obvious choice, but that actually only accounts for physical memory. These days, modern OSes rely almost as much on intelligent usage of virtual memory as they do physical.

If you don’t see any obvious culprits using MEM then consider instead sorting by vsize, which might help give you another angle on the problem.3 (To re-sort the columns, you need to quit top which you can do by simply hitting the q key.)

Should you spot a process that seems like it’s misbehaving, you’ll want to make note of the number in the PID (“process ID”) column. Then quit the app and issue the following command, substituting the number for PID, to try and off the offending program:

sudo kill -9 PID

The account you’ve logged into should be an administrator in order to do this, since you’ll need to enter your account password.

If all goes well, this should kill the problematic process and return your system to a more usable state in short order. You can leave the remote session by quitting Terminal or your SSH app, or simply issuing a logout command.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of this will work—in the end, force-rebooting your Mac may be the only real solution. But if you’re concerned about not losing work, it might be worth your time to give this a shot.


  1. If you’ve never before used SSH to access your computer, you may be prompted to accept the “fingerprint” of that computer—essentially confirming that machine is the one you believe it to be so that an encrypted connection can be established.  ↩

  2. You can, however, force the remote computer to try and launch Activity Monitor by entering open /Applications/Utilities/Activity\ Monitor.app, but depending on the state of the machine, that may take a very long time.  ↩

  3. In particular, Safari—often a memory hog—is divided up into many separate processes which seem to make extensive (and sometimes excessive) use of virtual memory. ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


GIFBrewery, for all your animated GIF creating needs

I’m not a frequent GIF-maker by any means—and there’s no shortage of excellent GIFs out there—but sometimes an animated image is the only real way to convey exactly what you’re feeling.

I’ve played with a bunch of different tools for making GIFs, and I’ve found them to be a mixed bag—especially the web-based ones, which all too often restrict certain features for “premium” users, or produce less than great quality results.

But I’ve been pretty pleased with GIFBrewery for OS X. It handles the videos I’ve imported with aplomb, supports cropping, resizing, and very easy trimming, which is key when making a good GIF.1 And because producing a compact animated image is important, it also lets you reduce the number of frames, change the delay between them, and simplify the color palette.

GIFBrewery

GIFBrewery also has probably the strongest text tools I’ve found, giving you full control over fonts, colors, alignment, and even when the text fades in or out.

Honestly, my GIF needs are pretty simple, so I haven’t even had a chance to use all of the advanced features that GIFBrewery has: image overlays, visual filters, rotating/mirroring frames, and so on.

For the $5 asking price, seems to me you can’t do much better.


  1. I’ve recently been importing video clips from playing Destiny, which the Xbox One by default records in 30 second increments—too long for most GIFs.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Apple Campus 2 to have a visitor center ↦

According to 9to5Mac, the new Apple campus will have a visitor center:

The observation deck and visitor’s center is a glass structure with a carbon-fiber roof and large skylights. The ground floor holds a 2,386-square-foot cafe, as well as a 10,114-square-foot store. The store will allow “visitors to view and purchase the newest Apple products.” Stairs and elevators will take visitors to the roof level, about 23 feet up, from which they’ll be able to view the campus.

That’s a bit of a departure from the current campus, which often feels a bit more like CIA headquarters. There is the company store, which sells Apple-branded merchandise that you can’t get anywhere else, but it’s relatively small. But it makes a sort of sense that Apple would want a more prominent public-facing section of its campus, even if—as this plan seems to suggest—the visitor center is distinct from the actual main building. As the company has gotten more and more popular over the last few years, I imagine more people have made the trip to Cupertino and expected to see something, but right now there’s not much there for them.

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


A security writer kisses Android goodbye ↦

Motherboard security writer Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

You can keep your Android phone with that modified version of Android that your carrier or manufacturer has decided to put on it, and get security updates weeks late, or never (if you have a Nexus you’re better off, but who knows if Google is going to keep making Nexus phones in the future).

Or you can root your phone and install the excellent and more swiftly updated Android-based operating system CyanogenMod on it. This is a good alternative, but it’s not trivial to install CyanogenMod, and updates for certain phones depend on volunteers, so, again, you might not get them as soon as you’d wish.

Or, lastly, you can give up, switch to Apple and buy an iPhone.

Keep in mind, this is a piece from a certified Apple hater who manages to shoehorn references to the walled garden, “fanboys,” and Apple-as-cult imagery into a single paragraph. Of this same article. Where he’s saying he’ll probably just give up and switch “to the dark side.”

Yikes.


Clockwise

#97: Given Phones and Sent into the World ↦

This week on Clockwise, Dan Moren and I are joined by Brianna Wu and Scholle McFarland to discuss T-Mobile’s crazy iPhone deal, the arrival of Windows 10, when advertisements are actually worth seeing, and buying a kid a Kindle.


Tip: Hide preference panes from System Preferences

Like many of you dear readers, I end up doing a lot of the support for the less tech savvy members of my family. While in general they’re pretty good about not messing with things that I’ve configured, sometimes accidents happen.

But here’s a tip I recently discovered: Did you know you can hide preference panes?

For example, say that you’ve set up a family member’s Mac with an unusual network configuration, and you don’t want them to change anything in the Network pane, or you’ve installed a third-party preference pane on your machine that you don’t need to configure regularly. Fire up System Preferences, go to the View menu, and choose Customize.

You’ll see checkboxes appear next to each preference pane. Uncheck the ones you want to hide, click the Done button at the top, and there you go.

System Preferences

Of course, those preference panes are still accessible, either via the search feature in System Preferences itself, or via Spotlight. So you don’t have to hide and unhide them each time you want to make tweaks, but you can still make sure that those settings stay the way you configured them.

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Buy an iPhone 6 from T-Mobile, get the new iPhone free ↦

John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, gets one step closer to that car dealership owner you see on local TV:

This time of year, everyone’s waiting to make a move, waiting to see which devices are coming next. “Will the next one be better?” “Should I go for it or wait?” Today, we’re solving all that and ending the wait—in a big way. Now, every single customer who gets a new iPhone 6 this summer as part of this deal can simply swap it for the next iPhone, if they upgrade before the end of the year. Yeah, that’s what I said. Just swap it out and pay NOTHING more—nothing up front and no change to your monthly payment. No deposit. No fees. Nothing. You get the next iPhone guaranteed. And you get to LOCK IN that industry-best promotional price of $15 a month.

And, because the Un-carrier always puts our current customers first, everyone who already got an iPhone 6 for $15 per month automatically gets this deal. You don’t have to do a thing, except come get your new one whenever you want later this year.

The next step, as far as I can tell, is T-Mobile paying you every month. Either the carrier is going to explode into flames at some point or…actually, I have no idea what the alternative is.

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Wish List: Sharing Videos from iCloud Photo Shared Albums

Of all Apple’s attempts at social sharing, iCloud Photo Sharing is probably my favorite. The ability to quickly share photos with (or among) a set of people is great for collecting disparate pictures of a single event, and a perfect way to stay in touch with far-flung friends and family members.

But one place iCloud Photo Sharing falls down is in that last word: sharing. While sharing pictures from those albums is a simple matter of selecting the images in question and tapping the Share button, the same isn’t true for videos.

Sharing vs. No Sharing
A video (left) and photo (right) shared with me via iCloud Photo Sharing. Note the missing Share icon in the bottom left corner of the video.

See, getting videos into iCloud Photo Sharing is easy: it’s the same as sharing photos. Tap a video in your Camera Roll, select Share, and then tap iCloud Photo Sharing and select the album you want to post to. Voilà. If you then go into the Shared Album in question and select the video you just posted, you’ll even see the full complement of sharing options under the Share button.

The problem arises when someone else deposits a video in an album that’s shared with you. Select that video and you’ll find you don’t have any sharing options at all.

This is a bizarre distinction, because when it comes to photos that others have put into your Shared Albums, you can share those just as you would any picture that you’ve taken.

It’s one of those things that seems like an oversight1, but it can be particularly annoying in a few circumstances. Recently, my girlfriend was trying to make a video for work by assembling clips shot by her colleagues; she and I use a Shared Photo Album, so she naturally assumed that’d be a good solution for her co-workers.

However, it proved to be a pain, because of the fact that there was no way to easily get the videos they shared with her into any other app: you can’t AirDrop them, iMessage them, email them, or even save them to your own Camera Roll. Even Apple’s own iMovie app can’t see videos from Shared Albums, though it can see photos from those same albums.2

Again, I’m not entirely sure why this strange exception exists, but my hope is that it’s a misstep that Apple will at some point correct.


  1. Okay, I guess it’s iCloud Photo Sharing, not iCloud Video Sharing, or iCloud Photo and Video Sharing. But still.  ↩

  2. When I went into Messages, tapped the Camera button, and chose Photo Library, it told me that the list item in a Shared Album was a video, but wouldn’t display that item when I tapped on it. The same when I tried to Insert Photo or Video in a Mail message or even import a photo using GoodReader.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Upgrade

#47: Trust Us, It’s Doing Well ↦

This week on Upgrade, Myke Hurley and I discuss Apple’s enthusiastically vague approach to Apple Watch sales figures, Myke’s fear that content blockers could wreck the livelihoods of members of the media we admire, and classic iPods. Plus, I take a European geography quiz!


A new 4-inch iPhone: Coming later? Or never? ↦

Analyst Timothy Arcuri says there won’t be a 4-inch iPhone 6C this fall, according to his sources in the supply chain.

The bad news: I don’t think Apple should abandon the 4-inch phone size.

The good news: This phone may still be coming, but perhaps early next year.

The muddy middle: Arcuri’s track record is not perfect, so he could be wrong.

Also, I’m tired of this theoretical iPhone being referred to as a “low-cost iPhone.” Yeah, it would be less expensive than the iPhone 6 successors, but the goal here is to fit in the $99 slot of last year’s model, not create some new super-cheap phone. I don’t think that Apple is afraid that the existence of a 4-inch iPhone using last year’s tech for $100 less than the brand new model is going to cannibalize sales, either.


Marco Arment zeroes in on the ‘Toxic Hellstew’ ↦

Saying Apple’s online services are terrible is a serious oversimplification of matters. As Marco Arment writes, some Apple services—push notifications and iCloud Photo Library—are pretty good.

But the iTunes Store back-end is a toxic hellstew of unreliability. Everything that touches the iTunes Store has a spotty record for me and almost every Mac owner I know.

And the iTunes app itself is the toxic hellstew. iTunes has an impossible combination of tasks on its plate that cannot be done well. iTunes is the definition of cruft and technical debt. It was an early version of iTunes that demonstrated the first software bugs to Grace Hopper in 1946.

It’s time to end iTunes as we know it and try something new, but I’m afraid that that day of reckoning will never come because iTunes has just gotten too big to fail.


‘Jason & Stephen talk Space’ ↦

This weekend I sat down for a 50-minute conversation with Stephen Hackett about space stuff! We covered New Horizons’ Pluto discoveries, a newly-discovered Earth-like planet, and why space is back in the news. If you like space stuff or are just space-curious, give it a listen and let us know what you think.


The Incomparable

#256: Space Bureaucracy ↦

It’s time for The Incomparable’s annual dive into the Hugo Awards, which are intended to celebrate the best in Science Fiction and Fantasy media. Our podcast episode focuses mostly on the five nominated novels, but also touches on short fiction, comics, films, and TV episodes, as well as this year’s big Hugo controversy. I’m joined by big readers Scott McNulty, David J. Loehr, and Erika Ensign.


Sponsor: Meh ↦

Get excited! This week’s Six Colors sponsor is Meh. I already bought two remote-control helicopters from a Meh deal this week. It’s been a Meh kind of week.

The founders of Meh left Woot and started their own awesome deals site, which posts new deals every day at midnight Eastern.

Their site’s FAQ is hilarious. They’ve got an RSS feed at https://meh.com/deals.rss. Their domain is three letters long. You get the idea.


Revitalizing an old iPod with OWC’s iFlash adapter

ipod-upgrade

Our family minivan came with a USB connector in the glove compartment, and so for years I’ve kept a 60GB fifth-generation iPod Classic1 in there, loaded up with as much music as I could fit. But lately it’s been showing signs of age that made me fear for the life of its internal spinning hard drive, and I haven’t been able to load our entire music library onto it for years.

But recently I got a chance to try out Other World Computing’s $49 iFlash, an upgrade that replaces the iPod’s hard drive (5th and 6th generation models only) with an SD card reader (with inserted SD card—I used a 128GB SDXC card that cost about $70). Now my old iPod has doubled in capacity, enough to fit every song I own. It’s also no longer relying on a spinning platter as a storage mechanism, which should extend its life dramatically.

Cracking open an iPod and replacing its hard drive isn’t for the timid. If you’re not comfortable poking around in the guts of electronics, you might want to find a friend to perform the installation for you. I’ve never cracked open an iPod before, and I managed to do it just fine, though the install process was a little harrowing at a few points. (It would’ve been much easier had I watched OWC’s how-to installation video, which hadn’t yet been posted when I installed the product in my iPod. I did use iFixit’s guide, which was helpful… up to the point when I needed to install the iFlash.)

I don’t carry this particular iPod around anymore—like I said, it lives in the glove box—but every time I pick it up I’m also struck by how much lighter it is. It feels more like a movie prop than a real device, because that metal drive has been replaced by a very light card reader.

In any event, even with my troubles (I installed the product upside-down and so I had to disassemble and reassemble it), it took me less than a half hour from start to finish. It helped that I had some spudgers, but otherwise the installation didn’t require any tools that I didn’t have at hand.

Look, the iPod isn’t a cool product anymore. But if you’ve got an iPod Classic around—in your pocket or car or kid’s room—and want to keep it running (or return it to relevance), this is a relatively low cost way to do the job. Not everyone needs (or wants to pay for) streaming music—and now I’ve got 14,000 songs at my fingertips whenever I’m driving.


  1. In the interests of clarity, I consider all “classic iPods” to be iPod Classics. For more information, visit the Wikipedia page tellingly named iPod Classic. ↩


In its second year, Apple Pay is ready to cash in ↦

In my Stay Foolish column at Macworld this week, I take a look at what Tim Cook’s recent comments about Apple Pay might portend for the next year of the service:

And, in fact, Apple Pay couldn’t come at a better time, thanks to the imminent transition to more secure forms of payment, such as chip-based credit cards. Starting in mid-October, the liability for fraud on magnetic swipe transitions at most retail locations shifts from the card issuer to the retailer itself. That’s a big incentive for stores to switch to terminals that accept cards with embedded chips or NFC payments—such as Apple Pay.

Read the rest at Macworld

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Apple backs LGBT Equality Act ↦

Wired reports on Apple’s backing of a bill before Congress to extend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity:

The bill has 155 co-sponsors in Congress. It’s also backed by one of the most powerful businesses in the world: Apple. In a statement to Human Rights Campaign, Apple wrote, “At Apple we believe in equal treatment for everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. We fully support the expansion of legal protections as a matter of basic human dignity.”

My favorite thing about Tim Cook’s Apple is that it takes a stand on issues without prompting from outside sources.

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


With Split View in El Capitan, going full screen makes sense ↦

This week’s real More Color column at Macworld is all about El Capitan’s Split View mode, which still has a few kinks to work out:

One of the more interesting features of OS X El Capitan is the new Split View, which lets you run two apps side by side without any distractions (other than the other app, of course). It’s sort of like full-screen mode, except with two apps.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Full Screen Mode, mostly because I am frequently switching between at least two apps. But adding a second app to Full Screen Mode gives the feature an extra dimension that makes it much more intriguing to me.

Read the rest at Macworld


Older posts >