July 4, 2015 • 1 hour, 38 minutes
Pixar’s latest film, “Inside Out,” tells the unlikely story of the conflict of emotions inside the head of a young girl. This week on The Incomparable I’m joined by John Siracusa, Merlin Mann, Andy Ihnatko, and David J. Loehr to talk about it. Join us as we draw a circle around our own parental sadness and instead focus on the joy of an instant Pixar classic.
July 2, 2015 6:47 AM PT
The images depict six different color options for the iPod nano, shuffle, and touch, showing each model in silver, space gray, red, bright pink, deep blue, and light gold. The latter three colors, pink, blue, and gold, are new shades that are not currently available. The space gray model may be slightly darker than the existing color, but it’s difficult to determine from images alone.
But when will these magical devices appear?!
The Calendar app on the iPod touch in the images reads “Tuesday 14,” leading some of our readers to speculate that Apple might plan to introduce new models on Tuesday, July 14, which is two weeks from now.
Quick, check the Clock app to find out when they’ll show up!
The iPod lines haven’t received substantive updates in almost three years now. (The shuffle hasn’t really changed in almost five years.) None of that’s surprising, given the iPod’s diminishing role in Apple’s product lineup; as was pointed out last week by unofficial Apple homepage tabs historian James Dempsey, “iPod” has been banished from the navigation bar on the company’s site, subsumed into “Music,” along with “iTunes.”
Despite that, the chance of a major revamp seems slim—especially if Apple really does intend to roll new iPods out on a random Tuesday in July. The iPods used to anchor their own event, but it’s been a long time since that’s been the case. And given the number of things that Apple still has on its docket—new iPhones, new iPads, a new Apple TV, a possible Apple TV service—it wouldn’t be a huge shock if the company decided to give the iPod lineup a little bump before getting to its real business, to avoid overcrowding an already busy fall slate.
For the nano, Apple is apparently satisfied with its role as a little ersatz iOS device. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little interface redesign to bring it more in line with the rest of Apple’s aesthetic, but other than that I suspect it’ll remain unchanged. Apple might drop the price to $100, but I doubt it needs to bolster sales at the expense of margins.
The iPod touch seems like it needs a little more love; it’s still trapped in the iPhone 5 era, with a 4-inch screen and an A5 processor. The latter at least seems like it deserves a bump, especially with iOS 9 in the offing. But the iPod touch continues to fill a weird niche—I primarily hear of it serving one of two purposes: 1) developers who want a test device (increasingly less relevant as it’s increasingly distanced from the iPhone) and 2) parents who want to give their kid an iOS device when they’re not ready for a phone (though I think the iPad line may be gobbling up a large chunk of that demographic).
But I think Apple is happy enough to continue with the iPod lines for the moment, and they seem like they’re due for a refresh. So keep your eyes peeled.
June 30, 2015 1:09 PM PT
If you’re finding Apple Music a little bit too much to take in, and would rather just go back to your habit of listening to your own music, well, there is some recourse, but not a whole lot. (You can’t, however, go back to iOS 8’s previous Music app—but let’s all agree that’s probably a good thing.)
To disable some of Apple Music’s more prominent features, go to Settings > Music and turn the Show Apple Music slider to Off. Next time you launch the Music app you’ll see a simpler set of toolbar options: My Music, Playlists, Radio, and Connect.
So you can’t escape Apple Music entirely, but if you’re looking to restrict your musical experience, it’s a good place to start.
June 30, 2015 9:57 AM PT
With iOS 8.4’s revamp to the Music app, it’s a bit like somebody came into your house and rearranged all of your shelves. Certain things aren’t where you expect them to be, and you might be tempted to think that some have disappeared forever.
Case in point: When I used to shuffle my music library, I’d often find that I wanted to look at the rest of the tracks on the album of the currently playing song. Which was easy enough in the old version of Music—you just tapped the icon that looked like a bulleted list. But in iOS 8.4, that button instead shows your play queue. It took me a while to figure out where the album track view had gone.
Let’s say you’re listening to a track and want to see the rest of the album. First tap the More button (•••) in the bottom right. Then, and this is the tricky part, tap the bar at the top of the menu that looks like it’s just telling you what song you’re playing.
Voilà, the album listing. Tricky! I thought Apple had disappeared it for a while, but I’m glad to see it’s still there, just subtle. And now back to exploring the rest of what Apple Music has to offer.
June 30, 2015 7:50 AM PT
I spend a fair amount of time with PDFs, so upon noting last week that iOS 9 would have the widespread ability to save to PDF, I mentioned that it’d be great if iOS also had better support for working with and marking up PDFs.
Some folks pointed out that Mail in iOS 9 features the same Markup tools that OS X added in Yosemite, and while that’s great, what iOS really needs is a full-fledged app for PDFs. Preferably one that isn’t named iBooks.
iBooks’s PDF support has always been kind of lackluster, so in the past I’ve turned to GoodReader and PDF Expert for my PDF needs. Both those apps are solid at what they do, but given how big a push Apple has made for productivity in iOS 9—particularly on the iPad—the absence of built-in PDF capabilities is conspicuous.
On the Mac side, Preview has been an integral part of the platform since the launch of OS X1. It’s gotten more and more capable over the years, adding annotation, form-filling, and even image editing features. But strangely, it’s never made the jump to iOS.
Not that there haven’t been rumors. Last year, 9to5Mac said a Preview app would appear in iOS 8, alongside a TextEdit app. As you can yourself confirm by checking your home screen, neither of those came to pass.2
As for iBooks’s weak PDF support, I would hardly say that the app is unjustly maligned. While it supports searching and bookmarking, there’s no annotation, no highlighting, and no form-filling.
iBooks is also a pain in the neck when it comes to file management; since its primary gig is as the repository for ebooks purchased from the iTunes Store, it lives in the same silo as your music, TV shows, and videos. Only PDFs aren’t themselves purchased media, so they get treated like second-class citizens. Unlike your ebooks, the only way to sync PDFs between your Macs and iOS device is via iTunes.3 Want to just sync PDFs between multiple iOS devices? Good luck. The only share options for a PDF in iBooks on iOS are email and printing, so once you have a PDF in there, you can’t even get it into a third-party app without some perambulations.
What makes the file-management conundrum extra peculiar is that Preview on OS X has its own iCloud Drive folder in Yosemite and on iCloud.com. It just doesn’t really have a counterpart on iOS, which I’ve always thought bizarre.4
For now, third-party alternatives are sufficient, but it would surprise me if Apple didn’t provide a better PDF experience on iOS at some point. Heck, given that the Markup feature in Mail is an extension, I presume there’s little reason they couldn’t add that into iBooks, if they so desired. Plus, as those third-party apps have shown, annotating and marking up PDFs on the iPad feels right at home, thanks to the multitouch interface.
More to the point, if Apple is determined to continue extolling the virtues of the iPad as a productivity device, it can’t continue to hold out on these kinds of PDF features. The addition of the Save to PDF feature in iOS 9 is a great step, but given iBooks’s lackluster PDF support, right now it’s a bridge to nowhere.
Wikipedia claims Preview dates back to NeXTSTEP, though the brochure it links to simply says it’s an app for reading TIFF and PostScript files; granted, PDF was still in its early days at that point. ↩
Part of me wonders if this year’s substantive revamp of the Notes app on OS X and iOS obviated the need for a TextEdit app. But the same can’t be said for Preview. Although, strangely, I did discover you can drop a PDF into Notes in iOS 9—you just can’t do much with it once it’s there. ↩
If you sync your collections across iCloud and you happen to have the same PDF on multiple devices, iBooks is just smart enough to put them in the same collection. But that doesn’t extend to syncing the files themselves. Sigh. ↩
iOS 9 currently has a “hidden” iCloud Drive app, which may open up some more options for managing PDFs on iOS devices. ↩
June 30, 2015 6:18 AM PT
Apple Music launches later today, but Cupertino’s given previews of the service to a handful of folks across the web. Which, aside from providing us with some interesting tidbits, also gives us a fascinating insight into the musical tastes of some of our colleagues.
I was interacting with Apple Music the entire time I was writing this and the radio station I started listening to improved quite a bit in those hours. I’m not skipping songs, instead I have a steady diet of Slash, Godsmack, Led Zeppelin, and Metallica. It’s hard to beat that.
For instance, a curated list called “Best of ’60s Girl Groups” included a list of songs and artists that matched my memories and likes, and I was able to add it to my library as if I had taken the songs from those I had purchased.
It’s hard for me to over-stress how much I like For You. From the very beginning, the recommendations in playlists and albums that the app showed me were dead-on accurate, reflecting my various musical interests.
Straight out, I was given a recommendation of a Taylor Swift love ballad playlist and albums from The Kinks, Sufjan Stevens, Elliot Smith, The Shins, Miguel and Drake. So basically my musical brain.
My favorite tidbit, though, is from Mossberg’s piece:
Siri was able to effectively respond to commands like, “Play the top hits from 2007″ or “After this song, play ‘Heartbreak Hotel.’”
I have wanted the ability to easily queue up the next song on my iPod and iPhone since, oh, 2001.
In general, the response to Apple Music seems to be positive, though there are some nitpicks here and there, and clearly room for improvement—but hey, it’s also free for the next three months. So why not give it a whirl?
We’ll have more impressions of the service when it arrives shortly, along with the iOS 8.4 update.
June 29, 2015 • 1 hour, 27 minutes
It’s a big week, so Myke Hurley and I spend a lot of time on the latest Upgrade discussing tomorrow’s launch of Apple Music and Beats One, along with the ugliness of music industry negotiations. Plus I talk about using the iOS 9 beta on an iPad Air 2, we provide our entirely unqualified legal opinions, fight off questionable attacks on Taylor Swift, and I praise “Mr. Robot.”
June 29, 2015 2:25 PM PT
On June 8, 2015, at 1:12 p.m. Eastern Time, Apple senior vice president of software Craig Federighi announced the latest update to OS X, El Capitan. At that moment, my annual ritual began. I broke out into a sweat and began refreshing the liveblogs, looking for two magic words: system requirements. The life of a beloved Mac hung in the balance.
A couple of hours later, I got the good news: Yet again, the first unibody MacBook Pro (“Late 2008,” also known as
MacBookPro5,1) had been spared. I would be able to upgrade it to El Capitan. For another year, I was able to breathe the long sigh of relief.
You’d be safe in assuming that this is the reaction of a crazy person. By modern standards, my laptop is ludicrously heavy. Its connectivity options are quaint: FireWire 800? ExpressCard/34? When its Nvidia 9600M GT discrete graphics card kicks in, the fan is deafening—and modern integrated Intel graphics outperform it at a fraction of the energy cost. A 2015 11-inch MacBook Air puts up roughly double its numbers on Geekbench 3. Today’s comparable 15-inch MacBook Pro has a Retina display and four times the power while weighing a pound less.
On paper, my laptop’s a fossil. But like the Saturn Ion I’m going to drive until it falls apart, I have no reason to walk away from this ancient MacBook Pro. I’m not just being a cheapskate, however: When this laptop’s time finally comes, I’ll shed a tear. (I won’t be weeping for my Saturn.)
In continuing to support the MacBook Pro (Late 2008), Apple demonstrates one of the value propositions that fans clung to even during the dark times when Apple lurched toward bankruptcy and the Mac toward irrelevance: that Macs simply lasted longer than their PC cousins. You could hold onto your investment for one or two more years, upgrading not from necessity but by choice. Macs didn’t simply “just work,” they worked for much longer.
That was my experience early on. I eked out five years of page layout and primitive web design with my first Mac, a Performa 600, despite its lackluster specs. Although I switched desktop platforms, I continued to buy laptops from Apple—and the MacBook Pro (Late 2008) wound up becoming my primary productivity machine.
I bought it out of desperation. My Titanium PowerBook was beginning to break down, and just as I was debating its replacement Phil Schiller announced that the 2009 MacBook Pros would eliminate the ExpressCard/34 slot. Horrified by the abandonment of such a vital expansion technology—eSATA was essential, dammit!1—I snapped up its refurbished predecessor.
Proving Schiller right, I rarely used the slot. But the MacBook Pro has been my faithful companion ever since. It helped me launch two pop-culture podcasts, and I could often be seen hunched over it at “Doctor Who” conventions, uploading the latest release over the hotel lobby WiFi. When I was tempted to replace it a couple of years ago, I instead replaced the 5400 RPM hard drive with an SSD and was overjoyed.
If my wife’s PC hadn’t failed, this MacBook Pro (Late 2008) would still be churning out podcasts. Instead, she inherited my gaming PC and an iMac with Retina Display came into my heart and workflow.
I’m loyal, but not a masochist.
But I’m typing on the MacBook Pro right now, on one of the best keyboards ever made, reading from a beautiful display. I’ve completely bought in to the Apple ecosystem, which actually makes it harder to justify replacing this laptop. I have a Retina iMac to do serious work at home. I have an iPad Air for the painless portability that would otherwise tempt me toward trading in my laptop for today’s sleeker, faster, lighter lineup. For work that requires a laptop—seamless multitasking, windows, adaptability and keyboard/trackpad comfort—this laptop is perfectly satisfactory.
We Mac partisans once justified Apple’s tiny market share by arguing that Apple didn’t sell as many Macs because it made them too well. We joked about the PC industry’s model of planned obsolescence. There was an element of whistling past the graveyard back then, but it was true that Macintoshes held their value, in monetary and productivity terms, longer than PCs.
To be fair, today’s PCs have closed the longevity gap with Macs. Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and now Windows 10 install to the same hardware as Windows 7.2 Both Apple and PC makers are struggling to find reasons to entice consumers and businesses to buy new computers now that general computing is “fast enough”; Retina displays, touchscreens, DirectX 12 and Metal are efforts to make more powerful technology matter again.
Many in the general public, however, don’t need faster computers. We have other purpose-built devices to assist and delight us. Yesterday’s laptop will be tomorrow’s laptop with few regrets.
The one in front of me is a seven-year-old product, a contemporary of the iPhone 3G, but it runs GarageBand, Audacity and Audio Hijack just fine.3 Its form factor has stood the test of time, still offered in the Apple Store through its otherwise long-in-the-tooth 13-inch descendant. It’s heavy, and it’s slower, and someday it won’t run the latest OS X upgrade. It’s no longer the only productivity machine in my life.
I don’t care. I love my MacBook Pro (Late 2008). Ridiculous ExpressCard/34 slot and all.
[Chip Sudderth works in public school district communications and produces two podcasts: Two-minute Time Lord for Doctor Who fans and The Audio Guide to Babylon 5 with Erika Ensign and Shannon Sudderth.]
Darned if I can find an eSATA ExpressCard that’s compatible with Yosemite now. But that’s all right, because when was the last time you saw an eSATA drive in the wild? ↩
I started to include Skype, but come on. Nothing runs Skype just fine. ↩
June 25, 2015 1:07 PM PT
We got pretty deluged with the impressive abilities of iOS 9 during Apple’s WWDC keynote earlier this month, but obviously, the company didn’t have time to show off everything. And one of the things it didn’t talk about was a much longed-for feature that lets you take most anything you’re looking at on your iOS device and turn it into a PDF.
That’s a capability that OS X has had for a long time in the form of Print to PDF (more recently dubbed “Save as PDF”). In iOS 9, however, it’s not squirreled away under the printer options—rather, it’s included in the Share sheet as “Save PDF to iBooks.” (So it would seem third-party apps would need to implement Apple’s standard Share sheet to get access to it.)
And it does pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Say you’re looking at a picture in Photos, a note in Notes, or a webpage in Safari. You can turn any of those into a PDF that’s automatically dropped into iBooks, alongside any other PDFs you’ve saved there.
As someone who makes pretty extensive use of Print/Save to PDF on OS X, I’m psyched to see this feature make its way to iOS 9. Previously you could sort of duplicate it using Printopia, but it still required you have a Mac handy.
It’s particularly useful for webpages, since it keeps all the text, and makes it searchable and copyable unlike, say, taking a screenshot.
Now, it would be great if we could get some built-in PDF markup tools to go along with that…but perhaps that’s a topic for another time. (Update: I’m reminded that Mail in iOS 9 has markup tools, if you choose to email the PDF from iBooks.)
June 25, 2015 8:22 AM PT
Whatever TV plan Apple might have is still tightly under wraps, but an announcement this week by Hulu and Showtime has got me thinking.
The upshot is this: Hulu subscribers, who already pay $8 per month for the TV streaming service, will be able to stream Showtime content for an additional $9 per month—$2 off the premium cabler’s $11/month streaming service. Showtime’s content will then be delivered via Hulu’s existing website and apps across a variety of platforms, including the Apple TV.
It’s a clever move, solidifying Hulu’s role as a content platform, and extending its reach beyond just broadcast and basic cable networks.
I’m on record as being concerned about the fragmentation of online streaming. If every network starts offering its own streaming service, then we’re left with a mess—$8 per month here, $10 per month there, $15 per month over there. That death by a thousand tiny monthly payments could end up being as expensive as buying a bundle from the cable company.
What I’d like to see from Apple is similar to the system now where you have to sign into your cable provider to prove you have service, except instead you would simply log in with your iTunes account, where you’ve forked over your $20 per month or whatever. For one thing, that would allow Apple to simplify things with a single sign-on approach (and hopefully without the pesky need to “activate” devices). That’d also mean a single place to manage all your subscriptions.
Furthermore, if Apple can follow Hulu’s example and offer extra (or “premium,” if you prefer) channels at a discounted rate, but deliver them through the company’s own infrastructure rather than requiring you to use a separate app or website, then that’s even better. Because that could make it far easier to find a show, rather than having to remember which network to browse to. That simpler approach of “all in one place” that the company is promulgating right now with Apple Music could be equally, if not more, appealing in a TV service.
Of course, all of that means getting the content providers to sign on and cede some degree of control to Apple. Doubtless they’re all still plenty wary of giving away too much of their business.
Currently, Sling TV is the closest analog to what I’d like to see Apple offer, but where I think it still falls down is in its add-on packages. If I want to pick up Disney XD so I can watch Star Wars: Rebels, I can only get it in a package with a bunch of other kids channels. That’s exactly the kind of bundling I canceled cable to escape.
There are, of course, far too many questions left to answer about Apple’s still non-existent service, but I feel like the pieces are starting to fall into place.