Ready for a blast from the past? NetNewsWire, the venerable RSS reader, is back, with a release of version 4.0. It launches with both a $10 Mac app and a $4 iOS app, supported by a cloud syncing service.
Longtime Mac users will probably have fond memories of the app, once the RSS reader of choice for the platform. Over the years it bounced from its original home at Brent Simmons’s Ranchero Software, to NewsGator, and eventually to its current home at Black Pixel, back in 2011. A public beta of version 4.0 was first released in 2013; the last public beta release was just shy of a year ago.
Of course, the real question is whether an RSS reader is still software that people get worked up about. With the demise of longtime RSS staple Google Reader and the incursion of social networks and alternative news reading apps like Flipboard, Nuzzel, and soon Apple News, an RSS reader seems decidedly last decade. It’s a challenging environment into which to drop a new product—even one with as respected a brand as NetNewsWire.
It wouldn’t really bug me if it weren’t that this is a news app. ↩
Is your life incomplete without a droid roaming your house? Good news! You can now get your own BB-8, the spherical robot1 seen in the trailers for the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can control the $150 toy manually with your smartphone, or let it drive around your house automatically.
But for all the added bells and whistles, the BB-8’s primary directive is really just to be a ball of cuteness — to make you feel something and ascribe emotion to an algorithmically driven device. Even when you’re not using BB-8, the droid will start looking around, as if it’s impatiently waiting for you to give it directions. The first time I set it down in its charging stand, it suddenly began “looking around,” twisting and moving its head erratically as if it’s trying to ascertain its environment. It was a jarring moment for myself and a few other co-workers, too, but it speaks to Sphero’s renewed focus on giving its products personality. “We think this is probably the first step for Sphero,” said Maigret, reflecting on the company’s rather ambitious goals for the future. “We think that ultimately there will be a robot in every house — that everyone will own a companion.”
Don’t expect BB-8 to fetch your morning tea (or coffee), though—it’s only a droid, and not very knowledgable about such things.
Hulu has been a streaming-video pioneer, yet when its name comes up in conversation it seems to always be negative. That’s what you get when your paid video streaming service is full of ads when all of your paid video streaming service competitors are free of ads.
While Hulu is moving away from being “the video service packed full of ads,” it’s also more expensive than its competitors. Compare Hulu’s $12/month ad-free plan with Netflix’s $8/month HD plan and Amazon Instant Video’s $8.25/month (actually part of the larger $99/year Amazon Prime service).
I watched a 1970s-era “Doctor Who” episode today at lunchtime on Hulu1, and sure enough, there weren’t any ads. However, during a 25-minute episode there were three different “commercial breaks” in which the action faded out, and then back in. It’s a reminder of Hulu’s original business model—but one that it’s at least starting to see beyond.
Turns out that Hulu has exclusive access to by far the largest streaming collection of classic “Doctor Who” episodes in America. ↩
I can’t remember when I first found myself attracted to technological toys. Was it the first video game I saw, or the first computer keyboard I typed on? No, even earlier than that I was fascinated with typewriters, the manual one I got as a kid and the IBM Selectric with the spinning typeball in my father’s office.
The point is, I’ve always enjoyed technology. You name it: it’s a joy to solve a problem with software or scripting or a web service or a cleverly applied bit of hardware. But in the past few months I’ve been reminded that sometimes it’s a good idea to realize that just because you can use clever new technology to solve a problem, it may not be the best solution available.
Speaking of John Paczkowski, he reported today that the new Apple TV will cost $149 and offer universal search as a major new feature:
Sources familiar with Apple’s plans say that a cornerstone of the the company’s new set-top box is a universal search feature that will enable searches across multiple streaming video services as well as Apple’s iTunes Store. Instead of searching the catalogs of multiple video services one at a time for a particular movie, you’ll now be able to search all — or most of them — at once and then choose the service on which you’d like to watch it. You’ll also be able to search for actors and directors, and run other more targeted searches as well — all with Siri.
My TiVo has a unified search engine, and it’s quite convenient. Adding universal search to Apple TV, and tying it in with Siri, should make the device a huge improvement over the current model.
This week on Clockwise, Dan and I are joined by guests Shelly Brisbin and Guy English to talk about possible future Siri and Apple TV improvements, my fear of an Apple-programmed video service, and dealing with being the IT managers for our friends and family.
But keep in mind, the headline says “planned,” and plans change. As Gurman writes:
While whispers within Apple point to the MacBook-sized tablet making its debut on next week’s stage, it is possible that Apple could still hold back the larger iPad for an early October event given the currently planned November ship date.
Gurman’s sources are very good, but in this instance he’s referring to them as “whispers within Apple” before immediately saying that Apple could still not include the new iPad Pro at the Sept. 9 event. Apple’s been known to make changes to its keynote lineup at the last minute, so even if the whispers say one thing today, things could be completely different a week from now.
Apple is exploring getting into the original programming business.
Sources indicate the Cupertino, Calif., colossus has held preliminary conversations in recent weeks with executives in Hollywood to suss out their interest in spearheading efforts to produce entertainment content. The unit putting out the feelers reports into Eddy Cue, who is Apple’s point man on all content-related matters, from its negotiations with programmers for Apple TV to its recent faceoff with Taylor Swift.
The scale of Apple’s ambitions vary depending on whom is asked, but one high-level executive who talked with the company said the goal is to create development and production divisions that would churn out long-form content to stream in a bid to compete with Netflix. Apple is hoping to put a headhunting firm on those hires in the coming months, according to source, with the goal of being in operation next year. Unknown is whether the focus is on TV series, movies — or both.
On the one hand, Apple’s got a lot of money, and exclusive content is a differentiator in the entertainment market, whether or not consumers like it. On the other hand, creating content has never been in Apple’s wheelhouse—even Apple Music and Beats One are about curation of other people’s content—and as Microsoft found out, being a movie or TV studio can be a tough game.
My gut feeling is that this is the sort of game Apple just shouldn’t play.
So there I was, halfway through Netflix’s “Daredevil” series and headed out to a weeklong getaway at a series of locations with terrible Internet connectivity. There would be plenty of opportunity for evening TV watching, so I wanted to pack some shows for the trip. “Daredevil” seemed the obvious choice, but for one major drawback: Netflix says it won’t ever allow its content to be downloaded and cached for offline viewing1. So if you’re getting on a long flight, going to a cabin in the woods, or even haunting a series of hotels with terrible Wi-Fi, you can’t count on Netflix to provide you with video entertainment.
There are some caveats—not all content is available for download, due to rights issues. But there are plenty that are, including Amazon’s own originals, including “Transparent” and “Catastrophe.”
When you first play a video, the app warns you that you’ll be starting a 30-day offline viewing period, after which the file will be unplayable unless you connect to the Internet for reauthorization. So even if you’re taking a very long trip without any Internet connectivity at all, you should be able to stockpile plenty of videos.
I tried the app update that unlocks this feature this morning, and it worked just fine. My only quibble is that the app should probably have a second mode that displays when it knows it’s offline, and just shows you your offline video. Instead, an offline iPad still shows the entire Amazon Video library (along with a warning that it can’t connect). To see what you’ve downloaded, you have to tap on the Library tab, then tap Refine and choose On Device from the Display submenu.
Okay, maybe it’s not elegant—but with one feature it has made Amazon my go-to service for when I’m traveling. I’m both a Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriber, so I have choices here. But as long as Netflix refuses to support subscribers who are traveling to places with lousy connectivity, it’s effectively pushing those subscribers into the arms of its competition.
Yes, yes, I know pirates have ways of downloading Netflix stuff, but like the average Netflix user, I’m just not interested in going down that road. ↩
This week on Upgrade, Myke Hurley and I look forward to the Sept. 9 Apple event. What will it take for a new Apple TV to be a success? Also, a Wii U game wins over my son’s birthday party in a mouseless house, and we ponder the mystery of why some people don’t like Tap to Click.
The number of email addresses I maintain only slightly exceeds the number of versions of Star Wars that I own. Many of my email addresses, however, are not full-fledged mailboxes, but simply aliases that forward email to a central account (i.e. the Six Colors email listed at the end of every post).
While it’s easy enough to receive messages from all those disparate addresses, when I reply to them from that central mailbox, it exposes that main account—one which I generally don’t want to throw around. However, with a little bit of tweaking, you can set up Mail on OS X and iOS to let you customize the From line of your emails so that you can send from any of those aliases.
On OS X, launch Mail, go to Mail > Preferences, and select the Accounts pane. If you’re using a standard IMAP, POP, or Exchange account, all you should need to do is find the field listed as Email Address, and add a comma followed by the other address.
(Note: If you’re using an iCloud account on OS X Yosemite, you may notice that Email Address is un-editable, showing up as a grayed-out field. Choosing “Custom” from the Alias dropdown above Email Address makes the field editable, but even after adding the aliases, I had no luck sending email from them via iCloud’s outgoing mail server.1 For more on a workaround, see below.)
Now, when you send an email, place the cursor over the From line and choose from the drop-down menu which address you’d like the email to come from. (On OS X, Mail seems to be smart enough that when you reply to a message it automatically sets the From line to the same address the original message was sent to.)
On iOS, this feature is hidden a little deeper, but it’s still pretty easy to set up. If you’re running a standard IMAP or POP account, you should be able to add additional email addresses with ease.
Open Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and select an email account. (Note: As above, iCloud—and also Gmail—accounts won’t work in the same way, but I’ll address those below.) In the following screen tap on Account and then tap on Email. You’ll see a screen listing the primary email address and then an entry for Add Another Email. Tap that and enter the email address you want to use, then hit the Return key on the keyboard (make sure you do that, because if you navigate away from the screen in any other way, it won’t save).
When you’ve done that, you should once again see the Add Another Email entry below your new address. Now you can back all the way back out, making sure to hit the Done button in the top right corner of the previous screen.
As on OS X, when you send an email, you should be able to tap the From address in the compose screen to choose your address—you may actually need to tap it twice: once to expand the full list of headers, and again to choose the address. iOS, in my brief tests, doesn’t seem as good about automatically choosing the appropriate email address for replies, so keep that in mind.
iCloud and Gmail accounts
You’ll probably notice if you try to follow the above instructions that you can’t add any aliases to an iCloud account that aren’t for iCloud.com (and you have to go all the way to the iCloud web interface to do even that). Gmail accounts on iOS, meanwhile, don’t appear to let you add aliases at all.
There are a couple options here. One is to instead re-create your Gmail or iCloud account using the generic IMAP configuration rather than the provider-specific options that iOS and OS X offer. For iCloud, you’ll need this support doc for the correct settings2; for Google, you’ll have to wade through this interactive tool, or simply look around for instructions on manual IMAP configuration for Gmail. However, as noted above in the OS X section, those addresses may not
even work after all those perambulations, since Apple’s outgoing iCloud server is apparently very strict about what addresses you use.
So, before you go down that bleak path, I’ve found a faster, simpler workaround. If you already have any generic IMAP account set up on your Mac or iOS device, follow the instructions above to add the additional email alias to that account. iOS doesn’t directly link addresses to mailboxes, so when you compose a message or a reply you can choose any address or alias that is set up on your iOS device. It’s way easier and doesn’t require you to go through the hassle of reconfiguring your account.
Armed with those tips, hopefully you’re ready to handle all of your multiple-email-sending needs. I’m constantly trying to make my email setups work a little more efficiently, and this is really just one step in a long line of long-delayed tweaks to my workflow. But each little step helps.
In the El Capitan beta that I am currently running, there is no longer a Custom option at all, so it seems like Apple is cracking down on people sending emails from addresses that are not their own. Good for spam, likely, but annoying for people with lots of addresses. ↩
Recently, WeipTech was analyzing suspicious Apple iOS tweaks reported by users and found over 225,000 valid Apple accounts with passwords stored on a server.
In cooperation with WeipTech, we have identified 92 samples of a new iOS malware family in the wild. We have analyzed the samples to determine the author’s ultimate goal and have named this malware “KeyRaider”. We believe this to be the largest known Apple account theft caused by malware.
Sounds bad, and sure, it ain’t great, but keep a couple of factors in mind here:
225,000 is a lot of accounts, but as of last April, Apple had 800 million iTunes accounts and sold more than a billion iOS devices, so they’ve probably got at least a billion Apple IDs floating around. Of which 225,000 represents 0.0225 percent. So, in terms of scale, this is hardly a widespread hack. The analysis also suggests that most of the accounts are from users in China.
The thing that isn’t mentioned in most of the headlines1 is that this malware, as pretty much all iOS malware before it, specifically targets jailbroken devices. Which is to say devices where users have purposefully compromised the platform’s integrity in order to tweak features to their liking or, not uncommonly, to run pirated apps. I’m not going to tell you to not jailbreak your devices, because, hey, that’s up to you. But if you do, don’t be too surprised when you get bitten by an exploit. Your car may have a great security system, but if you leave it in a bad neighborhood with the windows down and the keys in the ignition, well, there you go.
To be fair, it does get mentioned in the body of most of the stories I’ve seen, but a lot of people don’t read that far/closely. ↩
Folks have been pretty positive about my adventures with OS X Server, and several readers sent in some great resources for further projects that one could attempt once Server is set up. I’ll probably look into a few of these when I have a little less on my plate, but in the meantime I figured that I’d pass along these links for your own further edification:
OS X Server 4 (Yosemite 10.10): Todd Olthoff has a number of video tutorials on setting up OS X Server features. Bonus: Todd’s also guested on a couple episodes of Mac Power Users (#189 and #229) discussing Server.
AFP548: This site’s mainly targeted at OS X-using system administrators, and, as such, is written for a more technical audience, but it’s a useful resource if you’re looking to dive into the more nitty-gritty aspects.
50 ways to use your server: Macminicolo, to whose excellent VPN walkthrough I linked in my first post, also has this extensive listing of things to do with your OS X Server. Some are more appropriate for a co-hosted setup like Macminicolo’s, but there’s plenty to dig through.
To those of you interested in OS X Server, I’d imagine the above will keep you busy for a while. Good luck, and don’t forget to, uh, tip your server.
Thanks to for Meetings for iPad for sponsoring Six Colors this week. for Meetings is an app that fuses the best features of an outliner with a fresh approach at representing and manipulating content.
With for Meetings, you can capture notes, agenda items, and more, drag attendees to connect them to content, use gestures to move and organize content, and publish content as notes, agendas, or minutes.
Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch has exquisite Apple knowledge and fantastic sources, and he’s got the lowdown on the new Apple TV. A8 processor, app store, new remote control… it’s all in the report. Check it out.
Inspired by a conversation on the latest episode of The Rebound, my Stay Foolish column at Macworld this week considers adding a social element to the Apple Watch’s fitness features:
Apple’s most popular competitor in the wearable fitness device space is Fitbit, and that company has wholeheartedly embraced the social aspect of workouts—friends who have Fitbits regularly cite it as the most fun or engaging part of the device. Using the Fitbit app, people can compare their progress throughout the day or week against their friends (or perhaps even their enemies). That social aspect is a great motivator, but it’s wholly missing from Apple’s fitness features.
I’m going to discuss these in reverse order, critiquing and adding missing detail. Although the video is nearly twelve minutes long, it’s light on detail, with much of the time being spent telling us how cool Lew is. This is unnecessary—we can tell how cool Lew is from his backwards baseball cap.
I love how Dr. Drang’s engineering background provides a unique perspective on alloys and heat treatment. (Also, you’ll learn how aluminum is like a ball of bread dough.) So read the story already, now that we’ve recommended it twice.