Electric Shadow: A cinematic analysis of Apple ↦

This week on Moises Chiullan’s Electric Shadow podcast, I join John Gruber and Horace Dediu to view Apple’s product announcements through a little bit of a different lens: as cinema. I’ve said for a while now that one of the greatest innovations of Steve Jobs was turning technological innovation into a live stage show, and we talk about that a lot on this episode.

Also, I bring up “Max Headroom” and Gruber recalls an exploding taco.

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Big week, huge week!

Jason Snell

This is the end of day three of me sitting in a chair in my garage and writing things and doing podcasts and calling that my job, instead of sitting in an office building in San Francisco and doing various things and calling that my job.

It started in Portland, where I was attending the excellent XOXO festival. On the plane up I wrote a farewell to Macworld print for The Verge. After XOXO was over, I took the train to Seattle with Glenn and along the way wrote my iPhone 6/6 Plus review for Macworld.

On the flight down from Seattle on Tuesday I wrote the first of five pieces I’ve written for Six Colors this week, then rushed home and launched the site the moment the Apple embargo lifted. Simultaneously I posted the first episode of the Upgrade podcast over at Relay FM.

Finally, today I posted the first episode of a new TV podcast with Tim Goodman, the chief television critic at The Hollywood Reporter.

It was also Parents’ Night at my daughter’s middle school this week. I don’t think I mentioned that.

Or to put it another way, this was the first week of the rest of my life. Thanks to all of you for joining me on the ride.


Clockwise 54: Government in exile ↦

I neglected to mention this the other day, but we posted an episode of the Clockwise podcast this week. It’s gone from TechHive and moving to Relay FM, but isn’t there quite yet, so this episode is posted at Soundcloud. Dan Moren and I are joined by our former IDG colleagues Dan Frakes and Philip Michaels to discuss iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, an overabundance of apps from single vendors, and our favorite iOS 8 features.

(If you don’t know what Clockwise is, it’s a tech podcast that lasts 30 minutes or less, in which we quickly cover four burning tech topics.)

Clockwise is sponsored by Backblaze: Great native online backup for your Mac that gives you access to your files anywhere.

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The luxury of the Apple Watch Edition

Apple Watch Edition

Seems like everyone’s getting their fancy iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus shipments today—I know I’m waiting for mine—so what better time to talk about the Apple Watch, which won’t arrive until 2015?

Last week I got to hold the Apple Watch Edition—that’s the 18-karat gold model. As you might expect from anything made of gold, it’s heavy. (In contrast to the Apple Watch Sport, which is made out of aluminum and glass in order to be as light as possible.)

And what gold! My favorite moment of Apple’s entire presentation was a nearly throwaway line about how, on the Apple Watch Edition, Apple’s team of metallurgists had developed a gold formula that is “up to twice as hard as standard gold.”

I know what you’re thinking. You’re a jeweler. You’re looking at Apple and thinking, “Technology guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.” But here’s Apple, fresh to the watch game and claiming they’ve fixed gold.

I don’t know whether it’s funny because of the idea that Apple could improve on a material that’s been used in jewelry for millennia, or because we’ve got to add metallurgy to the list of areas Apple is now disrupting. Or both. Could it be both?

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Andy Ihnatko unboxes the iPhone 6 ↦

I’m not a big fan of unboxing videos, but I know people love them, and if you’re going to watch one, I say watch the one with Andy Ihnakto. Andy knows the entire phone market, he’s funny, and he’s experimenting with video in his new The Very Least I Could Do series.

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Why I bought the iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone 6 paper models

Like many Apple customers, I spent a good amount of time last week debating whether to order an iPhone 6 or an iPhone 6 Plus. I even did the “create a paper version and stuff it in your pocket” thing. The iPhone 6’s 4.7-inch (diagonal) screen will be a significant jump in size compared to the display on my iPhone 5s, but the iPhone 6 Plus’s screen, at 5.5 inches across, will offer that much more.

And there’s the rub: The potential utility of more screen real estate is obvious, but a bigger screen means a bigger phone. At some point, the device becomes simply too large to comfortably or conveniently carry around.

Or, to put it another way, the iPhone 6 Plus is freakin’ huge.

And yet, in the end, that’s the model I chose—with 128GB of storage, of course—for a number of reasons.

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The Rebound ↦

I know, the world doesn’t need any more tech podcasts now that Upgrade has launched. But if anyone was going to make a funny, listenable tech podcast, it would be my friends Dan Moren, Lex Friedman, and John Moltz. And so they did. It’s called The Rebound.

Unfortunately, iTunes appears to have replaced the entirety of episode one with a new U2 album.

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Jason's Umpteenth Kindle

Kindle Voyage

(Photo courtesy Andy Ihnatko.)

I bought a new Kindle last night.

Someone on Twitter mentioned that Amazon had announced new Kindles, and within about five minutes I had ordered the Kindle Voyage, a $199 dedicated ebook reader that’s the spiritual successor to the Kindle Paperwhite (which remains in the ever-growing Kindle product line).

Yes, Amazon announced several new devices (and my pal Andy Ihnatko saw it all). The other devices were new Fires (formerly Kindle Fires, now not part of the family)—Android-based tablets including one for only $99, but I love my iPad and that’s that.

And yet… those E-Ink Kindles? I have a weakness. This is the fourth or fifth I’ve bought. I’ve lost track.

Why do I love Kindles so much? Why does someone with an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook need a Kindle? Am I a crazy person? (Spoilers: I am definitely a madman with a Kindle.)

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Looking at Accessibility in iOS 8 ↦

At the XOXO festival this past weekend in Portland, Oregon, I had the pleasure to finally meet Steven Aquino and tell him how important it is that he keeps us all (in the media and, presumably, within Apple) paying attention to the importance of accessibility.

Steven has been writing about Apple and accessibility for a while now, for Macworld and TidBITS and elsewhere, and today he takes a look at accessibility in iOS 8 on MacStories.

Sentimental and trite though these words may be, as a disabled user who uses Accessibility every day on my devices, I truly believe in the difference Apple makes.

iOS 8 is more proof that, for people with disabilities, Apple’s OS is head and shoulders above the competition.

Count me among those who agree with Marco that Apple should give apps a special label if they qualify as accessible, as a way to prompt more developers to care about the accessibility of their products.

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Sponsor: Rogue Amoeba ↦

Our launch sponsor is Rogue Amoeba, tools for all your audio needs. Among their apps are Airfoil, Audio Hijack Pro, and Fission.

I use Rogue Amoeba apps on a regular basis. Audio Hijack and Nicecast are key parts of my podcasting workflow. I’ve used Fission to create MP3s of my favorite baseball team’s World Series radio broadcasts to use as comfort audio during long, cold winters. If you’ve got a Mac and work with audio—creating or listening—you should check out Rogue Amoeba.

Through the end of September, Six Colors readers get $5 off anything at Rogue Amoeba by using the coupon code SIXCOLORS.

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iPhone 6 Plus: It's not an iPad nano

iPhone 6 Plus on iPad mini

When Apple announced the iPhone 6 Plus on Sept. 9, I entertained the idea that it might be a replacement for my iPad mini. At last, the promise of a single device small enough to fit in my pocket, but big enough to satisfy my productivity needs.

Then I used the iPhone 6 Plus. And while it will have its fans—in fact, I’ll wager that the iPhone 6 Plus will have rabid fans—it’s just not for me, because I wasn’t seeking a bigger iPhone. I was seeking an iPad nano, and that’s not something the iPhone 6 Plus is willing to be.

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iOS 8 Changed How I Work on My iPhone and iPad ↦

I doubt there’s anyone more committed to maximizing iOS workflows to turn the iPad into a professional workhorse than Federico Viticci of MacStories. Now that iOS 8 has arrived, he’s got the details of how it’s dramatically changed and simplified his workflow.

I built scripts to automate image editing and combine that with Dropbox uploads. I connected apps with x-callback-url to let them collaborate on a single task with one tap. I set up shortcuts in Launch Center Pro and chained actions in Drafts. I let Editorial take care of everything else.

I’m about to throw most of this stuff away with iOS 8.

This is a great overview of how iOS 8 extensions allow apps to work together without the complexity required in earlier versions.

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Goodbye Macworld ↦

Late last week Nilay Patel at The Verge asked me to write a brief piece about the death of Macworld in print and of computer magazines in general. I couldn’t say no.

Still, imagine a time when there was no The Verge, no Ars Technica, no Engadget or Gizmodo, no tech sites of any kind. It was an information desert. Mentions of computers on the TV news or in the newspaper were simplified and often laughably wrong. Those monthly computer magazines were all we had to sustain us. They were a sign that other people cared about the same stuff we did, before the Internet made us all realize that none of us is a unique and special snowflake. They were awesome, and if they’re not all gone quite yet, they will be soon. So it goes.

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The Apple Watch is computing at its most personal

Tim Cook’s no dummy—the man reads the news. Expectations for an Apple wearable have been stratospheric if not astronomic, and the pundits finally all agreed on one thing: the company “needed” to hit a home run.

Of course, given the way the press stacks against Apple, what that really meant was that Cook needed to hit a grand slam. On September 9, he came up to bat at the Flint Center—bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs—and hammered a deep, high drive to left field.

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PCalc makes Notification Center into a calculation center

I’ve been writing about James Thomson’s software for as long as I’ve been writing about technology, and I’ve always been impressed at how James strives to update his apps to support new Apple technologies as quickly as possible.

Today marks the release of PCalc 3.3 for iPhone, the best calculator for iPhone. As you might expect with any update dated today, it’s got support for the iPhone 6 and iOS 8, most notably a Notification Center widget that lets you flip down and calculate without even launching the app. There’s also Handoff support, so you can transfer a particularly long and thorny calculation from one device to another, perhaps while desperately seeking inspiration?

The other big feature in PCalc 3.3 is an editor that lets you create custom button layouts. At last, I can realize Steven Wright’s dream and create a calculator containing no seven!

PCalc 3.3 is a free update for existing users and is $10 for the uninitiated.


Upgrade #1: Fly Casual ↦

It’s the first episode of your next favorite podcast, Upgrade, featuring the vocal stylings of yours truly and the very nice and very British Myke Hurley. I download my first few days with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and talk a bit about Apple product events and Myke’s obsession with the iPhone 6 Plus.

Of course, you can subscribe to Upgrade via RSS or iTunes.

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iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus: A tale of scale

I’ve been using the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus for the last week, since Apple’s big event on Sept. 9. You can read my full review on Macworld—it’s my final byline there. You can also listen to episode 1 of my new podcast, Upgrade, in which I discuss the new iPhones and my review with my co-host, Myke Hurley.

The most interesting thing about both of these phones is their size, of course. They’re both bigger than any previous iPhone. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens when these devices get in everyone’s hands. Not only are those hands of various sizes, but everyone has their own personal style for using their iPhone—and some styles will probably need to be adapted more than others.

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U.S.S. Enterprise to Boldly Go Back to the Workshop ↦

Air & Space magazine:

Once NASM opened, the Enterprise spent most of the years between 1976 and 1999 suspended from the ceiling… the model was initially regarded more as a piece of decor than as an object deserving of preservation and scholarship in its own right.

I remember wandering through the Air & Space Museum as an eight-year-old kid, seeing milestones of flight. Touching a (well-worn) fragment of a moon rock. Looking at old NASA capsules. And yet absolutely nothing made more of an impression on me than that wooden model, the real “Star Trek” Enterprise, suspended above me. That image is fixed in my mind more than three decades later.

Good news: Now the Smithsonian knows what they’ve got. It’s being restored right now.

[Via Todd Vaziri and Joe Steel]

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