A Practical Guide to Networking, Privacy & Security in iOS 9 by Glenn Fleishman: Stay safe, secure, and private. 25% off with coupon AHOY
October 10, 2015 • 1 hour, 20 minutes
This week The Incomparable’s Book Club reconvenes to cover two books that are both sort of about the end of the world: Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife” and Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves.” I’m joined by Serenity Caldwell, Lisa Schmeiser, Scott McNulty, and David J. Loehr.
October 10, 2015 10:35 AM PT
My thanks to Igloo Software for sponsoring Six Colors this week.
Igloo is an Intranet you’ll actually like, putting all of your company collaboration tools in one place, from sharing files to providing status updates to coordinating calendars. Send your IT person to try Igloo Software for free.
By Jason Snell
October 9, 2015 1:51 PM PT
Today Marco Arment released Overcast 2, a free update to his iOS podcast app. There are a lot of great iOS podcast apps out there, but Overcast remains my favorite, thanks to its excellent Smart Speed and Voice Boost features, as well as its flawless speed-boosting features.
Speaking of those features, in previous versions of Overcast they were unlocked when you made an in-app purchase. Beginning with Overcast 2, they’re free. The entire app is free, in fact, with Marco going to a patronage model—he requests donations if you use and like Overcast, to help support its continued development.
It’s an interesting move, but Marco was right to be concerned that the 80 percent of his users who didn’t pay weren’t seeing his app’s most notable features. Now everyone can use those features—and if a small percentage of Overcast users figure that it’s worth paying to thank Marco for his work, it should all work out.
That’s the End of That Chapter
An inside joke in the tech podcasting community has been that, for quite some time now, there have been some vocal podcast listeners who will strongly and repeatedly suggest that real podcasts embed chapter marks. It’s not fair to say that people are almost always German—sometimes they’re Austrian or Swiss.
For a long time I made AAC versions of my podcasts specifically to create chapter marks using GarageBand. But years ago, I gave up and went to MP3 versions only. However, it turns out that the MP3 format does support chapter marks too—it’s just never been supported in most podcast-creation tools or podcast-playing clients1.
Today, with the release of Overcast 2, the number of people who can take advantage of podcast chapter marks has skyrocketed. If you’re a podcaster wondering how you can add chapter marks to your podcast, your options are limited right now.
In fact, right now I know of only one, and it’s what I’ve been using for Clockwise for the last couple of years: the web app Auphonic. Auphonic is an audio processing tool—you upload your file and then set it to encode it, add chapter marks, provide leveling and filtering, and even automatically upload it to your host. You can process two hours of content per month for free, and there’s a sliding scale of what you need to pay for more processing time.
Auphonic also sells a Mac app called Auphonic Leveler Batch Processor, which does all the leveling and filtering, but unfortunately doesn’t (yet?) support adding MP3 chapter marks.
So for now, if you’re a podcaster and you want to experiment with chapter marks, I’d recommend that you check out Auphonic. But it’s hard to believe that someone won’t build a tool—even a quick and dirty one—to make this something you can do right on your Mac2.
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Dan Moren for Macworld
October 9, 2015 1:48 PM PT
A decade or so, the idea of convergence was king. Rather than having a slew of different devices like a media player and an ebook reader and a gaming console, the idea was that we’d some day have a single device capable of handling all the different tasks that we might throw at it. While the iPhone and iPad have in some ways delivered on those promises—they’re media players, Internet communicators, and so on—if anything, device proliferation has only gotten more pronounced over the last few years.
That’s why I find myself intrigued by one particular announcement from Microsoft—yes, that Microsoft—this past week. The Display Dock is a small box, probably about the size of an Apple TV, into which you plug a monitor and other peripherals, such as a mouse and keyboard. When you sit down at your desk, you dock your phone, and voilà, it becomes a computer. One device, multiple contexts. A strange idea, to be sure, but one that I think might be a harbinger of things to come.
Jason Snell for SuperSite
October 9, 2015 8:21 AM PT
There was a time when the idea of Microsoft building its own PC hardware seemed almost unthinkable. In the Bill Gates era and into Steve Ballmer’s reign, Microsoft was always the software supplier, with PC-makers like Dell and HP and a thousand smaller parties happy to compete with their hardware. The announcement of the original Surface was a surprise, and Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia a bit of a shock, but as of Tuesday it feels like the old ways are utterly over, once and for all.
The new Microsoft simply isn’t willing to put the fate of Windows 10 in the hands of its hardware partners. It’s targeting the most important hardware categories and building its own devices, integrating hardware and software together more closely than it has ever done before.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the game that Apple has been playing for years now. And there are some huge advantages to the approach…
By Dan Moren
October 8, 2015 11:56 AM PT
Update: It seems that AT&T is not supporting this feature on the iPhone 5s, only the iPhone 6 or later.
The good news is that AT&T and the FCC seem to have finally finished whatever
spat discussions they’ve been having, and iPhone users on the carrier can now enable the Wi-Fi Calling feature added for all in iOS 9. (Previously, it was offered by other carriers, including T-Mobile, but not for AT&T.)
To enable the feature, open up Settings > Phone and flip the Wi-Fi Calling on This iPhone switch to On. You’ll then have to accept some agreements and update your emergency address—the reason being that when a call is routed over Wi-Fi instead of the traditional cellphone network, 911 emergency services can’t necessarily figure out your current location. If that happens when you’re on Wi-Fi, first responders will be sent to whatever your default location is (probably your home).
Once you’ve got Wi-Fi Calling enabled, it should work automatically as needed. As a test, I flipped my phone into Airplane Mode, activated Wi-Fi, and sure enough, AT&T Wi-Fi showed up right in the status bar. Making a call on it worked perfectly fine, and while I didn’t notice any particular sound improvement, that may be because I was calling someone on a landline.1
As someone who lives in an apartment with an often unreliable cell signal—and as I write this, I note that my iPhone has automatically switched over to AT&T Wi-Fi—I’m looking forward to this feature.
Also of note: while in the past, it seemed like you had to choose between Wi-Fi Calling and the ability to place calls from your Macs, iPads, and so on, it seems that the conflict has been resolved as of iOS 9: I had both Wi-Fi Calling and Calls on Other Devices enabled, and there doesn’t seem to be any interference.
The other week I called my cousin who is also on an AT&T iPhone, and we ended up with a crystal clear connection that sounded more like FaceTime Audio, so I assume that was an HD connection. ↩
Jason Snell for Tom's Guide
October 8, 2015 11:01 AM PT
Of all the features introduced with the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, 3D Touch is the biggest. Taking a cue from Force Touch on the Apple Watch and the latest Apple laptops, 3D Touch can detect different levels of pressure when you press on the iPhone’s screen, summoning up everything from preview glances to additional menu options.
Because it developed the feature, Apple has had time to build 3D Touch into many of its own apps, but most iOS app developers are just starting to add 3D Touch support to their own apps. Still, if you look, you can find apps that are putting 3D Touch to use in interesting ways. Here are the best 3D Touch apps so far.
Jason Snell for Macworld
October 8, 2015 9:40 AM PT
I was an iPad mini lover from the first. I bought the original model just so I could try it out, figuring I’d hand it down to a family member or sell it, and ended up adopting it as my own personal iPad. When the iPad mini 2 came out, I rushed to get one and adopted it as my own personal Retina iPad.
But a funny thing happened: This summer I bought a refurbished iPad Air 2 in order to try out Split View multitasking, a special feature of iOS 9 that no other iPad supported at the time. (The new iPad mini 4 also supports it, as will the forthcoming iPad Pro.) I spent the summer mostly using the iPad Air 2. So when the iPad mini 4 was announced, I responded by… not buying it. Instead, I’m planning on handing my iPad mini 2 down to my son and sticking with the iPad Air 2.
By Dan Moren
October 8, 2015 8:59 AM PT
It’s been a couple weeks since the release of Apple’s newest generation of iPhones, and I’m still training myself to use 3D Touch. Not that the feature isn’t useful, mind you, but eight years of muscle memory is a tough thing to overcome.
That said, I think that 3D Touch is an awesome enhancement to iOS; I just wish that Apple had seen fit to use it in more places. In particular, I—and many of our readers, if my emails and Twitter replies are any indication—would love to see 3D Touch in use in iOS’s Control Center.
I’ve already made my frustrations with Control Center well known, but the addition of 3D Touch provides the perfect framework with which to address several of those issues. Now that Apple has established the interface convention of the Quick Actions pop-up menu, it wouldn’t be out of place to offer such a menu when pressing the Wi-Fi icon in Control Center, where it could provide a list of the nearest and most powerful Wi-Fi networks (or the ability to connect to a VPN). Or pressing on the Bluetooth icon to provide a list of devices to connect to. Even the ability to jump directly to those specific sections of the Settings app would be a handy time-saver.1
The quick launch apps at the bottom could also benefit from 3D Touch, even if it just meant showing the same Quick Action options available for those apps from the Home screen—starting a timer, for example, or quickly jumping to selfie mode in Camera. (I’d still prefer to be able to swap in my own choice of apps in those slots, but my breath capacity isn’t that great.)
Many of these scenarios are for the more fiddly among us, but let’s be honest: 3D Touch seems designed for just those kinds of users. This is a power feature, not unlike keyboard shortcuts—something for users to discover.
The good news is that 3D Touch is young, and while Apple has given us solid examples about things that it can do, there’s plenty of room for it to evolve and spread throughout the rest of iOS.
Honestly, I’m surprised that the Settings app itself doesn’t have any Quick Actions associated with it. I frequently want to jump to specific sections. ↩
By Jason Snell
October 7, 2015 4:12 PM PT
Speaking of products I like being updated, today Flexibits released Fantastical 2.5 for iPhone and iPad. Fantastical is my default calendar on Mac and iPhone, and with the new version I expect to be using it a lot more on iPad as well.
As with so many apps this month, Fantastical is adding support for fancy new features like a Quick Actions menu for iPhone 6S and Split View and Slide Over for iPad. Flexibits also added keyboard shortcuts for those of us who sometimes use a Bluetooth keyboard with our iPads.
Fantastical’s Apple Watch app also got an update, including a Fantastical complication. The vocabulary of complications appears to still be forming—I’ve seen complaints today about Fantastical’s small complication, which simply displays how many more events you’ve got on a given day. (I’m not sure what else it would do in that space, frankly.) And apparently in the Utility face, if your calendar has no more items it clutters the “Enjoy your day” rather than gracefully fading away to nothing (or almost nothing) instead. (I’m a big fan of complications getting out of the way if they have nothing to say.)
But Flexibits has proven to be nothing if not, er, flexible. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Fantastical’s Apple Watch complications evolve over time, like the rest of the app has.
By Jason Snell
October 7, 2015 3:21 PM PT
For ages now I’ve used a BookArc from Twelve South as my MacBook stand. When I used to commute, I would drop my 11-inch MacBook Air into the BookArc, plug in power and Thunderbolt, and go about my day with my laptop driving a Thunderbolt Display while vertical with its lid closed. These days I don’t use my MacBook Air in that configuration, but I still store and charge my Air upright in a BookArc. (And we bought a second one for my wife’s 13-inch MacBook Air.)
Today Twelve South announced the new BookArc, which replaces the old model that’s been around since 2009. (It was Twelve South’s first product, in fact.) It’s smaller and lighter, now made of aluminum and offering a touch of style with a shiny chamfered edge. It comes with silicone inserts sized for the Retina MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and MacBook, so you can get just the right fit for your laptop—and know that your laptop’s aluminum skin is resting gently on a safe, non-scratching material.
Today I got a chance to use the new BookArc model, and from the silicone feet to the cut-outs for cable control, it’s got the same attention to detail that I’ve come to expect from Twelve South. If you run your MacBook in lid-closed mode, or are generally short on desk space, I highly recommend the BookArc.
October 7, 2015 • 29 minutes
This week on the Internet’s favorite 30-minute podcast, Dan Moren and I are joined by Scholle McFarland and Philip Michaels to talk about our dreams for Mac updates, favorite El Capitan features, Amazon’s ban on Apple TV, and yesterday’s big Microsoft event.
By Jason Snell
October 7, 2015 6:00 AM PT
There’s some big news for digital comics fans today. Dark Horse Comics, ComiXology, and Amazon have announced that all of Dark Horse’s single-issue digital comics will be available on the ComiXology and Amazon stores on the same day as print, starting now. This marks the last major comics publisher to hold out from selling issues on ComiXology, the leading digital comics app (that’s now owned by Amazon).
There were signs that this rapprochement might happen; back in June ComiXology began offering digital collections of Dark Horse Comics, including “Wasteland” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Ten.” Now the single issues join the collection, meaning that if you’re a ComiXology user and a fan of an ongoing Dark Horse series, you don’t have to buy it and read it in a separate app.
According to ComiXology, more than 2,000 single issues from Dark Horse are launching today.
In other news related to New York Comic-Con, on Tuesday Comixology announced that they’ve re-upped their deal with independent publisher Oni Press, and extended that deal to Amazon’s comic store as well. Considering that ComiXology CEO David Steinberger is also the head of Amazon’s digital comic efforts, I’d expect to see a lot more crossover between the two stores in the near future.
By Dan Moren
October 6, 2015 1:05 PM PT
Of the Google announcements from a week or so ago, the one I was most interested in was the Chromecast Audio, a small dongle that attaches to most any speaker and lets you stream audio over the network. At $35 it seemed like a pretty good way to liven up some speakers, so I placed an order for one.
Which I promptly forgot about, so I spent a while trying to puzzle out exactly what the envelope was when it showed up at my door the other day.
The Chromecast Audio is an interesting product, but after I spent about an hour or so playing around with it, I realized that I don’t really have much of a need for it. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad product, necessarily, just that my setup doesn’t really lend itself to this device.
First, what I like about it.
By Dan Moren
October 6, 2015 7:58 AM PT
Beta software is a never-ending stream. Just as El Capitan and iOS 9 reached their final releases, those enrolled in Apple’s Beta Software Program were already getting prompted to update to the public betas of OS X 10.11.1 and iOS 9.1.
If you’ve found yourself beginning to tire of your career as a guinea pig and long instead for the stable lifestyle of an ordinary user, don’t worry: it’s easy enough to flip yourself back over to the public release line on both the Mac and iOS sides.
Fire up System Preferences and click on App Store. If you’re on the beta track you’ll see a line that looks like this:
Click Change and you’ll be asked to confirm whether you want to see pre-release beta updates or not.
Click on Do Not Show Pre-release Updates and they’ll vanish from the Mac App Store as if they never were.
Now, if you turn off pre-release updates and want them back, the procedure involves a few more steps. You’ll need to go back to the Apple Beta Software Program site and re-enroll your Mac in the program, which involves downloading a small installer. (Fortunately, the program is associated with your Apple ID, not the specific device.)
Removing yourself from the Public Beta thread on iOS is a little more complex than on the OS X side, but it’s still pretty easy. Open up Settings and navigate to General > Profile, then tap the iOS 9 Beta Software Profile entry.
Now tap the Delete Profile button. You’ll be prompted to enter your passcode and confirm the deletion. (Caution: Doing so on my iPad did not immediately remove the option to update to iOS 9.1 Public Beta via Software Update. I’m not sure if I could have successfully installed it, but there exists a chance you could screw up your device by trying to do so without the profile installed, so don’t do it.)
Getting back on the beta train with iOS is pretty similar to the OS X side. Head over to the Apple Public Beta Program on your iOS device and select the option to enroll your device. You’ll have to reinstall the profile and restart, but after that, the public beta option should return to Software Update.
By Dan Moren
October 6, 2015 7:10 AM PT
After a little more than a year, microtransactions are coming to Bungie’s Destiny, a space adventure game in which players roam the universe, fight back the encroaching Darkness, and dance, dance, dance the night away.
To acquire these items, you’ll first need to pick up some “Silver,” a new in-game currency that will be available for purchase through the store associated with your console. Images and descriptions for each available emote, along with pricing information for Silver will be made available Tuesday, October 13th, alongside the launch of the in-game storefront right here on Bungie.net as soon as the content is live.
It really was only a matter of time before Bungie took the opportunity to dip its toe into the microtransaction game, charging real world cash for in-game content. But, given the seeming inevitability of that decision, it seems so far as though the game developer’s chosen a smart way to go about it. Rather than gating content to those willing to spend a ton of money, all of the upgrades are cosmetic—emotes that your character can perform.1
(At launch, emotes were limited to just four: wave, point, sit, and the ever popular dance. If you shelled out some extra money when the most recent expansion, The Taken King, debuted, you could pick up some new class-specific dance emotes as well.)
That’s a smart move, because it doesn’t simply pave the way for people to pay their way through the game, speeding their progress by exchanging money for in-game resources, like those kids who always bought entire boxes of Magic: The Gathering cards—you know the ones. It just provides a “luxury” good—something people want but that doesn’t skew the game—for those who have the money.
The outstanding question is just how much your real world money will get you, which we’ll find out in the next week, but if it’s a couple bucks for a new dance move, you can bet my Guardian is ready to get down.
I suppose if the company was really conniving, they could create a hidden door in the game that only opens when you do a specific dance in front of it. ↩