by Jason Snell & friends

The Incomparable

#244: The Adventures of Maggie the Mutant ↦

Over at The Incomparable, our Comic Book Club returns this week. One of my goals with talking about comics is to pick things that are accessible, that you can buy a book or two and get an entire story.

This time we’re talking about “Marvels” and “Kingdom Come,” both readily available in single trade-paperback editions. These are two ’90s stories featuring gorgeous art by Alex Ross and intriguing themes about the relationship between superhumans and regular humans.

The Apple Watch has landed!

Do any of the other hairy-arm shots also feature an orange foam brain? I didn’t think so.

I have taken possession of an Apple Watch Sport. So, any questions? Send ‘em to or tweet them at @jsnell and I’ll try to answer them. More impressions later today…. in the meantime, iMore’s Apple Watch anticipation/arrival live blog is a fun read.

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Randy Ubillos leaves Apple ↦

Thursday was Randy Ubillos’ last day at Apple.

As Six Colors reader John Buck noted to me via email, “modern nonlinear video editing is almost certainly based upon the work of three people and their teams,” Adrian Ettlinger in the 1970s with CMX, Bill Warner in the 1990s with Avid, and Randy Ubillos with ReelTime, Premiere, KeyGrip, Final Cut Pro, and iMovie. (Thanks to John for the perspective.)

My Ubillos story is a little more personal: When the all-new iMovie came out, there were a lot of complaints, as there always are when something changes a lot. I complained somewhere (on Macworld? on Twitter?) about how losing the keyboard shortcut to the Split Clip command really ruined my iMovie workflow.

Later that same day I got an email from Randy Ubillos thanking me for my comment (!) and asking if there were any other keyboard shortcuts I’d like to see. And sure enough, in the very next update to iMovie, there was a keyboard shortcut assigned to the Split Clip command.

I can count on one hand (with fingers left over) the number of interactions like this—directly with key people who are creating software at Apple—that I’ve had in two decades of covering the company. That Randy Ubillos himself cared enough about his product and comments about it to answer and ask for more feedback… it blew me away. It still does.

All the best in retirement, Randy. Plenty of time to take more photos and videos.

iFixit tears down the Apple Watch ↦

(Image: iFixit)

It’s a tradition — iFixit goes to Australia and tears apart new Apple hardware. And so they’re in Melbourne right now breaking down the Apple Watch. There are always fun tidbits that are gleaned from the disassembly, so check it out.

[Get much more watch-related stuff on our Apple Watch page.]

In praise of the Utilities folder ↦

This week in my More Color column over on Macworld, I tell the story of Grapher and other unsung OS X apps that Apple hides in the Utilities folder.

Yes, Grapher. Did you know Apple includes a graphic app on every Mac? It does. And it helped me help my daughter do her homework just the other week.

Wish List: Sort by cellular data usage in iOS

This one’s short and sweet. Last week I was off traveling and had to rely heavily on my iPhone’s data connection, with Wi-Fi being non-existent in many places and incredibly unreliable in the rest. As the end of the trip approached, I quickly realized that I’d ended up using the bulk of my 4GB monthly data allotment, even though I was only about a week into my billing period.1 Even by dialing back my usage, there was little chance that I wouldn’t go over.

Cellular Usage on iOS

Now, there are plenty of ways to monitor your data usage on iOS: you can use tools provided by your carrier, a third-party app like DataMan, or even go to Settings > Cellular and see an app-by-app breakdown.

But that last option has one key issue. Unlike iOS’s pretty great battery usage breakdown (Settings > General > Usage > Battery Usage), the Cellular data screen lists apps alphabetically. Great if you want to turn off cellular data access for a particular app, but what I really want to know is which ones are the worst offenders.

So I’d like a toggle, please, that lets us choose whether to sort by highest data usage or alphabetically by app name. That way I don’t have to scroll through the entire listing of apps to figure out which one is eating up all my data.2

For extra fancy points3, adding filters for the last 7 days or last 24 hours, as Apple already does for battery usage, would be pretty handy as well. Not to mention being able to set a day of the month where your usage automatically resets, since I often forget to manually zero the meter on the first day of my new billing cycle. But, as I said, that’s a gap that third-party apps can fill for now.

Of course, what I really need is an iPhone case that shocks me when I’m using too much data. But let’s maybe hold off on that one for now.

  1. What can I say? Self-control isn’t always my strong suit. ↩

  2. Hulu. It was totally Hulu. But, I mean, come on! I was standing in line for hours on end—what was I going to do, not watch the latest episode of Arrow? ↩

  3. Fancy points are non-redeemable. ↩

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

Apple Watch user manual is online ↦

Well, my Apple Watch may not have shipped yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t spend every last second poring over the user manual for useful nuggets of information, like this:

A steady series of 12 taps means turn right at the intersection you’re approaching; three pairs of two taps means turn left.

I’m guessing they chose these two patterns because they’re so distinct as not to be confused with one another. But that is a lot of wrist tapping. (Thanks to Twitter user tcbritt for pointing this out.)

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

Waiting for Apple Watch

Update: Well, got a shipping notification from Apple at 5:56 pm Eastern today, so it looks like there is a Santa Claus, Virginia.

Despite waking up at 3 a.m. Eastern to order an Apple Watch, my order is still listed on Apple’s site as “Processing,” not yet having shifted to that most desirable of statuses, “Preparing for Shipment.” Instead, like many folks, I got an email in my inbox last night with this weirdly ambiguous message.

Apple email

My order, for a 42mm Space Gray Apple Watch Sport, was processed at 3:03 a.m. Eastern, and from the admittedly unscientific results I’ve collected on Twitter it seems like around then may have been the cutoff for the first wave of shipments. (It’s also possible that the Space Gray or, at least, the 42mm version of it, may have been in especially high demand.)1

What I think is fair to say is that this is a most unusual Apple product launch, especially for the company’s consumer lines. New Macs, especially professional-level models, often seem to trickle out, but it’s been years since a new iOS device had this kind of Schrödinger’s launch window.

In large part, that is of course because this is an entirely new device, unlike anything Apple’s ever created before. While there are plenty of rumors about shortages in the supply chain, I’ve yet to hear any that ring with the weight of truth. Broad shortages would also seem to fly in the face of the many reports I’ve heard that watches supposed to ship later—including in June—are preparing for shipment already, and an Apple spokesperson telling BuzzFeed that orders would ship sooner than expected.

So what’s the deal with those of us who ordered watches early that don’t seem to be shipping yet? One likely possibility is that certain models—such as the Space Gray that I ordered—were met with very high demand, meaning that they’ll be shipped more slowly, while other models had lower than expected demand, meaning they’ll be delivered more promptly.

Two significant factors come to mind that would play into this. First, the immense number of band and case combinations make for more models, I would hazard, than pretty much any Apple product to date.2

More to the point, however, is that the differences between those models are largely matters of taste rather than of function. All of the Apple Watches have the same technological features. Compare that to the iPhone or iPad, where the primary distinctions are features like storage capacity and supported wireless carrier. There’s a lot more concrete usage information on which to base sales projections—for example, existing subscriber base for particular carriers.

Overall, though, I’m pretty confident that Apple is selling Apple Watches as fast as it can make them. The real question is just how fast it’s making them.

  1. It’s also possible that I’ll still get a shipping notification, in which case I’ll have to retract all of this! ↩

  2. I count 30 distinct SKUs of Watch—not including the Edition, which I kind of think of as a separate product altogether.  ↩

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


#84: The Amazon Echosystem ↦

On the latest episode of Clockwise, Jason’s traveling so I’m joined by two of The Wirecutter’s crew, Dan Frakes and Jacqui Cheng, and Macworld’s Glenn Fleishman. We chat about the Amazon Echo and other intelligent assistants, the decline in Apple’s onboarding experience, Twitter’s changes to direct messages, and what other sensors we’d like to see on the Apple Watch.

MLB Advanced Media, streaming’s quiet giant ↦

In The New Republic, Erik Malinowski writes about the video streaming prowess of Major League Baseball’s digital arm, which powers HBO NOW, among other services.

MLB Advanced Media, which has arguably the country’s most extensive and experienced broadband network for streaming live video, has been around since 2000… [it] powers ESPN’s watch-anywhere app. It runs Turner Sports’ March Madness streaming. The World Wrestling Entertainment Network contracts out its $10-a-month service into BAM’s capable hands. Sony depends on BAM for PlayStation Vue streaming service. While the NFL is giddy about streaming a game on YouTube next season and the NBA’s League Pass service can’t even get all of its games into high-def, MLB is serving up 60 million streams on its Opening Day—a 60 percent bump from a year ago—with nary a hitch.

Baseball made a big bet on digital technology early on and it has paid off massively.

Feds: Watch out for hackers on airplanes ↦

Kim Zetter at Wired reports on fears of hackers on airplanes:

The alert, posted to the FBI’s InfraGard site as a private industry notification (or PIN), advises airline staff to be on the lookout for signs that any passengers might be trying to connect to the network ports located beneath their seats.

The idea that flight crews and passengers are going to be on the lookout for hackers is a little bit troubling—I say as someone who often has a computer and a nest of cables with me on flights. But the story behind the story here is a lot troubling. Airplanes built with unsecure connections between passenger Wi-Fi networks and avionics systems? That’s no good.

Jeff Carlson’s Lightroom CC review ↦

Jeff Carlson reviewed Adobe Lightroom CC for Macworld. With Photos for Mac just released, a lot of Aperture users are feeling quite uneasy. It’s worth reading Jeff’s review to get some idea if Lightroom might be an alternative to sticking with Aperture or migrating to Photos.

Lightroom is available as part of the $10/month Adobe Creative Cloud photography subscription plan, which also includes Photoshop. I’m subscribed to this plan and consider it a really good value. Fortunately, if you hate the idea of software subscriptions, Adobe will also sell a standalone version of the new Lightroom, version 6, for $149.

Homeward bound


I grew up a stone’s throw from Yosemite National Park, namesake of OS X 10.10, and for the next few days I’ll be in the park with a whole bunch of Apple people at Yosemite by Cocoaconf.

So posts from me will be a little more sparse than normal this week, though Dan Moren is back from his journey to the Star Wars Celebration and will be peeking in from time to time as well.

I hope CocoaConf keeps this event going—next year, in whatever code name Apple sees fit to bestow upon us at WWDC!


#33: Personal Electronic Notebooks ↦

This week on Upgrade I’m joined by special guest co-host Stephen Hackett. We talk about John Siracusa’s semi-retirement, online shopping, my theory about the future of the OS X brand name, Photos for Mac, the California drought, and Myke Hurley’s Kickstarted trip to Atlanta.

The Incomparable

#243: Find My Lightsaber ↦

It’s a very special episode of The Incomparable this week, as we break down the brand-new “Star Wars” trailer. Just hours after the new trailer dropped, I hopped on Skype with three of the biggest “Star Wars” fans I know: John Siracusa, Dan Moren, and Serenity Caldwell. And just as we did when the first teaser appeared, we have deconstructed this thing within an inch of its life.

‘Un-conventional’ ↦

Many developers recording the Debug podcast at WWDC 2014.

I wrote this week’s The Network column at iMore, talking about how Apple’s super-nerdy conference for developers has become the de facto annual meeting place for the Apple world.

Advanced tricks for Photos for Mac ↦

This week over at Macworld my More Color column is about a bunch of advanced stuff in Photos for OS X including Automator actions, merging libraries, geotagging photos, and uploading to iCloud.

John Siracusa hangs it up ↦

John Siracusa isn’t going to write any more of his legendary Ars Technica reviews of OS X.

Like so many other people, I have appreciated John’s reviews over the years and am really going to miss them. My perspective is a little bit different from most, in the sense that I was always writing my own stories about OS X at the same time. It was always fascinating to see John’s reviews and marvel at their depth and volume.

How long has John been reviewing OS X? So long that when he started, I was a features editor putting together Macworld’s OS X coverage, but not yet established enough to write them myself. While I largely rewrote the magazine’s OS X 10.0 feature story, it didn’t carry my byline. It wasn’t until OS X 10.1 that my name appeared on a Macworld OS X review.

So in one way, I feel like John and I went on this journey together. In another way, sometimes I feel as old as dirt and I’m reminded that John’s OS X reviews started when I was an anonymous Macworld features editor. That was a long time ago.

Regardless, the beautiful thing about John’s announcement is that we’re not losing John. Accidental Tech Podcast is a must-listen for me every week, and I’m also fortunate to talk with John regularly on The Incomparable. We also sometimes argue about robots.

Thanks for all the Simpsons references, John. The release of the next version of OS X won’t be the same without your gigantic article (and complaints about e-book production workflows).

RSS Sponsor: SnapPower Charger ↦

My thanks to SnapPower for sponsoring Six Colors this week.

SnapPower’s latest product—currently backed by more than 15,000 people on Kickstarter!—is Charger, an an easy-to-install wall plate that adds USB charging to standard outlets. There are no wires and no wiring.

I’ve got a couple of SnapPower’s previous products, the Guidelight, in my house. They’re not kidding about them being easy to install. Now I’ve got a couple of outlets providing LED floor lighting in the middle of the night. I’m looking forward to trying the Charger models, too.

Create custom iPhone vibrations for your contacts

The Apple Watch is going to tap on your wrist to tell you to stand up and that you’ve got a text message and plenty of other stuff. But your iPhone can do some pretty clever tapping of its own, if you know how to set it up.

You probably know that you can set your iPhone to use unique sounds for every phone call and text message you receive from specific contacts1. But did you know that you can also use custom vibrations for each phone call and text message you receive on a per-contact basis?

To customize how your iPhone reacts to a specific contact, open the Phone app and tap Edit. You can set a custom ringtone and custom text tone, as well as custom vibrations for both ringing and texts.


Now here’s the fun part, especially if you fancy yourself a bit of a drummer. You can create custom vibrations right on your iPhone, using the touchscreen and the accelerometer. This is not new—iOS has supported the idea of custom vibrations for ages now. And yet it’s just not a well-known feature.

To record your own custom vibration patterns, edit a contact and tap on the selected Vibration for that contact (probably Default). You’ll see a menu of pre-cooked vibrations provided by Apple, but at the very bottom under the Custom divider, you’ll see the option to Create New Vibration.

The New Vibration screen lets you just start tapping in the center of your phone. You can tap hard or soft, short or long. Then tap on Stop when you’re done. The iPhone puts it all together as a vibration pattern, which is actually visible as a series of dots in the timeline at the bottom of the screen. Tap Play to play it back. If you like what you’ve created, tap Save and give it a name. Now it’ll be available as a custom vibration pattern for any contact you want.

It’s not earth shattering technology, I know, but since I keep my phone in silent mode most of the time, it’s nice to be able to tell when my wife is calling without even looking at my phone.

  1. I use the “red alert” sound for all calls I receive from Apple.  ↩

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