Sponsor: Squarespace ↦

Thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring Six Colors this week. You may have heard about Squarespace—just this week their ads have been on the World Series—but you may not have heard about Squarespace 7, which just went into beta.

Squarespace 7 has some amazing new features, including Cover Pages (gorgeous one-page designs, perfect for a simple online identity or to provide a planding page for an event, album, or product) and Getty integration (buy Getty images for your site for $10, a small fraction of the normal licensing cost). Perhaps most impressive is the new Squarespace 7 interface—no longer do you have to toggle between a back-end editor and the front end. All of it’s now on the same clean interface.

Readers of Six Colors should visit Squarespace and show your support for this site. Use code SIXCOLORS for 10% off.

Squarespace is now a creative tools company that lets you put your ideas online and create an amazing online presence or brand identity. Squarespace now offers everything from domains to websites to apps to logo makers, all with the purpose of giving you the tools to give a voice to your ideas.

Clockwise 59: ‘Everything’s weird’ ↦

This week on the Clockwise podcast: Flat iPad sales, accelerating Apple OS updates, Retina displays on the desktop, and room for improvement at the Apple Store. Our guests this week are Facebook’s Jessie Char and Rogue Amoeba’s Paul Kafasis.

Ads via the DeckAds via the Deck

Review: 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display

iMac with 5K Retina Display

When it was first announced in 1998, and for most of the years that followed, the name iMac represented Apple’s affordable all-in-one “computer for the rest of us.” The iMac was never the kind of Mac a self-respecting Apple nerd would use—for them there were Power Macs and Macs Pro, PowerBooks and MacBooks Pro.

But over the last few years, Apple has been slowly pushing its other Mac desktop models into corners. You can’t buy a Mac Pro for less than $3,000, and after ignoring the Mac mini for two years, the latest update drops support for quad-core processors, making it more of a low-end model than ever before.

And now here comes the clincher: A new top-of-the-line 27-inch iMac that’s not just fast, but sports a gorgeous Retina display that brings nearly 15 million pixels to the party. It’s enough to make people who fully expected to buy a Mac mini or Mac Pro switch sides and pledge allegiance to iMac Nation. People like me, for one.

Continue Reading "Review: 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display"

[Read more about Apple's Oct. 16 event on our event page.]

‘The city where grown-ups live’ ↦

Elliott Kalan, head writer for “The Daily Show” and co-host of my favorite podcast, wrote a beautiful essay about how movie depictions of New York influenced his life:

Hidden among [“The Muppets Take Manhattan’s”] many scenes of dancing animal puppets was a truly inspiring vision of adult normalcy. Kermit, the Muppets’ frog vaudeville ringmaster, comes down with a case of cab-crash-induced amnesia and is handed the identity of Phil, a New York ad exec…. Kermit went from naked frog to independent adult, autonomous professional, self-supported citizen. That was the magic of New York. Even an amphibian could become a grown-up. I didn’t want to marry a pig and put on a show. I wanted a subway commute and a greasy spoon lunch hour. I wanted meetings around wooden tables. I wanted a desk with a phone on it. The return of Kermit’s memory was tragic. He lost all those amazing ordinary things New Yorkers get to do!

As someone who grew up in rural Northern California, in my mental landscape New York is the New York Public Library with its lion statues from the opening shot of “Ghostbusters,” the archway at Washington Square Park where Sally drops off Harry, the Forest Hills suburb where Peter Parker lives with his Aunt May. And I have to admit, every time I visit New York, there’s at least one time when I catch myself remembering a fond New York memory that only ever happened in the movies.

Nuzzel uses your social network to find news

I launched this site less than a week after leaving my job of 17 years. I figured it would be a major life change in numerous ways, but in terms of the actual job of writing about technology there was one change that concerned me the most: being more aggressive about finding interesting links.

Link posts are part of the currency of sites like this. Not only do they serve a good purpose—pointing you at stories that are worth reading—but they afford me the opportunity to add a brief comment on them without just rewriting the story. Stories about other people’s stories are the worst.

Generally I’ve assumed that the best way to be a link miner was to subscribe to a bunch of obscure (but good) RSS feeds. I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading RSS. In truth, I was never very good at it. Twitter became my RSS reader, because I follow a bunch of interesting people who follow a bunch of interesting people, and using those people as my own personal filtering service seemed to make sense.

When I went out on my own I tried to get my own RSS-reading habits cranked back up, and I’m still working on that, on Mac and iPad and iPhone alike. But those efforts have slowed a bit due to my discovery of a fantastic service that uses those same links on my social network: Nuzzel.

I was pointed to Nuzzel by listener Shep G., who heard me complaining about my lack of good RSS habits on episode 2 of Upgrade. Nuzzel is a free web site and iOS app that mines your Twitter and Facebook networks and shows you the newest or most popular links.

While I enjoy reading Twitter, I follow too many people (and have become too busy) to be a Twitter completist. This means I miss links. And though Safari’s Shared Link feature can filter out every tweet that doesn’t contain a link, it’s still just providing a chronological list of Tweets.

What Nuzzel does well is sort and filter and group the links in interesting ways, and present them as nicely formatted news-story items—not as tweets. The filtering makes a big difference. I can, for instance, see all links from the past four hours that have been recommended by two or more friends. This has a tendency to float the most interesting stuff to the very top.

I’ve found that Nuzzel has also displayed worthwhile stuff from my Facebook network, which surprised me. I don’t visit Facebook very often (sorry, Facebook friends), but I don’t mind seeing links that are going viral in that crowd. Since I’m not checking Facebook every day, I would miss them otherwise.

Another clever thing about Nuzzel is its ability to expose links from the friends of your friends. Today on Twitter, I take advantage of this secondary network by reading tweets that my friends have decided to retweet. That’s good, because they’re (usually) endorsing that information as being worth my time by passing it on in that way. Nuzzel lets you dive into everything your friends see, whether they recommended it or not. There’s a lot more noise in this approach—I see some pretty weird stuff when I flip to this view—but sometimes the pretty weird stuff is also pretty awesome.

I’m not sure Nuzzel is good enough to be my only news source—it does a bad job of highlighting obscure stuff that hasn’t yet hit it big. Part of my job is to find that stuff, so I’m trying to use RSS as a secondary source, one that provides me with items from blogs that are less likely to float up on Nuzzel, such as personal sites from interesting people.

Chances are good that most of you don’t need to feed a website audience with interesting links. But if you want to read interesting links, personalized for you via your own social networks, I recommend giving Nuzzel a look. There’s a new version of the Nuzzel app out today, which adds a Today Widget for iOS 8 and (at long last!) iPad support.

The original Mac screen in a Retina 5K iMac display ↦

Kent Akgungor compares the original Mac screen, with its 512 x 342 pixel display, to the 5120 x 2880 pixel display on the Retina 5K iMac.

That’s 30 years of technological advancement, folks.

Twitterrific 5.8 ↦

My iOS Twitter client of choice, Twitterrific from the Iconfactory, just updated to version 5.8.

The new release requires iOS 8 and supports system-wide sharing extensions, iOS 8 share sheets, an improved user suggestion bar, and setting the default browser to Safari, Chrome, or Twitterrific itself. Unfortunately, it also eliminates a feature I used a lot—the ability to tap and hold on a link to see the full URL, which is surprisingly helpful in deciding whether or not to follow a link.

(Every time I mention that I use Twitterrific on iOS I am inundated with people asking me if I’m aware of Tapbots’ excellent Tweetbot. Of course I am. I own Tweetbot on the Mac and on iOS. But Twitterrific works better with the way I use Twitter on my iPhone and iPad.)

BBEdit 11 arrives

BBEdit 11

I write in BBEdit.1

BBEdit has been around for two decades now. It’s always been for programmers, but I’ve never been a programmer and I love it. Most of what I have written over the years has not needed any rich-text formatting, so Microsoft Word and Pages and their ilk are not necessary. It used to be stuff that would get sucked into a print publishing workflow, or translated to HTML, and these days I’m writing almost exclusively in Markdown.

Yes, one reason I use BBEdit is because I’ve been using it forever and it’s become a part of my brain. I’m sure I don’t use more than a fraction of the features it offers—again, not a programmer—but that doesn’t matter. The stuff I do use, I love. I love it for its support of grep pattern-matching; I don’t use grep every day, but when I do, BBEdit can save me seconds, minutes, or even hours of time.

Let me give you just one example: On Monday Apple had its quarterly phone call with analysts. (“Hi, analysts. This is Tim. How ya doin’?… Naw, nothin’ much.”) Dan Moren and I did some tweets about it on the @sixcolorsevent Twitter account, as we do.

Once the event was over, I wanted to create a transcript of what Tim Cook said. So I selected the entire @sixcolorsevent timeline on Twitter’s website and pasted it into BBEdit.

What came through was a whole lot of junk. But I was able to use BBEdit’s handy Process Lines Containing feature to strip out all the junk from Twitter’s interface, leaving a reverse-chronological set of our tweets. Then I used BBEdit’s Reverse Lines text filter to reverse all the lines of the document, so the story would run in chronological order. Finally, I used some grep search-and-replace commands to clean up the document a little bit more, joining all those tweet-length blasts of Tim Cook into longer sentences.

One that was all over, then I just listened back to the phone call and amended what Dan typed in the heat of the moment with the word-for-word transcript of what Tim said, making it much easier to form a final transcript.

See? BBEdit.

Anyway, I write this paean for BBEdit because today Bare Bones is releasing BBEdit 11. It’s available as a $30 upgrade (to all BBEdit 10 users, including ones from the Mac App Store, because BBEdit 11 won’t be in the Mac App Store) or for $50 for new customers. Users of versions before BBEdit 10 will need to pay $40 to upgrade.

According to Rich Siegel, the primary author of BBEdit, there’s a “whole pile of internal rework” under the hood of this version. When you’ve been developing a piece of software for two decades, keeping the code fresh is a constant issue. Siegel said that every time they’d fix a bug or consider adding a feature to BBEdit 11, they’d determine if the code surrounding it was modern or if it needed to be rewritten. If a rewrite was required, it would happen—rather than just patching the old code and hoping it would hold for another couple of years.

BBEdit 11 includes a modernized CSS dialog box system that retires some of the oldest code remaining in the app. The syntax coloring internals have been changed, which leads to a much-improved set of color schemes.

The difference system has been updated, with a one-window diff mode that I find much more easy to navigate. (In fact, I used this feature Tuesday to compare changes between my edit of Glenn Fleishman’s article about Google Fiber and the alterations Glenn sent back after reading it. BBEdit!)

There’s also an entirely new Clippings UI, improvements to the editor (including the ability to move individual lines up and down in a document with just a keystroke), an Extract command in the Search dialog that makes it behave a bit more like the aforementioned Process Lines Containing, better authentication for Shell Worksheets, the ability to attach a user interface to BBEdit shell scripts, and an expanded file info panel (in both the toolbar and the document-statistics view).

All in all, according to Siegel, there are “224-some-odd distinct changes.” The last paid upgrade to BBEdit was in July 2011, and for all of us who have been using the product faithfully for years (or decades), it’s time to pay again. Gratefully, I’d expect.

  1. Yes, sometimes I write short blog posts in MarsEdit, and I write novels in Scrivener, but almost everything else I write is in BBEdit.

Google Inbox: Because we didn’t buy Mailbox ↦

On Wednesday Google announced Inbox, which intelligently groups messages, highlights information of interest, and lets you snooze and prioritize messages.

We get more email now than ever, important information is buried inside messages, and our most important tasks can slip through the cracks—especially when we’re working on our phones. For many of us, dealing with email has become a daily chore that distracts from what we really need to do—rather than helping us get those things done. If this all sounds familiar, then Inbox is for you.

If this sounds familiar, it may also be that it’s quite similar to Mailbox, a Gmail-focused app that lets you snooze and organize your inbox—and is owned by Dropbox.

Google, on the other hand, bought and killed Sparrow, a different iOS email client—and according to Sparrow designer Jean-Marc Denis, this has been what he’s been working on since Sparrow was bought by Google.

As someone who tends to use his inbox as a to-do list, I think there’s a lot of potential in finding new ways of processing email. I’ve used Mailbox on and off (love its organization features, hate its inability to properly render some messages), and am looking forward to trying Inbox.

Fantastical 2.2 brings iOS 8 features ↦

The excellent Fantastical app for iOS has just been updated with great new support for iOS 8. As you might expect, Federico Viticci at MacStories has the details:

Fantastical 2.2 doesn’t fundamentally reinvent Fantastical, but the iOS 8 integration it delivers is a step above the competition and shows how Flexibits deeply knows the iOS platform. Interactive notifications and a full-featured share extension let Fantastical reach beyond the confines of the app, enabling users to mark or create items anywhere on iOS (as long as there’s a share sheet). The widget is my favorite aspect of Fantastical 2.2, and the proverbial icing on the cake for a solid and polished iOS 8 update.

Fantastical is my calendar of choice on my iPhone, and with iOS 8 it’s also the calendar of choice on my iPad. (Though I’m not a fan of all of its view options on the iPad, its flexibility and stability make it a winner over iOS 8’s Calendar app, which has been acting bizarrely on my iPad.) Highly recommended.

Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and… Google Fiber?

[Glenn Fleishman is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, which is currently crowdfunding an anthology of the best work of its second year in publication. He writes regularly for the Economist, Boing Boing, and Macworld, and tweets incessantly—oh why won’t he stop?—at @glennf.]

Fiber Optic Cable
(Photo by Kainet.)

Riddle me this: How is Adam Sandler like fiber-optic broadband Internet service?

Sandler made a big splash in both the tech and entertainment news recently, signing a four-picture deal with Netflix. Signing Sandler buys Netflix more customers (who sign up because they can exclusively find his movies at Netflix) and displaces or conserves expense, because subscribers will spend fewer hours watching non-Netflix-owned material, so the service can pay less as it renews deals to license content.

The same principles that motivated Netflix to sign the Sandler deal should motivate Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft to do the same thing—only for fiber-optic broadband Internet service in the United States, and maybe elsewhere. And for nearly the same reason.

“Dear sir,” I hear you cry over the interwebs, “You’ve lost your mind.” No, no, hear me out, folks.

Continue Reading "Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and... Google Fiber?"

Upgrade 6: ‘The Enemy Discount’ ↦

That podcast you like is coming back in style:

This week Jason tells Myke about his experiences at an Apple event as an independent writer, before going on to discuss the new products announced and day-one impressions of Apple Pay.

Upgrade is brought to you by:

This is Tim: Apple’s CEO answers the analysts

Tim Cook

After Apple announces its quarterly earnings as it did today, there’s a conference call between Apple executives and financial analysts. These calls are generally preceded by a bunch of prepared statements that can provide a little bit of insight into how Apple’s business works, but is mostly focused on things most Apple watchers already know.

Then comes the question-and-answer session, which while hardly extemporaneous—you get the sense that most of the questions have been anticipated and talking points formulated—lets Apple CEO Tim Cook provide a level of detail into how Apple’s business is shaping up that can be illuminating.

And so, presented with minimal editing, here’s a transcript of how Cook answered the analysts on Monday…

Continue Reading "This is Tim: Apple's CEO answers the analysts"

Apple Q4 2014: $42.1B revenue, $8.5B profit, record Mac sales

Apple has just announced its quarterly financial results. Revenue was $42.1 billion, with a profit of $8.5 billion.

This quarter was a record for the Mac, with 5.5 million Macs sold, and iPhone continues to grow. The iPad, on the other hand, continues in the doldrums. In fact, this is the first quarter since Q2 2011 that Mac revenue has been greater than iPad revenue.

Revenue chart

“On the Mac, it was just an absolutely blow-away quarter,” Tim Cook told analysts. “Our best ever. It will result in our higher market share since 1995. It’s just absolutely stunning. The back to school season voted, and the Mac won and carried the day, and we’re really proud of that… Being up 21 percent in a market that’s shrinking, it just doesn’t get better than that.”

Continue Reading "Apple Q4 2014: $42.1B revenue, $8.5B profit, record Mac sales"

Local man uses Apple Pay to buy groceries

Checkout counter

So I updated my iPhone 6 to iOS 8.1, typed in my credit card number (my iPhone wouldn’t recognize the nonstandard design of my card—the number’s printed on the back), and walked over to my local Whole Foods to try out Apple Pay. In a sign that this is truly a brave new world we’re living in, it rained the entire way. I know, rain in California seems like an impossibility, but I assure you it’s true.

Pay with Touch ID

After a visit to the Honey Roasted Peanut grinder—50 percent off in late October!—and to the meat counter to pick up some chicken breasts for dinner tonight, I went to an empty checkout line that was being attended to by a nice young guy named Tyler.

I pulled the iPhone 6 out of my pocket and before I could even move it closer to the payment terminal—newly festooned with a Now Accepting Apple Pay tag—Apple Pay appeared on my phone and asked me to verify my purchase via Touch ID.

“Oh, you’re going to try that?” Tyler said.

“Yep, I’m one of those people,” I said, and habitually placed my thumb on the phone, as if I was going to unlock it. Which was what I was going to do, but instead of doing that, I paid for groceries.

“Whoa, I don’t know what just happened,” Tyler said as the paper receipt popped out of the cash register’s printer.

Checked Out

As I left the store and walked home with my iPhone-purchased items, it wasn’t raining. Brave new world indeed.

Apple releases iOS 8.1

As promised during last week’s Apple event, Apple released iOS 8.1 Monday at 10 Pacific, the traditional Apple software roll-out slot.

The big change is support for Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in the U.S. The Camera Roll is also back, and iCloud Photo Library has been added in beta. There are plenty of other changes, so check out the change notes to see if your favorite bug is being addressed. (And if you want to wait to see if the update does something weird to some people’s phones, no one will blame you.)

Continue Reading "Apple releases iOS 8.1"

[Read more about Apple's Oct. 16 event on our event page.]

‘Maps of London’ ↦

This week’s Incomparable is a nice, spoiler-light tour through urban fantasy novels set in London, including works by Neil Gaiman, Paul Cornell, and Ben Aaronovitch. I got some great reading suggestions out of it and I think you will, too.

London is a thriving modern metropolis, but beneath its streets and behind its doors are ancient, magical secrets. In this episode, a group of (North) Americans discuss some of our favorite London-based urban fantasy novels. This is a spoiler-light episode, so listen in and get ready to add a whole bunch of books to your to-read list. Plus, what are we reading?

Also this week on The Incomparable:

  • Another installment in our D&D podcast, Total Party Kill.

  • The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman gave me his list of what shows are worth watching right now, night by night. Saturday is for streaming.

  • Comedian Jordan Cooper joined Scott McNulty on Random Trek to talk about that episode where Captain Picard has to be like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard,” except with less swearing and broken glass and shooting, and on the Enterprise.

Sponsor: Many Tricks ↦

This week’s Six Colors sponsor is Many Tricks.

Many Tricks is an independent Mac software company run by Peter Maurer and my former Macworld colleague Rob Griffiths. They make a lot of useful utility apps for OS X, the most popular of which is probably Moom, which turns the green button on every window on your Mac into an insanely useful and customizable window-management tool. I’m not saying that the green button in its current form is kind of dumb, but… it’s kind of dumb. Moom is way better.

Other Many Tricks utilities include Witch, a replacement Command-Tab switcher; Name Mangler, which batch renames files in a heartbeat; Time Sink, a time tracker for regular people (i.e., not professionals who bill by the hour) to track how they use their time; and there are many others.

Through the end of October, Six Colors readers (that’s you!) can use the discount code SixColors20 at checkout to get 20 percent off of anything you buy.

If you haven’t heard of Many Tricks, and you’re someone who likes using the Mac, you owe it to yourself to go check out their utilities. And thanks to Many Tricks for sponsoring the site this week.

Taking Apple’s lead

Yosemite title bars

Apple’s often been a company that leads by example. When a new version of OS X was released, developers would often take cues from the design and functionality of the operating system and Apple’s own bundled apps. In its designs, Apple was demonstrating to all the other developers about how this generation’s apps should work, what metaphors to use, what approaches were consistent with the design philosophy behind the current release.

This isn’t to say that all developers slavishly followed Apple’s lead. Some would break with Apple’s examples and create things that were idiosyncratic and sometimes downright amazing. (Loren Brichter, author of Tweetie and Letterpress, is a great example.) But many others would diverge from Apple’s example and the result would just feel wrong. Apple’s designs would set the tone for the platform, and if you diverged too much you were taking a risk.

But the vast majority of apps wouldn’t diverge too much from the examples. I think most developers welcomed the hints that Apple would give with their designs. Those hints give them a starting point, a base design that can then be diverged from as necessary.

I bring all of this up because with the release of Yosemite, I feel like Apple’s not sending such clear signals to developers. And the two most glaring examples are the title bars of windows and the new dark Dock and menu bar option.

Continue Reading "Taking Apple's lead"

[Read more about OS X 10.10 on our Yosemite page.]

‘The iPad zombie’ ↦

Yesterday I likened the A5-based original iPad mini to a horror movie monster. App developer Allen Pike likens it to a zombie, and then to Internet Explorer 6—I don’t know which one’s scarier.

[Read more about Apple's Oct. 16 event on our event page.]

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