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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Dan Moren for Macworld

Google and Microsoft moves that signal opportunities for Apple ↦

In the fall, a technology company’s fancy turns to new products. As we pass the midpoint of October, the holiday buying season has started to solidify, and we’ve gotten our requisite annual announcements from not only Apple, but from Google and Microsoft as well.

Now that these three big tech companies have all laid their cards on the table, we have a chance to look over what each of them discussed and compare and contrast approaches: where are they working on technology in the same vein, and where do their paths diverge. And, of course, there’s an opportunity to look at what Cupertino’s competitors are doing and see if they point out areas that might also be of interest to Apple.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Luna Display adds Mac-to-Mac mode

Luna Display, the utility that lets iPads act as a display and control a Mac via USB or Wi-Fi (disclosure: they’ve sponsored my podcasts in the past), released a new Mac-to-Mac mode Thursday that will let any Mac running Mountain Lion or later act as an external display for another Mac, using the same fast, low-latency infrastructure as the rest of Luna Display.

A few iMacs made between 2009 and 2014 support Target Display Mode, which does something similar, but this can allow other Macs with built-in displays—I’ve got a 2007 iMac just cooling its heels in my office running Mavericks—to be put to use. (I hooked mine up and it worked, but I think I’m over non-Retina displays….)

This feature also works with Retina Macs, which never got Target Display Mode—and I’ve heard some encouraging initial reports that it works pretty well. I’m not too surprised, since Luna Display’s image quality and latency has always been solid on my iPad. Existing users of Luna Display will find this feature enabled in a free software update; the Mac that is not acting as the external display will need the Luna Display hardware dongle and must be running El Capitan or Later.


Jason Snell for Macworld

Would Apple make its own Surface Neo? ↦

Earlier this month, Microsoft introduced the Surface Neo, a strange device that looks like two iPads stuck together, or alternately, a laptop in which the keyboard has been replaced with a second touchscreen. Upon first seeing the Surface Neo, I immediately wondered: Would Apple make a product like this? And if not, why not?

Let’s start by noting that the Surface Neo doesn’t really exist. People at Microsoft’s event weren’t allowed to use it, the company admitted some of its hardware specs were yet to be decided, and it’s been announced for a “holiday 2020” release. In other words, what was announced earlier this month was Microsoft’s intention to ship this product more than a year from now.

But still: Two iPads hinged together to make a laptop sandwich! Imagine the possibilities. Given the clear distinction Apple has made between laptop shapes (which run macOS), and tablet shapes (which run iPadOS), one would think not. Then again…

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

How many outs? Baseball playoff graphics compared

[Content warning: Baseball.]

ESPN’s 3-D strike zone animation was great.

Ever since Fox introduced the status box overlay in NFL games a couple of decades ago, I’ve been paying attention to how televised sports imparts information to viewers. My recollection is that the “Fox Box” was somewhat controversial at the time, but if you watch old televised sports today it’s mind-boggling that the score and game status isn’t visible at all times. It’s hard to watch old football games without a yellow first-down stripe superimposed on the field, a feature that seemed like witchcraft when it was introduced in 1998.

The past few years, as the baseball playoffs have played out, I’ve been watching how the various networks present in-game information… and occasionally complaining here and on Twitter about it. This year I thought I’d check back in on the postseason baseball broadcasts and judge how they’re doing in terms of presenting information on screen, rated from worst to best.

Continue Reading "How many outs? Baseball playoff graphics compared"


Podcast

The Rebound 260: Hardcore Metaphor Podcast

This week, on the irreverent tech podcast that is all about the metaphors, we discuss Apple’s recent woes in China, plus our continuing experiences upgrading to macOS Catalina. Then there’s still time for games, games, games, as we mention a few that we’ve recently played before running down just a few more of the titles that are in the works for Apple TV+. And we all agree that our stress levels need to be lowered.

Episode linkMP3 (40 minutes)


Podcast

Upgrade #267: The Quiet Death of the Newton

James Thomson joins Jason to discuss converting an app from iOS to Mac via Catalyst, the prospects for using Catalyst on his most profitable app, and the end of an era as his app DragThing and all other 32-bit Mac apps fade away. We also sort out Apple and China, because that’s not a complicated topic at all.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 36 minutes)


Jason Snell for Tom's Guide

iPhone 11’s Deep Fusion camera: Is this all there is? ↦

Apple’s newest contribution to the smartphone computational-photography arms race came wrapped in a fuzzy sweater, just in time for autumn. Deep Fusion is a method that, by all accounts, generates remarkably detailed photos on the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. How? By fusing 12-megapixel multiple camera exposures into a single image, with every pixel of the image given the once-over by intense machine-learning algorithms.

Like so many camera phone innovations of the last few years, it’s a remarkable combination of sensor technology, optics and software that’s transforming how we take pictures.

And yet … Deep Fusion and its sweater also say a lot about the perplexing era the smartphone industry currently finds itself in. What does it say about a feature that creates appreciably better photographs, but in details that are hard to notice unless you zoom in all the way and carefully toggle back and forth between samples? Why is it that the best picture Apple could use to show off Deep Fusion was an awkward shot of a dude in a sweater? And what does it mean that Deep Fusion received a clever name and several slides in Apple’s biggest media event, but it’s invisible to users of the iPhone’s camera app?

What I’m saying is, this sweater raises a lot of questions.

Continue reading on Tom's Guide ↦


Dan Moren for Macworld

With Catalina, the Mac leans on Apple’s other devices ↦

Ever since the introduction of the iPod in 2001, Apple has had to navigate the intricacies of a multi-device ecosystem. In the earliest of days, that meant dealing with the iPod as an ancillary media device, reliant upon a Mac (or later a PC) for everything from activation to syncing media.

Over the last twelve years, the Apple ecosystem has gotten only more complex, with the addition of iPhones and iPads, the Apple TV, the Apple Watch, AirPods, the HomePod, and more. And while the Mac may be the elder statesperson of this assemblage, it’s found its responsibilities decentralized. No longer does the iPhone or iPad require a Mac just to function; newer devices like the Apple Watch and HomePod never have.

But the Mac still remains a member of the ecosystem in good standing, and Catalina continues to adapt to this new reality. Instead of being dependent on the Mac to survive, those other devices have grown up and are now ready to bring their own particular skills to bear on supporting their predecessor.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound 259: Fifty Dollars a Pod

This week, on the irreverent tech podcast that headphones it in, we talk about Apple’s latest movie acquisition, then our Catalina upgrade experiences and what we should be looking for. Plus Dan shares a new pair of headphones that he doesn’t recommend, Lex is seeing Apple Watches everywhere, and John dances on iTunes’s grave.

Episode linkMP3 (41 minutes)


Podcast

Clockwise #315: Pop Quiz, Hot Shot!

This week, on the tech podcast that can’t go over 30 minutes or it explodes, Dan is joined by cohost emeritus Jason Snell and special guests Casey Liss and Brianna Wu to discuss whether we’re making the jump to macOS Catalina, which hardware and software we’d most and least like to lose, running Windows on good hardware vs. macOS on crappy hardware, and legal issues for accessibility on the web. Plus, a special musical bonus topic.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

8 hidden features of macOS Catalina ↦

MacOS Catalina is here, and with it, a bunch of top-line features: Mac Catalyst, new apps, Sidecar, Screen Time, and Voice Control. But as you might expect, Catalina also includes dozens of small feature changes that are worth investigating. Here are a few of the most interesting hidden features in macOS Catalina.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

James Thomson on using (and not using) Mac Catalyst

Developer James Thomson has written a blog post about a bunch of issues around Mac Catalyst, the new Apple-created method of bringing iOS apps to Mac. James is in a rare position to write about these issues, as he is the developer of PCalc, an app that already exists on macOS and iOS (and watchOS and tvOS, too), as well as the developer of a new Catalyst-enabled Mac app, Dice By PCalc:

It became pretty clear to me that I would need to rewrite a lot of the user interface, to find a happy middle ground between the iPad and the Mac. Which would probably benefit both in the long run, to be fair. But with everything else that was going on this summer, I couldn’t justify that work, with no guarantees at the end of the day that I would have something I was happy to ship. So, I mainly focused my time on things like Shortcuts and Dark Mode, and iOS 13 support in general.

A lot of developers are struggling with what Catalyst lets them do and what it doesn’t let them do. This is why I think it’ll be a while before we really understand how Catalyst is going to be adopted, and why Apple has a lot more work to do to make Catalyst better.


Podcast

Upgrade #266: Two iPads in a Sandwich

macOS Catalina has arrived and Jason’s got his full review, plus we dig into the new multi-screened mobile device announcements from Microsoft (and what they might mean for Apple), and put on our sweaters to talk about Deep Fusion photography.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 45 minutes)


By Jason Snell

macOS Catalina review: New era ahead, proceed with caution

Sometimes software upgrades just fuzz together, all part of a continuum of changes over time. Others are more momentous, when there’s a clean break from what has come before. After a few years of fuzzy updates, macOS Catalina is one of those clean breaks.

Among the reasons are a major redesign to macOS security, the long-promised deprecation of older software, the replacement of a nearly two-decade-old core app, and the introduction of the ability to run software born on iOS on the Mac for the first time.

The Mac is entering a new era, but for a while things are going to be bumpy. macOS Catalina creates incompatibilities, alters workflows, and ends what has been a period of relative stability. This is a huge update that shows the direction Apple is taking the Mac and all its platforms. We are headed into a future with more unified apps and interfaces and an increased security focus. But as for the present? This is an update that users should be wary of installing because of all the changes it brings.

But Catalina isn’t all about breaking things. There are also major new additions to parental controls and device management, a huge upgrade to accessibility, the ability to use an iPad as an additional display and input device, a new machine-learning-driven facelift for Photos, and big upgrades to many other built-in apps.

Continue Reading "macOS Catalina review: New era ahead, proceed with caution"

[Get more macOS info on our macOS Catalina page.]


Linked by Jason Snell

Apple’s new privacy settings vexes trackers

George P. Slefo reports for Ad Age on how the tracking industry is reacting to Apple’s iOS 13 lockdown of apps using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as tracking proxies. It’s a fine overview, but this is the paragraph that struck me:

The move might also strengthen the position of companies such as X-Mode, which get users’ permission to collect location data by plugging into various apps that have legitimate use cases for capturing location. The company, for example, has an earthquake alert app, making it more likely that a user would be willing to share their location. Others, such as Foursquare, gather location data through owned-and-operated consumer apps such as City Guide, Swarm and Placed.

Something to be aware of: Just because an app you’re using has a legitimate reason to track your location doesn’t mean that it won’t use that information to build a profile about you. Ad trackers will buy or build apps that have legitimate uses that require location data—and then use that data to build a profile.

With iOS 13 I find that I am being very aggressive about denying Bluetooth access and location data to most third-party apps. It’s also worth remembering only to use weather and security apps from trustworthy developers, since they’ll be getting your valuable location data.

[Hat tip: Six Colors subscriber Warren Pena.]


Dan Moren for Macworld

Siri is more open than ever, but it still has room to grow ↦

Ever since Siri’s introduction on the iPhone 4s, third-party developers have clamored to integrate their apps more closely with the virtual assistant. And while Apple has relaxed its strictures over the years, Siri has largely—with a few handpicked exceptions—remained wedded to the company’s own software.

But with every major software update, Apple loosens the reins just a tad, and this year is no exception. Not only does iOS 13 once again broaden the categories of apps that work with Siri, but Apple’s also making some of those third-party apps easier to use. And, moreover, these changes to Siri apply in software categories in which Apple itself competes. This bodes well not just for users, who will get the ability to control those types of apps with voice, but also for the future of Siri as a platform.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

BBEdit 13 arrives, with new grep features and dark mode support

Bare Bones Software released BBEdit 13.0 on Thursday. I spend more time in BBEdit than any other Mac app, as it’s my writing and text munging tool of choice. This update adds a whole bunch of pattern-matching search-and-replace (or grep) features that I’m excited to put into use.

Grep searching apparently has gotten BBEdit creator Rich Siegel’s attention, because there’s a whole lot more of it in BBEdit 13. The Find window has gained the ability, previously available in the Live Search sheet, to automatically highlight all matching items in the active document window. Live Search has added the ability to use grep patterns. There’s a new grep cheat sheet right in the Find window, which should be helpful for people who are just getting into regular expressions—and even experienced grep users forget the right syntax for a particular pattern.

BBEdit 13 pattern tool
The Pattern Playground lets you debug grep statements before putting them into action.

Most interesting is the new Pattern Playground feature, which acts like a test lab when you’re building a grep pattern. You can enter in patterns and instantly see what they match in a test file or any currently open document. It also displays what’s captured by each group in a complex expression, and will provide a live preview of replacement patterns. Once you’ve perfected your pattern, you can save it to the saved patterns library or just click Use for Find to have the perfected pattern entered in the Find window. There are standalone apps and websites that do this, but I usually don’t bother with them and just keep hacking away in the Find window within BBEdit. Now this feature’s right inside of BBEdit, and I expect to use it a lot.

There are a bunch of other features, of course. BBEdit can dynamically switch between light and dark themes, offers a direct link to the company’s famously detailed change notes from right within the app’s Help menu, and added a new Apply Text Transform feature to automate simple batch text transformation tasks. There’s also a new Find and Select All command that will, based on your current search settings, select all matches in a document—and if you type when those items are all selected, what you type will replace all the selected instances.

Finally, a word about pricing and compatibility. BBEdit 13.0’s paid version costs $50, and users from previous paid versions can upgrade for $30 (from the previous version) or $40 (from older versions). The last paid update to BBEdit was two years ago, and the previous one to that was five years ago. Users of BBEdit on the Mac App Store won’t have to pay to get the update; on the Mac App Store, BBEdit’s premium features are a subscription for $40/year or $4/month and get access to all updates forever.

What’s all this about a “paid version” and “premium features”? The fact is, BBEdit’s actually a free app now, dating back to when the company put its old free BBEdit spin-off, TextWrangler, out to pasture. (This is especially relevant with the impending release of macOS Catalina, which will kill off support for 32-bit apps like TextWrangler.) You can use most of the features of BBEdit without paying anything. Bare Bones reserves some newer and pro-level features for users who have paid, but it’s an enormously useful tool without paying a cent.


Podcast

The Rebound 258: I’ll Customize Your Face

This week, on the irreverent technology show where we talk about Apple Watches and, uh, watch about Apple talks, we discuss the Apple Watch Series 5, explore the nuances of our favorite watchfaces and bands, examine the barrage of Apple software updates, and decide on nicknames for everybody.

Episode linkMP3 (39 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

Apple’s watch faces are slowly improving. Is it time for third-party faces? ↦

Last year, when Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Series 4, I was surprised that the company didn’t bother to update most of its watch faces, and expressed some hope that the company would place more emphasis on faces in the Series 5.

Thanks to the new always-on display, Apple has definitely made watch faces the center of attention in a way they weren’t before. There’s never been a more on-the-nose Apple marketing campaign than the “The Watch Tells Time” video that Apple unveiled during its special event on September 10. And yet, while I want to report that as of 2019 Apple has prioritized the faces of the Apple Watch, I can’t. Instead, it’s given us a few encouraging new faces—and left a mess everywhere else.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

Clockwise #314: Get a Real Computer, Jerk

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that’s going to back to school, Dan is joined by special guests Anže Tomić and Jean MacDonald, as well as co-host emeritus Jason Snell, to discuss Amazon’s cavalcade of new Alexa devices, ultrawide vs. telephoto lenses on smartphones, the one device we’d take back to school with us, and our travel tips. Plus a special reformed picky-eating bonus topic.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)