Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Netflix’s latest quarterly report makes us wonder: Is it a tech company or an entertainment company? Julia experiences live sports streaming success—and failure. HBO Max takes a victory lap. And why does Showtime still exist? Plus, your letters!

A WebKit feature was crowdfunded. Let the dunks begin?

Most of Apple’s software is proprietary. Some of it, though, is based on open-source projects. WebKit, which powers Safari, is an open-source project. Which means that Apple is not the only source of contributions to the code that powers Apple’s web browser. Indeed, the entire web development community can contribute WebKit code that can be integrated into the core of WebKit. Many (most?) other browser engines are similarly open-sourced.

Which led to the open-source consultancy Igalia creating an experiment called Open Prioritization, which let members of the community to crowdfund features they’d like to see added to prominent browser engines like WebKit, Chrome, and Firefox. (Igalia already did this work for paying clients, by the way—deep-pocketed companies that want a particular feature added to all the browser engines can, and do, pay developers to get it done. What was different here was the crowdfunding and crowdsourcing of the priority list.)

As Eric Meyer explains, implementing the :focus-visible pseudoclass won the vote, the community supplied funds and Igalia matched, the work was done, and Apple’s WebKit team accepted the contribution. It just appeared in Apple’s latest Safari Technology Preview release.

Unfortunately, this led to some people in the web-development community to complain that Apple, the richest company in the world, was relying on crowdfunding in order to implement features in its web browser. Funny, right? Except, as Meyer1 writes:

The addition of :focus-visible to WebKit was lead by the community, done by Igalia, and contributed to WebKit without any involvement from Apple except in the sense of their reviewing patches and accepting the contributions. Many of us are mad at Apple for a lot of good reasons, but please don’t let the process of venting that anger tar the goals and achievements of Open Prioritization. The future browser-feature priority you save may be your own.

So let me decode this: Some people in the web development community have different priorities than Apple does. And it makes them grumpy. Because they think that there’s only one correct priority list—theirs. And when one of their priorities is crowdfunded into existence, because Apple had a different priority list, their reaction is not delight at finally getting a much-desired feature, but outrage. The issue isn’t the thing getting done, not really. It’s Apple choosing to not put its vast corporate resources behind their personal priority list.

Meyer continues:

This is also why I’m not getting into Apple’s funding levels and priorities for WebKit and the web. Yes, there is much Apple-the-company can be criticized about, and personally, I am one of the biggest fans browser-engine diversity ever had, but that is a different conversation. Even if you could somehow wave a magic wand and open all platforms everywhere to engine diversity, and simultaneously cause a thousand browsers to bloom, we would still have the same basic problem. Open Prioritization would still need to exist.

Or as Apple WebKit lead Maciej Stachowiak pointed out on Twitter:

WebKit is an open source project w/ many contributors. Igalia is one – they work on all the browser engines. They crowdfunded a feature, and included the other browsers in their crowdfunding. We didn’t ask them to do it, and can hardly ask them not to.

Their attempt to explore new funding models shouldn’t be taken as a pretext for cheap dunks on Apple.

That said, Apple is in fact looking to spend more on WebKit directly. If anyone sincerely wants to help with that, please help spread the word that we are hiring!

I sure wish I could crowdfund features that Apple doesn’t care about in my favorite apps and have Apple add them to its code base! But only in very particular circumstances—when there’s an open-source project at the core—can it happen. And yet when it happened in this case, the reaction in some quarters was to complain. Why am I not surprised?

  1. As Eric Meyer discloses in his post, he works for Igalia but wasn’t involved in this particular project. 
—Linked by Jason Snell

Myke and Jason discuss the mysteries of Apple’s car project, and express confusion about Apple’s 2022 product release schedule. And at last, France makes a big box-related move.

By Dan Moren for Macworld

How to fix the iPhone’s communication problem

Communication has always driven technology forward. From the telegraph to the telephone to the internet, it’s regularly been one of the killer apps for every technological development of the last century-plus. And Apple’s devices are no exception to that. When Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone, he described it as a revolutionary mobile phone, but he also called the device that would go on to dominate Apple’s business was as a “breakthrough Internet-communication device.”

Fifteen years later, we use the iPhone to talk with others in a variety of ways, of which the phone capability may ironically be the least. But while Apple’s spent a lot of time investing in the communications powers of its platforms, it has a tendency to let those technologies languish once it’s rolled them out.

As Apple potentially preps a headset device for an announcement later this year, one of the key areas it’s reportedly looking to concentrate on is also communication. Might this signal a renewed interest in the company’s investment in this category? If so, here are a few ways that Apple could improve its current communications options.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

The 5G airline controversy

James Fallows has essentially built an FAQ file about what’s happening between airlines and wireless companies that could have a huge impact on the U.S.:

This post is a basic who-what-why primer on the controversy involving new 5G wireless networks, and airline operations at major U.S. airports. It’s not meant to be conclusive but instead an introduction, with links to more detailed discussions.

In short, new 5G radio bands potentially conflict with critical flight-safety radio bands, and U.S. regulators have done a comparatively bad job of figuring out the rules. It’s more complicated than that, though—read Fallows for lots of great info and links.

—Linked by Jason Snell

January 21, 2022

When to repair and when to retire old tech, networking adventures, and green bubbles.

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By Dan Moren

More podcast workflow tweaks

With the advent of Shortcuts on macOS, automation on the Mac has become more accessible than ever. There is no part of our workflows that we can’t automate and thus there is no part of our workflows that we cannot overautomate.

While developing the Podcast Note shortcut that Jason and I collaborated on, I ran into a dilemma. I had just recently adjusted all my Audio Hijack sessions, where I maintain separate instances for most of my regular shows, to save audio files within corresponding subfolders in my Podcasts folder.1 (The impetus was to get those hefty files off my Desktop, which is now synced via iCloud. No need to have several hundred megabytes uploaded to the cloud only to be removed within the hour.)

But that made my Podcast Note shortcut tricky, because it assumes the files it’s looking for will be in a single folder, not strewn through any of several subfolders.

There were a few different ways this could have been solved—I’m sure I could have adjusted the Podcast Note shortcut to search through all the subfolders and find the most recently modified file, for example, but there’s a risk of error, and it feels like at that point I’ve adjusted it to be too specific to my workflow.

So the answer, for the moment, was a combination of adjusting my current workflow and, you guessed it, building another automation.

I started off by creating an In Progress subfolder in my Podcasts folder, and adjusting all of my Audio Hijack sessions to put the recording files there. And while I could just collect those files at the end of a recording session and put them in the appropriate show-related subfolder, that sure seemed like a job automation could handle.

At first, I figured that Noodlesoft’s Hazel might be the right tool for this task, since it excels at watching folders and then dealing with files. But after playing around with it for a while, I couldn’t quite get it to handle all the correct conditions without creating multiple rules, and that quickly got out of hand.

But, while perusing the menu of actions available, I noticed the most recent versions of Hazel have added the ability to run a shortcut as the action part of a rule.

Podcast Sorter

Back to Shortcuts we go!

In Shortcuts, I created a new Podcast Sorter workflow, in which it looks in the In Progress folder for audio files that haven’t been modified in the last minute (to avoid moving any files that are part of a current recording), then grabs an MP3 file from that files (all my sessions save audio from my mics and remote ends as WAVs, but record the whole shebang as an MP3 for convenience).

Here’s where I had to make another adjustment to my workflow. In order to have the file identified as part of a specific show, I had to alter my Audio Hijack sessions to use the name of the show as the first part of that MP3 file. Fortunately, Hijack allows you to use tokens representing the name of your session in your file name, so I just made sure that all my sessions were named consistently with the the subfolders in my Podcasts directory.

So now the shortcut can grab the first part of the MP3 name and check it against all the subfolders in my Podcasts directory to find the correct place for it to live. If it finds a match, it creates a new subfolder and moves all the files it found way back in the first step. (This ought to include any notes files created by the Podcast Note workflow as well.) If it doesn’t find a matching folder, it drops a subfolder called “Recording” appended with the current date into a generic Miscellaneous folder.

The one thing I wanted to do that I couldn’t quite make happen was use the current episode number of the shows I host. So, for example, if it were the latest episode of Clockwise, it would ideally create the subfolder as “Clockwise 435.” I could look for the most recently modified subfolder and pull the number out of the name, but that would only work in certain cases, which would mean more filtering on the Shortcuts end. For now, I’ve just named the folders the show and the current date, which I can edit later at my leisure, but I may go back to this in the future.

I still have to have the Shortcut itself triggered by Hazel, since Shortcuts on macOS doesn’t have any automation options, as on iOS.2 In this case, that’s by having Hazel watch the folder for files not modified in the last minute, then running the Podcast Sorter shortcut.

Hazel is still needed to have the shortcut run automatically.

If anybody’s interested, I’ve provided the shortcut here, though it’s so specific to my setup that I’m not sure it will be of use to others as is. As always, if you’ve got suggestions or ideas, let me know!

  1. I.e. Clockwise recordings go into Podcasts/Clockwise. 
  2. Even iOS doesn’t have an option to run Shortcuts at automatic intervals, for obvious reasons. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]

By Jason Snell

Seventeen years later, my weather station is retired

The decommissioned weather station, with cloudy solar panel, spiderwebbed shield, and mossy anemometer.

It’s rare that a piece of technology lasts so long and serves you so well that it’s a big occasion when you finally decommission it. But that’s what happened earlier this month when, in a quiet ceremony, my weather station was retired.

Your correspondent installing the Vantage Pro in August 2004.

It certainly had earned its retirement. I installed it and several other weather stations in August of 2004 for a story in Macworld. I liked the Davis Vantage Pro so much that I sent Davis a check and kept it running.

Seventeen years is a long time when it comes to computer-related technology. When I first hooked up the weather station, it communicated wirelessly to a receiver that could be attached to a Mac via a serial cable and a USB-to-serial converter box. A Java app on the Mac logged the data and generated a web page.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.

Apple names Kristin Huguet head of PR

John Paczkowski at Buzzfeed:

Apple has tapped a new head of PR: longtime company spokesperson Kristin Huguet. She’ll replace Stella Low, former communications chief at networking giant Cisco, who joined Apple in May of 2021.

It’s almost as if Apple’s corporate culture is so very particular that hiring a top-level person from outside the company is rarely a good idea.

—Linked by Jason Snell

Dashboard, come back!

Stephen Hackett at 512 Pixels thinks Apple should bring back Dashboard:

Apple killed off Dashboard at exactly the wrong time. Just one year after Catalina killed Dashboard, Apple started allowing developers to bring their iOS widgets over to the Mac in macOS Big Sur. Sadly, they all got stuffed into the slide-out Notification Center user interface.

I was not a fan of Dashboard, and I’m glad it (finally) died, but Stephen is exactly right here. Widgets in macOS deserve to not be hidden in Notification Center. In fact, they deserve to be placed on the Desktop, appear from drop-down menus, zoom out from Dock items, and, yes, appear in a floating Dashboard layer. Widget all the things!

P.S. I am not a crackpot.

—Linked by Jason Snell

End of the road for Google Apps for Domains


In an email to administrators this morning, Google said it “will now transition all remaining users to an upgraded Google Workspace paid subscription based on your usage.” As such, Workspace’s only free plans are for Nonprofits and Education (Fundamentals).

After getting free Gmail, Drive, Docs, and other apps for the past several years, companies/people will need to start paying for those Google services and the ability to use your own custom domain (instead of just

I’ve been using Google Apps for Domains for 15 years, all for free. I knew the free ride would end eventually, and as of now, it has. But I love using Gmail (and Mimestream) and don’t mind paying $6/user/month for my extremely small user base in order to keep the ball rolling.

Still, it’s a weird feeling to pay Google for a product. Even one I’ve been using for 15 years.

—Linked by Jason Snell

Ten great movies you can’t legally stream

Ty Burr, former Boston Globe film critic, writing at his Substack about movies that can’t be found online:

The problem, in 9 cases out of 10, is a rights issue. Who owns a movie, particularly one from the post-studio/pre-corporate era of the 1960s through 1990s, can be maddeningly difficult to divine unless you’re a psychic or an entertainment lawyer. Companies dissolve, rights holders die, films and film libraries get bought and bought again and sometimes just disappear into a parallel universe. In many cases, legal contracts detailing a movie’s post-theatrical rights were written in the VHS era or earlier and made no provision for a streaming technology no one back then had the foresight to imagine.

A few years back, I went looking for a legit copy of one of the movies on Ty’s list—Truly Madly Deeply, starring a young Alan Rickman—for my mom1, who loves it but hadn’t been able to find it on DVD. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to locate a copy. (I see on Amazon that Region 2 versions of DVD and Blu-ray are available, but no US version, alas.) More recently, I went in search of 1999’s Tea with Mussolini for my wife which can be had on DVD, but isn’t available for streaming or digital purchase. And I myself have occasionally tried to seek out the fantastic Argentinian film Nine Queens, which is likewise unavailable online, and hard to come by even in DVD form.

We often think that the streaming era means anything we could ever want to watch at our fingertips, but it also ends up undeservedly burying those movies that aren’t available online. I’m sure in a few decades, after the rights change hands a few more times2, these titles will eventually be unearthed and lauded as “discovered classics,” but for the meantime, you’re either out of luck or have to dive into the seedier side of the internet.

  1. Who is also the one who sent me this article, naturally. Thanks, mom! 
  2. Truly the wildest part of Ty’s article might be the mention of two movies that are owned by pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb?! 
—Linked by Dan Moren

The streaming services we use regularly, creating or augmenting a tech product, the messaging apps we use, and our NFC experiences.

By Jason Snell for Macworld

iMessage: Threat or failure?

A bit more than 10 years after its introduction, iMessage is suddenly a part of the conversation again. A dubious report in the Wall Street Journal implied that the secret to the iPhone’s success with young people is all about peer pressure, with Android-using teens being cast out of social circles owing to their status as non-iMessage green bubbles in group chats.

That article was silly for numerous reasons, as John Gruber explored in detail last week. While blue-bubble FOMO is certainly real, suggesting that it’s the reason people want iPhones is A-grade, uncut “people only buy Apple products because they’re status symbols” kind of delusion.

When you look at the messaging landscape today, iMessage isn’t a colossus that dominates the world. In fact, I’d say that iMessage’s first decade is more of a failure than a success in terms of worldwide acceptance, user experience, and innovation.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

How much would you pay to drive out of here in an Apple headset today?

By Jason Snell

More notes on Podcast Notes automation

If I’ve learned anything about automation, it’s that projects are never really finished. After I wrote about my solution to taking notes during a podcast recording, Dan followed up with his version of the solution, built using Shortcuts.

Shortcuts for the shortcut

But it keeps going. Several readers wrote in to point out that Dan’s approach could be simplified. Andrew Kerr suggested a single equation that converts the time into a number where 2:03:31 is represented as 2.0331 and then converted into proper formatting via a regular expression. Antonio Bueno suggested adding the seconds to the beginning of Unix time and then custom formatting the resulting time as HH:MM:SS. Both work. Antonio’s is one step shorter, and it’s the one I’m using in the current version of the Shortcut.

Then there’s the matter of entering in text to describe what’s gone wrong at the particular moment of the podcast being noted. Dan’s Shortcut is set up to ask for text—which frustratingly means you have click the Done button on the dialog box, because Shortcuts on macOS Monterey won’t let you use a keystroke. But it also accepts input, and this is a great workaround—especially if you use a launching app.

entering input

I use LaunchBar, but this will work in Alfred as well. In LaunchBar, I type the name of the shortcut, press the space bar, and then type the text I want inserted in my notes file. LaunchBar passes this text on to the shortcut as input, completely bypassing the step in which it asks for text.

My lesson learned in all this? I need to stop reflexively reaching for AppleScript to solve something when it might be handled entirely in Shortcuts. The Shortcuts version of my script is simpler and more accessible. I have it in my head that if I want to mess around with files on my Mac, I need to script Finder with AppleScript. It’s just not true anymore.

Finding the right interface

When I wrote my story about the original note script, I had only used it a couple of times. Shortly afterward, I hosted a few more podcasts and my approach to using the script—namely, placing two different buttons on my Stream Deck—did not survive contact with the enemy1.

This script needs to be executed with a minimum of mental overhead, because I’m trying to host a podcast at the same time. As I wrote originally, I find that writing on pen in a paper notebook to be too much overhead—which drove me to write this script. Pushing a Stream Deck button should be a lot easier.

And it is, sure. The problem is, an empty time code is not really enough most of the time—there needs to be more information. But having to type a phrase in a box every time there’s an issue was more overhead than I really wanted to expend.

I wired a second Stream Deck button to a Keyboard Maestro macro that displayed an interface on my Mac screen to let me choose from a bunch of different preset options. It seemed like it might be a better option, but in truth, moving my attention from the Stream Deck to my screen, and reaching for the arrow keys, was more distracting than I had expected.

So I’m off to a new approach, which I’ll be putting into use this week to see if it does a better job. Now my podcast layout on the Stream Deck has two buttons intended for notes: A plain Notes button, and a button that still launches a text-entry field for me to enter in a custom note, for the times when I need to be very specific about what just happened.

But that first button doesn’t run a script at all. Instead, it switches to a different Profile, which is what Stream Deck calls a different set of buttons—a new page, if you will. And on that page (at the moment) are six buttons.

A new page.

The button in the bottom left corner, which is the same button that I just pressed, simply adds the time code to the notes file. So if I really have nothing to add, I can press that button twice—almost zero cognitive overhead. But if I want to, I can choose from five other buttons with common issues—swearing, a technical problem, something that needs to be cut, a section or chapter break, or crosstalk (represented by an “x”). The idea here is that by keeping my eyes and fingers on the Stream Deck, this entire process will require less of a shift of concentration. (We’ll see.)

Once any of the buttons on this screen is pressed, Stream Deck returns to the previous set of buttons. This is accomplished by making these buttons a special Stream Deck type called Multi Action, which allows a single button press to perform multiple Stream Deck tasks. In this case, it runs a Run OSA Script action (more on that in a moment) and then the Stream Deck command Switch Profile to flip back to the original set of buttons.

Now, about that Run OSA Script action. Rather than make a bunch of different macros or scripts for every single different input, I wanted to use the ability of the script to accept input to pass different input to a single script. There are a few different ways to accomplish this, but I decided to use Gabriel Perales’s Stream Deck Plugin.

The script it runs is a recursive cheat—I’m actually just using AppleScript’s do shell script command2 to run the osascript command line command, which runs an AppleScript script and lets you pass input along the way. (I’m sure that, like Dan’s script, there are probably 15 different ways to accomplish passing input to a script or Shortcut from out of a Stream Deck button press. Let me know!)

The script attached to each button press looks like this:

do shell script "osascript '/Users/jsnell/podcast-noter.scpt' 'crosstalk'"

The only thing that changes is that final single-quoted item. So for the Swear button, it looks like this:

do shell script "osascript '/Users/jsnell/podcast-noter.scpt' 'swear'"

This approach means I don’t need to make a bunch of copies of my script3, or a bunch of Keyboard Maestro macros. And it means that if I adjust the script later, I only need to do it in one place—and all these buttons should will still work.

Like I said at the start, automation projects are never really finished. I’m sure this one will evolve over time. But I’m glad that so many of my friends who do podcasts have responded positively to this project. I hope it saves everyone—including myself!—a lot of mental overhead and time spent searching for a very specific bad thing while editing a podcast.

  1. The enemy is the coughing, swearing panelists, obviously. 
  2. If there’s a Stream Deck plugin to run a shell command, can someone point me to it? And if not, can someone write one? 
  3. I would use Dan’s shortcut, but I tried to pass input to it via the shortcuts command-line tool and it seemed way too complicated. 

By Jason Snell

Button Creator: Quick icons for Stream Deck

Using a Stream Deck doesn’t just increase your productivity—it also increases your appetite for custom icons to label all those buttons.

Via John Voorhees of MacStories, I found out last week about Christian Lobach’s $4 utility Button Creator, which lets you quickly create drag-and-droppable Stream Deck icons based on Apple’s SFSymbols icons, emojis, or images you drag in.

The app is very simple and I hope Lobach continues to update it. Adding text would be great (Update: A new version with text support is now live on the App Store), since Stream Deck’s text overlay is limited in fonts, sizes, and styling. I’d also like to see Lobach add the ability to drag objects around on the canvas, so I could more precisely position things. (Right now, the images only appear dead center, though you can scale them via a slider.)

This sort of functionality should probably be part of Stream Deck’s own software, but it’s not. And within 10 minutes of downloading Button Creator I had given several different portions of my Stream Deck interface a makeover. Worth the $4 for me, for sure.

Apple’s rumored VR headset might not ship until 2023, but will it be the best VR headset ever made? And if so, at what cost? Also, Apple seems to have a settled on a strategy for handling demands to open up payment processing and external web links, and we’re frustrated by the decision. Following a silly Wall Street Journal article, Android’s SVP got a little too angry about iMessage. Also, we take an unexpected dive into the Users & Groups preference pane.

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