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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #291: My Fingers are My Meese

This week, on the 30-minute show that just keeps getting older, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Heather Kelly and Jeremy Burge to discuss rumors that the iPad will add pointing device support, our favorite tech flops, drone deliveries, and our tips for selling our old tech. Plus, a very special Avengers-themed bonus topic.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

The Mac is becoming more like iOS—and I like it ↦

I fell in love with the Mac nearly 30 years ago, in the fall of 1989. It’s been the center of my tech world ever since, and I’ve been writing about it professionally for 25 years. And yet these past months, I’ve noticed something strange creeping into my thoughts occasionally while I sit at my desk working on my iMac Pro: iOS does this better.

It’s disconcerting, after three decades, to suddenly find that manipulation of files and folders in the Finder has gone from being business as usual to seeming like it’s more fuss and effort than is necessary. And yet that’s where I am now, thanks to a couple of years of using an iPad Pro rather than a MacBook Air whenever I’m away from my desk. The iPad, she has infected me. And I fear there is no cure.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 235: Any Phone Is Foldable

This week, on the irreverent tech show that sometimes takes lengthy digressions, we discuss the debacle that is the Galaxy Fold, John’s pulling back from Instagram, Lex’s daughter’s surprisingly macabre game of The Sims, and Dan’s experiences with Alexa and Apple Music. Then everybody takes a trip down memory lane to reminisce about classic digital cameras and old video games.

Episode linkMP3 (47 minutes)


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #242: Myke and the Modems

What’s next for macOS and iOS? This week we discuss all of last week’s reporting by Guilherme Rambo about the future of Apple’s platforms, from Find My Friends to support for external displays and pointing devices, to the complicated future of automation on macOS. Jason also extolls the virtues of the Kindle, Apple and Qualcomm come to terms, and YouTube goes back to basics.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 27 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

Where does automation fit on macOS?

Here’s Dr. Drang with a deeper dive into the issues about bringing Shortcuts to macOS:

Regardless of what comes to the Mac in 10.15, it seems inevitable that Marzipanification will eventually lead to a Mac Shortcuts app. Which raises the question of how Shortcuts will fit within the Mac automation environment.

Lots of good questions here and a lot of uncertainty. My guess is that what we get in 2019 will not be entirely satisfying and that we’ll have to wait a while before things settle down. But as Drang points out, if apps that you rely on for automation get turned into Marzipan versions that are inaccessible to scripting, things will be unpleasant.


Linked by Jason Snell

Shortcuts coming to the Mac?

Guilherme Rambo of 9to5 Mac brings news of another possible addition to macOS 10.15—Siri Shortcuts and, more interestingly, the Shortcuts app:

It’s also likely that the Shortcuts app - a result from the acquisition of Workflow - will be available on macOS, the inclusion of system-wide support for Siri Shortcuts on macOS 10.15 strongly suggests it. On iOS, the Shortcuts app is not bundled with the system, users have to download it from the App Store. It’s possible that the same will be true for macOS: users will download a Marzipan version of Shortcuts from the Mac App Store.

Supporting the feature on macOS is important so developers of iPad apps can more easily port their Shortcuts-enabled apps to the Mac, with the new SDK becoming available at WWDC. According to sources, only Marzipan apps will be able to take advantage of the Shortcuts support on macOS. Engineers are also working on bringing the assistant on macOS closer to its iOS counterpart by porting over features such as the ability to set timers and alarms and ask about air quality, currently unavailable on the Mac.

Unfortunately, the wording of this report is a bit unclear, since it says that Shortcuts coming to the Mac is “likely” or “strongly suggest[ed]”, and then says more certainly that “only Marzipan apps will be able to take advantage” of it. How likely is likely? The existence of inside “sources” suggests that the project is actively being worked on, which goes beyond just inferring its existence from the plan to bring Siri Shortcuts to the Mac. What I’m saying is, it’s hard to gauge just how likely this scenario is.

Automation on the Mac is in danger of becoming a real mess. Automator and AppleScript haven’t changed much over time, and probably won’t ever be able to control Marzipan apps. Bringing over Shortcuts as the macOS automation tool of the future sounds good to me, but if it’s limited to Marzipan apps only, things get weird. The Mac would end up with two entirely different classes of apps, each with their own automation system, both walled off from the other.

I have to hope that Apple will provide some way for the developers of “classic” macOS apps to add support for Shortcuts into their apps. To not do so would be pretty ridiculous. And what’s Apple going to do for its own apps, assuming they won’t all make the move to Marzipan?

In the long run, Shortcuts for macOS needs to be able to access all sorts of low-level Mac features that its iOS counterpart can’t do, via support for shell scripts and AppleScripts. (The ability to run scripts is really Automator’s killer feature.) I hope it will happen some day, but the first step should be to let any Mac app support Shortcuts, not just the ones brought over from iOS via Marzipan.


Linked by Jason Snell

Google and Amazon bury the hatchet

The Verge’s Chris Welch reported on Thursday about Amazon and Google making up when it comes to connecting video services and hardware platforms:

YouTube is returning to Amazon’s lineup of Fire TV products, and the Amazon Prime Video app will be adding Chromecast support and become more widely available on Android TV. Those two developments, jointly announced by both companies this morning, mark the end of a long-running standoff between Google and Amazon, a feud that has kept a native YouTube app off of the Fire TV platform for well over a year. Customers were really the ones who were disadvantaged as soon as these two tech giants entered into this spat, so to see that it’s over is very good news.

Google will bring YouTube back to Amazon’s Fire TV devices “later this year.” The flagship YouTube app will come first sometime within the next few months — there’s no firm launch date as of yet — and it will be followed by YouTube TV, the company’s subscription TV service, and the child-oriented YouTube Kids before the end of 2019. Fire TV will become fully certified for YouTube, signaling that it offers first-rate video quality and minimal buffering. YouTube for Fire TV will also support Alexa voice commands for searching and playing content.

It’s funny—I was bitten by the old state of affairs earlier today. I’m staying in a hotel room with two large flat-screen TVs equipped with Chromecasts. (Cool!) I wanted to watch the “Star Trek: Discovery” season finale, but I get CBS All Access through Amazon Prime Channels, and the Prime Video app doesn’t support Chromecast (yet). To solve the problem I had to sign up for a seven-day trial to CBS All Access within the CBS app, which does support Chromecast.

This is silly. I am glad to see these barriers coming down, bit by bit.


Dan Moren for Macworld

Three ways Apple’s own Marzipan apps can benefit macOS ↦

As the Nobel Prize laureate once sang, “The times, they are a-changin’.”

2019 is a big year for Apple, and at the forefront of the questions circling around the company is the future of macOS. Last year’s demonstration of “Marzipan” technology—letting iOS apps run on the Mac with little alteration—shook the foundations of what many people considered a Mac app.

Long time Mac users are, understandably, nervous about what this could imply for the future of their chosen platform. Will apps get “dumbed down” and features lost? Will developers eschew Mac-specific programs for the ease of deploying one app everywhere? As Mac users, we’re used to feeling dour and grim about what’s to come, especially those of us who lived through the dark times of the mid-1990s.

But amidst all of that doom and gloom, there are plenty of glimmers of hope about what this could mean for the Mac. I’d go so far as to say I have optimism that deploying iOS apps could be a boon for not just Apple, but the whole Mac platform, which is not only alive and kicking, but even flourishing.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Samsung Galaxy Fold review disaster

Dieter Bohn of the Verge reports that the screen on his Samsung Galaxy Fold review unit broke after a day:

…while the crease and the nicks feel like compromises you could live with, a mysterious bulge that breaks the screen is something else entirely — especially one that appears just a day after pretty normal use. It’s a problem that is unacceptable on a phone that costs this much.

Every phone with movable parts is going to have more points of failure than a fully sealed, static phone. So it’s natural to say that you need to treat it with more care than usual. Before I saw this bulge, my impression was that this phone was much more durable than I expected. The hinge always felt solid and well-built. That impression of (relative) durability is obviously as broken as the flexing screen now.

Numerous Galaxy Note reviewers reported screen failures, some of them after peeling off what appeared to be a screen protector that turns out to be necessary for the functioning of the device.

What baffles me is that this was a planned product roll-out, seeding the device to journalists for the first wave of reviews. My experience is that review hardware is generally vetted before being distributed to ensure that nobody gets a lemon. Did Samsung check out these devices? Did nobody at Samsung do the same sort of testing that these reviewers did, that exposed these problems so quickly? I’m just flabbergasted that these things got in the hands of reviewers if they were in such a delicate state.

I expected the road to foldable phones to be a bit bumpy—that’s the nature of new tech. But not quite this bumpy.


Linked by Jason Snell

Apple watch authentication expanding on the Mac?

Guilherme Rambo keeps rolling out the scoops this week:

According to sources familiar with the development of macOS, the next major version of the operating system will allow users to authenticate other operations on the Mac beyond just unlocking the machine with their watch.

It’s unclear the extent of operations that will be supported, but it’s possible that all operations that can currently be authenticated with Touch ID will also be accessible via the Apple Watch mechanism. It’s also likely that there will be a user interface on watchOS to authorize the process, similar to the current Apple Pay confirmation, since doing everything without user input would not be as secure.

Lost in all the debate about butterfly keyboards and the Touch Bar is that Touch ID on the Mac is really great. We’ve got a couple Retina MacBook Airs in the house and it’s remarkable how quickly you get used to biometrically authenticating to unlock your Mac and open apps like 1Password. When I switch back to my iMac Pro, I’m always disappointed when I have to type my password.

I’ve found my iMac to be reliable when it comes to unlocking via my Apple Watch, but buying things with Apple Pay via the watch has been a bit more of a crap shoot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it spins endlessly without doing anything, and sometimes my Mac demands that I authenticate on my iPhone—which is usually in another room.

I’m dubious that, as an iMac Pro user, I’ll ever be able to use Touch ID via some external sensor. But if I can use my Apple Watch to bypass those authentication prompts, that’ll be the next best thing.


Linked by Dan Moren

Sonos One finally joins the Apple Music/Alexa club

While support for playing Apple Music songs via Alexa rolled out to Amazon Echoes last year, third party devices like the Sonos One were left out in the cold. Yes, you could play songs from Apple Music on those devices, but you couldn’t do so using Alexa—instead, you’d have to rely on the cumbersome Sonos app.

That has officially changed today with the latest update to the Sonos app and the Apple Music Alexa skill.

As someone who’s been holding onto a subscription to Amazon Music, it may be time to cancel now that I can get Apple Music on all of the speakers, computers, and mobile devices in my house.


The $130 Kindle Paperwhite (left) and $90 Kindle.

By Jason Snell

Review: Kindle Paperwhite (2019) and Kindle (2019)

In the last few months Amazon has released two new Kindles, the $130 Kindle Paperwhite and the $90 base-model Kindle. Both of them are notable improvements on their previous versions, making it harder for me to declare which Kindle you should buy. The base-model Kindle is much harder to write off than it was before, but I think the Paperwhite still has a better combination of features for most users.

Why Kindle?

A lot of people think the entire dedicated ebook reader category has been made obsolete by tablets and smartphones. Not so! If you’ve never used an ebook reader before, you may not realize that their screens are dramatically different from computer, phone, and tablet screens. These are reflective screens—like ink on paper, you read them by light reflected off their surface, rather than light shining in from behind like those other screens.

These screens have some huge advantages: They use very little power, and they’re extremely readable in bright light. But they’re relatively low resolution and can only display black, white, and shades of gray, so they’re inappropriate for much more than text on a page. If you’ve ever tried to read a book while sitting in the sun at the pool, you can see why this sort of display is a perfect match for this category.

What’s more, these devices are unitaskers. You won’t be tempted to flip over to Twitter or get bugged by a push notification or an incoming FaceTime call. When I’m using my Kindle, I am reading, not grazing the internet. When I’m out and about without a Kindle, I’ll read books on my iPhone, but when I get home I’m right back to the dedicated reading device. If you are someone who reads a lot, consider buying a Kindle. (You can probably even check out books from your local library to your Kindle using a service such as OverDrive!)

A word about Kindle pricing

Amazon’s pricing model for the Kindle is complicated. The base prices of each Kindle model include “special offers”, which is Amazon’s euphemism for advertising. With special offers enabled, the screensaver on your Kindle when it’s turned off is an ad for a book, and to turn the Kindle on you’ve got to press the power button and then swipe the touchscreen to dismiss the ad. There are also small ad banners at the bottom of the main navigation screen.

It costs an additional $20 to turn off the special offers. You can order your Kindle without special offers or just pay the $20 later on the device to turn them off. I have talked to many people who find the special offers valuable, because they aid in discovering interesting books and point out sales going on in the Kindle store. I find the addition of an extra step every single time I turn my Kindle on to be enough of an interface impediment that I always pay the $20 to turn off special offers. The choice is yours.

For the Kindle Paperwhite and Oasis, Amazon also offers two storage-size tiers—8GB or, for $30 more, 32GB. Unless you are leaving the internet for years or have decided to use the Kindle as a repository for audiobooks as well as text, you don’t need the larger size. Ebooks just don’t take up much space. You can fit hundreds of books on an 8GB Kindle.

Amazon also offers an alternative networking upgrade on the 32GB models of Paperwhite and Oasis, one that adds “free” cellular connectivity to the party. For an additional $70 (keeping in mind you’re also paying $30 more for the larger storage capacity—though your $20 Special Offers charge is comped at this level) your Kindle will use LTE cellular networking when it’s not able to connect to Wi-Fi. It means you can download books in more than 100 countries without needing Wi-Fi, and you’ll never see a bill (other than that $120 additional charge from Amazon). Wi-Fi is so ubiquitous that this seems unnecessary, but you can pay $250 instead of $130 for a Kindle Paperwhite if you really want all the features.

Base-model Kindle upgrade

The “cheap” Kindle (which now starts at $90, up from $80 with the previous model) has lagged behind the rest of the product line in failing to offer an integrated light (first offered on the Kindle Paperwhite in 2012). There is nothing dumber than needing to clip on a book light in order to read a digital device in the dark.

Those days are over. The new ninth-generation Kindle has an integrated light, four LEDs that shine from the edges of the display to make it readable in any light conditions. It’s an enormous step up that makes the base Kindle a product worth considering as more than a disposable beach-reading device.

In most other aspects, the Kindle is still inferior to other models, though. The integrated six-inch display is the same size as the Paperwhite, but at 167 pixels per inch it’s about half the resolution. This means that text is less crisp and more jagged. If your eyesight isn’t great you won’t notice, but everyone else will. I also found that the Kindle’s display was lower contrast than the Paperwhite’s, with text appearing less black and more dark gray.

You can see the decreased contrast and resolution in the Kindle (top) when compared to the Paperwhite (bottom).

The Kindle’s display is recessed in its case, with a plastic bezel that surrounds it. Years of using Kindles with recessed bezels has taught me that it’s an inferior design, because the corners where the recessed screen meets the bezel are magnets for dust, crumbs, and other tiny bits of distracting debris. (And of course, since the Kindle screen itself is touch sensitive, you can’t just wipe that debris away—you’ve got to turn the device off and then try to jimmy that stuff out of there.)

The Kindle is the lightest of all three of Amazon’s ereader models, at 5.9 ounces, but all the models are within an ounce of each other, so I’m not sure it matters that much. (The Paperwhite is 6.5 ounces and the high-end Kindle Oasis is 6.8 ounces.)

The overall texture of the Kindle is what you’d expect for a low-end, cheap tech product. It’s hard plastic, and not particularly grippy. In other words, this is a utilitarian product that gets the key parts right—it’s got an E Ink screen and lighting—while avoiding most nice-to-have features that the higher-end models provide.

Paperwhite

The $130 fourth-generation Kindle Paperwhite retains its crown as the Kindle most people should buy. It’s a lot cheaper than the high-end Kindle Oasis and appreciably nicer than the base-model Kindle.

The Paperwhite’s screen has 300 ppi resolution, almost twice the base model, bringing it up to more or less “retina” resolution in terms of displaying smooth type that’s hard to distinguish from ink on paper. I found the display to be appreciably better quality than on the base model, with higher contrast and more consistent lighting. The display on the Paperwhite is also flush with the front bezel, so there are no nooks and crannies for lint and dust and crumbs to get stuck.

The biggest improvement to this generation of Paperwhite is IPX8 waterproofing, so you can read in the bath or by the pool without worry. The last time I went to a beach resort I saw a zillion Kindles poolside, so it makes me think that adding waterproofing will be very popular.

Beyond that, the Paperwhite is simply made of better materials than the base Kindle. It’s got a grippy back that feels nicer than the hard plastic of the Kindle, although it’s not quite as swank as the aluminum back of the Oasis.

In other words, this generation of Paperwhite remains the best balance of features and price in the Kindle line. In my opinion, the Paperwhite has been the real Kindle for a few years now, and that remains the case. The base-model Kindle is getting better, but the better display, waterproofing, flush-front design, and nicer overall feel push the Kindle Paperwhite ahead.


Jason Snell for Macworld

Why iOS apps will make the Mac a better place… eventually ↦

Who knew that a report that Apple was replacing iTunes with new apps brought to the Mac from iOS would open a Pandora’s Box of Mac angst?

But it’s really not that surprising. 2019 promises to be a huge year of change for the Mac, in large part because this fall’s macOS release will open the floodgates to apps originally designed for iOS. When you compare the features of an iTunes (conceived for the Mac of nearly two decades ago) with Music (built for the iPhone and retrofitted for Apple Music), it’s hard not to feel like the Mac is about to get dumbed down.

There’s no denying that if Apple brings these iOS apps straight across to the Mac without any upgrades, they will be far less capable than the app they’re replacing. iTunes started life as an MP3 jukebox and has been the receptacle for every media and device-syncing feature Apple has needed to add to the Mac in the two intervening decades.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 234: Webdings!

This week, on the irreverent tech show where nobody is innocent for long, we discuss Disney’s new streaming service—aimed directly at John and Dan—and what it means for Apple TV+, plus iOS 13’s rumored improvements, Lex’s too-automated household, and why everybody is always listening to you anyway.

Episode linkMP3 (44 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

Qualcomm and Apple bury the hatchet

Apple just released a PR statement indicating the end of hostilities with Qualcomm:

Qualcomm and Apple today announced an agreement to dismiss all litigation between the two companies worldwide. The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm. The companies also have reached a six-year license agreement, effective as of April 1, 2019, including a two-year option to extend, and a multiyear chipset supply agreement.

This is pretty big news. Apple wasn’t able to use Qualcomm’s modem chips in its devices, with Apple turning to Intel for LTE modems and getting kind of desperate about what it would do in the 5G world. The two companies have been suing each other and throwing one another under the bus in the press, but it’s apparently all over now.

The agreement comes the day a trial began in San Diego pitting the two companies against each other, with an Apple attorney creating a labored metaphor about fried chicken and patents. Apparently the trial attorneys can make a KFC run now, because it’s all over.

(Update: And with that, Intel’s now out of the 5G modem game.)


By Dan Moren

Restoring Mojave’s “missing” VPN server with VPN Enabler

I recently updated my Mac mini server to macOS Mojave after a long and troublesome ordeal. 1 While the update has been mostly positive, one of the features I was sad to lose was the ability to configure my own VPN server. As you may recall, the VPN server was previously available as part of macOS Server, but was removed by Apple—along with several other features—in that software package’s Mojave-compatible update.

vpnenabler

But, as it turns out, all is not lost. The underlying code for running the VPN server is still present in macOS—there’s just no UI for configuring it. I could have just dug into the command line and figured out how to restore it, but it turns out that hard work has already been done for me. Via Twitter, Andrew Flemming pointed me to Bernard Teo’s VPN Enabler for Mojave, a $15 software package that—as its name suggests—provides a simple front-end for configuring a VPN server on Mojave.

I purchased VPN Enabler, set it up, and I would argue that it’s even easier than Apple’s own tools: besides fitting everything in one compact window, VPN Enabler will even suggest appropriate IP addresses so you don’t have to worry about figuring out what portions of your LAN are available. Additionally, it will generate a mobile configuration profile that you can use to automatically set up VPN access on your iOS devices with just a couple taps.

It took me less than 10 minutes to get up and running with VPN Enabler (and a solid few minutes of that was testing to make sure it still works even when the software isn’t open on the mini, which naturally, it does), and it’s working seamlessly. 2

So, if you’ve been holding off upgrading to Mojave because of the lack of a VPN server, I can report that VPN Enabler does the trick. And if you’ve ever wanted to set up a VPN for your home network but been worried it was too complicated, this app takes pretty much all of the guesswork out of it.


  1. I’ve been writing a post about this whole saga which those of you who follow me on Twitter or listen to The Rebound will have heard much of, but it’s very long. Keep an eye out. ↩

  2. I found that the macOS VPN server actually died every once in a while and needed to be restarted, but so far I haven’t had that problem with VPN Enabler.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Linked by Dan Moren

The future of the PlayStation

Wired’s Peter Rubin has an exclusive chat with Mark Cerny, lead system architect on Sony’s next-generation console, in which they talk about the technology key to that platform, including solid-state storage:

On the TV, Spidey stands in a small plaza. Cerny presses a button on the controller, initiating a fast-travel interstitial screen. When Spidey reappears in a totally different spot in Manhattan, 15 seconds have elapsed. Then Cerny does the same thing on a next-gen devkit connected to a different TV. (The devkit, an early “low-speed” version, is concealed in a big silver tower, with no visible componentry.) What took 15 seconds now takes less than one: 0.8 seconds, to be exact.

We’ve been used to SSDs in our computers and our devices, but game console have lagged behind, in part because there tend to be several years between generations, but also because games are big and large capacity drives have been pricey. The impact on game experiences could be huge, and I’m curious to see just what Sony (and Microsoft) have in mind for the next generation of consoles.


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #241: The Tweaky Features

Disney finally unveils its streaming service at a price that makes us wonder just what game Apple thinks it’s playing; we get a sneak peek at some possible new iPad features for iOS 13; and Jason and Myke ponder the major changes due for the Mac this fall with the departure of iTunes and the arrival of Marzipan.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 37 minutes)


Jason Snell for Tom's Guide

The end of iTunes: What it means for you ↦

Well, iTunes, it was a good run. According to reports from knowledgeable developers, this fall marks the end of the viable life of an 18-year-old app that started as an MP3 jukebox and ended up as an all-purpose media player, e-commerce engine, and mobile-device synchronizer.

It may be hard to believe it now, but iTunes began as a pretty great music player. iTunes was so good, and so successful, in fact, that Apple turned it into the repository for pretty much every media and device strategy that followed, making iTunes into a hodgepodge of features that was simultaneously unbearable (for users) and unkillable (for Apple).

The end may be nigh, but while iTunes may soon leave active service, it’s not going anywhere for quite a while.

Continue reading on Tom's Guide ↦


Dan Moren for Macworld

The iTunes break up: What will happen to our favorite features? ↦

For a company that maintains multiple major operating systems, has its own productivity suite, and even developed one of the most popular web browsers in use, there was a time that the piece of software most identified with Apple was also perhaps the one most viewed as a necessary evil.

I speak, of course, of iTunes.

Yes, the music-playing/device syncing/media-buying/podcast-listening (and so much more) app was at one time not only a brand unto itself, but also an almost universal experience, as one of the few pieces of Apple software that was ported to Windows computers.

But iTunes may not have much time left on its clock. In recent days, speculation has hinted that the upcoming version of macOS will instead feature separate apps for music, podcasts, TV, and so on, likely based on their iOS counterparts. But those apps lack a lot of iTunes’s more powerful features.

Calls for iTunes’s breakup go back years (including me), but now that it seems to be on the verge of happening, it’s worth considering the things that iTunes actually does well and which deserve to stick around.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦