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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

‘Life on an iPad’

Veteran journalist Charles Arthur’s MacBook Pro broke, so he started doing his job on an iPad Pro:

A few years ago, this would probably have been impossible. I wouldn’t have contemplated it. Now? Getting along fine. In a number of ways, the iPad is preferable - particularly weight and connectivity. In only a couple of ways is it worse (the most notable being “lappability”).

The ability to use a tablet and attached keyboard comfortably in your lap (and not on a table) is definitely an issue; these days I travel with the Brydge Keyboard, which lets me use my iPad in a laptop configuration when I want to.

In any event, Arthur’s piece is a great overview of the pros and cons of working on an iPad, including using cloud syncing and tools such as Workflow and Pythonista to automate building his newsletter.


Podcast

Upgrade #181: Banana Slug Bookshelf

Upgrade

This week on Upgrade: What does the death of Twitter for Mac say about the future of Mac software? Is Apple making big changes to how it releases software, and how will it impact the quality of the Apple product experience? We ponder these questions, note some surprising additions to Apple’s video programming, and briefly discuss how Jason permanently scarred his bookshelf.


Podcast

The Rebound 174: I Have Many Many Enemies

The Rebound

With Dan’s triumphant return from Iceland—no blizzard can stop him!—the team reunites just in time to discuss a veritable onslaught of HomePod controversies. How is the sound? What’s with the white rings? Does Dan have way too many smart speakers? Why is John talking about Zip Drives? Will Lex ever stop making groan-worthy puns? Why are there so many questions this week?! The answer to at least a couple of those awaits.


Dan Moren for Macworld

3 ways tech can improve travel ↦

Traveling is a great chance to put technology through the wringer. It’s a time when you have to be economical about the gear you carry, when your environments challenge you, and when you start seeing places where your devices could go further and do more than they already do.

Last week, my girlfriend and I spent nine days in Iceland (it was supposed to be seven, but a blizzard stranded us for an extra forty-eight hours). During that time we covered roughly half the country, from snowy lava fields in the west to black sand beaches—also with their share of snow—in the south. We carried more than a few pieces of tech with us, which gave us ample time to see what worked well and where we could use some improvement over the status quo.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Dan Moren

Daniel Jalkut on the HomePod

MarsEdit developer and good friend Daniel Jalkut on his experiences with HomePod:

Any attempt to “Hey Siri” another device is met by a loud interruption by Siri either of the music, or of the silence of the room. It’s bad enough that it assumes all requests are being made to it, but it’s even worse that it insists on chiming in even when it isn’t capable of serving the request. Just to remind everybody that it’s not configured for personal requests.

Funny enough, just a few moments before I read Daniel’s post I had my first experience of the iPhone fielding a “Hey Siri” request instead of the HomePod, even though both were only a foot or so away from me on my desk.

But Daniel’s experiences overall mesh with some of my first observations. In particular the “Siri is Siri” point: I like Apple’s virtual assistant well enough, but some of the holes in its functionality are baffling. Daniel calls out not being able to set separate timers, which is definitely annoying—to that I’ll add that Siri on the HomePod can’t tell me anything about my calendar, which is kind of puzzling.

Seeing what decisions Apple makes about the future of the HomePod seems like it might be the most interesting part of the device’s story. In particular, I’m hoping this drives significant attention to Siri—the company can get by without making too many changes to it when it’s just an ancillary interface, as it is on all of Apple’s other devices, but when it’s as central as it with the HomePod, well, that’s a different story.


Jason Snell for Macworld

How to control HomePod from Mac or iOS ↦

The HomePod doesn’t behave like most other Apple devices. Unlike the Apple Watch, there’s no dedicated app. It supports AirPlay, so it shows up in the list of audio sources—but it’s also remote-controllable like an Apple TV. And to configure it, you don’t visit the Settings app, but the Home app. Here’s a quick guide to where and how you can control the HomePod from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

Wish List: Multiple audio outputs on iOS

When traveling, I generally pack a headphone adapter—this five-port Belkin model, even though it’s kind of overkill—so that my girlfriend and I can watch videos together on the plane.1 It’s a perfectly fine solution, and generally one without problems, given how low-tech it is.

But on our most recent flight back from vacation, we were in the midst of our ascent and were about to watch a video when my girlfriend realized that she’d pulled out her Lightning earbuds instead of the standard minijack pair. Not a problem once we could get up and get to her bag in the overhead, but a minor inconvenience in the meantime.

Given the opportunity, however, I decided to do a little experimentation. After all, I had my Bose QC-35s, which work over either Bluetooth or via a standard minijack. It occurred to me that we could plug in her Lightning headphones and connect the QC-35s to the iPad at the same time.

Unfortunately, this is where we ran up against an iOS limitation. Currently, there’s no way for it to pipe audio to multiple outputs, even if we’re talking about two headphones that are physically connected to separate ports.

Now, this probably isn’t an issue that people run into on a daily basis. Even on the Mac, you still need to resort to a tool like Audio MIDI Setup in order to push the same audio to multiple outputs.

Audio MIDI Setup
However, I’d also imagine I’m not the only person who’s frustrated by having to carry around an extra dongle, so it’d be awfully nice if there were an option to let you connect multiple audio outputs and play the same audio to all of them.

What makes this interesting is that the upcoming AirPlay 2 will allow iOS devices to output audio to multiple AirPlay devices at the same time. The screenshots floating around of the iOS 11.3 beta, which includes this, feature show the ability to send audio to, for example, several Apple TVs. This has also been one promised feature for the HomePod, even though it didn’t coincide with the device’s arrival.

So, as long as we’re sending audio to multiple outputs, why not the ability to, say, connect two pairs of Bluetooth headphones to a single iOS device? The Mac can accomplish this via the Audio MIDI Setup app, so it seems like it ought to be feasible to do the same thing on an iOS device. Or, for that matter, to a set of Lightning earbuds and minijack headphones. Or a set of minijack headphones and Bluetooth headphones.

As of iOS 11.3, the interface for sending audio to multiple AirPlay speakers will already be there, so it’s more a matter of supporting Bluetooth or physical audio connections. Then again, Apple may simply have no interest in spending the time and resources to support those options and instead push users towards AirPlay-compatible devices.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that we’ve hoped for bolstered audio capabilities in iOS, though we’ve previously focused on letting more than one app use an audio input to facilitate podcast recording. So here’s hoping that a future version of iOS features more robust audio support across the board.


  1. Thanks to the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, when we’re in a hotel or Airbnb, I’ve mainly just resorted to using the built-in speakers, which are plenty good enough.  ↩

[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.]


Podcast

Clockwise #228: Wrong Robot Name

Clockwise

This week, on the 30-minute tech podcast that’s chock full of romance, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Casey Liss and Aleen Simms to discuss our most essential travel tech, our most romantic uses of technology, our biggest tech disappointments, and our thoughts on the first few days with HomePod.


Linked by Jason Snell

Emoji defragmentation

New and old Samsung pistol emojis, courtesy Emojipedia.

Back in 2015 I first started talking about emoji fragmentation, the concept that since there’s no single canonical source for emoji images, it’s possible for the same character to be interpreted entirely differently across platforms.1

In any event, let’s also consider that perhaps there is an opposing force—an understanding among the many platform owners who determine what emoji symbols their users see—that it’s not in anyone’s best interest to have symbols that are dramatically different than what people on other platforms or seeing.

As detailed by Burge at Emojipedia, Samsung this week upgraded its Pistol emoji to match Apple—namely, Apple’s semi-controversial decision to turn the depiction of a handgun into a green plastic water pistol.

This isn’t the first example. In 2016, Apple redesigned Beaming Face With Smiling Eyes to have a smile rather than a grimace on its mouth. The poo emoji has evolved similarly, with Apple’s smiling anthropomorphized soft-serve pile driving the alignment.

Or consider Woman Dancing, once a fragmented space offering a lady high-stepping in a red dress (Apple), Disco Stu and/or a seductive blob-man (Google), a funky fresh bathroom symbol (Microsoft), or a kid pretending to dance (Samsung). Over the past five years all the other players have followed Apple’s lead, so that all four platforms now feature a lady in a red dress, showing some leg, with one arm up and one arm down.

This is good news. While each platform owner has to commission its own emoji art and wants each image to be stylistically consistent, it’s better for users if there aren’t wide disparities in the content of the image being depicted by any given emoji. So perhaps, in the end, emoji fragmentation can simply be solved by time, as different emoji sets converge together.


  1. Jeremy Burge of Emojipedia thinks I may have coined the term, which is possible, but if so it’s only because I had been reading so much of his great coverage of the evolution of emoji as a form of communication. ↩


Linked by Jason Snell

Apple’s software “problem” and “fixing” it

A few weeks back on Upgrade, talking about the low scores for software quality in the 2017 Apple Report Card, I mentioned that while those of us on the outside could judge the outcome of Apple’s internal processes, it was harder for any of us to prescribe solutions, because there are very few people who have managed the development of software platforms used by millions of consumers. Maybe Scott Forstall (Apple) or Steven Sinofsky (Microsoft), some others, but it’s not a long list.

Well, after Mark Gurman’s Bloomberg report about changes to Apple’s software process, who spoke up about the topic but former Microsoft Windows head Steven Sinofsky! (It’s a long tweetstorm, but in Medium form it’s a short article.)

Here’s his summation/final tweet:

So to me on Apple, even as an outsider, I feel confident saying that this isn’t reactionary/crisis or a response to externalities. Importantly it isn’t a massive pivot/”student body left”. It’s a methodical and predictable evolution of an extremely robust and proven system.

The entire thing is worth a read. You can agree or disagree, but there’s no denying that Sinofsky has a unique perspective—he’s been in that seat, he’s had to deal with these kinds of processes, and he knows exactly what the big issues are.


Podcast

Upgrade #180: Too Much Speaker

Upgrade

This week on Upgrade: After a weekend with the HomePod, it’s time for Myke and Jason to discuss what they like and dislike about Apple’s new connected speaker. Is it so loud that Myke is angering his neighbors? Will Jason replace his Amazon Echo? How does the HomePod match up with other products in the category? Plus, Apple introduces its new battery interface and one of the company’s first big TV shows loses its creative team.


Linked by Jason Snell

iOS 9 boot source code leaks

In what one writer called “the biggest leak in history,” someone posted the source code for the part of iOS that is responsible for booting the system on GitHub, Motherboard reported Wednesday:

Having access to the source code of iBoot gives iOS security researchers a better chance to find vulnerabilities that could lead to compromising or jailbreaking the device….. That means hackers could have an easier time finding flaws and bugs that could allow them to crack or decrypt an iPhone. And, perhaps, this leak could eventually allow advanced programmers to emulate iOS on non Apple platforms.

On Thursday Apple responded with a statement confirming the news. (GitHub has removed the code after a takedown request by Apple.) Here’s Apple’s statement:

Old source code from three years ago appears to have been leaked, but by design the security of our products doesn’t depend on the secrecy of our source code. There are many layers of hardware and software protections built in to our products, and we always encourage customers to update to the newest software releases to benefit from the latest protections.

Security researcher Will Strafach told TechCrunch that while it gives hackers some hints about how iOS boots that might become useful vectors of attack, it probably doesn’t mean much to iPhone owners:

“In terms of end users, this doesn’t really mean anything positive or negative,” Strafach said in an email. “Apple does not use security through obscurity, so this does not contain anything risky, just an easier to read format for the boot loader code. It’s all cryptographically signed on end user devices, there is no way to really use any of the contents here maliciously or otherwise.”

Not great, Bob, but it sounds like this is more likely information that would be used to build a jailbreak than something that could fuel a zero-day attack on modern iPhones.


Jason Snell for Macworld

Siri: What Apple needs to do to improve its voice-activated digital assistant ↦

The HomePod is coming Friday, and with it, even more attention is being paid to Siri, Apple’s voice assistant that serves as its primary interface. The early HomePod reviews are in, and most of them suggest the device is an excellent speaker that’s hampered by Siri’s limitations.

I haven’t used a HomePod yet, so I can’t speak to that, but as someone with a constellation of Apple devices, it does seem to me that Siri could stand to use some improvement. (Couldn’t we all?) So let’s leave the details of the HomePod aside for the moment and think bigger. Where does Siri need to go from here?

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Here are the new emojis you’ll see this fall

A mock-up of new emoji designs, courtesy Emojipedia.

It’s official: The new emoji list for 2018 is out. Jeremy Burge (the emoji subcommittee of the Unicode Consortium) writes at Emojipedia:

Emoji 11.0 today reached its final form and includes emojis for redheads, curly hair, superheroes, softball, infinity, kangaroo and more. Emoji 11.0 marks the first time new components are available for hair color. Options are provided for red hair, curly hair, white hair, and baldness and these are available for use in sequences for men and women of any skin tone. Other notable inclusions include emojis for popular activities such as sewing, knitting, lacrosse, and skateboarding.

If tradition holds, iOS users will probably see these new emojis in a post-iOS 12 update later in the fall. Hooray for Hippos and Heroes and, yes, Pirates too.


Linked by Jason Snell

Slack overhauls emoji support

Messaging service Slack—once a leader in embracing emoji as a means of expression thanks to custom emoji, emoji reactions, and an easy emoji input method—has fallen behind recently. New emoji have been continually added to the lexicon, but for the last couple of years, Slack has not responded.

Well, right now Slack is finally rolling out a major update to its emoji support that finally supports new emoji introduced in the last couple of years. But there’s a big catch. My friend Erika Ensign spotted this last week, when all of a sudden the emoji images she was used to (which are based on Apple’s emoji set) disappeared from her Windows PC running Chrome, replaced by the emoji images that are standard on Android.

When I suggested to Erika that perhaps her settings had changed, and she could go into Slack’s settings to see which emoji set was selected, I expected her to see Slack’s (unusual) option to choose from among several different emoji sets:

Turns out, on her copy of Slack this option was gone. And now that’s been confirmed today by the best source, Jeremy Burge at Emojipedia. If you’re using Slack with a non-Apple platform, you’re going to see Google’s emoji designs.

You can’t copyright letters, and emoji sometimes seem like the modern equivalent, but each emoji image is itself a copyrightable piece of artwork. The Unicode Consortium, which defines the emoji specification, does not provide artwork to anyone. As a result, every platform owner is left to commission its own artwork, and they do, generally.

Apple’s emoji designs have carried a lot of weight, with the success of the iPhone leading many people viewing Apple’s designs as definitive. Some apps, like Whatsapp and Slack, actually used Apple’s emoji set on other platforms. Last fall Whatsapp unveiled its own emoji set, and with Slack removing Apple’s images from non-Apple platforms, you get the sense that someone at Apple has nudged developers who were re-using Apple’s copyrighted artwork on other platforms and suggested that they stop.

As Burge points out at Emojipedia:

While Apple’s emoji font is entirely owned and copyrighted by Apple, Google’s emoji font (named Noto Color Emoji) is provided with an open source license which allows other projects to use this within the terms set out in the SIL Open Font License. Given this, it’s possible that Slack believes it is on firmer ground to be using Noto Color Emoji rather than embedding Apple emoji images on competing platforms.

The result is emoji fragmentation, where different users of Slack will see different versions of the same general concept. Also, users like my friend Erika might prefer one set of emoji designs to another, but they no longer have a choice in the matter.

That’s the bad news. The good news, at least, is that Slack is rolling out support for new emojis, including gender splits and skin tones, that it previously didn’t.


Linked by Jason Snell

Netflix announces, releases “Cloverfield Paradox”

So something interesting happened during the Super Bowl. An ad spot ran that was for a forthcoming film, not surprising—several had already run by this point. But this one promised answers to some of the questions that drove 2008’s “Cloverfield” (a movie that I really enjoyed). A surprise Cloverfield sequel, called “The Cloverfield Paradox”? Sounds cool. I wonder when it’s coming out.

Then came the Netflix logo. And the words “Coming Very Soon.” Wait, what? Netflix? And what does “very soon” mean? They couldn’t mean…

Sure enough, “The Cloverfield Paradox”, originally slated to be released into theaters in April, was instead promoted and premiered on Super Bowl Sunday as a Netflix exclusive release. What a massive and exhilarating surprise.

The movie itself? Well, about that. Josh Spiegel at the Hollywood Reporter:

“The Cloverfield Paradox” was originally called “God Particle”; most importantly, up until only a few weeks ago, it was going to be released theatrically by Paramount Pictures, just as Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane were. For various reasons, including rumored troubles with the film, God Particle kept getting pushed back.

In some respects, the experiment has worked remarkably well. Super Bowl advertising is ideal even for theatrically released films with release dates months in the future. What Netflix did Sunday night was to potentially take away from NBC’s broadcast of its buzzy drama “This Is Us”, which enjoyed a cushy post-game slot.

The film is getting dismal reviews, with some industry observers noting Paramount may have been wise to unload it rather than face embarrassing box office prospects. Last month, sources told THR Paramount chairman Jim Gianopulos was spearheading a culling of the studio slate he inherited when he took over last spring.

So: The movie itself may not be great. (I haven’t seen it yet; I watched “Star Trek: Discovery” and another episode of “Altered Carbon” last night instead.) And the deal seems to have emerged from serious changes in management at Paramount. That said, Netflix got to make headlines for the cost of a distribution deal and a couple of Super Bowl ads, Paramount got to unload a film it didn’t want to distribute, and “The Cloverfield Paradox” probably got more viewers than it would’ve ever gotten during a theatrical release.

In this era of streaming entertainment, not only can all the rules be broken, you get the feeling that all of them will be.


Podcast

Upgrade #179: Somewhere Between One and a Gabillion

Upgrade

This week on Upgrade: Apple reaches a record high in revenue and profit, but what’s up with the iPhone and Mac sales figures? This week we break down Apple’s huge holiday quarter, including the calendar quirk that has cut Apple both ways.



Jason Snell for Macworld

4 tidbits we learned from Apple’s record quarterly results ↦

Three months ago, Apple boldly asserted that the holiday quarter of 2017, its first financial quarter of this fiscal year, would be the company’s biggest in history. They weren’t wrong. In fact, Apple’s holiday quarter generated $88.3 billion in revenue, blowing past even the high side of Apple’s estimates.

By just about any way you measure it, this was a great quarter for Apple. But of course, the devil’s in the details, whether it’s line items in the corporate reports or in tidbits revealed during the company’s regular phone call with analysts. So here’s a look at four tidbits we learned about Apple’s big quarter.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Dan Moren for Macworld

macOS Server: As features are cut, what does the future hold for Apple’s server software? ↦

Apple may have embraced the pro market on the Mac hardware side with the recent release of the iMac Pro and forthcoming Mac Pro, but the software side, well, that’s a slightly different story.

A quiet post on Apple’s support site last month revealed that the company is significantly dialing back the capabilities of its macOS Server package, the $20 add-on software that turns your Mac into a full-featured piece of server hardware. Gone are features like web and mail hosting, VPNs, and more. Instead, Apple says it is re-focusing macOS Server on “management of computers, devices, and storage on your network.” Or, in other words, on managing all your other Apple devices.

Still, that’s a shame for a number of reasons, not least of which that macOS has long been a powerful (if somewhat under-the-radar) network server option. As someone who’s dabbled in running servers in the past, I’ll be sad to see macOS Server go—but I’m not exactly surprised.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦